The Poor Man’s Catechism

Published in 18th-19th Century Social Perspectives, 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 4 (Winter 1997), News, Volume 5

‘I BELIEVE in the IRISH UNION, in the supreme majesty of the people, in the equality of man, in the lawfulness of insurrection, and of resistance to oppression. I believe in a revolution founded on the rights of man, in the natural and impriscriptable right of all the Irish citizens to all the land. I believe the soil, or any part of it, cannot be transferred without the consent of the people, or their representatives, convened and authorized, by the votes of every man having arrived at the age of twenty-one years. I believe the land, or any of it, cannot become the property of any man, but by purchase, or as rewards for forwarding and preserving the public liberty. I believe our present connection with England must be speedily dissolved. I believe that old age, pregnant women, and labour should be honoured. I believe that TREASON is the crime of betraying the people. I believe religious distinctions are only protected by tyrants. I believe applying the lands of the church to relieve old age, to give education and protection to infancy, will be more acceptable to an united people, than maintaining lazy hypocrites and ravenous tithe-gatherers.
In this faith I mean to live, or bravely die.’

So ran the introduction to The Union Doctrine or Poor Man’s Catechism, a United Irish pamphlet which, according to the loyalist historian, Sir Richard Musgrave, was ‘published and circulated since the rebellion was put down, for the purpose of keeping the flame of it alive’. It has been re-published by the Dublin 1798 Commemoration Committee, along with a brief outline of the events of the 1790s, as part of Dublin ‘98, a programme of lectures over the coming year (details in the ‘events’ page). The pamphlet, which will be distributed free of charge throughout Dublin city and county libraries, was launched in the Mansion House on 28 October by the Lord Mayor and patron of the Dublin committee, Councillor John Stafford. Copies are available from Tommy Graham (01) 4535730.

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