Historical Geography Volume 41 Featherstone

‘We will have equality and liberty in Ireland’: The Contested Geographies of Irish Democratic Political Cultures in the 1790s

David Featherstone
School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
University of Glasgow

ABSTRACT: This paper explores the contested geographies of Irish democratic political cultures in the 1790s. It positions Irish democratic political cultures in relation to Atlantic flows and circulations of radical ideas and political experience. It argues that this can foreground forms of subaltern agency and identity that have frequently been marginalized in different traditions of Irish historiography. The paper develops these arguments through a discussion of the relations of the United Irishmen to debates on slavery and anti-slavery. Through exploring the influence of the ex- slave and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano on these debates it foregrounds the relations between the United Irishmen and the Black Atlantic. The paper examines the limits of some of the United Irishmen’s democratic politics. It argues that the articulations of liberty and equality by Irish sailors in mutinies in the late 1790s dislocated some of the narrow notions of democratic community and politics associated with the United Irishmen.

Unheeding the clamour that maddens the skies
As ye trample the rights of your dark fellow men
When the incense that glows before liberty’s shrine
Is unmixed with the blood of the galled and oppressed,
Oh then and then only, the boast may be thine
That the star spangled banner is stainless and blest.1

These trenchant lines were written by the Antrim weaver and United Irishman (UI) James Hope in his poem, “Jefferson’s Daughter.” His autobiography noted the impact of the American Revolution on Ireland, arguing that “the American struggle taught people, that industry had rights as well as aristocracy, that one required a guarantee, as well as the other; which gave extension to the forward view of the Irish leaders.”2 His poem, however, affirms the extent to which his identification with the American Revolution was critical. The poem’s vehement assault on the exclusionary forms of liberty produced during the early years of the United States emphasizes the role of activist-intellectuals like Hope in debating the character of liberty and in contributing to anti-slavery politics.

Hope’s poem emphasizes how radical Irish political thought and activism in the late eighteenth century were both influenced by Atlantic currents of political ideas and contributed to them in original ways. This paper seeks to contribute to an emerging body of work which foregrounds the relations of Ireland to the dynamic geographies of connection and flows that traversed the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Recent work in history and geography has contributed to a developing literature on the dynamic and contested relationships of Ireland and Irish subaltern politics to Atlantic connections.3 This work has important resonances with [begin page 121] recent work in geography that has stressed the relational constitution of politics and challenged state-centered and bounded accounts of the political.4 The central argument of this paper is that situating Irish subaltern politics in relation to these circulations, exchanges and flows of political ideas can be a productive move. It can foreground forms of subaltern agency and identity which have often been marginalized in dominant ways of narrating Irish histories.

To develop these concerns, the paper explores forms of democratic cultures produced by Irish radicals, especially those associated with the United Irishmen, in the 1790s. The 1790s were a formative decade in the constitution of democratic political cultures and identities in Ireland. The French Revolution had a major impact on Irish politics in the 1790s and Tom Paine’s Rights of Man became a bestseller.5 The limited democratic demands and forms of democratic culture associated with the Volunteer movement of the 1780s were transformed and politicized through the formation of the United Irishmen.6 The political context in which the United Irishmen mobilized can be viewed as a colonial situation, marked by particular exclusions from the political.7 Situating Ireland in relation to the Atlantic flows and circulations which constituted the British colonial project can foreground diverse colonial political geographies. This also permits a focus on the important counter-flows formed through resistance to colonialism and slavery.

This paper seeks to contribute to critical geographies of colonial Ireland through interrogating the diverse forms of subaltern political agency and identity constituted through mobilizing democratic identities and forms of organization. The first part of the paper argues that foregrounding forms of subaltern presence, agency and identity involves challenging key ways in which the geographies of the political have been theorized in dominant traditions of Irish historiography. The paper then explores aspects of the contested geographies of Irish democratic political identities. Firstly, it explores the relation of Irish democratic cultures to debates on slavery and anti-slavery. It argues that black activists like Olaudah Equiano (1734–97) had important effects on the ways these debates were framed and on the geographies of connection formed by the United Irishmen. It also notes the contested notions of political community formed through these debates. It develops this focus on some of the exclusions of Irish democratic cultures through exploring the mobilization of democratic imaginaries by Irish and other sailors in the naval mutinies of the late 1790s. It argues that in applying these democratic ideas to the organization of their workplace—the ship—and through the motley forms of association on the lower deck, they challenged some of the limits associated with United Irish forms of democracy. The conclusion draws out some of the broader implications of these arguments for critical geographies of colonial Ireland.

Space, subaltern agency and Irish democratic political cultures

In an intervention on the relationship between Irish histories and the Subaltern Studies project, David Lloyd makes an important set of claims about the relations between these two bodies of work. He notes the significance of the challenge made by the Subaltern Studies historians to dominant nationalist historiography in India. The influential agenda outlined by historians such as Ranajit Guha and Partha Chatterjee has foregrounded the agency of diverse subaltern movements and groups.8 They drew on Gramsci’s use of the term subaltern to signal diverse forms of marginalized groups and or marginalization including, but not exclusive to class, gender, ethnicity and race.9 Integral to this project has been a critique of depictions of “nationalism” as an “integrated will,” which had “overcome the divisive effects of caste, class, gender, and regional interests in its drive to forge the unity of the nation.”10 The concerns of the Subaltern Studies group have strongly influenced geographical work on resistance. It has been particularly influential on attempts to transcend the tendency of some critical geographies to see subaltern agency as always secondary to capital.11

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For Lloyd, what is instructive is the way that in Ireland the contestation of “nationalist histories” has come “not from anything akin to Subaltern Studies” but rather from the “large and impressive body of historical work that has become known as ‘revisionist history.’”12 The focus of this work has been less on the epic of national struggle and more on the emergence under British administration of modern state institutions in Ireland. Revisionist thematics have been important influences on Irish historical geographies. Thus, in their introduction to An Historical Geography of Ireland, Brian Graham and Lindsay Proudfoot outlined an explicitly revisionist agenda for Irish historical geography. Graham and Proudfoot critiqued the insularity, lack of theoretical rigor, unproblematized “nationalist” assumptions about a homogeneous, traditional Ireland, as well as the anti-urbanism that dominated the work of central figures in the discipline such as E. Estyn Evans and T. Jones Hughes.13 By contrast Graham and Proudfoot articulated an agenda for Irish historical geographies directly influenced by some of the dominant themes of revisionist historiography. This foregrounded the “plurality of Irish identity, landscape and history,” concerned itself with the dynamic character of social transformation, and situated the urban as central to Ireland’s historical geographies.14

John Morrissey has usefully argued for the importance of problematizing the “often simplified and unhelpful depiction of particular readings of Ireland’s past as ostensibly either ‘nationalist’ or ‘revisionist.’”15 He suggested that “situating the debate in a broader discussion of theory, selectivity and subjectivity in historical inquiry” can transcend these polarized positions.16 This is an important project for attempts to foreground forms of subaltern agency and presence in Irish histories and geographies as the terrain fashioned by both dominant traditions is rather unhelpful in this respect. As Maley has argued, like many seemingly opposed traditions, they share far more than initial appearances suggest.17 Here I want to draw attention to their national- and Anglo-focus, their top-down approach to history, and their limited appreciation of the diversity of political forms; three features that must be displaced in accounts foregrounding diverse forms of Irish subaltern agency.

Firstly, then, revisionists and nationalists share some important affinities in terms of their imaginative geographies. As Lloyd indicated, both revisionist and nationalist traditions of historiography have been framed in restrictively nation-centered and Anglo-centered ways. He argued that “the focus of both nationalist history and revisionism has been on nation-state formation, with a shift of focus from heroes to bureaus.”18 Thus O’Neill argued that rather than deliver its stated aim of disrupting an “Anglo-centric” Irish historiography Foster’s Modern Ireland offers an “alternative Anglo-centric view of Irish history,” which is “preoccupied with redefining the nature of the relationship between the two islands, and the effects which these relationships had upon the various groups into which Irish people were divided by history or historians.”19 O’Neill also noted the dismissive and stereotypical tones in which Foster describes Irish emigrant communities abroad. An important consequence of the rather bounded framing of Irish historiographies is that it is only relatively recently, due in large part to the pioneering scholarship of Nini Rodgers, that Ireland’s relation to slavery and anti-slavery has been given serious attention.20

Secondly, both traditions of historiography have been structured by top-down approaches to historical writing and research. Guha and Chatterjee developed a thorough-going critique of Indian liberal nationalist historiography to foreground various forms of subaltern agency. Significant aspects of subaltern presence and agency have been marginalized by revisionist and nationalist historiographies alike.21 A significant example here would be the marginal role accorded to the powerful labor combinations in accounts of eighteenth-century Irish politics.22 A 1780 Report of the Grand Committee for Trade noted the power of combinations in various trades in Dublin.23 They were significant in smaller towns such as Carrick-on-Suir, where there was a [begin page 123] weavers’ strike in 1764, and the site of exchanges of subaltern political activity. Thomas Preston, a London shoemaker and radical, found friendship and work among the cobblers of Dublin and Cork in the early nineteenth century and recounts leading a strike among Cork shoemakers.24

Despite revisionism’s explicit project of attending to plurality, then, this approach has taken a rather limited approach to what and who is to be included. As Catherine Nash’s discussion of the constitutive role of gender and sexuality in Irish histories and geographies usefully emphasized, foregrounding diverse, plural accounts necessarily involves engaging with multiple forms of agency. She contended that Irish feminists’ focus on “cultural, geographical and historical senses of embodied Irishness challenges the meaning of historical significance, politics and the imagined geographies of nation, gender and sexuality. To confuse simple, traditional, binary understandings of cultural, gender and sexual identity is to change what Irishness can mean.”25 This permits a focus on the different forms of agency active in constituting notions of Irishness, both in Ireland and elsewhere.26

Nash’s stress on challenging binary understandings resonates with what Lloyd has described as “the multiple foci” of new histories “on the sites and narratives that state formation constitutively occludes.”27 Lloyd pointed to significant work on agrarian secret societies, for example, which sits awkwardly with the theoretical and ideological project of “official Irish nationalism.”28 Such societies have often been dealt with rather dismissively and labelled as pre-political, partly because they generate spaces of politics that disrupt the dominant nation- centered geographies that have framed Irish historiographies.29 Movements like the Whiteboys, for example, are disruptive of nation-state-centered histories in various ways, both through the importance of the local to their forms of political activity, but also through the ways in which their forms of political activity travelled.30 Their forms of organization and unruly subaltern cultures also moved beyond Ireland. Letters of missionaries in Newfoundland in the mid-1760s suggest the importance of the Whiteboy activity as a context for the emergence and intensification of rough subaltern cultures in Newfoundland.31 They were influential on strikes among dockside workers in London in 1768.32

Thirdly, these different approaches have occluded the multiple forms through which the political is constituted. Thus Francis Mulhearn has written about the foreclosure of the political in relation to nationalism in Ireland. He argued that the “peoples of Ireland face a political agenda as long and difficult as any. But nationality need not be its decisive term and–arguably–cannot be.”33 He insisted upon the importance of recognizing the “heterogeneous scripts, none of them internally coherent, in which a diverse society torn by class, gender and other conflicts reads its situations and prospects.”34 Mulhearn’s stress upon the multiplicity of the political in Ireland’s past and present is significant, because foregrounding the multiple antagonisms through which the political is constituted is a condition of possibility for interrogating the diverse forms of subaltern agency that shaped such pasts and presents.

Doreen Massey’s arguments about the co-existence of different political identities and the ongoing construction of spatial relations are significant here.35 In this vein Adrian Mulligan has argued for the importance of transcending dominant state-centered histories of Irish nationalism to recover the plural identities constituted in relation to nationalism. He suggested that Fenianism was formed “on a transatlantic terrain” where nationalism functioned as “a highly mobile construct which could be reactivated in a multitude of contexts overseas, so as to make a sense of place, the world and one’s own predicament.”36 Mulligan used this interrogation of the interconnections through which Fenianism was constituted to recover the multiple narratives and identities constituted through nationalism. He concluded that these connections affirm that “there can never be only one narrative of nationalism, territorially contained and following an orderly historical progression.”37

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Such work intersects with what has been described as a “transnational turn” in the study of anti-colonial politics.38 Maia Ramnath’s work on the transnational forms of Indian agitation shaped through the Ghadar movement, for example, has interrogated the relations between Indian, Egyptian and Irish anti-colonial radicals shaped in cities such as Berlin and New York. She noted how connections between Indian and Irish radicals represented a “triumph of principle over ascribed identity as the root of solidarity.”39 Such exchanges shaped identification, and in terms of repertoires of political activity as well as in terms of political rhetoric. Thus, Kevin Grant has noted the transcolonial circulation between Irish and Indian nationalists of the tactic of hunger-striking in prison in the early twentieth century.40

This demonstrates the significance of thinking in relational terms about the formation of Irish political trajectories. By this I mean seeing political practices as formed through negotiating different connections and networks, rather than emerging from bounded sealed places. Mulligan’s account of Fenianism demonstrates that interrogating the connections and networks that have constituted Irish nationalisms doesn’t just add such connections on to existing understandings of nationalism. Rather, it foregrounds the different forms of identity and agency constituted in relation to nationalism. This paper develops these concerns through thinking about the formation of Irish democratic political cultures in the 1790s. As noted above, radicals like James Hope configured their political identities in relation to various Atlantic trajectories and flows of political activity, albeit in critical ways.

In what follows I use a focus on some of these Atlantic flows and connections, and how they were negotiated, to engage with the multiple political identities fashioned through Irish democratic cultures. The next section uses this focus to explore the relations of Irish democratic political cultures to debates on slavery. Drawing on the concerns of Atlantic histories and geographies, I position Irish democratic politics in relation to the differentiated geographies of power that shaped Atlantic networks. This permits a focus on the way that notions of political community generated through the activity of the United Irishmen were formed. Through exploring the black presence in eighteenth-century Ireland, and foregrounding the role of anti-slavery activists such as Olaudah Equiano in contributing to the terms of debate of Irish democratic politics, I argue that such an approach can illuminate forms of political agency that have often been marginalized or completely ignored by both revisionist and nationalist accounts of Irish democratic political cultures. I highlight, however, some of the exclusionary geographies of democracy constituted through these debates, through noting the limited forms of liberty and political community advocated by many United Irish activists both in Ireland and in the United States.

Slavery, anti-slavery and Irish democratic identities

In May of 1791 Olaudah Equiano, an ex-slave, free black, and abolitionist, sailed from Liverpool to Dublin. He wrote in the fifth and subsequent editions of his autobiography that he “was very kindly received” in Dublin: “[A]nd from thence to Cork and then travelled over many counties in Ireland. I was everywhere exceedingly well treated, by persons of all ranks. I found the people extremely hospitable, particularly in Belfast, where I took my passage on board of a vessel for Clyde, on the 29th of January, and arrived at Greenock on the 30th.”41 Equiano’s travels in Ireland were part of his tours to promote both his memoirs and the abolitionist cause. His autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself, was a key abolitionist text and records a truly Atlantic life lived between Africa, the Americas, and Britain and Ireland. By the time Equiano travelled to Ireland he was already a significant figure in debates on the slave trade. He had also developed an impressive array of contacts and friends. These included the abolitionist Granville Sharp and Thomas Hardy, [begin page 125] the Scottish shoemaker who was to be the first secretary of the London Corresponding Society (LCS), the “most controversial and most famous” of the various reform movements that emerged in Britain in the 1790s.42

Equiano was part of a small but significant black presence in late-eighteenth-century Ireland. He had formed friendships with Irish sailors before travelling in Ireland. Equiano served as a sailor during the Seven Years’ War while still enslaved to his master Captain Pascal. Aboard the Aetna, a “messmate, the Irishman Daniel Quin, taught him to read the Bible and to think of nothing ‘but being free.’”43 Another black seafarer, John Jea, who was born in Old Calabar on the Niger Delta in 1773, spent time in Munster between 1803 and 1805. He was enslaved and taken to New York. There he won his freedom and as a sailor and an itinerant preacher travelled to “Boston, New Orleans, the ‘East Indies’, South America, Holland, France, Germany, Ireland and England.”44 His autobiography noted that the “fame” of his preaching “spread through the country, even from Limerick to Cork. I preached in Limerick and the country villages round, and by the Spirit of God, many people were convinced and converted.” His preaching won him the condemnation of Catholic priests, one of whom informed him that “he was going to hell,” but also the support of the mayor of Limerick.45 During the eighteenth century there was a small black community in Dublin.46 Black soldiers were also present in regiments stationed in Ireland.47 This section uses an engagement with the black presence in eighteenth-century Ireland as a starting point to think about the relations between democratic political identities in Ireland and debates about slavery and the slave trade.

Equiano’s brief account of his stay in Ireland emphasized his appreciation of the hospitality accorded to him in Belfast. There he kept company among dissenters such as Samuel Neilson, “possibly the most radical member of Belfast’s secret committee and then the United Irishmen.”48 Neilson acted as Equiano’s patron, “so that the well dressed, middle aged African appeared with his Interesting Narrative not only at the local booksellers but at Neilson’s drapery business at the commercial heart of the town.”49 These connections and exchanges had effects. Key United Irish radicals, including Neilson and Napper Tandy, were subscribers to the Dublin edition of the Interesting Narrative.50 Neilson gave anti-slavery issues a prominent place in the Northern Star, the United Irishmen’s newspaper.51 William Drennan proposed the circulation of addresses on the boycott of sugar.52

These concerns around slavery intersected with politics around gender. Mary Ann McCracken, for example, was involved in anti-slavery campaigns and linked opposition to slavery with the oppression of women. She argued that there “can be no argument produced in favour of the slavery of women that has not been used in favour of general slavery.”53 McCracken contested the limits both of republicanism and of those exclusionary forms of masculinity, associated with violence and drinking, through which republicanism was constituted.54 These relations between gender, race and the forms of democratic political cultures and identities generated by the United Irishmen are significant. Foregrounding them also allows different stories to emerge about the shaping of their political imaginaries. In particular, they demand that Equiano’s agency in shaping the political identities of the United Irishmen, and some of the geographies of connection they produced, is taken seriously. Contemporaries certainly wrote important assessments of Equiano in this regard. The Belfast abolitionist Thomas Digges acclaimed his role “as a principal instrument in bringing about the motion for a repeal of the Slave-act.”55

Equiano’s important political connections, however, have been profoundly marginalized in Vincent Carretta’s recent biography of Equiano. Carretta wrote of Equiano’s time in Ireland that “Equiano was associating with people who were increasingly becoming politically controversial.” Carretta argued that although he may have not known it “one of the shadiest characters he befriended in Ireland was Thomas Atwood Digges, who wrote him a letter of [begin page 126] introduction on Christmas Day, 1791, to take with him to the town of Carrickfergus.”56 Carretta used Equiano’s association with Digges, together with a reductive framing of Equiano as a self- made man, to foreclose a serious engagement with Equiano’s connections with radical figures in Ireland, Scotland, and England. This is a significant omission as Equiano knew and was friendly with a number of leading radical figures even making new connections between them.

As I have noted Equiano was a friend of Thomas Hardy, the first secretary of the LCS. He brokered connections between Hardy and radical movements in Sheffield, drawing on abolitionist connections and networks. Equiano was thus connected with both key United Irish radicals and the LCS. He may have been important in envisioning and generating the connections that developed between them. This would be in keeping with his role in forging, or attempting to forge, connections between the LCS and other radical political groups. On his tours to promote his book in the early 1790s Equiano sought out contacts for the newly formed LCS. From Edinburgh in 1792 he sent Hardy: “My best respect to my fellow members of your society. I hope they do yet increase- I do not hear in this place that there is any such society- I think Mr […] Matthews in Glasgow told me that there was (or is) some there.”57 Given the direct concern of this letter with soliciting contacts for the LCS, it would seem almost inconceivable that Equiano would not at the very least have mentioned to Hardy and other fellow members of the LCS his knowledge of similar societies in Dublin and Belfast.

The London Corresponding Society was influenced by connections with Irish democratic cultures. Thomas Hardy derived the idea for a Corresponding Society from a pamphlet associated with the eighteenth-century Irish militia, the Volunteers: A Letter from His Grace the Duke of Richmond to Lieutenant Colonel Sharman.58 This pamphlet was republished by the LCS. LCS rhetoric included appeals for “healing the bleeding wounds of Ireland” and against the “savage system of coercion now pursuing in Ireland.”59 Important Irish radicals such as John Binns were involved in both the UI and LCS. LCS appeals and declarations were also circulated to the United Irishmen. These cross-cutting friendships, associations and exchanges challenge accounts of the politics of the United Irishmen that have erased or ignored Equiano.60 Further they raise questions about what role Equiano may have played in constructing, facilitating, or envisioning connections between the UI and LCS. Likewise, his connections with radicals associated with the United Irishmen arguably contributed to the prominence of anti-slavery themes in United Irish writing and thought.

Certain United Irish radicals made anti-slavery themes central to their writings. An important case here is Thomas Russell. Russell was one of the most significant of the radical- populist leaders of the United Irishmen and an associate of Digges and the UI founder, Theobald Wolfe Tone.61 Russell’s poem the Negro’s Complaint was printed in the United Irish songbook Paddy’s Resource.62 The relations between anti-slavery concerns and the political strategies of the United Irishmen were developed in Russell’s pamphlet A Letter to the People of Ireland on the Present Situation of the Country published in 1796:

Are the Irish of the nation aware that this contest involves the question of the slave trade, the one now of the greatest consequence on the face of the earth? Are they willing to employ their treasure and their blood in support of that system because and England has 70 or 7000 millions engaged in it, the only argument that can be adduced in its favour monstrous as it may appear? Do they know that that horrid traffic spreads its influence over the globe; that it creates and perpetuates barbarism and misery, and prevents the spreading of civilisation and thousands of these miserable Africans are dragged from their innocent families like the miserable defenders, transported to various places, and there treated with [begin page 127] such a system of cruelty, torment, wickedness and infamy, that it is impossible for language adequately to express its horror and guilt, and which would appear rather to be the work of wicked demons than of men. If this trade is wrong, is it right for the Irish nation to endeavour to continue it? And does not every man who contributes to the war contribute to its support.63

This extract from Russell’s pamphlet has been rightly noted for the equivalence it draws between the treatment of the defenders and African slaves. Thus Kevin Whelan celebrated its vivid “imaginative identification between the poor Irish and the African-American slave.”64 Luke Gibbons argued in similar vein that “the cause of the Defenders is on a continuum with that of African slaves; and the standards of civility against which English tyranny is found wanting derive not from nature but from other cultures on the receiving end of colonialism, including that of the [N]ative Americans.”65

Equally significant perhaps are the relations that Russell makes here between the struggles for Irish independence and anti-slavery politics. His argument is about more than making a simple equivalence between the conditions of slaves and Defenders, important and powerful as that analogy is. He mobilizes slavery as a reason for opposing the English in the war against France. Note Russell’s injunction that “this contest involves the question of the slave trade.” The equivalence with slavery then is not made merely in order to emphasize the plight of the Irish poor. Rather, it is used as part of a broader argument that England should be opposed, because of England’s wealth from and support for the slave trade. Through the logic of this argument Russell opens up an important set of questions about what could be termed the “geopolitics of slavery.” The democratic cultures and identities of the UI in Russell’s pamphlet are produced, then, through particular interventions in the geopolitics of slavery. This produces a way of articulating emergent nationalist politics through geographies of connection and solidarity. At the time Russell was writing this pamphlet the French had abolished slavery in certain colonies in the wake of the slave insurrection in Saint-Domingue, later to become Haiti.66

The political identities and democratic cultures of the United Irishmen, however, were produced in relation to Atlantic geographies that were marked by differentiated geographies of power. There was no homogeneous linkage between United Irishmen and anti-slavery politics. Russell had various arguments with the editors of the Northern Star in relation to slavery.67 Merchants like William Sinclair, a leading industrialist and linen producer and founder member of the UI, were benefiting directly from the provisioning of the West Indian plantations.68 Most strikingly, many of the United Irishmen who were exiled to the US in the wake of the 1798 rebellion became either proponents of slavery or active participants in it.69 As David Wilson has argued, accounts of the UI’s anti-slavery stance are seriously undermined by the unpalatable reality that “virtually every prominent United Irish exile who settled south of the Mason-Dixon line became a slaveholder men such as Harman Blennerhasset, who owned a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Territory and constantly fretted over the price of slaves.”70 The links of Belfast merchants to Atlantic trade noted by Rodgers suggest there were continuities in the different relations of UI figures to slavery and the slave trade.

These multiple and contested links between the UI, slavery, and anti-slavery warrant serious engagement with the different political opinions/identities within the UI. It would be attractive to mobilize Russell’s analysis of the geopolitics of slavery and the links between Equiano and the United Irishmen to support Kevin Whelan’s assessment that the United Irishmen offered an “exemplary form of cultural pluralism.”71 However, this would be to ignore important evidence that problematizes straightforward support by UI for anti-slavery politics. It would also marginalize the role of figures such as Equiano, McCracken, and Russell in intervening in [begin page 128] the construction of the democratic political cultures of the UI. For these figures made significant interventions in linking anti-slavery positions to United Irish democratic cultures which are missed if an unproblematic anti-slavery position is assumed.

The debates over the relations between the UI and the politics of slavery emphasize some of the limited and contested notions of liberty and equality adopted by the UI. As David Wilson has argued of the United Irish exiles in America, not only “did their egalitarianism stop at the boundaries of white male society,” they also “refused to countenance class conflict within those boundaries,” being hostile to labor combinations.72 The next section explores some of the contested relations between labor struggles, democracy and nationalisms through an engagement with Irish involvement in the naval mutinies of the late 1790s.

Shipboard spaces, Irish nationalisms and democratic political cultures

In 1796 Wolf Tone addressed Irish sailors in the British Navy, asking them to mutiny and to steer their ships into the ports of Ireland. He noted that they would otherwise “probably be called upon immediately to turn your arms against your native land, and the part which you may take on this great occasion is of the very last importance. I hope and rely that you will act as becomes brave seamen and honest Irishmen. Remember that Ireland is now an independent nation.” Tone further asked: “What is there to hinder you from immediately seizing on every vessel wherein you sail, man of war, Indiaman or merchantman, hoisting the Irish flag and steering into the ports of Ireland? You have the power, if not the inclination.”73

Irish sailors were to be central actors in the mutinies at the Spithead and Nore in 1797 and in mutinies and “disorders” off Cape Nicola Mole (in present day Haiti), off Havana in the Caribbean, at Plymouth, among the Mediterranean fleet and at the Cape of Good Hope.74 Tone’s address, however, views Irish tars primarily as a means to the end of the formation of an independent Irish republic. The historiography of the United Irishmen has reproduced Tone’s construction of Irish sailors as passive figures who needed to be led. The struggles of Irish tars are constructed as playing out the already formed designs and demands of the United Irish movement and leadership.75 This section argues, in contrast, that the sailor’s actions dislocated some of the limits of the UI’s notions of equality and liberty.

Tone’s address hails sailors as significant because they fitted into the geopolitical strategies of the United Irishmen to develop an alliance with the French, as the prospects for a rebellion in Ireland were seen as dependent on support from the French.76 Tone’s address, however, displays little interest or feel for the ongoing grievances of sailors, their distinctive organizing traditions or the social relations aboard ship. Irish sailors involved in these mutinies mobilized democratic claims and language. In 1798, for example, there was a conspiracy led by Irish sailors aboard the Defiance. The conspirators were heard to take oaths pledging allegiance to the United Irishmen and to claim that they ‘should have equality and freedom in Ireland’.77 There is evidence, however, that this was not just a passive mimicking of the ideas of groups like the United Irishmen, but an application of these ideas to the context of their harsh lives aboard ship.

The articulations between notions of equality and liberty and shipboard grievances can be demonstrated by a prosecution brief drawn up in the case of an Irish sailor, John Pollard. Pollard was arrested in a dockside tavern in 1800 for making the following toasts “success to the rebels,” “success to the French,” and “damn the dog that opposes them.” Pollard also boasted of his role in the Spithead mutiny, where he was among the leaders of the mutineers on La Nymphe. The prosecution brief recounts that after the Spithead mutiny he had “ran away from her to avoid punishment for his behaviour in the mutiny” and had joined the Montague. It was alleged that on the Montague he had “at various times been guilty of mutinous seditions and disorderly conduct.” Pollard was later recognized by his former Captain Frazer on the Montague. Within [begin page 129] an hour of being back on La Nymphe the brief alleges that “Pollard was endeavouring to excite the crew to mutiny,” boasting that “he had in the Montague been instrumental in sending Lord Vincent on shore at Gibraltar–and that if they [the crew of La Nymphe] had a dislike to any of their officers he would assist them ashore also.”78

Pollard’s democratic imaginary, then, didn’t bear just on notions of independence in Ireland, they were also applied directly to the conditions of his work-place: the ship. As Moore has argued, the Spithead and Nore mutinies were characterized by important attempts to democratize these work places, structured as they were by hierarchical power relations and by both the threat and practice of ritualized forms of official violence.79 The existence and precise nature of contacts between political organizations like the United Irishmen and the London Corresponding Society and the mutinies has long been a source of contention.80 Both Wells and Elliott have argued that there were particular individuals with links to either or both the LCS and the UI.81

The central significance of the LCS and the UI, however, would not appear to have been direct infiltration. Rather their influence seems strongest in the democratic cultures that characterized the mutinies. The mutineers’ attempts to democratize the space of the ship bear important similarities with the democratic spatial practices of the LCS.82 The mutineers at the Spithead and Nore elected delegates to a general committee. The sailors’ use of democratic systems of representation at Spithead was applauded by the Moral and Political Magazine of the LCS.83 The mutineers, however, did not passively mimic the forms of democratic political culture associated with the London Corresponding Society and the United Irishmen. Through using democratic principles, they attempted to regulate and transform life aboard ship, turning bow to stern as Moore argues.84 These were inventive uses of democratic practices extending them to regulating workplaces that were usually defined by strict and violent hierarchies.85 These mutinies, conspiracies, and revolts then can’t be seen as just as a simple extension of the activity of the United Irishmen aboard ship. These intersections with sailors’ grievances and combinations reworked the United Irishmen’s political practices. They unsettle the power-relations which structure Tone’s address, wherein sailors are hailed as becoming part of an Irish navy, but where social and labor relations are still posed in hierarchical terms. Elite radicals could still be dismissive of such subaltern appropriations of democratic politics. John Thelwall of the LCS, for example, described the mutinies as “mere temporary politics.”86

The forms of association produced through these mutinies established different forms of collectivity, suggesting that specific democratic and nascent nationalist identities negotiated the heterogeneity of the lower deck in different ways. Various historians have noted the social heterogeneity of Jack Tars in the eighteenth century. Thus Jeffrey Bolster has talked of the “rough egalitarianism” of the lower deck and Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker have described the ship as an “extraordinary forcing house of internationalism.”87 Evidence from these mutinies and conspiracies suggests, however, that Irish sailors negotiated this heterogeneity in distinct ways.

Thus a conspiracy aboard the Renommée locates sailor’s invocations of notions of liberty as part of the “ordinary multiculture” that shaped the lower deck.88 The ship was sailing off Havana when a conspiracy was detected, reputedly bearing the influence of the mutiny on the Hermione.89 Gabriel Johnson, an African American from New York, Thomas Hennigan from Dublin, and J. McDonald and Patrick Hynes, whom the Renommée pay book merely records as coming from “Ireland,” were court-martialed and sentenced to death for their part in the conspiracy.90 Evidence given to the court martial by William Allen, a sailor on the Renommée, turns on the way oaths were administered:

Patrick Hynes and me were drinking our grog together (he being a messmate of mine) [he] told me, he wanted to speak something sincerely to me. I asked him [begin page 130] what is meant. He told me they were going to take the ship into the Havannah and whether I would take an Oath upon it. I told him I would take no oath on that subject then he said whoever did not, that the word was . . . Death or Liberty. I told him it was foolish to think of that, and that surely every man would be hung then he said, whoever did not make Oath upon it, it would be death for them in any part of the ship they found them in. Upon that discourse he left me, and Gabriel Johnson came to me that evening, just after six O clock and asked me if Pat Hynes had asked me anything. I just told him he had not; he said, if he had You may as well tell me as not.91

His evidence suggests the use of the oath was part of strategies of ongoing intimidation and mobilization. It situates the administering of oaths as part of rough cultures of the lower deck and as part of particular sites of association. Allen’s testimony situates the administering of oaths as being used as a form of ongoing intimidation. His evidence notes that he was subjected to ritualistic and repeated intimidation by various fellow tars. The court-martial evidence for the conspiracy is suggestive of how the use of oaths was located at the intersection of different sailors. The oath is not seen as restricted to one group of sailors, it is not just “Irish” sailors who are sworn. These attempts to administer oaths suggest how they could be used to generate multi- ethnic practices of rebellion. The revolutionary edge of the watch-word “death or liberty” is also notable. In their court-martial testimony even fellow sailors who gave hostile witness do not mark out Johnson as black suggesting that his status as a fellow sailor transcended this difference.92

As Paul Gilroy has argued in a different context, “[r]acial difference is not feared. Exposure to it is not ethnic jeopardy but rather . . . unremarkable.”93 The use of the oath, however, suggests how particular masculinities cemented these ordinary forms of multiculture.94 The court-martial records of the conspiracy on the Renommée, then, suggest a conspiracy that drew together Irish and other sailors in multi-ethnic cultures of resistance and that oaths were a formative part of this multiculture. Such multiethnic cultures were shaped in diverse contexts. Nicole Ulrich has explored the role of two Irish “vagabonds” who were alleged to have been instigators of the 1808 Revolt in the Cape Colony along with two Khoisan farm servants and forty-seven slaves. One, James Hooper, it would appear had left Ireland in 1799 in the wake of the United Irish rising.95

Shipboard Conspiracies related to the United Irish rising in 1798, mobilized similar use of oaths to generate different forms of collective identity and antagonism. There is evidence that suggests the use of oaths as part of the formation of exclusionary collective identities associated with aggressive forms of territorialization. The court martial of those accused of being part of a conspiracy on the Defiance accuses Irish sailors of being part of a “mutinous assembly or meeting on the starboard side of the galley.”96 On the Captain, fifteen or twenty conspirators were said to meet “under the forecastle on the larboard side of the galley.”97 The administering of oaths was central to cementing these exclusionary identities and collectives.98 This suggests how the conspiracies of Irish sailors were conducted through aggressive forms of territorialization of particular sites of the lower deck.

The testimonies also suggest how these forms of association of Irish sailors were defined in very hostile ways against English tars. William Howell of the Defiance recalled that he had “heard David Reed say the English buggers we’ll kill them all and make Orange boys of them.”99 On the Caesar it was reported that “Englishmen hardly dare go thro’ the Galley by day time without being insulted and his heels tripp’d . . . from under him” and that Irishmen “threw bottles at Englishmen from the Galley.”100 These exclusionary identities were also produced through particular small acts of violence aboard ship, such as the intimidation of English sailors, and of Irish sailors who didn’t support the UI. In his testimony Lawrence Carroll of the Defiance [begin page 131] noted the response of the messmates in his berth after reading a letter he had written to his brother in Dublin which concluded that “I hope the country is quiet and the rebels defeated. . . . Cornelius Callaghan told me I ought to be knocked down for I was no Irishman for writing such a letter.”101 This suggests how notions of Irishness became the site of contestation through these mutinous events and conspiracies. It also suggests that sailors constituted different, and potentially antagonistic, notions of Irishness in relation to events such as the 1798 rebellion.


David Dickson has argued that whereas in Britain “rights, universal or otherwise, became the central concern of the most radical writing,” in Ireland, by the end of the 1790s, the rights of man “were being transmuted into the rights of Irishmen.”102 This paper has demonstrated the contested and multiple character of Irish democratic cultures and the struggles over notions of who and what belonged to Irish democratic cultures in the context of this move towards the elision between notions of democratic community and of the rights of Irishmen. Positioning Irish democratic political activity in relation to Atlantic geographies of connection can help to foreground the diverse forms of agency and identity which constituted, and were constituted in relation to, Irish democratic cultures.

Interrogating the spatial relations through which these democratic cultures were formed highlight different demarcations of inclusion and exclusion in forms of political community and imaginary. Exploring the forms of inclusion and exclusion through which such democratic cultures were formed has important implications for the character of the emergent forms of nationalism in 1790s Ireland.103 The contacts between Equiano and the United Irishmen in Belfast, the motley forms of politics that characterized the conspiracy on the Renommée, the arguments of Thomas Russell against the geopolitics of slavery, all suggest there were different ways of generating Irish nationalisms than the association of Irishness and exclusionary notions of whiteness which emerged in the US in the nineteenth century.104 These different nationalist practices suggest that what it was to be either, or both a democrat and a nationalist could be formed through positive relations with others and forms of connection, rather than through an inevitable hardening of identities.

By exploring the contested geographies through which Irish democratic cultures were fashioned, I have sought to foreground forms of subaltern agency. Such a project is disruptive of the terms of debate that have structured different traditions of Irish historiography. This directly challenges the routine location of Irish politics and social movements within nation-centered framings. Thinking Irish subaltern politics in relational terms, then, has important implications for attempts to think about the diverse antagonisms, solidarities, and political networks constructed by subaltern actors in colonial Ireland. Engaging with the contested spatial relations through which political identities were made and remade is a key way of recovering these forms of agency.


Many thanks to Gerry Kearns and Maria Lane for their editorial support and engagement. Thanks are also due to Colm Breathnach, Mo Hume, and Nicole Ulrich.


1 Jemmy [James] Hope, “Jefferson’s Daughter” (1846) in Literary Remains of the United Irishmen of 1798, ed. Richard R. Madden (Dublin: James Duffy, 1887), 102.

2 John Newsinger, ed., United Irishman: The Autobiography of James Hope (London: Merlin, 2001), 47.

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3 Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, “The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves and the Atlantic Working Class,” Journal of Historical Sociology 3, no.3 (1990): 225–52;Linebaugh and Rediker, The Many Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves and Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (London: Verso, 2001); Bertie Mandelblatt, “A Transatlantic Commodity: Irish Salt Beef in the French Atlantic World,” History Workshop Journal 63 (2007): 18–47; Nini Rodgers, “Equiano in Belfast: A Study of the Anti-Slavery Ethos in a Northern Town,” Slavery and Abolition 18, no.2 (1997): 73–89;Rogers, Ireland, Slavery and Anti-Slavery: 1612-1865 (Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave, Macmillan, 2007).

4 Ash Amin, “Regions Unbound: Towards a New Politics of Place,” Geografisker Annaler B 86, no.1 (2004): 33–44; David J. Featherstone, Resistance, Space and Political Identities: The Making of Counter-Global Networks (Oxford UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008); David Slater, “Other Domains of Democratic Theory: Space, Power, and the Politics of Democratization,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 20, no.3 (2002): 255–76.

5 David Dickson, “Paine and Ireland” in The United Irishmen: Republicanism, Radicalism and Rebellion, eds. David Dickson, Daire Keogh, and Kevin Whelan (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1993), 135–50; Kevin Whelan, The Tree of Liberty (Cork: Cork University Press, 1996);Whelan, “Ireland, Scotland and Britain in the Long Eighteenth Century” in These Fissured Isles: Ireland, Scotland and British History, 1798-1848, eds. Terry Brotherstone, Anna Clark, and Kevin Whelan (Edinburgh UK: John Donald Publishers, 2005), 43–60.

6 Nancy J. Curtin, United Irishmen: Popular Politics in Ulster and Dublin, 1791-1798 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 51.

7 Gerry Kearns, “Bare Life, Political Violence and the Territorial Structure of Britain and Ireland” in Violent Geographies: Fear, Terror and Political Violence, eds. Derek Gregory and Allan Pred (New York: Routledge, 1987), 7–37; David Nally, “‘That Coming Storm’: The Irish Poor Law, Colonial Biopolitics and the Great Famine,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 98, no.3 (2008): 714–41.

8 Ranajit Guha, “On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India” in Subaltern Studies I, ed. Guha (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 1–7; Partha Chatterjee, “Gandhi and the Critique of Civil Society” in Subaltern Studies III, ed.Ranjit Guha (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), 153–95.

9 Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Noel Smith,eds., Antonio Gramsci: Selections from the Prison Notebooks (London: Lawrence and Wishart 1971); Guha, “On Some Aspects.”

10 Ranajit Guha, Dominance without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India (Harvard, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997), 102.

11 Featherstone, Resistance, Space, and Political Identities; Vinay Gidwani, Capital Interrupted: Agrarian Development and the Politics of Work in India (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota

Press, 2008).

12 David Lloyd, “Irish New Histories and the ‘Subalternity Effect,’” in Subaltern Studies IX, eds. Shahid Amin and Dipesh Chakrabarty (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 261–80.

13 Brian Graham and Lindsay J. Proudfoot, “Introduction: A Perspective on the Nature of Irish Historical Geography” in An Historical Geography of Ireland, ed. Graham and Proudfoot (London: Academic Press, 1992), 1 – 18.

14 Ibid., 11–14.

15 John Morrissey, Negotiating Colonialism: Gaelic-Irish Reaction to New English Expansion in Early Modern Tipperary c.1541-1641 (London: Historical Geography Research Group, 2003), 7.

16 Ibid.

17 Willy Maley, “Nationalism and Revisionism: Ambiviolences and Dissensus” in Ireland in Proximity: History, Gender and Space, eds. Scott Brewster, Virginia Crossman, Fiona Becket,

[begin page 133]

and David Alderson (London: Routledge, 1999), 21.

18 Lloyd, “Irish New Histories,” 268; Kevin Whelan, “Come All You Staunch Revisionists: Towards a Post-Revisionist Agenda for Irish History,” Irish Reporter 2, no.2 (1991): 23–6.

19 Kevin O’Neill, “A Revisionist Milestone?” in Interpreting Irish History: The Debate on Historical Revisionism, ed. Ciaran Brady (Blackrock: Irish Academic Press, 1994), 218.

20 Rodgers, Ireland, Slavery, and Anti-Slavery.

21 As argued by: Terry Eagleton, Crazy John and the Bishop and Other Essays on Irish Culture (Cork: Cork University Press, 1998), 308–27; Lloyd, “Irish New Histories;” Francis Mulhearn, The Present Lasts A Long Time: Essays in Cultural Politics (Cork: Cork University Press, 1998); Whelan, “Come All You Staunch Revisionists.”

22 Although see: Colm Breathnach, “Working-Class Resistance in Pre-Famine County Dublin: The Dalkey Quarry Strikes of the 1820s,” Saothar, Journal of the Irish Labour History Society 30 (2005): 9–19; Brian Henry, Dublin Hanged: Crime, Law Enforcement and Punishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Dublin (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1994); Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Jim Smyth, Men of No Property: Irish Radicals and Popular Politics in the Late Eighteenth-Century (Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Macmillan, 1992).

23 Sir Lucius O’Brien, “Report of the Grand Committee on Trade”, February, 1780. Journal of the Irish House of Commons, Vol. 10, Part 1, cxi–cxviii.

24 Thomas Preston, The Life and Opinions of Thomas Preston, Patriot and Shoemaker (London: Thomas Preston, 1817).

25 Catherine Nash, “Embodied Irishness: Gender, Sexuality and Irish Identities” in In Search of Ireland: A Cultural Geography, ed. Brian Graham (London: Routledge, 1997), 124.

26 Adrian N. Mulligan, “Countering Exclusion: The ‘St Pats For All’ Parade,” Gender, Place and Culture 15, no.2 (2008): 153–67.

27 Lloyd, “Irish New Histories,” 268–9.

28 James S. Donnelly, “The Whiteboy Movement, 1761-5,” Irish Historical Studies 21, no.81 (1978): 20 – 54; Donnelly, “Irish Agrarian Rebellion: The Whiteboys of 1769-76,” Proceedingsof the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 83C (1983): 293–331; Maureen Wall, “Whiteboys” in Secret Societies, ed. Thomas D. Williams (Dublin: Gill and MacMillan, 1973), 13–25.

29 Friedrich Engels, “Letter to Eduard Bernstein June 26, 1882” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Ireland and the Irish Question, ed. Richard R. Dixon (London: Lawrence and Wishart,

1971), 451–4; William E. H. Lecky, A History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, Vol. 2 (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1892), 37; Richard R. Madden, (1842) The United Irishmen, their Lives and Times (London: J. Madden and Co., 1842), 25.

30 Lloyd, “Rethinking National Marxism,” Interventions 5, no.3 (2003): 345 – 70; Featherstone, D. J. “Skills for heterogeneous associations: the Whiteboys, collective experimentation and subaltern political ecologies,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 25, no.2 (2007): 284–306.

31 Featherstone, D. “Atlantic Networks, Antagonisms and the Formation of Subaltern Political Identities,” Social and Cultural Geography 6, no.3 (2005): 387–404.

32 Featherstone, Resistance, Space and Identities; Linebaugh, London Hanged.

33 Mulhearn, The Present Lasts a Long Time, 157.

34 Ibid.

35 Massey, For Space.

36 Mulligan, “Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: Transatlantic Irish Nationalism and the 1867 Rising,” Social and Cultural Geography 6, no.3 (2005): 452; Mulligan, “A Forgotten 134 Featherstone ‘Greater Ireland’: The Transatlantic Development of Irish Nationalism,” Scottish Geographical Journal 118, no.3 (2002): 219–34.

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37 Mulligan, “Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder,” 452.

38 Maia Ramnath, Haj to Utopia: How the Ghadar Movement Charted Global Radicalism and Attempted to Overthrow the British Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), xii.

39 Ibid, 96.

40 Kevin Grant, “The Transcolonial World of Hunger Strikes and Political Fasts, c.1909-1935” in Decentring Empire: Britain, India and the Transcolonial World, eds. Durba Ghosh and Dane Kennedy (London: Sangam Books, 2006), 243–69.

41 Olauah Equiano, “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself,” 5th ed. (1792 [1789]) in Olauah Equiano. The interesting Narrative and Other Writings, ed. Vincent Carretta, (London: Penguin, 1995), 235.

42 Mary Thale, “Editor’s Introduction” in., Selections from the Papers of the London Corresponding Society, 1792-99, ed. Thale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), xv.

43 Linebaugh and Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra, 243; Equiano, “The Interesting Narrative,” 91.

44 W. Jeffrey Bolster, Black Jacks: African-American Seamen in the Age of Sail (Cambridge, Massachussetts: Harvard University Press, 1997), 77; 88.

45 John Jea, “The Life, History and Unparalleled Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher, Compiled and Written by Himself” (1815) in Pioneers of the Black Atlantic: Five Slave Narratives from the Enlightenment, 1772-1815, eds. Henry Louis Gates and William L.

Andrews (Washington, District of Columbia: Counterpoint, 1998), 428–9.

46 William A. Hart, “Africans in Eighteenth Century Ireland,” Irish Historical Studies 33, no. 129 (2003): 19–32.

47 Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London: Pluto Press, 1984), 84.

48 Rodgers, “Equiano in Belfast.”

49 Rodgers, “Equiano in Belfast,” 75; see also Belfast Newsletter, 20 December 1791.

50 Equiano, “The Interesting Narrative,” 25–6.

51 Rodgers, “Equiano in Belfast;” James Quinn, Soul on Fire: A Life of Thomas Russell (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2002), 61–3.

52 Jean Agnew and Maria Luddy, eds., The Drennan-McTier Letters, Vol 1. 1776-1793 (Dublin: Irish Historical Manuscripts Commission, 1998), 386.

53 Nancy J. Curtin, “Women and Eighteenth-Century Irish Republicanism” in Women in Early Modern Ireland, eds. Margaret MacCurtain and Mary O’Dowd (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991), 138.

54 Ibid., 139.

55 Equiano, “The Interesting Narrative,” 10.

56 Vincent Carretta, Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-made Man (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005), 345; Carretta, “A New Letter by Gustavus Vassa/ Olaudah Equiano?” Early American Literature 39, no.2 (2004): 355–61.

57 The National Archives UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO) TS 24/12/2.

58 Michael T. Davis, ed., London Corresponding Society, 1792-1799. Vol. 2 (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2002), 11–28.

59 Ibid., 252.

60 A curious example here would be Luke Gibbons’s discussion of UI attitudes to slavery which ignores Equiano’s connections with the UI; Luke Gibbons, Edmund Burke and Ireland: Aesthetics, Politics and the Colonial Sublime (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 208–30.

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61 Quinn, Soul on Fire.

62 Christopher J. Woods, ed., Journals and Memoirs of Thomas Russell, 1791-5 (Blackrock: Irish Academic Press, 1991), 174.

63 Thomas Russell, A Letter to the People of Ireland on the Present Situation of the Country (Belfast: Northern Star Office, 1796), 22.

64 Kevin Whelan, “The Green Atlantic: Radical Reciprocities between Ireland and America in the Long Eighteenth Century” in A New Imperial History: Culture, Identity and Modernity in Britain and the Empire, ed. Kathleen Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 233.

65 Gibbons, Edmund Burke, 226.

66 Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Harvard, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004). The Haitian rebellion began in 1791. Slavery was abolished in the French colonies in 1794, and reintroduced by Napoleon in 1802. Haiti secured independence in 1804.

67 Quinn, Soul on Fire, 61–3.

68 Rodgers, Ireland, Slavery, and Anti-Slavery, 84.

69 John Binns, Recollections of the Life of John Binns (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: John Binns, 1854); Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White (New York: Routledge, 1995); David A. Wilson, United Irishmen, United States: Immigrant Radicals in the Early Republic (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998), 133–52.

70 David A. Wilson, “Comment: Whiteness and Irish Experience in North America,” Journal of British Studies 44, no. 1 (2005): 153–60.

71 Whelan, “Green Atlantic,” 58.

72 Wilson, United Irishmen, 134.

73 Conrad Gill, The Naval Mutinies of 1797 (Manchester UK: Manchester University Press, 1913), 331–2.

74 Maurice Boucher and Nigel Penn, Britain at the Cape, 1795-1803 (Johannesburg, South Africa: Brenthurst Press, 1992), 187; Gill, Naval Mutinies, 252–3; Roger Wells, Insurrection: The British Experience 1795-1803 (Gloucester, United Kingdom: Alan Sutton, 1983), 145–51.

75 Marianne Elliott, Partners in Revolution: The United Irishmen and France (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1990), 140–2; Wells, Insurrection, 145; Whelan, Tree of Liberty, 123.

76 Elliott, Partners in Revolution.

77 Record of Court Martial Assembled on board HM’s Ship Gladiator in Portsmouth Harbor held 8th September to 14th day of September, 1978, TNA: PRO Adm 1/5346 (1978)

78 The King Against John Pollard For Sedition, TNA: PRO TS 11/914/3164.

79 Joseph P. Moore III, “‘The Greatest Enormity that Prevails’: Direct Democracy and Workers’ Self -Management in the British Naval Mutinies of 1797” in Jack Tar in History: Essays in the History of Maritime Life and Labour, eds. Colin D. Howell and Richard J. Twomey (New Brunswick, Canada: Acadiensis, 1991), 76–104.

80 Elliott, Partners in Revolution; Gill, Naval Mutinies; Nicholas A. M. Rodger, “Mutiny and subversion? Spithead and the Nore” in 1798: A Bicentenary Perspective, eds. Thomas Bartlett, David Dickson, Daire Keogh, and Kevin Whelan (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003), 549–564; Edward P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (London: Gollancz, 1963); Wells, Insurrection.

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81 Elliott, Partners in Revolution, 140–1; Wells, Insurrection, 95–9. The relationships between the LCS, the United Irishmen and the mutinies still, however, seem to be a matter of scorn for some naval historians. Nicholas Rodger argues that the Quota Acts, which have been seen as a key source of dissent, were not a provocation to “educated trouble-makers,” but rather to “respectable working men in need of employment”; Rodger, “Mutiny and Subversion.” It was precisely “respectable working men,” however, who were members of societies like the LCS and who would have brought their experiences of these organizations to negotiate the harsh life aboard ship.

82 Moore, “Greatest Enormity.”

83 Michael T. Davis, ed., London Corresponding Society, 1792-1799. Vol. 4 (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2002), 180.

84 Moore, “Greatest Enormity.”

85 Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700-1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

86 John Thelwall, “A Pedestrian Excursion Through Several Parts of England and Wales During the Summer of 1797,” Monthly Magazine 8, no.1 (1799): 532–3.

87 Bolster, Black Jacks, 91; Linebaugh and Rediker, Many-Headed Hydra, 151.

88 Paul Gilroy, After Empire (London: Routledge, 2004), 105.

89 Wells, Insurrection, 149.

90 Renommée Pay Book, TNA: PRO Adm 35/1550.

91 Renommée Court Martial, TNA: PRO Adm 1/ 5343.

92 Ibid.

93 Gilroy, After Empire, 105.

94 Bolster, Black Jacks.

95 N. Ulrich, ‘Abolition from below: the 1808 revolt in the Cape Colony’ in “Humanitarian Intervention” and Changing Labour Relations: Long-term Consequences of the British Act on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, 1807, ed. Marcel van der Linden (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011), 193-222; 197.

96 TNA: PRO Adm 1/5346.

97 TNA: PRO Adm 1/5347.

98 See TNA: PRO Adm 1/5346; Adm 1/5347.

99 TNA: PRO Adm 1/5346.

100 Wells, Insurrection, 148.

101 TNA: PRO Adm 1/5346.

102 Dickson, “Paine and Ireland,” 148.

103 Catherine Hall, “The Rule of Difference: Gender, Class and Empire in the Making of the 1832 Reform Act” in Gendered Nations: Nationalisms and Gender Order in the Long Nineteenth Century, eds. Ida Blom, Karen Hageman, and Catherine Hall, eds., (Oxford: Berg, 2000), 107–136.

104 Ignatiev, How the Irish became White.

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