William Erigena Robinson (1814 - 1892):
William Erigena Robinson was an Irish-American journalist of strident Irish nationalist views, who served two terms in the United States Congress, 1867- 1869 and 1881-1885; during his first term he was seminal in introducing an important piece of legislation.
He was born in Unagh, near Cookstown, County Tyrone, son of a farmer. He was educated at first locally, then at the Belfast Academical Institution (now the Royal Belfast Academical Institution). He emigrated to the United States in 1836, studied at Yale and qualified in law, and worked on several publications, most significantly the New York Tribune, where his column, under the byline "Richelieu", made him famous. As early as 1842 he was giving an oration to the Hibernian Society, and in 1848 was supportive of the insurrectionist Young Ireland movement. In 1862, he was appointed by President Lincoln a tax assessor for Brooklyn before entering Congress. One of his notable achievements as a congressman was helping ensure the passage of the Expatriation Act of 27 July 1868, which declared that "the right of expatriation is a natural and inherent right of all people, indispensable to the enjoyment of the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," meaning that immigrants to the United States who became citizens, could not be held to obligations to their former countries. This ended in the United States, the doctrine of perpetual allegiance; the War of 1812 had been sparked partly by Great Britain forcing Americans of British birth into the British armed forces using this doctrine.
His views on events in Ireland were always anti-British, but could lean towards the hardline, as when, speaking in commemoration of the "Manchester Martyrs" (members of the Fenians who were hanged in 1867 for the murder of a policeman), he stated "thank God for the invention of dynamite". Outside Congress he practised law, though not often, preferring journalism; he also published some of his poetry.
He died in Brooklyn.
|Born:||6 May 1814|
|Died:||23 January 1892|
Dictionary of Irish Biography; Expatriation Act 1868
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