Recollections of Henry George in Ireland

Thomas Dawson

[Letters written to C.W. Silvernale of Hollywood, California, 1936-1937,
from Father Thomas Dawson, House of Retreat, Inchicore, Dublin, Ireland]

12 October, 1936

I thank you heartily for your kind and interesting letters and its various interesting enclosures. I am always glad to hear of my deal friend Anna, whom I have always continued to call simply by her Christian name ever since I knew her as a child in Dublin with her parents about 56 years ago.

I am happy to know of so much good work going on in the "School" of the real and true Social Science. I happened to learn lately what the famous Father Couglin is really preaching. And I wrote at once to congratulate him. I said there was nothing in his projects that would hinder Henry Georgism. Assuredly a just money law is wanted, as well as a just Land Law. Which Law will be the more difficult to secure? Anyhow, all agitation and all true teaching in favour of the one will be helpful to the other.

Progress and Poverty which you have down for study by the "pupils," is a splendid work, but it calls for rather prolonged study. I think there must be many people who would more easily - for real want of time, or form want of unselfish industry - read through the smaller brook, The Condition of Labor.

I am very glad you like what I wrote in that little article about Georgism. Certainly if I myself might have copies of it, I should sometimes find it useful to send one to some clerical or other friend. I say the same of Reminiscenses, published in the New York Land and Freedom, November-December 1930.

It was wonderful that good old Bishop Nulty understood so perfectly well the Land Question before ever he knew Henry George. He had personal recollections of the evictions and clearances after the "famine of 1847." My Dawson grandfather was one of the many evicted tenant farmers of that time. I did not know Dr. Nulty personally except by sight. I saw him in the Land League days in the Four Courts, in Dublin, waiting very willingly to give evidence to show the need of the League. He did not get the chance. The government did not wish for any evidence of that sort.

As regards the Catholic position in regard of Henry George's manifestly true teaching, I am always regretting that some of us, of some importance, do not go beyond the preaching of sound general principles. I am always desiring to hear it proclaimed that such or such a particular act or custom is unlawful. Or again, that such or such a new law or action would be lawful, and is indeed called for.

Well now, at what I may call this moment, the Pope has opening said that the Banking system is bad and unlawful. But, even so, hardly any notice is taken of so important a pronouncement.

Some one ought to challenge e.g. our learned professors to say frankly what they have to say on this point.

God prosper the good efforts of men like you.

18 November, 1936

I am very much obliged to you for sending me so many copies of what I wrote out for my dear friend, Mrs. Anna George deMille. I hope to make good use of these documents. One must go certainly to a learned and prominent Jesuit professor, who has at last come forward to show sympathy with the cause of Justice. He is the sort of priest who has a good claim to be heard. I would not of myself have got my name printed, though I know it is useful to have a name of someone quoted. I have used the words "at last," because I suspect that the good Jesuit priest has been moved by the murders and insanities in Spain. Certainly I am convinced myself that the lowest possible mob in Spain or Ireland would never listen to the Russian teachings unless themselves ill-treated and hungry.

I must thank you also for the interesting printed matter which you have sent me. I admire especially Mr. Eckert's speech on "War and Poverty." A man so intelligent and so frank does honour to the House of Representatives. I hope his words will be widely read.

I am grieved by the death of Mr. O'Connor Hennessy. May he rest in peace, after his good honest labours.

6 May, 1937

I have quite unexpectedly come into possession of a photograph quite new to me. I mean that I had lost all memory of its existence, although some friends had possession of it. I cannot say that I like it, but as it was taken more recently than the one which you have, I must send it to my Irish friend at 717, who must be making you as Irish as herself.

I had a visit here last September from that very worthy good man, Mr. Charles O'Connor Hennessy, of New York ("God rest his soul"). Brought up no doubt in a school without Religion where the 3 Rs and cleverness are considered enough for all purposes, he was not a Catholic: so his Catholic half-sister told me.

I mention this school idea to give one excuse for my mention of such a mean thing as money! Over here in Ireland and England we priests are always begging - trying to raise money by plays, concerts, whist drives, etc. etc. etc. Just now in this particular spot we are doing the best we can as regards the sum of 5,000 pounds, the proportion to be borne, by us of this Catholic group, of the whole cost, (15,000 pounds) of a fine new school, twice as large as the poor old one. A School built entirely by "Government" would not be satisfactory to Catholic parents and priests, who know that God Almighty is more important than any reading, ritin and rithmetic.

7 May, 1937

Before posting letter and photo, I am in receipt this morning of a big book so very carefully packed.

I find it is one already mentioned between us. In a hasty look I see that there must be a good deal of good sense and good "English" in it, though probably without knowledge of "The Word made Flesh," our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ.

As a friend of Henry George and Michael Davitt, I am pleased to have happened to light on p.82.

11 September, 1937

I am very glad to see very good Henry George doctrine in Mr. Eckert's pamphlet. You mention a date concerning H.G. viz 1877-8. That must have been, exactly enough, the date at which I had the privilege of knowing him, Mrs. George and the two sons and two daughters, in Dublin. After they left Ireland, I fear I met Henry George only once viz. when I lunched with him and poor dear "Father" Huntington in London in [blank in the original letter]. As for H. George's letters to me, I think they are in a public library (Brotherton Library) in Leeds.

In looking through the book of extracts (Word) which you kindly sent me, I find collected together half a dozen statements already known - by mean from Cardinal Manning to some poor atheist - agreeing in a vague way with Henry George's plainly and fully expounded doctrine.

9 November, 1937

Your kind letter of October 17 reached me on October 27 by the air mail. Mr. Eckert's pamphlet cam 3 or 4 days ago.

In your letter you were kind enough to send me a gift of one pound, for which I thank you very heartily. I am very happy to hear in what places of real education your children are. What a sad state poor Europe is in - most uncivilized! All preparing at enormous expenses to behave very much like the mad Russian savages. Or perhaps some would say they are only preparing defence against the savagery which may burst upon them at any moment. The inventions in our day are marvelous. Even flying across the Atlantic. Comon sense does not keep pace.

7 January, 1938

A temporary illness has caused my long delay to acknowledge with thanks the kind greetings which it was a great pleasure for me to receive from the friends so far away.