Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lalor, James Finton

James Fintan Lalor in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

LALOR, JAMES FINTON (d. 1849), politician, was eldest son of Patrick Lalor, a gentleman farmer, of Tinakill, Queen's County, Ireland, who took a prominent part in the anti-tithe movement there and was M.P. for his county, 1832–5. Peter Lalor [q. v.] was his brother. Deaf, near-sighted, ungainly, and deformed, James led a secluded life, brooding over his own schemes for securing the freedom of his country, until 1847, when he sent to Charles Gavan Duffy, editor of the ‘Nation,’ a letter published on 11 Jan., in which he advocated physical force, land confiscation, and a struggle for national independence. He thus secured a place among the contributors to that paper, and wrote a series of letters, which were ‘marvels of passionate, persuasive rhetoric.’ He devised a scheme for a strike against rent, which, in spite of the strong disapproval of Duffy, he induced Mitchell to adopt; and he also endeavoured to form a land league of his own. On 18 Sept. 1847 he summoned a meeting of tenant farmers at Holycross, Tipperary, to found a land league on the footing of a ‘live and thrive’ rent, but his want of practical ability and his fierce self-opinionativeness caused the failure of the meeting. His resolutions were carried, but the association was abortive. He continued to play a prominent part in revolutionary circles until the outbreak of 1848. On 26 May of that year John Mitchell was transported and the ‘United Irishman’ suppressed. Thereupon John Martin arranged for the publication of the ‘Irish Felon,’ successor to the ‘United Irishman.’ The first number was dated 24 June 1848, and to its pages Lalor was the chief contributor. After Martin's arrest in July, Lalor practically edited it. It came to an end on 22 July with its fifth number. On 29 July a proclamation appeared calling on all persons to arrest P. J. Smyth, Lalor, and others. Lalor had been arrested the day before at Ballyhane. He was imprisoned under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, but after he had spent some months in gaol his health became impaired, and he was released. He immediately planned schemes for a new conspiracy and a new insurrection, but died 27 Dec. 1849. ‘Endowed with a will and a persuasiveness of prodigious force,’ says Duffy, ‘of all the men who have preached revolutionary politics in Ireland, this isolated thinker, who had hitherto had no experience either as a writer or as an actor in public affairs, was the most original and intense;’ but his intellectual pride in his own work was so great and his temper so irritable, that he was an impracticable colleague.

[Charles Gavan Duffy's Young Ireland and his Four Years of Irish History, 1845–9; William Dillon's Life of Davis; John Savage's ‘'98’ and ‘'48,’ New York, 1884; Nation, 1847; Times, 31 Dec. 1849.]

J. A. H.