Charles Gavan Duffy, the son of a shopkeeper was born in Monaghan on 12th April 1816. His mother was Annie Gavan.
Duffy had experience working as a journalist on the Morning Register in Dublin and in Belfast where he edited and afterwards owned the Belfast Vindicator.
He wrote prose and verse for the ‘Nation’ as well as being the editor. His articles mainly dealt with current affairs, and he wrote under the pseudonyms of “The Black Northern”; “Ben Heder”; “The O’Donnell” and his initials.
Thomas D’Arcy McGee who worked under Duffy in the Nation described him thus when he first met him in 1845:
“He struck me as of a dyspeptic constitution and his middle size deceived me – we always expect a great man to stand six feet high. His manner was frank, short and decided, like that of a general after a campaign has begun. He was always in action, planning, suggesting, negotiating. He carried into this party his firmness, rankness and energy and animated them with his own scrupulous love of truth and invariable disinterestedness. I could not help remembering, when I compared the strength of his mind with the weakness of his body that Owen Roe O’Neill and Grattan, our greatest general and our first orator, were invalids……..”
“His mind was fruitful in expedients, stored with examples, poetic in its tone, practical in its operation, comprehensive in its judgements, critical in its determination . He was brave yet gentle, firm though full of feeling, a soldier in resolve, a woman in affection.”
The Nation: 15th October 1842
Extracts from Duffys leading article in the first publication
“With all the nicknames that serve to delude and divide us – with all their Orangemen and Ribbonmen, Torymen and Whigmen, Ultras and Moderados, and Heaven knows what rubbish besides – there are in truth, but two parties in Ireland – those who suffer through her national degradation and those who profit by it. To a country like ours, all other nations are unimportant.”
“That is the first article of our political creed, and we desire to be known for what we are, we make it our earliest task to announce the object of the writers of this journal is to organise the greater and the better of these parties and to strive with all our soul, and all our strength, for the diffusion and establishment of these principles. This will be the beginning, the middle and the end of our labours….”
“But the first duty of men who desire to foster Nationality is to teach the people not only the elevating influence, but the intrinsic advantage of the principle of the thin. You cannot kindle a fire with damp faggots; and every man in the country who has not an interest in the existing system ought to show, as clearly as an abstract truth can be demonstrated, that national feelings, national habits and national government are indispensable to individual prosperity. This will be our task, and we venture to think that we will perform it indifferently well.”
“But no national feelings can co-exist with the mean and mendicant spirit which estimates everything English greater and better than if it belonged to our own country, and which looks at the rest of the world through the spectacles of Anglican prejudice. There can be no doubt at all that the chief source of the contempt with which we are treated by England is our own sycophancy. We abandoned our self-respect and were treated with contempt; nothing could be more natural – nothing in fact, could be more just. But we must open our eyes and look our domineering neighbour in the face – we must inspect him and endeavour to discover what kind of a fellow he is. We must learn to think sensibly and candidly about him; and we do not doubt that The Nation will tend materially to this end.”
“Many a student pent among books has his mind full of benevolent and useful thoughts for his country, which the habits of the students life would prevent him from ever pouring out in this hot arena of politics. Such men will find a fitting vehicle in the Nation; and our kindred love of letters will often induce them to turn with us from the study of mankind in politics. Such a legion will be more formidable than ‘a thousand men clad in steel’ each of them may fairly represent the multitude whom his intellect can set in motion; and the weapons which they will lay on to the roots of corruption will not be less keen, or trenchant, because they may cover them with the flowers of literature.”