“Dr O’Brien carries this reinterpretation to its logical conclusion. The idea that the Union was, for Pitt, ‘a solution to the constitutional difficulties created by the independent status of the Irish Parliament’ is ‘untenable’: the real object of the Union was to facilitate Catholic emancipation, and this was in its inception an English strategic necessity rather than an Irish social reform.
Such arguments almost erase the old picture of a distinct and often victorious political tradition among late eighteenth-century Irish Protestants: no longer can the Patriots be reverently placed in a hall of fame as founding fathers. This study is not without the shortcomings of a first book, but its virtues outweigh them. Gerard O’Brien’s iconoclasm has produced a considerable achievement of reinterpretation; historians of both Ireland and England will need to think seriously about the implications of this book.”
– Jonathan Clarke, author of Revolution and Rebellion (Cambridge University Press, 1986).