The Influence of Thomas Davis - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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ON the 16th of September, 1845, Thomas Davis died, and the cause of Ireland's independence lost its very heart and soul. He it was, and the lofty and generous impulse which his character and writings gave the movement, that won to its side such a man as William Smith O'Brien, and others of his high order of intellect, accomplishments, and honest purpose: and this was what redeemed the Repeal Association from brawling vulgarity and inanity. But for him, O'Connell's Agitation would have been all along, as it begun (and as, indeed, it ended), a Catholic concern only. Educated and high-spirited Catholics themselves would have held aloof from it; and the most prominent persons, next to the "Liberator," would have been Mr Arkins, Liberator's tailor, and a few Connaught members of Parliament who held their seats by virtue of the fiat of Catholic clergymen.

It is very safe to say, that to the personal influence of Davis, to the grandeur of his aims, to his noble tolerance, to his impassioned zeal, and the loving trust which all generous natures were constrained to place in him, the Association was indebted, not for O'Brien only, but for Dillon, MacNevin, Meagher, O'Gorman, Martin, and Reilly; and to the same influence they were indebted for their fate; pining captivity, long exile, death in mad-houses, or foreign graves. Yes, to them and hundreds more, he was indeed a Fate; and there is not one amongst them, still alive, but blesses the memory of the friend who first filled their souls with the passion of a great ambition and a lofty purpose. In the estimation of the British he was, of course, a Nena Sahib.

One may well perceive that this was no common being. Yet I cannot refer for proof of it to any masterpiece of literary or rhetorical effort. He was not a speaker at all; and "literature," for the mere sake of literature, he almost despised. He never wrote anything but for some immediate or remote effect which he sought to produce: every sentence was a lever or a wedge. His writing was the writing of a journalist, and was always done in a hurry. "As for writing," says his friend ...continue reading »

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