The Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829

mountain in labour.jpg
Robert Seymour (1798-1836), The Mountain in Labour - or Much Ado about Nothing, 1829. Hand-colored etching. Graphic Arts GAX 2011- in process.

Seymour’s caricature refers to the Roman Catholic Relief Act passed by the British Parliament on March 24, 1829. The Act permitted members of the Catholic Church to sit in parliament, something previously forbidden even if they won an election. The Catholic middle classes could now have new careers in the higher civil service and in the judiciary.

In the center of Seymour’s print are the politicians Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and Prime Minister 1828-1830; Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet (1788-1850) and Prime Minister 1834-1835; and an old woman as doctor, apothecary, and nurse. She is holding a steaming bowl of Political Caudle and a large open book, entitled The Times. She says to Wellington, “Oh! the dear creature, how many will accompany it to Ireland, to spend their money—no doubt Dublin will become more fashionable than Paris—now Doctor never mind the windy warfare of those Gentlemen above!”

On the far left is the Irish politician Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), founder of the Catholic Association and promoter of the Emancipation Bill. His followers ask him: “Will Mancipation make the Prates grow?” O’Connell answers “Yes.” “Shall we get plenty of Whiskey?” “Yes.” “Will bogs breed Pigs & shall we all wear warm wigs & silk cloaks like you Dan?” “Yes.”

The Times forecast an Emancipation Bill in December 1828 and in February, published some of its provisions. Seymour published his caricature on March 2 and the Act was formally introduced on March 5.