CELT document E800002-034

Munster Outrages

Thomas Osborne Davis

Edited by T.W. Rolleston

Munster Outrages

Munster Outrages


THE people of Munster are in want—will murder feed them? Is there some prolific virtue in the blood of a landlord that the fields of the South will yield a richer crop where it has flowed? As the Jews dashed their door-posts on the Passover, shall the blood of an agent shelter the cabins of Tipperary? Shame, shame, and horror! Oh! to think that these hands, hard with innocent toil, should be reddened with assassination! Oh! bitter, bitter grief, that the loving breasts of Munster should pillow heads wherein are black plots, and visions of butchery and shadows of remorse! Oh! woe unutterable, if the men who abandoned the sin of drunkenness should companion with the devil of murder; and if the men who, last year, vowed patience, order, and virtue, rashly and impiously revel in crime.

But what do we say? Where are we led by our fears? Surely, Munster is against these atrocities—they are the sins of a few—the People are pure and sound, and all will be well with Ireland! 'Tis so, 'tis so; we pray God 'tis so: but yet the People are not without blame!

Won't they come and talk to us about these horrid deeds? Won't they meet us (as brothers to consider disorders in their family) and do something—do all to stop them? Don't they confide in us? Oh! they know, well they know that our hearts love them better than life—well they know that to-morrow, if 'twould serve, we would be ready to die by their side in battle; but we are not ready to be their accomplices in crime—we would not be unsteady on the scaffold, so we honestly died for them, but we have no share with the murderer!


Nor is it we alone, who have ever professed our willingness to take the field with the people, who loathe and denounce these crimes. Let the men of Munster read the last Act of the Repeal Association, and they will find Daniel O'Connell, William Smith O'Brien, and the entire Repeal League confederated to proclaim and trample down the assassins. Let them enter their chapels, and from every altar they will hear their beloved priests solemnly warning them that the forms of the Church are as fiery coals on the heads of the blood-stained. Let them look upon government, and they will find a potent code and vast police—a disciplined army—all just citizens, combined to quell the assassin; and then let them with their consciences approach their God, and learn that the murderer is dark before Him.

Heaven and earth raise their voices against these crimes. Will they not be hopeless?—must they not be desperately wicked?

What chance has the guilty of success?—what right to commit so deadly a sin? These murders will not give the people the land, nor leases, nor low rents. When the country was in a rude state, intimidation easy, and concealment easier, they tried the same thing. They began butchering bailiffs—they rose to shooting landlords. Did they get nearer their object? Did they overpower their oppressors, stop the law, mitigate their condition?—No, but the opposite; the successors of the slaughtered men levied the rents and enforced the ejectments of the slain. They did so with greater zeal, for vengeance strengthened their resolve. They did so with greater effect, for the law that might have interfered where the people were oppressed, and society, which would have aided the wronged people, took arms against assassins, and the death groan of the victim was the best rallying cry of oppression.

So it will be again. Already men whose tongues, and  p.283 pens, and hearts were busy pleading for better tenures and juster rents are silenced. They will not clamour for rights when assassins may recruit their gangs with the words of the innocent. Already minds deep in preparing remedies for popular suffering are meditating means of popular coercion. The justice, not only of government but society, has grown cautious of redress, and is preparing to punish—a repetition of guilt will aggravate that punishment and postpone that redress.

Headstrong and vain men, your sins will not give you a landlord the less nor a persecutor the less; while ever the land is liable to the rent there will be found men willing to hazard their lives to get it, and you but arm them with fresh powers, with the sympathy of the public and the increased force of law and government, to lean yet heavier on you.

Why, too, should Munster lead in guilt? Our richest province, our purest race, our fairest scenes—oh! why should its bloodshed be as plenteous as its rains? Other people suffer much. The peaceful people of Kerry, the whole province of Connaught, many counties of Leinster are under a harsher yoke than the men of North Munster: yet they do not seek relief in butchery.

Thank God! they do not. How horrid a blot upon earth were Ireland, if its poor had no reliance but the murder of the rich; better by far that that people rose and waged open war. That were wild—that were criminal; but 'twould be wisdom and mercy compared with these individual murders.

How horrible is the condition of a district subject to such crimes! Few are struck, but all suffer! 'Tis as if men knew assuredly that a spirit of plague were passing through the land, but knew not whom it would wither. Think of a district where there has been peace—the People p.284 are poor, but they are innocent; some of the rich are merciless, but some are just, and many are kind and sympathising; in their low homes, in their safe chapels, in the faith of their fellows, in the hope of better days, in the effort for improvement, but above all in their conscious innocence, the most trampled of them have consolation, and there is a sort of smile even on the wretched. But let some savage spirits appear among them—let the shebeen house supply the ferocity which religion kept down, and one oppressor is marked out for vengeance, his path is spied, the bludgeon or the bullet smites, and he is borne in to his innocent and loving family a broken and stained corpse, slain in his sins.

Pursuit follows—the criminals become outlaws—they try to shelter their lives and console their consciences by making many share their guilt—another and another is struck at. Haunted by remorse, and tracked by danger, and now intimate with crime, a less and a less excuse suffices. He began by avenging his own wrong, becomes the avenger of others, then perhaps the tool of others, who use the wrongs of the country as a cloak for unjustified malice, and the suspected tyrant or the rigid, yet not unjust, man shares the fate of the glaring oppressors. What terror and suspicion—what a shadow as of death is there upon such a district! No one trusts his neighbour. The rich, excited by such events, believe the poor have conspired to slay them. They dread their very domestics, they abhor the People, rage at the country, summon each other, and all the aid that authority can give to protect and to punish; they bar their doors before sunset, their hearths are surrounded with guns and pistols—at the least rustle every heart beats and women shriek, and men with clenched teeth and embittered hearts make ready for that lone and deadly conflict—that battle without object, without honour, without hope, without quarter.


Then they cover the country with patrols—they raise up a cloud of hovering spies—no peasant, no farmer feels safe. Those who connive shudder at every passing troop, and see an informer in every stranger. Those who do not connive tremble lest they be struck as enemies of the criminal; and thus from bad to worse till no home is safe—no heart calm of the thousands.

As yet no district has attained this horrible ripeness; but to this North Munster may come, unless the People interfere and put down the offenders.

Will they suffer this hell-blight to come upon them? Will they wait till violence and suspicion are the only principles retaining power among them? Will they look on while the Repeal movement—the educating, the ennobling, the sacred effort for liberty—is superseded by the buzz of assassination and vengeance? Or will they now join O'Connell and O'Brien—the Association, the Law, and the Priesthood; and whenever they hear a breath of outrage, denounce it as they would Atheism—whenever they see an attempt at crime, interpose with brave, strong hand, and, in Mr. O'Brien's words, “leave the guilty no chance of life but in hasty flight from the land they have stained with their crimes.”

Once again we ask the People—the guiltless, the suffering, the noble, the brave People of Munster—by their patience, by their courage, by their hopes for Ireland, by their love to God, we implore them to put down these assassins as they would and could were the weapons of the murderers aimed at their own children.

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Title (uniform): Munster Outrages

Author: Thomas Osborne Davis

Editor: T.W. Rolleston

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compiled by: Beatrix Färber

proof corrections by: Margaret Bonar

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2. Second draft.

Extent: 2740 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2005

Date: 2008

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E800002-034

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  • First published in The Nation. [No date is given.]

Editions of this text; other writings by Thomas Davis

  1. Thomas Davis, Essays Literary and Historical, ed. by D. J. O'Donoghue, Dundalk 1914.
  2. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy (ed.), Thomas Davis, the memoirs of an Irish patriot, 1840–1846. 1890.
  3. Thomas Osborne Davis, Literary and historical essays 1846. Reprinted 1998, Washington, DC: Woodstock Books.
  4. Essays of Thomas Davis. New York, Lemma Pub. Corp. 1974, 1914 [Reprint of the 1914 ed. published by W. Tempest, Dundalk, Ireland, under the title 'Essays literary and historical'.]
  5. Thomas Davis: essays and poems, with a centenary memoir, 1845–1945. Dublin, M.H. Gill and Son, 1945. [Foreword by an taoiseach, Éamon de Valera.]
  6. Angela Clifford, Godless colleges and mixed education in Ireland: extracts from speeches and writings of Thomas Wyse, Daniel O'Connell, Thomas Davis, Charles Gavan Duffy, Frank Hugh O'Donnell and others. Belfast: Athol, 1992.

Selected further reading

  1. Arthur Griffith (ed.), Thomas Davis: the thinker & teacher; the essence of his writings in prose and poetry. Dublin: Gill 1914.
  2. William O'Brien, The influence of Thomas Davis: a lecture delivered by William O'Brien, M.P., at the City Hall, Cork, on 5th November 1915. Cork: Free Press Office, 1915.
  3. Johannes Schiller, Thomas Osborne Davis, ein irischer Freiheitssänger. Wiener Beiträge zur englischen Philologie, Bd. XLVI. Wien und Leipzig, W. Braumüller, 1915.
  4. Michael Quigley (ed.), Pictorial record: centenary of Thomas Davis and young Ireland. Dublin [1945].
  5. Joseph Maunsell Hone, Thomas Davis (Famous Irish Lives). 1934.
  6. M. J. MacManus (ed.), Thomas Davis and Young Ireland. Dublin: The Stationery Office, 1945.
  7. J. L. Ahern, Thomas Davis and his circle. Waterford, 1945.
  8. Michael Tierney, 'Thomas Davis: 1814–1845'. Studies; an Irish quarterly review, 34:135 (1945) 300–10.
  9. Theodore William Moody, 'The Thomas Davis centenary lecture in Newry'. An t-Iubhar (=Newry) 1946, 22–6.
  10. D. R. Gwynn, O'Connell, Davis and the Colleges Bill (Centenary Series 1). Oxford and Cork, 1948.
  11. D. R. Gwynn, 'John E. Pigot and Thomas Davis'. Studies; an Irish quarterly review, 38 (1949) 145–57.
  12. D. R. Gwynn, 'Denny Lane and Thomas Davis'. Studies; an Irish quarterly review, 38 (1949) 15–28.
  13. N. N., Clár cuimhneacháin: comóradh i gcuimhne Thomáis Daibhis, Magh Ealla, 1942. Baile Átha Cliath (=Dublin) 1942.
  14. Christopher Preston, 'Commissioners under the Patriot Parliament, 1689'. Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 5th ser., 74:8 (1950) 141–51.
  15. W.B. Yeats, Tribute to Thomas Davis: with an account of the Thomas Davis centenary meeting held in Dublin on November 20th, 1914, including Dr. Mahaffy's prohibition of the 'Man called Pearse,' and an unpublished protest by 'A.E.', Cork 1965.
  16. Theodore William Moody, 'Thomas Davis and the Irish nation'. Hermathena, 103 (1966) 5–31.
  17. Malcolm Johnston Brown, The politics of Irish literature: from Thomas Davis to W. B. Yeats. Seattle (University of Washington Press) 1973.
  18. Eileen Sullivan, Thomas Davis. Lewisburg, New Jersey: Bucknell University Press, 1978.
  19. Mary G. Buckley, Thomas Davis: a study in nationalist philosophy. Ph.D. Thesis, National University of Ireland, at the Department of Irish History, UCC, 1980.
  20. Giulio Giorello, "A nation once again": Thomas Osborne Davis and the construction of the Irish "popular" tradition. History of European Ideas, 20:1–3 (1995) 211–17.
  21. John Neylon Molony, A soul came into Ireland: Thomas Davis 1814–1845. Dublin 1995.
  22. Robert Somerville-Woodward, "Two 'views of the Irish language': O'Connell versus Davis." The History Review: journal of the UCD History Society, 9 (1995) 44–50.
  23. John Neylon Molony, 'Thomas Davis: Irish Romantic idealist'. In: Richard Davis; Jennifer Livett; Anne-Maree Whitaker; Peter Moore (eds.), Irish-Australian studies: papers delivered at the eighth Irish-Australian Conference, Hobart July 1995 (Sydney 1996) 52–63.
  24. David Alvey, 'Thomas Davis. The conservation of a tradition.' Studies; an Irish quarterly review, 85 (1996) 37–42.
  25. Harry White, The keeper's recital: music and cultural history in Ireland, 1770–1970. (Cork 1998).
  26. Joseph Langtry; Brian Fay,'The Davis influence.' In: Joseph Langtry (ed.), A true Celt: Thomas Davis, The Nation, rebellion and transportation: a series of essays. (Dublin 1998) 30–38.
  27. Joseph Langtry, 'Thomas Davis (1814–1845).' In: Joseph Langtry (ed.), A true Celt: Thomas Davis, The Nation, rebellion and transportation: a series of essays. (Dublin 1998) 2–7.
  28. Patrick Maume, 'Young Ireland, Arthur Griffith, and republican ideology: the question of continuity.' Éire–Ireland, 34:2 (1999) 155–74.
  29. Sean Ryder, 'Speaking of '98: Young Ireland and republican memory'. Éire–Ireland, 34:2 (1999) 51–69.
  30. Ghislaine Saison, 'L'écriture de l'histoire chez la Jeune Irlande: quelle histoire pour une nation du consensus et de la réconciliation?' In: Centre de recherche inter-langues angevin, Écriture(s) de l'histoire: Actes du colloque des 2,3 et 4 décembre 1999. (Angers 2001) 435–46.
  31. Gerry Kearns, 'Time and some citizenship: nationalism and Thomas Davis.' Bullán: an Irish Studies Review, 5:2 (2001) 23–54.
  32. Helen Mulvey, Thomas Davis and Ireland: a biographical study. Washington, D.C., Catholic University of America Press, 2003.

Davis, Thomas Osborne (1910). ‘Munster Outrages’. In: Thomas Davis: Selections from his prose and poetry‍. Ed. by T. W. Rolleston. Dublin and London: The Talbot Press, pp. 281–285.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  author 	 = {Thomas Osborne Davis},
  title 	 = {Munster Outrages},
  editor 	 = {T. W. Rolleston},
  booktitle 	 = {Thomas Davis: Selections from his prose and poetry},
  publisher 	 = {The Talbot Press},
  address 	 = {Dublin and London},
  date 	 = {1910},
  pages 	 = {281–285}


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Creation: by Thomas Davis

Date: 1844(?)

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Keywords: literary; prose; 19c

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  6. 1996: Text captured by scanning. (ed. Audrey Murphy)

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