Thomas D'Arcy McGee

Father of Confederation
Only Canadian federal politician to be assassinated

Thomas Darcy McGee
National Library of Canada

Born: 13 April 1825, Carlingford, Co. Louth, Ireland
Died: 7 April 1868, Ottawa, Ontario

Thomas D'Arcy McGee moved to the United States at age 17 and within two years, he was the editor of the Boston Pilot, a Catholic newspaper. McGee returned to Ireland in 1846 where he was one of the leaders of the Young Ireland rebellion. In trouble with the law, McGee fled back to the US and returned to editing newspapers for the next ten years. Despite his best efforts, he was unable to elicit much interest in his projects to better the welfare of Irish immigrants and he decided to try his hand in Canada.

McGee moved to Montreal in 1857 where he founded a newspaper called ‘New Era’. The poet, public speaker, and historian was quite vocal about his vision for Canada. He wanted a transcontinental railway, a province for Aboriginal people, distinctive Canadian literature, settlement in the west, a protective tariff for Canadian goods, and the federation of the country. He was also quite vocal about his opposition to the Fenians, a group working to liberate Ireland from British rule.

McGee was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1858 and attended the Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences on Confederation in 1864. He was elected to the House of Commons after Confederation.

Site of McGee's assassination

Shortly after 1am on 7 April 1868, a week before his 43rd birthday, McGee was killed by a single shot to the head as he returned to his apartment on Sparks Street. The police and the government immediately looked at the Fenians, and Patrick Whelan, a suspected Fenian sympathizer, was arrested and eventually hanged for the murder.

Thomas D'Arcy McGee was given a state funeral and buried in Côtes des Neiges cemetery in Montreal.

See also:

James Patrick Whelan

Additional trivia:

The Fenians planned to liberate Ireland by conquering Canada and holding it hostage.

McGee supported the American annexation of Canada until he moved here.

More information on:


Thanks to Garth Cowan for the suggestion.


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Added 11 October 2003.