CELT document E800002-040

The Right Road

Thomas Osborne Davis

Edited by T.W. Rolleston

The Right Road

The Right Road


BY the People the People must be righted. Disunion, and sloth, and meanness enslaved them. Combination, calm pride, and ceaseless labour must set them loose. Let them not trust to the blunders of their enemies, or the miracles of their chiefs—trust nothing, men of Ireland, but the deep resolve of your own hearts.

As well might you leave the fairies to plough your land or the idle winds to sow it, as sit down and wait for freedom.

You are on the right road.

The Repeal Year is over—what then?— Call next year the Repeal Year if you have a fancy for names; and if that, too, searches your fetter-sores with its December blast, work the next year, and the next, and the next. Cease not till all is done. If you sleep, now that you have climbed so far, you may never wake again.

Abandon or nod over your task, and the foreign minister will treat you as mad, and tie you down, or as idiotic, and give you sugar plums and stripes. Every man with a spark of pride and manhood would leave you to bear alone the scorn of the world, and from father to son you would live a race of ragged serfs till God in his mercy should destroy the People and the soil.

You are on the right road. You don't want to go to war. Your greatest leader objects, on principle, to all war for liberty. All your friends, even those who think liberty well worth a sea of blood, agree with him that it is neither needful nor politic for you to embark in a war with your oppressor. It is not that they doubt your courage nor resources—it is not that they distrust your allies— p.263 but it is that they know you can succeed without a single skirmish, and therefore he who harms person or property in seeking Repeal is criminal to his country.

But if they preach peace loudly, they preach perseverance with still greater emphasis. It is the universal creed of all Liberals, that anything were better than retreat. One of the most moderate of the Whigs said to us yesterday: “I would rather walk at O'Connell's funeral than witness his submission.” And he said well. Death is no evil, and dying is but a moment's pang. There is no greater sign of a pampered and brutish spirit in a man than to wince at the foot-sound of death. Death is the refuge of the wronged, the opiate of the restless, the mother's or the lover's breast to the bruised and disappointed; it is the sure retreat of the persecuted, and the temple-gate of the loving, and pious, and brave. When all else leaves us, it is faithful. But where are we wandering to pluck garlands from the tomb?

Retreat would bring us the woes of war, without its chances or its pride. The enemy, elate at our discomfiture, would press upon our rear. The landlord would use every privilege till he had reduced his farms to insurgentless pastures. The minister would rush in and tear away the last root of nationality. The peasant, finding his long-promised hope of freedom and security by moral means gone, and left unfed to his own impulses, would league with his neighbour serfs, and ruin others, in the vain hope of redressing himself. The day would be dark with tyranny, and the night red with vengeance. The military triumph of the rack-renter or the Whiteboy would be the happiest issue of the strife.

If the People ought neither spring into war, nor fall through confusion into a worse slavery, what remains? Perseverance. They are on the right road, and should walk on in it patiently, thoughtfully, and without looking back.


The Repeal organisation enables the People to act together. It is the bark of the tree, guarding it and binding it. It is the cause of our unanimity; for where else has a party, so large as the Irish Repealers, worked without internal squabbles? It is the secret of our discipline. How else, but by the instant action of the Association on the whole mass of the People, through the Repeal Press and the Repeal Wardens, could our huge meetings have been assembled or been brought together?—how else could they have been separated in quiet?—how else could the People have been induced to continue their subscriptions month after month and year after year?

An ignorant or unorganised People would soon have tired of the constant subscriptions and meetings, and have broken into disorder or sunk into apathy.

He is a long-sighted and sober-minded man that lays out money on a complex yet safe speculation, or lays it by for an evil day. That is a People having political wisdom which deems itself some present indulgence for a future good. It had been pleasanter, for some at least of the People, to have spent in eating or clothing the shilling they sent to the Repeal Association, just as six years ago they found it pleasanter to spend the shilling, or the penny, or the pound, on the whisker shop. But the same self-denying and far-seeing resolve which enabled them to resign drink for food, and books, and clothing, induced them to postpone some of these solid comforts to attend meetings, and to give money, in order to win, at some future time, fixed holdings, trade, strength, and liberty.

The People, if they would achieve their aim, must continue their exertions.

It will not do to say, wait till the trials are over. The fate of the trials will not determine Repeal.

The conviction, imprisonment, or death of their present  p.265 leaders will not crush it. There are those ready to fill the vacancies in the column, and to die too. The rudest and the humblest in the land would grow into an inspired hero were leader after leader to advance and fall. Victory would be the religion of the country, and by one means or other it would triumph. A stronger spirit than his who died issues from the martyr's coffin.

Nor would the success of the accused carry Repeal.

It would embarrass the minister—it would gain time—it would give us another chance for peaceful justice.

But the Queen's Bench is not the imperial Parliament,nor is the Traversers' plea of “not guilty” a bill to overturn the Union, and construct Irish independence on its ruins.

To win by peace they must use all the resources of peace, as they have done hitherto.

Is there any parish wherein there are no Repeal Wardens active every week in collecting money, distributing cards, tracts, and newspapers? Let that parish meet to-morrow or to-morrow week, appoint active Wardens, send up its subscriptions, and get down its cards, papers, and tracts, week after week, till the year goes round or till Repeal is carried.

Is there any town or district which has not a Temperance Band and Reading-room? If there be, let that town or district meet at once, and subscribe for instruments, music, and a teacher; let the members meet, and read, and discuss, and qualify themselves by union, study, and political information to act as citizens, whether their duty lead them to the public assembly, the hustings, or the hill-side. By acting thus, and not by listening for news about trials, the People have advanced from mouldering slaves into a threatening and united People; continuing to act thus, they will become a triumphant nation, spite of fortified barracks, Wellington, Peel, and England. They are in the right road; let them walk on in it.

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Title (uniform): The Right Road

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: 2490 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: E800002-040

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Editions of this text and/or 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). ‘The Right Road’. In: Thomas Davis: Selections from his prose and poetry‍. Ed. by T. W. Rolleston. Dublin and London: The Talbot Press, pp. 262–265.

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

  author 	 = {Thomas Osborne Davis},
  title 	 = {The Right Road},
  editor 	 = {T. W. Rolleston},
  booktitle 	 = {Thomas Davis: Selections from his prose and poetry},
  publisher 	 = {The Talbot Press},
  address 	 = {Dublin and London},
  date 	 = {1910},
  pages 	 = {262–265}


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Creation: by Thomas Davis

Date: 1843

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Keywords: literary; prose; 19c

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  1. 2008-07-30: Keywords added; file validated; new wordcount made. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
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  5. 2005-07-17: File proofed (1). (ed. Margaret Bonar, Dublin)
  6. 1996: Text captured by scanning. (ed. Audrey Murphy)

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