Skip to main content
Select Source:

O'Connor, Feargus

Feargus O'Connor (fûr´gəs), 1794–1855, Irish Chartist leader. Elected to the Parliament of 1832 as a supporter of Daniel O'Connell, he soon quarreled with O'Connell and was forced out of Parliament in 1835. Thereafter he devoted himself chiefly to the English radical movement. In 1837 he founded a paper, the Northern Star, which developed into the foremost organ of Chartism. O'Connor quickly became a leader of the Chartists and, for more than a decade, played a major role in their conventions. But his advocacy of physical force created difficulties with the government and disunity within the movement. In 1846 he began a land distribution scheme that came to be known as the National Land Company. Reelected to Parliament in 1847, he organized the demonstration of 1848 that presented the third Chartist petition to Parliament. The disclosure that many of the petition signatures were falsified and the bankruptcy of his land company discredited him completely. In 1852 he was declared insane.

See biographies by D. Read and E. Glasgow (1961) and J. Epstein (1982).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"O'Connor, Feargus." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"O'Connor, Feargus." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oconnor-feargus

"O'Connor, Feargus." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oconnor-feargus

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

O'Connor, Feargus

O'Connor, Feargus (1794–1855). Chartist. An Irish barrister, O'Connor was MP (and follower of Daniel O'Connell) for Cork in 1832 and for Nottingham (as a chartist) in 1847. He was the greatest of the chartist leaders, the champion, as he said, of the ‘unshorn chins, blistered hands, and fustian jackets’; and for ten years he was at the head of the movement. His influence came from his charismatic, flamboyant style of oratory, and his ownership of the chief chartist newspaper, the Northern Star. He was imprisoned in 1840 for seditious libel. Contemporaries like Lovett and some historians later attributed the failure of chartism to O'Connor's demagoguery and his promotion of the National Land Company (1845–51), designed to settle working people on agricultural smallholdings. O'Connor's appearance at the last great chartist demonstration on Kennington Common on 10 April 1848 marked the end of the mass platform as a pattern of popular radicalism.

John F. C. Harrison

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"O'Connor, Feargus." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"O'Connor, Feargus." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oconnor-feargus

"O'Connor, Feargus." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oconnor-feargus

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

O'Connor, Feargus

O'CONNOR, FEARGUS

O'CONNOR, FEARGUS (1796–1855), Irish leader of the Chartist movement.

Feargus Edward O'Connor was born in Cork, son of Roger O'Connor, a prominent Anglo-Irish politician and pretender to the ancient throne of Ireland, and Wilhelmina Bowen. Both his father and uncle, Arthur O'Connor, were leaders of the United Irishman in the 1790s, and their views shaped his later political career. O'Connor went to school in England and Ireland before attending Trinity College, Dublin, and Gray's Inn, London, to train as a barrister. O'Connor combined the life of a gentleman farmer with a successful law practice that earned him widespread support among the poor in Cork, but he was soon drawn into politics.

In 1822, O'Connor published a scathing attack on the government of Ireland and there is evidence that he was involved in the clandestine activities of the revolutionary Whiteboys in Cork. O'Connor participated in the agitation for the Reform Bill, and in 1832 he was elected for County Cork to the reformed parliament in Westminster. He stood on a platform of repeal of the union of Ireland and England with the support of the leading Irish reformer, Daniel O'Connell (1775–1847). O'Connor's election was unexpected, a testimony to his prodigious skills as an orator and campaigner.

In Westminster, O'Connor's eagerness to press the case for repeal on the imperial Parliament led to friction with O'Connell, who sought to extract concessions from the Whig government. Despite the withdrawal of O'Connell's support, O'Connor was reelected in 1835. Within months, his parliamentary career was cut short because he lacked sufficient wealth to meet the property qualification required to be a member of Parliament (MP) at that time.

During his time in London, O'Connor had become increasingly involved in British politics; after losing his seat, he began to establish a career as a leader of British radicalism. Over the next few years, O'Connor traveled extensively (particularly in the north of England), addressing countless meeting on the evils of the Whig government's changes to the system of poor relief and lending his support to the emerging campaign for a radical reform of the political system. The program that he advocated was not new and would form the basis of the Peoples Charter (hence the name "Chartist movement") that was published in 1838. It included the demand for universal manhood suffrage, annual elections to Parliament, the secret ballot, electoral districts of equal size, payment of MPs, and the abolition of the property qualification that had denied him his seat in Parliament.

At the end of 1837, O'Connor established the newspaper, the Northern Star, which became the quasi-official journal of Chartism and enjoyed massive national sales and influence. He participated in the Chartists' National Convention that convened in February 1839 to present a national petition to Parliament calling for the implementation of the Charter. Although O'Connor urged delegates to adopt strong measures to force the government into submission, there is no evidence that he was involved in planning the insurrection that occurred in November 1839. In May 1840, however, he was imprisoned for eighteen months for publishing seditious speeches.

From his cell in York, O'Connor continued to the lead the movement that was reorganizing for a protracted campaign. He was released in 1841 dressed in a suit of working-class fustian cloth, a symbolic gesture that further endeared him to the laboring poor who made up the rank and file of the movement. O'Connor was again prosecuted in March 1843 and, although he was found guilty, a legal technicality meant that he was never sentenced.

After 1840, O'Connor quarreled with many Chartist leaders who sought to link the campaign for political reform to other objectives such as temperance and education, or to ally the Chartists to organizations headed by middle-class reformers. In this struggle, O'Connor retained the support of the vast majority of rank-and-file Chartists. By the end of 1843 he had changed tack, promoting the establishment of Chartist land communities. Established in 1845, the Chartist Cooperative Land Company attracted many urban workers with the prospect of life as small, independent land owners. In 1848, the Company collapsed in the face of legal obstacles and many small subscribers lost their investment. O'Connor suffered a heavy financial loss also, but this did not prevent him from continuing to hold the seat of Nottingham in the House of Commons that he had won in 1847.

His reelection to Parliament coincided with the last high point of Chartism. During 1848, as revolution spread through Europe, O'Connor promoted another national petition demanding the Charter. The campaign ended in controversy when a parliamentary committee found that it contained many bogus signatures. After 1848, O'Connor devoted his attention to forging an alliance between those he called the working Saxons and Celts. Failing health affected his final years. O'Connor was admitted to an asylum in 1852 and died there in 1855. An estimated fifty thousand people joined his funeral procession in London, a measure of the popularity of the man who personified the hopes and aspirations of a generation of working people.

See alsoChartism; Great Britain; Labor Movements; Socialism.

bibliography

Epstein, James. The Lion of Freedom: Feargus O'Connor and the Chartist Movement, 1832–1842. London, 1982.

——. "Feargus Edward O'Connor." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 41, edited by H. G. C. Matthew and Brian Harrison, 461–464. Oxford, U.K., 2004.

Pickering, Paul A. "The Chartist Rites of Passage: Commemorating Feargus O'Connor." In Contested Sites: Commemoration, Memorial and Popular Politics in Nineteenth-Century Britain, edited by Paul A. Pickering and Alex Tyrrell, 101–126. Aldershot, U.K., 2004.

Read, Donald, and Eric Glasgow. Feargus O'Connor: Irishman and Chartist. London, 1961.

Paul A. Pickering

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"O'Connor, Feargus." Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"O'Connor, Feargus." Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oconnor-feargus-0

"O'Connor, Feargus." Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oconnor-feargus-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.