Harvey, Philip Whitfield (c.1772–1826), newspaper editor, was born probably in Drumcondra, Dublin, one of two sons of Whitfield Harvey (d. July 1776), typographer, who in 1768 printed the Dublin Chronicle, and his wife, Mary O'Kelly (d. 1818). Philip started his career in the army and in 1794 got a commission in the regiment of his cousin, Lt. Andrew O'Kelly, who moved in court circles, to which he introduced Harvey. In 1802 Harvey was back in Ireland and took proceedings against the estate of Francis Higgins (qv), the ‘sham squire’, on behalf of his cousin. The claim was apparently connected with lottery insurance speculation but was not settled, because Harvey ended by marrying (September 1802) Frances Tracy, the chief legatee of Higgins's will. A Dublin Evening Post article (19 May 1789) claimed Tracy was a prostitute kept by Higgins; R. R. Madden (qv) in his Irish periodical literature (1867) denies this and says she was Higgins's ward, placed in his care by her father, Thomas Tracy, a pawnbroker. Higgins's biographer W. J. Fitzpatrick (qv) is discreet on the subject. Through his marriage Harvey became proprietor of Higgins's paper, the Freeman's Journal. Like Higgins, he was in receipt of secret-service money, which continued to be paid irregularly until his death. Typical payments were £200 (May 1804), £300 (1818), and £150 (1825). In exchange Harvey steered a careful line in his paper between exposing certain abuses and adopting a moderate pro-government stance.
In 1807 he bought up a Dublin paper, the Evening Packet, which he ran until 1810, and assured the Castle he was doing this not for personal gain but to render service to the government. Assistance for this paper did not come up to his expectations and in 1809 he was writing nervously to Arthur Wellesley (qv), the chief secretary, for assurances that his Freeman's Journal subsidy would continue. His alliance with the government did not save him from being charged in February 1812 with casting doubts on the competence of the chief justice in an article. He was called into custody but instead went into hiding (March 1812) and the case against him was dropped. A letter that he wrote to Col. MacMahon, the prince regent's personal secretary, suggests that he may have escaped punishment by invoking royal protection. Three years later (19 June 1815) he was again charged for publishing an allegedly libellous speech by Daniel O'Connell (qv). Harvey pleaded that – as appears to have been the case – Michael Staunton (qv), editor of the Freeman's Journal, had published this speech without his knowledge. The case was adjourned and proceedings appear to have been dropped. Harvey was not in financial need of secret-service money, particularly after 1820, when he inherited a large fortune on the death of his cousin, Andrew O'Kelly. From this date he lived much abroad, particularly in Italy and France where he presented his only child, Mary O'Kelly Harvey, to society. She was handsome and accomplished, and eventually married (1826) Henry Grattan, jun. (qv). Her father did not live to see the match, having died some months previously in Dublin on 10 August 1826.