THE BATTLE OF VINEGAR HILL 1798 (G3b)
xxxxxAs we have seen, following protests led by the Irish patriot Henry Grattan in 1780 (G3a), in 1782 the British government repealed much of Poynings’ Law, and made further concessions in 1793. However, in 1794 the ardent patriot Wolfe Tone (1763-
xxxxxAs we have seen, following the demand for a greater measure of Irish independence, made by the able politician Henry Grattan in 1780 (G3a), and given weight to by the Irish Volunteers -
xxxxxHowever, catholic emancipation remained a burning issue, and, politically, the executive authority still remained in the hands of the British parliament. Many there were, including the ardent patriot Wolfe Tone (1763-
xxxxxIn 1793, the British government, anxious to win over the loyalty of Roman Catholics, gave the franchise to the better-
xxxxxStill confident that help would arrive, in May 1798 the United Irishmen rose up in revolt across eleven counties. Only in County Wexford in the south, however, did the rebellion pose a real threat. Here the rebels put up a particularly brave fight, and at one time looked like taking Dublin. Insufficiently armed, however, they were no match for the regular forces of the crown, and eventually their 20,000 strong army was soundly defeated at the Battle of Vinegar Hill, just outside Wexford. In the meantime a French force of some 1,000 men had managed to land in Killala Bay, but arrived too late to make a positive contribution. Following the Battle of Vinegar Hill (illustrated), the crown forces won a series of battles across the country. The rebellion crumbled and the organisation of United Irishmen was broken up, having lost about 30,000 of its members. Tone, its most colourful leader, was captured off Donegal in a French vessel which was making for the Irish coast. He was found guilty of treason, but determined not to be hanged as a common traitor, cut his own throat while awaiting execution.
xxxxxDuring his trail he defended his actions with the following statement:
From my earliest youth I have regarded the connection between Ireland
and Great Britain as the curse of the Irish nation; I felt convinced that,
whilst it lasted, this country could never be free or happy.
xxxxxIronically, the revolt he did so much to kindle in 1798, having failed, led directly to an even closer liaison between the two countries. As we shall see, British policy was to bring about the union of the Irish and British parliaments just three years later in January 1801.
xxxxxIncidentally, Rouse Hill near Sydney, Australia, was once called Vinegar Hill. It was here that convicts were captured during the Castle Hill Rising of 1804, and it was named Vinegar Hill as an allusion to the defeat of Irish rebels six years earlier.
Tone: by his daughter-