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HOPE, JAMES (1764–1846?), United Irishman, son of a fugitive covenanter who had settled in the north of Ireland as a linen-weaver, was born in the parish of Templepatrick, co. Antrim, on 25 Aug. 1764. He left school at the age of ten, and was apprenticed to linen-weaving. In due time he became a journeyman weaver. The commercial distress prevalent in the north, consequent on the war with the American colonies, convinced Hope that the fundamental question of the time was social rather than political, and only to be solved by restoring to the people ‘their natural right of deriving a subsistence from the soil on which their labour was expended.’ But it was the religious feuds between the Peep-o'-Day Boys and the Defenders, nowhere more bitter than in his own neighbourhood, that first seriously attracted his attention to politics. He threw himself with enthusiasm into the movement for a union between the Roman catholics and presbyterians, which should be directed mainly to an extension of civil and religious freedom among all classes of the community, and he became a member of the Roughford volunteer corps, and at a later period a member of the Molusk Society of United Irishmen. On the reconstruction of the United Irish Society in 1795, he consented, though reluctantly, to take the oath of secrecy and fidelity, and was appointed a delegate to the upper baronial committee of Belfast. In the spring of 1796 he was sent to Dublin to extend the principles of the society among the operatives of the capital. For a time he resided at Balbriggan, working as a silk-weaver; but his object being suspected by the Orangemen in the factory, he removed to Dublin, working in the liberties as a cotton-weaver. Here he managed to found a branch society, but again becoming suspected he narrowly escaped assassination, and was obliged to return to Belfast. On the outbreak of the rebellion in Ulster in 1798 he remained true to his principles, and took part in the battle of Ballinahinch (13 June). After lurking about in the neighbourhood of Ballymena and Belfast for four months, he made his way undetected to Dublin in November 1798. Here he was joined in the following summer by his family; but for four years he lived in continual expectation of being arrested. While in Dublin he became acquainted with Robert Emmet in 1803, and assisted him in his plot, but he took no part in the insurrection, being at the time engaged in organising a rising in co. Down. After the failure of Emmet's rebellion he avoided arrest, and on the political amnesty that followed the death of Pitt and the accession to office of Fox and Grenville in 1806, he returned to Belfast, and resumed his work as a linen-weaver. In 1843 he wrote his memoirs at the request of R. R. Madden, and was apparently alive at the time of their publication in 1846. He was of medium height, slightly but firmly built, and of a modest and retiring disposition.

Hope married the daughter of his first master, Rose Mullen, who died in 1831, after bearing him four children.

[Hope's Memoirs, with engraved portrait, printed in Madden's United Irishmen, 3rd ser. vols. i. and iii., are meagre and rather uninteresting. Incidentally they throw light on the motives and aims of a not inconsiderable section of the United Irishmen, and especially those who were opposed to foreign interference. Hope gives a decided contradiction to the view that ‘a system of assassination’ formed any part of the United Irish programme.]

R. D.