The Liberator: Daniel O’Connell and Anti-Slavery

The story of the British anti-slavery and abolitionist movements has been dominated by the figures of Clarkson and Wilberforce. Yet, the success of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 and the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 benefited from the votes of Irish MPs.

One of the greatest contributions to the anti-slavery debate was made by the flamboyant and controversial Irish nationalist, Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847). Yet his role and that of Irish activists generally has been little recognized even by Irish historians. In the case of O’Connell, from as early as 1840 American abolitionists were claiming that his involvement in the debate exceeded that of either Thomas Clarkson  (1760-1846) or William Wilberforce (1759-1833). Twenty years later, as the United States hurtled towards civil war, the writings of O’Connell were reprinted, influencing a new audience of even more militant abolitionists. 

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