This was published in The Times, on the 31st of January 1839. As I said in previous posts, The Times uses any opportunity to have a go at Dan if they possibly can. This is a rather random letter to The Times, not really in response any political events at the time. But it does allow them to claim the O’Connells aren’t ‘gentlemen’, or have a landed background. Whether they would have given a toss is a moot point. But both ‘ A West Briton ‘ – an interesting name, showing the writer thinks of himself as British, but living in the western part of the British Isles, i.e. Ireland, rather than an Irishman; and ‘Kerryman’ with his rather pompous language, and occasional use of Latin tell us rather a lot about themselves. There’s a big bit of mop-haired blond British buffoons about both of them. The sort of chaps (and it’s always a chap) who refer to their ‘lady wives’, and remember a glorious imperial past that never was, and wear tartan trousers with dinner jackets when they’re not Scottish.
The worst is says about the O’Connells is they’re not gents, have an Irish speaking mother who doesn’t like the English, are wheeler-dealers, good at cards, and a fairly solid accusation they are smugglers. But also, crucially, for an English audience aren’t ‘One of us.’
Genealogy of Daniel O’Connell
TO THE EDlTOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir,- The account given in your paper of this morning of the descent of the notorious Connell alias O’Connell, is perfectly correct. Any member of Lincoln’s-inn can inform you, on reference to the books for the year 1794 that he was entered of that society as as “ Connell, Daniel”, though it is also certain that he was called to the lrish bar as Daniel O’Connell in 1798. It is also quite true that the mendacious mendicant is in no way connected with the O’Connells of CIare. The late Mr. Connell O’Connell, solicitor of Dublin, who was a junior branch of that family, and who died only about three years ago, never either in speech or in writing addressed O’Connell otherwise than as “ Daniel Connell.” There is not a peasant in Kerry who does not know that Connell, alias O’Connell, does not possess a foot of fee-simple property. He is tenant to the college of Dublin, to Mr. Serjeant Goold, and, if I mistake not, to Mr. R. Day, formerly one of the justices of the King’s Bench in Ireland. It is also notorious that Lakeview, the residence of James Connell, alias O’Connell, the agitator’s brother, is a residence rented on lease, and though John Connell alias O’Connell, another brother, is possessed of some fee-simple property, yet he has it “ jure-uxoris.” [by right of (his) wife]
There is now resident in England a gentleman who remembers Derrynane Abbey ! (God bless the mark !) a thatched farmhouse within a period so recent as 40 years. All this were unimportant and trivial touching the history of any well-conducted man, who had risen by his own honest exertions to fame and fortune – nay, it were illiberal and unjust to reflect on the humble birth of such character; but when a fellow, whose origin is not only mean, but ignominious, dares to asperse the first men in the country, it is fitting that his own pretensions should be sifted. There was a time when he had a purpose to serve, when Daniel Connell (alias O’Connell) used to recommend his cousin Jeremiah M’Carthy, tailor of Dawson-street, Dublin, to public patronage; but now we hear no more of this relationship, as Daniel wishes to be taken for a modish and well-born person. In Tralee, however, they know better. About ten years ago the article which I send you was published in a newspaper in that town. It was today handed to me by a near relative of the writer; a gentleman of one of the most ancient families of Kerry who I believe could bring witnesses on oath to prove all, or nearly all, the allegations contained in it. I pray you to give it to your readers in extenso, and oblige your constant reader.
A WEST BRITON
“O’CONNELL’S FAMILY HISTORY.
“ The account given of the Counsellor and his parents in the New Monthly is in many instances inaccurate, and in some parts quite deficient; to correct the one or supply the other would occupy more time than I am willing to devote to it, and even did I enter upon the task, the thing, to use an expression of his Malafidus Achates. Cobbett, would be still incomplete. I therefore think it the more eligible plan to give to you, and through you, Sir, to the public, such recollections of Dan’s early life and that of his parents as may from time to time flit across my memory. To commence in the usual style – a place called Ca———- situate on a small creek on an arm of the sea, near the village of Cahirciveen, in the semi-barbarous and barren district of Iveragh, and the county of Kerry (I like to be precise when treating on an important subject), had the honour of giving birth to Daniel Connell. His parents, with some account of one of whom I purpose filling this letter, were Morgan and Maurneen Connell,[sic] for such was the name the latter was known by in the country. The only particulars I can remember about her are that she spoke her vernacular tongue, the ‘ Gaelic,’ in its native purity, had a most invincible contempt for the ‘ Sassenachs,’ or English; so much so, that she was never known to utter a syllable of their language, and seconded the experimental exertions of her helpmate in realizing an ‘un-confiscated property’ in the most indefatigable and spirited manner. Morgan, the sire (for he must not be called father), was, as I recollect him in my boyish years, a smart, bustling, intelligent chap, holding that amphibious place in society which may be conceived but not drawn, and which can only be described by a series of negatives. He was not a gentleman, nor a farmer, nor a mechanic, nor a wholesale merchant, nor a retail-dealer, nor a peasant, nor of any one of these classes per se. You may then perhaps ask me what was he? He was, in fact, a compound of all these, and such as at the present day you may happen to meet with in some parts of North America, but in no other part of the habitable globe. His son has happily hit him off in his very classical and gentlemanly description of Her Majesty’s Ministers, whom he speaks of as being neither “ fish, flesh, nor good red herring’, but a kind of ‘olla podrida,’ or toss-up of the whole.” To the casual observer the countenance of old Morgan presented an honesty of expression which might lead to the supposition that its possessor was at least simple if not absolutely idiotic, but should he have had the occasion to engage in any intercourse with him, deeply would he feel his own simplicity in coming to so hasty a conclusion; for, though uncouth and vulgar in his manners, ‘ Morgan had that within which passeth show,’ and the shrewd physiognomist at once perceived a certain cut of visage, and a Machiavellian arrangement of features, which expressed as plainly as could the bumps and prominences of the celebrated Doctors Gall and Spurzheim the intriguing and money-getting propensities of their possessor. Often have I seen him sitting on a small rudely-formed chair, at the end of the bridge of C————, near the road leading into the village, clothed in what the fashionables of modern life call a Waterloo-coloured suit of frieze, with an ink-bottle appended to his buttonhole, and a goose-quill betwixt his finger and thumb, taking orders from the peasantry for the various contents of the store, for such was the high-sounding name bestowed upon a quondam stable, be it a bit of soap, a yard of tape, a noggin of whisky, a metal button, a pound of iron for the spade or horseshoe, or any other little article, almost from an anchor to a needle – old Morgan could accommodate all, and at all times, from the various and chaotic articles with which his repository abounded; – his only charge was the moderate profit of cent percent, on the first cost, and, should the purchaser not have the specie [money in the form of coins rather than notes] at hand, why he was ready to adopt the bartering principle of the early ages, and take either the firkin of butter or porkeen pig in lieu thereof. But enough of his appearance and primitive mode of doing business; his employments were as numerous as they were diversified, and some of them of so contradictory a nature as to puzzle the mind of an ordinary man to reconcile them; but Morgan was not an ordinary man: he was in truth a most extraordinary character, and much I fear the village of Cahirciveen ‘ ne’er shall look upon his like again.’ Cahirciveen considered him as its Caleb Quotem [ A character from a Colman play from 1808 called “The Review”, it means ‘jack of all trades’.], and though he may not have drawn the teeth of its inhabitants, they all admit that he shaved them closely, bled them profusely. and critically filled all the ordinary functions with which that dramatic personage is usually invested. Though his ambition was rather of an encroaching kind, I never yet heard that he allowed it to take such possession of his faculties as to lead him to the imagination of his being of feudal or princely descent ; nor even have I heard it whispered that he supposed there was any connexion between him and the visionary monarchs of lveragh. His good sense may perhaps, have prevented the assumption of the theoretical part of Royalty, but the same good sense it was, no doubt, if we can believe ‘ common fame,’ who is frequently deemed a common liar, and which from my own knowledge I will not take upon myself to say she is not in the present instance, which dictated to him the exclusive exercise of one of Royalty’s most valuable prerogatives – the importation of his goods duty free.
This prerogative he and his brother Maurice, better – known by the name of ‘Hunting-Cap,’ ( if the assertions of that romancing damsel I have before alluded to are to be depended on,) carried to the greatest extent, and to this, and the principle of free trade, which these ‘Adelphi’ [brothers] brought into so early and extensive operation – that to them, I believe and not to Messrs. Cannings and Huskisson, we must give the credit of its invention – is Daniel indebted for that ‘un-confiscated property’ which he spoke of in his evidence before the House of Peers as being solely in his possession. His assertion at the time, I know, puzzled many; but it may so happen that, with the clue which I have now furnished the learned gentleman’s evidence will not appear so problematical, and any doubt they may have entertained will be removed; for if, by a form logicians call concession, we only substitute the means whereby a thing is procured, for the thing procured, then Daniel’s testimony is quite reconcilable and he really is in possession of property that never yet was confiscated. [This is the allegation of smuggling]
In the eager pursuit of his favourite theory that of free trade, the principles of which he had not at the time I am about to speak of, fully tested by such extensive experiments as at a subsequent period, old Morgan did not quite overlook those accomplishments which refine the human mind, and elegantly dissipate the ennui which will at times beset even the most industrious of mortals. No man in the country round could handle a ‘deck of cards’ with more dexterity than old Morgan, and few persons, if any, could calculate with a nicer accuracy, not even Counsellor:- L——-—k of gambling notoriety and Morgan’s countryman, the proper moment to lay down the ace of hearts, the five fingers or jack of trumps. An instance of the heights to which he attained in this accomplishment it may not be inopportune to give you, especially as to it and the sound discretion he then used, his after accumulation of wealth, and consequent power of performing those experiments I have before alluded to, is mainly attributable. Old Morgan held in early life a farm from the late Earl of G—n—-e, and on the due day went to that nobleman’s residence at A—d—r abbey, in order to pay his rent. After its payment and getting a receipt, a ceremony he never overlooked., ‘ fast bind, fast find,’ being his favourite aphorism, he was almost proceeding homeward, when the day turning out extremely wet, his noble landlord, with his usual condescension, requested him to remain. Morgan hesitated, but at length Lord G—- being seconded by his fascinating Countess, he succeeded in detaining him. It is almost unnecessary to observe, that everything was done to make his visit comfortable, and render him quite at home. A difficult task you, Sir, will admit, when there exists so great a disparity of rank, and, a feeling of insignificance on the part of the guest; their endeavours, however, were crowned with success, and after dinner, his noble hostess, still anxious to add to the tenant’s amusement, asked him if he played cards. Morgan then, in a hesitating manner, and as if afraid to refuse, replied, ‘ A little, my Lady,’ and a game was selected, such as was considered would best suit itself to the extent of his acquirements in that polite accomplishment. The event, however, was not that which her Ladyship anticipated, and the game terminated with Morgan having won the entire sum which he had paid that morning as rent. Lady Gr——, like other losing gamesters, attributed her ill luck to an unfavourable run of the cards, and not to old Morgan’s superior experience, and requested him, in expectation of retrieving her loss, to change the game. Morgan was all complaisance, at the same time prefacing each successive change with a profession of his ‘ knowing but little of any game, my Lady.’ Not to detain you too long, suffice it to say, that almost every game, from one end of Hoyle to the other, was gone through, and old Morgan proving successful in all, won so large a sum of money as left him rent free on his Lordship’s property for many years for many years afterwards. But if he was successful, he was by no means importunate, and on the settlement of the night’s accounts, he signified to her Ladyship, that as in all probability the largeness of the sum he had won might make its immediate payment inconvenient, he would feel himself fully satisfied, thankful, and indeed for his Lordship’s giving him receipts in advance for the growing rent. Her Ladyship thanked him for his kind consideration, the arrangement proposed was at once entered into, and old Morgan rode home the next day, chuckling in his sleeve, and exclaiming at the interval of every three or four miles, ‘ a little, my Lady.’
“ I remain, Sir, your obedient servant.
“ A KERRYMAN”