Republicanism, agrarianism and banditry in the wake of the Great Irish Rebellion of 1798

James Gardner Patterson, Fordham University


This study maps the course of continued resistance in Ireland during the years between the defeat of the Great Rebellion of 1798 and the final collapse of organized republican activity with the failure of Robert Emmet's rising of 23 July 1803. Chapter one challenges the historiographical consensus that the Presbyterians of Counties Antrim and Down made the rapid transition from rebel to loyalist, abandoning their Enlightenment-influenced, nonsectarian ideals in the process. In fact, it is apparent that a large number of northern dissenters, particularly of the lower orders, were coopted into the hitherto predominantly Catholic Defender movement, where they continued to actively resist until 1801 and beyond. The second chapter focuses on the activities of a band of rebels, headed by Joseph Cody and James Corcoran, who successfully operated in south Carlow and western Wexford between 1798 and 1804. Most significantly, the support the group received from the local population demonstrates the extent of the widespread animosity towards the state that existed in southern Leinster. In turn, this disaffection is not primarily attributable to an atavistic desire on the part of local peasants to support “social bandits.” Instead, it resulted from efforts by the United Irishmen to politicize the region from 1797 on. A further central role was played by the counter-revolutionary “white terror”. This phenomenon ultimately crippled Dublin Castle's efforts at reconciliation with the defeated rebels. Chapters three and four hold that in the south and west of Ireland the activities of groups preoccupied with traditional agrarian concerns took on a new significance in the aftermath of 1798. These post-'98 “whiteboys” still addressed the old complaints of the agrarian secret societies. Yet, the impact of the events of the preceding turbulent decade had fundamentally transformed the secret societies in parts of Munster and Connaught. This alteration is graphically illustrated in the dramatic increase in the level of physical violence utilized by the post-'98 agrarian movements. Moreover, the long-term presence of radical emissaries in the region, combined with the heightened anticipation of a French invasion, lent ominous political undertones to these traditional acts.

Subject Area

European history

Recommended Citation

Patterson, James Gardner, "Republicanism, agrarianism and banditry in the wake of the Great Irish Rebellion of 1798" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9999830.