Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Sir Charles Gavan Duffy

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Politician and author, b. at Monaghan, Ireland, 12 April, 1816; d. at Nice, France, 9 Feb., 1903. Educated in his native town, he contributed, at an early age, to the "Northern Herald", and in 1836 joined the staff of the Dublin "Morning Register" of which he shortly afterwards became sub-editor. In 1839, being appointed editor of the newly established Ulster Catholic paper, "The Vindicator", he went to Belfast, where he resided till 1842. Going to Dublin in the summer of that year, he met two young barristers, Thomas Davis and John Dillon, and in conjunction with them he founded "The Nation", the first number of which appeared in October. Duffy was editor, Dillon and Davis were among its contributors, and what with the ability of editor and contributors, the freshness and vigour of style, and the manly and militant tone adopted on public questions, the paper soon became a power. Its whole-hearted support of Repeal filled the meetings and the coffers of the Repeal Association, and O'Connell gratefully recognized its assistance. Peel also noted its influence, and when O'Connell was prosecuted in 1844, Duffy was with him in the dock and subsequently his fellow-prisoner in Kilmainham. Later, in the struggles between the Young and the Old Irelanders, Duffy took sides with the former against O'Connell, and was one of those who helped to found the Irish Confederation. He specially resented O'Connell's alliance with the Whigs, as he did the intolerance and presumption of John O'Connell. The failure of the Repeal movement, the horrors of the famine, and the death of O'Connell weakened his faith in constitutional action, and for a time, in 1848, he advocated revolutionary measures. The Government, in consequence, seized his paper and threw Duffy into prison; but, though tried four times in succession, the prosecution failed, owing chiefly to the great ability of his lawyer, Isaac Butt. In the revived "Nation", in 1849, Duffy reverted to constitutional agitation, and with Lucas and others established in 1850 the Tenant League, which at the general election of 1852 returned forty members of parliament pledged to Tenant Right and Independent Opposition, Duffy himself being returned for New Ross, County Wexford. The treachery of the place-hunters, Keogh and Sadlier, soon wrecked the party, and, when Lucas died, Duffy in despair resigned his seat and left for Melbourne, Australia, where he arrived early in 1856. Though determined to avoid politics, he was induced to enter the Victorian Parliament, where his great abilities made him at once a prominent figure. He filled in succession the position of minister of public works and minister of public lands, and for a brief period was prime minister. Ultimately he became speaker, receiving also the honour of knighthood. These honours and dignities he reached without ever denying either his country or faith, or ever failing to defend them when assailed. He consistently championed the labourers and the farmers against the capitalists and the squatters, and when he left Victoria in 1880 the whole colony regarded him as one of the ablest and most useful of her public men. His last years were devoted to writing several valuable historical works: "Young Ireland" (Dublin, 1884); also his "Four Years of Irish History" (London, 1883); "The League of North and South" (London, 1886); and "My Life in Two Hemispheres" (London, 1903).

E. A. D'Alton.