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Who's Who of 1798

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Some of the consequences of the 1798 rebellion lasted for a very long time in Ireland. In the immediate years after the rebellion, some parts of the country were struck by famine as crops were destroyed during the rebellion or were left unharvested as many peasants that would harvested those crops were either in jail, dead or on the run from the British. Many farms had lost livestock such as cattle, sheep and pigs to the various armies that crossed the country as the soldiers ate what they could find on their march. Over a dozen towns were totally destroyed and for a decade after the rebellion, large towns had bands of widows and orphans of dead rebels begging in the street.

The best estimate of casualties of the rebellion is believed to be at least 30,000 casualties. Although some writers claimed 70,000 was a more accurate number.

The defeat of the French navy at the Battle of the Nile (Egypt) in August 1798 meant that the crack French troops of Napoleon's army were marooned in the Near East and could not threaten Ireland with another invasion. For those rebels who fought with the French in the West and Midlands, many faced the gallows or transportation to Australia as prisoners. Many of these convicts that were transported eventually settled there and made themselves very wealthy as large farm owners. The end of the rebellion proved also very useful to bring Ireland closer to the British Parliament. The Irish Parliament in College Green was in 1801 abolished after many Irish MP's supported the Act of Union, influenced by the offer of peerages and other titles. The Irish MP's would now sit in the London House of Commons. Fewer Irish MP's would be elected in case they could hold the balance of power. Catholics were still excluded from involvement in politics until 1829.

In Ulster, the birthplace of the Society and once its greatest source of strength, the divisions between Catholic and Presbyterians was too strong for them to work together for a common goal. Presbyterians for economic reasons, began to realise that the Act of Union would lead to greater prosperity for Ulster. Protestantism in Ireland became more associated with Loyalty to the Crown and support for the Orange Order grew.

Why it failed

Some of the reasons for the failure of the rebellion stem from the leadership of the United Irishmen. Only one of the United Irishmen leadership had prior militiary experience. Different parts of the country rebelled at different times making it easier for the British to put down the rebellion. The French forces arrived too late with too few men and heavy cannons. Religious divisions in the United Irishmen prevented Catholics and Prebyterians from working closer together.

Impact of Wolfe Tone

Wolfe Tone's name is the name most associated with the United Irishmen rebellion even though he spent most of 1798 in France. He was one of the most vocal leaders of the United Irishmen and was the main driver of the organisation outside of Ireland. He developed strong links within the French Directory which lead to different expeditions starting from Hoche's 1796 expedition to the final expedition to Lough Swilly where he was captured. His suicide raised his profile with the many songs and poems written in his memory. His memory is commemorated every year in Bodenstown.