Best Irish FactsFacts on Ireland and the Irish

Theobald Wolfe Tone

Theobald Wolfe ToneTheobald Wolfe Tone was born on 20 June, 1763 at 27, St Bride’s Street, Dublin.

The family moved to 44, Stafford Street.

Stafford Street is now known as Wolfe Tone Street.

He was born into a middle-class Protestant family.

His father was Peter Tone.

His mother was Margaret Lamport.

She was a Catholic who converted to Protestantism.

Wolfe Tone was the eldest of sixteen children.

He attended school in Dublin and entered Trinity College in 1781.

He was suspended for one year when a student was killed in duel in which he was involved.

He graduated from Trinity College in 1786.

He married Martha Witherington on 21 July, 1785.

His preferred name for her was Matilda.

He moved to London in 1787, leaving his wife and young child in Dublin, to enrol as a law student of the Middle Temple.

He returned to Ireland in 1788 and was called to the Bar in 1789.

In 1790 he met and befriended Thomas Russell.

Russell was an army Officer who had been stationed in Belfast.

Russell had formed many radical ideas while stationed in Belfast.

It was Russell’s influence that steered Wolfe Tone in the direction of Republican Separatism.

He asked Wolfe Tone to propose some resolutions for a Volunteer parade in Belfast on 14 July, 1791.

In a letter to Russell in July, 1791 he stated that the “bane of Irish prosperity is the influence of England”.

A copy of the letter found its way to the authorities in Dublin Castle.

He proposed three resolutions:

That English influence in Ireland was a great grievance to the country.

That the most effectual way to oppose it was to reform Parliament.

That no reform could be just or efficacious which did not include Catholics.

The final resolution was not accepted and he resolved to become a “red hot Catholic”.

In August, 1791 he wrote the pamphlet, “An argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland”.

When the pamphlet was published Wolfe Tone was invited to Belfast to take part in the setting up of a new political movement.

The Society of United Irishmen held its first meeting on 18 October, 1791.

On 9 October, 1791 the Dublin Society of United Irishmen was convened.

On 1 February, 1793 war was declared with France.

In April, 1794 an English clergyman of Irish parentage, William Jackson, arrived in Ireland.

He was a secret agent in the service of France sounding out the prospects of a French invasion of Ireland.

A meeting was arranged which included Wolfe Tone.

On 28 April, 1794 William Jackson was arrested and charged with high treason.

Wolfe Tone entered into a deal with Dublin Castle in which he would confirm the intentions of Jackson’s mission to Ireland.

In return he would not stand trial and would leave the country.

On 13 June, 1795 he set sail from Belfast for America with his family.

Before leaving Belfast he met with some of the United Irishmen where he declared his intention to travel from America to France for assistance.

On 1 January, 1796 he sailed from New York to Le Havre arriving in Paris on 15 February, 1796.

The French were already committed to sending an invasion force to Ireland.

In July, 1796 Wolfe Tone was appointed a Brigadier-General in the army of General Lazare Hoche.

On 16 December, 1796 he was on board a French ship that sailed with an invasion force of 14,500 to Ireland.

The fleet reached Bantry Bay on 22 December, 1796 but bad weather prevented a landing.

The fleet had to return to France.

Wolfe ToneIn December, 1797 he had several meetings with Napoleon Bonaparte who was non-committal on the idea of an invasion of Ireland.

While stationed at Le Havre in June, 1798 he learned of the United Irishmen Rebellion.

The French immediately put together an invasion fleet consisting of two separate forces.

Wolfe Tone sailed with the second force but the ship on which he was sailing was captured.

He was taken ashore at Buncrana, Co. Donegal on 3 November, 1798 where he was recognised by a former classmate at Trinity College.

He was taken to Dublin and tried by court-martial on 10 November, 1798.

He was found guilty and sentenced to death.

He pleaded to be shot but was sentenced to be hanged and beheaded and his head displayed in a prominent place.

The Lord Lieutenant waived the severing and displaying of his head.

BodenstownA few of his friends from the Irish Bar won him a stay of execution but it was learned that he had cut his own throat.

He died on 19 November, 1798 at the age of 35.

His last words were, “What should I wish to live for?”

Theobald Wolfe Tone was buried in Bodenstown Graveyard, Co. Kildare on 21 November, 1798.


"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".

Theobald Wolfe Tone

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