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Monday, 4 July 2016

4 July 1763: The birth of Arthur O’Connor, soldier and Patriot on this day. He was born near Bandon, Co Cork and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1788 was called to the Bar; but, inheriting a fortune of about £1,500 a year, never practised. In 1791 he entered Parliament at Dublin as the MP of Philipstown. Once there he supported Grattan in his attempts at Parliamentary Reform and called for the Emancipation of the Catholics of Ireland from the Penal Laws. He made the acquaintance of Lord Edward Fitzgerald and joined the United Irishmen in late 1796. He accompanied Lord Edward to the Continent to gain support for a Revolution. Imprisoned on returning home he was released and engaged in the publication of a newspaper designed to galvanise public opinion against the Ascendancy. 

 On 27th February 1798, he and the Rev. James Quigley, a Catholic clergyman, along with others were arrested at Margate, England while trying to make their way to France, on a secret mission from the United Irishmen. In O'Connor's baggage were found a military uniform, £900 in cash, and the key to a cipher correspondence with Lord Edward. Held in prison until 1799 he and a number of other prominent members of the United Irishmen were eventually sent to be confined at the remote Fort St George in Scotland. They were held there in relatively good conditions until 1802. In that year they were released and exiled to the Continent.

O’Connor settled in Paris, joined Napoleon’s Army and became a General. However his independent mind and outspokenness did not endear him to the Emperor.

The openness of his character, and his unalterable attachment to the cause of liberty, rendered him little agreeable to Napoleon, who never employed him.

Biographie Générale

 His military career thereafter is somewhat obscure but France became his adopted Country. In 1807 he married Elisa Condorcet, only daughter of the great philosopher, and the following year purchased the estate of Bignon, near Nemours (once the property of Mirabeau), devoted himself to agriculture, and became a naturalized Frenchman.

Here he remained except for a few months at home in 1834 to settle his affairs. He died in France in 1852 and was buried there.

Dr Madden wrote of his Character that:

No man was more sincere in his patriotism, more capable of making great sacrifices for his country, or brought greater abilities to its cause.