[Rev] William Jackson


Life
?1737-1795; b. Dublin; United Irishman; went to London, became tutor, and took holy orders; Curate of Mary-le-Strand; preacher at Tavistock Chapel, Drury Lane, London; secretary to Duchess of Kingston, before 1775; satirised by Foote as Dr. Viper in Capuchin [1776]; Jackson retaliated with a ‘disgusting’ poem by ‘Humphrey Nettle’ (pseud.); Whig ed. of Public Ledger [in which he replied to Johnson’s Taxation no Tyranny, supporting Americans] and The Morning Post [with Isaac Jackman, supra]; sometimes described as betrayer of Tone; may have been agent sent to Louis XVI by William Pitt in 1792, as a pretended Quaker;
 
sought French aid for United Irishman; sent to London and Dublin from France to test popular support, March 1794; betrayed to the government in Dublin by Duchess of Kingston’s attorney, Cockayne, to whom in injudiciously revealed his possession of a memorandum by Tone describing Ireland as ripe for revolution; tried for treason, Dublin 1794; wrote Observations in Answer to Mr. T. Paine’s Age of Reason (Dublin 1795) in prison; defended by Curran and Ponsonby; died in the dock, 30 April, supposedly from poison supplied by his wife. ODNB DIB OCIL

[ top ]

Commentary
Michael Banim, The Croppy: A Tale of 1798 (1828), departs from an historical introduction in which the following footnote is found relating to the banning of a meeting of the United Irishmen in Dublin by the sherriff on the grounds that the persons meeting held ‘ ’seditious and republican views’: ‘Nor was the charge made on light grounds. A Protestant clergyman, Rev. Wm. Jackson, had, through the treacherous agency of a London attorney, Cockaigne, (a good name for a London attorney,) been detected, in Dublin, in the character of a French emissary to the discontented Irish.’ (p.11,n.; available in Google Books [online; accessed 12.07.2010.])

[ top ]

Cheryl Herr, For The Land They Loved (1991), Isaac Jackson, the dramatist who committed suicide, Vide, J. W. Whitbread’s political melodrama, Wolfe Tone (1898), in which, the following dialogue, Rafferty - ‘When Jackson died in court ..’. Turner - ‘An’ spoilt the hangman ov his job.’

Alan Booth, ‘Irish Exiles, Revolution and Writing in England in the 1790s’, in Paul Hyland and Neil Sammells, eds., Irish Writing, Exile and Subversion (Macmillan 1991), pp.64-81, promptings by the London Corresponding Society in the shape of a belligerent Address instigated Jackson’s mission from France, in march 1794, to test public following for the Revolution in England in and Ireland; in the former he found none; in the latter, the united Irishmen gave him a more positive account of the state of popular disaffection; his arrest a signal for Government repression (p.66); Further, a weaver, James Dixon, sent by the LCS to his native Belfast to get the united articles from Ireland; Dixon returned with 400 copies of The Declarations, Resolutions and Constitution of the United Irishmen, leading to the effective birth of the societies of United Englishmen, a body that followed the secret organisation of its Irish model, and elicited oaths from soldiers, &c. (p.69ff.).

[ top ]

References
Dictionary of National Biography: Judgement was fixed for 30 April, on which day his wife breakfasted with him, and probably brought him poison. After whispering to M’Nally on his arrival in court ‘We have deceived the senate’ (the dying words of the suicide Pierre in Otway’s Venice Preserved), he dropped down dead in the dock ... His suicide was attributed to the desire to save from forfeiture a small competency for his wife. His funeral ... was attended by the leading United Irishmen.’ Sources, Madden, etc., and John Taylor’s Record of My Life.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, p.930, Jackson was the clergyman who carried the documents that compromised Wolfe Tone; Curran defended him; he committed suicide with poison in court when found guilty of sedition.

Belfast Public Library holds The Trial of Rev. William Jackson for High Treason (1795).

[ top ]

Notes
Rosamund Jacob, The Rise of the United Irishmen 1791-94 (1927), contains a full account of the transmission of Theobald Wolfe Tone’s papers to Jackson via Rowan (p.224ff.)

Samuel Foote, The Capuchin (1776) was an adaptation of The Trip to Calais, which had been suppressed by influence of Duchess of Kingston, who had been libelled in it.

[ top ]

Duchess of Kingston [self-styled] was Elizabeth Chudleigh, weakminded, beautiful, and illiterate; involved in confused marital and non-marital affairs with James Duke of Hamilton, still a minor in 1744; secretly married Augustus John Hervey, 1744; concealed birth and death of a son, Nov. 1747; obtrained separation; flirtations with George II; took private means to establish fact of her marriage, 1759; open concubine of Evelyn Pierrepont, 2nd duke of Kingston, 1760; visited Berlin and Dresden; denied marriage with Hervey on oath on being threatened with trial for divorce, 1768-69; legally declared spinster; m. Duke of Kinston, heiress to property, Sept. 1773; went to Rome; accused of bigamy by Duke’s nephew, 1774; quarrelled with Samuel Foote, Aug. 1775; found guilty of bigamy by peers, 1776; retired to Calis; marriage to Hervey, Earl since 1775 (d.1779), declared valid, 1777; visited Czarina Catherina, 1777; visited Rome &c., d. Paris.

[ top ]