Little Bits of History

Canadian Assassination

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 7, 2012

Thomas D'Arcy McGee

April 7, 1868: Thomas D’Arcy McGee is gunned down outside his home. McGee was a Father of Confederation and is, to date, the only federal level Canadian politician to be assassinated. He was born in Ireland and came to the United States in 1842 when he was just 17. He worked for a Boston Catholic newspaper for a few years before returning to Ireland. There he edited The Nation, an Irish nationalist newspaper. His support of the Fenians and his association with rebellious factions led to a warrant for his arrest. He fled Ireland and returned to the US.

In 1857 McGee moved to Montreal, Quebec. He became politically active and was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1858. Rather than working for a free and independent Ireland, he began to work toward an independent Canada. He changed his radical views and denounced the Fenian Brotherhood. At the time, their plan was to take over the Canadian colonies and use them as leverage to free Ireland from British rule. In fact, the Fenians sent an invasion force into Canada in 1866 without much effect. However, Canadians remained fearful of future attacks.

McGee was elected to the 1st Canadian Parliament in 1867 representing Montreal West as a Conservative member. On April 6 he participated in a Parliamentary debate lasting until after midnight. He walked home and as he approached his apartment on Sparks Street, he was killed by a single pistol shot to the head. He was to turn 43 at his next birthday, the following week. He was given a state funeral and buried at Côtes des Neiges cemetery in Montreal.

The government immediately put forth a $2,000 reward (nearly $45,000 in 2009 USD) for the capture of the criminal. Before nightfall James Patrick Whelan was arrested for the murder. All evidence presented at trial was circumstantial at best. Whelan was born in Galway, Ireland and came to Quebec City, Canada. He spent two years volunteering to protect his new home from Fenian raids. He then moved to Montreal, married Bridget Boyle and found work as a tailor before moving to Ottawa. A man matching his description was seen leaving the scene of the crime. Whelan was accused of having Fenian ties, the motive for his becoming an assassin. Within a few decades of his trial and subsequent hanging, the verdict was under scrutiny. It is felt a scapegoat was needed and James Patrick Whelan was it.

True independence and freedom can only exist in doing what’s right. – Brigham Young

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom. – Søren Kierkegaard

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom. – Albert Einstein

The more freedom we enjoy, the greater the responsibility we bear, toward others as well as ourselves. – Oscar Arias Sanchez

Also on this day:

Light My Fire – In 1827 John Walker develops a new match.
Internet Born – in 1969, RFC-1 was published.
WHO’s Your Caregiver? – In 1948, the World Health Organization was founded.

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