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Daniel O'Connell Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Daniel O'Connell passes away in 1847.

Daniel O'Connell was an Irish politician and political leader.

O'Connell was born Carhan in County Kerry, Ireland on August 6th, 1775. He was part of a once wealthy Roman Catholic family dispossessed of it's lands. Under the patronage of his Uncle Maurice who retained his wealth, O'Connell traveled to France for his education. He also became familiar with the pro-democracy radicals of his time.

In 1794, he was admitted to the bar in Lincoln's Inn, one of four governing legal institutions in England. In 1796, he was admitted to Dublin's Kings Inn which controls barristers in Ireland.

In December of 1796, Wolfe Tone's French invasion fleet arrived in Ireland. Tone was inspired by the American and French Revolution and sought the end of monarchical rule of Ireland. O'Connell's uncle urged him not to get involved in the fight. Eventually to save face with his peers, he took a position with a Lawyer's Artillery Corps.

In 1798, O'Connell was called to the Irish Bar and became a barrister. The same year the United Irishmen, led by Tone, staged their rebellion and it was put down by the English military. O'Connell sought reform in Ireland through peaceful means and did not agree with the violence of the rebellion. Despite his objection to violence, he defended many accused of political crimes, especially if he felt they were false accusations.

In 1811, O'Connell formed the Catholic board which campaigned for Catholic Emancipation, this included lifting the ban preventing Catholics from serving in Parliament. The organization was considered subversive and many of it's members were in danger of prosecution under an 18th century statute.

In 1815, as part of his work with the Catholic board, he had a life changing experience. He was challenged to a duel by noted duelist John D'Esterre. The subject of the duel was O'Connell's comments on the Dublin Corporation, a stronghold of Protestant Ascendancy. He said it was nothing more than a "beggarly corporation." O'Connell refused to apologize and the duel was set. A huge crowd turned out to see it, many hoping to see O'Connell's death, as he had become viewed as a public nuisance. He was victorious in the duel and it weighed on him for the rest of his life. He was horrified to have taken a life and offered to aid his widow financially, as she was left destitute. The widow declined, although eventually she agreed to an allowance for her daughter, which O'Connell paid for the rest of his life.

In 1828, O'Connell stood for a seat in the House of Commons. He won, although at the time all members of parliament were required to take the Oath of Supremacy, which declared the King to be final decision maker in all things earthly and spiritual, which was in conflict with O'Connell's beliefs as a Catholic. It was decided to allow O'Connell to take his seat to avoid another uprising in Ireland. In 1829, the Prime Minister convinced George IV Catholic emancipation was the right thing to do and it became law. Unfortunately for O'Connell it was not retroactive and an English Catholic became the first Catholic to serve in Parliament. The Catholic Emancipation led to the Jewish Emancipation in England, allowing Jewish members of parliament to omit the portion of the Oath of Allegiance referring to Christianity.

King George IV once complained "Wellington is the King of England, O'Connell is the King of Ireland and I am only the Dean of Windsor". The regal jest was meant to express his general admiration for O'Connell during the height of his career.

After Catholic Emancipation, O'Connell spent the rest of his life trying to repeal the Act of Union which created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Act of Union has been repealed in Ireland, although not in Great Britain.

In 1841, O'Connell became the first Catholic mayor of Dublin since the reign of James II the last Catholic Monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland.

O'Connell passed away in Genoa, Italy on May 15th, 1847 due to a softening of the brain (cerebral softening).

O'Connell is known as the The Liberator or The Emancipator.

O'Connell was a member of Masonic Lodge No. 189 in Dublin. He was Initiated in 1799. In 1837, he published a letter in the newspaper regarding his membership in the fraternity. This led to him being "excluded", but not expelled, from all rights of Freemasonry.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.