FITZGERALD, DAVID, Church of England clergyman, office holder, and author; b. 3 Dec. 1813 in Tralee, County Kerry (Republic of Ireland), son of William Fitzgerald and Anne Minnitt; m. February 1843 Charity Christina Purdon in Kerry, and they had six children, of whom three sons survived to adulthood; d. 23 Feb. 1894 in Charlottetown.
David Fitzgerald, the eldest boy and fifth child in a family of ten, was the son of a barrister-at-law and the grandson of an Anglican clergyman. He was educated at schools in Clonmel and Limerick, and obtained his ba from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1843. Three years later he was ordained priest. He began his ministry as curate in Coltrain, County Fermanagh (Northern Ireland), later taking charge of a district church in the same county.
In 1847 Fitzgerald accepted an appointment as assistant to the Reverend Louis Charles Jenkins of St Paul’s Church, Charlottetown. On 3 June he and his wife, two children, and a servant arrived in Charlottetown and on 6 June he preached his first sermon. Jenkins resigned in 1854 and three years later Fitzgerald was elected rector. He was inducted on 26 March 1858. For almost forty years, until his retirement in 1885, he carried out his pastoral duties with great faithfulness and fervency, earning the respect and gratitude of his congregation.
Although his prime devotion was to the ministry and to the prosperity of the church and its members, he had a great interest in education. He established a sizeable library in the church for the use of the congregation, and he was an active member of several societies that promoted Christian education, a longtime member of the provincial Board of Education, and a lecturer on diverse topics. Among the sermons and lectures reportedly published is A lecture on the Reformation (Charlottetown, 1859). He was granted an ma ad eundem from King’s College, Windsor, N.S., in 1880, from which he also earned a bd and dd the following year.
Fitzgerald belonged to or held office in many societies, most of them connected with the church or the promotion of Protestantism, including the Island’s Diocesan Church Society (1847–86), the corresponding committee of the Colonial Church and School Society (1847–86), and religious tract and bible societies. He was a founding member and loyal supporter of the Young Men’s Christian Association and Literary Institute, belonged to the Prince Edward Island Association for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews, and was an organizer in late 1849 of the Micmac Mission, a Protestant group dedicated to improving the lot of Island Indians [see Thomas Irwin*; Silas Tertius Rand*]. He was also a trustee of the Lunatic Asylum for some twenty years, a commissioner of glebe and school lands, and chaplain of the Legislative Council (1863–67). An active participant in the Sons of Temperance [see James Barrett Cooper*], he served as chaplain and representative in local, Island, and national divisions. As an organizer of a temperance alliance in 1861, he joined in calling on the government for restrictions on liquor sales.
His most steadfast commitment was to Protestantism. A prejudice against Roman Catholics took overt form in his lifelong membership in the Orange order (he had joined in 1832 in Dublin). He was chaplain to the Charlottetown lodge for many years and did not waver when Lieutenant Governor Sir Alexander Bannerman* in 1852 issued a proclamation discouraging societies such as the Orange order because of the animosities they might arouse. As part of his apparent desire to have Islanders recognize Protestantism as being, in his words, the “more excellent way,” he aligned himself with the conservative party. (When Fitzgerald received the Legislative Council chaplaincy, Edward Whelan*, an Irish-born Catholic who edited the Charlottetown Examiner, called it a reward for his political service.) In late 1856 Fitzgerald played a key role in launching one of the most divisive issues in Island politics. While sitting on the Board of Education he made public a letter on Bible reading in the Island’s Normal School from Bishop Bernard Donald Macdonald* to Premier George Coles*, and then participated in a campaign for authorization of such readings in all public schools. The role of religion in education was to dominate Island politics for two decades.
One outcome of the events of 1856 was the “Great Protestant Meeting” held in Charlottetown on 13 Feb. 1857 and chaired by another Protestant leader, John Hamilton Gray*. In addition to advocating mandatory Bible reading in the schools, Fitzgerald and others present decided to establish a journal to further the Protestant cause. When the Protector and Christian Witness was launched that year, Fitzgerald was among those presumed responsible for the extremism of its content. He may have written the editorial of 14 October which said that the Island “cannot be both Roman and protestant, as these are antagonistic.” Protestant ministers, he continued, should “use the pulpit, and the press, and the platform to make their principles thoroughly known. To neglect this, is to act the part of traitors.”
When the paper ceased publication in January 1859, Fitzgerald wrote for J. B. Cooper’s Monitor. In articles published in 1862–63 Fitzgerald referred to Romanism as “a deadly and soul-destroying error”; he called on Catholics to convert to the true religion and on ministers to “awake to their duty,” speak out, and help those held in ignorance. Similarly, he and the Evangelical Alliance of Prince Edward Island, formed in Charlottetown in 1870, were outspoken in the debate over denominational education in Prince Edward Island and elsewhere. In March 1874 he was among 55 “Christian pastors” who opposed publicly Bishop Peter McIntyre’s efforts to secure government support for Catholic schools and the following year he and members of the evangelical alliance published a manifesto objecting to the federal government’s legislation to allow a sectarian school system in the North-West Territories.
On 23 Feb. 1894 David Fitzgerald died from injuries received after being thrown from his sleigh two weeks earlier. His wife had passed away several months before. The stubborn and strong character of the man is best described in these lines written in the Daily Examiner on the day of his death: “Dr. Fitzgerald was possessed of great strength of principle. Every one knew exactly where he stood as a churchman and as a citizen. Right or wrong, he was sincere and honest. His moral courage never wavered.” These sentiments are echoed in the obituary that appeared in the Guardian: “And the judgment of all who spoke of his career was that these strong mental traits united with a real, though undemonstrative benevolence of heart, made him one of the most striking personalities of the last half-century in Charlottetown.”
Grand Orange Lodge of Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown), Annual report, 1862–63. P.E.I., Legislative Council, Journal, 1863. Daily Examiner (Charlottetown), 13 April 1885; 10, 20, 23 Feb. 1894. Examiner (Charlottetown), 25 Dec. 1847; 1 Jan., 22 Feb. 1848; 16 Feb. 1849; 23 Feb., 9 March 1857; 15 March 1858; 24 Jan. 1859; 19 April, 15 July, 12 Aug. 1861; 13 Oct. 1862; 23 Feb., 9 March 1863; 3 Jan., 7 Feb., 27 March 1876. Guardian (Charlottetown), 1 March 1894. Haszard’s Gazette (Charlottetown), 16 Nov., 21 Dec. 1852; 4 Jan., 23 Feb., 27 April, 27 Aug., 29 Oct. 1853; 4 Feb., 1 Nov. 1854; 11 Oct. 1856. Islander, 1847–52, 1856–57, 1859–61, 29 June 1866, 29 March 1867, 19 Aug. 1870, 7 March 1873. Monitor (Charlottetown), 1857–65. Patriot (Charlottetown), 10 April 1869; 15 Feb., 15 March, 17 April 1873; 8 April 1885; 23 Feb. 1894. Protector and Christian Witness (Charlottetown), 4, 18, 25 March, 20 May, 14 Oct., 4 Nov. 1857; 24 Feb. 1858 (copy at PAPEI). Protestant and Evangelical Witness (Charlottetown), 7, 28 Jan., 4, 25 Feb., 17 March, 5 May 1860; 2 Jan. 1862. Ross’s Weekly (Charlottetown), 21 Jan., 15 April, 27 May 1861. Royal Gazette (Charlottetown), 28 Dec. 1847; 11, 25 Jan., 1 Feb., 2 May, 29 Aug. 1848; 2 Jan., 1 May 1849; 8, 22 March 1852; 14 April 1883. Vindicator (Charlottetown), 19 Dec. 1862; 6 Feb., 22 May, 3 July 1863. Canadian biog. dict. Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose and Charlesworth), vol.2. Morgan, Bibliotheca canadensis. P.E.I. almanac, 1853–54; 1868–81 (Harvie’s); 1879–87 (Chappelle’s). P.E.I. calendar, 1862–68, 1870–72. P.E.I. directory, 1864. Univ. of King’s College, The calendar of King’s College, Windsor, Nova Scotia . . . (Halifax), 1881–82. W. E. MacKinnon, The life of the party: a history of the Liberal party in Prince Edward Island (Summerside, P.E.I., 1973). T. R. Millman and A. R. Kelley, Atlantic Canada to 1900; a history of the Anglican Church (Toronto, 1983). Past and present of Prince Edward Island . . . , ed. D. A. MacKinnon and A. B. Warburton (Charlottetown, ), 197, 231, 270, 274. I. R. Robertson, “Religion, politics, and education in P.E.I.” H. J. Cundall, “The early days of the Young Men’s Christian Association and Literary Institute,” Prince Edward Island Magazine and Educational Outlook (Charlottetown), 6 (1904): 192–201.
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Cite This Article
Jean Layton MacKay, “FITZGERALD, DAVID,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 29, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/fitzgerald_david_12E.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:
|Author of Article:||Jean Layton MacKay|
|Title of Article:||FITZGERALD, DAVID|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1990|
|Year of revision:||1990|
|Access Date:||May 29, 2023|