TRACEY, DANIEL, physician, newspaper proprietor, editor, and politician; b. probably in 1794 in King’s (Offaly) County (Republic of Ireland), son of Denis Tracey, a merchant, and – Mainfold; d. unmarried 18 July 1832 in Montreal.
Little is known of Daniel Tracey’s childhood. Born into a Catholic family, he lost his parents when he was very young and was taken in, with his brother John and sister Ann, by a paternal uncle. After studying at a school run by a man named Morris, he entered Trinity College, University of Dublin, on 5 Dec. 1814, at the age of 20. He is not known to have received a degree there, but is believed to have enrolled subsequently in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Upon being admitted to the practice of medicine and surgery, he began his career in Dublin, where his abilities were quickly recognized. However, he was adamant in his hostility to the British government, which ruled the Catholic population with an iron hand, and in the end preferred to leave his country.
Tracey landed in Montreal with his brother and sister in 1825. His hatred of the British government did not diminish while he lived there. Indeed, it led him to approve of the Patriote party’s demands and aroused his interest in politics. With his launching on 12 Dec. 1828 of a bi-weekly paper, the Irish Vindicator and Canada General Advertiser (later the Vindicator and Canadian Advertiser), Tracey found a vehicle for his ideas. In its pages he displayed great admiration for Louis-Joseph Papineau*, whom he put on a level with Daniel O’Connell. As a defender of both the Irish and the Canadian causes, Tracey was in reality continuing the tradition of editorial writing begun by Jocelyn Waller in the Canadian Spectator of Montreal.
Since the articles in the Vindicator were as fiery as those in La Minerve, if not more so, and since the members of the Legislative Council were sensitive to scrutiny, Tracey was charged with libel and imprisoned in 1832. The offending article, which was dated 3 January, had made an appeal for the “total annihilation” of the Legislative Council because it had rejected certain bills passed by the House of Assembly. Ludger Duvernay* of La Minerve met with the same fate as Tracey for an editorial published on 9 January in which he too demanded the “abolition” of the council. The two journalists were kept in jail at Quebec from 17 January until the close of the session on 25 February. Their imprisonment made them heroes in the eyes of the Patriotes, and as a result Tracey was chosen as a candidate for a by-election shortly afterwards.
The election was held to replace the member for Montreal West, John Fisher, who had resigned. It had been set for 25 April 1832 and the poll was to remain open according to legal regulations for six days a week until one hour had passed without any vote being cast. It ended on 22 May after 23 days of polling marred by numerous acts of violence. There were 691 votes for Tracey and 687 for Stanley Bagg, his opponent from the English party. Among Tracey’s supporters were Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine*, Côme-Séraphin Cherrier*, Jacob De Witt*, and most of the craftsmen, farmers, carters, and day-labourers in the riding. Almost all were Canadian or Irish. Bagg had mustered the businessmen and office holders, only a few of whom, for example Pierre-Édouard Leclère*, were Irish or Canadian.
Tracey won but at a heavy cost since bloodshed had occurred on the 22nd day of the election. According to members of the English party, it resulted from a “riot” instigated by Tracey’s followers. To the Patriotes, on the other hand, it was clear that there had been an attempted “massacre.” The day had been quiet until about 2:00 p.m. when two people came to blows. Soon scuffling was going on all over the Place d’Armes, and an emissary from Bagg’s party went to get men from the 15th Foot. By the time they arrived everything had returned to order. Tracey was then 3 votes ahead. Shortly after, he and a group of friends proceeding to his home were attacked by some of Bagg’s followers, who resented Tracey’s lead. The soldiers, who had remained on the square, also began to pursue Tracey. After stones were thrown by both sides, some magistrates who wanted Bagg to win asked the commanding officer to give the order to open fire on the crowd and end the riot. Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Fisher MacIntosh took it upon himself to do so, and three Canadians were killed. The following day Tracey received another vote and was declared elected.
The intervention by the armed forces against Canadians, which was upheld by the British authorities in the province and in London, demonstrated that the ethnic, social, and political problems facing Lower Canada had reached a serious stage. It also presaged new disturbances. The gulf between the Patriotes and the members of the English party would from then on become deeper and the conflict intensify, leading finally to the events of 1837.
Less than two months after the by-election, a cholera epidemic hit the province, and especially Montreal. Daniel Tracey caught the disease while attending patients. He died on 18 July 1832, before he could take his seat in the House of Assembly. He was survived by his sister Ann, who married Charles Wilson* in 1835, and his brother John, who went to live in Albany, N.Y., in 1837. His newspaper was bought by Édouard-Raymond Fabre*, who handed management over to Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan*.
[The author would like to thank Mr Raymond Refaussé, archivist at Trinity College, Dublin, for information he provided regarding Daniel Tracey. f.g.]
ANQ-M, CE1-51, 18 juill. 1832. La Minerve, 9 janv., 26 mars–24 mai 1832. Vindicator and Canadian Advertiser (Montreal), 3 Jan. 1832, 26 Feb. 1833. F.-J. Audet, Les députés de Montréal. Beaulieu et Hamelin, La presse québécoise, vol. 1. France Galameau, “L’élection pour le Quartier-Ouest de Montréal en 1832: analyse politico-sociale” (thèse de ma, univ. de Montréal, 1977). P.-G. Roy, Toutes petites choses du Régime anglais (2 sér., Québec, 1946), 1: 270–72. Robert Rumilly, Papineau et son temps (2v., Montréal, 1977), 1. Taft Manning, Revolt of French Canada. Léon Trépanier, On veut savoir (4v., Montréal, 1960–62), 4: 69–71. [Hervé Biron], “Ceux qui firent notre pays: Daniel Tracey (1795–1832),” Le Nouvelliste (Trois-Rivières, Qué. ), 2 mai 1946: 2. “Le docteur Daniel Tracey,” Ovide Lapalice, édit., BRH, 33 (1927): 492–93. “MM. Duvernay et Tracey à la prison de Québec, “BRH, 43 (1937): 86. E. J. Mullaly, “Dr. Daniel Tracey, a pioneer worker for responsible government in Canada,” CCHA Report, 2 (1934–35): 33–45.