Tone, Mathew (1769?–98), French army officer, was the third son in the family of four sons and two daughters of Peter Tone (d. 1805), a coachmaker of Stafford St., Dublin, and his wife Margaret (d. 1818?), daughter of a ship's captain in the West India trade, probably James Lamport (d. 1748?) of Dublin. His elder brothers were Theobald Wolfe Tone (qv) and William Henry Tone (qv). Like them he attended the school of Sisson Darling (qv). He ‘loved travelling and adventures for their own sakes’ (Tone, Writings, ii, 264) and by 1793 had visited England two or three times and spent twelve months in America and twelve in the West Indies, though briefly in 1790 he was living at Prosperous, Co. Kildare, working without success at the cotton manufactory started there in the late 1770s by Robert Brooke (qv). In August 1794 (when Britain and France were at war), ‘a sincere and ardent republican’ (ibid., ii, 265), he left Ireland for France with the intention of entering the French army but was put in prison at Dunkirk under suspicion of being a British spy.
On his release (May 1795) he made his way to America, where he arrived (December) just as his brother Theobald was leaving New York for France. Mathew Tone eventually followed him, going via Hamburg (where their sister Mary was living) and joining him in Paris (3 November 1797). Commissioned, thanks to his brother (by now an adjutant general), as a captain of grenadiers, he served on the Irish expedition of General Jean-Joseph Humbert (qv). About to disembark at Killala, Co. Mayo, he wrote a letter intended for his sister-in-law Matilda Tone (qv) expressing optimism for its success. But after the battle of Ballinamuck, at which the French were routed, he was captured disguised as a peasant (8 September 1798), lodged in the Provost prison at Dublin barracks and brought to trial before a court-martial on a charge of high treason (21, 24, 26 September). In his defence he stated that he had left Ireland for France before war with Britain was declared and done so out of necessity, not for political reasons; that his imprisonment in France was proof of his innocence of sedition or treason; that failure to secure employment in America or Hamburg was his only motive for returning to France and accepting a commission; that he could not but obey orders to embark for Ireland; and that he had, in his own words, tried ‘to restrain the rebels from acts of revenge and plunder’.
Found guilty by the court, Mathew Tone was hanged at Arbour Hill on 29 September 1798 and buried at Bodenstown, Co. Kildare. Though unmarried, he had a daughter, raised by Margaret Tone. His youngest brother, Arthur Tone (b. 1782), served in the Dutch and American navies and was still living in 1811.