This question tends to come in a format that requires you to know one of the revolutionary leaders from either America, France or Ireland in some detail. You will find information on some of the leaders involved on these pages:

The key points towards the top of the pages should provide you with enough information to get full marks on this section.


Past questions

Ordinary Level

2008: Select one of the people described below. Write about that person. If you wish, you may use the hints to
help you in your answer. Write the title selected at the top of your account.
(i) A named revolutionary leader (in France, Ireland or America) during the Age of
Revolutions, 1770-1815.

HINTS: * Early life * Main events during the revolution
* Reasons for supporting the revolution * Later life and death.

2006: A named revolutionary leader (in France, Ireland or America) during the Age of
Revolutions, 1770-1815.

HINTS: * Early life and career
* Reasons for supporting the revolution
* Main events in the revolution
* Later life and death

Higher Level

2006: Select one of the people described below. Write about that person.
A supporter of a named revolutionary leader during the period, 1770-1803.

2005:  A named leader involved in a revolution (America, France or Ireland) during the
period, 1770-1815


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Published in: on May 26, 2010 at 11:35 pm Comments (0)
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These are some of the short answer questions that have come up over the last few years:

Ordinary Level

  1. Explain one of the following terms from the Age of Revolution: Boston Tea Party; Guillotine; United Irishmen.
  2. In relation to one of the revolutions in America or France or Ireland in the eighteenth century, name a leader of that revolution and an event associated with that revolution.
  3. In relation to one of the revolutions in America or France or Ireland in the eighteenth century, name a leader of that revolution and one of his aims.
  4. Put the following events in the correct order. Please start with the earliest: The French Revolution; The 1798 Rebellion; The American War of Independence.

Higher Level

  1. Give two causes of the American Revolution
  2. What change came about as a result of the Act of Union 1801?
  3. Choose one of the revolutions (America or France or Ireland) and give two causes of that revolution.
  4. Which county was the scene of the most intense rebel activity during the 1798 rising?
  5. What was the Reign of Terror in France in the 1790s?
  6. Name two effects of the American War of Independence on either Ireland or France.
  7. Give two reasons why the Americans revolted against Britain in 1775.
  8. Give two reasons why there was a rebellion in Ireland in 1798.


History@ Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.


At the top of most pages on this blog, you will find a heading In brief, under which you will find a summary of what you need to know on that person or topic for the Junior Cert course.

The revolutionary period can appear on any section of the paper at both Ordinary and Higher level. It turns up mainly on Q.3 (Short-answer questions) and Q. 4 (People in history); although it has also appeared in , Q.5. (Sources) and Q.6. (Short answers and essays).

(Click on a section to see previous exam questions.)


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

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Lord Edward Fitzgerald

This content was created/compiled by Martin Daly.

In Brief:

Lord Edward Fitzgerald was the son of the Duke of Leinster and fought with the British army in America. He later became interested in the ideas of The French Revolution and came to the conclusion that a similar revolution was needed in Ireland. He joined the United Irishmen. He spent 1797 organising a rebellion in Leinster but was betrayed by informers. He was warned to escape but refused and was caught after his hiding place was betrayed. He was shot during his arrest and died of his wounds in prison a few days later.


More information:

  • Edward Fitzgerald, was fifth son of the Duke of Leinster, was born in October 1763 at Carton house, Leixlip. Co Kildare.
  • The family was an important part of the Protestant Ascendancy and Edward was born to a life of luxury and privilege.
  • He was educated in blackrock, Co Dublin.
  • In 1797 he fought in the American War of Independence but was injured and was rescued by a black man called Tony, who remained a servant of Fitzgerald until he died.
  • Edward fell in love with cousin but was rejected her name was Gerorgina Lennox.
  • In 1789 he traveled to Canada where he crossed the entire country only by compass for direction. During the trip he became Huran Indians near Detroit.
  • He returned from Canada he became interested in the ideas of the French Revolution.
  • He travelled to Paris and me met Thomas Paine who wrote book called Common Sense that inspired the American Revolution in 1776.
  • He returned to Ireland and was convinced of the need for change in Ireland, he joined the United Irishmen and called for a Revolution against British rule.
  • Lord Edward Fitzgerald spend 1797 organising a rebellion in Leinster, but his plans were betrayed by a number of informers in the United Irishmen. His family were of important part of the Protestant Ascendancy.
  • He was warned to escape, but he refused.
  • On the 18th of May 1798 he was hiding in Dublin on Thomas Street and the address was given to Authorities by Francis Magan Catholic barrister. Fitzgerald was shot during his arrest and died of his wounds in prison a number of days later.


American War of Independence

Fitzgerald joined the British Army in 1779, he served on the staff of Lord Rawdon in the  American Revolutionary War. He was seriously wounded at the Battle of Eutaw Springs on 8 September 1781, his life being saved by a newly-liberated black slave named Tony Small (‘Faithful Tony’), whom Lord Edward employed to the end of his life.

He was evacuated from Charleston, South Carolina in 1782 when the British forces abandoned the city.

Post-War Military Career

In 1783 FitzGerald returned to Ireland, where his brother, the 2nd Duke of Leinster, had procured his election to the Irish Parliament as a Member for Athy, a seat he held until 1790. He represented then Kildare County from 1790 to 1798. In Parliament he acted with the small Opposition Irish Patriot Party group led by Henry Grattan, but took no prominent part in debate. After spending a short time at Woolwich to complete his military education, he made a tour through Spain in 1787; and then, dejected by unrequited love for his cousin Georgina Lennox (who later married the 3rd Earl Bathurst), he sailed for New Brunswick to join the 54th Regiment with the rank of Major.

Explorer in the “New World”

The romantic temperament of the young Irishman found congenial soil in the wild surroundings of unexplored Canadian forests, and the enthusiasm thus engendered for the “natural” life of savagery may have been already fortified by study of  Rousseau’s writings, for which at a later period Lord Edward expressed his admiration. In February 1789, guided by compass, he traversed the country, practically unknown to white men, from Fredericton, New Brunswick to Quebec, falling in with Indians by the way, with whom he fraternized; and in a subsequent expedition he was formally adopted at Detroit by the Bear tribe of Hurons as one of their chiefs, and made his way down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where he then returned to England.

Marries in France

His connections, together with his transatlantic experiences, predisposed Fitzgerald to sympathize with the doctrines of the French Revolution, which he embraced enthusiastically when he visited Paris in October 1792. He lodged with Thomas Paine and listened to the debates in the Convention. At a convivial gathering on the 18 November he supported a toast to “the speedy abolition of all hereditary titles and feudal distinctions”, and gave proof of his zeal by expressly repudiating his own title, a performance for which he was dismissed from the army

While in Paris, FitzGerald became enamoured of a young girl whom he chanced to see at the theatre,Procuring an introduction he discovered her to be a protégé of Madame de Sillery, Comtesse de Genlis. The girls name was Pamela (1773–1831).On 27 December 1792 FitzGerald and Pamela were married at Tournay, one of the witnesses being Louis Philippe, afterwards King of the French; and in January 1793 the couple reached Dublin.

The couple eventually had a son, named Edward and two daughters, Pamela and Louisa. After her husband’s death in Newgate Gaol, Dublin, Pamela, Lady Edward FitzGerald, was no longer welcome at Boyle Farm, the house of his brother Lord Henry FitzGerald in Thames Ditton. But her daughters found much happiness in the village, living with an aunt. After she died, her mortal remains were buried at St Nicholas Churchyard, Thames Ditton.

Return to Ireland

Ireland was by now seething with dissent which was finding a focus in the increasingly popular and revolutionary Society of the United Irishmen who had been forced underground by the outbreak of war between France and Britain in 1793. Lord Edward FitzGerald, fresh from the gallery of the Convention in Paris, returned to his seat in the Irish Parliament and immediately sprang to their defence but within a week of his return he was ordered into custody and required to apologise at the bar of the House of Commons for violently denouncing in the House a Government proclamation, which Grattan had approved. However, it was not until 1796 that he joined the United Irishmen, who by now had given up as hopeless the path of constitutional reform and whose aim after the recall of Lord FitzWilliam in 1795 was nothing less than the establishment of an independent Irish republic.

Revolutionary activities

In May 1796 Theobald Wolfe Tone was in Paris endeavoring to obtain French assistance for an insurrection in Ireland. In the same month FitzGerald and his friend Arthur O’Connor proceeded to Hamburg, where they opened negotiations with the Directory through Reinhard, French minister to the Hanseatic towns. The Duke of York, meeting Pamela at Devonshire House on her way through London with her husband, had told her that “all was known” about his plans, and advised her to persuade him not to go abroad. Also, in Hamburg Lord Edward met with Johan Anders Jägerhorn (or baron de Spurila, as he called himself), a Finnish Swede who had advocated Finnish autonomy and now acted as an intermediary between Lord Edward and the French.

The proceedings of the conspirators at Hamburg were made known to the government in London by an informer, Samuel Turner. Pamela was entrusted with all her husband’s secrets and took an active part in furthering his designs; and she appears to have fully deserved the confidence placed in her, though there is reason to suppose that at times she counselled prudence. The result of the Hamburg negotiations was General Hoche’s abortive expedition to Bantry Bay in December 1796.

In September 1797 the Government learnt from the informer MacNally that Lord Edward was among those directing the conspiracy of the United Irishmen, which was now quickly maturing. He was specially concerned with the military organisation, in which he held the post of colonel of the Kildare regiment and head of the military committee. He had papers showing that men were ready to rise. They possessed some arms, but the supply was insufficient, and the leaders were hoping for a French invasion to make good the deficiency and to give support to a popular uprising. But French help proving dilatory and uncertain, the rebel leaders in Ireland were divided in opinion as to the expediency of taking the field without waiting for foreign aid. Lord Edward was among the advocates of the bolder course and there is some evidence that he favoured a project for the massacre of the Irish peers while in procession to the House of Lords for the trial of Lord Kingston in May 1798, despite the fact many were his own relations

Net tightens

It was probably abhorrence of such measures that converted Thomas Reynolds from a conspirator to an informer; at all events, by him and several others the authorities were kept posted in what was going on, though lack of evidence produced in court delayed the arrest of the ringleaders. But on the 12 March 1798 Reynolds’s information led to the seizure of a number of conspirators at the house of Oliver Bond. Lord Edward FitzGerald, warned by Reynolds, was not among them.

As a fellow member of the Ascendancy class, the Government were anxious to make an exception for FitzGerald, and also avoid the embarrassing and dangerous consequences of his subversive activities, communicating their willingness to spare him from the normal fate meted out to “traitors”. The Lord Chancellor, Lord Clare, said to a member of his family, “for God’s sake get this young man out of the country; the ports shall be thrown open, and no hindrance whatever offered.”

FitzGerald however refused to desert others who could not escape, and whom he had himself led into danger. On 30 March the government proclamation of martial law authorising the military to act as they saw fit to crush the United Irishmen, led to a campaign of vicious brutality in many parts of the country, and forced the United Irish executive to bring forward plans for the rising, with or without French aid.

Arrest and Death

Arrest of Lord Edward FitzGerald

The capture of Lord Edward FitzGerald, the most dangerous United Irish leader still at liberty, was now the top priority of Dublin Castle and on 9 May a reward of £1,000 was offered for his apprehension. Since the arrests at Bond’s, FitzGerald had been in hiding, but had twice visited his wife in disguise and was himself visited by his stepfather. Meanwhile, the date for the rising was finally fixed for 23 May and Fitzgerald awaited the day hiding in a house in Thomas Street, Dublin.

However, his hiding place was disclosed by a Catholic barrister and informer named Magan and on 18 May Town Major Henry C. Sirr led a military party to the house where Lord Edward was in bed suffering from a fever. Alerted by the commotion, he jumped out of bed and, ignoring the pleas of the arresting officers Major Swan and Captain Ryan to surrender peacefully, FitzGerald stabbed Swan and mortally wounded Ryan with a dagger in a desperate attempt to escape. He was only secured after Sirr shot him in the shoulder and was beaten unconscious by the rifle butts of the soldiers.

Fitzgerald's arrest

He was conveyed to Newgate Prison, Dublin where he was denied proper medical treatment. At the age of 34 he died of his wounds as the rebellion raged outside on the 4 June 1798. He was buried the next day in the cemetery of St Werburgh’s Church, Dublin. An Act of Attainder confiscating his property was passed, but was eventually repealed in 1819.

Shortly after his death, Lord Edward’s sister, Lady Lucy FitzGerald, authored the following statement regarding her brother’s fidelity to Ireland: Irishmen, Countrymen, it is Edward FitzGerald’s sister who addresses you: it is a woman but that woman is his sister: she would therefore die for you as he did. I don’t mean to remind you of what he did for you. ‘Twas no more than his duty. Without ambition he resigned every blessing this world could afford to be of use to you, to his Countrymen whom he loved better than himself, but in this he did no more than his duty; he was a Paddy and no more; he desired no other title than this.


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Published in: on May 19, 2010 at 9:31 pm Comments (1)
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Fr. John Murphy

This content was created/compiled by Niamh McDonald.

In Brief:

Fr. John Murphy was a Catholic priest, born in Tincurry, Co. Wexford, who went on to become one of the leaders of the 1798 rebellion in his native county. Not long after the rebels were defeated at the battle of Vinegar Hill, he was captured by  British forces. Both he and fellow rebel leader Bagenal Harvey were hanged and then beheaded, before their heads were put on spikes in Wexford town.


More Information:

Before the Rising

Father John Murphy was born in Tincurry, Co.Wexford and was the youngest son of Thomas and Johanna Murphy. He was described as handsome, well built, extremely intelligent and having great strength and agility. He played handball and was called one of the greatest players. He spoke Irish, English, Spanish, Latin and Greek

He was inspired by the local parish priest Dr. Andrew Cassin. In 1772 he was ordained, then went to study further in Spain, as seminaries were still prohibited by Penal laws.

Fr.Murphy returned home to Boolavogue (also known as Kilcormac). He stayed in the house of a tenant farmers family, the Donohues.

Donohue House on left

Bishop Sweetfield (who ordained him) was succeeded by Bishop Caulfield who was known as a government man and ordered the people of his diocese to surrender their weapons and pledge loyalty to George the third. Fr.Murphy originally was against rebellion and urged his parishioners to follow his orders and he with 756 other people took an oath that they weren’t part of the United Irishmen.

How it started

When parishioners saw Yeomen (militia who supported the British crown) light the cabin of a suspect rebel on fire and say they were going to raid Boolavogue, they were outraged. Armed with one gun and a few pikes, Fr.Murphy and thirty local men ambushed the yeomen, while the Lieutenant was setting more houses on fire. When the rebels killed the lieutenant and another yeoman, the rest of Fr.Murphy’s army fled.

The Wexford Rising had begun.

Terror and Oulart Hill

On the 27 May 1798, while Fr. Murphy and some local men robbed a close by arms depot, the redcoats burned down Fr. Murphy’s chapel. The British militia began to burn houses and kill suspects. People fled in terror and headed to high ground, and that is why a crowd had gathered on Oulart Hill. Fr.Murphy spotted a military column and planned an ambush. He ordered his troops to put their hats on their pikes and raise them above cover to draw British gun fire, then attacked the British while they were reloading their guns. The militia were defeated and the rebels stole 100 guns.

Battle and Bagenal Harvey

The next day the rebels captured Enniscorthy in a four-hour battle. Two days later, they captured nearby Wexford town and released Bagenal Harvey from jail; he was a rich Protestant and leader of the Wexford United Irishmen. He was made commander-in-chief of the rebel army.

Battle of Enniscorthy

The army was divided into three groups to attack:

1) New Ross and Waterford


3) Gorey and Arklow,

after which all rebels would join in Co. Wicklow.

At Tubberneering Fr. Murphy’s men defeated a strong force and captured Gorey. When besieging towns, he would create a cattle stampede, creating a diversion while rebels attacked from behind. But they failed to take Arklow, where they were badly beaten.

Meanwhile, Harvey’s force was defeated in New Ross. This was the bloodiest battle of the Rebellion.  The battle was followed by a rampage by the red coats. More than 3,000 rebels were killed during and after the battle. Bagenal Harvey resigned as commander-in-chief

Massacre on Vinegar Hill

Bagenal Harvey was replaced by Fr. Philip Roche, who told Fr. Murphy to retreat to the main camp, Vinegar Hill. With reinforcements rushed from England, General Lake, commander of the British forces, launched a fierce attack on the rebels here. His 20,000 soldiers, defeated the poorly armed rebels in this last big battle of the Rising, at Vinegar Hill on 21 June. About 500 rebels, among them Fr. Murphy’s brother, were killed. Lake took no prisoners and shot every wounded rebel captured.  The Enniscorthy courthouse, used as a hospital, was burned down with 80 wounded rebels inside.

Fr. Murphy’s Final Efforts

The rebels tried to branch out of Wexford and crossed the border at Scullabogues Gap. On the 24 June they captured Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny, though at the loss of 100 men. On June 26th, at the battle of Kilcummney hill in County Carlow, they were tricked and defeated. Fr.Murphy and his bodyguard, James Gallagher, were separated from the main group and stayed in a friend’s house in Tullow.

A Bitter Outcome

On the 2nd of July, Fr. Murphy and James Gallagher were captured and brought to Tullow before a military tribunal. Both were sentenced to death and were tortured to try and get more information from them. They were both hanged in Market Square, Tullow,  as well as that Fr Murphy was stripped, flogged, decapitated, his corpse burnt in a barrel of tar and his head impaled on a spike. This final gesture was to set an example to

Statue of Fr. Murphy in Tullow, Co. Carlow.

any other suspect rebels. The five week Wexford Rising was one of the bloodiest periods in Irish history. It is estimated that more than 30,000 people died in that short time, during which the British forces confiscated 79,630 pikes and 48,109 guns.


The Boys of Wexford



Useful Links:

Catholic Ireland Father John Murphy – http://www.catholicireland.net/church-a-bible/church/history/479-father-murphy-of-boolavogue

Wikipedia Father John Murphy – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father_John_Murphy

Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 9 – http://www.aohplymouth.com/Division%209%20History.htm

National 1798 Centre – http://www.iol.ie/~98com/leaders.htm


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 8:42 pm Comments (1)
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Robert Emmet

This content was created/compiled by Hilary Newcombe.


In Brief:

After the Act of Union (1801) abolished the Irish parliament, forcing Ireland to become part of Britain, some Irish opponents of the Union tried to break it by force. The most famous of these was a young man called Robert Emmett (brother of one of the United Irishmen, Thomas Addis Emmet). He had bought weapons and amunition and explosives to stage a rebellion. However, some of these exploded prematurely in one of the Dublin houses where they were stored forcing Emmett to bring forward his plans. The rising took place on 23 July 1803, but was generally a disaster and was easily crushed by the military with only a few shots fired. Although Robert Emmett escaped, he was captured a month later at the home of his fiancée Sarah Curran. He was tried in Dublin where after he was sentenced to death at a corupt trial. It was then that he made his famous ‘speech from the dock’ which was to inspire future rebellions both in Ireland and abroad. Robert Emmett was convicted of treason before being hung and then beheaded at Thomas Street, Dublin on September 20th 1803.




Robert Emmet

Robert Emmet was born in Dublin on 4 March 1778.

He was the youngest son of Dr Robert Emmet (1729–1802), and Elizabeth Mason (1740–1803).

His dad was a state physician, so the family were financially comfortable, with a house at St Stephen’s Greenand a country residence near Milltown.

One of his older brothers was a nationalist called Thomas Addis Emmet, a close friend of Theobald Wolfe Tone, who visited the house a lot when Robert was a child.

Robert Emmet entered Trinity College, Dublin in October 1793, at the age of fifteen.

In December 1797 he joined the College Historical Society, a debating society.

While he was at college, his brother Thomas and some of his friends became involved in political activism.

Robert himself became secretary to a United Irish society in college, and was expelled in April 1798 as a result.

After the 1798 rising, Robert Emmet was involved in reorganizing the defeated United Irish Society.

In April 1799 a warrant was issued for his arrest, and he escaped. Soon after, he travelled to the continent in the hope of securing French military aid.

His efforts were unsuccessful, and so he returned to Ireland in October 1802.

In March the following year, he began preparations for another rising.

1803 rebellion

After he returned to Ireland, Robert began to prepare a new rebellion, with fellow revolutionaries Thomas Russell and James Hope.

He began to manufacture weapons and explosives at a number of locations in Dublin and even invented a folding pike which could be concealed under a cloak, which was fitted with a hinge.

Unlike in 1798, the preparations for the uprising were successfully concealed, but a premature explosion at one of Emmet’s arms depots killed a man and forced Emmet to bring forward the date of the rising before the police got suspicious.

Emmet wasn’t able to secure the help of Michael Dwyer’s Wicklow rebels, and many Kildare rebels who had arrived turned back, due to the scarcity of firearms they had been promised, but the rising went ahead in Dublin on the evening of July 23, 1803.

Failing to seize Dublin Castle, which wasn’t defended very well, the rising amounted to a large-scale riot in the Thomas Street area.

Emmet witnessed a dragoon being pulled from his horse and piked to death, the sight of which prompted him to call off the rising to avoid further bloodshed. However, he had lost control of his all followers and in one incident, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, Lord Kilwarden, the judge who granted habeas corpus to Wolfe Tone in 1798, was dragged from his carriage and hacked to death. Clashes continued into the night until finally quelled by the military at the estimated cost of twenty military and fifty rebel dead.


The trial of Robert Emmet

Emmet’s fate

Emmet fled into hiding but was captured on 25 August, near Harold’s Cross.

He endangered his life by moving his hiding place from Rathfarnam to Harold’s Cross so that he could be near his sweetheart, Sarah Curran.

He was tried for treason on 19 September; the Crown repaired the weaknesses in its case by secretly buying the assistance of Emmet’s defense attorney,Leonard Macnally, for £200 and a pension.

However, his assistant Peter Burrowes could not be bought and pleaded the case as best he could.

After he had been sentenced Emmet delivered a speech, the Speech from the Dock, which is especially remembered for its closing sentences and secured his posthumous fame among executed Irish republicans. However no definitive version was written down by Emmet himself.

An earlier version of the speech was published in 1818, in a biography on Sarah Curran’s father John.

On 19 September, Emmet was found guilty of high treason, and Chief Justice Lord Norbury’s death sentence required that Emmet was to be hung, drawn and quartered.

The following day, 20 September, Emmet was executed in Thomas Street.

Emmet's execution

He was hung and then beheaded once dead. The remains were then secretly buried. The whereabouts of his remains is still a mystery.

It was suspected that it had been buried secretly in the vault of a Dublin Anglican church. When the vault was inspected in the 1950s, a headless corpse that could not be identified, but which was suspected to be Emmet’s, was found.

In the 1980s the church was turned into a night club and all the coffins removed from the vaults.

What was done with the mysterious corpse? No one knows.

Even though Emmet’s rebellion was a complete failure, he became an heroic figure in Irish history. His speech from the dock is widely quoted and remembered, especially among Irish nationalists.

Emmet’s housekeeper, Anne Devlin, is also remembered in Irish history for enduring torture without providing information to the authorities.[4]

Robert Emmet wrote a letter from his cell in Kilmainham Jail, Dublin on 8 September 1803.

He addressed it to “Miss Sarah Curran, the Priory, Rathfarnham” and handed it to a prison warden, George Dunn, whom he trusted to deliver it. Dunn betrayed him and gave the letter to the government authorities, an action that nearly cost Sarah Curran her life.

His attempt to hide near Sarah Curran, which cost him his life, and his parting letter to her made him into a romantic character, which appealed to the Victorian Era’s appetite for Romanticism, which prolonged his fame.

His story became the subject of stage melodramas during the 19th century, most notably Dion Boucicault’s hugely inaccurate 1884 play Robert Emmet

Washington Irving, one of America’s greatest early writers, devoted “The Broken Heart” in hismagnum opus The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon to the romance between Emmet and Sarah Curran, using it as an example of how a broken heart can be fatal.

Robert Emmet’s older brother, Thomas Addis Emmet would emigrate to the United States shortly after Robert’s execution and would eventually serve as the New York State Attorney General.

His great-grand-nieces are the prominent American portrait painters Lydia Field Emmet, Rosina Sherwood Emmet, Jane Emmet de Glehn and Ellen Emmet Rand. Robert Emmet’s great-great nephew was the American playwright Robert Emmet Sherwood.

Places named after Emmet include Emmetsburg, Iowa, Emmet County, Iowa, and Emmet County, Michigan. There is a statue of Emmet in front of the California Academy of Sciences, in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Statue of Robert Emmet in Washington D.C.


Sarah Curran

Sarah Curran (1782-1808) was the youngest daughter of John Philpot Curran, an eminent Irish lawyer.  She met Emmet through her brother Richard, who was a follow student at Trinity College.  Her father considered Emmet unsuitable, and their courtship was conducted through letters and clandestine meetings.  When her father discovered that Sarah was secretly engaged, he treated her so harshly that she had to take refuge with friends in Cork, where she met and married Captain Robert Sturgeon in November 1805. They had a child who died in infancy.  Sarah died of consumption (tuberculosis) on May 5, 1808.

September, 1803

My dearest Love,

I don’t know how to write to you. I never felt so oppressed in my life as at the cruel injury I have done you. I was seized and searched with a pistol over me before I could destroy your letters. They have been compared with those found before. I was threatened with having them brought forward against me in Court. I offered to plead guilty if they would suppress them. This was refused. My love, can you forgive me?

I wanted to know whether anything had been done respecting the person who wrote the letter, for I feared you might have been arrested. They refused to tell me for a long time. When I found, however, that this was not the case, I began to think that they only meant to alarm me; but their refusal has only come this moment, and my fears are renewed. Not that they can do anything to you even if they would be base enough to attempt it, for they can have no proof who wrote them, nor did I let your name escape me once. But I fear they may suspect from the stile [style], and from the hair, for they took the stock [Emmet’s cravat into which Sarah had sewn a lock of her hair] from me, and I have not been able to get it back from them, and that they may think of bringing you forward.

I have written to your father to come to me tomorrow. Had you not better speak to himself tonight? Destroy my letters that there may be nothing against yourself, and deny having any knowledge of me further than seeing me once or twice. For God’s sake, write to me by the bearer one line to tell me how you are in spirits. I have no anxiety, no care, about myself; but I am terribly oppressed about you. My dearest love, I would with joy lay down my life, but ought I to do more? Do not be alarmed; they may try to frighten you; but they cannot do more. God bless you, my dearest love.

I must send this off at once; I have written it in the dark. My dearest Sarah, forgive me.


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna

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Background to Rebellion in Ireland

After the plantations and wars of the sevententh century, by the eighteenth century the make up and wealth distribution in Ireland had changed considerably. The population of Ireland was made up of three distinct groups:

  1. Catholics: made up 75% of the population, yet owned only 15% of the land and had no political power
  2. Anglican (Church of Ireland) owned the vast majority of the land and had huge political and financial power.
  3. Presbyterians: Mainly based in Ulster; had done well in business and farming but were banned – like the catholics – from being elected to parliament.

* Both Catholics and Presbyterians had to pay ‘tithes’ (religious tax) to the official church of Ireland (Anglican church).

To protect the interests of the protestant ruling classes, a number of harsh laws called the Penal Laws were introduced. These included:

  • No Catholic could build or attend schools or churches.
  • No Catholic priests, bishops or religious orders were allowed to remain in Ireland.
  • No Catholic could buy land from a Protestant and any land that was inherited had to be ‘subdivided’ between the sons, keeping the Catholic farms small and unviable.
  • No Catholic could become a solicitor, barrister or judge
  • No catholic could live in a town.

The result of these laws was to keep millions of Catholics poor and uneducated with little chance of making any progress in life. It also caused huge bitterness among the population. Many Catholics – as well as the Ulster Presbyterians – were impressed by the equal, just and fair societies that the Americans and French were trying to create following their revolutions. They also felt that with the help of the French army they could achieve the break from Britain that they felt was needed to create an equal and tolerant society. They eventually set up a group to help them achieve their aims through violence if necessary called the United Irishmen.


History@ Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Published in: on May 8, 2010 at 6:22 pm Comments (0)
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Results of the French Revolution

  • The ideas of the Revolution especially those of the Republic: Liberty, equality and brotherhood spread across Europe.
  • Other countries were inspired to fight for these rights – including Ireland.
  • The French offered military assistance to any nation that wanted to fight to establish the principles of a republic.
  • The Bourgeoisie (middle-classes) of France had gotten their hands on the power that had been denied to them before the Revolution.
  • The French built up a huge army through the use of conscription (all men over the age of eighteen had to join the army). This army and its clever leader Napoleon Bonaparte had huge successes across Europe before being eventually defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.


History@ Banagher College, Colaiste na Sionna

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Maximilien Robespierre

This content was compiled/created by Mairéad Daly.

Maximilien Robespierre

In Brief:

Maximilien  Robespierre (6 May 1758 – 28 July 1794) is one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. He was a qualified lawyer and as the French Revolution took hold he led the radical party, the Jacobins, in the National Covention. He also  dominated the Committee of Public Safety that was set up to clamp down on ‘anti-revolutionary activities’ during the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror, which ended with his arrest and execution in 1794.


Early Life

Maximilien de Robespierre was born in Arras, France.
He is sometimes rumoured to have been of Irish descent.

Maximilien was the oldest of four children and was conceived out of wedlock. In 1764, Madame de Robespierre died in childbirth. Her husband left Arras and wandered around Europe until his death in Munich in 1777, leaving the children to be brought up by their maternal grandfather and aunts.

Maximilien attended the collège of Arras when he was eight years old, already knowing how to read and write. In October of 1769, on the recommendation of the bishop, he got a scholarship at the Lycee Louis-le- Grand in Paris. Here he learned to admire the idealised Roman Republic.
Robespierre became more intrigued by the idea of a virtuous self, a man who stands alone accompanied only by his conscience.
Robespierre was a student of Rousseau, one of the most important writers of the enlightenment.

Shortly after his coronation, Louis XVI visited Louis-le-Grand. Robespierre, then 17 years old, had been chosen out of five hundred pupils to deliver a speech to welcome the king. On the day of the speech, Robespierre and the crowd waited for the king and queen for several hours in the rain. When they arrived, the royal couple remained in their coach for the ceremony and immediately left after it. Robespierre would become one of those who eventually sought the death of the king.

He gained the nickname ‘the incorruptible’ because he was regarded as a very honest and sincere man.

Early Politics

Robespierre believed that the people of France were fundamentally good and therefore the people needed only to speak in order to advance the well being of the nation.

In 1781, the bishop of Arras appointed him as judge but he quickly left his position because he could not bring himself to sentence people to death.

In 1789, aged only 30, Robespierre was elected as one of the representatives of the Third Estate at the meeting of the Estates-General called by Louis XVI. One of his fellow representatives, Mirabeau, said, “That young man believes what he says – he will go far!’. He was immensely popular with the sans culottes and the Paris mob.

He later became a member of the National Assembly. He joined a group called the Jacobins, who sat on the left side of the of the Assembly, and called for rapid change to the way France was governed. In January 1793, he, along with other allies like Jean-Paul Marat and Georges Danton, argued for the execution of King Louis following the Flight to Varennes.

The execution of Louis XVI

Robespierre’s Demise

On 2 June 1793, Robespierre and his fellow Jacobins seized power and he was voted leader of the Committee of Public Safety. Robespierre really believed that he was acting to save France and the Revolution during The Terror.

During this period, he ordered the arrest of nearly half a million people and the execution of over 40,000. He was eventually arrested himself and, on 27 July 1794, he was executed by guillotine.

The ececution of Robespierre




Key Dates

6 May 1758 – Robespierre was born.
Oct. 1769 – He got a scholarship at the Lycee Louis-le-Grand in Paris.
1781 – He was appointed judge, but quickly left his position because he could not bring himself to sentence people to death.
1789 – He was elected as one of  the representatives of the Third Estate at meeting of the Estates General called by Louis XVI.
1793 – He became a member of the National Assembly and joined a group called the Jacobins.
2 June 1793 – Robespierre and his fellow Jacobins seized power and he was voted leader of the Committee of Public Safety.
24 July 1794 – He was executed by guillotine.


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

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The Reign of Terror

Execution of Louis XVI

After the execution of Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, France became a republic. This frightened the other monarchies of Europe who were afraid that the ideas of the Revolution might spread; this led to a war against England, Netherlands and Austria.

The Sans Cullottes were supporters of a group of radicals called the Jacobins who were led by a lawyer called Maximilien Robespierre. He believed that the country was not ready for war, that the revolution had to grow stronger first. To stamp out any opposition, the National Convention set up a 12-man Committee of Public Safety. Included on this comitteee was ‘the incorruptible’ Robespierre.

The committee passed several laws to ensure the continuation of the Revolution. These included:

  • The Law of Maximum which kept the price of bread down
  • The Law of Suspects which allowed the committee to arrest and execute anybody suspected of being against the Revolution

This law became increasingly used and as the committee became more paranoid, the death penalty and the guillotine were used more and more. This led to some 40,000 people (many of them innocent) being executed in the following year and was known as the Reign of Terror. Nobody knew who was safe from the committee.

Arrest of Robespierre

Eventuall Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety went too far. After executing numerous Catholic peasants in La Vendeé, some people in the National Convention had enough. Robespierre tried to increase the committee’s power to allow even more executions. On the 28th July, 1794 Robespierre and his followers were arrested and forced to face the same fate as  thousands of those who had come before their committee – the guillotine.


The French Revolution -The Reign of Terror



History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

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