Saturday, April 17, 2010

Daniel O’Connell with a facsimile of his handwriting. Portrait by T. Garrick, and Engraving by O’Neill. Published by T. Farrell & Son [n.d.]

O’Connell’s next major undertaking was agitation to repeal the Act of Union. This Act dissolved the Irish Parliament and provided Irish representation in the British Parliament. To O’Connell, the restoration was not radical or revolutionary: it made sense to have two legislatures under one king. Irish Protestants saw their world sliding away. O’Connell harnessed the machine he had built in the now-disbanded Catholic Association. He called for a run on the banks, and was promptly arrested on thirty-one charges of conspiracy to evade the Act of Suppression of Dangerous Associations. O’Connell used procedural tactics to drag-out the pre-trial arrangements. In the meanwhile Westminster (he was a member of Parliament) realized that they needed O’Connell’s support in Parliament on a pending Bill. By special arrangement, his trial was postponed until the statutes under which he was prosecuted expired.

In April 1840, O’Connell founded “The National Association for Full and Prompt Justice or Repeal.” The name was quickly changed to, “The Loyal National Repeal Association.” O’Connell lobbied the Dublin Corporation (i.e. City Council) to vote for local repeal. On March 4, 1843, the Municipal Reform Act enfranchised Catholic householders of some means, and launched O’Connell on a national speaking tour. Many of its forty stops were chosen for their connection to Irish history. Huge crowds of 100,000 or more met O’Connell at some of these rallies. These ‘monster’ crowds, as the newspapers dubbed them, worried the authorities.

The government’s response to this activism was to remove O’Connell from the Magistrates Bench. The pretext used was that his Repeal meetings, while legal, still held the possibility of disorderly conduct. Several other magistrates resigned in protest. On October 7, 1843 at 3:30 p.m., the day before his last meeting was scheduled, the government declared it an unlawful assembly. O’Connell backed down, and called off the gathering. On October 14, he and eight others were arrested for conspiring to change the government through intimidation.

LC27 1

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