The First Irishman To Visit Tolstoy -- ‘Ireland’s One-Armed Patriot’

The first Irishman to visit Tolstoy was Michael Davitt. He came to interview Tolstoy in June 1904.

From the London Speaker of July 9:

The Freeman's Journal published on Monday an account by Mr. Michael Davitt of a visit he had paid to Tolstoy at his home at Yasnia. The conversation naturally ran a good deal on Irish subjects. Tolstoy rejoiced in the Irish land revolution, but he thought the peasants had paid too much: and he argued that "Henry George was right and that compensation to landlords was morally wrong, rewarding a class for the successful robbery of the people." He had been so much impressed by "Progress and Poverty" that he had written to the last tsar urging him to apply George's principles to Russia. He promised Mr. Davitt to say something for the Irish cause, and prophesied that Englishmen would come round to the Irish view of home rule. Mr. Davitt described how two peasants came to see Tolstoy while he was with him to consult him about going to the front. Tolstoy told them that if they had a conscientious repugnance to shedding blood they would be quite right to refuse to serve, but that they would bring some punishment on themselves, and unless they would inflict a greater suffering on their souls by acting contrary to their consciences they would be wise to obey the law. Mr. Davitt says Tolstoy rides into Toula frequently to hear the latest war news. His opinions are summarized in an answer he gave to some American newspaper. "When the war with Japan broke out a New York paper sent me a prepaid cable for 30 words in which message I was asked to say with which siti* i sympathized. I replied that my sympathies were with both the Russians and Japanese peoples, who would be the sufferers, and not with either of the governments responsible for the war.

Michael Davitt met Mahatma Gandhi in London. Gandhi was really impressed with Davitt and his ideas. They became great friends. He inspired Mahatma Gandhi in his nonviolent struggle against the British empire.

Photo of Michael Davitt, Wikimedia Commons

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Tags: 19th Century Ireland, Activism, Peasantry, Russia, War

Comment by michael dunne on November 6, 2016 at 6:34pm
Comment by michael dunne just now
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It is fifteen years since I visited the Jewish Museum in Dublin. The proprietor there was complimentary to Michael Davitt when he worked as a journalist and wrote critically of the Russian pogroms against the Jews. Unlike Charles Stuart Parnell who was of the landed class, Davitt's peasant family were evicted from their homestead and were forced to emigrate to England. Later when he became embroiled in the Land League he formed one of many ideas that was to prove detrimental to his relationship with Parnell. Davitt argued that no farmer should own more land than he could manage to farm. Typically the peasant farmers holdings were less than 20 acres while some would have had holdings of a hundred acres or more, often referred to as 'snug' farmers who often were cattle ranchers. Naturally this wealthy and influential agricultural lobby kicked arguing..."we are not going to be crucified on Davitt's cross of efficiencies" So poor Parnell had little choice but to back the Snug farmers against his ally Michael Davitt. Davitt may never have been considered the uncrowned prince of Ireland, but from what I have read of him that was the least of his concerns. Ireland has had some great men and Davitt is up there in the top four.


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