Parnell: History of the Penal Laws

Pdf Parnell, Henry. A History of the Penal Laws against the Irish Catholics from the Treaty of Limerick to the Union. Dublin: H. Fitzpatrick, 1808.
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Sir Henry Parnell (3 July 1776 – 8 June 1842), later Lord Congleton, great-uncle of Irish nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell, was an Anglo-Irish parliamentarian and treasury official sympathetic to the plight of Irish Catholics.

Henry was educated at Eton and Cambridge , and entered the Irish Parliament in 1797. Upon his father's death in 1801, he inherited the family estates in Laois. He was elected to the British House of Commons for a short time in 1802 and again in 1806. From this time, he continued to represent Laois until the 1830s. Henry strongly believed in Catholic emancipation, which had been contained in the proposals for the Union measure. However, King George III vetoed this measure and Pitt could not execute this plan.

Henry had an extensive interest in many subjects and was an authority on current affairs. He wrote comprehensively on the Corn Laws, Banking, Taxation and Financial Reform. New measures and programmes were introduced by Gladstone and Peel that were based on his views.

He was awarded the office of Secretary for War in 1830 but could not overcome differences of opinion with his colleagues and lost this office in 1832. He was appointed Paymaster-General of the Forces in 1835 and was raised to the peerage as Baron Congleton in 1841. Soon afterwards his health failed, melancholia set in and he died the following year. 

A History of the Penal Laws against the Irish Catholics from 1689 to the Union , printed in 1808, is considered one of the most authoritative books on the subject. Superior due to its wide-ranging reference to source records, this book traces the history of laws against “religious non-conformists” between 1689 and 1801. It is an important source of Parnell’s perspective and first-hand knowledge of several crucial events of the 1780s and `90s.

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