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 Theobald 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 Theobald 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 Theobald 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 Theobald 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 abuses 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 Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume I: Tone's career in Ireland to June 1795 (1998), p. 218
  • [I]t is our principle that if a nation wills a bad government it ought to have that government. We have no power, and we have no right, to force men to be free.
    • The Society of United Irishmen of Dublin to the people of Ireland (3 March 1793), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume I: Tone's career in Ireland to June 1795 (1998), p. 415
  • The war hitherto, however glorious to France, has not been unprofitable to England; her fleets were never more formidable, and, in the true spirit of trade, she will console herself for the disgrace of her arms by land in the acquisition of wealth and commerce and power by sea; but these very acquisitions render it, if possible, incumbent not merely on France but on all Europe to endeavour to reduce her within due limits and to prevent that enormous accumulation of wealth which the undisturbed possession of the commerce of the whole world would give her; and this reduction of her power can be alone, as I presume, accomplished with certainty and effect by separating Ireland from Great Britain.
    • First memorial to the French government on the present state of Ireland (22 February 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 62
  • It is a fact undeniable though carefully concealed in England, that two thirds of the British navy are manned by Irishmen; a circumstance which if it stood alone should be sufficient to determine the French Government to wrest, if possible, so powerful a weapon from the hands of her implacable adversary.
    • First memorial to the French government on the present state of Ireland (22 February 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 62
  • Nothing could exceed the alarm, the terror and confusion which this most unexpected coalition produced in the breasts of the English Government and their partizans, the Protestant aristocracy of Ireland. Every art, every stratagem, was used to break the new alliance and revive the ancient animosities and feuds between the Dissenters and Catholics. Happily such abominable attempts proved fruitless. The leaders on both sides saw that they had but one common interest, as they had but one common country; that while they were mutually contending and ready to sacrifice each other, England profited of their folly to enslave both; and that it was only by a cordial union and affectionate co-operation that they could establish their common liberty and establish the independence of Ireland. They therefore resisted and overcame every effort to disunite them, and in this manner has a spirit of union and regard succeeded to 250 years of civil discord, a revolution in the political morality of the nation of the most extreme importance, and from which, under the powerful auspices of the French Republic, I hope and trust her independence and liberty will arise.
    • First memorial to the French government on the present state of Ireland (22 February 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 64
  • Looked over Paine's Age of reason, 2d part. Damned trash. His wit is without exception the very worst I ever saw. He is discontented with the human figure, which he seems to think is not well constructed for enjoyment. He lies like a dog... He seems to have some hopes that he shall enjoy immortality in the shape of a butterfly. ‘Say little foolish fluttering thing.’ Damn his nonsense! I wish he was a butterfly with all my soul. He has also discovered that a spider can hang from the ceiling by her web, and that a man cannot; and this is philosophy! I think Paine begins to dote.
    • Diary (23 February 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 72. "Say little foolish fluttering thing" are lines from Isaac Bickerstaffe's The Padlock (1768)
  • For one then I am decided. We have at all events the strength of numbers, and if our lever be too short, we must only apply the greater power. If the landing be effected on the present plan, we must instantly have recourse to the strongest revolutionary measures, and put, if necessary, man, woman and child, money, horses & arms, stores and provisions, in requisition. ‘The King shall eat, tho' all mankind be starved.’ No consideration must be permitted to stand a moment against the establishment of our independence. I do not wish for all this, if it can be avoided but liberty must be purchased at any price, so ‘Lay on Macduff, and damned be he that first cries, hold, enough!’ We must strike the ball hard, and take the chance of the tables.
    • Diary (26 February 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 87. "The King shall eat, tho' all mankind be starved" are lines from Henry Carey's Chrononhotonthologos (1734)
  • I humbly submit that England is the implacable, inveterate, irreconcilable enemy of the republic, which never can be in perfect security while that nation retains the dominion of the sea; that in consequence every possible effort should be made to humble her pride and to reduce her power; that it is in Ireland, and in Ireland only, that she is vulnerable—a fact of the truth of which the French Government cannot be too strongly impressed; that by establishing a free republic in Ireland they attach to France a grateful ally whose cordial assistance, in peace and war, she might command and who, from situation and produce, could most essentially serve her.
    • Second memorial to the French government on the present state of Ireland (29 February 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 96
  • [T]he Irish people are prepared and united, and want but the means to begin; that, not to speak of policy or the pleasure of revenge, in humbling to the dust a haughty and implacable rival, it is in itself a great and splendid act of justice worthy of the Republic to rescue a whole people from a slavery under which they have groaned for more than six hundred years; that it is for the glory of France, after emancipating Holland and receiving Belgium into her bosom, to establish one more free republic in Europe; that it is for her interest to cut off, as she now may do, one half of the resources of England and lay her under extreme difficulties in the employment of those which remain. For all these reasons, in the name of justice, of humanity, of liberty, of my own country, and of France, I supplicate the French Government to take into consideration the state of Ireland; and by granting her the powerful aid and protection of the Republic to enable her at once to demonstrate her gratitude, to vindicate her liberty, to humble her tyrant and to assume that independent station among the nations of the earth for which her soil, her productions and her position, her population and her spirit, have designed her.
    • Second memorial to the French government on the present state of Ireland (29 February 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), pp. 96-97
  • [Charles de La Croix]...asked me did I know one Simon, a priest. I answered...that I had a strong objection to letting priests into the business at all; that I had the very worst opinion of them, and that in Ireland especially they were very bigotted and very ignorant, slaves to Rome and of course enemies to the French Revolution.
    • Diary (11 March 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 106
  • 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 Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 107
  • I for one will never be accessory to subjecting my country to the control of France merely to get rid of England.
    • Diary (13 April 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 154
  • 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 Theobald 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 Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 352
  • I do not look upon the French Revolution as a question subject to the ordinary calculation of politics; it is a thing which is to be; and, as all human experience has verified that the new doctrine ever finally subverts the old, as the Mosaic law subverted idolatry, as Christianity subverted the Jewish dispensation, as the Reformation subverted popery, so, I am firmly convinced, the doctrine of republicanism will finally subvert that of monarchy and establish a system of just and rational liberty on the ruins of the thrones of the despots of Europe.
    • An address to the people of Ireland on the present important crisis (22 November 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 377
  • On him who is not convinced by the arguments of Payne, the absurdity of hereditary monarchs and hereditary legislatures where no man would admit of hereditary cob[b]lers who wished to have his shoes well mended, I despair of making any impression.
    • An address to the people of Ireland on the present important crisis (22 November 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 379
  • The aristocracy of Ireland, which exists only by our slavery and is maintained in its pomp and splendor by the sale of our lives, liberties and properties, will tumble in the dust; the people will be no longer mocked with a vain appearance of a parliament over which they have neither influence nor control. Instead of a king representing himself, a house of lords representing themselves, we shall have a wise and honest legislature chosen by the people, whom they will indeed represent and whose interest even for their own sakes they will most strenuously support.
    • An address to the people of Ireland on the present important crisis (22 November 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 385
  • The unnatural union between church and state which has degraded religion into an engine of policy will be dissolved. Tythes, the pest of agriculture, will be abolished, the memory of religious dissensions will be lost when no sect shall have an exclusive right to govern their fellow citizens. Each sect will maintain its own clergy, and no citizen will be disfranchised for worshipping God according to his conscience. To say all in one word, Ireland shall be independent. We shall be a nation, not a province; citizens, not slaves. Every man shall rank in the state according to his merit and his talents.
    • An address to the people of Ireland on the present important crisis (22 November 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 386
  • I have now done, my countrymen, and I do most earnestly beseech you, as Irishmen, as citizens, as husbands, as fathers, by everything most dear to you, to consider the sacred obligation that you are called upon to discharge, to emancipate your country from a foreign yoke, and to restore to liberty yourselves and your children;...remember that you have no alternative between liberty and independence, or slavery and submission; remember the wrongs you have sustained from England for six hundred years and the implacable hatred or still more insufferable contempt which even at this moment she feels for you; look to the nations of the earth emancipating themselves around you. If all this does not rouse you, then are you, indeed, what your enemies have long called you—A BESOTTED PEOPLE! You have now arms in your hands, turn them instantly on your tyrants; remember, if this great crisis escapes you, you are lost forever, and Ireland will go down to posterity branded with...infamy. ... Irishmen...you will embrace your liberty with transport, and for your chains, you will ‘break them on the heads of your oppressors’; you will shew for the honor of Ireland that you have both sensibility to feel and courage to resent and means to revenge your wrongs; one short, one glorious effort and your liberty is established, NOW, OR NEVER; NOW AND FOR EVER!
    • An address to the people of Ireland on the present important crisis (22 November 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), pp. 391-392
  • England has not had such an escape since the Spanish Armada, and that expedition, like ours, was defeated by the weather; the elements fight against us, and courage is here of no avail. Well, let me think no more about it; it is lost, and let it go. I am now a Frenchman and must regulate my future plans accordingly.
    • Diary entry recording the failure of the French expedition to Ireland (26 December 1796), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume II: America, France and Bantry Bay, August 1795 to December 1796 (2001), p. 432
  • I am of opinion—and if ever I have the opportunity I will endeavour to reduce that opinion to practice—that the government of a republic, properly organized and freely and frequently chosen by the people, should be a strong government. It is the interest and the security of the people themselves, and the truest and best support of their liberty, that the government which they have chosen should not be insulted with impunity; it is the people themselves who are degraded and insulted in the persons of their government. I would therefore have strong and severe laws against libels and calomny.
    • Diary (27 April 1797), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 70
  • I much fear the French government will have reason sorely to repent their extravagant caution with regard to infringing the liberty of the press; it is less dangerous for a government to be feared, or even hated, than despised, and I do not see how a government which suffers itself day after day without remission to be insulted in the most outrageous manner with the most perfect impunity can avoid in the long run falling into disrepute and contempt.
    • Diary (27 April 1797), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), pp. 70-71
  • An event has taken place of a magnitude scarce, if it all, inferior in importance to that of the French revolution. The Pope is dethroned and in exile. The circumstances attending this great event are such as to satisfy my mind that there is a special providence guiding the affairs of Europe at this moment, and turning everything to the great end of the emancipation of mankind from the yoke of religious and political superstition.
    • Diary (1 March 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), pp. 208-209
  • The English government has arrested the whole committee of United Irishmen for the province of Leinster, including almost every man I know and esteem in the city of Dublin... It is by far the most terrible blow which the cause of liberty in Ireland has yet sustained... Well, if our unfortunate country is doomed to sustain the unspeakable loss of so many brave and virtuous citizens, woe be to their tyrants if ever we reach our destination! I feel my mind growing every hour more and more savage. Measures appear to me now justified by necessity which six months ago I would have regarded with horror. There is now no medium. Government has drawn the sword and will not recede but to superior force—if ever that force arrives. But it does not signify threatening. Judge of my feelings as an individual, when Emmet and Russell are in prison, and in imminent peril of a violent and ignominious death. What revenge can satisfy me for the loss of the two men I most esteem on earth? Well, once more, it does not signify threatening. If they are sacrificed, and I ever arrive, as I hope to do, in Ireland, it will not go well with their enemies. This blow has completely deranged me—I can scarce write connectedly.
    • Diary (26 March 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), pp. 220-221
  • Alarming as the state of Ireland really and truly is to the English government, I have no doubt on my mind that it is their present policy to exaggerate the danger as much as possible in order to terrify the Irish gentry out of their wits, and, under cover of this universal panic, to crush the spirit of the people and reduce the country to a state of slavery more deplorable than that of any former period of our unfortunate history.
    • Diary (27 April 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 246
  • What miserable slaves are the gentry of Ireland! The only accusation brought against the United Irishmen by their enemies is that they wish to break the connection with England, or in other words to establish the independence of their country, an object in which surely the men of property are most interested. Yet the very sound of independence seems to have terrified them out of all sense, spirit, or honesty. If they had one drop of Irish blood in their veins, one grain of true courage or genuine patriotism in their hearts, they should have been the first to support this great object; the people would have supported them. The English government would never have dared to attempt the measures they have since triumphantly pursued and continue to pursue; our revolution would have been accomplished without a shock, or perhaps one drop of blood spilled, which now will succeed, if it does succeed, only by all the calumities of a most furious and sanguinary contest, for the war in Ireland, whenever it takes place, will not be an ordinary one, the armies will regard each other not as soldiers but as deadly enemies.
    • Diary (27 April 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 247
  • If such men lose, in the issue, their property, they are themselves alone to blame. By deserting the first and most sacred of duties, the duty to their country, they have incurred a wilful forfeiture; by disdaining to occupy the station they might have held among the people and which the people would have been glad to see them fill, they left a vacancy to be seized by those who had more courage, more sense and more honesty; and not only so, but by this base and interested desertion they furnished their enemies with every argument of justice, policy and interest to enforce the system of confiscation... The best that can be said in palliation of the conduct of the English party is that they are content to sacrifice the liberty and independence of their country to the pleasure of revenge and their own personal security. They see Ireland only in their rent rolls, their places, their patronage and their pensions.
    • Diary (27 April 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 248
  • I see in the papers this day the address of General Buonaparte to the army embarked at Toulon, and from one or two expressions contained in it, it seems possible his destination may be for India... [I]f there be no likelihood of an immediate attack on England, I take liberty, thro' you, to make an offer to the Government of my services in India... My first object, undoubtedly, is to assist in the emancipation of my own country; if that cannot be attained my next is to assist in the humiliation of her tyrant, and in whatever quarter of the globe the English government exists, there is our enemy.
    • Letter to General Charles Joseph Kilmaine (26 May 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 263
  • [I read an article] which mentions that Lord Edward Fitzgerald has been arrested in Thomas St., Dublin, after a most desperate resistance, in which himself, the magistrate (one Swan) and Capt[ai]n Ryan, who commanded the guard, were severely wounded. I cannot describe the effect this intelligence had on me; it brought on almost immediately a spasm in my stomach which confined me the whole day. I knew Fitzgerald but very little, but I honor and venerate his character, which he has uniformly sustained and, in this last instance, illustrated. What miserable wretches are the gentry of Ireland beside him! I would rather be Fitzgerald as he is at this moment, wounded, in his dungeon, than Pitt at the head of the British empire. What a noble fellow!
    • Diary (12 June 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 292
  • I dread everything for him [Lord Edward Fitzgerald], and my only consolation is in speculations of revenge. If the blood of this brave young man be shed by the hands of his enemies, it is no ordinary vengeance that will content the people whenever the day of retribution arrives. I cannot express the rage I feel at my own helplessness at this moment, but what can I do! Let me if possible think no more; it sets me half mad.
    • Diary (12 June 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 293
  • [T]he Irish patriots who had suffered so much in their [France's] cause, and who by the number of men they employed, and the quantity of money they had cost England, had served as a powerful diversion in favor of the Republic, without putting her to the expense of one shilling.
    • Diary (16 June 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 299
  • The insurrection has commenced formally in several counties of Leinster, more especially Kildare and Wexford... At Carlow, 400 Irish, it is said, were killed; at Castledermot 50. In return in the Co. Wexford, where appears to be their principal force, they have defeated a party of 600 English, killed 300 men and the commandant, Colonel Walpole, and taken 5 pieces of cannon; this victory, small as it is, will give the people courage and shew them that a red coat is no more invincible then a grey one... From the blood of every one of the martyrs of the liberty of Ireland will spring, I hope, thousands to revenge their fall.
    • Diary (18 June 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), pp. 302-303
  • What will the French government do in the present crisis? After all, their aid appears to be indispensable, for the Irish have no means but numbers and courage—powerful and indispensable instruments, it is true, but which after all require arms and ammunition, and I fear they are but poorly provided with either. They have an army of at least 60,000 disciplined men to contend with, for, to their immortal disgrace and infamy, the militia and yeomanry of Ireland concur with the English tyrant to rivet their country's chains and their own; and, to my great mortification, I see some of my old friends in the number, Griffith and his yeomen, for example, in county Kildare, and Plunkett in the House of Commons. They may be sorry yet for this base prostitution of their character and talents. If ever the day of retribution arrives, as arrive I think it must, they will fall unpitied victims, and thousands of other parricides like them, to the just fury of the people, which it will be impossible to restrain.
    • Diary (18 June 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), pp. 303-304
  • I went to visit the General in chief, Kilmaine... He said...he was sorry...to tell me that he was much afraid the government would do nothing, and he read me a letter from the minister of marine himself...mentioning that in consequence of the great superiority of the naval force of the enemy...the Directory were determined to adjourn the measure until a more favorable occasion. I lost my temper at this and told him that if the affair was adjourned, it was lost, the present crisis must be seized, or it would be too late; that I could hardly hope the Irish, totally unprovided as they were of all that was indispensable for carrying on a war, could long hold out against the resources of England, especially if they saw France make no effort whatsoever to assist them.
    • Diary (20 June 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), pp. 306-307
  • Unhappy victims of the most execrable despotism, you who groan in hideous dungeons, where at every moment you are plunged by the ferocious cruelty of your English tyrants, let hope once more revisit your hearts. Your chains shall be broken. Unfortunate inhabitants who have seen your houses, your property, wrapped in flames by your pitiless enemies, your losses shall be repaired. Rest in peace, gallant and unspotted spirits of Fitzgerald, of Crosbie, of Coigley, of Orr, of Harvey! Your blood, shed for the sacred cause of Liberty, shall cement the independence of Ireland; it circulates in the veins of all your countrymen, and the UNITED REPUBLICANS swear to punish your assassins.
    • Address of General Jean Hardy to the United Irishmen (7 August 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 318
  • On my arrival here, Major Chester informed me that his orders from your Lordship, in consequence, as I presume, of the directions of Government, were that I should be put in irons. I take it for granted those orders were issued in ignorance of the rank I have the honour to hold in the armies of the French Republic... I do protest, in the most precise and strongest manner, against the indignity intended against the honour of the French army in my person; and I claim the rights and privileges of a prisoner of war, agreeably to my rank and situation in an army not less to be respected in all points than any other which exists in Europe. From the situation your Lordship holds under your Government, I must presume you have discretionary power to act according to circumstances, and I cannot for a moment doubt but what I have now explained to your Lordship will induce you to give immediate orders that the honour of the French army be respected in my person; and of course I shall suffer no coercion other than in common with the rest of my brave comrades whom the fortune of war has for the moment deprived of their Liberty.
    • Letter to Major-General the Earl of Cavan (3 November 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 360
  • 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)
  • The fortune of war has thrown me into the hands of Government, and I am utterly ignorant of what fate may attend me, but in the worst event I hope I shall bear it like a man, and that my death will not disgrace my life.
  • Be assured I will die as I have lived, and that you will have no reason to blush for me.
    • Letter to his wife, Matilda Tone (10 November 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 403

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 objectives. 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]

  • Mr Tone is a low, thin, smart man about twenty-six years old, of an animated intelligent countenance, and seems to possess very good abilities. He appeared to have very little reserve, answered every question asked him readily, yet whenever such questions were asked as at all involved his party in Ireland his answers were distorted by uncommon shrewdness, screening his party and aiming at an appearance of plausible sincerity.
    • George Holdcroft (1751?–1810) to unknown (18 September 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), pp. 342-343
  • The trial of the unfortunate Mr Tone came on today... He was dressed as a French officer in a superb and beautiful suit of regimentals and behaved in the most firm and dignified manner. He read his defence which was at once inflammatory and eloquent. He came, he said, to raise three millions of his countrymen to the rank of men! In enterprises of this kind, he continued, success is everything. Washington succeeded! Kosciusko failed! Perfectly aware of the fate that awaited him, he had only one request to make, that as a French officer he might be shot.
    • Grace Joy (1772–1832) to Mary Ann McCracken (10 November 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 406
  • It would be a manifest exaggeration to call him a great man, but he had many of the qualities of mind and character by which, under favourable conditions, greatness has been achieved, and he rises far above the dreary level of commonplace which Irish conspiracy in general presents. The tawdry and exaggerated rhetoric; the petty vanities and jealousies; the weak sentimentalism; the utter incapacity for proportioning means to ends, and for grasping the stern realities of things, which so commonly disfigure the lives and conduct even of the more honest members of his class, were wholly alien to his nature. His judgment of men and things was keen, lucid, and masculine, and he was alike prompt in decision and brave in action... His journals clearly show how time, and experience, and larger scenes of action, had matured and strengthened both his intellect and character. The old levity had passed away. The constant fits of drunkenness that disfigured his early life no longer occur. The spirit of a mere adventurer had become much less apparent. A strong and serious devotion to an unselfish cause, had unquestionably grown up within him, and if he had become very unscrupulous about the means of attaining his end, he at least was prepared to sacrifice to it, not only his life, but also all personal vanity, pretensions, and ambition.
  • [B]y some writings which are said to be his, he appears to be a man of considerable talent. He was tried by a court martial...where I understand he conducted himself with great firmness. He had prepared a speech, part of which he was permitted to deliver, the rest being conceived inflammatory. By that part which he delivered he discovered a superiority of mind which must give to him a degree of sympathy beyond what is given to ordinary criminals.
    • John Moore, diary (16 November 1798), quoted in T. W. Moody, R. B. McDowell and C. J. Woods (eds.), The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763–98, Volume III: France, the Rhine, Lough Swilly and Death of Tone, January 1797 to November 1798 (2007), p. 422
  • 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. ... [H]e 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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