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Frederick Lucas

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A member of Parliament and journalist, b. in Westminster, 30 March, 1812, d. at Staines, Middlesex, 22 Oct., 1855. He was the second son of Samuel Hayhurst Lucas, a London corn-merchant who was a member of the Society of Friends. Educated first at a Quaker school in Darlington, then at University College, London, he gave early proof of his abilities, particularly in essay-writing and as a speaker in the college debating society. Even at this time he was an ardent supporter of Catholic Emancipation, which was then being much discussed. On leaving college he began to study for the law at the Middle Temple, and was called to the bar in 1835. Staines in 1838 showed that he felt that attraction to the Christianity of the Middle Ages which was then influencing so many minds. Yet ruled by the prejudices of his early education it was to the Oxford School rather than to the Catholic Church that he was first led. But early in 1839 an end was put to his doubts and difficulties: his intimate friend Thomas Chisholm Anstey, himself a recent convert, persuaded him to examine the Catholic claims, and the perusal of Milner's "End of Controversy" convinced him of their truth. He was received into the Church by Father Lythgoe, S.J. In a letter to the Kington monthly meeting of Friends he resigned his membership of the Society and announced his conversion (18 Feb., 1839). In 1840 he married Miss Elizabeth Ashby of Staines, who, like two of his brothers, followed him into the Catholic Church.

In the same year he determined to start a weekly Catholic paper, "The Tablet", the first number of which appeared on 16 Mays 1840. After two years his original supporters, Messrs. Keasley, failed in business, and he was left without the resources necessary for continuing the paper. But he had many Catholic friends who put great confidence in his courage, ability and broad scholarship, and they came to his assistance. A claim on the part of the printers, which he regarded as unjust, led to a struggle between him and them for the possession of the premises, and during the year 1842 rival publications were issued — the "Tablet" by the printers, and the "True Tablet" by Lucas. By the end of the year he was victorius, and in January, 1843, he was able to begin the fourth volume of the "Tablet" without a rival. He conducted the paper on such fearless lines that he alarmed some of the old English Catholics, who had been trained in a school of the utmost prudence and circumspection, and who looked askance at the uncompromising boldness with which he asserted Catholic rights and defended the Catholic position. He received, however, the hearty support of many Irish priests with whose political aspirations he was thoroughly in sympathy. This led him in 1849 to transfer the publishing offices of the "Tablet" from London to Dublin, and from this time forward he took a keen interest in Irish politics.

Returned to Parliament in 1852 as one of the members for Meath, he quickly won for himself a position in the House of Commons, and was recognized as one of the leading Catholic politicians. Questioning the sincerity of some of the Irish Nationalist members he did not shrink from denouncing them, and before long he became involved in a conflict with the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Cullen, who prohibited his priests from interference in politics. Lucas attacked this action of the archbishop in the "Tablet", and in 1854 he went to Rome to lay his case before the pope. Pius IX received him kindly, and requested him to draw up a memorial on Irish affairs and the differences between himself and the archbishop. Though in failing health he set about this task, which occupied him through the winter. In May, 1855, he returned to England hoping after a few weeks to go back to Rome, but his health grew worse and he died on 22 October in the house of his brother-in-law at Staines. His death was regarded as a public loss by Catholics both in England and Ireland, who realized that he had breathed a new spirit of independence into Catholic journalism and set an example of high principle in political life. "As a father, a husband, a journalist and member of Parliament he had a high ideal of duty — an ideal such as rarely, if ever enters into the minds of ordinary men" (Life, II, 468).

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