1798 Ireland


| 1789 | 1790 | 1791 | 1792 | 1793 | 1794 | 1795 | 1796 | 1797 | 1798 | 1799 |
Quicklinks to tables on this page: (1) Liberty or death. Proclamation by James Napper Tandy; (2) Defender catechism found upon a man hanged at Carrick-on-Shannon; (3) The Negro's Complaint. Thomas Russell's views on slavery; (4) Sentences May to November 1798 and March to December 1799.

(Sources used in compilation of chronology: A new history of Ireland VIII. A chronology of Irish history to 1976. A companion to Irish history Part I, edited by TW Moody, FX Martin, FJ Byrne, 1982; The Man from God Knows Where. Thomas Russell, 1767-1803, Denis Carroll, 1995; Ireland in the age of Imperialism and Revolution, RB McDowell.)

Head Quarters. The first year of Irish Liberty.


What do I hear? The British Government are dared to speak of concessions! Would you accept of them?

Can you think of entering into a treaty with a British Minister? A Minister too, who has left you at the mercy of an English soldiery, who has laid your cities waste, and massacred inhumanely your best Citizens . . . a Minister, the bane of society, and the scourge of mankind . . . behold, Irishmen . . . he holds in his hand the olive of peace; be aware, his other hand lies concealed armed with a poniard. NO, IRISHMEN, no . . . you shall not be the dupes of his base intrigues. Unable to subdue your courage, he attempts to seduce you, let his efforts be vain.

Horrid crimes have been perpetuated in your country. Your friends have fallen a sacrifice to their devotion for your cause. Their shadows are around you and call aloud for Vengeance.

It is your duty to avenge their death. It is your duty to strike on their blood-cemented thrones the murderers of your friends.

Listen to no proposals, IRISHMEN, wage a war of extermination against your oppressors, the war of Liberty against tyranny, and Liberty shall Triumph.


June 26: Whig Club formed in Dublin.

July 14: Fall of Bastille, Paris.


January 19: Catholic Committee resolves to draw up programme to obtain further advantages for Catholics.

February 28: Northern Whig Club inaugurated in Belfast.

July 2: First meeting of George III’s fifth Irish parliament; Theobald Wolfe Tone first makes acquaintance of Thomas Russell, in public gallery of House of Commons. (Probably 2 or 3 July.)

July 10: Gervase Parker Bushe reads to Royal Irish Academy An essay towards ascertaining the population of Ireland in which he computes the population at 4,040,000 on basis of hearth-money returns made in 1788. (Published in Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, iii, 1790.)


January 28: Defenders make violent attacks on family of Alexander Barclay, Protestant schoolmaster, at Forkill near Dundalk. (Defender violence becomes common, especially in north Leinster and south Ulster, 1792-3.)

March 13: Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, Part I (London; Part II, 1792.)

March 14: Deputation from Catholic Committee present petition to Robert Hobart, Chief Secretary.

July 14: Demonstrations in Dublin, Belfast and elsewhere, commemorating fall of Bastille.

August circa 22: Theobald Wolfe Tone’s An argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland (Anon, Dublin; 2 edition, ? Belfast, 1791; revised edition, Dublin, 1792.)

October: Prospectus issued for the National Journal, the projected paper of the Dublin Society of United Irishmen. Due to be launched in January 1792 with Thomas Russell as editor the paper would seek "to unite and emancipate All the People of Ireland" and would serve "the party of the people". (The project failed after a few issues. Russell was not the editor.)

October 14: Society of United Irishmen founded in Belfast; chairman, Samuel McTier, secretary, James Napper Tandy.

October 18: Inaugural public meeting of the United Irishmen takes place in Belfast. Twenty-eight people approve a declaraction of the societies objectives -- the central grievance being that Ireland had 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 . . ."

November 9, 1791: James Napper Tandy convenes inaugural meeting of Dublin Society of United Irishmen at the Eagle Tavern, Eustace Street. Chairman Simon Butler, secretary Napper Tandy. Dublin society meets on alternate Fridays, normally at the Music Hall, Fishamble Street.

November 26: First convicts from Ireland arrive aboard Queen in New South Wales.

December 22, 1791: Thomas Russell appointed as a magistrate in Tyrone and as Seneschal to the Manor Court of Dungannon with jurisdiction through some 40 parishes, giving Russell position similar to District Justice in contemporary juridical organisation. (One of his duties was to administer oaths -- for example, where people wished to join the army or militia.)

December 27: Secessions from Catholic Committee of Viscount Kenmare and 67 others.
'Are you concerned?'
'I am.'
'To what?'
'To the National Convention.'
'What do you design by that cause?'
'To quell all nations, dethrone all kings, and to plant the true religion that was lost at the Reformation.'
'Who sent you?'
'Simon Peter, the head of the Church.

-- Defender catechism found upon a man hanged at Carrick-on-Shannon.


January 4: First number of Northern Star, organ of United Irishmen in Belfast; editor Samuel Neilson.

February 18: Edmund Burke’s A letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe, bart, MP, on the subject of the Roman Catholics of Ireland (Dublin.)

February 20: Petition of Catholic Committee for parliamentary franchise and other concessions rejected by House of Commons by 208 to 25.

April 18: Catholic Relief Act (32 George III, c.21 – Sir Hercule’s Langrishe’s act), allows Catholics to practise as lawyers.

July 12: Belfast Volunteers present address to Charlemont in favour of Catholic enfranchisement.

July 14: Bastille Day celebrated in Falls area of Belfast. Implicit pro-Catholic resolutions, proposed by Tone, accepted by the convention, despite attempts to incite anti-catholic feeling among Volunteer corps from the countryside, primarily County Down. Down Volunteers leave celebrations early.

July 25: Tone formally appointed agent and assistant secretary of Catholic Committee.

October 15, 1792: Russell relinquishes magistracy in Tyrone. (The journal of the House of Commons gives the date as February 15, 1793.) Appointment as Seneschal also relinquished during autumn.

December 3-8: Catholic convention in Tailor’s Hall, Back Lane, Dublin; elects five members to present petition to King, 7 December.

December circa 10 to circa 18: Catholic delegates accompanied by Tone, travel from Dublin to London, via Belfast, Donaghadee and Portpatrick, with petition to King; their coach is drawn through Belfast by sympathisers (12 December).

December 14: Dublin Society of United Irishmen issues declaration to Volunteers: ‘Citizen soldiers, to arms!’, favouring revival of volunteering in preference to establishment of militia, and advocating holding of another Volunteer convention on anniversary of that of 1782.

December 21: Friends of the Constitution, Liberty and peace formed in Kings Inn Tavern, Dublin; president Duke of Leinster, secretary Richard Griffith; Whig membership includes Grattan.


January: Proprietors of the Northern Star and its printer, John Rabb, charged with sedition. (Star had a circulation of 5,000 at its height.)

January 2: Catholic delegates present petition to George III.

January 11: Dublin Society of United Irishmen appoints 21-man committee to prepare plan of parliamentary reform. Committee members include Simon Butler, James Napper Tandy, Thomas Russell, William Drennan, Theobald Wolfe Tone, Oliver Bond and Archibald Rowan.

January 21: Execution of Louis XVI, attended by l’Abbé Henry Edgeworth de Firmont.

February 1: France declares war on Britain and Holland.

February 4: Hobart, Chief Secretary, introduces Catholic relief bill. (See 9 April.)

February 15-16: Ulster provincial convention of Volunteers at Dungannon.

February 25: Act (33 George III, c.2) to prevent importation of arms and ammunition and their movement without licence.

March 11: Proclamation effectively suppressing Volunteers in Ulster.

March 21: French forces defeated at Neerwinden.

April 9: Catholic Relief Act (33 George III, c.21 – Hobart’s act), extending parliamentary franchise to Catholics, enabling them to hold civil and military offices not specifically excepted, and removing statuary bar to university degrees.

Militia Act (33 George III, c.22), establishing militia at strength of 14,948 (increased to 21,660 by 35 George III c.8, 15 April, 1795.)

April 13: Committee of Dublin Society of United Irishmen agree principal recommendations for plan of refrom. They include calls for universal suffrage, yearly parliaments and payment of members of parliament. Committee hesitant about abolition of property qualification for electoral franchise -- a majority of two were in favour of such a move. (General publication of the plan deferred until 1794.)

June: Col. Eleazer Oswald, agent of French revolutionary government, secretly visits Ireland.

June 27: Synod of Ulster at Lurgan approves declaration in favour of parliamentary reform.

June 28: 'Serious scuffle' (Russell) between residents of Castlereagh and a detachment of dragoons. Several people die.

August 16: Convention Act (33 George III, c.29) prohibits assemblies purporting to represent the people under pretence of preparing or presenting petitions to the king or to parliament.

Place Act (33 George III, c.41) disqualifies holders of certain government offices and pensions from membership of House of Commons.

August 30: Letter in Northern Star by Thomas Russell (signed 'E') dismisses all potential of Whigs to carry out reform.
November 5, 1794


Trembling, naked, wounded, sighing,
On this winged house I stand;
Which, with poor black man is flying
Far away from his own land.

Fearful waters all around me;
Strange the sights on every hand;
Hurry, noise, and shouts confound me,
When I look for Negro land.

Everything I see, affrights me;
Nothing I can understand:
With their scourges, white men fight me,
If I weep for Negro land.

Here, in chains, we black men lie;
Placed so thick, they on us stand:
With heat, and wounds, and grief we die –
‘Twas not thus in Negro land.

There we’d room, and air, and freedom;
There our little dwellings stand;
Families, and rice to feed them:
Oh! We weep for Negro land.

Joyful, then, before the doors,
Play’d our children, hand in hand:
Fresh the fields, and sweet the flowers,
Green the hills in Negro land.

There my black love’s arms were round me;
They, whose might, not like this band,
Gently held, but did not wound me:
Oh! I die for Negro land.

There I often go, when sleeping;
See my kindred round me stand;
Hear them talk, -- their mothers weeping,
That I’m torn from Negro land.

The cruel traders stole and sold me;
Confin’d me with this iron band:
When I’m dead, they cannot hold me;
Soon I’ll flee to black man’s land.

"An impressive feature of Thomas Russell's stance on freedom is its universal sweep. Along with his friend, Thomas McCabe, Russell made clear his anti-slavery views on more that one occasion. While at Dungannon he drew impassioned attention to the abuse in the Northern Star on March 17, 1792. An editorial comment took the less generous view -- agreeing with Russell but pointing out the immediate necessity to liberate three million slaves in Ireland [The Catholics -- Ed 1798 Ireland]. Russell did not make that distinction. As a veteran anti-slavery campaigner, Mary Ann McCracken remembered that as a young officer in Belfast Russell 'abstained from the use of slave labour produce until slavery in the West Indies was abolished, and at the dinner parties to which he was so often invited and when confectionery was so much used he would not take anything with sugar in it . . .' It is argued by Seamus Mac Giolla Easbaig that Russell authored a letter, singed 'G', published by the Belfast Newsletter on December 2, 1791. With graphic detail, the letter outlined the abuse of human rights invloved in slavery. Analysing the interests subserved by the practice, 'G' reminded the readership that slavery existed for the sole purpose 'of contribuiting to th eluxury and avarice of Europeans'. 'G' then cited with approval another writer -- 'On every lump of sugar I see a drop of human blood'. With that strain of religious feeling notably Russell's 'G' put it: 'the blood of the Africans cries to God for the vengeance of these wrongs'. It was, wrote 'G', the slave traders who had 'introduced the vices of Europe, fraud, subtility and ingratitude among them (the victim countries) . . . war and desolation over-run their once happy countries'."
Denis Carroll, The Man from God Knows Where. Thomas Russell, 1767-1803, 1995.


January 29: Archibald Hamilton Rowan, United Irishman, tried on charge of distributing seditious paper (see 14 December, 1792) and sentenced to fine of £500 and imprisonment for two years. (See 2 May.)

February 15: United Irishmen’s plan of parliamentary reform published in Dublin Evening Post. (In Northern Star 20 February.)

March 1: Statutes of Dublin University amended to allow Catholics to take degrees.

March 4: George Ponsonby’s parliamentary reform bill introduced in House of Commons and defeated by 142 to 44.

April 14: George Arthur Dillon guillotined in France.

April 28: Rev William Jackson, agent of French revolutionary government, arrested in Dublin on charge of high treason (suicide, 30 April, 1795.)

May 2: Rowan escapes from custody, eventually making his way to France and then America.

May 23: United Irishmen suppressed. Dublin United Irish Scoiety's premises at Tailors Hall raided, and on the instigation of th einformer Thomas Collins, its papers seized. The Dublin Society's upper class membership takes fright. The popular base of the Belfast Society makes suppression less effective.

June 25: William Drennan tried for seditious libel and acquitted.

July 27-28: Fall and death of Maximilien de Robespierre; Thermidorian reaction in France.

Northern United Irish Society's compose oath to be taken by members. (Tone and Russell had opposed the requirement of an oath for the Dublin Society in 1791.) Oath speaks of "an equal, full and adequate representation of all the people of Ireland". Society becomes a mass-based secret society.

November 3-9: Thomas Russell notes in his journal that young men were becoming involved in the Belfast United Irish Society who were "far more violent than the others" and who felt the older leaders were "not ready enough for the field".

December 23: Catholic meeting in Dublin appoints committee of nine to prepare petitions to parliament for repeal of remaining penal laws.

December 27: French invade Holland.


January 24: Protestants of Belfast petition parliament for repeal of all penal and restrictive statutes against Catholics (petition presented, 2 February.)

February 12: Grattan introduces Catholic relief bill in House of Commons.

May 5: House of Commons rejects Grattan’s Catholic relief bill, by 155 to 84.

May 10: United Irishmen of Ulster secretly meet in Belfast and adopt new constitution.

May 24: New constituition for United Irish Society accepted by existing clubs.

June 5: ‘Act for the better education of persons professing the popish or Roman Catholic religion’ (35 George III, c.21), providing for establishment of Catholic Seminary. (See circa 1 October, 1795, 20 April, 1796.)

June 13: Tone embarks at Belfast for USA.

September 7: Lawrence O’Connor, schoolmaster and Defender leader, hanged at Naas, Co Kildare.

September 21: ‘Battle of the Diamond’ near Loughgall, Co Armagh, between Peep o’ Day Boys and Defenders leading to foundation of orange Order.

October circa 1: Catholic seminary, Royal College of St Patrick, opened at Maynooth, Co Kildare.

End of 1795-1796: Links develop between United Irishmen and Defenders. The "plan of union" (James Hope) was conceived by Samuel Neilson and Charles Teeling, a Catholic merchant from Lisburn. These links develop to the stage where members of either group are recognised as members of the other. The merger creates "the great establishment nightmare of the eighteenth century -- the Jacobinising of the secret societies". (Kevin Whelan, 'The United Irishmen, the Enlightment and Popular Culture', in Dickson, Keogh and Whelan, The United Irishmen. Republicanism, Radicalism and Rebellion.)


February 1: Tone arrives in France from USA.

March 24: Act (36 George III, c.2) removes tax on beer and increases tax on malt. (Stimulates Irish brewing industry.)

Insurrection Act (36 George III, c.20) provides death penalty for administrating illegal oath, and imposes curfew and arms searches on districts proclaimed by government as disturbed. Act gives magistrates power "of seizing, imprisoning and sending on board the fleet without trial anyone found at unlawful assemblies or acting so as to threaten the public tranquility". ("The sectarian intent of these measures is disclosed by the desposition of an Armagh magistrate, Nathaniel Alexander: in the aftermath of Orange attacks on Catholic homes in late 1796, this magistrate reported that the Catholics were the aggressors having burned their own homes because of arrears in rent." -- Denis Caroll, The Man from God Knows Where.)

April 20: First stone of new buildings of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, laid by Camden Lord Lieutenant.

July 12: Orange parades in Lurgan, Waringstown, and Portadown.

August: Arthur O’Connor and General Lazare Hoche meet clandestinely in France and discuss possible United Irish support for intended French invasion of Ireland.

September 12: Thomas Russell’s A letter to the people of Ireland on the present situation of the country, (Belfast). Russell's central theme is the necessity for union among Irishmen of all religious backgrounds. Relief of Catholic grievances was lost not because Protestants were ungenerous but because excessive trust had been placed in "men of the first lordly and landed interests in ireland who shamefully and meanly deserted the people". When, as in 1793, Catholic demands were insistently pressed, the Whigs entered common cause with the government against the Catholics. "No persons reviled the Rights of Man or the French Revolution, or gabbled more about anarchy, and confusion, and mobs, and United Irishmen, and Defenders, and Volunteers, or coincided more heartily in strengthening the hands of that government which they had opposed, and reviting the chains of the people . . . that the gentlemen of the opposition." The aristocracy were "fungus productions who grow out of a diseased state of society and destroy as well the vigour and the beauty of that which nourishes them". Slavery was the issue of "the greatest consequence on the face of the earth". The slave trade created barbarism and misery; it prevented the spread of civilisation and religion. It was "a system of cruelty, torment, wickedness and infamy . . . the work of wicked demons rather than men". He concluded: "The great object of mankind should be to consider themselves as accountable for their actions to God alone, and to pay no regard or obedience to any men or instituition, which is not conformable to his will." The pamphlet was signed "Thomas Russell, an United Irishman".

September 16: Offices of Northern Star raided. Russell, Samuel Neilson, and several others with French sympathies arrested in Belfast on charges of high treason. Among those arrested: Rowley Osborne and Samuel Kennedy of the Jacobin Club, John Young, Henry Haslet, Daniel Shanahan, Charles Teeling, Samuel Mulgrave and James Bartley. William Orr, later executed, is arrested at his home outside Belfast. (The next issue of the Northern Star describes the raids as "a contemptible invasion of the peace".) On arrest the prisoners are brought to Dublin. Each man is transported in a seperate post-chaise. Four troops of cavalry and two King's messengers travell with them.

September 17: Men arrested in Belfast arrive in Dublin. Russell, Musgrave, Young and Shanahan placed in Newgate prison. Neilson, Haslett, Kennedy, Darley and Teeling placed at Kilmainham.

September 18: Prisoners brought before Judge Boyd for committal. Charged with High Treason. Prisoners continue to be held without bail or trial.

October 17: Grattan’s motion in House of Commons in favour of admitting Catholics to parliament defeated by 143 to 19.

October 26: Habeas Corpus Suspension Act (37 George III, c.1) (Continued by 38 George III, c.14, [24 March, 1798] to 1 June 1799.

December 22-7: French invasion fleet, with troops and Tone on board, in Bantry Bay, Co Cork; landing prevented by bad weather.


March 13: General Gerard Lake’s proclamation ordering handing-in of arms in Ulster.

May 10: Outbreak of naval mutiny at the Nore, in Thames estuary.

May 19: Presses of Belfast Northern Star broken up by Monaghan militia.

June 4: Orange lodge formed in Dublin.

September 4: Coup d’état of 18 Fructidor; conservative reaction in France.

September 28: First number of The Press; editor Arthur O’Connor.

October 11: Battle of Camperdown: British naval victory, crippling Dutch fleet and removing prospect of French invasion of Ireland from Holland.

October 14: William Orr, United Irishman, hanged at Carrickfergus.

November 10: Sir Ralph Abercromby appointed commander-in-chief in Ireland. (Declares army in Ireland to be "in a state of licentiousness which must render it formidable to every one but the enemy", 26 February 1798.)


February 10: Fall of Rome to French army, leading to expulsion and subsequent arrest of Pope Pius Vi.

March 12: Police raid meeting of Leinster directory of United Irishmen at Oliver Bond’s house at Dublin, arresting 12 leaders; four others arrested elsewhere; all but two members of supreme executive thus arrested.

March 30: Privy Council proclamation declaring Ireland in state of rebellion and imposing martial law.

April 19-21: Earl of Clare’s visitation of Trinity College and purge of United Irishmen; 19 expelled.

April 25: Lake succeeds Abercromby as commander-in-chief in Ireland.

May 17-18: Meetings of new national directory of United Irishmen.

May 19: Lord Edward Fitzgerald arrested. (Dies from wound, 4 June.)

May 21-2: Trial at Maidstone, Kent of Arthur O’Connor and Rev James Quigley, United Irishmen; former acquitted of treason but re-arrested, latter convicted and sentenced to death. (Hanged, 7 June.)

May 23-4: United Irish rebellion begins in Leinster.

May 26: Insurgents defeated at Tara, Co Meath.

May 27: Battle of Oulart Hill, Co Wexford; detachment of North Cork militia and local yeomanry almost annihilated.

May 29: 350 insurgents killed at Curragh, Co Kildare, by troops under Sir James Duff.

May 30 - June 21: Wexford town occupied by insurgents.

June 5: Insurgents routed at New Ross, Co Wexford, after heavy fighting; massacre of Protestants by insurgents at nearby Scullabogue.

June 6: Rebellion breaks out in Ulster: Henry Joy McCracken issues proclamation calling United Irishmen in Ulster to arms.

June 7: United Irishmen, led by McCracken, attack Antrim Town and are repulsed with heavy loss. (McCracken executed in Belfast, 17 July>)

June 9: Wexford insurgents, advancing towards Dublin, repulsed at Arklow.

June 13: United Irishmen led by Henry Monro defeated at Ballynahinch, Co Down. (Monro executed at Lisburn, 15 June.)

June 21: Wexford insurgents defeated at Vinegar Hill, near Enniscorthy.

July 14: John and Henry Sheares executed.

August 4: Thomas Addis Emmet, Arthur O’Connor, and William James MacNeven deliver to government their ‘Memoir or detailed statement of the origin and progress of the Irish Union’ (on United Irish movement).

August 7-14: Examination of MacNeven, O’Connor, Neilson, TA Emmet and Bond by secret committee of House of Lords.

August 22: French force of about 1,000 under General Jean Humbert lands at Kilcumin, near Killala, Co Mayo.

August 27: British troops surprised and routed by Humbert at Castlebar, Co Mayo – ‘Castlebar races’.

September 8: Humbert surrenders to Cornwallis at Ballinamuck, Co Longford.

September 16: Small French force under James Napper Tandy makes brief landing on Rutland Island, Co Donegal.

October 6: Grattan removed from Irish Privy Council on groundless charge of being a sworn member of United Irishmen.

Banishment Act (38 George III, c.78) pardons named individuals concerned in rebellion, subject to banishment; return to British dominions or passage to country at war with Britain prohibited.

Fugitives Act (38 George III, c.78) calls on rebels to surrender on pain of being attainted of high treason.

October 12-20: French invasion squadron under Admiral JBF Bompart engaged outside Lough Swilly by British squadron under Sir John Borlase Warren; seven of ten French ships captured (Tone arrested on landing at Buncrana, Co Donegal, 3 November.)

November 10: Tone tried and convicted by court martial in Dublin; sentenced to be hanged.

November 19: Tone dies from self-inflicted wound in provost-marshal’s prison, Dublin barracks.
Sentences May to November 1798 and March to December 1799. (Source. RB McDowell Ireland in the age of Imperialism and Revolution. NB Figures are for judicial punishment only.)
May to Nov 1798Mar to Dec 1799
UlsterRest of IrelandAll Ireland
Corporal punishment671524
Securities or Acquitted7583152


January 17-19: Catholic bishops in Dublin secretly adopt resolutions in favour of State remuneration of clergy and government veto on nomination of bishops.

January 23: House of Commons rejects, by 106 votes to 105, George Ponsonby’s motion in favour of continued legislative independence.

March 25: Suppression of Rebellion Act (39 George III, c.11) empowering Lord Lieutenant to authorise trial by court martial. (Continued by successive acts until 1805.)

April 9: Arrival of William Steel Dickson, Thomas Addis Emmet, William James MacNeven, Samuel Neilson, Arthur O’Connor, Thomas Russell, Robert Simms. John Sweetman and 11 other leading United Irishmen for internment at Fort George, Inverness-shire.

July 1: Thomas Bray, catholic archbishop of Cashel, assures Archbishop Troy that he will co-operate in influencing Catholics to support union.

September 29: Tandy and other Irish political prisoners in Hamburg handed over to British authorities.

November 9-10: Coup d’etát of 18-19 Brumaire brings Napoleon Bonaparte to power as First Consul in France.

1798 Homepage