Appeared in Spring 2001, Vol. XXVI, No. 1  Download  PDF here

Daniel O’Connell was doubtless the leading Irish politician of his era. He was responsible for the granting of Catholic Emancipation in 1829 which allowed Catholics to sit in the british parliament-and for a host of measures which improved the position of Catholics in Ireland.*1 Scholars have written extensively about O’Connell and his various campaigns. He has been the subject of several biographies, eight volumes of his correspondence have been published and a series of books and articles have examined his political philosophy.1

Relatively little attention, however, has been paid to his religious beliefs.2 Outspoken on just about every subject, O’Connell was quite reticent on this matter. Still, from references in his diary and correspondence, it is clear that he had a tumultuous religious journey. Raised in a devoutly Catholic home, he lost his faith as a young man and became enamored with the philosophes instead. For about fifteen years he remained away from the Church and only returned to the sacraments to appease his wife. Gradually his faith came back, and as the years passed, he became an increasingly articulate and committed defender of the faith. In his later years, his fervor grew and his loyalty to the Papacy became more pronounced. By the time of his death in 1847, O’Connell had become an ultramontane of sorts.

*1 The author whole like to thank Dr. Christopher Blum for his valuable suggestions


O’Connell was born in County Kerry in 1775 to one of those rare Catholic families that had been able to hold onto its lands in spite of British persecution. The O’Connells decided that their sons should receive the finest education possible, so they sent Daniel and his younger brother Maurice to France, since there were no Catholic schools in Ireland at this time. The boys reached St. Omer’s, an elite Catholic school in northern France, in January 1791.3 as it turned out, the O’Connells would be among the school’s last students; French revolutionaries shut it down in 1793 and turned it into a military hospital.4 During the year and a half that the boys were at St. Omer’s, Dan, at least, performed well academically and impressed one teacher as being “profoundly religious.”5

From St. Omer’s, the boys traveled to the English seminary at Douai in the summer of 1792. While they were pleased with the school, they did not get much of a chance to settle in. Five months after their arrival, King Louis XVI was guillotined in Paris. The boys took that event as their cue to leave France. They set sail for London and on their arrival found an Irish master to tutor them.

In 1794, the family determined that daniel should stay in London and study law, while Maurice, who had less interest in academics, should return home to Kerry. Daniel entered Lincoln’s Inn for his legal apprenticeship, in part at least because it imposed no religious tests.6 Not much studying was required either. What was required to prove one’s legal prowess was regular attendance at the Inn’s dinner parties.


For two years O’Connell was a man of leisure in London. While it appears that he spent some of his time carousing,7 most of his days and nights were spent reading works in philosophy, politics, history and religion. Slowly but steadily, he worked his way through the key writers of the enlightenment: Voltaire, Rousseau, Godwin, Gibbon and Paine. While the works of each of these men probably contributed to O’Connell’s crisis of faith, Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason appears to have been decisive.8

Writing in his diary in January 1796, he offered an enthusiastic review of Paine’s deist tract:

I have lately read the first part of Paine’s Age of Reason. This work gave me a great deal of pleasure. In treating of the Christian system he is clear and concise. He has presented many things to my sight in a point of view in which I never before beheld them.9

Hereafter his diary entries began to incorporate deist language. On January 18th, he remarked:

“To the God of nature do I turn my heart; to the meditation of his works I turn my thoughts.”10

Some doubts still seemed to nag at him, though. A couple of days later, he confided to his diary:

Religious subjects engross much of my attention. The prejudices of my childhood and youth at times frighten and shake the firmness of my soul. These fears, these doubts, perhaps imply a libel on the First Cause, the Great Spirit who created the planetary systems that roll around. It is impossible that he whose justice is perfect should punish with eternal torments the belief which is founded on conviction.11

In the spring of 1796, O’Connell left London for Dublin to continue his legal studies-such as they were. Now in his free time he turned his attention more to politics. At this time, the united Irishmen, a revolutionary group with ties to France, were planning a revolt. Having barely escaped the Jacobins in 1793, O’Connell had no desire to see a French-style revolution replicated in Ireland. Instead, he began to advocate a moderate non-violent form of nationalism-a philosophy to which he would adhere for the rest of his life.

While his political views began to gel, his religious beliefs seemed to be suspended somewhere between deism and Catholicism. In December 1796, he noted in his diary that he had attended sunday Mass by himself.12 One O’Connell biographer, Sean O’Faolain, notes that although O’Connell mentions attending Mass once, he twice recounts being drunk on Sunday mornings.13 And his reading list was still anti-Christian. In 1797, he filled his diary with praise for the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate, referring to him as “Julian the great.”14 Two years later he would enroll in the Freemasons.15


The following year, 1798, proved to be of great moment for O’Connell personally and for Ireland as a whole. In April O’Connell -all of twenty-two- was called to the bar in Dublin. Before he had much of a chance to practice, Ireland was rocked by a rebellion. In May, Catholics launched a bloody revolt in the southeast and were triumphant long enough to slaughter hundreds of Protestants. After a difficult struggle, the British army eventually put down the rebels. The army also had to be called in to ulster where the united Irishmen had launched a rising of their own. By the end of the summer, Ireland was again calm but a terrible price had been exacted. Thirty thousand Irish people had died and tensions between Catholics and Protestants had escalated dramatically.16

O’Connell had taken no part in the rising and had little sympathy for the rebels. While the fighting raged, he was at his family’s estate in Kerry many miles from the action. Although troubled by the rising, he was more disturbed by the British government’s reaction. The prime Minister, William Pitt, declared that Ireland should be more closely joined to England in the future. He wanted the Irish to dismantle their parliament in Dublin and take up seats in the British parliament instead. To make the plan more appealing, Pitt assured the Irish bishops that he would enact Catholic emancipation as soon as the Irish parliament dissolved itself. As a result, the bishops and most Catholic laymen-O’Connell excepted-supported the measure. Gradually Pitt persuaded the members of the Irish parliament to go along as well. In 1800, the Irish parliament voted itself out of existence, but Pitt was not able to deliver on his promise, so parliament remained closed to Catholics.


O’Connell, along with many other Catholics, was deeply disappointed by Pitt’s failure and was determined to press the issue further. First, he had a more urgent matter to which he had to attend. In 1800 he had met and immediately fallen in love with an impoverished distant cousin, Mary O’Connell. Fearful that his family would disapprove of the match, O’Connell kept the relationship a secret. In 1802, they were married by a priest in his sister-in-law’s apartment in Dublin.17 Months later he finally broke the news to his parents and uncle.

Mary was a devout Catholic and it was certainly her idea to have a priest officiate at their wedding. Shortly after they were married, Mary’s faith began to make an impression on her husband. Writing to her in 1803, O’Connell spoke of the effect her “sermons” were having on him and asked her to pray for him.18 He could not-or would not-say any prayers himself, though, even when worried about his wife’s health.19

In 1804, O’Connell entered the political fray, joining the Catholic Committee, a select group of Catholic aristocrats, gentry and businessmen. The Committee’s leaders sought Catholic emancipation, but at the same time wanted to assure the British government of their unswerving loyalty. Although still a lapsed Catholic, O’Connell was nonetheless more militant than the Committee’s directors. To him, Catholic emancipation was a matter of simple justice and he was not about to apologize for advocating it.


In 1808, Henry Grattan, a liberal Irish Member of parliament, offered a proposal which he thought would break the deadlock over Catholic emancipation. Grattan’s plan linked Catholic emancipation with a British government veto over Irish episcopal appointments. By allowing the British authorities to screen candidates for vacant bishoprics, Grattan hoped to assuage hardline tories in parliament and make the prospect of Catholic emancipation more palatable to them.

Like many compromise measures, this bill did not satisfy many. Tory leaders were not willing to concede Catholic emancipation and so they blocked the bill’s passage. For their part, the Irish bishops were not interested in having their nominees scrutinized by the british Crown. While some members of the Catholic Committee were willing to countenance a veto, O’Connell stood with the bishops.

Five years later, Grattan put forth a similar bill. This time Catholic emancipation would be linked to a proposal calling for a lay Catholic committee to evaluate episcopal nominees. The veto would remain but would be in the hands of Catholics rather than protestants. Many Tories remained steadfastly opposed and used their influence to defeat it once again.

After the bill’s rejection, the Irish bishops convened and issued a pastoral letter which denounced the veto in no uncertain terms. O’Connell too condemned this measure much more vigorously than he had the previous one. He was probably more outspoken at this point because he had returned to the practice of the faith. In 1809 he had begun attending Mass again. A letter from Mary in March 1809 indicates that he was a reluctant returnee, who needed frequent reminders about Church teaching:

I hope, darling, you did not eat meat on Friday or Saturday since you left … and surely I need not beg of you to abstain from meat next week. You can’t be at a loss for fish in Cork. And Good Friday the judges will go to prayers and certainly you can then spare time to go. At all events I hope you will hear prayers on Easter Sunday. You see, heart, how good I want you to be…. I can’t tell you what real happiness it gives me to have you this sometime back say your prayers and attend Mass so regularly, not to say anything of your observance of the days of abstinence.20

O’Connell sent her an obliging reply:

“I got your Sermon last night and am condemned to catfish, nothing but fish for more than a week.”21

since Mary did not pen any more sermons, it seems reasonable to infer that O’Connell continued to attend to his faith-or at any ratenmust have convinced her that he was fulfilling his duties. In any case, his correspondence is strangely silent on religious matters for several years following his return.

When the second veto controversy erupted in 1813, O’Connell decided to use the issue to his own advantage. After the bishops condemned the veto, O’Connell proposed a motion at the Catholic Board22 meeting thanking the bishops for their pronouncement. He was well aware that many of the board members deferred to the British authorities and would not go on record criticizing a veto. O’Connell’s motion precipitated a split in the board; the more cautious members walked out and left O’Connell indisputably in charge.

O’Connell’s next challenge came from the English Catholic Board, whose leaders strongly favored a veto. The English Catholics decided to consult rome for a ruling. In February 1814, Monsignor Quarantotti issued a letter approving of the veto, arguing that the British had no interest in Catholic affairs and were concerned only with public security. The Irish bishops immediately sent one of their own, Daniel Murray, to Rome to present their viewpoint. The rescript was then withdrawn pending further review.

In 1815, Pope Pius VII-who was back in Rome after five years of imprisonment at Napoleon’s hands- essentially re affirmed Quarantotti’s statement. The Pope must have felt indebted to the British government for the role it had played in the defeat of Napoleon. Even though Protestants, the British were perceived as bulwarks against the irreligious forces unleashed by the French revolutionaries.

O’Connell was bitterly disappointed by the Pope’s statements and made no secret of his feelings. In a public meeting, he declared his gallican sympathies: “I would as soon take my politics from Constantinople as from Rome.”23 In the summer, the Catholic association-as it was known at this point directed O’Connell to draft a remonstrance to the pope on this question. While generally couched in respectful terms, the letter included a passage rebuking the Pope for meddling in Irish affairs:

We … must, most humbly, but most firmly, protest against the interference of your holiness, or any other foreign prelate, state or potentate, in the control of our temporal conduct, or in the arrangement of our political concerns.24

A Franciscan friar, Father Richard Hayes, was entrusted with the task of presenting O’Connell’s remonstrance to the Pope. Hayes met with the Pope on five separate occasions but made no headway with him. Hayes was ultimately deported from the Papal States in 1817.25

Although the Pope’s decision sorely distressed O’Connell, it did not turn him away from the faith. Instead his faith seemed to be deepening during this period. In 1815, he had written to a Jesuit, asking that his sons be allowed to attend the newly-established Clongowes Wood College: “Of course I am most anxious that they should be strongly imbued with the principles of Catholic faith and national feeling. These advantages I should entertain sanguine hopes of, if they were placed under your care.”26 The following year he began to take spiritual direction from a Carmelite friar, Father William L’Estrange, and for the first time took pains to adhere to the lenten fast rules.27 In fact, he had become so strict in his observance that Mary was now urging him to ease up.28


With all the controversy surrounding the veto, the momentum behind Catholic emancipation gradually slipped away. In 1823, O’Connell decided that the time was right to take up the issue once again. To promote the cause he established a new Catholic association, which this time was open to all classes of Irishmen. Poor members were expected to contribute a shilling a year in dues, while the wealthy were assessed a guinea.29

With large sums of money at his disposal, O’Connell set about organizing branches of the association throughout the country. In 1826 O’ Connell and his associates decided that they were ready to take part in the general election. The association targeted several districts and campaigned for protestants who favored Catholic emancipation. In waterford, the association took on Lord George Beresford, an extremely wealthy, entrenched Tory incumbent. The association threw its support behind Henry Stuart, a twenty-three year old progressive landlord. With Catholic help, stuart defeated Beresford handily.30

While battling the Protestant political establishment, O’Connell also found time to spar with Protestant religious leaders. In the summer of 1826, he entered into a dispute with the Reverend Robert Daly, a Church of Ireland minister, over both the private interpretation of Scripture and transubstantiation.

O’Connell asserted that private interpretation “necessarily creates sects and divisions … look at England, and her three hundred and more discordant sects, all springing from, and founded on, the right of private interpretation of scripture.”31 He then proceeded to use scripture quotations to buttress his case, stressing especially Jn. 10:16: “and other sheep I have that are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be ONE FOLD AND ONE SHEPHERD.”32

He then offered a detailed defense of transubstantation, a subject that he had been reading up on of late.33 Using the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel as his principal text, he went over it verse by verse, noting how much consternation Jesus had caused among his followers when he had declared: “Except you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink of his blood, you shall not have life in you.”34 He then cited Jesus’ words of institution at the last supper.

After reprinting and explaining these passages, he issued a stinging challenge to his adversary:

It is not possible to use words more distinctly calculated to convey their meaning. How do you resist them? … It is simply by contradicting our divine redeemer directly. … he says, it is MY BODY. You say it is not. He says it is my blood-you say it is not. In that plain and simple way stands the controversy. Let him who believes in the words of God, with me believe in the real presence.35

By 1828 O’Connell was again devoting himself full time to politics. When a seat opened unexpectedly in County Clare, the Catholic association decided to take a bold step: rather than settle for a sympathetic protestant they would nominate a Catholic. O’Connell was the obvious choice.

With the Catholic association’s considerable resources behind him, O’Connell ventured to Clare and undertook a spirited and deeply sectarian bid for the seat. Although running against a liberal-minded protestant, he repeatedly characterized him as an anti-Catholic bigot:

Electors of County Clare! … choose between the sworn libeller of the Catholic faith, and one who has devoted his early life to your cause, who has consumed his manhood in a struggle for your liberties, and who has ever lived, and is ready to die, for the integrity, the honour, the purity of the Catholic faith, and the promotion of Irish freedom and happiness.36

O’Connell easily won the election, thus placing the Duke of Wellington’s Tory administration in a difficult position. Reluctantly the Tories concluded that they had to give way. In March 1829, Sir Robert Peel, the home secretary, introduced a Catholic emancipation bill. At the same time, Peel moved to disenfranchise most Catholic voters. Even so, this was a great victory for O’ Connell Catholic emancipation had been gained at last without any veto being conceded to the government.


In February 1830, O’Connell -the first Catholic elected to parliament since the reformation- took his seat at Westminster. While interested in reform for Ireland, and hoping ultimately to Repeal the Act of Union, he was nevertheless willing to cooperate with English Whigs and radicals on a host of issues. The Enlightenment authors that he had steeped himself in as a young man had left their mark. Throughout the 1830s he would champion several progressive causes: the abolition of slavery and capital punishment, expansion of the franchise, and equal rights for Jews.

One of the first acts that O’Connell helped to pass was a Whig measure establishing a national system of elementary schools throughout Ireland. The schools were supposed to be nondenominational, but in most areas they were controlled by priests or ministers. O’Connell and the Catholic bishops strongly believed that the schools would benefit Irish children.37 Most Protestant leaders, however, derided the new system as godless.

In 1832, O’Connell gave his support to the Whigs’ reform bill, which doubled the franchise and redrew voting districts to take account of demographic shifts. The following year he enthusiastically collaborated with english liberals in securing legislation outlawing slavery in the West Indies, the British Empire’s lone slaveholding outpost.38

As far as Ireland was concerned, O’Connell called for repeal but received no support from English Maps. In 1834, he brought before the Commons a proposal to establish a select committee to study the repeal question. After a couple of days of debate, it was defeated resoundingly: 523-38.39

In the wake of this rebuff, O’Connell, ever the pragmatist, decided to work for piecemeal reforms. He wanted a say in the appointment of key officials in Ireland and the Whigs proved amenable. At O’Connell’s behest, a Catholic was appointed attorney general in 1835 and dozens of other Catholics were made judges, sheriffs and solicitors. The Whigs also enacted a tithe reform act in 1838. For years O’Connell had complained that Ireland’s Catholics and dissenters were being forced to pay taxes to support the Church of Ireland. The Whigs’ legislation did not abolish tithes but it reduced the charges by twenty-five percent.40


O’Connell’s views on church-state matters had also been deeply influenced by the Enlightenment authors whom he had read. When the King of France, Charles X, was deposed and replaced with King Louis Philippe in 1830, O’Connell issued a statement hailing the event. He was particularly enthusiastic about Louis Philippe’s decision to disestablish the Catholic Church:

There is one feature in this great and satisfactory change which as a Catholic I hail with the most profound conviction of its utility-it is the complete severance of the church from the state…. France has set the great and glorious example and it only remains for every other country, where rational liberty and common sense are respected, to imitate the precedent and protect the people from the oppressive absurdity of supporting clergymen from whom they do not derive any benefit whatsoever.41

Eventually he would change his mind about Louis Philippe and conclude that he was an anticlerical at heart and not a defender of religious freedom.42

In 1832, the newly-elected Pope, Gregory XVI took up the issue of church-state separation. In Mirari vos, he rejected out of hand the views promoted by a young French priest, Felicite de Lamennais, who had been advocating church-state separation, complete freedom of the press and a wide extension of the franchise. To the Pope, who had just weathered a revolt in the Papal States, Lamennais’ doctrines must have seemed revolutionary and even anarchic.43

In all likelihood, O’Connell privately sided with Lamennais. In 1830 he had received Count Charles de Montalembert, a close associate of Lamennais, at his home in County Kerry44 and he had openly supported the rising in the papal states because he thought the Pope should have no temporal power.45 Whatever his thoughts on Lamennais, he did not publicly criticize the Pope’s letter. And the Pope in turn never reproached him.

As the years passed, O’Connell grew fonder of the Pope. In 1834 he sent a letter praising the Pope to archbishop John Machale, whom the Pope had just appointed to the see of Tuam over English objections:

I am delighted at this new era. No man can be more devoted to the spiritual authority of his holiness. I have always detested what were called the liberties of the “Church in France.” I am convinced that the more direct and unequivocal is that authority according to the canons the more easy will it be to preserve the unity of the faith.46

Two years later, O’Connell joined with Father Nicholas Wiseman47 in founding the Dublin Review, a journal with a decidedly Catholic slant. Writing to William Howitt, a Quaker journalist who had applied for the editor’s position, O’Connell outlined the journal’s perspective:

[T]he Dublin Review is a Catholic publication, emphatically Catholic, I should say rather-polemically so. This is quite consistent with its advocacy of the principles of civil as well as religious freedom….My firm belief is that the duty of every man is to be a Catholic whilst I abhor every attempt either by direct penalty or by any civil exclusion to bring the law in any way in aid of my creed. I am indeed unequivocally a voluntary. I conceive it a crime to compel any man to contribute to the expenses of a worship which he condemns.48

O’Connell then wrote to Wiseman urging that a censor be appointed if Howitt were given the editorship. He felt that he could not assume the position because of his controversial views on church and state: “I go farther than you would probably approve upon the topic of separation of the church from the state [and thus] …am unfit to be the censor of our press so as to have your confidence.”49

The following year O’Connell again spoke out on church and state. Commenting on the civil war which was then raging in Spain, he denounced the traditionalist forces of Don Carlos, fearing that they would restore “that disastrous connection between church and state which for nearly two centuries has plunged Spain into the deepest moral degradation.”50

This statement, which was delivered on the floorof the house of Commons, raised concerns in rome about O’Connell’s orthodoxy. When alerted that the Pope himself was upset by his comments, O’Connell sent a letter affirming his loyalty to Rome:

I revere in all things the authority of the Holy See. I really believe … that there is not a single person who pays more sincerely than I do, and with all my heart, that submissionin the widest sense of the word-to the Holy See which the Catholic Church demands of her children. I have never said and shall never say a single word which I would not subject to her authority with profound obedience. I am attached to the centre of unity with the most ardent desire never to separate myself from it either in thought or word or action, and if I should ever deceive myself in the opinions I express, I hope that they will be interpreted according to my sentiments because my submission to the authority of the Church is complete, whole and universal.51

The Pope must have been satisfied by this statement, because in 1838 he granted indulgences to all who prayed at the chapel on O’Connell’s estate. He also allowed O’Connell to have Mass celebrated in his private apartment when he was away from home.52 Maurice O’Connell notes that the privilege of a portable altar was normally given only to heads of state.53

In 1839, O’Connell demonstrated that he had not lost his taste for religious polemics. He took on the Methodists, who had generally opposed the causes that he had championed in Parliament especially the National schools. In two letters to the Methodists of Manchester, England, he condemned John Wesley and his followers root and branch. He charged Wesley with being involved in the anti-Catholic Gordon riots which shook London for days in 1780. Since then “the filthy slime of Wesleyan malignity” had obstinately opposed all political efforts to aid Catholics.”54 O’Connell’s vehemence shocked Methodist leaders. One minister wrote angrily of the “gross violation of truth” in the letters and strenuously tried to defend Wesley’s honor.55


In 1841, the Whigs were turned out by the voters and Robert Peel, O’Connell’s Tory archrival, became Prime Minister. With Peel in power, O’Connell saw no reason to work for reform at Westminster. Instead, he would devote all of his energies to repeal. This would prove to be his last campaign. By this point, he was in his late sixties and widowed. The loss of his wife Mary who had died in 1836-had not caused a dampening of his piety. Instead, his fervor had intensified after her death. In1838, he had spent a week on retreat at the Trappist monastery at Mount Melleray.56 By 1841 he was frequently attending daily Masses.57 A sister of Mercy who had the chance to observe him was struck by his zeal:

He remained a month in town, and every evening … addressed his crowded audience, and having done speaking he would retire as if to take a short rest, but really to beg God’s blessing on his labours …[T]hose moments were always employed by the grand old patriot, in saying his beads. On Sundays he went to Confession in our sacristy … then heard Mass and received Communion most devoutly.58

O’Connell began his repeal campaign in earnest in late 1842 and declared that 1843 would be the “repeal year.” To promote the cause, he staged a series of rallies which the London Times promptly labeled “monster meetings.” Often flanked by bishops, O’Connell would hold rallies at strategic sites on Catholic holy days. On the feast of the Assumption, he drew hundreds of thousands of people to Tara in County Meath, which had been the seat of the Irish high kings in the Middle ages.59 In October he planned to hold his largest gathering ever at Clontarf, where Brian Born had defeated the Viking invaders in 1014. By this point, Peel had had enough; he prohibited the rally twenty-four hours before it was to occur.

Although O’Connell-ever the dutiful constitutionalist-obeyed the directive, Peel had him arrested anyway for seditious conspiracy. Brought before a carefully screened, all protestant jury, he was convicted and sentenced to a year in jail. Remarkably, the House of Lords overturned his conviction three months into his term. O’Connell attributed his early release to the intercession of the Virgin Mary.60

After his release, O’Connell was never able to regain the momentum in the repeal struggle. Facing increasing opposition from young Irelanders, who were more secular and more willing to countenance violence, O’Connell was unable to present a unified front against Peel.

In the following year the potato crop failed, which meant that O’Connell had to direct all of his energies towards feeding the millions of hungry tenant farmers who were solely dependent on the potato. In 1846 the famine only worsened. Emigration, which had already been high, reached new peaks and deaths from starvation and disease began to mount. O’Connell’s own health was deteriorating at this time so he was not able to do as much as he would have liked.

Having been directed by his doctor to head to the warmer climes of the continent, O’Connell made one final plea for famine relief before Parliament and then began his trip. Before leaving England, he was visited by three Oxford Movement converts who credited their conversions to Catholicism to his political labors on behalf of Catholics. According to O’Neill Daunt, after speaking with the converts, O’Connell’s “spirits rallied” and he once again showed the “vivacity that had characterized him in the days of his vigour.”61

Accompanied by his son Daniel, his chaplain Father John Miley, and a manservant, O’Connell set sail in March 1847 from Hastings for Rome to meet the new Pope, Pius IX. Stopping first in Paris, O’Connell was feted by the archbishop of Paris, Denis Affre, and several prominent laymen including the Count de Montalembert. From Paris, O’Connell and his entourage set off for Genoa which they reached on May 2. He was too weak and weary to complete his papal pilgrimage. As he lay dying in Genoa, he made a last request which demonstrated the dual loyalties he felt as an Irish Catholic: he asked that his body be sent back to Dublin for burial except for his heart, which he wanted sent on to the Pope in Rome. His wishes were carried out. After his death on May 15, his heart was encased in a silver urn and presented to Pope Pius IX and his body was embalmed and returned to Ireland.

O’Connell, the erstwhile deist, had died a fervent Catholic. Still, the Enlightenment authors that he had imbibed in his youth had left an indelible imprint on him.62 Consequently, this loyal ultramontane was at the same time an advocate of church-state separation-a cause dear to secular liberals. And while ever eager to enter into fierce disputations with representatives of other churches, he remained a staunch defender of religious freedom for all.


1 See, for example, Oliver MacDonagh, The Hereditary Bondsman: Daniel O’Connell, 1775-1829 (New York, 1988); idem, The Emancipist: Daniel O’Connell, 1830-1847 (London, 1989); Lawrence McCaffrey, Daniel O’Connell and the Repeal Year (Lexington, Ky, 1966); Charles Chenevix Trench, The Great Dan (London, 1986); Angus Maclntyre, Daniel O’Connell and the Irish Party, 1830-1847 (London, 1965); Maurice O’Connell, The Correspondence of Daniel O’Connell 8 vols. (New york and London, 1972-1980); Donal McCartney, ed. The World of Daniel O’Connell (Dublin, 1980); Kevin Nowlan and Maurice O’Connell, eds. Daniel O’Connell: Portrait of a Radical (Belfast, 1984); Maurice O’Connell, Daniel O’Connell: The Man and his Politics (Dublin, 1990); idem, Daniel O’Connell: Political Pioneer (Dublin, 1991).

2 O’Connell’s religious views are addressed in detail in James E. Guilfoyle, “The Religious Development of Daniel O’Connell, I: From Deist to Roman Catholic,” New Hibernia Review 2 (Autumn 1998): 89101; idem, “The religious development of Daniel O’Connell, II: the Making of a Devotional Catholic,” New Hibernia Review 2 (Winter 1998): 115-132. Sean O’Faolain, King of the Beggers (Dublin, 1938) also devotes some attention to the subject.

3 Daniel O’Connell, His Early Life and Journal, 1795-1806, ed. Arthur Houston (london, 1906), 32.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., 39.

6 Correspondence, 1: 14.

7 Early Life and Journal, 231-232; Trench, 23-25.

8 Guilfoyle, “The Religious Development of Daniel O’Connell, I,” 94-95.

9 Early Life and Journal, 110.

10 Ibid., 116.

11 Ibid., 118. Emphasis in original.

12 Ibid., 138.

13 O’Faolain, 76.

14 Early Life and Journal, 185, 212.

15 Ibid., 242.

16 See RE Foster, Modern Ireland, 1600-1972 (New York, 1989), 280.

17 Erin I. Bishop, The World of Mary O’Conell, 1778-1836 (Dublin, 1999), 13; Correspondence, 1:73.

18 Quoted in Trench, 55.

19 See Macdonagh, Hereditary Bondsman, 77.

20 Mary O’Connell to Daniel O’Connell, March 21, 1809, in Correspondence, 1: 193-194. Emphasis in original.

21 Daniel O’Connell to Mary O’Connell, March 24, 1809, in ibid., 1: 194. Emphasis in original.

22 Formerly known as the Catholic Committee.

23 Quoted in Brendan Clifford, The Veto Controversy (Belfast, 1985), 185.

24 “To his Holiness Pius VII: the Humble Address and Remonstrance of the Roman Catholics of Ireland,” in John O’Connell, Life and Speeches of Daniel O’Connell 2 vols. (Dublin, 1846), 2: 32.

25 See Correspondence, 2: 59.
26 Daniel O’Connell to Rev. Peter Kenney, SJ, January 4, 1815, in Correspondence, 2:1.
27 See Oliver Macdonagh, Hereditary Bondsman, 147-160.

28 See Brian Girvin, “Making Nations: O’Connell, Religion and the Creation of Political Identity,” in Maurice O’Connell, ed. Daniel O’Connell: Political Pioneer, 29; Bishop, 163-164.

29 Twenty-one shillings.

30 See Donal McCartney, The Dawning of Democracy: Ireland, 1800-1870 (Dublin, 1987), 113-116.

31 Letters of the Rev. Robert Daly to Daniel O’Connell, Esq. with the Reply of Mr. O’Connell (Dublin, 1826), 16.

32 Ibid., 17. Emphasis in original.

33 Father P. Scully sent O’Connell materials on transubstantiation in June 1826. See Correspondence, 3: 247.

34 Letters of the Rev. Robert Daly, 24. (Jn. 6: 54)

35 Ibid., 25. Emphasis in original.
36 Quoted in Trench, 148.
37 A few years later, John Machale, the archbishop of Tuam, and several other Catholic bishops turned against the system. See Emmet Larkin, “The Quarrel Among the Roman Catholic Hierarchy over the National System of Education, 1838-1841,” in The Celtic Cross, ed. Ray B. Browne (Lafayette, IN, 1964), 121-146.

38 See Douglas Riach, “Daniel O’Connell and American anti-slavery,” Irish Historical Studies 20 (March 1976): 3-25.

39 MacDonagh, The Emancipist, 99-100.

40 See ibid., 170.

41 O’Connell to Christopher Fitz-Simon, September 11, 1830, in Correspondence, 4: 203-205.

42 See MacDonagh, Emancipist, 62.

43See E.E.Y. Hales, The Catholic Church in the Modern World (New York, 1960), 90-95.
44 See Macdonagh, The Emancipist, 24.
45 See Maurice O’Connell, Daniel O’Connell: The Man and his Politics, 36.
46 O’Connell to Most. Rev. John Machale, December 10, 1834, in Correspondence, 5: 225. Emphasis in original.

47 Nicholas Wiseman was appointed Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster in 1850.

48 O’Connell to William Howitt, November 7, 1836, in Correspondence, 5: 401. Emphasis in original.

49 O’Connell to Rev. Nicholas Wiseman [1836], quoted in Maurice O’Connell, Daniel O’Connell: The Man and his Politics, 38.

50 Quoted in ibid., 36.

51 O’Connell to a friend in Rome, 1837, in Correspondence, 6: 1.

52 Further indulgences were granted to O’Connell by Roman authorities in 1845. See Rev. F.J. Nicholson to O’Connell, May 24, 1845, in Correspondence, 8: 317-318.

53  See ibid.

54 Quoted in Macdonagh, The Emancipist, 23.

55 Rev. George Cubitt, “Reply to O’Connell’s letters to the Wesleyan Methodists” (Dublin, 1840), Methodist Collection, Drew university, Madison, New Jersey.

56 W.J. O’Neill Daunt, Personal Recollections of the Late Daniel O’Connell 2 vols. (London, 1848), 1: 23; Guilfoyle, “The Religious Development of Daniel O’Connell,” 123-124.

57Ibid., 1: 225.

58 Quoted in Macdonagh, The Emancipist, 197.

59 See McCaffrey, 52.

60 MacDonagh, The Emancipist, 263.

61O’Neill Daunt, 2: 265.

62 Guilfoyle, “The religious development of Daniel O’Connell, II,” 129-132.