Thomas Russell (rebel)

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Portrait of Thomas Russel MADDEN(1888) p370 THOMAS RUSSEL.jpg
Portrait of Thomas Russel
Memorial plaque, Down County Museum, Downpatrick, County Down, August 2009 Thomas Russell (01), August 2009.JPG
Memorial plaque, Down County Museum, Downpatrick, County Down, August 2009

Thomas Paliser Russell (21 November 1767 – 21 October 1803) was a co-founder and leader of the United Irishmen. He was executed for his part in Robert Emmet's rebellion in 1803.

Robert Emmet Irish nationalist and Republican, and orator, executed after leading an abortive rebellion in 1803

Robert Emmet was an Irish Republican, and Irish nationalist patriot, orator and rebel leader. After leading an abortive rebellion against British rule in 1803 he was captured then tried and executed for high treason against the British king George III of Great Britain.

Contents

Background

Born in Dromahane, County Cork to an Anglican family, he joined the British army in 1783 and served in India. He returned to Ireland in 1786 and commenced studies in science, philosophy and politics. in July 1790 he met Theobald Wolfe Tone in the visitors' gallery in the Irish House of Commons and they became firm friends.

Dromahane Village in Munster, Ireland

Dromahane is a village located 5 km (3.1 mi) south west of the town of Mallow, County Cork, Ireland on the R619 regional road.

County Cork County in the Republic of Ireland

County Cork is a county in Ireland. It is the largest and southernmost county of Ireland, situated in the province of Munster and named after the city of Cork, Ireland's second-largest city. The Cork County Council is the local authority for the county. Its largest market towns are Mallow, Macroom, Midleton, and Skibbereen. In 2016, the county's population was 542,868, making it the third-most populous county in Ireland. Notable Corkonians include Michael Collins, Jack Lynch, and Sonia O'Sullivan.

India Country in South Asia

India, also known as the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh largest country by area and with more than 1.3 billion people, it is the second most populous country as well as the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, while its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Russell in Belfast

In 1790 Russell resumed his military career as an officer in Belfast. With its thriving linen and textile industries and mercantile community, Belfast was called the "Athens of the North." As an officer of the garrison, Russell had access to the newly emerging professional and business class, many of whose members were radicals (being Presbyterians) excluded from the Ascendancy.

Linen textile made from spun flax fiber

Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant. Linen is laborious to manufacture, but the fiber is very strong, absorbent and dries faster than cotton. Garments made of linen are valued for their exceptional coolness and freshness in hot and humid weather.

Athens Capital and largest city of Greece

Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence starting somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC.

The Protestant Ascendancy, known simply as the Ascendancy, was the political, economic, and social domination of Ireland between the 17th century and the early 20th century by a minority of landowners, Protestant clergy, and members of the professions, all members of the Established Church. The Ascendancy excluded from politics and the elite other groups, most numerous among them Roman Catholics but also members of the Presbyterian and other Protestant denominations, along with non-Christians such as Jews. Until the Reform Acts (1832–1928) even the majority of Irish Protestants were effectively excluded from the Ascendancy, being too poor to vote. In general, the privileges of the Ascendancy were resented by Irish Catholics, who made up the majority of the population.

The French Revolution in 1789 was warmly greeted in Belfast as were its ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. With his keen mind and radical ideas, Russell soon became a confidante of Henry Joy McCracken, James Hope, Samuel Neilson and others who were to play a prominent role in the United Irish movement. With them he developed ideas of parliamentary reform, to include the bulk of the people, and Catholic emancipation.

French Revolution social and political revolution in France and its colonies occurring from 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Henry Joy McCracken Irish nationalist

Henry Joy McCracken was an Irish Republican and industrialist from Belfast, Ireland. He was a founding member of the Society of the United Irishmen.

James "Jemmy" Hope was a United Irishmen leader who fought in the 1798 and 1803 Rebellions against British rule in Ireland.

Russell left the army in July 1791 and attended a convention of the Whig Club in Belfast to mark Bastille Day. The convention was addressed by William Drennan, who proposed a brotherhood that would "go further than speculate or debate … and come to grips with practicalities", promoting separation from England and co-operation with the increasingly radical Catholic Committee in the pursuit of political and social reforms. However, Russell noted the lack of trust between Dissenters and Catholics which was due to fears that Catholic radicalism could be bought off by religious concessions. Informing Wolfe Tone of his observations, who within weeks published his "Argument on Behalf of the Catholics of Ireland" to address these suspicions. The pamphlet was extremely well received and provided the impetus for the founding of the Society of United Irishmen in Belfast on 18 October 1791 whose initial aims were constitutional reform, union among the Irish people and the removal of all religious disqualifications.

Belfast City in the United Kingdom, capital of Northern Ireland

Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast of Ireland. It is the largest city in Northern Ireland and second-largest on the island of Ireland. It had a population of 333,871 as of 2015.

Bastille Day national holiday in France

Bastille Day is the common name given in English-speaking countries to the national day of France, which is celebrated on 14 July each year. In French, it is formally called la Fête nationale and commonly and legally le 14 juillet.

William Drennan was an Irish physician, poet and political radical, who was one of the chief architects of the Society of United Irishmen. He is known as the first to refer in print to Ireland as "the emerald isle" in his poem "When Erin first rose".

Information at Down County Museum, Downpatrick, County Down, August 2009 Thomas Russell (02), August 2009.JPG
Information at Down County Museum, Downpatrick, County Down, August 2009

United Irishman and reformer

In 179?, Russell took the post of librarian at the Belfast Society for Promoting Knowledge, later to become the Linen Hall Library. His position as librarian allowed Russell to continue to develop ideas for the emancipation of the Irish people although by now the British authorities in Dublin were becoming increasingly aware of his and others activities and beliefs. Pressure from Dublin Castle would later force the United Irish movement to become a clandestine organisation as the would-be revolutionaries sought to continue their slow progress towards challenging the occupying British.

Librarian person who works professionally in a library, and is usually trained in librarianship

A librarian is a person who works professionally in a library, providing access to information and sometimes social or technical programming to users. In addition, librarians provide instruction on information literacy.

Linen Hall Library subscription library

The Linen Hall Library is located at 17 Donegall Square North, Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is the oldest library in Belfast and the last subscribing library in Northern Ireland. The Library is physically in the centre of Belfast, and more generally at the centre of the cultural and creative life of the wider community. It is an independent and charitable body.

Dublin Castle Irish government complex and historical castle site in central Dublin

Dublin Castle is a major Irish government complex, conference centre, and tourist attraction. It is located off Dame Street in Dublin, Ireland.

In 1795 Russell, Andrew henderson, Henry Joy McCracken and Samuel Neilson as they led a band of United Irishmen to the top of Cavehill overlooking the town of Belfast where they swore an oath "never to desist in our effort until we had subverted the authority of England over our country and asserted her independence" prior to Wolfe Tone's exile to America. The event was noted in Dublin Castle although there was to be no immediate move to disband or arrest the members of the United Irishmen.

In 1796, Russell published an ambitious and far-sighted document, Letter to the People of Ireland, which laid out his vision of social and economic reform for the Irish nation. In addition to his stance on religious freedom, he had made clear his anti-slavery views, in the Northern Star on 17 March 1792 whose editorial comment took a less generous view by agreeing with Russell but pointing out the immediate necessity to liberate three million slaves in Ireland. The veteran anti-slavery campaigner, Mary Ann McCracken, sister of [liam weber |Henry Joy]], remembered that as a young officer in Belfast Russell had ' abstained from the use of slave labour produce until slavery in the West Indies was abolished, and at the dinner parties to which he was so often invited and when confectionery was so much used he would not take anything with sugar in it . . .'

State prisoner

Russell took an active part in organising the Society of United Irishmen which spread rapidly assisted by their newspaper, the Northern Star , becoming the United Irish commander in County Down. However the outbreak of war with revolutionary France and England in 1793 had led to an ongoing campaign against the United Irishmen and in 1796 Russell was arrested and imprisoned as a "state prisoner" (i.e. held without trial) in Dublin missing out in participation in the 1798 rising as a result. In March 1799 he, and the other state prisoners were transferred to Fort George in Scotland, an extensive fortress some miles north of Inverness built in the wake of the failed Jacobite rebellion of 1745-46. He was released on condition of exile to Hamburg in June 1802 following a brief cessation in the war with France.

Russell and Emmett

Not content to sit things out in Hamburg, Russell soon made his way to Paris where he met Robert Emmet who was planning another insurrection pending the French renewal of the war against England. Russell agreed to return to Ireland in March 1803 to organise the North in conjunction with the veteran of the battle of Antrim, James Hope. However he met with little success as much of the north was subdued following the suppression of the 1798 rebellion and displayed little appetite for a renewed outbreak. Finally finding some support in the vicinity of Loughinisland, Russell prepared to take to the field on 23 July 1803, the date set by Emmett.

However the plan was badly thought out and quickly collapsed forcing Russell to flee to Dublin before a shot was fired in anger. Russell managed to hide for a number of weeks but Dublin was a bad place to hide in the days following the failure of Emmett's rebellion as the shocked authorities had launched a massive campaign of raids and arrests in an effort to finally eradicate the United Irishmen. He was promptly arrested and sent to Downpatrick Gaol where he was executed by hanging then beheaded on 21 October 1803.

Sources

Legacy

Russell Gaelic Union, Downpatrick, a Gaelic games club based in the town of his execution, is named in honour of Russell.

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