Thomas Davis and Imposing Demonstrations - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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father's mind since his imprisonment, was especially prominent and energetic in his opposition to the colleges, and to all who favoured them. The question was perpetually dragged into discussion; and the grand national movement seemed to have become an organization for settling or guarding Catholic faith or morals. Davis saw too well that his dreams of years were to be dissipated; and though he never relaxed his exertions, the disappointment preyed upon him.

On the 30th of May there was a great "demonstration" in Dublin. It was the anniversary of the imprisonment of the Conspirators, and it was determined by the Repealers to make an imposing show. A pledge was to be duly registered—not to give up the Repeal. It all came off according to programme. Mayors and aldermen from most of the towns in Ireland—the "Eighty-Two Club," in their green and gold—the Trades of Dublin, with their bands and banners, thronged the Rotundo, where O'Connell, surrounded by the other "conspirators," held levée. The pledge was read, adopted, cheered (some meaning to stand by it and some not); and then there was a vast and brilliant procession; and the splendid streets of Dublin were once more thronged with marching men and waving banners.

The next morning I sat with Davis in his study in Baggot Street. The very Monday before, there had been a painful and acrimonious discussion in Conciliation Hall, about "godless colleges" and other trash. We were intent on some exquisite German engravings which he had just received. He was, or appeared to be, in the gayest humour—"Did you hear," he said, "Tom MacNevin's principle of action, which he lays down for the Mayo electors?"—(there had long been an anxious wish amongst decent people to get rid of Dillon Browne, member for Mayo, a great Repealer, but a bloated bon vivant and insolvent debtor):—"Tom says no man ought to be member for May-owe, but the man who can't pay!" We walked out—to the library of the Royal Irish Academy—to the studio of Moore, the sculptor, who was engaged on a bust of our friend Hudson. All the while not a word of the demonstration of yesterday. At length I said—"Davis, yesterday was a great day for Ireland—' the Pacificator never was in greater force.'" He became serious instantly. " These demonstrations," he said, "are ruining us; they are parading the soul out of us. Why, the Mayor and Corporation of Kilkenny have gone home, satisfied that Kilkenny at least has done its duty; that if Ireland do not gain her independence this year, it is not Kilkenny's fault; for what could scarlet robes and gold chains do more?" ...continue reading »

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