On This Day

Wolfe Tone

Irish Republican and Revolutionary Wolfe Tone

Full Name: Theobald Wolfe Tone
Profession: Irish Republican and Revolutionary

Nationality:
Ireland
Irish

Why Famous: Wolfe Tone was an Irish nationalist and revolutionary who sought French assistance in achieving independence for Ireland. Notably he was a Protestant, and sought religious unity in achieving this aim which had long been thwarted by tensions between the Catholic and Protestant factions.

When the French support after many difficulties finally arrived, it was far short of what would have been necessary and the domestic rebellion also fell short. Tone was captured aboard the ship 'Hoche,' named after his French benefactor, General Louis Lazare Hoche.

Tone was charged and convicted for his part in attempting to procure the forceful separation of Ireland from England. This was particularly aggravated by his entering into the service of the French Republic in order to acquire an ally. Throughout the trial, he defended his actions as just and appropriate: "I entered into the service of the French Republic with the sole view of being useful to my country. To contend against British Tyranny, I have braved the fatigues and terrors of the field of battle; I have sacrificed my comfort, have courted poverty, have left my wife unprotected, and my children without a father. After all I have done for a sacred cause, death is no sacrifice."

While Tone requested to be shot, so as to "die the death of a soldier," he was sentenced to death by hanging, as would befit a common criminal. Before this sentence could be carried out, however, he was found dead by a single shot through his neck—either suicide or perhaps by request of some compatriot among those guarding him.

Tone has since been remembered by Irish nationalists as an important figure, particularly notable for his emphasis on religious unity as the path to freedom: "To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissentions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman in the place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter—these were my means."

Born: June 20, 1763
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Star Sign: Gemini

Died: November 19, 1798 (aged 35)
Cause of Death: Unclear, possible shot on the day he was due to be hanged

Historical Events

  • 1798-08-22 French troops land in Kilcummin harbour in County Mayo, Ireland, to aid Wolfe Tone's United Irishmen's Irish Rebellion
  • 1798-11-08 Irish revolutionary Wolfe Tone is sentenced to death by hanging for his part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Tone requests to be shot instead so as to die a soldier's death.

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