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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Charles Monck, 1st Governor General of Canada

charles-stanley-monckCharles Stanley Monck, 4th Viscount Monck GCMG PC, the last Governor-General of the Province of Canada and the first Governor General of Canada after Canadian Confederation, is born on October 10, 1819 in Templemore, County Tipperary. Prior to Confederation he is concurrently Lieutenant Governor of both Canada West and Canada East. He is the son of Charles Monck, 3rd Viscount Monck, and his wife Bridget née Willington.

Monck obtains a law degree from Trinity College, Dublin. He marries his first cousin Lady Elizabeth Louise Mary Monck on July 24, 1844, and in 1849 he inherits his father’s title of Viscount Monck. In 1852 he is elected MP for Portsmouth, and from 1855 to 1858 he serves as Lord of the Treasury under Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston.

In 1861 Monck is appointed Governor General of British North America as well as Governor of the Province of Canada. During this time, the Canadian colonies are beginning to organise themselves into a confederation. The American Civil War has just broken out, and the Trent Affair causes diplomatic tension between the United States and Britain. The Canadian government is eager to gain some measure of independence during this turbulent period. The Quebec Conference, the Charlottetown Conference, and the London Conference, at which the details of confederation are discussed, all take place during Monck’s time as governor. Monck supports the idea, and works closely with John A. Macdonald, George Brown, George-Étienne Cartier, and Étienne-Paschal Taché, who form the “Great Coalition” in 1864.

In 1866 Monck becomes a peer with the title Baron Monck. When the Canadian colonies become a semi-independent confederation the next year, he becomes the country’s first Governor General. He is also responsible for establishing Rideau Hall as the residence of the Governor General in Ottawa.

In 1869 Monck is succeeded by John Young, 1st Baron Lisgar. He returns home to Ireland, where he becomes Lord Lieutenant of Dublin in 1874. He dies in Enniskerry, County Wicklow on November 29, 1894.

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The Assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee

Thomas D’Arcy Etienne Hughes McGee, Irish-Canadian politician, Catholic spokesman, journalist, poet, and a Father of Canadian Confederation, is assassinated by Fenian elements on April 7, 1868, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He is to date the only Canadian victim of political assassination at the federal level.

McGee, born on April 13, 1825 in Carlingford, County Louth, grows up a Catholic Irishman who hates the British rule of Ireland and works for a peasant revolution to overthrow British rule and secure Irish independence. He escapes arrest and flees to the United States in 1848, where he reverses his political beliefs. He becomes disgusted with American republicanism and democracy, and becomes intensely conservative in his politics and in his religious support for the Pope.

McGee moves to Canada in 1857 and works hard to convince the Irish Catholics to cooperate with the Protestant British in forming a Confederation that will make for a strong Canada in close alliance with Britain. His fervor for Confederation garners him the title “Canada’s first nationalist.” He fights the Fenians in Canada, who are Irish Catholics who hate the British and resemble his younger self politically. McGee succeeds in helping create the Canadian Confederation in 1867.

On 7 April 1868, McGee, having participated in a parliamentary debate that goes on past midnight, walks back to the boarding house where he is staying. McGee is opening the door to Trotter’s Boarding House in Ottawa when he is shot by someone waiting for him on the inside. Several people run to the scene, however there is no sign of the assassin. It is later determined that McGee is assassinated with a shot from a handgun by Patrick J. Whelan.

McGee is given a state funeral in Ottawa and interred in a crypt at the Cimetière Notre Dame des Neiges in Montreal. His funeral procession in Montreal draws an estimated crowd of 80,000 out of a total city population of 105,000.

Patrick J. Whelan, a Fenian sympathiser and a Catholic, is accused, tried, convicted, and hanged for the crime on February 11, 1869, in Ottawa. The jury is decisively swayed by the forensic evidence that Whelan’s gun had been fired shortly before the killing, together with the circumstantial evidence that he had threatened and stalked McGee. Historian David Wilson points out that forensic tests conducted in 1972 show that the fatal bullet is compatible with both the gun and the bullets that Whelan owned. Wilson concludes, “The balance of probabilities suggests that Whelan either shot McGee, or was part of a hit-squad, but there is still room for reasonable doubt as to whether he was the man who actually pulled the trigger.”

The government of Canada’s Thomas D’Arcy McGee Building stands near the site of the assassination. The case is dramatised in the Canadian play Blood on the Moon by Ottawa actor/playwright Pierre Brault. The assassination of McGee is also a major component of Away, a novel about Irish immigration to Canada by Canadian novelist Jane Urquhart.