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Tandy, James Napper

Tandy, James Napper

A celebrated radical in Dublin politics in the 1770s and 1780s and a prominent United Irishman in the 1790s, Napper Tandy (1740–1802) was born in Dublin, the son of a merchant. He entered municipal politics in the 1770s and quickly became known for his reformist views. He was outspoken in his support of the American revolutionaries beginning in 1775 and became very active in the Volunteer movement, a movement intended initially to mobilize the general population to defend the country in the event of a French invasion during the period 1778 to 1783. Tandy was also enthusiastic about the French Revolution. He was among the founding members of the Dublin Society of United Irishmen in 1791 and its first secretary. He fled the country in 1793 for fear of being charged with taking the Defender oath, and he made his way to the United States. In 1797, with United Irish emissaries active in France, he went to Hamburg, Germany, and thence to Paris. An intense personal rivalry had developed between Tandy and Theobald Wolfe Tone; partly because of this the French government became less enthusiastic about an expedition to Ireland. At the same time Tandy's letters to his brother in Ireland led some United Irishmen there to assume that a French landing was imminent. Tandy was among the United Irishmen in France who were given commissions late in the summer of 1798 and assigned to the various small expeditions dispatched to attempt to link up with the Irish rebels. Arriving on the Donegal coast on 22 September, after both the Rising in the eastern counties and the campaign of French General Jean-Joseph-Amable Humbert in the west had come to an end, Tandy left the country a day later, realizing that all hope of success was lost. He and several comrades made their way to Hamburg, where they were arrested; they were finally handed over to British authorities in September 1799 after a diplomatic standoff involving Britain, France, Prussia, and Russia. Tandy was tried and convicted of treason in Ireland but was released by British General Charles Cornwallis as a result of French pressure. He left Ireland for the last time in 1802 and sailed to Bordeaux, where he died (of dysentery) on 24 August of that year.

SEE ALSO Defenderism; Eighteenth-Century Politics: 1778 to 1795—Parliamentary and Popular Politics; Eighteenth-Century Politics: 1795 to 1800—Repression, Rebellion, and Union; United Irish Societies from 1791 to 1803; Primary Documents: United Irish Parliamentary Reform Plan (March 1794); Grievances of the United Irishmen of Ballynahinch, Co. Down (1795); Speech Delivered at a United Irish Meeting in Ballyclare, Co. Antrim (1795); The United Irish Organization (1797); Statement of Three Imprisoned United Irish Leaders (4 August 1798)


Coughlan, Rupert J. Napper Tandy. 1976.

Ni Chinneide, Sile. Napper Tandy and the European Crisis. 1962.

Daniel Gahan

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