Irish Revolutionaries and the French Revolution

Authored by: Ultán Gillen

The Routledge Companion to the French Revolution in World History

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  September  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415820561
eBook ISBN: 9781315686011
Adobe ISBN: 9781317413875

10.4324/9781315686011.ch12

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Abstract

On Saturday 10 November 1798, an adjutant general in the army of the French Republic was marched into a court martial in Dublin barracks. He had been captured as part of an expedition dispatched to help the United Irish rebellion, which sought to establish an independent democratic republic with French aid. The prisoner, disgusted at being clamped in irons, had previously protested to both the military and civilian authorities in Ireland that he ought to be treated as befitted a French citizen and a French officer. On 9 November, he penned a letter intended for the Directory in Paris asking that they insist to the British government that the honour of the French nation and its armies be respected in his person. However, the following day, he was tried and found guilty of treason. His request to be shot rather than hanged like a criminal was denied, and he consequently cut his own throat. The wound was not fatal and he lingered, dying in agony on 19 November. The life and death of Theobald Wolfe Tone epitomized the link between Irish revolutionaries and the French Revolution. Tone formulated many of the key ideas of the Society of United Irishmen as they sought to translate the principles of the French Revolution to Irish conditions on their foundation in 1791; he helped initiate the programme of popular politicization that would transform the United Irishmen into a revolutionary mass movement; and he personally forged their military alliance with France in 1796. In his final days, the man remembered in Ireland as the founder of Irish separatism proudly proclaimed his citizenship of the French revolutionary republic as well as his dedication to the cause of Irish independence. This chapter examines the influence of the French Revolution on the world around it through a case study of the links between Irish revolutionaries and France, exploring the ideological impact of the Revolution in Ireland, as well as the establishment of the Franco–United Irish military alliance. Irish revolutionaries, believing that the rights of man offered the means to change the course of Irish history, sought to remake their world in the image of the French Revolution.

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