Wolfe Tone Condemned

Justin McCarthy
Chapter IX | Start of Chapter

The French officers were treated as prisoners of war, but Wolfe Tone made no effort to conceal his identity, and was put on his trial as a rebel. He was tried by court-martial in Dublin, and defended himself in a speech of remarkable eloquence and power. His defence was not a defence in the legal and technical sense of the word, for he acknowledged in his opening sentences that he was an enemy to the Government of King George, and had come over from France to fight for the Independence of Ireland. He declared that he had always understood what the consequences of failure must be to him, that he was prepared to abide by the result, and that he fully understood the difference which history makes between the rebel who succeeds and the rebel who fails. "Washington succeeded and Kosciusko failed," he said; and he insisted that for him as for Kosciusko failure brought no dishonour with it. The only appeal he made to his captors was that as he had been a soldier and wore the uniform of France he might be allowed to die a soldier's death—that he might be shot and not hanged. Tone was found guilty, and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland did not see his way to interfere with the ordinary course of the law by granting his request.