Orangemen is the name given by the Irish Roman Catholics to their Protestant countrymen, on account of their faithful adherence to the house of Orange. It has come to be one of the unhappy party designations which for nearly a century has largely helped to create and keep alive religious and political divisions of the worst character throughout the British empire, but especially in Ireland.
Origin. — The Orange organization was provoked by the animosities which subsisted between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Ireland from the Reformation downwards, reaching their full development after the Revolution of 1688, and the wholesale confiscations of Catholic property by which that event was followed. From that time the Romanists of Ireland may be said legally to have lost all social, political, and religious status in Ireland. Some attempts which were made in the latter part of the 18th century to ameliorate their condition excited, especially in the north, the alarm of the Protestant party, who regarded the traditionary "Protestant ascendency" as endangered. Acts of violence became of frequent occurrence; and, as commonly happens, combinations for aggressive and defensive purposes were formed, not alone by the Protestants, but also by their Catholic antagonists. The members of the Protestant associations appear at first to have been known by the name of '"Peep-o'-day Boys," from the time at which their violences were commonly perpetrated; the Catholics who associated together for self defense being called "Defenders." Collisions between armed bodies of these parties became of frequent occurrence. In 1785 a pitched battle, attended with much bloodshed, was fought in the county of Armagh. The steps taken to repress these disorders were at once insufficient in themselves to prevent open violence, and had the effect of diverting the current into the still more dangerous channel of secret associations. The rude and illiterate mob of Peep-o'-day Boys made way for the rich and influential organization of the Orange Society, which, having its first origin in the same obscure district that had so long been the scene of agrarian violence, by degrees extended its ramifications into every portion of the British empire, and into every grade of society from the hovel to the very steps of the throne. The name of the Orange association is taken from that of the prince of Orange, William III, and was assumed in honor of that prince, who, in Ireland, has been popularly identified with the establishment of that Protestant ascendency which it was the object of the Orange association to sustain.
Development. — The first "Orange Lodge" was founded in the village of Loughgall, county Armagh, Sept. 21, 1795. The immediate occasion of the crisis was a series of outrages by which Roman Catholics were forcibly ejected from their houses and farms, twelve or fourteen houses being sometimes, according to a disinterested witness, wrecked in a single night; terminating, September, 1795, in an engagement, called, from the place where it occurred, the battle of the Diamond. The association, which began among the ignorant peasantry, soon worked its way upwards. The general disaffection towards English rule, which at that time pervaded Ireland, and in which the Romanists, as a natural consequence of their oppressed condition, largely participated, tended much to identify in the mind of Protestants the cause of disloyalty with that of popery; and the rebellion of 1798 inseparably combined the religious with the political antipathies. In November of that year the Orange Society had already reached the dignity of a grand lodge of Ireland, with a grand master, a grand secretary, and a formal establishment in the metropolis; and in the following years the organization extended over, the entire province of Ulster, and had its ramifications in all the centers of Protestaintism in the other provinces of Ireland. In 1808 it extended to England. A grand lodge was founded at Manchester, from which warrants were issued for the entire kingdom. The seat of the grand lodge was transferred to London in 1821. The subject more than once was brought under the notice of Parliament, especially in 1813; and, in consequence, the grand lodge of Ireland was dissolved; but its functions in issuing warrants, etc., were discharged vicariously through the English lodge. The most memorable crisis, however, in the history of the Orange Society was the election of a royal duke (Cumberland) in 1827 as grand master for England; and on the re-establishment of the Irish grand lodge in 1828, an imperial grand master. The "Catholic Relief Act" of the following year stirred up all the slumbering antipathies of creed and race, and the Orange association was propagated more vigorously than ever. Emissaries were sent out for the purpose of organizing lodges, not alone in Wales and Scotland, but also in Canada. in the Mediterranean, and in the other colonies. But the most formidable part of this zealous propagandism was its introduction into the army. As early as 1824 traces of this are discoverable, and again in 1826. No fewer than thirty-two regiments were proved to have received warrants for holding lodges in Ireland, and the English grand lodge had issued thirty-seven warrants for the same purpose. The organization of this strange association was most complete and most extensive. Subject to the central grand-lodge were three classes — county, district, and private lodges each of which corresponded, and made returns and contributions to its own immediate superior, by whom they were transmitted to the grand lodge. Each lodge had a master, deputy-master, secretary, committee, and chaplain. The only condition of membership was thattthe party should be Protestant, and eighteen years of age. The election of members was by ballot, and each lodge also annually elected its own officers and committee. The general government of the association was vested in the grand lodge, which consisted of all the great dignitaries, the grand masters of counties, and the members of another body called the grand committee. This lodge met twice each year, in May and on November 5 — the day pregnant with associations calculated ito keep alive the Protestant antipathies of the body. All the dignitaries of the society, as well as its various committees and executive bodies, were subject to annual re-election. In 1835 the association numbered 20 grandlodges, 80 district lodges, 1500 private lodges, and from 200,000 to 220,000 members. The worst result of the Orange association was the constant incentive which it supplied to party animosities and deeds of violence. In the north of Ireland the party displays and processions were a perpetually recurring source of disorder, and even of bloodshed; and the spirit of fraternity which pervaded its members was a standing obstacle to the administration of the law. It was known or believed that an Orange culprit was perfectly safe in the hands of an Orange jury; and all confidence in the local administration of justice by magistrates was destroyed. These facts, as well as an allegation which was publicly made of the existence of a conspiracy to alter the succession to the crown in favor of the duke of Cumberland, led to a protracted parliamentary inquiry in 1835; and the results of this inquiry, as well as a very shocking outrage perpetrated soon afterwards by an armed body of Orangemen on occasion of a procession in Ireland, tended so much to discredit the association, and to awaken the public mind to a sense of the folly and wickedness of such associations, that its respectability has since that time gradually diminished. So great was the popular distrust of the administration of justice in party, questions, that for several years the lord chancellor laid down a rule by which no member of the Orange association was admitted to the commission of the peace; and although the association still exists, it is comparatively without influence, except among the very lowest classes in the north of Ireland.
Of the colonial offshoots of the Orange association, those of Canada have at all times been the most active and the most flourishing. The Canadian Orangemen, being, for the most part, Irish emigrants, carried with them all the bitterness of the domestic feud with the Roman Catholics. Outrages directed against Catholic churches, convents, and other institutions were of not unfrequent occurrence until recently; and in 1860, on occasion of the visit of the prince of Wales to Canada, an attempt was made to force from his royal highness a recognition of the association, which was only defeated by his own firmness, and by the judicious and moderate counsels of his advisers. See Reports of the Orange Association, presented to Parliament in 1895, from which the history of the society, down to that year, is for the most part taken.
In the United States the Orangemen are also largely represented. In 1871 they encountered much opposition from the Romanists, and on July 12, when on parade in New York City, a bloody riot was provoked, which was fortunately suppressed by military interference, after sixty lives had been sacrificed, mainly Romanists.