John Keogh

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Keogh, John, the prominent Catholic leader, a Dublin merchant, was born in 1740. In his own words, he "devoted near thirty years of his life for the purpose of breaking the chains of his countrymen;" and his mansion at Mount Jerome was long the rallying point for discussion and organization upon all questions relating to Emancipation. Although he did not involve himself in the revolutionary plots of the United Irishmen, he was the ardent friend and confidant of many of them. Tone thus writes: "I can scarcely promise myself ever to see him again, and I can sincerely say that one of the greatest pleasures which I anticipated in case of our success was the society of Mount Jerome, where I have spent many happy days, and some of them serviceable to the country. It was there that he and I used to frame our papers and manifestoes. It was there we drew up the petition and vindication of the Catholics which produced such powerful effects both in England and Ireland."

Henry Grattan, Junior, says: "He was the ablest man of the Catholic body; he had a powerful understanding, and few men of that class were superior in intellect, or even equal to him. His mind was strong and his head was clear; he possessed judgment and discretion, and had the art to unite and bring men forward on a hazardous enterprise, and at a critical moment. He did more for the Roman Catholics than any other individual of that body. To his exertions the meeting of the Convention [held at the Tailors' Hall, Back-lane, 2nd December 1792] was principally owing, and their success in procuring the elective franchise. He had the merit of raising a party, and bringing out the Catholic people. Before his time they were nothing; their bishops were servile, and Dr. Troy, Archbishop of Dublin, though an excellent man, was under the influence of the Castle... At the outset of life he [Keogh] had been in business, and began as an humble tradesman. He contrived to get into the Catholic Committee, and instantly formed a plan to destroy the aristocratic part, and introduce the democratic. He wrote, he published, he harangued, and strove to kindle some spirit among the people... When Keogh went to London [as a delegate of the Catholics in 1792] he was introduced to Mr. Burke, who liked him, and said that he possessed parts that were certain to raise him in the world. The account of that mission afforded Mr. Burke and Mr. Grattan much amusement — seeing Keogh and the other delegates on their journey to London, admitted to the first court in Europe, going in great state, and making a splendid appearance... He was highly delighted with his position, looked very grand and very vain — he seemed to soar above all those he had left in Ireland. But when he returned home he had too much good sense to preserve his grandeur; he laid aside his court wig and his court manner, and only retained his Irish feelings."[154]

The Act of 33 George III. c. 21, passed mainly through his instrumentality and that of the committee emanating from the Catholic Convention of 2nd December 1792, enabled Catholics to vote for members of Parliament; admitted them to the outer Bar; enabled them to vote for municipal officers; permitted them to carry arms, provided they possessed a certain freehold and personal estate, and took oaths, neither of which were necessary for Protestants; allowed them to serve on juries; admitted them, under certain restrictions, to hold military and naval commissions, some of the higher grades being excepted. Most of these privileges were subject to the taking a humiliating oath; and the term "Papist or Roman Catholic" was used all through the Act. The Bill (given in full in Mitchel's History of Ireland) received the royal assent on 9th April 1793. A clause admitting Catholics to sit in Parliament was defeated by 136 to 69. The passage of this Act was, however, followed by the Convention Act (33 George III. c. 29), passed on 29th September, by 128 to 27, which has ever since prevented the holding in Ireland of assemblies such as those of Dungannon, the Rotunda, and the Catholic Convention. John Keogh died in Dublin, 13th November 1817, aged 77, and was buried in St. Kevin's churchyard, under a stone he had erected to his father and mother; and where eight years later his wife was laid.

Sources

73. Catholic Association of Ireland: Thomas Wyse. 2 vols. London, 1829.

154. Grattan Henry, his Life and Times: Henry Grattan. 5 vols. London, 1839-'46.

173. Ireland, History of, from the Treaty of Limerick to the Present Time. John Mitchel. 2 vols. Dublin, 1869.

173a. Ireland, History of, from the Union to October 1811: Francis Plowden. 3 vols. Dublin, 1813.

323b. Tomb Stones and Monuments.

331. United Irishmen, their Lives and Times: Robert R. Madden, M.D. 4 vols. London, 1858-'60.

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