Ireland between 1780s & 1820s

Ireland in the first decades after the Presentation Order was established was unsettled. The American Revolution which began in 1775, followed by the French Revolution in 1789 provided inspiration for those who wanted to break Ireland’s connection with Britain and anxiety for those who did not.  

Top right image: Dates and events of historical significance are written across this tree. Standing at the base of the tree on the left is Daniel O’Connell holding a green flag representing Ireland and a scroll bearing the word ‘Repeal’ reflecting his efforts to return self-rule to Ireland. Seated beside him is Hibernia, with her wolfhound and harp. On the right of the tree is Fr. Theobald Mathew, a cousin of Nano Nagle and closely connected to South Presentation Convent. He is best known for his charity work and for the foundation of the Cork Total Abstinence Society.
Above: The storming of the Bastille (a state prison) in Paris on 145h July 1789 is often regarded as the beginning of the French Revolution which overthrew the monarchy and established a republic based on the ideas of ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’.
1798 Rebellion Chronological Tree of Irish History
Above: General George Washington crossing the Delaware River, December 1776 before American victory at the Battle of Trenton.

There was also conflict in Ireland over land rights and the payment of tithes. A number of secret societies sprang up with names such as Whiteboys, Rightboys and Hearts of Oak. These groups, often operating at night, inflicted damage to land, property, animals and sometimes people in their attempt to secure better conditions for tenant farmers. 

Issues to do with land, religion and sovereignty came to a head in 1798 when a rebellion organised by the radical and revolutionary secret society, the United Irishmen, took place. The rebels were swiftly defeated, but not before an estimated 30,000 people were killed over the course of a bloody summer. 

Above: ‘The United Irish Patriots, 1798’, (unknown artist, early nineteenth-century) This painting includes many of the most well-known United Irishmen including Theobald Wolfe Tone, Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Robert Emmet

Determined to prevent another rebellion the British government pushed through the Act of Union which closed the Irish houses of parliament and imposed direct rule from London. Many Catholics anticipated that with the Act of Union would come Catholic Emancipation (the right of Catholics to sit in Parliament). This didn’t happen and many of the growing Catholic middle class (where the Presentation Sisters largely came from) were disillusioned. 

Above: Captain Rock was a fictitious leader of one of a number of secret organisation dedicated to improving tenant’s rights. This satirical cartoon shows a number of armed men drinking beer while one man prepares to take an oath to take action against local landlords.