On this day, October 14, 1843 - the British arrest the Irish nationalist Daniel O'Connell for conspiracy to commit crimes, sentenced him to a year's imprisonment and fined him £2,000.
His crime? Having already achieved Catholic Emancipation, O'Connell was campaigning for repeal of the Act of Union, which in 1801 had merged the Parliaments of the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. To campaign for Repeal, O'Connell had set up the Repeal Association. He had argued for the re-creation of an independent Kingdom of Ireland to govern itself, with Queen Victoria as the Queen of Ireland. For that, he was arrest, tried, convicted, fined and jailed.
O'Connell's philosophy and career have inspired leaders all over the world, including Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) and Martin Luther King (1929–1968). He was told by William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863) "you have done more for your nation than any man since Washington ever did." William Gladstone (1809–1898) described him as "the greatest popular leader the world has ever seen." Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850) wrote that "Napoleon and O'Connell were the only great men the 19th century had ever seen." Jean-Henri Merle d'Aubigné (1794–1872) wrote that "the only man like Luther, in the power he wielded was O'Connell." William Grenville (1759–1834) wrote that "history will speak of him as one of the most remarkable men that ever lived." O'Connell met, befriended, and became a great inspiration to Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) a former American slave who became a highly influential leader of the abolitionist movement, social reformer, orator, writer and statesman.
Thomas E. Keefe
Assistant Professor of Humanities,