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The Young Ireland Revolt, 1848

Mark Rathbone looks at the Battle of the Widow McCormack’s Cabbage Garden and at what happened to those involved.

What do the following people have in common? A Prime Minister of the state of Victoria in Australia who received a knighthood for his services; a member of the legislature of another Australian state, Queensland; a Union general in the American Civil War who went on to become Governor of the state of Montana; a man who was jailed in New York for supporting the Confederacy in the Civil War; a Canadian cabinet minister who was assassinated for opposing Irish extremism; and an Old Harrovian whose statue stands today in O’Connell Street in Dublin.

The answer is that all these distinguished gentlemen were prominent members of Young Ireland, the nationalist organisation which organised the rising of 1848, most of whom were found guilty of treason or treason-felony. This is the story of that rebellion and the remarkable later lives of some of the men who took part.

Irish Nationalism already had a long pedigree before Young Ireland was formed in the 1840s. Wolfe Tone had raised the standard of revolt against British rule in 1798 and Daniel O’Connell’s victory in the County Clare by-election in 1828 had forced the British government to repeal anti-Catholic legislation. It was as an offshoot of O’Connell’s Repeal of the Union Association that Young Ireland was formed. The Nation, a weekly paper dedicated to the cause of Irish independence, had been founded by Charles Gavan Duffy, Thomas Davis and John Blake Dillon in 1842, and Duffy had become its editor. This publication became the voice of the Young Irelanders, who eventually split from the Repeal Association in 1847 over their advocacy of the use of physical force if necessary to bring about the dissolution of the union of Britain and Ireland, in contrast to O’Connell’s insistence on moral force.

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