William Cuffay: Obituaries

William Cuffay's fame in Australia was such that seven newspapers in three different states reported his death. 
The earliest and most detailed obituary was in the Tasmanian newspaper the Mercury. The Mercury report was was the basis of obituaries in four British newspapers three months later.
The Mercury, 4 August 1870
DEATH OF A CELEBRITY.
At a meeting of the Board of Management of the Brickfields Invalid Depot yesterday, four deaths were reported as having taken place since the previous meeting. One was the death of William Cuffey, aged 82, who had been an inmate since last October. He was a tailor by trade, and had been employed during his residence in the colony by one of the principal shops in Hobart Town; but ill health and advancing years prevented his earning a livelihood for some time past, and he ultimately had to succumb to the stern necessity of taking refuge at the Brickfields asylum. The deceased was known as one of the London Chartists of 1848, and he arrived here with others in the ship Adelaide about the latter end of 1850, as a victim of his prominence in the disturbances in connection with the turmoil in France, when the final effort of the Chartists to obtain those extensive political reforms, which contemplated univeral suffrage, equal electoral districts, vote by ballot, annual parliaments, no property qualification for members, and payment of members of Parliament for their services, was made. The London Times of the period referred to Wm. Cuffey, as having, like Hannibal," sworn his children to eternal enmity to the enemies of his country." Deceased availed himself, within the last sixteen or eighteen years, of many opportunities to express his strong political feelings, against which, in the extreme freedom of the Tasmanian constitution, there was no barrier. He particularly distinguished himself in the agitation for the amendment of the Masters' and Servants' law of the colony, and being a fluent and an effective speaker, he was always popular with the working classes. The agitation of Cuffey and other prominent advocates for the rights of the operative classes, contributed in a great degree to the settlement of the Masters' and Servants' question on a satisfactory basis. An amended Act was passed by the Legislature of the day, and we are not aware that the provisions of the Act have since been takon exception to. Deceased took a prominent part in election matters, and always went in strongly for the individual rights of working men. One of his last appearances on the platform was on the occasion of the meeting at the Theatre Royal, against the Whyte-Meredith ministry, when he urged his right to complain by such characteristic expressions as "Follow-slaves," and "I'm old, I'm poor, I'm out of work, and I'm in debt, and therefore I have cause to complain." For the most of the time he was at the Brickfields establishment Cuffey was an occupant of the sick ward. The Superintendent states that he was a quiet man, and an inveterate reader. His remains were interred in the Trinity burying-ground, and by special desire his grave has been marked, in case friendly sympathisers should hereafter desire to place a memorial stone on the spot.

The Hobart Mercury obituary above was reprinted in full in the Tasmanian newspaper Cornwall Chronicle of 6 August 1870:

The Cornwall Chronicle, 6 August 1970 

The Empire, 8 August 1870
The Maitland Mercury, 9 August 1870
DEATH OF A CHARTIST CELEBRITY,–One of the old celebrities of the colony passed away on Friday, the 29th July, at the Brickfields depot, a Government charitable institution, near Hobart Town, at the age of eighty-five years. This man was William Cuffey, and well known as one of the Chartist leaders in the old country. Soon after his arrival in Tasmania he mixed largely in politics, and was always remarkably active at elections. He always supported the people's side, and opposed everything that tended to cripple the rights of the people. He was a useful though a silent member of the body who, about eighteen years ago, agitated for the repeal of the Masters' and Servants' Act. Cuffey was a tailor by trade, but of late years fell into poverty through old age. During his better days his company was much sought by his fellow labourers, at he was witty and full of anecdote.

The Hobart Mercury obituary above was reprinted in full in the Victorian regional newspaper Gippsland Times of 27 August 1870:
Death of a Chartist: Gippsland Times 27 August 1870
and the Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser of 29 August 1870

Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers of 10 September 1870:



Obituaries in Britain

Extracts from the Hobart Mercury obituary above was reprinted in British weekly Reynolds's Newspaper and other British newspapers by the end of 1870.

Reynolds's Newspaper - 18 November 1870
The Birmingham Daily Post carried an obituary from the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, quoting from the Hobart Mercury.

Birmingham Daily Post 10 December 1870
DEATH OF AN OLD CHARTIST. –A man whose name was remarkably prominent in England twenty years ago has lately died in Tasmania. We allude to William Cuffey, one of the leaders of the Chartist movement in 1848. Mr. Cuffey, one of whose parents was of African descent, was a person of very singular appearance. He was, however, very fluent of speech and very active in public life. A democrat from earliest convictions, he took a leading part in political agitation which immediately followed the outbreak of the French Revolution. The Chartists were at that time divided into two parties–the Moral Force and the Physical Force Chartists. For a violent speech he made in London, he was arrested, tried and imprisoned. What became of him after the subsidence of the agitation was not generally known. It appears that he emigrated to Tasmania, and finally settled in Hobart Town. According to the local journal which records his death, he took a prominent part in the public affairs of the colony, striving always to advance the interests and amend the condition of the class to which he belonged. The latter days of Wm. Cuffey were clouded with poverty. At the advanced age of eighty-two, no longer able to earn a livelihood at his trade, the old political leader of the London poor died in a public asylum. Poor Cuffey!
Newcastle Weekly Chronicle.

The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent and the Lancashire Gazette both carried the same report from the Newcastle Chronical.

The Leeds Mercury 16 December 1870 also carried an obituary, again citing the Hobart Mercury.

Leeds Mercury 16 December 1870
The Birmingham Daily Post of 19 December 1870 carried a response to its Cuffay obituary of a week earlier, an interesting example of entrenched racist and anti-worker ideology.
Birmingham Daily Post, 19 December 1870
And is old Cuffey dead? Your correspondent, as an outsider, saw much of him in the Chartist Convention, which led up to the great Chartist assemblage on Kennington Common, after the French Revolution in 1848, when the ex-emperor wielded the staff of a special constable. Cuffey's mother was an African West Indian, and the diminutive and deformed personal appearance of the little tailor attracted attention. If Mr. Quilp had been marked with the "tar-brush" and had gone into public life, to advocate "physical force," he would have been as like to the deceased patriot as two peas. Cuffey was the most cantankerous and disaffected of all the Chartist spouters, and his splenetic Quilpish features and person gave additional point and ill-nature to his attacks on the Government and the upper classes. His biographer in the Newcastle papers finds him in Tasmania, but does not know how he got there. Well, Cuffey was one of those patriots who "leave their country for their country's good." After the grand demonstration in favour of law and order, public demonstration in the metropolis became indignant that a miserable handful of Chartists should have thus shaken the isle from its propriety. The Treason-Felony Act was passed, and the Quilpish Cuffey having been tried for seditious language, was sentenced to transportation. The Australian climate often gives elderly men a new lease of life, and Cuffey, who had little of the future octogenarian in his aspect, lived to be 82, and did in a public asylum. Poor old Cuffey! He took an active part in colonial politics, and beloved to his dying day to the class who are so bent on improving the condition of their neighbours that they have no time to look after their own advancement, and are thus  always waging a hand-to-hand battle with the wolf at the door. Mr. G. W. M. Reynolds was a distinguished member of the Chartist Convention, and used to talk more glibly about blood and resistance to the governing classes than the wretched Cuffey. Did he heave a sigh of remembrance over the decease of his departed compatriot?