O'Connell, John (DNB00)
O'CONNELL, JOHN (1810–1858), Irish politician, third son of Daniel O'Connell the ‘Liberator’ [q. v.], by his wife Mary, daughter of Dr. O'Connell of Tralee, was born in Dublin on 24 Dec. 1810, and was destined by his father, whose favourite son he was, for law and politics. He was called to the Irish bar at the King's Inns, Dublin, and was returned to parliament for Youghal, on 15 Dec. 1832, as a member of his father's ‘household brigade.’ In 1835 an unsuccessful petition was presented against his return by his opponent, T. B. Smyth (afterwards Irish master of the rolls). Till 1837 he sat for the same constituency; he was then returned unopposed for Athlone on 4 Aug.; on 3 July 1841 he succeeded Joseph Hume in the representation of Kilkenny without a contest, and in August 1847 was returned both for Kilkenny and for Limerick, and elected to sit for the latter place. During this period he had taken a very active part as his father's lieutenant in the repeal agitation. He prepared various reports for the repeal association on ‘Poor-law Remedies’ in 1843, on ‘Commercial Injustices to Ireland,’ and on the ‘Fiscal Relations of the United Kingdom and Ireland’ in 1844, and also in the same year his ‘Argument for Ireland,’ which was separately published and reached a second edition in 1847. He also wrote for the ‘Nation’ his ‘Repeal Dictionary,’ separately published in 1845. He shared his father's trial in 1844, and his imprisonment in Richmond gaol, where he organised private theatricals, and conducted a weekly paper for his fellow-prisoners; rode in his father's triumphal car when the prisoners were released on the success of their appeal to the House of Lords, and became, during his father's frequent absences, the practical head of the repeal association in Ireland. In this capacity he strenuously opposed the ‘Young Ireland’ party, and incurred its bitter enmity. Allied as he always was with the Roman catholic priesthood, and trained too in his father's school of constitutional agitation, he was prone to detect and vehement in denouncing irreligious or lawless tendencies in the new party. To the succession to his father's ‘uncrowned kingship’ he asserted almost dynastic claims. The ‘Young Ireland’ party, willing to defer to the age and genius of the father, revolted against such pretensions on the part of his youthful and mediocre son. A bitter struggle ensued, but on his father's final departure from Ireland, he succeeded to the control, and, on his death, to the titular leadership, of the association, which, in his hands, declined so rapidly that for want of funds it was dissolved on 6 June 1848. He then appears to have made overtures to the ‘Confederates’ through William Smith O'Brien [q. v.], but speedily withdrew from them. ‘He was charged at the moment,’ says Duffy, whose antagonism to him seems to have been extreme, ‘with being a tool of Lord Clarendon's to keep separate the priests and the “Confederates;” but it is possible that he was merely influenced by doubt and trepidation, for his mind was as unsteady as a quagmire.’ At any rate, when the ‘Confederates’ attempted a rebellion, he thought it well to retire for a time to France.
When he returned, he openly took the side of the whig party. He became a captain of militia, reopened Conciliation Hall, and, until he sold it, held meetings in the whig interest. His name was still influential with the masses, though over the repeal members of parliament he had ceased to exercise any control, in spite of their election pledges of fidelity to him; and, aided by the support of several Roman catholic bishops, he carried on for some time a miniature agitation under the popular nickname of the ‘Young Liberator.’ When the tenant league was projected in 1850 to start a new land agitation, he used his influence against it; and he gave great offence during the excitement produced by the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill by voting against the motion with regard to colonial policy, which led to the fall of Russell's ministry in February 1851. The corporation of Limerick passed a resolution of censure on their member, and in August 1851 he accepted the Chiltern Hundreds to create a vacancy for the Earl of Arundel, who, in consequence of the secession of his father, the Duke of Norfolk, from the Roman faith, had resigned the family borough of Arundel on 16 July. On 21 Dec. 1853 he re-entered parliament as member for Clonmel; but his position in the House of Commons, always insignificant, was now one of obscurity. In February 1857 he quitted public life, on receiving from Lord Carlisle the clerkship of the Hanaper Office, Ireland; and on 24 May 1858 he died suddenly at his house, Gowran Hill, Kingstown, near Dublin, where he had lived for some years, and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery. He published a wordy and extravagant ‘Life and Speeches’ of his father in 1846, which was republished in 1854; and ‘Recollections’ of his own parliamentary career, a chatty but unsatisfactory book, in 1846, which was fiercely attacked in the ‘Quarterly Review’ (lxxxvi. 128).
He married, on 28 March 1838, Elizabeth daughter of Dr. Ryan of co. Dublin, and by her had eight children.
[John O'Connell's Works; Fitzpatrick's Correspondence by O'Connell; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography; State Trials, new ser. vol. v.; Duffy's Four Years of Irish History and League of North and South.]