« PreviousContinue »
him :-“ He is a man completely after my own heart; his opinions and mine square exactly.”
Dr. Madden* relates that on one occasion, when Thomas Emmet was retained to defend persons charged with administering illegal oaths, at that time a capital offence, and was addressing the Court in arrest of judgment—“He took up the pleadings in which the words of the oath were recited, and read them in a very deliberate manner, and with all the gravity of a man who felt that he was binding his soul by the obligation of a solemn oath. The words were to this effect :- 1, A. B., in the presence of God, do pledge myself to my country that I will use all my abilities and influence in the attainment of an impartial and adequate representation of the Irish nation in Parliament, and, as a means of absolute and immediate necessity in the establishment of this chief good of Ireland, I will endeavour, as much as lies in my ability, to forward a brotherhood of affection, an identity of interests, a communion of rights and a union of power among
* Lives of the United Irishmen.
Irishmen of all religious persuasions, without which every reform in Parliament must be par. tial, not national, inadequate to the wants, delusive to the wishes, and insufficient to the freedom and happiness of the country.' Having read the test, defended its obligations, with a power of reasoning and a display of legal knowledge in reference to the subject of the distinction between legal and illegal oaths, which the counsel for the prosecution described as producing an extraordinary impression, he addressed the Court in the following terms :— My Lords, here in the presence of this legal Court, this crowded auditory, in the presence of the Being that sees and witnesses and directs this judicial tribunal—here, my lords, I myself, in the presence of God, declare I take the oath. He then took the book that was on the table, kissed it, and sat down. No steps were taken by the Court against the newly-sworn United Irishman -the amazement of its functionaries left them in no fit state for either remonstrance or reproval."
In March, '98, before the actual outbreak, Thomas Emmet was arrested on the infor
mation of the well-known detective, Reynolds, and, with M-Nevin, Oliver Bond, and others, was committed to prison, while warrants were at the same time issued against Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who was known to be concealed in Dublin.
Emmet, had the '98 rebellion succeeded, would, perhaps, have been the most influential of all the United Irish leaders except Wolfe Tone.* Equally devoted and sincere as Fitzgerald and Tone, he, unlike them, preserved his natural composure, controlling the same ardent enthusiasm to which they impetuously yielded. His calm, rational style of writing after the destruction of his hopes, and while yet a State prisoner, clearly reveals the philosophical turn of his mind, displayed on a most trying occasion.
* “ Thomas Emmet, born 1764, was a young man of great talents and amiability. He was arrested on a charge of high treason. His punishment was commuted to imprisonment in Fort George [in Scotland] in consideration of his giving the Government full information of the nature and organisation of the conspiracy, though he honourably refused to afford any evidence that might inculpate others.”—Life of Lord Plunket, vol i.
An agreement was concluded between the Government and Emmet and the other prisoners, that they should give all information in their power of the internal transactions of the United Irishmen, also of all that had passed between them and foreign States, without naming or implicating any person whatever, and give security not to return to Ireland without leave, and that they should be ready to emigrate to such country as might be agreed on between the Government and them.
Thomas Emmet gives the following version of this remarkable transaction.*-5 We entered into this agreement the more readily because it appeared to us that by it the public cause lost nothing. We knew from the different examinations of the State prisoners before the Privy Council, and from conversations with Ministers, that Government was already in possession of all the important knowledge they could obtain from us. From whence they derived their information was not entirely known to us, but it is now manifest that Reynolds, Magan, and Hughes, not to speak of the minor informers, had put them in possession of every material fact respecting the internal state of the Union. There was also another strongly impelling motive for entering into this agreement. If Government, on the one hand, was desirous of alarming its dependants by a display of the vigorous and well-concerted measures that were taken for subverting its authority and shaking off the English yoke, so we, on the other hand, were not less solicitous for the vindication of our cause in the eyes of the liberal, the enlightened, and patriotic. We perceived that in making a fair and candid development of those measures we should be enabled boldly to avow and justify the cause of the Irish Union as being founded upon the purest principles of benevolence, and as aiming only at the liberation of Ireland.”
* Harwood's History of the '98 Rebellion.
When Tone, who was in Paris at the time, heard of the arrest of Emmet and his associates he wrote in his diary~" It is by far the most terrible blow which the cause of liberty in Ireland has yet sustained. I know not whether in the whole party it would be possible to replace the energy, talents, and integrity of which