Ideology and Aims
The dominant ideological influence on the United Irish leaders was the British radical whig tradition. While this intellectual heritage spurred British radicals to demand reform of the existing system, it was eventually transformed, first by American colonists and then by Irish patriots, into full-fledged republicanism. The United Irishmen used the term ‘republican’ in both its moral and formal sense, a usage determined by the strategies available to them in restoring their constitution to the basic principles of a fair and equal representation. The ideas of reform as a restoration had pervaded the Volunteer agitation in Ireland in the early 1780s, when the return of the independence of the Irish legislature was demanded. The United Irishmen were petty-bourgeois revolutionaries. Their chief aims were popular self-government and economic liberation from England.
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