The Carey, O’Carey, or Carew Family

Carey, O’Carey, or Carew family crest

(Crest No. 280. Plate 28.)

THE Carey family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon. The founder of the family was Duach, seventh in degree from Fiachra, son of Eocha Moy Veagon, King of Ireland, A. D. 350. The ancient name was Kearaighs, and signifies “Wandering.”

The heads of the sept were styled Lords of Carbry, and their possessions were in the present Counties of Antrim and Kildare. The O’Careys were Chiefs of Cairbre O’Ciardha, now the barony of Carbery, in the County Kildare.

The name Carey or Keary is also common in the Counties of Meath and Westmeath at the present day. Formerly the name was prominent among the clans of Mayo and Sligo. The Careys were a warlike sept. For nearly two hundred years, from the end of the tenth until near the end of the eleventh century, nearly every chieftain of the sept fell in battle or died a violent death.

After the Anglo-Norman invasion they were among the foremost in resisting the foreigner. In the year 1200 the Monastery of Clonard was burned by one of the O’Carey chieftains in order to destroy the English who were in it, for, as the annalist naively remarks, not that he wished to commit sacrilege, but to wreak his vengeance on the English.

In modern days this name has been honorably conspicuous. Boswell, the biographer of Dr. Johnson, in his “Account of Corsica,” relates the following anecdote of an officer of this name which is worthy of the days of Sparta:

“During the last war in Italy, at the siege of Tortona, the commander of the army which lay before the town ordered Carew, an Irish officer in the service of Naples, to advance with a detachment to a particular post. Having given his orders, he whispered to Carew: ‘Sir, I know you to be a gallant man. I have, therefore, put you upon this duty. I tell you in confidence, it is certain death to you all. I place you there to make the enemy spring a mine below you.’ Carew made a bow to the General, and led on his men in silence to the dreadful post. He then stood with an undaunted countenance, and having called to one of the soldiers for a draught of wine, ‘Here!’ said he, ‘I drink to all those who bravely fall in battle.’ Fortunately, at that instant Tortona capitulated, and Carew escaped. But he had thus a full opportunity of displaying a rare instance of intrepidity. It is with pleasure that I record an anecdote so much to the honor of a gentleman of that nation, on which illiberal reflections are too often thrown by those of whom it little deserves them. Whatever may be the rough jokes of wealthy insolence or the envious sarcasms of needy jealousy, the Irish have ever been, and will continue to be, highly regarded upon the Continent.”

Dr. John Carey, born in Ireland in 1756, was one of the most eminent classical scholars of his time. He edited over fifty volumes of the ancient classics, and left many valuable works of his own. The name of his brother, Mathew Carey, is well known as that of the first American writer on political economy. Having been compelled to fly to Paris, in consequence of a pamphlet which he wrote in his eighteenth year on the wrongs endured by the Irish Catholics, he made the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin in that city, and he subsequently removed to the United States and settled in Philadelphia. Lafayette, whom he had known in France, advanced him money with which he established the “Pennsylvania Herald.” He subsequently accumulated a large fortune as publisher. Being an ardent advocate of the doctrine of protection to native industries and manufactures, he wrote fifty-nine works on the question, which still remain, and will always be the great storehouse of argument on the subject. He wrote much also on questions concerning trade, emigration, banking, wages, public schools, benevolent societies, and the public health. His Vindiciæ Hiberniæ, an examination and refutation of the charges made by English writers concerning the Irish insurrection of 1641-42, is one of the ablest works on the events of that period. Allibone says of him: “The citizens of the United States will ever owe a debt of gratitude for his invaluable labors as a citizen, a politician and a philanthropist.” Henry C. Carey, his son, the eminent political economist, inherited his father’s ability, and added dignity to the name. William Paulett Carey, brother of John and Mathew Carey, resided in England, where he was widely known as an eloquent advocate of art, artists, and political reform, and an able contributor to the periodicals of the day.

The Two American poetesses, Alice and Phoebe Carey, were descended from the same Irish family. Another worthy descendant of this family is Mr. Edward L. Carey of New York.