Votes for Catholics

Justin McCarthy
Chapter IX | Start of Chapter

The great mass of the people were entirely excluded from the right to vote, and the election of members to the House of Commons was practically the privilege of territorial magnates and the owners of titles. The right to nominate to the representation of a county or a borough was almost as much a matter of property as the soil which the landlord let out to his tenants. But the same condition of things prevailed at that time in England. The change accomplished by Grattan's Parliament had the advantage, at least, that it removed mere religious disqualification from the voter and put the Catholic and Protestant thus far on terms of political equality. Grattan himself was in favour of a full measure of Catholic emancipation, and he strove hard to obtain such a reform as would allow a Catholic to have a seat in either House of Parliament. This, however, was too much of an advance for an assembly composed altogether of members belonging to the State Church, and there was still among the majority of Protestants an unconquerable objection to the idea of allowing anyone who confessed "Popish" doctrines to take a direct part in the making of laws.