he Irish statesman Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847) created modern Irish nationalism and served as the most successful champion of democracy in the Europe of his day.
Daniel O'Connell was born on Aug. 6, 1775, at Cahirciveen, County Kerry, a member of the Munster Catholic aristocracy. Following the Celtic traditions of their class, his parents had him brought up as a foster child in a peasant cottage. There he learned the language, values, fears, and frustrations of the Catholic masses. Adopted by his childless uncle, Maurice, head of the clan, O'Connell was sent to the Continent for secondary schooling, attending Saint-Omer and then Douai. In 1793 the spread of the French Revolution forced him to transfer to a London school. The next year, after deciding on a legal career, he enrolled at Lincoln's Inn, moving in 1796 to the King's Inn, Dublin. In 1798 O'Connell was admitted to the Irish bar.
Student reading converted O'Connell to the liberal views of the Enlightenment, including religious skepticism. He admired the ideas of William Godwin, Thomas Paine, and Adam Smith. Later he became a fervent disciple and friend of Jeremy Bentham. O'Connell eventually returned to Catholicism but never ceased to consider himself a radical. In 1798 he was a fringe member of the United Irishmen. At the same time he joined a lawyers' yeoman corps organized to discourage revolution. When revolution came in 1798, O'Connell condemned physical force. He argued that violence would inflame the passions of illiterate peasants, causing them to damage life and property, and lead to their slaughter by trained soldiers. When it was all over, Ireland and Irishmen would be less free than before. O'Connell remained a permanent foe of revolution for Ireland.
In 1800 O'Connell opposed the union with Britain but at the time concentrated his energies on building a successful law practice rather than patriotic causes. In 1802, against the wishes of his uncle, he married a distant cousin, Mary O'Connell, and began to raise a large family. Three years later O'Connell joined the Catholic Committee, quickly becoming its dominant personality. British politicians in 1815 offered Catholic emancipation in exchange for the right of the government to veto papal appointments to the Catholic hierarchy in the United Kingdom. O'Connell opposed the veto, splitting Catholic forces and delaying emancipation but preserving the Church as a vehicle for Irish nationalism.
Degree in History and Spanish, New Mexico State U. 1990