Freeman's Journal

Last updated

Freeman's Journal
TypeDaily newspaper
Format Broadsheet
Founder(s) Charles Lucas
EditorJohn Turner Fearon
Political alignmentModerate Irish nationalist
Ceased publication1924

The Freeman's Journal, which was published continuously in Dublin from 1763 to 1924, was in the nineteenth century Ireland's leading nationalist newspaper. [1]


Patriot journal

It was founded in 1763 by Charles Lucas and was identified with radical 18th-century Protestant patriot politicians Henry Grattan and Henry Flood. This changed from 1784 when it passed to Francis Higgins (better known as the "Sham Squire") [2] [3] and took a more pro-British and pro-administration view. In fact Francis Higgins is mentioned in the Secret Service Money Book as having betrayed Lord Edward FitzGerald. Higgins was paid £1,000 for information on FitzGerald's capture. [4]

Voice of constitutional nationalism

In the 19th century it became more nationalist in tone, particularly under the control and inspiration of Sir John Gray (1815–75).

The Journal, as it was widely known as, was the leading newspaper in Ireland throughout the 19th century. Contemporary sources record it being read to the largely illiterate population by priests and local teachers gathering in homes. It was mentioned in contemporary literature and was seen as symbolising Irish newspapers for most of its time. By the 1880s it had become the primary media supporter of Charles Stewart Parnell and the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP). The weekend edition of the paper was known as The Weekly Freeman, which began featuring large format political cartoons in the 1870s. [5]

It was challenged on all sides by rivals. On the nationalist side some preferred The Nation founded by Thomas Davis while others, including radical supporters of Parnell, read the United Irishman . The Anglo-Irish establishment in contrast read the historically Irish unionist The Irish Times . With the split in the IPP over Parnell's relationship with Katherine O'Shea, its readership split too. While The Journal in September 1891 [6] eventually went with the majority in opposing Parnell, a minority moved to read the Daily Irish Independent . It was also challenged from the turn of the century by William O'Brien's Irish People and the Cork Free Press . With Thomas Sexton becoming Chairman of the Board of Directors (1893–1911), the Journal languished under his spartanic management.

Superseded by the Irish Independent

The collapse of the IPP in 1918, and the electoral success of Sinn Féin, saw a more radical nationalism appear that increasingly was out of step with the moderation of the Journal. The Irish Independent , the successor to the Daily Irish Independent, was more aggressively marketed. Just prior to the outbreak of the Irish Civil War in March 1922, the Freeman's Journal printing machinery was destroyed by Anti-Treaty IRA men under Rory O'Connor for its support of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. It did not resume publication until after the outbreak of civil war, when the Irish Free State re-asserted its authority over the country.

The Freeman's Journal ceased publication in 1924, when it was merged with the Irish Independent . Until the 1990s, the Irish Independent included the words 'Incorporating the Freeman's Journal' in its mast-head over its editorials.

In fiction

James Joyce drew on his recollection of his visits to the Freeman’s office in 1909 in his novel Ulysses . As the place of Leopold Bloom's employment, the depiction of the paper's offices in the Aeolus chapter has been deemed "an authentic portrait" at a time when the newspaper was "moribund – the Irish Independent having supplanted it as the most popular daily newspaper in Dublin." Its decline is reflected in "the anxious question posed in Aeolus about the Freeman’s editor, WH Brayden: 'But can he save the circulation?'" [7]

Leading proprietors, editors and contributors

See also

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  1. "Freeman's Journal in British Newspaper Archive". Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited. Retrieved 4 August 2018 via British Newspaper Archive.
  2. The Sham Squire and the Informer of 1798
  3. Lord Edward Fitzgerald
  4. Rónán Duffy (19 March 2017). "The price of betrayal: Who did the British pay for info on Irish rebels and how much did they pay?". The Journal. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  5. Mellby, Julie L. (6 December 2010). "Weekly Freeman Cartoons". Princeton University Library.
  6. Freeman's Journal 22 September 1891
  7. Larkin, Felix (9 May 2019). "James Joyce's joust with journalism: The Freeman's Journal in Ulysses' Aeolus chapter". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 January 2021.