Irish Act of Union

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Irish Act of Union

1 August 1800

Under the Act of Union of 1800, Ireland lost any semblance of legislative independence when the two houses of its 500-year-old parliament voted to commit political suicide and to merge the country in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Even though the legislative independence gained by Ireland in 1782 was rather hollow owing to pervasive political chicanery, nationalists later in the nineteenth century came to regard the extinction of the Irish parliament as a grand calamity stemming from gross corruption. But unlike the Scottish Act of Union of 1707, the Irish Act of Union did not deeply offend contemporary Irish public opinion.

SEE ALSO Act of Union; Protestant Ascendancy: Decline, 1800 to 1930

AN ACT FOR THE UNION OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND

Whereas in pursuance of his majesty's most gracious recommendation to the two houses of parliament in Great Britain and Ireland respectively, to consider of such measures as might best tend to strengthen and consolidate the connexion between the two kingdoms, the two houses of the parliament of Great Britain and the two houses of the parliament of Ireland have severally agreed and resolved that in order to promote and secure the essential interests of Great Britain and Ireland and to consolidate the strength, power, and resources of the British empire, it will be advisable to concur in such measures as may best tend to unite the two kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland into one kingdom, in such manner and on such terms and conditions as may be established by the acts of the respective parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland.

And whereas in furtherance of the said resolution both houses of the said two parliaments respectively have likewise agreed upon certain articles for effectuating and establishing the said purposes in the tenor following:

1. That it be the first article of the union of the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland that the said kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland shall upon the first day of January, which shall be in the year of our Lord 1801, and forever be united into one kingdom by the name of "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland," and that the royal style and titles appertaining to the imperial crown of the said United Kingdom and its dependencies, and also the ensigns, armorial flags, and banners thereof, shall be such as his majesty by his royal proclamation under the great seal of the United Kingdom shall be pleased to appoint.

2. That it be the second article of union that the succession to the imperial crown of the said United Kingdom, and of the dominions thereunto belonging, shall continue limited and settled in the same manner as the succession to the imperial crown of the said kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland now stands limited and settled, according to the existing laws and to the terms of union between England and Scotland.

3. That it be the third article of union that the said United Kingdom be represented in one and the same parliament, to be styled "the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland."

4. That it be the fourth article of union that four lords spiritual of Ireland, by rotation of sessions, and twenty-eight lords temporal of Ireland, elected for life by the peers of Ireland, shall be the number to sit and vote on the part of Ireland in the House of Lords of the parliament of the United Kingdom, and one hundred commoners (two for each county of Ireland, two for the city of Dublin, two for the city of Cork, one for the university of Trinity College, and one for each of the thirtyone most considerable cities, towns, and boroughs) be the number to sit and vote on the part of Ireland in the House of Commons of the parliament of the United Kingdom. . . .

That any person holding any peerage of Ireland, now subsisting or hereafter to be created, shall not thereby be disqualified from being elected to serve if he shall so think fit, or from serving or continuing to serve if he shall so think fit, for any county, city, or borough of Great Britain in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, unless he shall have been previously elected as above to sit in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom, but that so long as such peer of Ireland shall continue to be a member of the House of Commons, he shall not be entitled to the privilege of peerage nor be capable of being elected to serve as a peer on the part of Ireland, or of voting at any such election. . . .

That it shall be lawful for his majesty, his heirs and successors, to create peers of that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland and to make promotions in the peerage thereof after the union, provided that no new creation of any such peers shall take place after the union until the three of the peerages of Ireland which shall have been existing at the time of the union shall have become extinct, and upon such extinction of three peerages, that it shall be lawful for his majesty, his heirs and successors, to create one peer of that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland, and in like manner, so often as three peerages of that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland shall become extinct, it shall be lawful for his majesty, his heirs and successors, to create one other peer of the said part of the United Kingdom; and if it shall happen that the peers of that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland shall, by extinction of peerages or otherwise, be reduced to the number of one hundred, exclusive of all such peers of that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland as shall hold any peerage of Great Britain subsisting at the time of the union, or of the United Kingdom created since the union, by which such peers shall be entitled to an hereditary seat in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom, then and in that case it shall and may be lawful for his majesty, his heirs and successors, to create one peer of that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland as often as any of such one hundred peerages shall fail by extinction, or as often as any one peer of that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland shall become entitled by descent or creation to a hereditary seat in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom, it being the true intent and meaning of this article that at all times after the union it shall and may be lawful for his majesty, his heirs and successors, to keep up the peerage of that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland to the number of one hundred, over and above the number of such of the said peers as shall be entitled by descent or creation to an hereditary seat in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom. . . .

That if his majesty, on or before the first day of January 1801, on which day the union is to take place, shall declare under the great seal of Great Britain that it is expedient that the lords and commons of the present parliament of Great Britain should be the members of the respective houses of the first parliament of the United Kingdom on the part of Great Britain, then the said lords and commons shall accordingly be the members of the respective houses of the first parliament of the United Kingdom on the part of Great Britain, and they, together with the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons so summoned and returned as above, on the part of Ireland, shall be the lords spiritual and temporal and commons for the first parliament of the United Kingdom, and such first parliament may (in that case), if not sooner dissolved, continue to sit so long as the present parliament of Great Britain may now by law continue to sit if not sooner dissolved: provided always, that until an act shall have passed in the parliament of the United Kingdom providing in what cases persons holding offices or places of profit under the Crown in Ireland shall be incapable of being members of the House of Commons of the parliament of the United Kingdom, no greater number of members than twenty holding such offices or places as aforesaid shall be capable of sitting in the said House of Commons of the parliament of the United Kingdom. . . .

5. That it be the fifth article of union that the churches of England and Ireland, as now by law established be united into one Protestant Episcopal church, to be called "the United Church of England and Ireland," and that the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the said united church shall be and shall remain in full force forever, as the same are now by law established for the Church of England; and that the continuance and preservation of the said united church as the established church of England and Ireland shall be deemed and taken to be an essential and fundamental part of the union; and that in like manner the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the Church of Scotland shall remain and be preserved as the same are now established by law and by the acts for the union of the two kingdoms of England and Scotland.

6. That it be the sixth article of union that his majesty's subjects of Great Britain and Ireland shall, from and after the first day of January 1801, be entitled to the same privileges and be on the same footing as to encouragements and bounties on the like articles, being the growth, produce, or manufacture of either country respectively, and generally in respect of trade and navigation in all ports and places in the United Kingdom and its dependencies; and that in all treaties made by his majesty, his heirs and successors, with any foreign power, his majesty's subjects in Ireland shall have the same privileges and be on the same footing as his majesty's subjects of Great Britain. That from the first day of January 1801 all prohibitions and bounties on the export of articles, the growth, produce, or manufacture of either country to the other, shall cease and determine; and that the said articles shall thenceforth be exported from one country to the other without duty or bounty on such export.

That all articles, the growth, produce, or manufacture of either country (not hereinafter enumerated as subject to specific duties) shall from thenceforth be imported into each country from the other free from duty . . . , and that for the period of twenty years from the union the articles enumerated in the schedule No. II hereunto annexed, shall be subject, on importation into each country from the other, to the duties specified. . . .

7. That it be the seventh article of union that the charge arising from the payment of the interest and the sinking fund for the reduction of the principal of the debt incurred in either kingdom before the union shall continue to be separately defrayed by Great Britain and Ireland respectively, except as hereinafter provided.

That for the space of twenty years after the union shall take place, the contribution of Great Britain and Ireland respectively towards the expenditure of the United Kingdom in each year shall be defrayed in the proportion of fifteen parts for Great Britain and two parts for Ireland, that at the expiration of the said twenty years the future expenditure of the United Kingdom (other than the interest and charges of the debt to which either country shall be separately liable) shall be defrayed in each proportion as the parliament of the United Kingdom shall deem just and reasonable upon a comparison of the real value of the exports and imports of the respective countries upon an average of the three years next preceding the period of revision, or on a comparison of the value of the quantities of the following articles consumed within the respective countries on a similar average, viz., beer, spirits, sugar, wine, tea, tobacco, and malt, or according to the aggregate proportion resulting from both these considerations combined, or on a comparison of the amount of income in each country estimated from the produce for the same period of a general tax, if such shall have been imposed on the same descriptions of income in both countries; and that the parliament of the United Kingdom shall afterwards proceed in like manner to revise and fix the said proportion according to the same rules or any of them at periods not more distant than twenty years, nor less than seven years from each other, unless previous to any such period the parliament of the United Kingdom shall have declared as hereinafter provided that the expenditure of the United Kingdom shall be defrayed indiscriminately by equal taxes imposed on the like articles in both countries. . . .

That if at any future day the separate debt of each country respectively shall have been liquidated, or if the value of their respective debts . . . shall be to each other in the same proportion with the respective contributions of each country respectively, or if the amount by which the value of the larger of such debts shall vary from such proportion shall not exceed one hundredth part of the said value, and if it shall appear to the parliament of the United Kingdom that the respective circumstances of the two countries will thenceforth admit of their contributing indiscriminately by equal taxes imposed on the same articles in each to the future expenditure of the United Kingdom, it shall be competent to the parliament of the United Kingdom to declare that all future expense thenceforth to be incurred, together with the interest and charges of all joint debts contracted previous to such declaration, shall be so defrayed indiscriminately by equal taxes imposed on the same articles in each country, and thenceforth from time to time, as circumstances may require, to impose and apply such taxes accordingly, subject only to such particular exemptions or abatements in Ireland and in that part of Great Britain called Scotland as circumstances may appear from time to time to demand.

8. That it be the eighth article of the union that all laws in force at the time of the union, and all the courts of civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction within the respective kingdoms, shall remain as now by law established within the same, subject only to such alterations and regulations from time to time as circumstances may appear to the parliament of the United Kingdom to require, provided that all writs of error and appeals depending at the time of the union, or hereafter to be brought, and which might now be finally decided by the House of Lords of either kingdom, shall from and after the union be finally decided by the House of Lords of the United Kingdom, and provided that from and after the union there shall remain in Ireland an instance court of admiralty for the determination of causes civil and maritime only; . . . and that all laws at present in force in either kingdom, which shall be contrary to any of the provisions which may be enacted by any act for carrying these articles into effect, be from and after the union repealed.

And whereas the said articles, having by address of the respective houses of parliament in Great Britain and Ireland, been humbly laid before his majesty, his majesty has been graciously pleased to approve the same and to recommend it to his two houses of parliament in Great Britain and Ireland to consider of such measures as may be necessary for giving effect to the said articles. In order to give full effect and validity to the same, be it enacted . . . that the said foregoing recited articles . . . be ratified, confirmed, and approved, and . . . they are hereby declared to be the articles of the union of Great Britain and Ireland, and the same shall be in force and have effect forever from the first day of January, which shall be in the year of our Lord 1801, provided that before that period an act shall have been passed by the parliament of Great Britain for carrying into effect in the like manner the said foregoing recited articles.

10. And be it enacted that the great seal of Ireland may, if his majesty shall so think fit, after the union be used in like manner as before the union, except where it is otherwise provided by the foregoing articles, within that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland, and that his majesty may, so long as he shall think fit, continue the privy council of Ireland to be his privy council for that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland.

40 Geo. III, c. 38; Statutes at Large Passed in the Parliaments Held in Ireland, 1310–1800 (1786–1801), vol. 20, pp. 448–487.