William James MacNevin

1763-1841 [var. MacNeven]; b. 21 March, Ballymahown[a], Aughrim, Co. Galway; ed. Prague, staying with uncle Baron [William O’Kelly] MacNeven, physician to Maria Theresa; pupil of grad. medicine in Vienna, studying under Pestel; grad. 1784; returned to Ireland and practiced in Dublin; joined Catholic Committee as sat at the Catholic Convention as delegate for Cavan (Tailors’ Hall, Dublin), Dec. 1792; inducted into Society of United Irishmen by Lord Edward [recte Mary Moore]; arrested 1798, returning from France, and imprisoned Kilmainham and later Fort George (Scotland) after the Rebellion; released after Treaty of Amiens, 1802;
travelled to France to solicit military aid from Napoleon for Robert Emmet’s Rising, 1803; joined Irish Legion as a captain; despaired of French aid, resigned, and sailed for America, arriving 4 July 1805; held medical posts in New York and promoted welfare of Irish immigrants; published works on Irish history incl. Pieces of Irish History (1807), incorporating essays by him and Thomas Addis Emmet with other papers relating to United Irishmen; latterly espoused peaceful agitation for Irish independence in the wake of Catholic Emancipation (’We must all prefer to the most successful use of physical violence the moral, peaceful revolution which O’Connell is now effecting by the masterly employment of his powers acquired to his country since 1798"); m. Mrs. Jane Margaret Tom [née Riker] (1782–1868), dg. of U.S. Representative Samuel Riker, with whom several children;
lectured on clinical medicine at newly-establ. College of Physicians and Surgeons (NY) and took post as professor of midwifery; issued Exposition of the Atomic Theory (1820), being soon reprinted in Annales de Chimie (Paris); elected to American Philosophical Society; with others, he resigned his chair at Cover differences with the College Board, and took a post at Rutgers Med. School, 1826; formed Society of Friends of Religions and Civil Liberty with William Sampson [q.v.]; spoke against enslavement of Africans at inaugural meeting (St. Patrick’s Day, 1829); also wrote on chemistry and travel; d. 12 July, New York; bur. Riker’s Farm in Astoria sect. of Queens, NY; an obelisk to his memory stands at St. Paul’s Chapel graveyard in Lwr. Mahhattan facing another commemorating Thomas Addis Emmet. ODNB DIB [WIKI]

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  • An Argument for Independence, in opposition to an Union. Addressed to all his Countrymen. By an Irish Catholic (Dublin: Stockdale 1799), 51pp. [available online]
  • with Thomas Addis Emmet & Arthur O’Connor Memoire or Detailed Statement Of The Origin and Progress Of The Irish Union: Delivered To The Irish Government (London: P. Robinson 1802), [4] 98pp., 21 cm.; Do.[facs. rep.] (NY: Kessinger 2010), 102pp.
  • A Ramble through Swisserland in the summer and autumn of 1802 (Dublin: Stockdale 1803), 280pp. [available in Google Books copy at Internet Archive in Google Books copy - online].
  • Pieces of Irish History, Illustrative of the Condition of the Catholics of Ireland (NY: [publ. by the author; printed for] R. Dermin 1807), xix, 256pp. [see details.]
  • Spring Course of Lectures on Chemistry [College of Physicians and Surgeons, NY] (NY: s.n. 1814), [14 lects. ending “On the Art of Dying” - sic for dyeing; 6pp. syllabus only.]
  • Exposition of the Atomic Theory (NY Grattan & Banks 1819), 74pp. [bound with Chymical exercises [of his students] as Appendix, pp.1-16; with adv. for Atomic; tps. 1819; ded. to Students of New York University].
  • Outline of the Lectures and Demonstrations of William James Macneven, M. D., as Professor of Chemistry and Materia Medica (NY: George Long 1820), i, 400pp.;
  • ed. & trans. A Manual of Chemistry: containing the principal facts of the science, arranged in the order in which they are discussed and illustrated in the lectures at the Royal Institution of Great Britain [by] William Thomas Brande (NY: Duyckinck 1826), 638pp. + index [2pp.].
  • Introductory Discourse to a Few Lectures on the application of chemistry to agriculture: delivered before the New-York Athenaeum in the winter of 1825 / by William James MacNeven (New York: G. & C. Carvill 1825), 40pp.
  • with Samuel L. Mitchill, A Chymical Examination of the Mineral Water of Schooley's Mountain : together with a physical geography of the first range of mountains extending across New-Jersey, from the Hudson to the Delaware (Morristown, NJ: printed by Jacob Mann 1828), 23pp.
  • Remonstrance of the Rutgers Medical Faculty against the communication of the regents inclosing the annual report of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New-York : to the Legislature of the State of New-York in Senate and Assembly convened
    by Geneva College (N.Y.). Rutgers Medical Faculty
    (Albany: s.n. 1829), 4pp.

Also co-ed. New York Medical and Philosophical Journal.

Reprint edns.

T. A. Emmett, W. J. MacNeven & A. O’Connor, The Origin and Progress of the Irish Union [United Irish reprints; no.3] ([Belfast]: Athol Books 1974), [1], 46pp., 25 cm [excerpts from Pieces of Irish History - viz., Memoir, or, Detailed statement of the origin and progress of the Irish Union [1802] - The examination of William James MacNeven, before the Secret Committee of the House of Lords - The examination of William James MacNeven, before the Secret Committee of the House of Commons - Substance of Thomas Addis Emmet's examination, before the Secret Committee of the House of Lords - The examination of Thomas Addis Emmet, before the Secret Committee of the House of Commons

[ Note: All the above are available in Internet Archive - at <macneven> - online; accessed 02.11.2023. ]

Bibliographical details
Pieces of Irish History, Illustrative of the Condition of the Catholics of Ireland, of the Origin and Progress of the Political System of the United Irishmen; and of their transactions with the Anglo-Irish Government (Published by William James Mac Neven; New York: Printed for Bernard Dornin; No. 136, Pearl Street / 1807). [Available at Google Books - online; accessed 02.11.2023. Note: copy in Internet Archive is the same in page view.]

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Pieces of Irish History, Illustrative of the Condition of the Catholics of Ireland [and] the Political System of the United Irishmen (NY 1807)

‘The storm of abusive misrepresentation, with which the proceedings, motives and objects, of a large majority of the Irish people have been recently assailed in this city, has forced the editor to submit to the public the following pieces concerning the more recent history of his native country. The same virulence of invective, the same violation of truth, the same distortion of fact, that have marked the conduct of the English faction towards the United Irishmen of Europe, have been revived against them here by the retainers and hirelings of the same country.

‘Those outrages seems to have lain ready for explosion, and the match to have been applied, when the pretensions of Mr. Rufus King to public confidence were made the subject of enquiry, at the late election for New-York. That gentleman, while ministering from this republic to the British court, thought fit to resist the emigration of a considerable number of avowed republiscans, many of whom were men of large properties, fr0om Ireland to America. The consequence of them was four years close [i] captivity without any other pretext than Mr. King’s opposition; because the British government felt, or pretended, a fear of leaving them at large amidst its enemies in Europe - These facts were simply stated by Mr. Emmet to a meeting of the Hibernian Provident Society, at the request of several of its members. All at once, the adherents of Mr. King were excited to the utmost fury as though his conduct could not be candidly represented, without his character being greatly injured. [...]’ (pp.[i]-ii.)


Ends: ‘Of all that can effect, elevate or improve the heart and inform the judgement, examples may be found in the history of these thirty years. An Irishman of any part may well be desirous that transactions which, after all, give a high idea of his country, should not be lost to its facme. Though the conclusion commemorate no triumph to dwell on with pride or exultation, it possesses the interest of tragedy and instructs by its catastrophe. / William James Mac Neven / New York, 1806. (p.256.)’
—Available at Google Books - online [accessed 02.11.2023].

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Dictionary of National Biography: MacNeven or MacNevin; joined United Irishmen, 1797; urged French intervention; arrested 1798 when his memorial to that effect fell into government hands [see Marianne Elliott, Wolfe Tone, 1990]; gave honorable evidence to allay severity of prosecutions; physician in New York, 1805; various posts in College of Physicians and Surgeons there; champion of the Irish in America.

Wikipedia: [...] In 1807 he published and edited Pieces of Irish History, a volume which included essays by him and Thomas Addis Emmet, as well as state papers, memoirs and letters relevant to the history of the United Irishmen. Its publication, according to MacNeven, was necessitated by ‘abusive misrepresentation’ by ‘hirelings’ of the British crown, and by prominent Federalists such as Rufus King, the former minister to Great Britain. Against the charge that United Irish had been agents of republican France, and that in the United States, he and his fellow exiles should be regarded as subversives, MacNeven argued that soliciting French assistance Irish patriots had made the same pragmatic calculation as had the Continental Congress in courting Louis XVI--and indeed the same calculation as had English patriots when in 1688 they invited the armed intervention of William of Orange. At the same time, and in line with an established United Irish narrative, MacNeven maintained that the Irish had been victims of a conspiracy by the Crown to foment rebellion as a pretext for destroying in the Acts of Union the remaining vestiges of their independence. (Available online; accessed 02.11.2023.)

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