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Crime, Violence and the Irish in the Nineteenth Century$
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Kyle Hughes and Donald MacRaild

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786940650

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781786940650.001.0001

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The Head Pacificator and Captain Rock: Sedition, Suicide, and Honest Tom Steele

The Head Pacificator and Captain Rock: Sedition, Suicide, and Honest Tom Steele

Chapter:
(p.227) 12 The Head Pacificator and Captain Rock: Sedition, Suicide, and Honest Tom Steele
Source:
Crime, Violence and the Irish in the Nineteenth Century
Author(s):

Patrick Maume

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781786940650.003.0013

The Rockites had a varied armoury of intimidation and terror. This essay, scrutinises the role of ‘Honest’ Tom Steele, one of O’Connell’s trusted lieutenants and the man to whom he gave the moniker the ‘Head pacificator of Ireland’, as he sought to quell Rockite and other secret society violence. This essay recasts Steele from a figure of fun derided for his fawning loyalty to O’Connell to a selfless ‘aristocratic radical’. O’Connellism shifted the boundaries of popular political organisation in the early decades of the century; but even so there was still a place for old-style radical politics, and Steele epitomised it. Not afraid to immerse himself in a street brawl at election time and with a personal vocabulary liberally incorporating the swear words more often associated with the uncouth or the soldiery, Steele was a ‘man of the people’, admired (or at least tolerated) by the peasantry. There is no doubt Steele was a contradictory figure, but this essay's novel and highly engaging approach to the subject considerably revises the general opinion of the man.

Keywords:   Tom Steele, Daniel O'Connell, Radical politics, Catholic emancipation, Popular politics

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