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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Charles Edward Jennings, Soldier & Revolutionary

General Charles Edward Saul Jennings, Irish soldier and revolutionary who serves France in the eighteenth century and is sometimes romanticised as Brave Kilmaine, is born on October 19, 1751 in Sauls Court, Dublin.

Jennings is the second son of Theobald Jennings, a physician of Polaniran (Ironpool), Tuam, County Galway, and Eleonore Saul, daughter of Laurence Saul, a wealthy Dublin distiller. Educated privately in Dublin, he leaves Ireland in 1769, settling in Tonnay-Charente in the south of France, where his father had set up practice. His father had, several years previously, assumed the fictitious title of ‘baron of Kilmaine’ in the hope of improving his position in French society, and he subsequently assumes the same title.

In 1774 Jennings joins the Royal Dragoons as a trooper, transferring in 1778 into the Légion de Lauzun, a corps made up mostly of foreign volunteers. After the campaign in Senegal (1778–79) he returns to France and is commissioned as a sous-lieutenant. He then campaigns with Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, during the American Revolutionary War and teaches cavalry tactics at Metz on his return. Promoted to captain in 1788, at the outbreak of the French Revolution, he is stationed at Verdun and, despite a short period in prison, continues to serve with his regiment. In 1791, when several of the regiment’s officers flee from France, he remains and is one of the first officers to swear allegiance to the national assembly.

Promoted to Chef d’escadron in April 1792, Jennings serves under Charles François Dumouriez during the invasion of the Netherlands, distinguishing himself at the Battle of Valmy and the Battle of Jemappes, where he reinforces the French centre at a critical point, ensuring victory. A series of rapid promotions follow. He is made a colonel in January 1793, a general of brigade in March 1794, and a general of division in May1794.

After a series of reverses in the summer of 1793, in which the French lose the fortress-towns of Condé and Valenciennes, the committee of public safety appoints Jennings to command the Armée du Nord on May 15, 1793, with the rank of full general. In August, in order to preserve his force in the face of overwhelming opposition, he retreats from a position 120 miles north of Paris known as ‘Caesar’s camp.’ Although the allied army swings away to invest Dunkirk, he is arrested and imprisoned for endangering the city, and remains in prison until after the fall of Robespierre in July 1794. Within a few days, due to the turbulent political situation, he is rearrested and not released until December 1794. In May 1795 he cooperates with Napoléon Bonaparte in suppressing the Jacobin uprising in Faubourg Saint-Antoine in Paris and, having reestablished his credentials, commands the cavalry during the invasion of Italy (1796). Bonaparte regards him highly, and he distinguishes himself at the Battle of Lodi on May 10, 1796, seizing the city of Milan five days later. He defeats a large Austrian force in the Battle of Borghetto before investing and taking the fortress-town of Mantua in February 1797.

When peace terms are agreed with Austria, Jennings returns to France, taking command of the centre column of the Armée d’Angleterre, which had been raised to invade Britain and Ireland. However, his deteriorating health makes some observers question his suitability for such an appointment. An associate of Thomas Paine and James Napper Tandy, and a friend of Wolfe Tone, he is forced to watch the gradual reduction of his army as Napoleon diverts troops for his campaign in Egypt. Tone is at first suspicious of him, given that many Irish-born French officers had deserted the revolutionary cause, but comes to admire him.

After the defeat of Admiral Bombard’s expedition to Ireland and Tone’s arrest on November 3, 1798, Jennings requests that the French government should take a senior British prisoner as hostage and subject him to the same treatment as Tone. After Tone’s death he assists Matilda Tone and her children. In early 1799 he is appointed military governor of Switzerland but is forced to resign due to his failing health.

In a fragile condition Jennings leaves Switzerland and returns to Passy in Paris, where his domestic griefs and chagrins add to the poignancy of his bodily sufferings, for his constitution is now completely broken up. He dies of dysentery on December 11, 1799, at the age of 48. He is buried with full military honours.

Jennings is historically honored at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, where his name can be seen on the inside triumphal arch, on the Northern pillar, Column 05. Underneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (World War I). There is a personal portrait of Jennings in the ‘Hotel de Ville’ (City Hall) at Tonnay-Charente, where his father Dr. Theobald Jennings practiced as a physician.

A monument was erected in Jennings’s memory in Tonnay-Charente in the 19th century. Rue du Général Kilmaine, a street in Tonnay-Charente, is named in his honour in the 19th century.


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Death of John Dunlap, Printer of the Declaration of Independence

John Dunlap, Irish printer who printed the first copies of the United States Declaration of Independence and one of the most successful Irish American printers of his era, dies in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 27, 1812.

Dunlap is born in 1747 in Strabane, County Tyrone, in what is now Northern Ireland. When he is ten years old, he goes to work as an apprentice to his uncle, William Dunlap, a printer and bookseller in Philadelphia. In 1766, William Dunlap leaves the business in the care of his nephew, who eventually purchases the business. Initially he makes a living by printing sermons, broadsides and handbills. In November 1771, he begins the publication of the Pennsylvania Packet, or General Advertiser, a weekly newspaper. In 1773 he marries Elizabeth Hayes Ellison.

During the American Revolutionary War, Dunlap becomes an officer in the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry and sees action with George Washington at the battles of Trenton and Princeton. He continues in the First City Troop after the war, rising to the rank of major, and leading Pennsylvania’s cavalry militia to help suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.

In 1776, Dunlap secures a lucrative printing contract for the Continental Congress. In July 1776, fighting between the American colonists and the British forces had been going on for over a year. On July 2, the Second Continental Congress votes on the Lee Resolution to secede. Two days later, they approve the final wording of a public declaration regarding their decision, which ultimately comes to be known as the Declaration of Independence. President of Congress John Hancock signs the fair copy with Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson attesting it. That evening Hancock orders Dunlap to print broadside copies of the declaration. He prints perhaps 200 broadsides, since known as the Dunlap broadsides, which are the first published versions of the Declaration.

Dunlap also prints items for Pennsylvania’s revolutionary government. In 1777 he takes over the printing of the Journals of the Continental Congress from Robert Aitken, but loses the contract in 1779 after printing in his newspaper a letter from Thomas Paine that leaks news of the secret French aid to the Americans.

In 1784, Dunlap’s paper becomes a daily with a new title: the North American and United States Gazette. It is not the first daily in the United States as the Pennsylvania Evening Post is the first in 1783, but it becomes the first successful daily.

Continuing to serve the changing needs of the government, Dunlap and his partner David Claypoole print the Constitution of the United States on September 19, 1787 for use by the Constitutional Convention, and later publish it for the first time in the Pennsylvania Packet.

Dunlap’s major financial success comes from real estate speculation. During the American Revolutionary War, he purchases property confiscated from Loyalists who refuse to take Pennsylvania’s new loyalty oath. After the war, he purchases land in Kentucky. By 1795, when he is forty-eight, he is able to retire with a sizable estate. Retirement does not agree with him, however. According to his friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush, he becomes a drunkard in his final years. He dies in Philadelphia on November 27, 1812.


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Birth of Edmund Burke, Political Writer & Orator

edmund-burkeEdmund Burke, one of the greatest political writers and orators in history, is born in Arran Quay, Dublin, on January 12, 1729. British statesman, parliamentary orator, and political thinker, he plays a prominent part in all major political issues for about thirty years after 1765, and remains an important figure in the history of political theory.

Burke is the son of a mixed marriage – his father, a solicitor, is protestant, his mother is Roman Catholic. He enters Trinity College, Dublin in 1744, and studies law at Middle Temple in London in 1750. He fails to secure a call to the bar and instead begins a literary career. He writes several books and is editor of the The Annual Register before entering politics. Burke’s A Vindication of Natural Society is published in 1756 and in 1757 A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful appears. Also on March 12, 1757, Burke marries Jane Nugent, the daughter of Christopher Nugent, an Irish Catholic doctor.

His political career begins in 1765 when he becomes the private secretary of one of the Whig leaders in the Parliament of Great Britain, Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham. Burke soon proves to be one of the main characters in the constitutional controversy in Britain under George III, who at the time is trying to establish more actual power for the crown. Although the crown has lost some influence under the first two Georges, one of the major political problems in 18th century Britain is the fact that both the king and Parliament have considerable control over the executive. Burke responds to these affairs in his pamphlet Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770), in which he argues that although George’s actions are legal in the sense that they are not against the letter of the constitution, they are all the more against it in spirit. In the pamphlet Burke elaborates on his famous and new justification of a party, defined as “a body of men united on public principle, which could act as a constitutional link between king and parliament, providing consistency and strength in administration, or principled criticism in opposition.”

Concerning the imperial controversy at the time, Burke argues that the British government has acted in a both unwise and inconsistent manner. Again, Burke claims that Britain’s way of dealing with the colony question is strictly legal and he urges that also “claims of circumstance, utility, and moral principle should be considered, as well as precedent.” In other words, if the British, persistently clinging to their narrow legalism, are not to clash with the ideas and opinions of the colonists on these matters, they will have to offer more respect and regard for the colonies’ cause. Burke calls for “legislative reason” in two of his parliamentary speeches on the subject, On American Taxation (1774) and On Moving His Resolutions for Conciliation With America (1775). However, British imperial policy in the controversy continues to ignore these questions.

Burke’s view of the revolution in France is a much different story. He publishes Reflections on the Revolution in France in 1790, attacking the revolution’s motives and principles. Many writers oppose his views, the most famous being Thomas Paine in his Rights of Man. Burke is a consistent advocate of Catholic emancipation, which politically damages him, but he is never an advocate of self-rule for the Irish.

Edmund Burke dies in London on July 9, 1797. Many quotes from his writings and orations have come down through the years, perhaps one is most applicable to the situation in Ireland today: “All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.”


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Founding of the Society of United Irishmen

society-of-united-irishmenThe Society of United Irishmen, a liberal political organisation that initially seeks Parliamentary reform, is founded in Belfast on October 14, 1791. It evolves into a revolutionary republican organisation, inspired by the American Revolution and allied with Revolutionary France. It launches the Irish Rebellion of 1798 with the objective of ending British monarchical rule over Ireland and founding a sovereign, independent Irish republic.

The enthusiasm for the French Revolution sees great Irish interest in Thomas Paine‘s The Rights of Man released in May 1791. A couple of months later the Belfast Volunteer company gathers to celebrate the second anniversary of the fall of the Bastille. It is intended that a new radical society is to be announced during the celebrations which William Drennan, who is to give a declaration, asks to add in resolutions. Drennan refuses due to the short notice of the request and suggests that Theobald Wolfe Tone be asked.

Tone’s reformist radicalism has advanced beyond that of the Whigs, and he proposes three resolutions for the new society, which he names the Society of United Irishmen. The first resolution is for the denouncing of the continuing interference of the British establishment in Irish affairs. The second is for the full reform of the Irish parliament and its representation. The last resolution calls for a union of religious faiths in Ireland to “abolish the differences that had long divided Irishmen” and seeks to give Catholics political rights. This last proposal, however, is quietly dropped by the Belfast Volunteers to ensure unanimity for the proposals amongst the people.

This seems to delay the launch of the new society and by August 1791 Tone, in response to the rebuff of his third resolution, publishes the popular and robust An Argument on Behalf of the Catholics of Ireland, which argues why they should be included in attempts at reform. That October, Tone is invited to a debate on the creation of a new society by a group of people including Samuel Neilson. Here he finds that his resolutions are now found a few months later to be “too tame.” A new set of resolutions is drafted and agreed upon on October 14, which the Belfast branch of the Society of United Irishmen adopts on October 18, and the Dublin branch on November 9. The main problem they identify for Ireland is the issue of national sovereignty.

All attendees at the first meeting of the Belfast branch are Protestant. Two, Theobald Wolfe Tone and Thomas Russell, are Anglicans and the remainder are Presbyterian, most of whom are involved in the linen trade in Belfast. Along with Tone and Russell, the men involved are William Sinclair, Henry Joy McCracken, Samuel Neilson, Henry Haslett, Gilbert McIlveen, William Simms, Robert Simms, Thomas McCabe, and Thomas Pearce. After forming, the Society names chandler Samuel McTier as its first President.