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Cuffay, William (1778–1870)

from Mercury (Hobart)

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 Cuffay, 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 William 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 taken 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 "Fellow-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.

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Citation details

'Cuffay, William (1778–1870)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/cuffay-william-13325/text23948, accessed 23 October 2017.

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