Historical Hall of Fame: John Daly Burk (1771 or 2-1808) was a early-American, Irish emigrant, playwriter and historian
Virginia History Series
John Daly Burk was a writer who emigrated to America after expulsion from Ireland in 1796. In 1797, he wrote a tragic play "Bunker
Hill, or the Death of General Warren" (1797) and a patriotic verse play for Americans: "In Female Patriotism, or the Death of Joan
d'Arc" (1798), in which democracy is praised. In 1807, he wrote "Bethlam Gabor" which is a prose melodrama set in Transylvania. He
wrote a History of the Late War in Ireland (1799) and a History of Virginia in three volumes covering Virginia History through
He had been a student at Trinity College, Dublin, the most distinguished college in Ireland, and probably intended
a career in religion. But his politics bothered the authorities. When he attacked the church and the government in the Dublin Evening
Post, he was expelled from Trinity for "deism and republicanism."
He emmigrated to America and Virginia via Boston where he
resolved to make a living with his pen. In Boston, he began publishing a virulently anti-British newspapers, "The Polar
Star" and "Boston Daily Advertiser", in which he celebrated America's victory over its former oppressors. His pro-American fervor
comes through clearly in his play Bunker-Hill; or, The Death of General Warren, staged at Boston's Haymarket Theatre in 1797.
Future President John Adams attended his popular play; and, reportedly didn't like its portrayal of his friend General Warren.
In fact, the Irishman had been agitating against Adams and Adams's Federalist policies since he arrived in the country.
persecution from President Adams under the Alien and Sedition Acts which gave the president of the early Republic the power to deport
"dangerous" foreigners, he moved to Virginia where his Jeffersonian friends assured him, he would be safe from Federalist
prosecution—and went into hiding.
Outspokenness led Burk to his death in a Petersburg, Virginia duel at the hand of a Frenchman
whom he had offended by a remark critical of the French government and people that he characterized as a "pack of rascals".
Killed by a
Frechman in a
Duel of Honor