seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Philosopher Francis Hutcheson

francis-hutchesonFrancis Hutcheson, Scotch-Irish philosopher and major exponent of the theory of the existence of a moral sense through which man can achieve right action, is born on August 8, 1694 in Saintfield, County Down, Ulster. He is remembered for his book A System of Moral Philosophy. He is an important influence on the works of several significant Enlightenment thinkers, including David Hume and Adam Smith.

The son of a Presbyterian minister, Hutcheson is educated at Killyleagh in modern day Northern Ireland and studies philosophy, classics, and theology at the University of Glasgow (1710–1716). While a student, he works as tutor to William Boyd, 3rd Earl of Kilmarnock. Following his return to Ireland, he founds a private academy in Dublin in 1719 and teaches there for ten years. In 1729 he returns to Glasgow to succeed his old master, Gershom Carmichael, as Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, a position he holds until his death.

Hutcheson is licensed as a preacher in 1719 by Irish Presbyterians in Ulster, but in 1738 the Glasgow presbytery challenges his belief that people can have a knowledge of good and evil without, and prior to, a knowledge of God. His standing as a popular preacher is undiminished, however, and the celebrated Scottish philosopher David Hume seeks his opinion of the rough draft of the section “Of Human Morals” in Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature.

Hutcheson’s ethical theory is propounded in his Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725), in Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections (1728) and Illustrations upon the Moral Sense (1728), and in the posthumous A System of Moral Philosophy (1755). In his view, besides his five external senses, man has a variety of internal senses, including a sense of beauty, of morality, of honour, and of the ridiculous. Of these, Hutcheson considers the moral sense to be the most important. He believes that it is implanted in man and pronounces instinctively and immediately on the character of actions and affections, approving those that are virtuous and disapproving those that are vicious. His moral criterion is whether or not an act tends to promote the general welfare of mankind. He thus anticipates the utilitarianism of the English thinker Jeremy Bentham, even to his use of the phrase “the greatest happiness for the greatest number.” Hutcheson is also influential as a logician and theorist of human knowledge.

Hutcheson spends time in Dublin, and dies while on a visit to the city on August 8, 1746, his fifty-second birthday. He is buried in the churchyard of Saint Mary’s, which is also the final resting place of his cousin William Bruce. Today Saint Mary’s is a public park located in what is now Wolfe Tone Street. He lies in what is now an unmarked grave in the Dublin he loved and where his best work was done.


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Birth of James Graham Fair, Mining Tycoon & U.S. Senator

james-graham-fair

James Graham Fair, banker, mining tycoon, and United States Senator from Nevada, is born in Clogher, County Tyrone on December 3, 1831. He is credited with discovering the Big Bonanza, one of the richest pockets of gold and silver on the Comstock Lode.

Born in what is now Northern Ireland in 1831 to Scotch-Irish parents, Fair immigrates with his family to the United States when he is a boy and grows up on a farm in Illinois. Following the 1849 California Gold Rush, he travels to California. He earns a reputation for understanding ore bodies, inspiring his eventual employment as superintendent of various mines.

The 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada provides Fair with new opportunities. In 1865, he becomes superintendent of the prestigious Ophir Mine. Two years later, the Hale and Norcross Mine in Virginia City hire him as assistant superintendent, but the owners dismiss him within a year for unclear reasons.

While at the Hale and Norcross, Fair meets John William Mackay, whose success at the Kentuck Mine made him a millionaire. The two Irish immigrants recognize common interests and form an alliance. Mackay gives Fair the position of superintendent of the Rising Star Mine in Idaho, a property he had recently acquired. The venture proves unsuccessful, but it solidifies a working relationship between the two.

Fair works quietly with Mackay and investors James C. Flood and William S. O’Brien to obtain control of the Hale and Norcross Mine. Fair turns it to profit with better management. He and Mackay combine their expertise to acquire and explore other claims. In 1873, largely through Fair’s persistent search in the Consolidated California and Virginia Mine, the partnership discovers the famed Big Bonanza, one of the richest ore bodies in history. Fair and the others become extremely wealthy. He uses his assets to defeat the incumbent William Sharon for a seat in the United States Senate, which he holds in an undistinguished way from 1881-1887 as a Democrat.

Fair develops real estate in San Francisco and acquires mining property outside Nevada. Theresa Fair, his wife, is respected in Virginia City for donations to causes including those of the Catholic Church and the Daughters of Charity. When she divorces her husband in 1883 for habitual adultery, national public opinion turns against the senator. During his bid for reelection, he finds little support. Even Mackay fails to come to his aid, and he easily loses his seat to William Morris Stewart in 1887. He then moves back to San Francisco.

James Fair dies on December 28, 1894 in San Francisco of diabetes mellitus at the age of 63. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.