Past Questions



The execution of French king Louis XVI (London Times, 25th January, 1793)
About half past nine, the king arrived at the place of execution. Louis mounted the scaffold calmly, the trumpets sounding and drums beating during the whole time. He made a sign of wishing to speak to the multitude, the drums ceased, and Louis spoke these few words. I die innocent; I pardon my enemies. His executioners then laid hold of him and, an instant after, his head was separated from his body.
Since the king’s execution, a general consternation has prevailed throughout Paris; the Sans Culottes are the only persons that rejoice. The honest citizens, safe within their houses, could not suppress their heartfelt grief, and mourned in private with their families the murder of their much loved Sovereign. The Republican tyrants of France have murdered their king without even the shadow of justice, and of course they cannot expect friendship with any civilised part of the world. The vengeance of Europe will now rapidly fall on them.

Wolfe Tone and the French attempt to land at Bantry Bay, December 1796.

Extract from a speech by Wolfe Tone, 1798:
From my earliest youth, I have regarded the connection between Ireland and Great Britain, as the curse of the Irish nation; felt convinced that, whilst it lasted, this country could never be free or happy. I determined to apply all the powers, which my individual efforts could move, in order to separate the two countries. That Ireland was not able, of herself, to throw off the yoke, I knew. I therefore sought for aid, wherever it was to be found. Under the flag of the French Republic, I sought to save and liberate my own country.

A. Source D
(i) ‘The king met his death bravely’
Give one piece of evidence from the newspaper article to support this view. (2)
(ii) According to the article, who were the only persons to rejoice following the king’s
execution? (2)
(iii) Was the writer a supporter or an opponent of the king’s execution?
Give one piece of evidence from the source to explain your answer. (5)
B. Source E and Source F
(i) Why did the fleet sent by the French in 1796, shown in Source E, fail to land? (2)
(ii) In source F, what does Wolfe Tone consider to be the ‘curse of the Irish Nation’? (3)
(iii) Give two reasons why Wolfe Tone sought military help from the French. (4)

C. Write an account of one of the following topics:
(i) Causes of the American War of Independence.
(ii) The Reign of Terror in France, September 1793 to July 1794.
(iii) Reasons for the failure of the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland.           (12)



Source D
A picture of the Boston Massacre 1770 (engraving by Paul Revere).

Source E
A political cartoon from 1789 called “The Third Estate Awakens.”

An extract from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
“Therefore the National Assembly recognises and proclaims the following rights of man and
of the citizen:
Men are born free and equal in rights.
The purpose of all political associations is the preservation of the natural rights of man. These rights are: liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression. Liberty consists in being able to do whatever does not harm others. No man ought to be uneasy about his opinions, even his religious beliefs, provided that this actions do not interfere with the public order established by law. The free communication of thought and opinion is one of the most precious rights of man: every citizen can therefore talk, write and publish freely.”

A. Study source D which is an engraving by Paul Revere of the Boston Massacre.
(i) Do you think that the artist was a supporter or an opponent of British rule in America?
Give one reason to support your answer. (2)
(ii) Apart from the Boston Massacre, give two reasons why the American colonies
revolted against British rule in 1775. (4)
B. Source E is a political cartoon from France at the time of the French Revolution called “the
Third Estate Awakens.”

Source F is an extract from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which was
passed by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789.
(i) In the cartoon, why do you think the nobleman and the priest look afraid? (2)
(ii) In Source F, what are the “natural rights of man”? (2)
(iii) From the Declaration, identify two freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of France? (2)
(iv) The Declaration was influenced by the ideas of Enlightenment writers. Name one famous Enlightenment writer. (4)

C. (i) Write an account of one of the following:
(a) The impact of the American War of Independence on France.
(b) The influence of the French Revolution on Ireland.
(c) The consequences of the unsuccessful rebellion of 1798, in Ireland.      (14)


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.


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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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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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

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 8:39 pm Comments (2)
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Bantry Bay

This content was created/compiled by  Christine White and Lauren Moran.

In Brief:

After much persuasion from Wolfe Tone, the French (who were at war with Britain) finally sent help to Ireland. 43 ships and 15,000 men set sail from Brest in support of a hoped for armed rebellion led by the United Irishmen, who were determined to establish an Irish Republic. However the fleet, which was led by France’s greatest general, Lazare Hoche met Easterly storms and fog off the Irish coast.  This caused chaos and dispersed the fleet.  While some succeeded in anchoring in Bantry Bay, most were scattered in the Atlantic. After a few days, the order was given to abandon the attempted invasion and the few remaining ships in the bay that were seaworthy sailed for France. Any chance of catching the British by surprise had been ruined.

Wolfe Tone’s diary, December 29th:  ‘At four this morning, the commodore made the signal to steer for France; so that there is an end to our expedition for the present, perhaps forever.’



More Information:


Timeline of Bantry Bay

Dec 11, 1796 – on 11 December 1796 – A message was despatched with news that seven French ships of the line had arrived in Brest. This was part of the preparation for an invasion of Ireland. The French fleet left harbour and evaded the main British blockade fleet and sailed for Bantry Bay.

Dec 15, 1796 – 5. On December 15, 1796 – A French expedition of fourteen thousand men under the command of General Louis Lazare Hoche had set out from Brest for Bantry Bay in Ireland.

Dec 16, 1796 – On December 16th 1796, the expedition, consisting of forty-three sail, with an army of 15000 men, under the command of Hoche and Grouchy, left Brest. Tone, who now held the rank of adjutant-general in the French service, was on board the ‘Indomitable’. -In the night the ships were scattered. The ‘Fraternité’, with Hoche on board, never reached Ireland. But the French General Grouchy, with thirty-five sail, including the ‘Indomitable’, eventually made Bantry Bay.

Dec 21, 1796 – They stayed in the Bay for two weeks without an attack from theBritish fleet, which was then in Spithead.

However, storms scattered them and most returned to France.

“They come, they come
See myriads come –
Of Frenchmen to relieve us;

Seize, seize the pike
Beat, beat the drum
They come, my friends
To save us.“

“Ils arrivent, ils arrivent.
Regarde les myriades de Français
Qui viennent nous libérer;

Prends, prends ton épieu
Bats, rebats du tambour
Ils sont ici, mes amis,
Pour nous sauver.“

Irish marching song / Chant de marche d’époque


General Lazare Hoche

Born: 24-Jun-1768

Birthplace: Versailles, France

Died: 18-Sep-1797

Location of death: Wetzlar, Nassau, Germany

Cause of death: Pneumonia

Gender: Male

Occupation: Military

Nationality: French

Executive summary: French General

Military service: French Army (1784-97).


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 8:22 pm Comments (3)
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1798 Rebellion

“From the blood of every one of the martyrs of the liberty of Ireland, will spring, I hope, thousands to revenge his fall.”

-Wolfe Tone’s diary, June 1798.

After the failure of General Hoche and Wolfe Tone to land a Fench fleet at Bantry Bay in 1796, the British – shocked by their lucky escape – decided to clamp down on the ‘United Irishmen’. General Lake was sent to Ulster and given a free reign to torture and even execute, anybody found to be involved with the secret group. Some of the  tactics used to stamp out the United Irishmen included:

  • Floggings (whippings)
  • Half-hangings (hanging a person until they were almost dead to extract information)
  • Pitch-capping (pouring hot tar on a person’s head before setting it on fire)
  • The newspaper of the United Irishmen, the Northern Star was banned.
  • Spies and informers were used to identify the leaders.

The results of this harsh treatment were that many of the United Irishmen’s leaders were arrested (including Lord Edward Fitzgerald) and thousands of weapons were found. Despite this, plans continued to launch a rebellion; with the date 23 May 1798 finally agreed on.

  • In March 1798, British soldiers, yeomen and the North Cork militia entered Wexford. Their violent treatment of the locals created a determination to resist that led to a Catholic priest, Fr. John Murphy leading a revolt. They had victories at Oulart Hill, Eniscorthy and Wexford (where United Irishman Bagenal Harvey was freed from jail) before their growing army of 15,000 was defeated at the Battle of New Ross and finally routed at Vinegar Hill on 21 June. Some days later, both Bagenal Harvey and Fr. John Murphy were captured and executed.
  • Although Ulster had been a United Irishmen stronghold, after the intimidation, torture, jailings and executions in the province, support for the secret group weakened. Because of this, the rebellion that took place there (mainly consisting of Presbyterians) was small in comparison to Wexford. In June 1798, a rebellion led by Henry Joy McCracken succeeded in capturing Larne, Randalstown and Ballymena before being defeated after a fierce battle at Antrim town. In Down, Henry Munro led 7,000 rebels could not match the army’s cannons at Ballynahinch. Both McCracken and Munro were later separately captured and hanged.
  • Connacht: In August 1798, the French General Humbert arrived in Killala, Co. Mayo. Despite not getting as much local support as he would have liked, he completely routed General Lake’s men in what became known as the Races of Castlebar because the soldiers fled so quickly, leaving many of their weapons behind. Humbert was eventually defeated near Dublin by a reinforced British army led by General Lake and General Cornwallis. Although the captured French troops were allowed to return home, the captured Irish rebels were hanged.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
  • Not realising that Humbert’s force had been defeated, another French force of 3,000 men landed in Lough Swilly with Wolfe Tone on board. They too were defeated; Wolfe Tone was captured and died a week after cutting his own throat with a penknife.

What went wrong?

  1. A combination of informers and brutal tactics against the native population routed out and weakened the United Irishmen.
  2. A lack of decent weapons meant that the rebels struggled when faced with the muskets and cannons of the British army.
  3. A combination of inconsistent French support and bad luck meant that the rebels never got the strong international help that would have been necessary if they were going to be successful.

There is little doubt that the United Irishmen rebellion had been a failure. It led to the Act of Union (1801) that brought Ireland even closer to Britain by abolishing the parliament in Dublin and ruling Ireland directly from Westminister. Despite this, the sacrifices made by the men and women involved inspired many future generations including those involved in the 1916 Easter Rising and those who finally gained freedom for Ireland in the Irish War of Independence.

Robert Emmet

Edward Fitzgerald

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Theobald Wolfe Tone

This content was created/compiled by Barry Egan

“From my earliest youth, I have regarded the connection between Ireland and Great Britain, as the curse of the Irish nation; felt convinced that, whilst it lasted, this country could never be free or happy.I determined to apply all the powers, which my individual efforts could move, in order to separate the two countries. That Ireland was not able, of herself, to throw off the yoke. I knew. I therefore sought for aid, wherever it was to be found. Under the flag of the French Republic, I sought to save and liberate my  own country.”

Wolfe Tone 1798


In Brief:

Some of the main points of the life of Theobald Wolfe Tone, revolutionary leader (useful for those preparing for the People in History question).

  • Born in Dublin on 20 June 1763
  • Studied law in Trinity College
  • Qualified as barrister from king’s Inn aged 26 and attended Inn’s of court in London.
  • While there he met Martha Witherington. Tone later made her change her name to Matilda.
  • In 1790 he sent out a pamphlet attacking the administration of the Marquess of Buckingham.
  • This brought him attention from the Whig club.
  • He then wrote an essay named “The Northern Whig”.10,000 copies were said to be sold.
  • He then wrote is most famous pamphlet ‘An Argument on Behalf of the Catholics of Ireland‘ demanding that Catholics be admitted to parliament.
  • The ideas from this essay lead him to setting up the Society of The United Irishmen along with Thomas Russell, Napper Tandy and some others.
  • In 1794 he was introduced to the French Agent William Jackson. Jackson had tried to help the Irish but he was betrayed and arrested.
  • After this Tone thought it would be unsafe in Ireland so he fled to France.
  • While in France we tried to get the French Government to send an army to Ireland in order to lead a revolution that would defeat the British. The French sent 14,000 soldiers led by General Lazare Hoche.
  • They never made it to land in Ireland because storms wrecked their ships off the coast of Bantry Bay in South Cork.

    Statue of Wolfe Tone in Bantry

  • They tried again but weather opposed them; and when some did land the British were waiting for them. They were easily defeated and Tone was captured.
  • Tone was sentenced to be executed but it is believed that he committed suicide in his cell the night before his execution.
  • He died on the 19 November 1798 and is buried in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare.




Extra Information:

Early Life

Theobald Wolfe Tone, the principal political and theoretical leader of the United Irishmen and of the 1798 Rising, was born in Dublin into a middle-class Protestant family in 1763.Tone studied law at Trinity College, Dublin. He qualified as a barrister from King’s Inns at the age of 26 and attended the Inns of Court in London. As a student, he eloped with Martha Witherington. She would go on to change her name to Matilda, on Wolfe Tone’s request.

Wolfe Tone as a child (on the right)

Early Political Interests

Tone became very interested in Irish politics and a 1790 pamphlet attacking the administration of the Marquess of Buckingham brought him to the notice of the Whig club. In September 1791 he wrote an essay called “A Northern Whig,” 10,000 copies of which were said to have been sold. In October of 1971 Tone put his ideas from “A Northern Whig” into practice by setting up the Society of the United Irishmen along with Thomas Russell, Napper Tandy and a few other men. The group was founded in order to work on parliamentary reform.

United Irishmen

The aims of the United Irishmen were:

·       That the weight of the English influence in the government of Ireland was to require a friendly atmosphere between all people so as to maintain a balance which was to be essential to the preservation of freedom.

·       To change the people in Parliament in order to keep the sole constitutional mode by which an influence can be opposed.

·       That no reforms were to be made which would judge people according to their religion.

Tone’s involvement in the United Irishmen became strained as he was also dedicating his time to the Catholic Committee (As assistant secretary, even though he was Protestant). During the French Revolution influences from France, and of the French in America, the United Irishmen changed from a reformist movement into a republican and revolutionary one. Tone however was not in sympathy with this change and eventually faded out of United Irish activities.

Tone and William Jackson

In 1794 Tone was introduced to William Jackson, an agent of the French, who first suggested the idea of French involvement. Tone was not easily convinced of the correctness of this policy, despite getting guarantees that the French would come as liberators and not as conquerors. Jackson was betrayed and arrested; and after his trial had implicated Tone it was clear that it was no longer safe to remain in Ireland and that Tone would have to leave the country.  With his wife and children and his brother, Tone set sail in August 1795 for America, where he quickly formed a “most unqualified dislike” for the country. While there, he established contact with agents of the French government, and a year later he sailed for France.

His work from France

From the beginning the French were reluctant allies, already more concerned with the building of a post-revolutionary empire than with helping aspiring republicans in other countries. Tone’s task became one of simultaneously encouraging the revolutionary movement in Ireland and restraining it until he received a promise of French help on a scale that would ensure success. Despite countless setbacks, he persisted with his typical determination and eventually succeeded in having a fleet sent to Ireland, with himself on board, which would be the signal for revolt; but violent storms prevented its landing at Bantry Bay, and the battered fleet returned to France, to Tone’s unspeakable frustration.

Bantry Bay

With no sign of help from France, with the betrayal and arrest of many of the leaders, and with daily provocations by the Militia and Yeomanry likely to lead to a spontaneous and leaderless uprising, the United Irishmen decided to act. But the initiative had been lost; there was no coherent leadership; and Orange sectarianism and military outrages were unleashed on revolutionaries and civilians alike.
The uprising in Ireland was already all but over when the French made a second attempt at a landing in Ireland. Again the weather opposed them; and this time the English were waiting. The French fleet was defeated; Tone was captured and brought to Dublin in chains, and before he could be hanged he cut his own throat.

The site of Wolfe Tone's grave


It is not for nothing that Theobald Wolfe Tone has been called the Father of Irish Democracy. Despite the limitations of his background and upbringing, despite all his own self-criticism, Tone’s commitment to democracy was genuine and profound. At every political crisis, Tone’s instinct was for the most democratic option.
Tone and his comrades were not socialists. The ideas of socialism had not been worked out at that time, nor could they have been, as the working class (as we understand the term) had scarcely come into existence. Nor—despite the role played by a number of women in 1798—were the United Irishmen feminists. These were ideas whose time had not yet come.
The United Irishmen were democrats, and they were republicans. They were the first mass movement in Irish history whose aim was not to restore some ancient society or to invite a foreign monarch to lead the Catholic Irish against the Protestant English. Their aim was an independent and non-sectarian Irish republic—an aim that has not yet been achieved and one that is still in advance of much of what passes for political thinking in Ireland two hundred years later.


A song by Irish band ‘The Wolf Tones’ inspired by this period in Irish history



History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

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James Napper Tandy

This content was created/compiled by Philip Moran.

In Brief:

James Napper Tandy was one of the founding members of the Dublin branch of the United Irishmen. Inspired by the French Revolution, he had been involved in several groups who argued that strong action was needed to create a fairer society in Ireland. In 1793, he was accused by the British of sedition (trying to start a rebellion) and fled to America and then France where he later became a general. The French gave him a ship and a small number of men and he arrived in Donegal in September 1978 hoping to restart the rebellion that had ended two months before. Unfortunately he soon discovered that the French and Irish force led by General Humbert, having had a big success at ‘the Races of Castlebar‘, had then been forced to surrender to the British General Cornwallis, after 9,000 French Reinforcements failed to arrive.  Napper Tandy retreated around Scotland and headed towards France but was captured at Hamburg. He remained in prison in Ireland until April 1801 when he was tried, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death. After pressure from France where he remained popular – and from Napoleon in particular – he was reprieved and returned to France where he continued to be highly respected, up to his well attended funeral following his death on August 24th, 1803.


The life of James Napper Tandy to the music of ‘The Wearing of the Green.’



More Information:

Early life

A Dublin Protestant and the son of an ironmonger, Tandy went to the famous Quaker boarding school in Ballitore, south
He started life as a small tradesman. Turning to politics, he became a member of Dublin Corporation.He became a member of the Whig club founded by Henry Grattan; and he actively co-operated with Theobald Wolfe Tone in founding the Society of the United Irishmen in 1791, of which he became the first secretary.

Planning A Revolution

Tandy also, with the purpose of bringing about a union between the Defenders and the United Irishmen, took the oath of the Defenders, a Roman Catholic society whose agrarian and political violence had been increasing for several years. But being threatened with prosecution for this step, and also for libel. One way he used to avoid prosecution was to change his Dublin address often – including at Dorset Street, Abbey Street and Bride Street. In 1795, he  fled to the United States, where he remained till 1798. In February 1798 he went to Paris, where at this time a number of Irish refugees, the most prominent of whom was Wolfe Tone, were assembled, planning rebellion in Ireland to be supported by a French invasion, and quarrelling among themselves.

Return to Ireland

Tandy accepted the offer of a corvette, the Anacreon, from the French government and sailed from Dunkirk accompanied by a few United Irishmen, a small force of men and a considerable quantity of arms and ammunition for distribution in Ireland. He arrived at the isle of Arran more, off the coast of County Donegal, on September 16, 1798.
The locality however, was sparsely populated and showed little enthusiasm in joining with the expedition. Tandy took possession of the village of Rutland, where he hoisted an Irish flag and issued a proclamation; but learning the defeat of Humbert’s expedition, and that Connaught was now subdued, the futility (uselessness) of the enterprise was soon clear to him. Tandy sailed his vessel around the north of Scotland to avoid the British fleet. He reached Bergen in safety having brought with him a British ship captured along the way. Tandy then made his way with three or four companions to the free port of Hamburg but a peremptory demand (arrest warrant) from the British government to detain the fugitives was agreed to despite a counter-threat from the French Directory warning that he should not be detained (stopped).

Last Years

Tandy remained in prison till April 1801, when he was tried, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to death; he was reprieved and allowed to go to France. This leniency may have been partly due to doubts as to the legality of the demand for his surrender by the Hamburg authorities. Moreover, Napoleon vigorously intervened on his behalf, and is even said to have made Tandy’s release a condition of signing the Treaty of Amiens. The way in which his name was introduced in the well-known ballad, “The Wearing of the Green”, proves that he succeeded in capturing the popular imagination of many future rebels in Ireland. In France, where his release was regarded as a French diplomatic victory, he was received, in March 1802, as a person of distinction; and when he died his funeral was attended by the military and a large number of the general public.

Useful links:

Article on Napper Tandy

Encyclopedia.com entry on Napper Tandy


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

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The United Irishmen

The emblem of the United Irishmen

In Brief:

A number of people across Ireland had been hugely impressed by the achievements of both the American and French Revolutions. Both had revolted against unfair systems of monarchy and attempted to replace them with the principles of fairness and equality. With the promise of French help to any nation that sought to create a republican system of government, some Irish people felt that now was the time to take action action against the unfair and oppressive British rule. Some of these men met in Belfast on 18 October 1791. Present at this meeting were:

  • Theobald Wolfe Tone
  • Henry Joy McCracken
  • Samuel Nielson
  • Thomas Russell
  • William Sinclair
  • Henry Haslett
  • Gilbert McIlveen
  • William Simms
  • Robert Simms
  • Thomas McCabe
  • Thomas Pearce

These men swore ‘that I will use all my abilities and influence in the attainment of an impartial and adequate representation of the Irish people in parliament…..to forward a brotherhood of affection, an identity of interests, a communion of rights, and a union of power among Irishmen of all religious persuasions.”

Henry Joy McCracken


Thomas Russell


Samuel Neilson


United Irishmen


The immediate origins of the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland can be traced to the setting up of the Society of United Irishmen in Belfast in October 1791. Inspired by the French Revolution, and with great admiration for the new democracy of the United States, the United Irishmen were led by Theobald Wolfe Tone, Thomas Russell, Henry Joy McCracken and William Drennan. They came together to secure a reform of the Irish parliament; and they sought to achieve this goal by uniting Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter in Ireland into a single movement.

From the beginning, Dublin Castle, the seat of government in Ireland, viewed the new organisation with the gravest suspicion, and with the outbreak of war between Britain (and Ireland) and France in February 1793, suspicion hardened to naked hostility. The unabashed admiration of the United Irishmen for the French seemed akin to treason. The discovery of negotiations between certain United Irishmen, notably Theobald Wolfe Tone, and the French government confirmed suspicions and led to the suppression of the society in May 1794.

Driven underground, the Society re-constituted itself as a secret, oath-bound, organisation, dedicated to the pursuit of a republican form of government in a separate and independent Ireland. This was to be achieved primarily by direct French military intervention. The plan came closest to success following the arrival of a French invasion fleet, carrying some 14,000 soldiers, off the southern coast of Ireland in December 1796. Adverse weather conditions, however, prevented the French from landing, and the fleet was forced to make its way back to France. From this date on, Dublin Castle stepped up its war against the United Irishmen, infiltrating their ranks with spies and informers, invoking draconian legislation against subversives, turning a blind eye to military excesses, and to those of the resolutely loyalist Orange Order, and building up its defence forces lest the French should return in strength.

By the spring of 1798, it appeared that Dublin Castle had been successful in its determined efforts to destroy the Society’s capacity for insurrection: many of its leaders were in prison, its organisation was in disarray, and there seemed no possibility of French assistance. Despite these difficulties, on the night of the 23rd/24th May, as planned, the mail coaches leaving Dublin were seized – as a signal to those United Irishmen outside the capital that the time of the uprising had arrived.

However, as a result of the failure of Dublin to rise, the Rebellion when it came was distinguished everywhere by a lack of concert and by a lack of focus. The uprisings outside the capital had been intended by the United Irishmen as supporting acts – sideshows – to the main event in Dublin, but as Dublin did not perform as planned, rebels in outlying areas now found themselves promoted to centre-stage. In the lack of co-ordination between the rebel theatres of war lay the salvation of Dublin Castle and British rule in Ireland.

(Thomas Bartlett, Professor of Modern Irish History, UCD )




History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Revolution in Ireland

“….Let no man write my epitaph: for as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them. let not prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them and me repose in obscurity and peace, and my tomb remain uninscribed, until other times, and other men, can do justice to my character; when my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done”.

Robert Emmet

“In considering the unsuccessful struggle in which my brother was engaged, many are too apt to forget the evils of the time: the grinding oppression under which the people laboured; the contempt in which public opinion was held; the policy which prevented its expression and intimidated the press. The only means then existing of stemming the torrent of corruption and oppression was tried, and they failed, but the failure . . . was not without its beneficial effects.”
— Mary Ann McCracken (sister of Henry Joy McCracken)


Timeline of main events:

The Society of the United Irishmen established.

Irish Parliament granted new powers. Relief Act of 1793.

21 September 1795 Formation of the Loyal Orange Institution (Orange Order) in County Armagh.

12 July 1796 First parade held to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne. A French fleet of 35 ships with Wolfe Tone on board tried to land at Bantry Bay but turned back by bad weather.

The Rebellion of 1798 led by Woolfe Tone.
March 1798: Arrest of members of the Leinster United Irishmen.
May 1798: Arrest and death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Rebellion in Midlands.
June 1798: Rebellion in Wexford. Defeat of the United Irishmen at the Battle of Vinegar Hill.
November 1798: Death of Wolfe Tone.

The Act of Union passed; to take effect from 1 January 1801.

Rising in Dublin led by Patriot Robert Emmet, who was arrested, tried, and murdered by the British.
Robert Emmet wrote the famous speech, “Let no man write my epitaph”.

History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

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