Mooney, Thomas (c.1798–1888), historian and journalist, was born in Ireland, but nothing is known about his family or early life. In 1841 he emigrated to the USA and began contributing letters and articles to newspapers back in Ireland about politics and his travels, first for the Dublin Pilot (1841–2) and then the Nation (1842–6). He travelled widely across North America, visiting Canada, New Brunswick, Wisconsin, and New York, and in 1846 published in Boston his massive account of Irish history, society, literature, architecture, and music, in two volumes, entitled A history of Ireland from its first settlement to the present time. His ‘Letters on emigration’ for the Boston Pilot (1845–9) attracted a wide readership and prompted him to write a book on the subject after his return to Ireland in 1850; Nine years in America (1850) was published in Dublin in the form of a series of letters to his cousin, Patrick Mooney, a farmer. The great famine had changed Irish society dramatically and Mooney believed that America was a place in which Irish people could transform their lives and move from poverty to affluence and independence. A zealous opponent of drinking, he blamed alcohol for destroying the health and strength of many men, and routinely warned Irish girls from being tricked into lives of prostitution in the USA.
Over the next three decades Mooney travelled between Europe and America, dividing his time between London, Dublin, and California. He was employed as a journalist for the Irish World in San Francisco, and often wrote under the name ‘Transatlantic’. Famous for his denunciations of British ‘brutality, treachery and hypocrisy’ (Ryan, 123), he was praised by his editor for the ‘scathing terms’ with which he attacked ‘the robberies, the exterminations and the brutalities’ of 700 years of oppression. Because of his views, the government made repeated efforts to stop the circulation of the paper in Ireland, but with little success. Mooney also wrote a People's history of Ireland (1873) and an essay, Ireland's future (not dated). In 1876 he published his ‘Proposed constitution for an Irish republic’ in the newspaper, and often courted controversy with his trenchant opinions of Irish affairs. He sent money to support Charles Stewart Parnell (qv) in the 1870s and was a consistent defender of the Irish land league. On 15 January 1876 he claimed there was a conspiracy between the Irish church and state to subvert the national spirit of Ireland.
After his death Mooney was regarded as an eccentric spiritualist because of various annotations on his manuscripts. For example, there was a note that the spirit of Robert Emmet (qv) had appeared to him and revealed, incorrectly as it happened, that he was twenty-seven years old when he died. However Mooney's friends in America strenuously denied these allegations. Mooney died 3 May 1888 at Dieppe, in France. The editor of the Irish World, Patrick Ford (qv), wrote in his obituary: ‘Perhaps no more intense Irishman has ever lived’ (IBL, xix (1931), 76).