DOYLE, PATRICK, ship’s captain, businessman, justice of the peace, politician, and judge; b. 1777 in Newfoundland; m. Mary —; they had no children; d. 4 June 1857 in St John’s.
During his lifetime Patrick Doyle pursued a number of careers, the first being that of ship’s captain. From 1803 to 1809 he was captain of the snow Rover, sailing between Newfoundland and Bristol, England, and by 1818 he had become sufficiently wealthy to own a 46-ton sealing schooner, the Elizabeth, which he sold that year to finance his expanding commercial interests. By 1819 he had acquired considerable mercantile property along the St John’s waterfront, and he was importing basic foodstuffs and fishery supplies as well as an assortment of luxury items. He was also the owner and operator of the Globe Tavern, with its public house, meeting hall, theatre, and tenement building.
Doyle’s mercantile premises were destroyed in the city fire of 1819, but by 1828, the year in which he formed a partnership with Stephen Lawler, he was once more doing a thriving importing business. For unknown reasons the partnership was dissolved on 1 Oct. 1831 and Doyle again resumed sole ownership of the firm. Although he auctioned off the Globe Tavern shortly thereafter, he still retained his wharf and two large stores, the rent from which, combined with that of a number of tenement buildings, afforded him a comfortable living until his death. His estate, not including “lands, tenement houses and premises,” was valued at £4,600.
In addition to his commercial interests Doyle was actively involved in the political life of Newfoundland. During the period of the colony’s struggle for representative government, between 1820 and 1832, he was a member of the political committee of the reform movement led by Dr William Carson* and Patrick Morris*. As a member of this committee, Doyle was chiefly concerned with the administrative and organizational work of the movement, such as the planning of public meetings, the implementation of decisions reached at these meetings, and the preparation and forwarding of petitions to the British government. In November 1820 he was one of a committee of 13 which had been appointed at a public meeting to draw up a petition calling for the abolition of the surrogate court system and appealing the flogging sentences given to Philip Butler and James Lundrigan*, two Conception Bay fishermen who were found in contempt by local surrogate magistrates. During the mid and late 1830s he also protested the unconstitutional and politically biased activities of Chief Justice Henry John Boulton*.
In the 1836 election, which was subsequently invalidated, and again in 1837 Doyle was elected to the Newfoundland House of Assembly as a Liberal representative for the district of Placentia–St Mary’s. Although not one of the political leaders of his day, he nevertheless played a very important role in the day to day affairs of the house: he was often called upon to chair the committee of the whole house, to sit on the various committees of inquiry, and to serve on the numerous assembly delegations which met with either the Council or the governor. Since many of these conferences were intended to settle major disputes between the branches of government, it is obvious that Doyle must have been an able negotiator, possessing tact and diplomacy as well as firmness and determination. In 1838 Governor Henry Prescott* considered appointing Doyle, Morris, and Robert Pack to the Council in the hope that enlarging it to include members or former members of the assembly would help reduce tension between the two bodies. This proposal was not adopted because the Colonial Office was reluctant to make any changes in Newfoundland’s constitution.
Rather than seek re-election at the end of his legislative term in 1842, Doyle accepted the position of police magistrate for St John’s. This was a natural choice since he had been a grand juror for a number of years, and had been made a justice of the peace in 1834. In 1845 Doyle was appointed stipendiary magistrate of the Court of Sessions, a position he retained until his death in 1857.
A Roman Catholic, Doyle was involved in the work of the Benevolent Irish Society, a local organization dedicated to the alleviation of poverty and the encouragement of education. As a member of this highly respected and influential society, he held a number of offices: first assistant 1818–22 and 1827; treasurer 1830–32; and vice-president 1835–40. His most important contribution was his piloting through the House of Assembly of two bills (1839 and 1841) aimed at incorporating the society. Although ultimately unsuccessful in his efforts – the British government disallowed both bills – Doyle nevertheless spent the greater part of his legislative career pursuing this goal, as well as promoting the interests of the poor and disadvantaged in general. He also helped supervise the construction of the Orphan Asylum Schools in 1827, and was one of the closest advisers of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming* when the latter was trying to secure a building site for the new Roman Catholic cathedral. Doyle was also involved with the non-denominational Charity School Society, the Sons of Old Ireland Society, the Natives’ Society, and the Agricultural Society.
Throughout his life Patrick Doyle contributed much of his time and energy toward the improvement of the lot of his fellow countrymen. As a merchant he generated wealth and prosperity and used that wealth to promote culture and refinement. As a political agitator and politician he helped bring democratic institutions to Newfoundland and then helped make those institutions more responsive to the popular will. And finally, as a member of various civic organizations he contributed much toward the relief of economic hardship, the promotion of education, and the fostering of religious expression. His passing was greatly mourned by all classes and sectors of society and by the highest officials of church and state.
PRO, CO 194; CO 195/17 (mfm. at PANL). Supreme Court of Nfld. (St John’s), Registry, will of Patrick Doyle, probated 1 June 1857. Dr William Carson, the great Newfoundland reformer: his life, letters and speeches; raw material for a biography, comp. J. R. Smallwood (St John’s, 1978). Nfld., House of Assembly, Journal, 1837–42. Newfoundlander, 1827–31, 1837–42. Newfoundland Mercantile Journal, 1819–22. Patriot (St John’s), 1835, 1845, 1857. Public Ledger, 1827–28, 1831–32. Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser, 1815, 1818, 1820, 1828–31, 1834, 1842, 1845, 1847. The register of shipping (London), 1803–9. When was that? (Mosdell). Centenary volume, Benevolent Irish Society of St. John’s, Newfoundland, 1806–1906 (Cork, [Republic of Ire., 1906?]). Devine, Ye olde St. John’s. Gunn, Political hist. of Nfld. Howley, Ecclesiastical hist. of Nfld. O’Neill, Story of St. John’s, vol.1. J. C. Pippy, “The Benevolent Irish Society,” The book of Newfoundland, ed. J. R. Smallwood (6v., St John’s, 1937–75), 2: 273–87. Prowse, Hist. of Nfld. (1895). F. W. Rowe, The development of education in Newfoundland (Toronto, 1964). J. M. Kent, “The Benevolent Irish Society,” Newfoundland Quarterly (St John’s), 1 (1901–2), no.4: 13–16.