Speech of Theobold Wolf Tone

To His Court-Martial

Saturday, Nov. 10, 1798.

Mr. President and gentlemen of the court-martial, I do not mean that you should waste your time in proving, according to law, that I have borne arms against the king's government in Ireland; I admit the fact. From my tenderest youth I have considered the union of Ireland with Great-Britain as the scourge of the Irish nation. And that the people of this country can have neither happiness nor freedom whilst that connection endures. Every day's experience, and every fact that arose, convinced me of this truth; and I resolved, if I could, to separate the two countries. But as I knew Ireland could not of herself, throw off the yoke, I sought for help wherever I could find it.

Content in honorable poverty, I have refused offers, which to one in my circumstances, might seem magnificent. I remained faithful to the cause of my country, and looked for an ally in the French Republic, to free three millions of my countrymen from

............ Here he was interrupted by the President and Judge Advocate, who observed that this discourse tended not to justify himself so much as to inflame the minds of certain men (United Irishmen) of whom doubtless numbers were present.

Tone.– Unconnected with every party in the republic, without protector, money or intrigue, the frankness and integrity of my views soon raised me to a distinguished rank in the French army. I enjoyed the confidence of the government, the approbation of my general, and I dare assert it, the esteem of my brave comrades. Reflecting upon these circumstances, I feel a confidence, of which no reverse of fortune, nor the sentence which you are so shortly to pronounce, can rob me. If I enrolled myself under the banners of France, it was with the hope of contributing to the salvation of my native land. From that same and single motive, I encountered the dangers of war in a country not my own, and on seas which I knew to be covered with the triumphant fleets of a government whom it was my glory to resist.

I have courted poverty; I have left without a protector a beloved wife; and without a father, children whom I adored. To such and to so many sacrifices, in a cause which my conscience still tells me was a just one, I have little difficulty now to add that of my life.

I hear it said that this country has been a prey to horrors. I lament it, if it is so. But I have been four years absent, and cannot be responsible for individual sufferings. It was by a frank and open war that I proposed to separate the countries. It is unfortunate, that private vengeance on one side or on the other, should have considered itself authorised to mingle its fury in the contest. I grieve for it as much as any other, but I am innocent of all these calamities; and to all those who know anything of my sentiments or character, justification on that head would be very useless. But in vulgar eyes, the merit of the cause is judged by its success. WASHINGTON CONQUERED – KOSKIUSKO FAILED!

After a combat nobly sustained, which would have inspired a sentiment of interest in a generous enemy, to the eternal shame of those who gave the order, I have been dragged hither in chains. I speak not for myself in this. I know my fate right well. But the tone of supplication is beneath me. I repeat it again. I admit all that is alleged against me, touching the separation of Ireland from Great-Britain. Words, writings, actions, I avow them all. I have spoken and I have acted with reflection and on principle; and now with a firm heart I await the consequences. The members who compose this court, will doubtless do their duty, and I shall take care not to be wanting to mine.




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