An Appeal to France

Justin McCarthy
Chapter IX | Start of Chapter

The Irish had for many generations regarded France as the friend of Ireland. The French were proclaiming themselves the champions of oppressed nationalities, and were under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte, who had proved that France could make her power felt throughout the world. Some of the most influential of the United Irishmen were familiar with French society and French statesmen. Lord Edward Fitzgerald had been dismissed from the English army for the part he took in some of the celebrations by which Paris displayed the exuberance of its republican enthusiasm. Lord Edward Fitzgerald was a younger son of the Duke of Leinster, and at an early age received a commission in the English army. He found himself compelled to serve against the American Colonists, with whose struggle for independence he thoroughly sympathized. He became an enthusiast in the national cause of Ireland, and, like most of his political companions, turned hopeful eyes towards France. He was for many years a member of the Irish Parliament, and supported the policy of Grattan. But he became convinced that nothing was to be expected from the Government of George III., and he joined the United Irishmen when they had ceased to put faith in a constitutional movement and were organizing rebellion. He went to France to obtain armed assistance, and returned to Ireland to take part in the work which he expected there.

Theobald Wolfe Tone betook himself to France for the same purpose, and he appears to have succeeded in making a distinct impression on the minds of Carnot, the "organizer of victory," and of Napoleon Bonaparte. Wolfe Tone was a man of remarkable and varied abilities. He had been brought up to the law, had studied in one of the London Inns of Court, and was called to the Bar, but never did much in legal practice. His whole turn of mind was for travel, adventure, and a military life. He appears to have been endowed by Nature with the spirit of a soldier.