ACIS Logo Pearse and The People: The Making of a Populist Leader

The writings of the young Patrick Pearse keep returning to keywords like “nation,” “race‚” and “language‚” but mostly absent is a phrase that would erupt in his later writings, “the people.” That phrase dominates his political treatises from 1915-16, as he grapples with who “the people” are and what their proper role is in a revolutionary environment. As he began to merge nationalism with his idiosyncratic Catholicism, he was open to the notion of “the people” as their Messiah, an entity both human and divine, and whose very divinity explained the sacred nature of the nation. The humanity of “the people‚” however, continued to trouble Pearse, leaving him to absorb their qualities into himself, the populist charismatic leader who speaks for, and dies on behalf of, “the people.” While his specific assemblage of political and religious doctrine remains unique, his adoption of populist language and self-appointment as spokesperson helped establish the template for the charismatic populist leaders of the twentieth century.

Published on: April 2, 2020