The Irish Rebellion of 1798

A.) The Pre-History of the Rebellion

The vast majority of the population of Ireland was Catholic, and as such excluded from voting as well as running for parliament. Ireland was administered by a small group of Anglican protestants who regarded Catholics as suspicious elements and those who spoke Gaelic as backward elements.
As the late 18th century saw the spread of the ideas of enlightenment and the radical reforms implemented by revolutionaries in France, Irishmen also demanded reforms. In the fall of 1791, the UNITED IRISHMEN were organized in Belfast and Dublin, demanding parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation. In 1792 a CATHOLIC CONVENTION met, addressing its demands to the London government, which, anxious to avoid the French Revolution spreading across the Channel, met all demands except the right for Catholics to sit in parliament.
This Catholic victory was accompanied by a number of acts which were repressive, most of all the MILITIA ACT which placed Catholic Irish militias under protestant officers; a number of Irish activists (DEFENDERS) were persecuted and jailed (1795). The Irish Catholics, lead by THEOBALD WOLFE TONE, were ready to revolt. A first French attempt to land 16,000 troops in Ireland failed in 1796.

B.) The Military Course of Events

The rebels, between 30,000 and 50,000 strong, were strong in two regions - Ulster in the northeast and South Leinster. They opposed government forces c. 76,000 strong. The Ulster rebels were defeated at Antrim and Ballynahinch (June 7th to 9th), the South Leinster rebels at Vinegar Hill on June 21st. A French force of over 1,000 men landing at Killala on August 22nd came too late, and was defeated at Ballinamuck. A last force of United Irishmen was defeated at Ballinamuck, Cty Longford, on October 8th.

C.) The Legacy

The rebellion had cost an estimated 30,000 lives.
In 1800 the ACT OF UNION was passed, creating the UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND. This did not solve the problem of Irish dissatisfaction, as most of the Irish were Catholics, which were excluded from taking seats in parliament (until 1829), as most of the estates were owned by Protestants, who dominated positions in administration, judiciary and education.

Ireland in 1798, website by Sean McGoldrick , many links
The Irish Rebellion of 1798, exhibition at Villanova
The 1798 Rebellion in Ireland, from Ireland Information
The 1798 Rebellion in Ireland, from Revolt Collection
The 1798 Rising, from Irelandseye
The Rebellion of 1798 - Introduction, by Marian Richling
DOCUMENTS "The Sham Squire and the Informers of '98" by William J. Fitzpatrick. 1866, from Dublin At Last
Irish Rebellion, by Jonah Barrington from his 1827 book "Personal Sketches", published in French exile, posted by Dublin at Last

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on January 3rd 2008

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