Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lucas, Frederick

LUCAS, FREDERICK (1812–1855), Roman catholic journalist and politician, born in Westminster on 30 March 1812, was son of Samuel Hayhurst Lucas, a corn-merchant in the city of London, and an earnest member of the Society of Friends. Samuel Lucas (1811-1865) [q. v.] was his elder brother. After spending eight years in a quaker school at Darlington, he became, in his seventeenth year, a student at University College, London, then recently established and called the London University. He took a leading part in almost every discussion in the college debating club, or Literary and Philosophical Society. At this period the Roman catholic claims were naturally the principal topic of discussion, and he eagerly espoused the cause of emancipation, and devoted much attention to Irish politics. When he left the university, which had not then the power to confer degrees, he entered on the study of the law, first in the chambers of Mr. Revell Phillips, and afterwards in those of Mr. Duval. He was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1835. Three years later he delivered two 'Lectures on Education' in the Literary and Scientific Institution at Staines. In these lectures, which excited some attention at the time, and were afterwards published, he bestowed his warmest sympathies on the feudal and catholic spirit of mediæval Christendom. Early in 1839, in the course of some conversations with Thomas Chisholm Anstey, he was led to seriously examine the doctrines of Catholicism, and in less than a week he convinced himself of their truth, and was reconciled to the Roman church by Father Lythgoe, S.J. He forthwith published a pamphlet entitled 'Reasons for becoming a Roman Catholic; addressed to the Society of Friends,' London, 1839, 8vo. This offended many of his former acquaintances, but his wife and two of his brothers subsequently followed him into the Roman communion, and he maintained an intimacy with many persons of opposite and irreconcilable views and principles. The most conspicuous of these, outside the catholic body, were John Stuart Mill and Thomas Carlyle. In 1840 he married Elizabeth, daughter of William Ashby of Staines, Middlesex.

About this time he contributed several articles to the 'Dublin Review,' and acquired a literary reputation which made his co-religionists desirous that he should be permanently engaged in the support of their cause. With the aid of some wealthy catholics he was enabled to start the 'Tablet,' a weekly London newspaper, the first number of which appeared on 16 May 1840. In conducting this journal he advocated the most advanced ultramontane opinions with such zeal and occasional asperity of language that he soon 'found himself in opposition to powerful' sections of his own religious community. Towards the end of 1849 he removed the publishing offices of the 'Tablet' to Dublin, and in 1852 he was returned to parliament as one of the members for the county of Meath. As his elder brother, Samuel, had married a sister of John Bright, then member for Manchester, he was probably known to one or two of the more advanced English liberals, but otherwise he was quite unknown in political circles. However, he soon became a prominent debater in the House of Commons, and by his ability and evident sincerity, even when urging unpopular opinions, he gained the respect of many of his opponents. He identified himself closely with the Irish nationalist party, supported O'Connell in his demand for repeal of the union, and fomented the agitation for tenant right. In 1853, when dissensions arose among the tenant-right party, Dr. Cullen, archbishop of Dublin, prohibited the priests in his diocese from interfering in political affairs. Lucas denounced in the 'Tablet' this action of the archbishop, and determined to appeal from the episcopal decision to the holy see, and in the autumn of 1854 he started on a mission to Rome. He had two interviews with Pope Pius IX, at whose suggestion he began to write a full 'Statement' of the condition of affairs in Ireland and of the questions at issue between himself and Dr. Cullen.

In May 1855, his health having broken down, Lucas returned to England, so altered in appearance that when he presented himself at the House of Commons the doorkeepers did not know him. He became the guest of Richard Swift, M.P., in whose house at Wandsworth he remained for two months; then he went for a short time to Weybridge; next he paid a long visit to his father at Brighton; and finally he removed to the house of his brother-in-law at Staines, where he died on 22 Oct. 1855. He was buried in Brompton cemetery.

The 'Statement' already referred to was not quite completed at the time of his death. This document, which may be regarded as a valuable state paper relating to the affairs of the catholics of the United Kingdom, occupies more than three hundred pages in the second volume of Lucas's 'Life' by his brother. About six months after his death the 'Statement' was presented to the pope.

[F. Lucas: a Biography, by Christopher James Riethmuller, London, 1862, 8vo; Life of F. Lucas, by his brother Edward Lucas, 2 vols. London, 1886, 8vo; Tablet, 27 Oct. 3 Nov. and 10 Nov. 1855; Weekly Register, 27 Oct. 1855; Gent. Mag. December 1855, p. 652; Rev. W.J.Amherst, in Dublin Review, October 1886, p. 392; The Month, 1886, lvii. 305, 473; Athenæum, 1886, i. 838; Duffy's League of North and South. pp. 330, seq.]

T. C.