Theobald Wolfe Tone

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Theobald Wolfe Tone - Society of the United Irishmen United Irish leader.

Theobald Wolfe Tone (June 20, 1763November 19, 1798), commonly known as Wolfe Tone, was a leading figure in the United Irishmen Irish independence movement and is regarded as the father of Irish republicans.

Quotes[edit]

  • We the undersigned do agree & resolve to form an association under the appellation of United Irishmen for the purpose of collecting and diffusing political knowledge and life on the principles of gen[eral?] liberality, philanthropy, confidence & the equal rights of man and we hereby pledge ourselves to our country & to each other that we shall collectively & individually use all due means to give this association dignity & vigor & that will continue members of it as long as it appears to use to be directed to national unity.
    • Agreement to form an association of United Irishmen (16 September 1791), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobold Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume I: Tone's career in Ireland to June 1795 (1998), p. 128
  • In the present great era of reform, when unjust Governments are falling in every quarter of Europe; when religious persecution is compelled to abjure her tyranny over conscience; when the rights of men are ascertained in theory and that theory substantiated by practice; when antiquity can no longer defend absurd and oppressive forms against the common sense and common interests of mankind; when all government is acknowledged to originate from the people and to be so far only obligatory as it protects their rights and promotes their welfare: we think it our duty, as Irishmen, to come forward and state what we feel to be our heavy grievance and what we know to be its effectual remedy.
    • Declaration and resolutions of the Society of United Irishmen of Belfast (18 October 1791), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobold Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume I: Tone's career in Ireland to June 1795 (1998), p. 140
  • WE HAVE NO NATIONAL GOVERNMENT; we are ruled by Englishmen, and the servants of Englishmen, whose object is the interest of another country, whose instrument is corruption, and whose strength is the weakness of Ireland; and these men have the whole of the power and patronage of the country as means to seduce and subdue the honesty and the spirit of her representatives in the legislature. Such an extrinsic power, acting with uniform force in a direction too frequently opposite to the true line of our obvious interests, can be resisted with effect solely by unanimity, decision and spirit in the people; qualities which may be exerted most legally, constitutionally and efficaciously, by that great measure essential to the prosperity and freedom of Ireland, AN EQUAL REPRESENTATION OF ALL THE PEOPLE IN PARLIAMENT.
    • Declaration and resolutions of the Society of United Irishmen of Belfast (18 October 1791), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobold Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume I: Tone's career in Ireland to June 1795 (1998), p. 140
  • The Harpers again. Strum Strum and be hang'd!
    • Diary (13 July 1792), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobold Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume I: Tone's career in Ireland to June 1795 (1998), p. 213
  • Impressed as we are with a deep sense of the excellence of our Constitution, as it exists in theory, we rejoice that we are not, like our brothers in France, reduced to the hard necessity of tearing up inveterate abuse by the roots, even where utility was so intermixed as to admit of separation. Ours is an easier and a less unpleasing task; to remove with a steady and a temperate resolution the abuses which the lapse of many years, inattention and supineness in the great body of the people, and unremitting vigilance in their rulers to invade and plunder them of their rights, have suffered to overgrow and to deform that beautiful system of government so admirably suited to our situation, our habits and our wishes. We have not to innovate but to restore. The just prerogatives of our monarch we respect and will maintain. The constitutional powers of the peers of the realms we wish not to invade. We know that in the exercise of both, abuses have grown up; but we also know that those abases will be at once corrected, so as never again to recur, by restoring to us the people what we for ourselves demand as our right, our due weight and influence in that estate which is our property, the representation of the people in parliament.
    • Address of the Volunteers assembled at Belfast to the people of Ireland (14 July 1792), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobold Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume I: Tone's career in Ireland to June 1795 (1998), p. 218
  • Our independence must be had at all hazards. If the men of property will not support us, they must fall; we can support ourselves by the aid of that numerous and respectable class of the community, the men of no property.
    • Diary (11 March 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobold Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 107
  • I see the Orange boys are playing the Devil in Ireland. I have no doubt it is the work of the Government. Please God, if I get safe into that country, I will settle those gentlemen, and their instigators also, more especially.
    • Diary (28 July 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobold Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), pp. 257–258
  • America...has neither king, nobility nor clergy established by law and it is notwithstanding, I am satisfied, at this hour, the most flourishing and the best governed spot on the face of this earth.
    • Address to the peasantry of Ireland, by A Traveller (14 October 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobold Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 352
  • From my tenderest youth I have considered the union of Ireland with Great-Britain as the scourge of the Irish nation. And that the people of this country can have neither happiness nor freedom whilst that connection endures. Every day's experience, and every fact that arose, convinced me of this truth; and I resolved, if I could, to separate the two countries. But as I knew Ireland could not of herself, throw off the yoke, I sought for help wherever I could find it.
    • Speech to the Court-Martial, assembled to pass sentence on his life (November 10, 1798) [1]
  • I have laboured to abolish the infernal spirit of religious persecution by uniting the Catholics and Dissenters. To the former, I owe more than ever can be repaid. The service I was so fortunate as to render them they rewarded munificently but they did more: when the public cry was raised against me, when the friends of my youth swarmed off and left me alone, the Catholics did not desert me. They had the virtue even to sacrifice their own interests to a rigid principle of honour. They refused, though strongly urged, to disgrace a man who, whatever his conduct towards the Government might have been, had faithfully and conscientiously discharged his duty towards them and in so doing, though it was in my own case, I will say they showed an instance of public virtue of which I know not whether there exists another example."
    • Speech from the dock, to the people on the occasion of his Court-Martial, quoted in Seán Ua Cellaigh (ed.), Speeches From the Dock, or Protests of Irish Patriotism (Dublin, 1953)

An Argument on Behalf of the Catholics of Ireland by a Northern Whig (1 August 1791)[edit]

T. A. Jackson, Ireland Her Own (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1976)
  • [T]hey and the Catholics had but one common interest and one common enemy; that the depression and slavery of Ireland was produced and perpetuated by the divisions existing between them; and that consequently to assert the independence of their country, and their own individual liberties it was necessary to forget all former feuds, to consolidate the entire strength of the whole nation, and form for the first time but one people.
    • His objective was to convince the Dissenters to join with their fellow countrymen.
  • The Revolution of ’82 (1782) was a revolution which enabled Irishmen to sell at a much higher price their honour, their integrity, and the interests of their country; it was a revolution which while at one stroke it doubled the value of every borough monger in the Kingdom, left three-fourths of our countrymen [Catholics] slaves as it found them, and the Government of Ireland in the base, wicked and contemptible hands who had spent their lives plundering and degrading her … Who of the veteran enemies of the country lost his place, or his pension? Not one. The power remained in the hands of our enemies, again to be exerted for our ruin, with this difference, that, formerly, we had our distresses gratis at the hands of England, but now we pay very dearly to receive the same with aggravations at the hands of Irishmen—yet this we boast of and call a Revolution.
  • To subvert the tyranny of our execrable government, to break the connection with England, the never-failing source of all our political evils, and to assert the independence of my country, these were my objects. To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of past dissensions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman, in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter, these were my means.

Quotes about Wolfe Tone[edit]

  • We have come to the holiest place in Ireland; holier to us even than the place where Patrick sleeps in Down. Patrick brought us life, but this man died for us. And though many before him and some since have died in testimony of the truth of Ireland's claim to nationhood, Wolfe Tone was the greatest of all that have made that testimony, the greatest of all that have died for Ireland whether in old time or in new. He was the greatest of Irish Nationalists. I believe he was the greatest of Irish men.
    • Patrick Pearse, 'An Address delivered at the Grave of Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown Churchyard' (22 June 1913), quoted in Collected Works of Pádraic H. Pearse: Political Writings and Speeches (1966), pp. 53–54
  • We have come here not merely to salute this noble dust and to pay our homage to the noble spirit of Tone. We have come to renew our adhesion to the faith of Tone; to express once more our full acceptance of the gospel of Irish Nationalism which he was the first to formulate in worthy terms. ... he made articulate the dumb voices of the centuries, he gave Ireland a clear and precise and worthy concept of Nationality. But he did more than this: not only did he define Irish Nationalism, but he armed his generation in defence of it. ... To his teaching we owe it that there is such a thing as Irish Nationalism, and to the memory of the deed he nerved his generation to do, to the memory of '98, we owe it that there is any manhood left in Ireland.
    • Patrick Pearse, 'An Address delivered at the Grave of Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown Churchyard' (22 June 1913), quoted in Collected Works of Pádraic H. Pearse: Political Writings and Speeches (1966), pp. 54–56

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