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CARSON, WILLIAM – Volume VII (1836-1850)

d. 26 Feb. 1843 in St John’s


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From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

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Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

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BOYLE, PATRICK, printer and publisher; b. 1832 in Newport, County Mayo (Republic of Ireland); m. Bridget Ellen Hynes (d. 1894), and they had three daughters; d. 1 Aug. 1901 in Toronto.

Patrick Boyle immigrated with his family to the United States in 1844. Two years later, for reasons that are unknown, he moved to Toronto. In the early 1850s he worked as a printer with George Brown*’s Globe and then as a journeyman printer for the Catholic Citizen. He later practised his trade briefly in New York and New Orleans, but returned to Canada at the beginning of the Civil War.

In the United States Boyle had come into contact with the Irish nationalist Phoenix, which was published in New York, and its radical constituency. His outrage over British colonialism in Ireland, combined with the ethos of sectarian bitterness in Toronto, prompted him to establish the Irish Canadian there in January 1863. Since the paper’s stockholders, printers, and editors were largely members of the Hibernian Benevolent Society of Canada, of which Boyle was secretary, it was regarded as the mouthpiece of this Irish working-class association. In the weekly’s first issues, Boyle advocated a moderate form of Home Rule, modelled upon Canada’s status as a self-governing dominion in the British empire. He also agitated for the political advancement of Irish Catholics in Canada, claiming that, given the size and influence of the Irish population there, “due consideration” had to be paid them “in all Cabinet councils.” His advocacy of Irish rights in Canada and the “motherland” would meet with significant popular support: by 1892 his journal had the largest circulation of any Catholic newspaper in Ontario.

Boyle’s ideas were soon tested. During the final stages of the Civil War and amidst the debate on confederation, residents of Canada became alarmed about a potential invasion by Irish Americans. In 1864 Boyle’s growing sympathy for the American-based Fenian Brotherhood fuelled suspicions that Irish revolutionaries were plotting from within Canadian society. He and his Hibernians supported Fenian desires for Irish independence, but the Irish Canadian was opposed to any Fenian invasion of Canada, which it thought would be counterproductive. Nevertheless, Boyle’s failure to disavow Fenianism entirely distanced him from Irish journalist and Montreal mla Thomas D’Arcy McGee*, who advocated cultural accommodation, and from moderate Irish Catholics in Toronto. In early 1864 James George Moylan, the Irish-born editor of the rival Canadian Freeman in Toronto, denounced Boyle’s journal as a Fenian organ.

On the eve of Guy Fawkes day in 1864, fears of a Fenian fifth column were sustained when Toronto’s Hibernians prowled the streets in search of an alleged Orange mob. The event, though condemned by the press and some Catholic clergy, underscored how Boyle and the Hibernians had parted ways with moderate Irish nationalists and were now willing to take their fight for the defence of Irish Catholic rights to the streets. Yet, throughout 1865 and 1866 Boyle continued to reject invasion and balanced his advocacy of the reconquest of Ireland by the Fenians with bold statements of his loyalty to Canada. His controversial position and prominence among Irish nationalists strained his relations with the local Catholic clergy, particularly Archbishop John Joseph Lynch*. Their competition became a major focus in the larger struggle between clergy and laity for leadership of the Irish Catholics in Toronto.

The Fenian invasion of Canada’s Niagara peninsula in June 1866 [see John O’Neill*] placed Boyle in a precarious situation. Though the defeat of the Fenians forced him to be more cautious in his nationalist rhetoric, he nevertheless assumed the presidency of the Hibernians after Michael Murphy* had been seized and continued his advocacy of better Irish political representation in Canada. Thus, it came as no surprise that Boyle was arrested in April 1868 during the investigations of Irish nationalists after the murder of D’Arcy McGee. He and James E. Hynes, his brother-in-law and co-publisher, remained in jail for over three months, during which time the Irish Canadian ceased to publish.

The failure of Fenianism and Boyle’s release marked a turning-point in his career. In 1863 he had been politically unaligned, although he attacked the Reform party and its “Sandyism,” or domination by Scots, whom he considered clannish and disloyal. By the mid 1860s, in the face of clerical and moderate Irish nationalist support of the Conservative party, he began to wed Irish nationalism to political liberalism. In 1867 he supported the decision of the “Catholic Convention” [see Sir Frank Smith] to marshal Irish voters behind the Reform party, and he joined the Reform-dominated Catholic League in 1871. Finally, by 1872, he was following the lead of popular local politician John O’Donohoe and had formally aligned the Irish Canadian with the Reform cause. O’Donohoe stood to gain the support of a well-oiled Irish machine, while Boyle saw O’Donohoe as a potential means of obtaining action at the national level. The alliance was enhanced by the Liberal victory in the federal election of 1874, even though O’Donohoe, who won in Toronto East, was subsequently dislodged.

In his Reform phase Boyle again came to verbal blows with Lynch, who was now trying to steer a neutral course in federal politics while supporting the Ontario Liberals, whom he felt demonstrated true “justice” to the province’s Irish Catholics. Boyle, however, grew disillusioned over the Liberals’ failure to award Catholics patronage, both federally and provincially, and he was angered by the federal party’s free-trade policy, which he believed impoverished Catholic workers. In 1876 Boyle’s criticism of Christopher Finlay Fraser*, Premier Oliver Mowat’s Catholic lieutenant, and his attack on clerical interference in provincial and Toronto school-board politics, prompted Lynch to denounce the Irish Canadian for fostering division in the Catholic community. In a letter to Lynch in December 1876, Boyle refused to alter his “honest discharge of . . . duty as a journalist.” Consequently his Irish Canadian continued to criticize undue clerical interference in politics and withdrew its support of the Liberals. By 1878 both Boyle and O’Donohoe were formally realigned with the Conservatives, who returned to power that year at the federal level.

Despite some initial disappointments in securing patronage, Boyle eventually had the ear of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald* and those of his Irish lieutenants, Frank Smith, John Costigan*, and O’Donohoe, a senator from 1882. The Conservatives began financing the Irish Canadian; they awarded government contracts to Boyle’s Toronto Printing Company and persuaded him to start up a daily edition, the Evening Canadian, in 1882. It failed to sell, however, and by 1884 Boyle was petitioning Macdonald for funds to pay the Irish Canadian’s creditors. All the while, Boyle admitted that, regardless of the daily’s failure, the weekly circulation of the Irish Canadian was increasing.

The Tory-backed journal became a strong weapon in the attempt by Boyle and Macdonald to undermine Lynch’s growing rapprochement with the Ontario Liberals. Boyle’s scathing attacks ended in 1886, however, when the province’s Conservatives, under William Ralph Meredith*, launched a “no popery” election campaign aimed at destroying the alleged concordat between Lynch and Mowat. Though not openly supportive of Mowat, Boyle issued a stern warning to Meredith and the ultra-Protestant Tory Daily Mail [see Christopher William Bunting*] that an anti-Catholic platform would alienate Irish voters from the Conservatives.

By 1887 Boyle was again unaligned, although he would occasionally seek patronage from the federal Tories. The following year the Irish Canadian also disavowed any religious mandate, leaving “questions of faith . . . in the hands of those who speak with authority.” Clearly Boyle was staking out his old turf, presenting himself as a fighter for Irish Catholic political rights and hoping to cultivate “an undying love . . . for the Green Island.” These intentions were evident in his co-sponsorship of a trip to Toronto in 1887 by William O’Brien, activist editor of the United Ireland of Dublin. This visit, which coincided with one by Governor General Lord Lansdowne [Petty-Fitzmaurice*], a notorious landlord in Ireland, was opposed by Lynch, Frank Smith, and the Catholic Weekly Review. Their reaction only served to accentuate Boyle’s Irish nationalism and to propel him into his last assault on Lynch.

In 1888 hostilities erupted between the archbishop and Irish nationalist members of the Toronto Separate School Board. The conflict dated back to 1876, when assertive lay members had accused Lynch of financial mismanagement and interference in the operation of the board. In 1888 the nationalist trustees, backed by Boyle and the Irish Canadian, demanded the use of ballots in school-board elections, to ensure that the archbishop could not manipulate the voting. Supported by the Review, Lynch struck back publicly, labelling his opponents as “false brethren.” In April 1888 his party succeeded in having Timothy Warren Anglin* elected to the board, amidst heavy criticism by Boyle, but Lynch died in May before the matter could be resolved.

Boyle skirmished with the Review for four more years. Both journals tacitly supported Mowat’s Liberals in 1890, but they could agree on little else. On one occasion, in 1888, Review editor Gerald Fitzgerald passed Boyle off as a “puissant figure among tap room politicians” with whom any further engagement would be “altogether demeaning.” In 1892 Archbishop John Walsh*, Lynch’s successor, wishing to end the internecine squabbles, moved to merge the two journals. In January 1893 the Catholic Register was born, a paper with a distinctive Catholic rather than an ethnic bias. Boyle was kept on as printer and from 1897 as secretary-treasurer, positions that effectively neutralized him.

In his final years Boyle witnessed dramatic change in Toronto’s Irish Catholic community, which was being acculturated into the English Canadian mainstream. The “de-greening” of the Irish, particularly in the Register, prompted Boyle to resurrect the Irish Canadian in June 1900, but the project faltered. Boyle’s constituency had either aged or disappeared. Though his nationalism had moderated somewhat, as evidenced by the uncharacteristic amount of attention he gave to Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, his little paper was a shadow of its former self. Boyle had been publishing it for only a year when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Within weeks of his burial, friends and long-time rivals set up a fund for his unmarried daughter Harriet, who had lived with her widowed father and was left in financial straits after the collapse of the second Irish Canadian.

Boyle’s lifelong fight for Irish Catholic rights enhanced the political influence of his community and had a long-term impact on Catholics as their Irishness faded. An effective organ of ethno-religious and political opinion, his Irish Canadian not only provided strong foundations for contemporary Catholic journalism, but forced Canadian political parties to recognize the emergence of a Catholic presence in English Canada.

Mark McGowan

Arch. of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, L (Lynch papers); OC 09.CC01 (Catholic Register file), esp. list of shareholders, 20 Dec. 1898; St Michael’s Cemetery (Toronto), reg. of burials, nos.15146, 19138. NA, MG 26, A; E: 113–18; MG 29, D 15, Macdonald to Moylan, 19 Jan. 1877. Catholic Register, 5 Jan. 1893, 15 Aug. 1901. Catholic Weekly Review (Toronto), 19 Feb., 28 April 1887; 18 Feb., 24 Nov. 1888. Evening Telegram (Toronto), 6–7 June 1878. Globe, 19 Nov. 1864, 2 Aug. 1901. Irish Canadian (Toronto), 7 Jan. 1863–29 Dec. 1892, esp. 6 Oct. 1869; June 1900–June 1901. Leader (Toronto), 6 May 1868. Toronto Daily Mail, 5 March 1888. Toronto Daily Star, 1 Aug. 1901. World (Toronto), 2 Aug. 1901. The Canadian newspaper directory . . . (Montreal), 1892. B. P. Clarke, “Piety, nationalism, and fraternity: the rise of Irish Catholic voluntary associations in Toronto, 1850–1895” (phd thesis, Univ. of Chicago, 1986), cc.5–6. Michael Cottrell, “Irish Catholic political leadership in Toronto, 1855–1882: a study in ethnic politics” (phd thesis, Univ. of Sask., Saskatoon, 1988); “John O’Donohoe and the politics of ethnicity in nineteenth-century Ontario,” CCHA Hist. studies, 56 (1989): 67–84, esp. 77–78. P. F. Cronin, “Early Catholic journalism in Canada,” CCHA Report, 3 (1935–36): 31–42. Dict. of Toronto printers (Hulse). M. G. McGowan, “The de-greening of the Irish: Toronto’s Irish Catholic press, imperialism, and the forging of a new identity, 1887–1914,” CHA Hist. papers, 1989: 118–45; “‘We endure what we cannot cure’: John Joseph Lynch and Roman Catholic-Protestant relations in Toronto, 1864–1875: frustrated attempts at peaceful coexistence,” Canadian Soc. of Church Hist., Papers (Ottawa), 1984: 89–116, esp. 92–93. Hereward Senior, The Fenians and Canada (Toronto, 1978). George Sheppard, “‘God save the green’: Fenianism and fellowship in Victorian Ontario,” SH, 20 (1987): 129–44. G. J. Stortz, “The Irish Catholic press in Toronto, 1874–1887,” CCHA Study sessions, 47 (1980): 42–56; “The Irish Catholic press in Toronto, 1887–1892: the years of transition;” Canadian Journal of Communication (Toronto), 10 (1983–84), no. 3: 27–46. F. A. Walker, Catholic education and politics in Ontario . . . (3v., Toronto, 1955–87; vols.1–2 repr. 1976), 2: 30–59.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Mark McGowan, “BOYLE, PATRICK,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 26, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/boyle_patrick_13E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/boyle_patrick_13E.html
Author of Article:   Mark McGowan
Title of Article:   BOYLE, PATRICK
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1994
Year of revision:   1994
Access Date:   February 26, 2024