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O'CONNELL, DANIEL - Lengthy ALS from the 'Liberator' of Ireland: 'France with all her capabilities will take half a century to return to the cultivation of the arts of peace...'
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O'CONNELL, DANIEL - Lengthy ALS from the 'Liberator' of Ireland: 'France with all her capabilities will take half a century to return to the cultivation of the arts of peace...'

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O’CONNELL, DANIEL. (1775-1847). Irish political leader known as the “Liberator” who fought for Catholic emancipation and founded the powerful Catholic Association. ALS. (“Daniel O’Connell”). 4pp. 4to. Dublin, May 3, 1823. To his uncle DANIEL CHARLES, COUNT O’CONNELL (1745-1833).


It is vain to tell you how sincerely I thank you for your friendship to my boy - but your life has been all kindness and affection to your friends - You have practiced privation towards yourself to be generous and profuse to your relations. Those relations may feel but they can not possibly express the fervor of my gratitude and affection. France does not agree with my family - My Wife is not suited to the warmth of the climate and my girls are suffering a good deal - Besides the war party in England is very strong and there is no great security for British subjects in France in either of two events - If the French army succeed in Spain the peace party in England will be overpowered and we shall have war - because the success of France will drive English prejudice to madness - If the French do not succeed in Spain then I fear that new commotions may ensue in France and the reigning family who otherwise are likely to do so much good - if they had a little more prudence - may be assailed again. I touch these subjects lightly - I am therefore determined to bring my family over to England - At Exeter I have ascertained that I can get every accommodation for them in the most comfortable manner - and I am convinced to the full as cheap if not cheaper than in France - believe me that Education is now much superior in England than in France - the progress that Knowledge and Science have made in private society - the great diffusion of books - and many other advantages of which there is scarcely a trace left in France. France with all her capabilities will take half a century to return to the cultivation of the arts of peace but the system of partition of property will prevent her from cultivating the graces of more polished life - My family then are to remove from France, and for that purpose they will be on their way to Paris. I have written to Mary to stop at the Hotel des Colonies - She will take handsome lodgings and hire a job carriage of the best description. A difference of fifteen or twenty Louis while she remains in Paris is the utmost that living in a way not unbecoming your relative may make. I shall myself meet her there by the 24th of this month and we will leave it on the 26th. I know the warmth and kindness of your family and Mary will wait on them so soon as she is settled. The only thing I apprehend on this subject is that those worthy and most amiable people may give themselves too much trouble while my family are in Paris - I trust my dear Uncle to your ever kind discretion to prevent or at least to check that disposition. It makes me really uneasy and unhappy least there should be any kind of inconvenience occasioned to those about … for my family - They will of course pay you their unremitting respects and will endeavor to enjoy as much of your Society as they can - They will follow your kind advice as to every thing especially what they ought to see in Paris. And if you should think it better that they should go through Paris with out your family knowing it there are a thousand legitimate excuses which could afterwards be made. In short all I tremble for is least they should give any unnecessary trouble to your friends. Morgan will go from Paris to join his regiment - I naturally wish to embrace my dear boy before his departure - The state of this country is frightful and there is not the least prospect of its improvement - The hand of Providence is heavy upon us and submission to its wisdom is the only consolation as well as the first duty - The second duty is to make every rational effort to ameliorate the system of misrule under which we labour - Present my kindest and very respectful regards to your most amiable family - and believe me always with the greatest respect and most lively gratitude, my dearest Uncle Your devotedly attached and dutiful nephew…


Our letter’s recipient, Daniel Charles O’Connell, sought an education on the continent and remained in France where he served in the Royal Swedish Regiment, with whom he distinguished himself at the Great Siege of Gibraltar. For his achievements he was made a Chevalier of the Order of Saint Louis and Louis XVI bestowed the title Count O’Connell on him in 1785. Four years later, he fled the French Revolution, living in England where, in 1794, the laws against Catholics having been weakened, he joined the British Army at the invitation of Prime Minister William Pitt, raising the Fourth Brigade of the Irish Brigade of the British army. He returned to France in 1799 and resided at Blois until his death in 1833.


Barred from studying at English and Irish universities because he was a Catholic, Daniel O’Connell, followed in the footsteps of his influential uncle, who helped finance his studies in the French city of Douai. Also like his uncle, the younger O’Connell fled France in 1793 because of the revolution. The following year, he became a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn and was later called to the Irish Bar. It was during these early years practicing law, that he first became involved with radical politics. However, unlike many of his contemporaries, he believed that Catholic emancipation would not be won militarily, but politically. In 1811, he established the Catholic Board, which campaigned for the right of Catholics to join parliament, and on May 12, 1823, just a few days after penning our letter, he founded the powerful Catholic Association. Its low membership fees allowed widespread participation amongst all classes and made it hugely successful. By helping pro-emancipation MPs get elected to Parliament, the Catholic Association, in 1829, succeeded in its aim with the passage of the Catholic Relief Bill, earning O’Connell the sobriquet “The Liberator.”


O’Connell continued to push for Irish parliamentary reform and independence from Britain, and in 1841, he was elected Dublin’s first Catholic lord mayor in nearly 200 years. Increasing disaffection with his narrow sectarianism and disavowal of more revolutionary methods reflected his declining power and the rise of a more militant faction, soon to assume the dominant role in Ireland’s struggle against Britain.


Our letter reflects mostly on the political and diplomatic affairs of post-Napoleonic France. In 1814, Louis XVIII, the exiled Bourbon monarch returned to the French throne upon Napoleon’s defeat and exile. Although Napoleon unseated him in 1815 following his escape from Elba and 100-day rule, Louis returned to the throne, reigning until his death in 1824. Napoleon introduced important political changes to Spain, beginning with his invasion of the country in 1808. In 1813, Spain and France signed a peace treaty recognizing Ferdinand VII as the rightful heir to the throne that had been usurped by Joseph Bonaparte. But after the 1820 revolution brought to power the Trieno Liberal and significantly weakened the Spanish monarch’s power, France again interfered in Iberian politics, this time with the support of Britain, Austria and the Netherlands. In April 1823, Louis XVIII sent an army, called the 100,000 Sons of Saint Louis, which captured Madrid and restored King Ferdinand VII to the throne. Despite the restoration of the absolutist monarchy, Spain had lost its American colonies to local revolutionaries and was prevented from reclaiming them due to English and American opposition (the latter in the form of the Monroe Doctrine).


Our letter also mentions France’s changed property laws, “the system of partition of property,” bywhich former communally-held property was privatized in 1793. The Bourbon monarchy viewed the property holders as usurpers to public lands and sought to prosecute them through a royal ordinance issued on June 23, 1819. Although difficult to enforce, it was eventually widely applied and led to a large amount of property changing hands throughout the country.


Despite the considerable disapproval of his uncle Maurice, O’Connell married his third cousin, Mary O’Connell. Together they had four daughters and four sons Maurice, John, Daniel, and Morgan (1804-1885), all of whom went on to serve in Parliament. Despite his business success, O’Connell’s extravagant lifestyle and large family kept him in debt throughout his life, a fact alluded in our letter.


This lengthy and relatively early letter is not published in the 8-volume Correspondence of Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator edited by W.J. Fitzpatrick. Folded with some paper loss along the folds and a wax seal tear which affects one or two words of text. With some minor restoration and in good condition. 



Item #18810




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