In the late 1770s, the American Revolution encouraged the combination of an array of political languages into a powerful Irish patriotism focused on the unsatisfactory connection with Britain. Patriots used ancient constitutional arguments to attack the British government’s denial of the traditional ‘English’ birthrights of Irishmen. While Irish patriotism was focused on Britain during the agitation for free trade and legislative independence, these languages formed a loose consensus. But they were full of contradictions, containing the seeds of radical reform, Catholic emancipation, and republican separatism, as well as justifications for elitist politics and Protestant Ascendancy. The desire to make Ireland a rich, commercial country continued to be highly influential in all forms of patriot, radical, and republican thought throughout the decade.
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