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The short, hectic life of Thomas D'Arcy McGee was filled with poetry and violence.

McGee was born at Carlingford, Ireland, April 13, 1825, the son of a coastguardsman. At the age of 17 he joined the great wave of Irishmen leaving their famine-stricken land and headed for the Americas. He got work as a newspaperman but within three years returned to Dublin to join a newspaper there. The failure of the revolt of the Young Ireland Party in 1848 caused his abrupt flight, disguised as a priest, even though he had not actively taken up arms. In the United States the second time, he worked first in New York and later in Boston. In 1852 he moved to Buffalo, but fire years later took the decisive step of moving to Montreal. There, in editing the New Era, he urged the formation of an independent Canadian nation.

He entered the Canadian Parliament in 1858, being president of the council in 1862-1863 and minister of agriculture from 1864 until Confederation. When Sir John A. Macdonald was forming his first federal cabinet, McGee made a considerable sacrifice and stood aside, even though he was an obvious selection.

McGee, proclaimed the most gifted orator ever to sit in Canada's Parliament and a poet of some pretensions as well, met a violent end mainly because he publicly deplored the violent tactics of his fellow Irishmen, the Fenians. As he returned home from a late session of the commons, on April 7, 1868, he was shot and killed by a Fenian sympathizer P.J. Whelan.