The Belfast Jacobin is the first-ever biography of Samuel Neilson, a founding member of the Society of United Irishmen whose profound influence on this radical movement was to alter the course of Irish history.
Samuel Neilson joined Wolfe Tone and Thomas Russell at the inaugural meeting of the United Irishmen in 1791, forming a radical front that would challenge the political realities of the day in increasingly strident ways. As editor of the Northern Star, Neilson was to be a principal figure in shaping the United Irishmen’s ideology before the newspaper was suppressed by the military. He brought the excitement caused by the French Revolution into Irish focus, putting public dissatisfaction into words and, later, gathering the forces necessary for revolt.
Kenneth Dawson, conducting original research and drawing upon innumerable archive sources, reveals Neilson’s formidable strength as an organiser of radical politics, his incessant run-ins with the authorities, and his central role in planning the United Irish Rebellion of 1798. Samuel Neilson brought talk of revolution to the street – The Belfast Jacobin is a pivotal history that illuminates the true import of his deeds and writing, sorely obscured in many accounts of the 1790s.
Kenneth Dawson is a graduate of the Queen’s University of Belfast and recipient of the Esther Ballentine Award for Modern History (1987–91). He was Head of History and Politics at Down High School, Downpatrick 1997–2008 and has been Vice-Principal since 2008. He has been researching the United Irishmen for a number of years and is the author of numerous articles on the subject. In 2003 he contributed significantly to an RTE radio production on the United Irish figure Thomas Russell. He now resides in Ballynahinch County Down, close to the scene of the battle that took place there in 1798.