Sir John Davies

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Davies, Sir John, political writer and historian, was born at Chisgrove, Wiltshire, about the year 1570. He was author of a well-known poem, Nosce Teipsum, and other writings flattering to the vanity of Elizabeth. His abridgment of Coke's Reports showed that he was not destitute of legal acumen. In 1603, having secured James's favour, he was sent to Ireland as Solicitor-General, and four years afterwards was knighted. He spent much of his leisure in studying the history and institutions of Ireland, and thereby acquired the knowledge of the country and interest in her affairs that distinguish his writings.

His well-known Discovery of the True Cause why Ireland was never entirely Subdued till the beginning of His Majesty's Reign was published in 1612. The conclusions he arrives at in this work are: "First, the armies for the most part were too weak for a conquest; secondly, when they were of competent strength they were too soon broken up and dissolved; thirdly, they were ill paid; and fourthly, they were ill governed, which is always the consequent of ill-payment... The clock of the civil government is now well set; the strings of this Irish harp.. are all in tune,.. and make a good harmony in the commonwealth; so we may well conceive a hope that Ireland.. will from henceforth prove a land of peace and concord. And though heretofore it hath been like the lean cow of Egypt in Pharaoh's dream, devouring the fat of England and yet remaining as lean as it was before, it will hereafter be as fruitful as the land of Canaan." Mr. D'Alton says : "It affords the most candid, graphic, and able summary of the vicissitudes of Ireland to his day."

Notes and Queries, 1st, 2nd, and 4th Series, contain interesting notes upon his life and writings. He was Speaker of the Irish Parliament of 1615, that repealed the Statute of Kilkenny. The same year saw his Reports of Cases, containing much curious information relative to the laws, history, and antiquities of Ireland. In 1616 he returned to England, and entered Parliament, where he showed an enlightened spirit in opposing measures calculated to injure Irish trade. He died of apoplexy in London, 7th December 1626, after being appointed Lord Chief-Justice of England. Allibone says: "In versatility of talent, brilliancy of imagination, political wisdom, and literary taste, few Englishmen have equalled Sir John Davies.

Sources

16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-'71.

76. Chancellors of Ireland, and Keepers of the Great Seal: J. Roderick O'Flaherty. 2 vols. London, 1870.

183. Ireland, Tracts and Treatises concerning: Edited by Alexander Thom. 2 vols. Dublin, 1860-'1.

254. Notes and Queries. London, 1850-'78.
O'Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.

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