Creator(s): Tone, Theobald Wolfe, 1763-1798, United Irishman
Administrative History ↴
Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763–98), United Irishman, political publicist, diarist, and French army officer, was born 20 June 1763 in 27 St Bride's St., just behind Dublin Castle, but the family soon moved to 44 Stafford St. (now Wolfe Tone St.) where he spent his childhood. Tone was born into a modest, middle-class protestant family, the eldest of sixteen children, only five of whom survived infancy besides himself. He studied law at Trinity College, Dublin and after graduating in 1786 turned his focus to politics. In October 1791 Tone founded, in conjunction with Thomas Russell (1767–1803), Napper Tandy and others, the Society of the United Irishmen penning its declaration calling for ‘AN EQUAL REPRESENTATION OF ALL THE PEOPLE IN PARLIAMENT’.
At this time, relations between Britain and revolutionary France were at breaking-point and war was declared on 1 February 1793. In view of the coming war, the British government had considered it vital to conciliate the catholics of Ireland. Tone, however, denounced the relief offered as ‘partial and illusory’. With the outbreak of war with France, Dublin Castle instituted a crackdown on Irish reformers who had professed admiration for the French, and by the end of the year the United Irishmen and the reform movement were in disarray. In quick succession, the Volunteers were proscribed, the holding of elected conventions was banned, and a number of United Irishmen, notably Archibald Hamilton Rowan and William Drennan, were hauled before the courts on charges of seditious libel. Moreover, Tone's personal situation showed no signs of improvement.
Wolfe Tone was permitted political exile in America in 1795 and was sent to France where he joined the army in the following year. His secret negotiations with the French resulted in his return to Ireland with a French invasion force where he was captured by British forces at Lough Swilly in Donegal taken prisoner and tried for treason for his involvement in the 1798 Irish Rebellion. He made no attempt to disavow his guilt: on the contrary, he freely acknowledged the facts to be as claimed by the prosecution (though he baulked at the word ‘traitor’), and he only sought in return to read an address to the court. This declared that he had always been a separatist, that he had indeed enlisted in the enemy's army with a view to winning French assistance for his project. He ended with a plea to be shot – like those French royalists taken at Quiberon in 1794 – rather than hanged. His request, however, was denied, and he was sentenced to die the death of a traitor in two days’ time. On 19 November 1798 Tone died; he was 35 years old; his last words were ‘What should I wish to live for?’ He was buried in Bodenstown graveyard, Co. Kildare, on 21 November 1798.
Source: Theobald Wolfe Tone by Thomas Bartlett, Irish Dictionary of National Biography
Archival History ↴
Bequeathed by Miss Katherine Anne Maxwell (Tone's great-granddaughter), Co. of Dorchester, N.Y., U.S.A. who also bequeathed his bust (Long Room) and death mask (since Jan. 1976, held in MSS Strong Room, previously in skull room off the Dissecting Room, Dept. of Anatomy).
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: Tone, Theobald Wolfe, 1763-1798, United Irishman ↴
The collection consists of diaries, correspondence and autobiographical papers of Theobald Wolfe Tone.
Appraisal Destruction ↴
The collection is arranged according to the order in which it was received
Conditions of Access & Use
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A full descriptive list can be consulted in the Manuscripts and Archives Research Library, Trinity College Dublin
Archive Web Link →
Manuscripts and Archives Research Library, Trinity College Dublin holds further related material: TCD MSS 3805-3807. See also correspondence with Miss Maxwell in MUN/P/54/34.
The Trinity College Library legacy numbering system applied multiple numbers to single fonds.
Descriptive Control Area
Natalie Milne, February 2014.
ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottowa: International Council on Archives, 2000. National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names. Chippenham: National Council on Archives, 1997.