John Blake Dillon

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Dillon, John Blake, was born in the County of Mayo in 1814. When about eighteen, he was sent to Maynooth to study for the priesthood, but deciding upon adopting law as his profession, he entered Trinity College, and there made the acquaintance of Davis and the other young men who afterwards formed the nucleus of the Young Ireland party. He was a distinguished member and auditor of the Historical Society.

In 1842 he was called to the Bar, and the same year took part with Davis and Duffy in establishing the Nation newspaper. From the Repeal he went forward to the Young Ireland party; and though opposed to taking the field, felt in honour bound to follow his beloved friend, William Smith O'Brien, in 1848. After the failure of the insurrection, he was for a time concealed by the peasantry in the Aran Islands and elsewhere, and then managed to escape to France by the aid of some of his old Maynooth friends. From France he went to the United States, where with other young exile lawyers of the party he was admitted to practise in the New York courts. In 1852 he returned to Ireland. For a time he took no part in politics, until his friends, feeling anxious that his judgment and talents should not be lost to his country, induced him to enter the Dublin Corporation, and afterwards, in 1865, the Imperial Parliament as member for Tipperary.

He helped to found the National Association in company with his friends, Martin and The O'Donoghue. The subject he made more especially his own in Parliament was the financial relations between England and Ireland. To the last he held firm to his Repeal principles, and denounced in unmeasured terms the schemes of the Fenian organization, thereby proving how highly he valued the liberty of his own opinions, as compared with transient popularity.

The following extract from a speech of his delivered but two years before his death shows that his early opinions remained unchanged: "What has been the essence of Irish patriotism for the last 200 or 300 years? What have our great men been struggling for under various forms — whatever the immediate object might be-but that the rule of the stranger should cease on those shores — that his bigotry should no longer insult our convictions, and that his greed should no longer devour our substance. In front of all our institutions — civil, military, and ecclesiastical — that shameful inscription might still be read, 'This land belongs to England.' To erase this foul legend has been the object of the efforts of every genuine patriot from Swift to O'Connell."

He died after a short illness, at Druid Lodge, Killiney, 15th September 1866, aged about 52, and was interred at Glasnevin. The Gentleman's Magazine says of him: "Although he was not specially successful as a speaker, his calm and earnest manner, and the fulness of knowledge which he brought to bear on the subject, always secured him a hearing when he felt called upon to address the House... He had a mind thoroughly free from illiberality of any kind."

Sources

146. Gentleman's Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110, 335.

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

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