Lucas, Charles (1713-1771) (DNB00)
|←Lucas, Charles (d.1648)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 34
Lucas, Charles (1713-1771)
|Lucas, Charles (1769-1854)→|
LUCAS, CHARLES, M.D. (1713-1771), Irish patriot, born on 16 Sept. 1713, was the younger son of a Mr. Lucas of Ballingaddy in co. Clare, where Lucas seems to have been born. His father and elder brother were improvident, and having squandered their estate the family removed to Dublin, where they lived in comparative obscurity and poverty (Dublin Penny Journal, i. 389). Having served the usual apprenticeship as an apothecary, Lucas was admitted to the Guild of St. Mary Magdalene, and for many years kept a shop in Charles Street, Dublin. According to an anonymous writer of doubtful credibility (An Apology for the Conduct and Writings of Mr. C—s L—s, Apothecary, Dublin, 1749), he married early, had a large family; affected notoriety by advertising his drugs in Latin, failed in business, and retired to England until his friends effected a composition with his creditors. In conducting business Lucas was struck with certain abuses connected with the sale of drugs, and in 1795 published 'A Short Scheme for Preventing Frauds and Abuses in Pharmacy, humbly offered to the Consideration of the Legislature.' His pamphlet was resented by his fellow-apothecaries, but was the cause of an act being passed for the inspection of medicines, &c. In 1741 he published his 'Pharmacomastix, or the Office, Use, and Abuse of Apothecaries explained,' and had the satisfaction of seeing the former act renewed (Critical Review of the Liberties of the British Subjects, p. 37). In this year also he was chosen one of the represents of his corporation on the common council of the city of Dublin. He soon came to the conclusion that the board of aldermen had illegally usurped many of the powers belonging of right to the entire corporation. Aided by James Latouche, a prominent merchant of the city, he secured the appointment of a committee, with Latouche as chairman, to inspect the charters and records of the city. The aldermen strenuously resisted reform, and in 1743 he published 'A Remonstrance against certain Infringements on the Rights and Liberties of the Commons and Citizens of Dublin,' arguing that the right of electing aldermen lay with the entire corporation. His argument was disputed by Recorder Stannard, and in the following year Lucas published his closely reasoned and temperate 'Divelina Libera: an Apology for the Civil Rights and Liberties of the Commons and Citizens of Dublin.' During the year the controversy continued with unabated zeal on both sides (see The Proceedings of the Sheriffs and Commons, &c., Dublin, 1744, and A Message from the Sheriffs and Commons to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen … protesting against the Election of George Ribton, Dublin, 26 Sept. 1744). By Lucas's efforts (A Brief State of the Case of the Commons and Citizens of Dublin) a fund was raised by voluntary subscription,and a suit commenced on 7 Nov. 1744 against the aldermen in the court of king's bench. But after a hearing of two days permission was refused by the judge to lodge an information, and the victorious aldermen struck out the names of Lucas and his supporters from the following triennial return of the common council. On 25 Dec. 1747 Lucas presented a printed statement of the case, entitled 'The Complaints of Dublin,' to the lord-lieutenant, the Earl of Harrington: but Harrington declined to move in the business.
When in August 1748 a vacancy occurred in the parliamentary representation of the city of Dublin, Lucas offered himself as a candidate. Alderman Sir Samuel Cooke and James Latouche also came forward, and although the views of Lucas and Latouche were practically identical, neither would withdraw. To advance his candidature, Lucas in 1748-9 published twenty political addresses to his fellow-citizens, explaining his views on the constitution, reflecting severely on the corruption prevailing in the House of Commons, and advocating the principles expounded by Molyneux in favour of parliamentary independence. These addresses and a certain paper called 'The Censor, or Citizen's Journal,' offended not only the court party, but also the friends of Latouche, whose character was roughly handled by Lucas, especially in his fourteenth address. In counter addresses and pamphlets Lucas was stigmatised as a needy adventurer, a man of no family, and a political firebrand (see The Tickler, edited by Paul Hiffernan). While the election was still pending, the death of Alderman Nathaniel Pearson in May 1749 caused a second vacancy in the representation, and Lucas and Latouche became partly reconciled in opposing Cooke and the second aldermanic candidate, Charles Burton. Shortly afterwards, the corporation having resolved to farm the revenues of the city to a certain alderman, Lucas denounced the affair as a job, and the council in which the resolution had been passed as packed. The corporation voted the charge false and malicious, and refused to hear Lucas in his defence. The censure was confirmed at a subsequent meeting, and a vote of thanks passed to the author of a pamphlet entitled 'Lucas Detected,' conjectured to have been Edmund Burke, at that time a student at Trinity College (Madden, Hist. of Irish Periodical Literature, and Prior, Life of Burke, i. 33). But an appeal by Lucas to the corporation secured fifteen votes out of the twenty-five in his favour. About the same time he printed, with a translation and notes, 'The Great Charter of the City of Dublin;' the lords justices refused (15 May 1749) his request to transmit it to the king, with a 'Dedication to his Majesty.' But on the return of Lord Harrington, Lucas waited on him at the castle on 8 Oct., and gave him a copy, together with a collection of his political addresses. Lucas was favourably impressed with his reception. Two days later (5 Oct.), however, he attended a levee, and was peremptorily required to leave the castle. Next day he published the story in a newspaper, 'with thanks to his excellency for the honour he did him,' and on the day following, 7 Oct., issued 'An Address to his Excellency … with a Preface to the Free and Independent Citizens of Dublin,' commenting on his treatment.
The date of the parliamentary election was approaching, and the government resolved to prevent Lucas from proceeding to the poll. When parliament assembled on 10 Oct., the lord-lieutenant in his speech from the throne animadverted on certain bold attempts to create jealousies between the two kingdoms. The reference to Lucas was unmistakable, and the commons, on a motion of Sir Richard Cox, ordered Lucas and his printer to appear at the bar of the house. Esdall, Lucas's publisher, absconded; but the copy of his publications presented to the lord-lieutenant was put in evidence against him. The feeling of the house ran strongly against him, although the people of Dublin were hotly in his favour. Being ordered to withdraw, a series of resolutions was passed declaring him to be an enemy to his country, calling upon the attorney-general to prosecute him for his offence, and ordering his immediate imprisonment in Newgate (Commons' Journals, v. 14). His first intention was to submit quietly to his punishment; but finding that he was to be treated with scant decency, he escaped to the Isle of Man, and thence to London. After his flight he was presented by the grand juries of the county and city of Dublin as a common libeller. A proclamation was issued by the lord-lieutenant, at the request of the House of Commons, for his apprehension, and an engraver who advertised a mezzotint of him, as 'an exile for his country, who seeking for liberty lost it,' was committed to prison by order of the House of Commons. Finally, at the Christmas assembly of the corporation, he was disfranchised. Meanwhile Cooke and Latouche had been elected to represent Dublin in parliament.
After a short residence in London Lucas proceeded to the continent for the purpose of studying medicine. At Paris he studied under Petit, and after visiting Rheims proceeded to Leyden, where he graduated M.D. on 20 Dec. 1752. The title of his thesis was 'De Gangræna et Sphacelo.' Не then visited Spa, Aachen, and other baths for the purpose of investigating the composition of their mineral waters. He returned to England in 1753, proceeding to Bath, and after a series of elaborate experiments conducted in public he went to London, where he established himself in practice. In 1756 he published 'An Essay on Waters. In three Parts: (i) of Simple Waters, (ii) of Cold Medicated Waters, (iii) of Natural Baths.' This treatise, reviewed by Dr. Johnson (Boswell, Life of Dr. Johnson, ed. Hill, i. 311), gave great offence to the faculty at Bath (see also Recueil d'observations des effets des Eaux Minerales de Spa … par J. P. de Limbourg, Liège, 1765), and having occasion to visit that place in 1757 he became involved in an acrimonious controversy with the heads of the profession there owing to their refusal to consult with him (see Letters of Dr. Lucas and Dr. Oliver, London, 1757). But the book obtained for him considerable reputation, and enabled him, it is improbably said (A Vindication of the Corporation of the City of Dublin, Dublin, 1766, p. 13), to make an annual income of 3,000l. by his profession. On 25 June 1759 he was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians of London. In view of the general election at the accession of George III, Lucas published in November 1760 a pamphlet entitled 'Seasonable Advice to the Electors … of Ireland in general, to those of Dublin in particular.' In the same month he determined to offer himself as a candidate for the city of Dublin, notwithstanding the consequent loss of his practice in London. After assuring himself that the electors of Dublin 'were warmed with the same sentiments in which he left them' (Charlemont MSS. i. 265, 269; Bedford Correspondence, ii. 427), he obtained a personal interview with the king in order to petition for pardon, and being favourably received was enabled to return to Dublin, 15 March 1761, on a nolle prosequi. His return was the occasion of great popular rejoicing; the order for his disfranchisement was annulled at the midsummer assembly of tbe corporation; and in July the degree of Doctor of Physic was conferred upon him by Trinity College, Dublin. During the election Lucas's colleague, Colonel Dunn, withdrew his candidature in order to insure Lucas's return, which was strongly opposed by the aldermanic party (see The Free Electors' Address to Colonel Dunn, with his Answer, and Lucas, An Address to the Free Electors of Dublin, May, 1761). After a thirteen days' poll he and Recorder Grattan, father of Henry Grattan, were elected, and he continued to represent the city till his death in 1771.
In parliament Lucas does not appear to have shone as an orator; but by assiduously bringing every question of importance before the public, he had the merit of reviving 'that constitutional connection which ought to subsist between the constituents and their representative' (Address of the Guild of Merchants, 13 Jan. 1766). On the first day of the session, 22 Oct. 1761, he obtained leave to bring in the heads of a bill for shortening the duration of parliaments, which he presented to the house on 28 Oct.; but on a motion to have it transmitted to England it was defeated by a majority of sixty-five. Shortly afterwards he presented the heads of two new bills for securing the freedom of parliament (Plowden, Historical Register, i. 352-4). In 1763 the 'Freeman's Journal,' a biweekly newspaper, was started by three Dublin merchants under the management of Henry Brooke (1703?-1783) [q.v.] Lucas contributed to it from its commencement, sometimes anonymously (see a long article in the form of an address to Lord Halifax, 8 Oct. 1763), but generally under the signature of 'A Citizen' or 'Civis.' Small as were its literary merits, the paper enjoyed at first great popularity, owing to the gratuitous contributions of Lucas and its strenuous assertion of Irish protestant privileges (Madden, Hist. of Irish Periodical Literature). In 1766 Lucas unsuccessfully opposed a bill to prevent the exportation of grain, on the ground that certain alterations made in it by the English privy council were detrimental to the rights of the Irish parliament. He justified his conduct in 'An Address to the Lord Mayor and Citizens of Dublin,' and replied to further censure (see An Antidote to Dr. Lucas's Address) in 'A Second Address to the Lord Mayor.' Several guilds, and among them the Guild of Merchants, presented addresses of thanks to him, and it was even proposed to grant him a salary of 365l. a year out of the city treasury as a public acknowledgment of his services in parliament. The proposal was rejected by the aldermen, and its rejection led to a renewal of the old quarrel between them and the commons, and to fresh manifestations of public sympathy with Lucas (see Proceedings of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, 17 Jan. 1766; A Vindication of the Corporation … respecting … Charles Lucas, Dublin, 1766; A Letter to Charles Lucas, M.D. Dublin, 1766; Lucas, A Third Address to the Lord Mayor, Dublin, 1766). In 1768 Lucas strongly the scheme for the augmentation of the army, on the ground partly that he favoured the establishment of a national militia, but chiefly because in his opinion 'Standing parliaments and standing armies have ever proved the most dangerous enemies to civil liberty' (Lucas, An Address to the Lord Mayor … relating to the intended Augmentation of the Military Force, Dublin, 1768). In this year he caused considerable sensation by trying to institute a parliamentary inquiry into the case of a soldier whom he regarded as the victim of military discipline. His efforts in parliament proving unsuccessful, he published a pamphlet entitled 'A Mirror for Courts-Martial: in which the Complaints, Trial, Sentence, and Punishment of David Blakeney are examined.' It is probably to his conduct on this occasion that Lord Townshend referred in a letter to the Marquis of Granby, 'Here is a Doctor Lucas, the Wilkes of Ireland, who has been playing the devil here and poisoning all the soldiery with his harangues and writings; but I have treated this nonsensical demagogue as he deserves, with his mob at his heels' (Rutland MSS. ii. 303; cf. also Charlemont MSS. i. 254). Lord Townshend's protest against the right of the Irish House of Commons to originate money bills, and his sudden prorogation of parliament in December 1769 drew from Lucas early in 1770 a pamphlet entitled 'The Rights and Privileges of Parliament asserted upon constitutional Principles.' It was announced in the newspapers that an answer, 'published by authority,' entitled 'The Usage of holding Parliaments and of preparing Bills of Supply in Ireland, stated from Record,' would shortly appear. The book appeared on the day announced, but was instantly suppressed. A copy, however, came into Lucas's possession, and finding that it told more against than for the government he immediately republished it, with a sarcastic introduction and commentary.
From his earliest years Lucas had been a martyr to hereditary gout, which rendered him a complete cripple, and latterly obliged him to be carried to the House of Commons. Nevertheless, says an eye-witness, 'the gravity and uncommon neatness of his dress, his grey, venerable locks, blending with a pale but interesting countenance, in which an air of beauty was still visible, altogether excited attention, and I never saw a stranger come into the house without asking who he was' (Dublin Penny Journal, i. 389). He died at his residence in Henry Street, Dublin, on Monday, 4 Nov. 1771. His remains were honoured with a public funeral of imposing solemnity (Freeman's Journal, 9 Nov.) He was interred in the family burial-ground in St. Michan's churchyard. Lucas married thrice, and is said to have left children by each wife, but only one, Henry [q. v.], is known to have attended his father's funeral.
As a physician Lucas was highly esteemed by Lord Charlemont. As an orator contemporary opinion differed about him; but it may well have been that the eloquence which moved and delighted his hearers in the guildhall was not so calculated to appeal to the less emotional and more refined audience of the House of Commons. As a writer he can lay little claim to literary ability, while his efforts at orthographic reform can at best only raise a smile. His works, which include numberless contributions to the periodical press, were, with the exception of 'Divelina Libera,' which is perhaps his best, his translation of the Great Charter and his treatise on waters, thrown off on the spur of the moment. His collected 'Political Addresses,' by which he is best known, are probably the worst written of all his pamphlets. As a man he was impulsive, impatient of contradiction, and slightly vulgar; but on the other hand he was sincere, honest, generous, and courageous to a fault. In his own language, it was his froward fate to have too much of a kind of political knight-errantry interwoven in his frame. He was proud of his English descent, an ardent protestant, a loyalist according to his own interpretation, and a perfervid patriot.
There are several engraved portraits of Lucas, but the best is a mezzotint from a half-length by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the National Gallery of Ireland.
[Wills's Irish Nation; Dublin Penny Journal; Munk's Coll. of Phys.; Freeman's Journal, 17 Dec. 1771; Madden's Hist. of Irish Periodical Literature; Journals of the House of Commons, Ireland; Plowden's Historical Register; Briton's Hist. of the Dublin Election in the Year 1749; A Critical Review of the Liberties of British Subjects; Lucas's own writings passim; Hardy's Life of Charlemont; Grattan's Life of Henry Grattan; Gilbert's Hist. of Dublin; Lecky's Hist. of England; Correspondence of the Duke of Bedford; Rutland MSS. in Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. pt. v.; Charlemont MSS. in Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. pt. x.; Egerton MS. 1772.]