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MANAHAN, ANTHONY, businessman, jp, militia officer, politician, and office holder; b. c. 1794 in Mount Bellew, County Galway (Republic of Ireland); m. Sarah Phebe Nugent (d. 1847), and they had at least three daughters, one of whom died in infancy; d. 21 Jan. 1849 in Kingston, Upper Canada.

The names of Anthony Manahan’s parents and his early circumstances are unknown, but it is evident that he came of a respectable Roman Catholic background and received a basic education. About 1808 he and a brother emigrated to Trinidad. There, by his own account, he “filled a public situation of trust” and gained the confidence and friendship of Governor Sir Ralph James Woodford. As well, he married a daughter of John Nugent, a member of the island’s Council. For unknown reasons he left Trinidad in 1820 and went to Kingston, where he became a merchant and formed Anthony Manahan and Company, apparently in cooperation with a relative, Patrick Manahan of New York.

In 1824 Anthony Manahan, Peter McGill*, and Robert Hayes became assignees of the Marmora Iron Works, in Hastings County. Since its initial development in 1820 under Charles Hayes, an Irish businessman, the works had been plagued with problems, including the lack of a good transportation system between Marmora Township and the Bay of Quinte. McGill bought the works in 1825 and the following year chose Manahan to manage it, probably because most of the workers were Irish Catholics and because Manahan too had invested in the venture. He was unable, however, to make it show a profit; in October 1831 he left the works and returned to Kingston, having lost “several thousand pounds.” He went back into business there as a merchant and commission agent, “with doubtful prospects of success,” and began trying, without immediate result, to get a government job in addition to the magistracy he had received in 1829.

Though living in Kingston, Manahan continued to have a strong interest in the affairs of Hastings County. In December 1831 he headed a petition from inhabitants of the region asking for improvements in the road to the ironworks. Appointed major of the 2nd Regiment of Hastings militia in 1826 and colonel in 1830, he went on active service with the regiment in 1837, supervising the transfer of arms from Kingston to Belleville. In 1836, proclaiming “undeviating constitutional principles” and opposition to “ultraism of any kind,” he had been elected to one of the two seats for Hastings in the House of Assembly. There, in 1836–37, he advocated government support for the creation of a Trent River canal system, which would afford easier access to the “abandoned” Marmora Iron Works. In 1837 Manahan, George Neville Ridley, and Isaac Fraser formed a commission to report on the feasibility of moving the provincial penitentiary from Kingston to Marmora. The majority report, signed by Manahan and Ridley, recommended the transfer and recommended as well the use of cheap convict labour at the works, but the proposals were never acted upon.

Manahan also took up the cause of his fellow Irish Catholics in Upper Canada. In 1838 he submitted a memorial to Lord Durham [Lambton] alleging systematic discrimination against Irish Catholics by the Upper Canadian élite. He asked for justice to “my fellow Catholics, not one of whom,” he claimed, held “any office of profit or emolument” in the province. On several other occasions he was quick to react, publicly and in private correspondence with government officials, to anti-Catholic attacks or to specific cases of discrimination. He expected that his actions would make him “a host of enemies in the notorious Family Compact,” and to some extent they did. In February 1838 John Macaulay*, reacting to Manahan’s complaints about both the compact and an appointment to the Midland District Grammar School, wrote to his mother: “I suppose he wanted a Catholic appointed – nothing but supremacy will satisfy such people.” At the time Manahan was himself in the government’s employ. From 1837 to 1844 he was crown lands agent for the Midland and Prince Edward districts and in 1838–40, and possibly earlier, he was employed by the chief emigration agent to supervise the settlement of immigrants in the Kingston area.

In 1841 Manahan was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Kingston. Though a conservative and moderate adherent of Lord Sydenham [Thomson], he maintained a correspondence with Robert Baldwin*, the solicitor general and reform leader, whose electoral campaign in Hastings he supported. He resigned his seat on 18 June 1841, three days after the opening of parliament, in order to create an opening for Sydenham’s provincial secretary, Samuel Bealey Harrison*. Manahan was rewarded the same day by being appointed collector of customs for Toronto.

He seemed at last to have gained a position that promised security, but in fact his financial troubles persisted. In an attempt to improve operations in the collector’s office he spent public money freely on rent, furnishings, supplies, and additional employees. All of these expenditures the government refused to sanction since, as the inspector general’s office repeatedly pointed out to him, there was no provision for them under the law. On 5 April 1843 Manahan resigned in favour of his son-in-law William Moore Kelly, who had been doing the work of the office for some time. When Manahan’s accounts were audited he was informed that he owed the government more than £400 because of unauthorized expenditures and overcharges on commission. The assistant commissioner of crown lands, Tancrède Bouthillier, and the chief emigration agent for Upper Canada, Anthony Bewden Hawke*, reported that he was also in arrears to their offices, where he had made “sundry claims” either not authorized or unsupported by vouchers despite his having been told often about “the proper mode of accounting for public money.” He returned to Kingston later in 1843. His property was sold in 1844 and 1845 to pay his debts to the government.

In the election of 1844 Manahan ran again for Kingston but was defeated by John A. Macdonald*. Though the Kingston Herald described Manahan as the “most liberal” of the two, it did not name him among the reformers running in local ridings. His apparent political shift in the early 1840s is difficult to explain; possibly it derived in part from his becoming disillusioned by the provincial élite’s mistreatment of Irish Catholics. His last years were spent in a vain attempt to regain some measure of solvency. In 1846 he renewed a petition to the government, which he had been submitting periodically over many years, to be compensated in the amount of £2,530 for the loss in 1821 of a shipment of tea and tobacco wrongly seized at Carleton Island, N.Y., by the then collector of customs at Kingston, Christopher Alexander Hagerman. The Executive Council refused his request. In 1847 Manahan applied for the position of police magistrate of Kingston on the grounds that he had been a justice of the peace since 1829 and that he had the support of the Kingston City Council. His letter of application to the provincial secretary was “put by.” Two years later Manahan died at the age of 55.

J. K. Johnson

AO, MS 78, John Macaulay to Ann Macaulay, 8 Feb. 1838. Hastings Land Registry Office (Belleville, Ont.), Abstract index to deeds, Marmora Township, concession 4, lot 8 (mfm. at AO). MTRL, Robert Baldwin papers, A57, nos.45–46. PAC, MG 24, D16, 115: 74820; MG 26, A, 2a, 543: 257107; RG 1, E3, 52: 303–18; L1, 32: 411; RG 4, A1, 542: 67; RG 5, A1: – 64912, 125019–67; C1, 9, file 1176; 79, file 30549; 112, files 6178, 6187; 133, file 8112; 191, files 15171, 16535, 16605; RG 9, 1, B5, 3, 6; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841: 467. Arthur papers (Sanderson), 3: 493. F. H. Baddeley, “An essay on the localities of metallic minerals in the Canadas, with some notices of their geological associations and situation, &c.,” Literary and Hist. Soc. of Quebec, Trans., 2 (1830–31): 357. Debates of the Legislative Assembly of United Canada (Abbott Gibbs et al.), 1: 69, 187, 818, 838–39, 901, 1003. [J. G. Lambton, 1st] Earl of Durham, Report on the affairs of British North America, from the Earl of Durham . . . ([London, 1839]), app.A, no.7. U.C., House of Assembly, App. to the journal, 1839–40, 1, pt.ii: 2; Journal, 1826–27, app., no.12; 1829: 57; 1831, app.: 210; 1832–33, app.: 19. British Whig, 23 March, 7 April 1838. Chronicle & Gazette, 1834–44. Daily British Whig, 23 Jan. 1849. Globe, 27 Jan. 1849. Kingston Chronicle, 7 March 1823, 14 Jan. 1832. Kingston Herald, 1 Oct. 1844. Patriot (Toronto), 2 Aug. 1836. Upper Canada Herald, 24 Feb. 1826. Death notices of Ont. (Reid), 131, 303, 342. Marriage notices of Ont. (Reid). Ont. marriage notices (T. B. Wilson), 65. G. E. Boyce, Historic Hastings (Belleville, 1967). Gertrude Carmichael, The history of the West Indian islands of Trinidad and Tobago, 1498–1910 (London, 1961), 383. N. F. Davin, The Irishman in Canada (London and Toronto, 1877), 366. Ont., Bureau of Mines, Report (Toronto), 1892: 15–16.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

J. K. Johnson, “MANAHAN, ANTHONY,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 20, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/manahan_anthony_7E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/manahan_anthony_7E.html
Author of Article: J. K. Johnson
Title of Article: MANAHAN, ANTHONY
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1988
Year of revision: 1988
Access Date: April 20, 2014