chapter  XIX
CATHOLIC EMANCIPATION—THE PRESTON ELECTION
Pages 20

IN the last three chapters, each of which has been devoted to a particular aspect of Gobbett's work and opinions over a period of years, there has necessarily been some departure from strict sequence of time. In particular, I have so far left out altogether one most important aspect of his work during the 'twenties. About 1823, he began to interest himself seriously in the affairs of Ireland. It will be remembered that his first conflict with the Government, as early as r8o3, had arisen out of certain articles in the Register dealing with Irish misgovernment. These were not written by Cobbett, however, and he never followed them up. He had at various times professed entire scepticism of the view that Gatholic Emancipation would by itself provide a cure for Irish troubles, and had urged that the real causes of unrest lay rather in misgovernment and economic oppression. But he had never paid much attention to Irish affairs until his eyes were turned to them by the rise of the Catholic Association and the development of a vigorous national movement under the leadership of Daniel O'Connell. The Irish question, inextricably mingled in British politics with the general question of Catholic relief, had from the first its champions among the Radicals, notably Sir Francis Burdett, who brought forward many motions on the subject. But Ireland was relatively quiet for some years before O'Connell and his friends formed in 1823 the famous Catholic Association, which proceeded to levy a "rent" and to act in some respects as an unofficial Irish Government. At once fresh measures of coercion were adopted; but at the same time the Irish question assumed a new actuality in politics, and measures of Catholic relief began to be seriously discussed.