Feargus O’Connor
: repealer, Chartist, and icon of plebian melodrama

  • Huw Griffiths

Traethawd ymchwil myfyriwr: Traethawd Ymchwil DoethurolDoethur mewn Athroniaeth


This study presents a modified critique of the life and career of Irish landowner, one-time O’Connellite Repealer, Chartist leader, lawyer, press magnate and charismatic popular politician, Feargus O’Connor (1796-1855). Its premise is that O’Connor’s self-constructed exaggerated melodrama, in conjunction with Chartism’s shifting historiography, has led to enduring misconstructions of his biography, spanning wilful caricatures associated with Whig history to rose-tinted revisionist analyses as his reputation revived following a seminal volume of local studies, Chartist Studies, edited by Asa Briggs in 1959. Deconstructing and demythologising tropes of melodrama and historiography allows a redrawn O’Connor to emerge: an able, flamboyant O’Connellite party apparatchik and parliamentarian; a gifted, pragmatic, high-profile lawyer; a dynamic political organiser and campaigner; an innovative, if self-promoting, press magnate; a magnetic orator harnessing a personal hegemony through his newspaper, the Northern Star, and mass-platform tours; a champion of plebian suffrage; a thwarted land reformer; a tough, practiced politician with astutely manicured principles; a populist leader with an ambivalent, potentially collaborative, relationship with the state; a paternalist socially conservative people’s advocate latterly out of step with progressive, increasingly socialist, working-class politics. It is a deconstruction that revises the existing narrative, suggesting O’Connor’s rivalry with O’Connell was rooted in a leadership bid for the Repeal party based on pragmatic politics, not steadfast principles; that the outcome of the 1843 Lancaster trial was brokered by O’Connor and Home Secretary Graham securing the acquittal of himself and fifty-eight Chartists; that O’Connor became wedded to constitutional reform and, by the mid-1840s, operated as a buffer to insurrectionist protest and a brake on progressive radical politics. Nevertheless, alongside this potentially compromised figure was a conditionally altruistic O’Connor enhancing the careers, opportunities, and political rights of the plebian classes on both sides of the Irish sea. Additionally, this study confirms Saville’s interrogation of hegemonic mid-Victorian state coercion, still omitted from popular history, on which consensual mid-Victorian liberalism was constructed.
Dyddiad Dyfarnu2023
Iaith wreiddiolSaesneg
Sefydliad Dyfarnu
  • Prifysgol Aberystwyth
GoruchwyliwrPaul O'Leary (Goruchwylydd) & David Jones (Goruchwylydd)

Dyfynnu hyn