Speeches from the Dock, Part I

Part 1 out of 5

The spelling inconsistencies of the original have been retained
in this etext.


or, Protests of Irish Patriotism

Speeches Delivered After Conviction,



"Freedom's battle, once begun,--
Bequeath'd from bleeding sire to son,--
Though baffled oft, is ever won."





Little more than a year ago we commenced an undertaking never previously
attempted, yet long called for--the collection and publication, in a
complete form and at a low price, of the Speeches of Irish Patriots,
spoken from the dock or the scaffold.

The extraordinary success which attended upon our effort was the best
proof that we had correctly appreciated the universal desire of the
Irish people to possess themselves of such a memorial of National
Protest--protest unbroken through generations of martyrs.

The work was issued in weekly numbers, and reached a sale previously
unheard of in Irish literature. In a few months the whole issue was
exhausted, and for a long time past the demand for a Second Edition has
been pressed upon us from all sides. With that demand we now comply.

The present issue of "Speeches from the Dock" has been carefully revised
and considerably improved. With it, as Part I. of a series, we have
bound, as its sequels, Parts II. and III.--each Part, however, complete
in itself--bringing the list of convict patriot orators down to the
latest sentenced in 1868. It may be that even here the sad array is not
to close, and that even yet another sequel may have to be issued, ere
the National Protest of which these Voices from the Dock are the
utterances, shall be terminated for ever. Even so, our faith will be all
unshaken in the inevitable triumph of the cause for which so many
martyrs have thus suffered; and we shall still await in Faith and Hope
the first strains of that Hymn of Deliverance which shall yet resound
through the valleys of Emancipated Ireland.


_November_, 1868.


To the lovers of Ireland--to those who sympathize with her sufferings
and resent her wrongs, there can be few things more interesting than the
history of the struggles which sprang from devotion to her cause, and
were consecrated by the blood of her patriots. The efforts of the Irish
race to burst the fetters that foreign force and native dissensions
imposed on them, and elevate their country from bondage and degradation
to a place amongst free nations, fill a page in the world's history
which no lover of freedom can read without emotion, and which must
excite wonder, admiration, and regret in the mind of every man with whom
patriotism is not a reproach, and who can sympathize with a cause
ennobled by fidelity and sacrifice, and sanctified by the blood and
tears of a nation. "How hands so vile could conquer hearts so brave," is
the question which our National Poet supposes to arise in the mind of
the stranger, as he looks on the spectacle of Ireland in her decay; but
another question will suggest itself to those who study the history of
our country: it is, how a feeling so deeply rooted as the love of
independence is in the hearts of the Irish people--an aspiration so
warmly and so widely entertained--which has been clung to with so much
persistency--which has survived through centuries of persecution--for
which generations have arisen, and fought, and bled, and dashed
themselves against the power of England with a succession as unbroken as
that of the waves upon our shores--a cause so universally loved, so
deeply reverenced, and so unflinchingly supported by a brave and
intrepid race, should never have attained the blessing of success. A
more signal instance than that which Ireland can supply of the baffling
of a nation's hope, the prolonged frustration of a people's will, is not
on record; and few even of those who most condemn the errors and
weakness by which Irishmen themselves have retarded the national object,
will hesitate to say that they have given to mankind the noblest proof
they possess of the vitality of the principles of freedom, and the
indestructibility of national sentiment.

It is for us, however, Irish of the Irish, that the history of the
struggle for Ireland's rights possesses most attractions. We live amidst
the scenes where the battles against the stranger were fought, and where
the men who waged them lived and died. The bones of the patriots who
laboured for Ireland, and of those who died for her, repose in the
graveyards around us; and we have still amongst us the inheritors of
their blood, their name, and their spirit. It was to make us free--to
render independent and prosperous the nation to, which we belong--that
the pike was lifted and the green flag raised; and it was in furtherance
of this object, on which the hearts of Irishmen are still set, that the
men whose names shine through the pages on which the story of Ireland's
struggles for national existence is written, suffered and died. To
follow out that mournful but absorbing story is not, however, the object
aimed at in the following pages. The history of Ireland is no longer a
sealed volume to the people; more than one author has told it truthfully
and well, and the list of books devoted to it is every day receiving
valuable accessions. Nor has it even been attempted, in this little
work, though trenching more closely on its subject, to trace the career
and sketch the lives of the men who fill the foremost places in the
ranks of Ireland's political martyrs. In the subjoined pages little more
will be found than a correct report of the addresses delivered, under
certain peculiar circumstances, by the group of Irishmen whose names are
given on the titlepage. A single public utterance from the lips of each
of these gentlemen is all that we have printed, though it would be easy
to supplement them in nearly every case by writings and speeches owning
a similar authorship, equally eloquent and equally patriotic. But the
speeches given here are associated with facts which give them peculiar
value and significance, and were spoken under circumstances which lend
to them a solemn interest and impressiveness which could not otherwise
be obtained. They reach us--these dock speeches, in which nobility of
purpose and chivalrous spirit is expressed--like voices from the tomb,
like messages from beyond the grave, brimful of lessons of dignity and
patriotism. We can see the men who spoke them standing before the
representatives of the government whose oppression had driven them to
revolt, when the solemn farce of trying them for a crime which posterity
will account a virtue had terminated, and when the verdict of "guilty"
had gladdened the hearts of their accusers. The circumstances under
which they spoke might well cause a bold man to falter. They were about
parting for ever from all that makes life dear to man; and, for some of
them, the sentence; which was to cut short the thread of their
existence, to consign them to a bloody and ignominious death, to leave
their bodies mutilated corpses, from which the rights of Christian
burial were to be withheld--which was to assign them the death of a dog,
and to follow them with persecuting hand into the valley of death--was
about to fall from the lips of the judges whom they addressed. Against
others a fate less repulsive, perhaps, to the feelings of humanity, but
certainly not more merciful, and hardly less painful and appalling, was
about to be decreed. Recent revelations have thrown some light on the
horrors endured by the Irish political prisoners who languish within the
prison pens of England; but it needs far more than a stray letter, a
half-stifled cry from the dungeon depths, to enable the public to
realize the misery, the wretchedness, and the degradation attached to
the condition to which England reduces her political convicts. Condemned
to associate with the vilest of the scoundrels bred by the immorality
and godlessness of England--exposed, without possibility of redress, to
the persecutions of brutal, coarse-minded men, accustomed to deal
only with ruffians than whom beasts are less ferocious and
unreclaimable--restricted to a course of discipline which blasts the
vigour of the body, and under whose influence reason herself totters
upon her throne--the Irish rebel against whom the doom of penal
servitude has been pronounced is condemned to the most hideous and
agonizing punishments to which men of their class could be exposed. It
was with such terrors staring them in the face that the men whose words
are recorded in this little work delivered their speeches from the dock.
It is surely something for us, their countrymen, to boast of, that
neither in their bearing nor in their words was there manifested the
slightest trace of weakness, the faintest exhibition of any feeling
which could show that their hearts were accessible to the terror which
their situation was so well calculated to inspire. No cheek grew pale,
no eyes lost their light--their tones were unbroken, and their manner
undaunted as ever, as these men uttered the words we purpose recording.
Their language tells of minds which persecution could not subdue, and
for which death itself possessed no sting; and the manner in which it
was expressed showed that, in their case, elevation of sentiment was
allied with unconquerable firmness and resolution. Never were lessons so
noble more boldly preached. It is in courts of justice, after all,
declares a great English authority, that the lessons of morality are
best taught; and in Ireland the truthfulness of the assertion is
established. But it is not from the bench or the jury-box that the words
have fallen in which the cause of morality and justice has been
vindicated; venality, passion, and prejudice have but too often swayed
the decisions of both; and it is to the dock we must turn when we seek
for honour, integrity, and patriotism.

We owe it to the men who suffered so unflinchingly in the cause of our
country, and who have left us so precious a heritage in the speeches in
which they hurled a last defiance at their oppressors, that their names
should not be forgotten, or the recollection of their acts suffered to
grow cold. The noblest incentive to patriotism, as it is the highest
reward which this world can offer those who dare and suffer for
fatherland, is the gratitude, the sympathy, and the applause of the
people for whom they laboured. We owe it to the brave men whose
patriotism is attested in the addresses comprised in this volume, that
the memory of their noble deeds shall not pass away, and that their
names shall remain enshrined in the hearts of their countrymen. They
failed, it is true, to accomplish what they attempted, and the battle to
which they devoted themselves has yet to be won; but we know that they,
at least, did their part courageously and well; and, looking back now
upon the stormy scenes of their labours, and contrasting the effects of
their sacrifices with the cost at which they were made, the people of
Ireland are still prepared to accept the maxim that--

"Tis better to have fought and lost,
Than never to have fought at all."

While such men can be found to suffer as they have suffered for Ireland,
the ultimate triumph of her aspirations cannot be doubted, nor can the
national faith be despaired of while it has martyrs so numerous and so
heroic. It is by example that the great lessons of patriotism can best
be conveyed; and if the national spirit burn brightly to-day in
Ireland--if the spirit of her children be still defiant and
unsubdued--if, at home and in the far West, the hearts of the Irish
people still throb with the emotions that prompted Emmet and Wolfe
Tone--if their eyes are still hot to see the independence of their
country, their arms still ready to strike, and their spirit ready to
sacrifice for the accomplishment of that object, we owe the result
largely to the men whose names are inscribed in this little work, and
whose memory it is intended to perpetuate.

We have commenced our series with the speech of Theobald Wolfe Tone, and
our record stretches no further back than the memorable insurrection of
1798. If our object were to group together the Irishmen who are known
to have struggled for the independence of their country, and who
suffered for their attachment to her cause, we might go much farther
back into history, and indefinitely increase the bulk of this
publication. We fix the insurrection of '98 as the limit of our
collection, chiefly because it was at that time trials for high treason
in Ireland assumed the precise meaning and significance which they now
possess, and there is consequently, in the speeches which follow, such a
unity of purpose and sentiment as renders them especially suitable for
presentation in a single volume. Only seventy years have elapsed since
Wolfe Tone spoke to the question why sentence should not be pronounced
on him--only two-thirds of a century since Emmet vindicated the cause of
his country from the Green street dock, and already what a host of
imitators and disciples have they had! There is not a country in Europe,
there is not a nationality in the world, can produce such another
collection as that which we to-day lay before the people of Ireland. We
live under a government which claims to be just, liberal, and
constitutional, yet against no other government in Christendom have the
same number of protests been made within the same space of time. Not
Poland, not Hungary, not Venetia, can point to such an unbroken
succession of political martyrs. The pages of history contain nothing to
compare with the little volume we to-day place in the hands of our
countrymen; and we know of no more powerful and eloquent condemnation of
the system on which Ireland is governed, than that contained in the
simple fact that all those speeches were spoken, all those trials
carried-out, all those sentences decreed, within the lifetime of a
single generation. It is idle to think of subduing a people who make so
many sacrifices, and who are undaunted still; it is vain to think of
crushing a spirit which survives so much persecution. The executioner
and the gaoler, the gibbet, the block, and the dungeon, have done their
work in the crusade against Irish Nationality, and we know what the
result is to-day. The words of the last political convict whose name
appears in these pages are as uncompromising and as bold as those of the
first of his predecessors; and, studying the spirit which they have
exhibited, and marking the effect of their conduct on the bulk of their
countrymen, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion, that so much
persistent resolution and heroism must one day eventuate in success, and
that Ireland, the country for which so many brave men have suffered with
such unfaltering courage, is not destined to disprove the rule that--

"Freedom's battle once begun,--
Bequeath'd from bleeding sire to son--
Though baffled oft, is ever won."

* * * * *


No name is more intimately associated with the national movement of 1798
than that of Theobald Wolfe Tone. He was its main-spring, its leading
spirit. Many men connected with it possessed, as he did, brilliant
talents, unfailing courage and determination, and an intense devotion to
the cause; but the order of his genius raised him above them all, and
marked him out from the first as the head and front of the patriot
party. He was one of the original founders of the Society of United
Irishmen, which was formed in Belfast in the year 1791. In its early
days this society was simply a sort of reform association, a legal and
constitutional body, having for its chief object the removal of the
frightful oppressions by which the Catholic people of Ireland were
tortured and disgraced; but in the troubled and portentous condition of
home and foreign politics, the society could not long retain this
character. The futility of seeking a redress of the national grievances
by parliamentary means was becoming apparent to every understanding. The
system of outrage and injustice towards the Catholics, unabating in its
severity, continued to exasperate the actual sufferers and to offend all
men of humane feelings and enlightened principles; and, at the same
time, the electric influence of the American War of Independence and the
French Revolution was operating powerfully in every heart, evoking there
the aspiration for Irish freedom, and inspiring a belief in its possible
attainment. In the midst of such exciting circumstances the society
could not continue to stand on its original basis. In the year 1794,
after a debate among the members, followed by the withdrawal of the more
moderate or timid among them from its ranks, it assumed the form and
character of a secret revolutionary organization; and Tone, Thomas Addis
Emmet, Samuel Neilson, Thomas Russell, James Napper Tandy, with a number
of other patriotic gentlemen in Belfast, Dublin, and other parts
of the country, soon found themselves in the full swing of an
insurrectionary movement, plotting and planning for the complete
overthrow of British power in Ireland. Thenceforward, for some time, the
organization went on rapidly extending through the province of Ulster,
in the first instance, and subsequently over most of the midland and
southern counties.

[Illustration: THEOBALD WOLFE TONE. _From a Portrait by his
Daughter-in-law, Mrs. Sampson Tone._]

Such was the state of affairs when, in the early part of 1794, an
emissary from the French government arrived in Ireland, to ascertain to
what extent the Irish people were likely to co-operate with France in a
war against England. This individual was the Rev. William Jackson, an
Irish Protestant clergyman, who had for some years been resident in
France, and had become thoroughly imbued with Democratic and Republican
principles. Unfortunately, he was not one of the most prudent of envoys.
He revealed his mission to an acquaintance of his, an English attorney,
named Cockayne, who repaid his confidence by betraying his secrets to
the government. Cockayne was immediately employed as a spy upon
Jackson's further proceedings, in which capacity he accompanied his
unsuspecting victim to Ireland, and acquired cognizance of most of his
negotiations. On the 28th of April; 1794, Jackson was arrested on a
charge of high treason. He was brought to speedy trial, was found
guilty, but was not sentenced, for, on the day on which the law's award
was to have been announced to him, he contrived, before entering the
court, to swallow a dose of poison, from the effects of which he expired
in the dock. Tone, with whom Jackson was known to have been in
confidential communication, was placed by those events in a very
critical position; owing, however, to some influence which had been made
with the government on his behalf, he was permitted to exile himself to
America. As he had entered into no engagement with the government
regarding his future line of conduct, he made his expatriation the means
of forwarding, in the most effective manner, the designs he had at
heart. He left Dublin for Philadelphia on the 20th of May, 1795. One of
his first acts, after arriving, was to present to the French Minister
there resident a memorial on the state of Ireland. During the remaining
months of the year letters from his old friends came pouring in on him,
describing the brightening prospects of the cause at home, and urging
him to proceed to the French capital and impress upon the Directory the
policy of despatching at once an expedition to ensure the success of the
Irish revolutionary movement.

Tone was not the man to disregard such representations. He had at the
time a fair prospect of securing a comfortable independence in America,
but with the full concurrence of his heroic wife, who had accompanied
him across the Atlantic, he sacrificed those chances and resumed the
perilous duties of an Irish patriot. On the 1st of January, 1796, he
left New York for Paris to try what he could do as a diplomatist for the
cause of Ireland. Arrived at the French capital, he had his business
communicated to the Directory through the medium of an Irish gentleman,
named Madgett, and also by memorial, representing always that the
landing of a force of 20,000 men in Ireland, with a supply of arms for
the peasantry, would ensure the separation of Ireland from England. Not
satisfied with the slow progress he was thus achieving, he went on the
24th of February direct to the Luxemburg Palace, and sought and obtained
an interview with the War Minister, the celebrated Carnot, the
"organizer of victory." The Minister received him well, listened
attentively to his statements, discussed his project with him, and
appeared much impressed with the prospects it presented. The result was
that on the 16th of December in the same year, a splendid expedition
sailed from Brest for Ireland. It consisted of seventeen sail of the
line, thirteen frigates and fifteen transports, with some smaller craft,
and had on board 15,000 troops, with a large supply of arms for the
Irish patriots. Tone himself, who had received the rank of
Adjutant-General in the French service, was on board one of the vessels.
Had this force been disembarked on the shores of Ireland, it is hardly
possible to doubt that the separation of this country from England would
have been effected. But the expedition was unfortunate from the outset.
It was scattered on the voyage during a gale of wind, and the Admiral's
vessel, with Hoche, the Commander, on board, was separated from the
others. A portion of the expedition entered the magnificent Bay of
Bantry and waited there several days in expectation of being rejoined by
the vessel containing the Admiral and Commander; but they waited in
vain. Tone vehemently urged that a landing should be effected with the
forces then at hand--some 6,500 men--but the officers procrastinated,
time was lost, the wind which had been blowing from the east (that is
out the harbour) rose to a perfect hurricane, and on the 27th and 28th
of the month the vessels cut their cables and made the best of their way
for France.

This was a terrible blow to the hopes of the Irish organizer. Rage and
sadness filled his heart by turns as the fierce storm blew his vessel
out of the bay and across the sea to the land which he had left under
such favourable auspices. But yet he did not resign himself to despair.
As the patient spider renews her web again and again after it has been
torn asunder, so did this indefatigable patriot set to work to repair
the misfortune that had occurred, and to build up another project of
assistance for his unfortunate country. His perseverance was not
unproductive of results. The Batavian or Dutch Republic, then in
alliance with France, took up the project that had failed in the Bay of
Bantry. In the month of July, 1797, they had assembled in the Texel an
expedition for the invasion of Ireland, nearly, if not quite, as
formidable in men and ships as that which had left Brest in the previous
year. Tone was on board the flag ship, even more joyous and hopeful than
he had been on the preceding occasion. But again, as if by some
extraordinary fatality, the weather interposed an obstacle to the
realization of the design. The vessels were ready for sea, the troops
were on board, nothing was wanted but a slant of wind to enable the
fleet to get out. But for five weeks it continued to blow steadily in
the adverse direction. The supplies ran low; the patience of the
officers, and of the government, became exhausted--the troops were
disembarked and the project abandoned! The second failure in a matter
of such weight and importance was a heavy blow to the heart of the brave
Tone. Elaborate and costly efforts like those which had ended so poorly,
he felt could not often be repeated; the drift of the war was cutting
out other work for the fleets and armies of France and her allies, and
the unwelcome conviction began to settle darkly on his mind that never
again would he see such a vision of hope for dear Ireland as that which
had shone before him on those two occasions, and vanished in doubt and

Yet there was no need to despair. Assurances reached Tone every day that
the defeat and humiliation of England was a settled resolve of the
French Government, one which they would never abandon. And for a time
everything seemed to favour the notion that a direct stroke at the heart
of England was intended. In the latter part of 1797 the Directory
ordered the formation of "The Army of England," the command of which was
given to General Buonaparte. Tone's heart again beat high with hope, for
now matters looked more promising than ever. He was in constant
communication with some of the chief officers of the expedition, and in
the month of December he had several interviews with Buonaparte himself,
which however he could hardly consider of a satisfactory nature. On the
20th of May, 1798, General Buonaparte embarked on board the fleet at
Toulon and sailed off--not for Ireland or England, but for Egypt.

On the Irish leaders at home these repeated disappointments fell with
terrible effect. The condition of the country was daily growing more
critical. The government, now thoroughly roused and alarmed, and
persuaded that the time for "vigorous measures" had arrived, was
grappling with the conspiracy in all directions. Still those men would,
if they could, have got the people to possess their souls in patience
and wait for aid from abroad before unfurling the banner of
insurrection; for they were constant in their belief that without the
presence of a disciplined army on Irish soil to consolidate their
strength and direct it, a revolutionary effort of the Irish people
could end only in disaster. But the government had reasons of their own
for wishing to set an Irish rebellion afoot at this time, and they took
measures to precipitate the rising. The arrest of the delegates at the
house of Oliver Bond in Dublin, and the capture of Lord Edward
Fitzgerald contributed to this end; but these things the country might
have peacably endured if no more dreadful trial had been put upon it.
What could not be endured was the system of riot and outrage, and
murder, to which the unfortunate peasantry were then given over. Words
fail to describe its cruelty and its horrors. It was too much for human
nature to bear. On the 23rd of May, three days after Buonaparte had
sailed from Toulon for Alexandria, the Irish insurrection broke out. The
news of the occurrence created the most intense excitement among the
Irish refugees then in Paris. Tone rushed to and fro to the Directory
and to the generals, pleading for the despatch of some assistance to his
struggling countrymen. Various plans were suggested and taken into
consideration, but while time was being wasted in this way, the military
forces of the British Government were rapidly suppressing the
insurrection of the unarmed and undisciplined Irish peasantry. In this
condition of affairs a gallant but rash and indiscreet French officer,
General Humbert, resolved that he would commit the Directory to action,
by starting at once with a small force for the coast of Ireland. Towards
the middle of August, calling together the merchants and magistrates of
Rochelle, "he forced them to advance a small sum of money, and all that
he wanted, on military requisition; and embarking on board a few
frigates and transports with 1,000 men, 1,000 spare muskets, 1,000
guineas, and a few pieces of artillery, he compelled the captains to set
sail for the most desperate attempt which is, perhaps, recorded in
history." Three Irishmen were on board the fleet--Matthew Tone, brother
to Theobald, Bartholomew Teeling, and Sullivan, an officer in the French
service, who was enthusiastically devoted to the Irish cause, and had
rendered much aid to his patriotic countrymen in France. Humbert landed
at Killala, routed with his little handful of men a large force of the
royal troops, and held his ground until General Lake, with 20,000 men
marched against him. After a resistance sufficient to maintain the
honour of the French arms, Humbert's little force surrendered as
prisoners of war. The Irish who had joined his standard were shown no
mercy. The peasantry were cruelly butchered. Of those who had
accompanied him from France, Sullivan, who was able to pass as a
Frenchman, escaped; Teeling and Matthew Tone were brought in irons to
Dublin, tried, and executed. The news of Humbert's expedition and the
temporary success that had attended it created much excitement in
France, and stirred up the Directory to attempt something for Ireland
more worthy of the fame and power of the French nation, and more in
keeping with their repeated promises to the leaders of the Irish
movement. But their fleet was at the time greatly reduced, and their
resources were in a state of disorganization. They mustered for the
expedition only one sail of the line and eight small frigates, commanded
by Commodore Bompart, conveying 5,000 men under the leadership of
General Hardy. On board the Admiral's vessel, which was named the Hoche,
was the heroic Theobald Wolfe Tone. He knew this expedition had no
chance of success, but he had all along declared, "that if the
government sent only a corporal's guard, he felt it his duty to go along
with them." The vessels sailed on the 20th of September, 1798;
it was not till the 11th October that they arrived off Lough
Swilly--simultaneously with an English squadron that had been on the
look out for them. The English ships were about equal in number to the
French, but were of a larger class, and carried a much heavier armament.
The French Admiral directed some of his smaller craft to endeavour to
escape by means of their light draught of water, and he counselled Tone
to transfer himself to that one of them which had the best chance of
getting away. The Frenchmen, he observed, would be made prisoners of
war, but for the Irish rebel a worse fate was reserved if he should fall
into the hand of his enemies. But to this suggestion the noble-hearted
Tone declined to accede. "Shall it be said," he replied, "that I fled
while the French were fighting the battles of my country." In a little
time the Hoche was surrounded by four sail of the line and one frigate,
who poured their shot into her upon all sides. During six hours she
maintained the unequal combat, fighting "till her masts and rigging were
cut away, her scuppers flowed with blood, her wounded filled the
cockpit, her shattered ribs yawned at each new stroke, and let in five
feet of water in the hold, her rudder was carried off, and she floated a
dismantled wreck on the water; her sails and cordage hung in shreds, nor
could she reply with a single gun from her dismounted batteries to the
unabating cannonade of the enemy." During the action Tone commanded one
of the batteries "and fought with the utmost desperation, as if he was
courting death." But, as often has happened in similiar cases, death
seemed to shun him, and he was reserved for a more tragic fate.

The French officers who survived the action, and had been made prisoners
of war, were, some days subsequently, invited to breakfast with the Earl
of Cavan, who commanded in the district in which they had been landed.
Tone, who up to that time, had escaped recognition, was one of the
party, and sat undistinguished among them, until Sir George Hill, who
had been a fellow-student of his in Trinity College, entered the room
and accosted him by his name. This was done, not inadvertently, but with
the intention of betraying him. In a moment he was in the hands of a
party of military and police who were in waiting for him in the next
room. Seeing that they were about to put him in fetters, he complained
indignantly of the offering of such an insult to the uniform which he
wore, and the rank--that of Chef de Brigade--which he bore in the French
army. He cast off his regimentals, protesting that they should not be so
sullied, and then, offering his limbs to the irons, exclaimed--"For the
cause which I have embraced, I feel prouder to wear these chains, than
if I were decorated with the Star and Garter of England." He was hurried
off to Dublin, and though the ordinary tribunals were sitting at the
time, and the military tribunals could have no claim on him, as he had
never belonged to the English army, he was put on his trial before a
court-martial. This was absolutely an illegal proceeding, but his
enemies were impatient for his blood, and would not brook the chances
and the delays of the ordinary procedure of law. On the 10th of
November, 1798, his trial, if such it might be called, took place in one
of the Dublin barracks. He appeared before the Court "dressed," says the
_Dublin Magazine_ for November, 1798, "in the French uniform: a large
cocked hat, with broad gold lace and the tri-coloured cockade; a blue
uniform coat, with gold-embroidered collar and two large gold epaulets;
blue pantaloons, with gold-laced garters at the knees; and short boots,
bound at the tops with gold lace." In his bearing there was no trace of
excitement. "The firmness and cool serenity of his whole deportment,"
writes his son, "gave to the awestruck assembly the measure of his
soul," The proceedings of the Court are detailed in the following
report, which we copy from the "Life of Tone," by his son, published at
Washington, U.S., in 1826:--

The members of the Court having been sworn, the Judge Advocate called
on the prisoner to plead guilty or not guilty to the charge of having
acted traitorously and hostilely against the King. Tone replied:--

"I mean not to give the court any useless trouble, and wish to spare
them the idle task of examining witnesses. I admit all the facts
alleged, and only request leave to read an address which I have
prepared for this occasion."

Colonel DALY--"I must warn the prisoner that, in acknowledging those
_facts_, he admits, to his prejudice, that he has acted
_traitorously_ against his Majesty. Is such his intention?"

TONE--"Stripping this charge of the technicality of its terms, it
means, I presume, by the word traitorously, that I have been found in
arms against the soldiers of the King in my native country. I admit
this accusation in its most extended sense, and request again to
explain to the court the reasons and motives of my conduct."

The court then observed they would hear his address, provided he kept
himself within the bounds of moderation.

Tone rose, and began in these words--"Mr. President and Gentlemen of
the Court-Martial, I mean not to give you the trouble of bringing
judicial proof to convict me legally of having acted in hostility to
the government of his Britannic Majesty in Ireland. I admit the fact.
From my earliest youth I have regarded the connection between Great
Britain and Ireland as the curse of the Irish nation, and felt
convinced that, whilst it lasted, this country could never be free
nor happy. My mind has been confirmed in this opinion by the
experience of every succeeding year, and the conclusions which I have
drawn from every fact before my eyes. In consequence, I was
determined to employ all the powers which my individual efforts could
move, in order to separate the two countries. That Ireland was not
able of herself to throw off the yoke, I knew; I therefore sought for
aid wherever it was to be found. In honourable poverty I rejected
offers which, to a man in my circumstances, might be considered
highly advantageous. I remained faithful to what I thought the cause
of my country, and sought in the French Republic an ally to rescue
three millions of my countrymen from--"

The President here interrupted the prisoner, observing that this
language was neither relevant to the charge, nor such as ought to be
delivered in a public court.

A Member said it seemed calculated only to inflame the minds of a
certain description of people (the United Irishmen), many of whom
might be present, and that the court could not suffer it.

The JUDGE ADVOCATE said--"If Mr. Tone meant this paper to be laid
before his Excellency in way of _extenuation_, it must have quite a
contrary effect, if the foregoing part was suffered to remain." The
President wound up by calling on the prisoner to hesitate before
proceeding further in the same strain.

TONE then continued--"I believe there is nothing in what remains for
me to say which can give any offence; I mean to express my feelings
and gratitude towards the Catholic body, in whose cause I was

PRESIDENT--"That seems to have nothing to say to the charge against
you, to which you are only to speak. If you have anything to offer in
defence or extenuation of the charge, the court will hear you, but
they beg you will confine yourself to that subject."

TONE--"I shall, then, confine myself to some points relative to my
connection with the French army. Attached to no party in the French
Republic--without interest, without money, without intrigue--the
openness and integrity of my views raised me to a high and
confidential rank in its armies. I obtained the confidence of the
Executive Directory, the approbation of my generals, and I will
venture to add, the esteem and affection of my brave comrades. When I
review these circumstances, I feel a secret and internal consolation
which no reverse of fortune, no sentence in the power of this court
to inflict, can deprive me of, or weaken in any degree. Under the
flag of the French Republic I originally engaged with a view to save
and liberate my own country. For that purpose I have encountered the
chances of war amongst strangers; for that purpose I repeatedly
braved the terrors of the ocean, covered, as I knew it to be, with
the triumphant fleets of that power which it was my glory and my
duty to oppose. I have sacrificed all my views in life; I have
courted poverty; I have left a beloved wife unprotected, and children
whom I adored fatherless. After such a sacrifice, in a cause which I
have always considered--conscientiously considered--as the cause of
justice and freedom, it is no great effort, at this day, to add the
sacrifice of my life. But I hear it said that this unfortunate
country has been a prey to all sorts of horrors. I sincerely lament
it. I beg, however, it may be remembered that I have been absent four
years from Ireland. To me these sufferings can never be attributed. I
designed by fair and open war to procure the separation of the two
countries. For open war I was prepared, but instead of that a system
of private assassination has taken place. I repeat, whilst I deplore
it, that it is not chargeable on me. Atrocities, it seems, have been
committed on both sides. I do not less deplore them. I detest them
from my heart; and to those who know my character and sentiments I
may safely appeal for the truth of this assertion; with them I need
no justification. In a case like this success is everything. Success,
in the eyes of the vulgar, fixes its merits. Washington succeeded,
and Kosciusko failed. After a combat nobly sustained--combat which
would have excited the respect and sympathy of a generous enemy--my
fate has been to become a prisoner, to the eternal disgrace of those
who gave the orders. I was brought here in irons like a felon. I
mention this for the sake of others; for me, I am indifferent to it.
I am aware of the fate which awaits me, and scorn equally the tone of
complaint and that of supplication. As to the connection between this
country and Great Britain, I repeat it--all that has been imputed to
me (words, writings, and actions), I here deliberately avow. I have
spoken and acted with reflection and on principle, and am ready to
meet the consequences. Whatever be the sentence of the court, I am
prepared for it. Its members will surely discharge their duty--I
shall take care not to be wanting in mine."

The court having asked if he wished to make any further observation,

TONE said--"I wish to offer a few words relative to one single
point--the mode of punishment. In France our _emigrees_, who stand
nearly in the same situation in which I now stand before you, are
condemned to be shot. I ask that the court shall adjudge me the death
of a soldier, and let me be shot by a platoon of grenadiers. I
request this indulgence rather in consideration of the uniform I
wear--the uniform of a Chef de Brigade in the French army--than from
any personal regard to myself. In order to evince my claim to this
favour, I beg that the court may take the trouble to peruse my
commission and letters of service in the French army. It will appear
from these papers that I have not received them as a mask to cover
me, but that I have been long and _bona fide_ an officer in the
French service."

JUDGE ADVOCATE--"You must feel that the papers you allude to will
serve as undeniable proof against you."

TONE--"Oh, I know they will. I have already admitted the facts, and
I now admit the papers as full proof of conviction."

[The papers were then examined; they consisted of a brevet of Chef de
Brigade from the Directory, signed by the Minister of War, of a
letter of service granting to him the rank of Adjutant-General, and
of a passport.]

General LOFTUS--"In these papers you are designated as serving in the
army of England."

TONE--"I did serve in that army, when it was commanded by Buonaparte,
by Dessaix, and by Kilmaine, who is, as I am, an Irishman; but I have
also served elsewhere."

The Court requested if he had anything further to observe.

He said that nothing more occurred to him, except that the sooner his
Excellency's approbation of the sentence was obtained the better.

This is Tone's speech, as reported in the public prints at that time,
but the recently-published "Correspondence" of Lord Cornwallis--Lord
Lieutenant in those days--supplies a portion of the address which was
never before published, the Court having forbade the reading of it at
the trial. The passage contains a noble outburst of gratitude towards
the Catholics of Ireland. Tone himself, as every reader is aware, was a
Protestant, and there can have been no reason for its suppression except
the consideration that it was calculated to still more endear the
prisoner to the hearts of his countrymen. We now reprint it, and thus
place it for the first time before the people for whom it was written:--

"I have laboured to create a people in Ireland by raising three
millions of my countrymen to the rank of citizens. I have laboured to
abolish the infernal spirit of religious persecution, by uniting the
Catholics and Dissenters. To the former I owe more than ever can be
repaid. The services I was so fortunate as to render them they
rewarded munificently; but they did more: when the public cry was
raised against me--when the friends of my youth swarmed off and left
me alone--the Catholics did not desert me; they had the virtue even
to sacrifice their own interests to a rigid principle of honour; they
refused, though strongly urged, to disgrace a man who, whatever his
conduct towards the government might have been, had faithfully and
conscientiously discharged his duty towards them; and in so doing,
though it was in my own case, I will say they showed an instance of
public, virtue of which I know not whether there exists another

The sad sequel of those proceedings is soon told. The request of the
prisoner to receive a military execution was refused by the Viceroy,
Lord Cornwallis, and Tone was sentenced to die "the death of a traitor"
within forty-eight hours from the time of his conviction. But
he--influenced, it must be confessed, by a totally mistaken feeling of
pride, and yielding to a weakness which every Christian heart should be
able to conquer--resolved that, rather than allow his enemies to have
the satisfaction of dangling his body from a gibbet, he would become his
own executioner. On the night of the 11th of November he contrived,
while lying unobserved in his cell, to open a vein in his neck with a
penknife. No intelligence of this fact had reached the public when, on
the morning of the 12th, the intrepid and eloquent advocate, John
Philpot Curran, made a motion in the Court of King's Bench for a writ of
_Habeas Corpus_, to withdraw the prisoner from the custody of the
military authorities, and transfer him to the charge of the civil power.
The motion was granted immediately, Mr. Curran pleading that, if delay
were made, the prisoner might be executed before the order of the Court
could be presented. A messenger was at once despatched from the court to
the barrack with the writ. He returned to say that the officers in
charge of the prisoner would obey only their military superiors. The
Chief Justice issued his commands peremptorily:--"Mr. Sheriff, take the
body of Tone into custody--take the Provost Marshal and Major Sandys
into custody,--and show the order of the Court to General Craig." The
Sheriff sped away, and soon returned with the news that Tone had wounded
himself on the previous evening, and could not be removed. The Chief
Justice then ordered a rule suspending the execution. For the space of
seven days afterwards did the unfortunate gentleman endure the agonies
of approaching death; on the 19th of November, 1798, he expired. No more
touching reference to his last moments could be given than the following
pathetic and noble words traced by a filial hand, and published in the
memoir from which we have already quoted:--"Stretched on his bloody
pallet in a dungeon, the first apostle of Irish union and most
illustrious martyr of Irish independence counted each lingering hour
during the last seven days and nights of his slow and silent agony. No
one was allowed to approach him. Far from his adored family, and from
all those friends whom he loved so dearly, the only forms which flitted
before his eyes were those of the grim jailor and his rough
attendants--the only sounds which fell on his dying ear the heavy tread
of the sentry. He retained, however, the calmness of his soul and the
possession of his faculties to the last. And the consciousness of dying
for his country, and in the cause of justice and liberty, illumined like
a bright halo his later moments and kept up his fortitude to the end.
There is no situation under which those feelings will not support the
soul of a patriot."

Tone was born in Stafford-street, Dublin, on the 20th of June, 1764. His
father was a coachmaker who carried on a thriving business; his
grandfather was a comfortable farmer who held land near Naas, county
Kildare. In February, 1781, Tone entered Trinity College, Dublin; in
January, 1787, he entered his name as a law student on the books of the
Middle Temple, London, and in 1789 he was called to the bar. His mortal
remains repose in Bodenstown churchyard, county Kildare, whither parties
of patriotic young men from the metropolis and the surrounding districts
often proceed to lay a green wreath on his grave. His spirit lives, and
will live for ever, in the hearts of his countrymen.

* * * * *


Twelve months before Wolfe Tone expired in his prison cell, one of the
bravest of his associates paid with his life the penalty of his
attachment to the cause of Irish independence. In the subject of this
sketch, the United Irishmen found their first martyr; and time has left
no darker blot on the administration of English rule than the execution
of the high-spirited Irishman whose body swung from the gallows of
Carrickfergus on the 14th of October, 1797.

William Orr was the son of a farmer and bleach-green proprietor, of
Ferranshane, in the county of Antrim. The family were in comfortable
circumstances, and young Orr received a good education, which he
afterwards turned to account in the service of his country. We know
little of his early history, but we find him, on growing up to manhood,
an active member of the society of United Irishmen, and remarkable for
his popularity amongst his countrymen in the north. His appearance, not
less than his principles and declarations, was calculated to captivate
the peasantry amongst whom he lived; he stood six feet two inches in
height, was a perfect model of symmetry, strength, and gracefulness, and
the expression of his countenance was open, frank, and manly. He was
always neatly and respectably dressed--a prominent feature in his attire
being a green necktie, which he wore even in his last confinement.

One of, the first blows aimed by the government against the United
Irishmen was the passing of the Act of Parliament (36 George III.),
which constituted the administration of their oath a capital felony.
This piece of legislation, repugnant in itself to the dictates of reason
and justice, was intended as no idle threat; a victim was looked for to
suffer under its provisions, and William Orr, the champion of the
northern Presbyterian patriots, was doomed to serve the emergency.

He was arraigned, tried, and convicted at Carrickfergus on a charge of
having administered the United Irishman's oath to a soldier named
Wheatly. The whole history of the operations of the British law courts
in Ireland contains nothing more infamous than the record of that trial.
We now know, as a matter of fact, that the man who tendered the oath to
Wheatly was William M'Keever, a well-known member of the society, who
subsequently made his escape to America. But this was not a case, such
as sometimes happens, of circumstantial evidence pointing to a wrong
conclusion. The only evidence against Orr was the unsupported testimony
of the soldier Wheatly; and after hearing Curran's defence of the
prisoner there could be no possible doubt of his innocence. But Orr was
a doomed man--the government had decreed his death before hand; and in
this case, as in every other, the bloodthirsty agents of the crown did
not look in vain for Irishmen to co-operate with them in their infamy.

At six o'clock in the evening the jury retired to consider their
verdict. The scene that followed in the jury room is described in the
sworn affidavits of some of its participators. The jury were supplied
with supper by the crown officials; a liberal supply of intoxicating
beverages, wines, brandy, &c., being included in the refreshments. In
their sober state several of the jury-men--amongst them Alexander
Thompson, of Cushendall, the foreman--had refused to agree to a verdict
of guilty. It was otherwise, however, when the decanters had been
emptied, and when threats of violence were added to the bewildering
effects of the potations in which they indulged. Thompson was threatened
by his more unscrupulous companions with being wrecked, beaten, and "not
left with sixpence in the world," and similar means were used against
the few who refused with him to return a verdict of guilty. At six in
the morning, the jury, not a man of whom by this time was sober,
returned into court with a verdict of guilty, recommending the prisoner
at the same time in the strongest manner to mercy. Next day Orr was
placed at the bar, and sentenced to death by Lord Yelverton, who, it is
recorded, at the conclusion of his address burst into tears. A motion
was made, by Curran in arrest of judgment, chiefly on the grounds of the
drunkenness of the jury but the judges refused to entertain the
objection. The following is the speech delivered by William Orr after
the verdict of the jury had been announced:--

"My friends and fellow-countrymen--In the thirty-first year of my
life I have been sentenced to die upon the gallows, and this sentence
has been in pursuance of a verdict of twelve men, who should have
been indifferently and impartially chosen. How far they have been so,
I leave to that country from which they have been chosen to
determine; and how far they have discharged their duty, I leave to
their God and to themselves. They have, in pronouncing their verdict,
thought proper to recommend me as an object of humane mercy. In
return, I pray to God, if they have erred, to have mercy upon them.
The judge who condemned me humanely shed tears in uttering my
sentence. But whether he did wisely in so highly commending the
wretched informer, who swore away my life, I leave to his own cool
reflection, solemnly assuring him and all the world, with my dying
breath, that that informer was foresworn.

"The law under which I suffer is surely a severe one--may the makers
and promoters of it be justified in the integrity of their motives,
and the purity of their own lives! By that law I am stamped a felon,
but my heart disdains the imputation.

"My comfortable lot, and industrious course of life, best refute the
charge of being an adventurer for plunder; but if to have loved my
country--to have known its wrongs--to have felt the injuries of the
persecuted Catholics, and to have united with them and all other
religious persuasions in the most orderly and least sanguinary means
of procuring redress--if those be felonies, I am a felon, but not
otherwise. Had my counsel (for whose honorable exertions I am
indebted) prevailed in their motions to have me tried for high
treason, rather than under the insurrection law, I should have been,
entitled to a full defence, and my actions have been better
vindicated; but that was refused, and I must now submit to what has

"To the generous protection of my country I leave a beloved wife, who
has been constant and true to me, and whose grief for my fate has
already nearly occasioned her death. I have five living children, who
have been my delight. May they love their country as I have done, and
die for it if needful.

"Lastly, a false and ungenerous publication having appeared in a
newspaper, stating certain alleged confessions of guilt on my part,
and thus striking at my reputation, which is clearer to me than life.
I take this solemn method of contradicting the calumny. I was applied
to by the high-sheriff, and the Rev. William Bristow, sovereign of
Belfast, to make a confession of guilt, who used entreaties to that
effect; this I peremptorily refused. If I thought myself guilty, I
would freely confess it, but, on the contrary, I glory in my

"I trust that all my virtuous countrymen will bear me in their kind
remembrance, and continue true and faithful to each other as I have
been to all of them. With this last wish of my heart--nothing
doubting of the success of that cause for which I suffer, and hoping
for God's merciful forgiveness of such offences as my frail nature
may have at any time betrayed me into--I die in peace and charity
with all mankind."

Hardly had sentence of death been passed on William Orr, when
compunction seemed to seize on those who had aided in securing that
result. The witness Wheatly, who subsequently became insane, and is
believed to have died by his own hand, made an affidavit before a
magistrate acknowledging that he had sworn falsely against Orr. Two of
the jury made depositions setting forth that they had been induced to
join in the verdict of guilty while under the influence of drink; two
others swore that they had been terrified into the same course by
threats of violence.

These depositions were laid before the viceroy, but Lord Camden, the
then Lord Lieutenant, was deaf to all appeals. Well might Orr exclaim
within his dungeon that the government "had laid down a system having
for its object murder and devastation." The prey was in the toils of the
hunters, on whom all appeals of justice and humanity were wasted.

Orr was hung, as we have said, in the town of Carrickfergus on the 14th
of October, 1797. It is related that the inhabitants of the town, to
express their sympathy with the patriot about being murdered by law, and
to mark their abhorrence of the conduct of the government towards him,
quitted the town _en masse_ on the day of his execution.

His fate excited the deepest indignation throughout the country; it was
commented on in words of fire by the national writers of the period, and
through many an after year the watchword and rallying cry of the United
Irishmen was--


* * * * *


Among the many distinguished Irishmen who acted prominent parts in the
stormy events of 1798, and whose names come down to us hallowed by the
sufferings and sacrifices inseparable in those dark days from the lot of
an Irish patriot, there are few whose fate excited more sympathy, more
loved in life, more honored in death than the brothers John and Henry
Sheares. Even in the days of Emmet and Wolfe Tone, of Russell and
Fitzgerald, when men of education, talent, and social standing were not
few in the national ranks, the Sheareses were hailed as valuable
accessions to the cause, and were recognised by the United Irishmen as
heaven-destined leaders for the people. It is a touching story, the
history of their patriotic exertions, their betrayal, trial, and
execution; but it is by studying such scenes in our history that
Irishmen can learn to estimate the sacrifices which were made in bygone
days for Ireland, and attach a proper value to the memory of the
patriots who made them.

Henry and John Sheares were sons of John Sheares, a banker in Cork, who
sat in the Irish Parliament for the borough of Clonakilty. The father
appears to have been a kindly-disposed, liberal-minded man, and numerous
stories are told of his unostentatious charity and benevolence. Henry,
the elder of the two sons, was born in 1753, and was educated in Trinity
College, Dublin. After leaving college he purchased a commission in the
51st Regiment of foot, but the duties of a military officer were ill
suited to his temperament and disposition, and the young soldier soon
resigned his commission to pursue the more congenial occupation of law
student. He was called to the bar in 1790; his brother John, his junior
by three years, who had adopted the same profession, obtained the rank
of barrister-at-law two years previously. The brothers differed from
each other widely in character and disposition. Henry was gentle in
manners, modest and unassuming, but firmly attached to his principles,
and unswerving in his fidelity to the cause which he adopted; John was
bold, impetuous, and energetic, ready to plan and to dare, fertile of
resources, quick of resolve, and prompt of execution. To John the elder
brother looked for guidance and example, and his gentle nature was ever
ruled by the more fiery and impulsive spirit of his younger brother. On
the death of the father Henry Sheares came in for property to the value
of L1,200 per annum, which his rather improvident habits soon diminished
by one-half. Both brothers, however, obtained large practice at their
profession, and continued in affluent circumstances up to the day of
their arrest.

In 1792 the two brothers visited Paris, and this excursion seems to have
formed the turning point of their lives and fortunes. The French
Revolution was in full swing, and in the society of Roland, Brissot, and
other Republican leaders, the young Irishmen imbibed the love of
freedom, and impatience of tyranny and oppression, which they clung to
so faithfully, and which distinguished them so remarkably during the
remainder of their lives. On returning to Ireland in January, 1793, the
brothers joined the ranks of the United Irishmen. John at once became a
prominent member of the society, and his signature appears to several of
the spirited and eloquent addresses by which the Dublin branch sought
from time to time to arouse the ardour and stimulate the exertions of
their compatriots. The society of United Irishmen looked for nothing
more at this period than a thorough measure of parliamentary reform,
household suffrage being the leading feature in their programme; but
when the tyranny of the government drove the leaguers into more violent
and dangerous courses, when republican government and separation from
England were inscribed on the banners of the society instead of
electoral reform, and when the selfish and the wavering had shrunk
aside, the Sheareses still remained true to the United Irishmen, and
seemed to grow more zealous and energetic in the cause of their country
according as the mists of perplexity and danger gathered around it.

To follow out the history of the Sheareses connection with the United
Irishmen would be foreign to our intention and to the scope of this
work. The limits of our space oblige us to pass over the ground at a
rapid pace, and we shall dismiss the period of the Sheareses' lives
comprised in the years between 1793 and 1798, by saying that during that
period, while practising their profession with success, they devoted
themselves with all the earnestness of their nature to the furtherance
of the objects of the United Irishmen. In March, 1798, the affairs of
the organization became critical; the arrest of the Directory at Oliver
Bond's deprived the party of its best and most trusted leaders, besides
placing in the hands of the government a mass of information relative to
the plans and resources of the conspirators. To fill the gap thus
caused, John Sheares was soon appointed a member of the Directory, and
he threw himself into the work with all the ardour and energy of his
nature. The fortunes of the society had assumed a desperate phase when
John Sheares became its ruling spirit. Tone was in France, O'Connor was
in England, Russell, Emmet, and Fitzgerald were in prison. But Sheares
was not disheartened; he directed all his efforts towards bringing about
the insurrection for which his countrymen had so long been preparing,
and the 23rd of May, 1798, was fixed on by him for the outbreak. He was
after visiting Wexford and Kildare, and making arrangements in those
counties for the rising, and was on the verge of starting for Cork on a
similar mission, when the hand of treachery cut short his career, and
the gates of Kilmainham prison opened to receive him.

Amongst all the human monsters who filled the ranks of the government
informers in that dark and troubled period, not one appears to merit a
deeper measure of infamy than Captain Warnesford Armstrong, the
entrapper and betrayer of the Sheareses. Having obtained an introduction
to John, he represented himself as a zealous and hard-working member of
the organization, and soon wormed himself completely into the confidence
of his victims. He paid daily visits to the house of the Sheareses in
Baggot-street, chatted with their families, and fondled the children of
Henry Sheares upon his knee. We have it on his own testimony that each
interview with the men whose confidence he was sharing was followed by a
visit to the Castle. We need not go through the sickening details of
this vile story of treachery and fraud. On the 21st of May the Sheareses
were arrested and lodged in prison, and on the 12th of the following
month Armstrong appeared against them in the witness-box. The trial was
continued through the night--Toler, of infamous memory, who had been
created Attorney-General expressly for the occasion, refusing Curran's
request for an adjournment; and it was eight o'clock in the morning of
the 13th when the jury, who had been but seventeen minutes absent,
returned into court with a verdict of guilty against both prisoners.

After a few hours' adjournment the court re-assembled to pass sentence.
It was then that John Sheares, speaking in a firm tone, addressed the
court as follows:--

"My Lords--I wish to offer a few words before sentence is pronounced,
because there is a weight pressing on my heart much greater than that
of the sentence which is to come from the court. There has been, my
lords, a weight pressing on my mind from the first moment I heard the
indictment read upon which I was tried; but that weight has been more
peculiarly pressing upon my heart when I found the accusation in the
indictment enforced and supported upon the trial. That weight would
be left insupportable if it were not for this opportunity of
discharging it; I shall feel it to be insupportable since a verdict
of my country has stamped that evidence as well founded. Do not
think, my lords, that I am about to make a declaration against the
verdict of the jury or the persons concerned with the trial; I am
only about to call to your recollection a part of the charge at which
my soul shudders, and if I had no opportunity of renouncing it before
your lordships and this auditory, no courage would be sufficient to
support me. The accusation of which I speak, while I linger here yet
a minute, is that of holding out to the people of Ireland a direction
to give no quarter to the troops fighting for its defence! My lords,
let me say thus, that if there be any acquaintances in this crowded
court--I do not say my intimate friends, but acquaintances--who do
not know what I say is truth, I shall be reputed the wretch which I
am not; I say if any acquaintance of mine can believe that _I_ could
utter a recommendation of giving no quarter to a yielding and
unoffending foe, it is not the death which I am about to suffer that
I deserve--no punishment could be adequate to such a crime. My lords,
I can not only acquit my soul of such an intention, but I declare, in
the presence of that God before whom I must shortly appear, that the
favourite doctrine of my heart was, _that no human being should
suffer death but when absolute necessity required it_. My lords, I
feel a consolation in making this declaration, which nothing else
could afford me, because it is not only a justification of myself,
but where I am sealing my life with that breath which cannot be
suspected of falsehood, what I say may make some impression upon the
minds of men not holding the same doctrine. I declare to God I know
of no crime but assassination which can eclipse or equal that of
which I am accused. I discern no shade of guilt between that and
taking away the life of a foe, by putting a bayonet to his heart when
he is yielding and surrendering. I do request the bench to believe
that of me--I do request my country to believe that of me--I am sure
God will think that of me. Now, my lords, I have no favour to ask of
the court; my country has decided I am guilty, and the law says I
shall suffer--it sees that I am ready to suffer. But, my lords, I
have a favour to request of the court that does not relate to myself.
My lords, I have a brother whom I have even loved dearer than myself,
but it is not from any affection for him alone that I am induced to
make the request. He is a man, and therefore I would hope prepared to
die if he stood as I do--though I do not stand unconnected; but he
stands more dearly connected. In short, my lords, to spare your
feelings and I my own, I do not pray that that _I_ should not die,
but that the husband, the father, the son--all comprised in one
person--holding these relations dearer in life to him than any other
man I know--for such a man I do not pray a pardon, for that is not in
the power of the court, but I pray a respite for such time as the
court in its humanity and discretion shall think proper. You have
heard, my lords, that his private affairs require arrangement. When I
address myself to your lordships, it is with the knowledge you will
have of all the sons of our aged mother being gone. Two have perished
in the service of the King--one very recently. I only request that,
disposing of me with what swiftness either the public mind or justice
requires, a respite may be given to my brother, that the family may
acquire strength to bear it all. That is all I wish; I shall remember
it to my last breath, and I shall offer up my prayers for you to that
Being who has endued us all with the sensibility to feel. That is all
I ask. I have nothing more to say."

It was four o'clock, p.m., when the judge proceeded to pass sentence,
and the following morning was appointed for the double execution. At
mid-day on Saturday, July 14th, the hapless men were removed to the room
adjoining the place of execution, where they exchanged a last embrace.
They were then pinioned, the black caps put over their brows, and
holding each other by the hand, they tottered out on the platform. The
elder brother was somewhat moved by the terrors of his situation, but
the younger bore his fate with unflinching firmness. They were launched
together into eternity--the same moment saw them dangling lifeless
corpses before the prison walls. They had lived in affectionate unity,
inspired by the same motives, labouring for the same cause, and death
did not dissolve the tie. "They died hand in hand, like true brothers."

When the hangman's hideous office was completed, the bodies were taken
down, and the executioner, in accordance with the barbarous custom of
the time, proceeded to sever the heads from the bodies. It is said,
however, that only on the body of Henry Sheares was that horrible act
performed. While the arrangements for the execution were in progress,
Sir Jonah Barrington had been making intercession with Lord Clare on
their behalf, and beseeching at least a respite. His lordship declared
that the life of John Sheares could not be spared, but said that Henry
might possibly have something to say which would induce the government
to commute his sentence; he furnished Sir Jonah with an order to delay
the execution one hour, and told him to communicate with Henry Sheares
on the subject. "I hastened," writes Sir Jonah, "to Newgate, and arrived
at the very moment that the executioner was holding up the head of my
old college friend, and saying, 'Here is the head of a traitor.'" The
fact of this order having been issued by the government, may have so far
interrupted the bloody work on the scaffold as to save the remains of
the younger Sheares from mutilation. The bodies of the patriots were
interred on the night of the execution in the vaults of St. Michan's
church, where, enclosed in oaken coffins, marked in the usual manner
with the names and ages of the deceased, they still repose. Many a pious
visit has since been paid to those dim chambers--many a heart, filled
with love and pity, has throbbed above those coffin lids--many a tear
has dropped upon them. But it is not a feeling of grief alone that is
inspired by the memory of those martyrs to freedom; hope, courage,
constancy, are the lessons taught by their lives, and the patriotic
spirit that ruled their career is still awake and active in Ireland.

* * * * *


In all Irish history there is no name which touches the Irish heart like
that of Robert Emmet. We read, in that eventful record, of men who laid
down their lives for Ireland amid the roar and crash of battle, of
others who perished by the headsman's axe or the halter of the hangman,
of others whose eyes were closed for ever in the gloom of English
dungeons, and of many whose hearts broke amid the sorrows of involuntary
exile; of men, too, who in the great warfare of mind rendered to the
Irish cause services no less memorable and glorious. They are neither
forgotten nor unhonoured. The warrior figure of Hugh O'Neill is a
familiar vision to Irishmen; Sarsfield expiring on the foreign
battle-field with that infinitely pathetic and noble utterance on his
lips--"Would that this were for Ireland"--is a cherished remembrance,
and that last cry of a patriotic spirit dwells for ever about our
hearts; Grattan battling against a corrupt and venal faction, first to
win and then to defend the independence of his country, astonishing
friends and foes alike by the dazzling splendour of his eloquence; and
O'Connell on the hill-sides pleading for the restoration of Ireland's
rights, and rousing his countrymen to a struggle for them, are pictures
of which we are proud--memories that will live in song and story while
the Irish race has a distinct existence in the world. But in the
character of Robert Emmet there was such a rare combination of admirable
qualities, and in his history there are so many of the elements of
romance, that the man stands before our mental vision as a peculiarly
noble and loveable being, with claims upon our sympathies that are
absolutely without a parallel. He had youth, talent, social position, a
fair share of fortune, and bright prospects for the future on his side
when he embarked in the service of a cause that had but recently been
sunk in defeat and ruin. Courage, genius, enthusiasm were his, high
hopes and strong affections, all based upon and sweetened by a nature
utterly free from guile. He was an orator and a poet; in the one art he
had already achieved distinction, in the other he was certain to take a
high place, if he should make that an object of his ambition. He was a
true patriot, true soldier, and true lover. If the story of his
political life is full of melancholy interest, and calculated to awaken
profound emotions of reverence for his memory, the story of his
affections is not less touching. Truly, "there's not a line but hath
been wept upon." So it is, that of all the heroic men who risked and
lost everything for Ireland, none is so frequently remembered, none is
thought of so tenderly as Robert Emmet. Poetry has cast a halo of light
upon the name of the youthful martyr, and some of the sweetest strains
of Irish music are consecrated to his memory.

[Illustration: ROBERT EMMET.]

Robert Emmet was born on the 4th of March, 1778. He was the third son of
Doctor Robert Emmet, a well-known and highly respectable physician of
Dublin. Thomas Addis Emmet, already mentioned in these pages, the
associate of Tone, the Sheareses, and other members of the United Irish
organization, was an elder brother of Robert, and his senior by some
sixteen years. Just about the period when the United Irishmen were
forming themselves into a secret revolutionary society, young Emmet was
sent to receive his education in Trinity College. There the bent of the
lad's political opinions was soon detected; but among his fellow
students he found many, and amongst them older heads than his own, who
not only shared his views, but went beyond them in the direction of
liberal and democratic principles. In the Historical Society--composed
of the _alumni_ of the college, and on whose books at this time were
many names that subsequently became famous--those kindred spirits made
for themselves many opportunities of giving expression to their
sentiments, and showing that their hearts beat in unison with the great
movement for human freedom which was then agitating the world. To their
debates Emmet brought the aid of a fine intellect and a fluent
utterance, and he soon became the orator of the patriot party.

So great was the effect created by his fervid eloquence and his
admirable reasoning, that the heads of the college thought it prudent on
several occasions to send one of the ablest of their body to take part
in the proceedings, and assist in refuting the argumentation of the
"young Jacobin." And to such extremities did matters proceed at last
that Emmet, with several of his political friends, was expelled the
college, others less obnoxious to the authorities were subjected to a
severe reprimand, and the society, thus terrorised and weakened, soon
ceased to exist. Our national poet, Thomas Moore, the fellow-student and
intimate friend of young Emmet, witnessed many of those displays of his
abilities, and in his "Life and Death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald," speaks
of him in terms of the highest admiration. "Were I," he says, "to number
the men among all I have ever known who appeared to me to combine in the
greatest degree pure moral worth with intellectual power, I should,
among the highest of the few, place Robert Emmet." "He was," writes the
same authority, "wholly free from the follies and frailties of
youth--though how capable he was of the most devoted passion events
afterwards proved." Of his oratory, he says, "I have heard little since
that appeared to me of a loftier, or what is a far more rare quality in
Irish eloquence, purer character." And the appearance of this greatly
gifted youth, he thus describes: "Simple in all his habits, and with a
repose of look and manner indicating but little movement within, it was
only when the spring was touched that set his feelings, and through them
his intellect in motion, that he at all rose above the level of ordinary
men. No two individuals indeed could be much more unlike to each other
than was the same youth to himself before rising to speak and after; the
brow that had appeared inanimate and almost drooping, at once elevating
itself to all the consciousness of power, and the whole countenance and
figure of the speaker assuming a change as of one suddenly inspired."

The expulsion of Emmet from the college occurred in the month of
February, 1798. On the 12th of the following month his brother, Thomas
Addis Emmet, was arrested. The manner in which this noble-hearted
gentleman took the oath of the United Irish Society, in the year of
1795, is so remarkable that we cannot omit mention of it here. His
services as a lawyer having been engaged in the defence of some persons
who stood charged with having sworn in members to the United Irish
organization--the crime for which William Orr was subsequently tried and
executed--he, in the course of the proceedings, took up the oath and
read it with remarkable deliberation and solemnity. Then, taking into
his hand the prayer book that lay on the table for the swearing of
witnesses, and looking to the bench and around the court, he said

"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 this oath."

The terms of the oath at this time were, in fact, perfectly
constitutional, having reference simply to attainment of a due
representation of the Irish nation in parliament--still, the oath was
that of a society declared to be illegal, and the administration of it
had been made a capital offence. The boldness of the advocate in thus
administering it to himself in open court appeared to paralyse the minds
of the judges. They took no notice of the act, and what was even more
remarkable, the prisoners, who were convicted, received a lenient

But to return to Robert Emmet--the events of 1798, as might be supposed,
had a powerful effect on the feelings of the enthusiastic young patriot,
and he was not free of active participation with the leaders of the
movement in Dublin. He was, of course, an object of suspicion to the
government, and it appears marvellous that they did not immediately take
him into their safe keeping under the provisions of the _Habeas Corpus_
Suspension Act. Ere long, however, he found that prudence would counsel
his concealment, or his disappearance from the country, and he took his
departure for the Continent, where he met with a whole host of the Irish
refugees; and, in 1802, was joined by his brother and others of the
political prisoners who had been released from the confinement to
which--in violation of a distinct agreement between them and the
government--they had been subjected in Fort George, in Scotland. Their
sufferings had not broken their spirit. There was hope still, they
thought, for Ireland; great opportunities were about to dawn upon that
often defeated, but still unconquerable nation, and they applied
themselves to the task of preparing the Irish people to take advantage
of them.

At home the condition of affairs was not such as to discourage them. The
people had not lost heart; the fighting spirit was still rife amongst
them. The rebellion had been trampled out, but it had been sustained
mainly by a county or two, and it had served to show that a general
uprising of the people would be sufficient to sweep every vestige of
British power from the land. Then they had in their favour the
exasperation against the government which was caused by that most
infamous transaction, the passage of the Act of Union. But they found
their chief encouragement in the imminence of another war between France
and England. Once more the United Irishmen put themselves into
communication with Buonaparte, then First Consul, and again they
received flattering promises of assistance. Robert Emmet obtained an
interview with that great man, and learned from him that it was his
settled purpose on the breaking out of hostilities, which could not long
be deferred, to effect an invasion of England. Full of high hopes, Emmet
returned to Dublin in October, 1802; and as he was now in very heart of
a movement for another insurrection, he took every precaution to avoid
discovery. He passed under feigned names, and moved about as little as
possible. He gathered together the remnants of the United Irish
organization, and with some money of his own, added to considerable sums
supplied to him by a Mr. Long, a merchant, residing at No. 4
Crow-street, and other sympathisers, he commenced the collection of an
armament and military stores for his followers. In the month of May,
1803, the expected war between France and England broke out. This event
of course raised still higher his hopes, and gave a great stimulus to
his exertions. To and fro he went from one to another of the depots
which he had established for the manufacture and storage of arms in
various parts of the city, cheering, directing, and assisting his men at
their work. Pikes were got ready by the thousand, and ingeniously stowed
away until they should be wanted; rockets, hand-grenades, and other
deadly missiles were carefully prepared; but an accidental explosion,
which occurred on the 16th of July, in one of these manufactories
situate in Patrick-street, was very near leading to the discovery of the
entire business, and had the effect of precipitating the outbreak. The
government at this time had undoubtedly got on the scent of the
movement, and the leaders considered that no time was to be lost in
bringing matters to a crisis. Emmet now took up his abode in the
Marshalsea-lane depot, snatching his few hours of sleep "on a mattress,
surrounded by all the implements of death." There he made a final
arrangement of his plans, and communicated his instructions to his
subordinates, fixing the 23rd of July as the date for the rising.

The history of that unfortunate attempt need not here be written.
Suffice it to say that the arrangements miscarried in nearly every
particular. The men in the numbers calculated upon did not assemble at
the appointed time or in the appointed places, and the whole force that
turned out in Thomas-street for the attack on the Castle did not number
a hundred insurgents. They were joined by a riotous and noisy rabble;
and their unfortunate leader soon perceived that his following was, as
had previously been said of the king's troops, "formidable to every one
but the enemy." They had not proceeded far on their way when a carriage,
in which were Lord Kilwarden, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, his
daughter, and his nephew, the Rev. Mr. Wolfe, drove into the street. The
vehicle was stopped, and the Chief Justice was immediately piked by a
man in the crowd whose son he had some time previously condemned to
execution. The clergyman also was pulled out of the carriage and put to
death. To the lady no violence was offered, and Emmet himself, who had
heard of the deplorable tragedy, rushing from the head of his party,
bore her in his arms to an adjoining house. No attack on the Castle took
place; the insurgent party scattered and melted away even before the
appearance of military on the scene, and in little more than an hour
from the time of his setting out on his desperate enterprise, Robert
Emmet was a defeated and ruined man, a fugitive, with the whole host of
British spies and bloodhounds employed to hunt him to the death.

Yet he might have foiled them and got clear out of the country if his
personal safety was all on earth he cared for. But in that noble heart
of his there was one passion co-existent with his love of Ireland, and
not unworthy of the companionship, which forbade his immediate flight.
With all that intensity of affection of which a nature so pure and so
ardent as his was capable, he loved a being in every way worthy of
him--a lady so gentle, and good, and fair, that even to a less poetic
imagination than his own, she might seem to be a fitting personification
of his beloved Erin; and by her he was loved and trusted in return. Who
is it that has not heard her name?--who has not mourned over the story
of Sarah Curran! In the ruin that had fallen on the hopes and fortunes
of the patriot chief, the happiness of this amiable lady was involved.
He would not leave without an interview with her--no! though a thousand
deaths should be the penalty. The delay was fatal to his chances of
escape. For more than a month he remained in concealment, protected by
the fidelity of friends, many of whom belonged to the humbler walks of
life, and one of whom in particular--the heroic Anne Devlin, from whom
neither proffered bribes nor cruel tortures could extort a single hint
as to his place of abode--should ever be held in grateful remembrance by
Irishmen. At length on the 25th of August, the ill-fated young
gentleman was arrested in the house of a Mrs. Palmer, at Harold's-cross.
On the 19th of September he was put on his trial in the court-house,
Green-street, charged with high treason. He entered on no defence,
beyond making a few remarks in the course of the proceedings with a view
to the moral and political justification of his conduct. The jury,
without leaving their box, returned a verdict of guilty against him;
after which, having been asked in due form why sentence of death should
not be pronounced upon him, he delivered this memorable speech, every
line of which is known and dear to the hearts of the Irish race:--

"MY LORDS--I am asked what have I to say why sentence of death should
not be pronounced on me, according to law. I have nothing to say that
can alter your predetermination, nor that it will become me to say,
with any view to the mitigation of that sentence which you are to
pronounce, and I must abide by. But I have that to say which
interests me more than life, and which you have laboured to destroy.
I have much to say why my reputation should be rescued from the load
of false accusation and calumny which has been cast upon it, I do not
imagine that, seated where you are, your mind can be so free from
prejudice as to receive the least impression from what I am going to
utter. I have no hopes that I can anchor my character in the breast
of a court constituted and trammelled as this is. I only wish, and
that is the utmost that I expect, that your lordships may suffer it
to float down your memories untainted by the foul breath of
prejudice, until it finds some more hospitable harbour to shelter it
from the storms by which it is buffetted. Was I only to suffer death,
after being adjudged guilty by your tribunal, I should bow in
silence, and meet the fate that awaits me without a murmur; but the
sentence of the law which delivers my body to the executioner will,
through the ministry of the law, labour in its own vindication, to
consign my character to obloquy; for there must be guilt somewhere,
whether in the sentence of the court, or in the catastrophe, time
must determine. A man in my situation has not only to encounter the
difficulties of fortune, and the force of power over minds which it
has corrupted or subjugated, but the difficulties of established
prejudice. The man dies, but his memory lives. That mine may not
perish, that it may live in the respect of my countrymen, I seize
upon this opportunity to vindicate myself from some of the charges
alleged against me. When my spirit shall be wafted to a more friendly
port--when my shade shall have joined the bands of those martyred
heroes who have shed their blood on the scaffold and in the field in
the defence of their country and of virtue, this is my hope--I wish
that my memory and name may animate those who survive me, while I
look down with complacency on the destruction of that perfidious
government which upholds its domination by blasphemy of the Most
High--which displays its power over man, as over the beasts of the
forest--which sets man upon his brother, and lifts his hand, in the
name of God, against the throat of his fellow who believes or doubts
a little more or a little less than the government standard--a
government which is steeled to barbarity by the cries of the orphans,
and the tears of the widows it has made."

[Here Lord Norbury interrupted Mr. Emmet, saying--"that the mean and
wicked enthusiasts who felt as he did, were not equal to the
accomplishment of their wild designs."]

"I appeal to the immaculate God--I swear by the Throne of Heaven,
before which I must shortly appear--by the blood of the murdered
patriots who have gone before me--that my conduct has been, through
all this peril, and through all my purposes, governed only by the
conviction which I have uttered, and by no other view than that of
the emancipation of my country from the superinhuman oppression under
which she has so long and too patiently travailed; and I confidently
hope that, wild and chimerical as it may appear, there is still union
and strength in Ireland to accomplish this noblest of enterprises. Of
this I speak with confidence, of intimate knowledge, and with the
consolation that appertains to that confidence. Think not, my lords,
I say this for the petty gratification of giving you a transitory
uneasiness. A man who never yet raised his voice to assert a lie,
will not hazard his character with posterity, by asserting a
falsehood on a subject so important to his country, and on an
occasion like this. Yes, my lords, a man who does not wish to have
his epitaph written until his country is liberated, will not leave a
weapon in the power of envy, or a pretence to impeach the probity
which he means to preserve, even in the grave, to which tyranny
consigns him."

[Here he was again interrupted by the court]

"Again I say, that what I have spoken was not intended for your
lordship, whose situation I commisserate rather than envy--my
expressions were for my countrymen. If there is a true Irishman
present, let my last words cheer him in the hour of his affliction."

[Here he was again interrupted. Lord Norbury said he did not sit
there to hear treason.]

"I have always understood it to be the duty of a judge, when a
prisoner has been convicted, to pronounce the sentence of the law. I
have also understood that judges sometimes think it their duty to
hear with patience, and to speak with humanity; to exhort the victim
of the laws, and to offer, with tender benignity, their opinions of
the motives by which he was actuated in the crime of which he was
adjudged guilty. That a judge has thought it his duty so to have
done, I have no doubt; but where is the boasted freedom of your
institutions--where is the vaunted impartiality, clemency, and
mildness of your courts of justice if an unfortunate prisoner, whom
your policy, and not justice, is about to deliver into the hands of
the executioner, is not suffered to explain his motives sincerely and
truly, and to vindicate the principles by which he was actuated? My
lords, it may be a part of the system of angry justice to bow a man's
mind by humiliation to the purposed, ignominy of the scaffold; but
worse to me than the purposed shame, or the scaffold's terrors, would
be the shame of such foul and unfounded imputations as have been laid
against me in this court. You, my lord, are a judge; I am the
supposed culprit. I am a man; you are a man also. By a revolution of
power we might change places, though we never could change
characters. If I stand at the bar of this court, and dare not
vindicate my character, what a farce is your justice! If I stand at
this bar and dare not vindicate my character, how dare you calumniate
it. Does the sentence of death, which your unhallowed policy inflicts
on my body, condemn my tongue to silence and my reputation to
reproach? Your executioner may abridge the period of my existence;
but while I exist I shall not forbear to vindicate my character and
motives from your aspersions; and, as a man, to whom fame is dearer
than life, I will make the last use of that life in doing justice to
that reputation which is to live after me, and which is the only
legacy I can leave to those I honor and love, and for whom I am proud
to perish. As men, my lords, we must appear on the great day at one
common tribunal; and it will then remain for the Searcher of all
hearts to show a collective universe, who was engaged in the most
virtuous actions, or swayed by the purest motives--my country's
oppressor, or"-----

[Here he was interrupted, and told to listen to the sentence of the

"My lords, will a dying man be denied the legal privilege of
exculpating himself in the eyes of the community from an undeserved
reproach, thrown upon him during his trial, by charging him with
ambition, and attempting to cast away for a paltry consideration the
liberties of his country? Why did your lordships insult me? Or
rather, why insult justice, in demanding of me why sentence of death
should not be pronounced against me? I know, my lords, that form
prescribes that you should ask the question. The form also presents
the right of answering. This, no doubt, may be dispensed with, and so
might the whole ceremony of the trial, since sentence was already
pronounced at the Castle before the jury were empanelled. Your
lordships are but the priests of the oracle, and I insist on the
whole of the forms."

[Here Mr. Emmet paused, and the court desired him to proceed.]

"I am charged with being an emissary of France. An emissary of
France! and for what end? It is alleged that I wished to sell the
independence of my country; and for what end? Was this the object of
my ambition? And is this the mode by which a tribunal of justice
reconciles contradiction? No; I am no emissary; and my ambition was
to hold a place among the deliverers of my country, not in power nor
in profit, but in the glory of the achievement. Sell my country's
independence to France! and for what? Was it a change of masters? No,
but for my ambition. Oh, my country, was it personal ambition that
could influence me? Had it been the soul of my actions, could I not,
by my education and fortune, by the rank and consideration of my
family, have placed myself amongst the proudest of your oppressor. My
Country was my Idol. To it I sacrificed every selfish, every
endearing sentiment; and for it I now offer up myself, O God! No, my
lords; I acted as an Irishman, determined on delivering my country
from the yoke of a foreign and unrelenting tyranny, and the more
galling yoke of a domestic faction, which is its joint partner and
perpetrator in the patricide, from the ignominy existing with an
exterior of splendour and a conscious depravity. It was the wish of
my heart to extricate my country from this doubly rivetted
despotism--I wished to place her independence beyond the reach of any
power on earth. I wished to exalt her to that proud station in the
world. Connection with France was, indeed, intended, but only as far
as mutual interest would sanction or require. Were the French to
assume any authority inconsistent with the purest independence, it
would be signal for their destruction. We sought their aid--and we
sought it as we had assurance we should obtain it--as auxiliaries in
war, and allies in peace. Were the French to come as invaders or
enemies, uninvited by the wishes of the people, I should oppose them
to the utmost of my strength. Yes! my countrymen, I should advise you
to meet them upon the beach with a sword in one hand, and a torch in
the other. I would meet them with all the destructive fury of war. I
would animate my countrymen to immolate them in their boats, before
they had contaminated the soil of my country. If they succeeded in
landing, and if forced to retire before superior discipline, I would
dispute every inch of ground, burn every blade of grass, and the last
entrenchment of liberty should be my grave. What I could not do
myself, if I should fall, I should leave as a last charge to my
countrymen to accomplish; because I should feel conscious that life,
any more than death, is unprofitable when a foreign nation holds my
country in subjection. But it was not as an enemy that the succours
of France were to land. I looked, indeed, for the assistance of
France; but I wished to prove to France and to the world that
Irishmen deserved to be assisted--that they were indignant at
slavery, and ready to assert the independence and liberty of their
country; I wished to procure for my country the guarantee which
Washington procured for America--to procure an aid which, by its
example, would be as important as its valour; disciplined, gallant,
pregnant with science and experience; that of a people who would
perceive the good, and polish the rough points of our character. They
would come to us as strangers, and leave us as friends, after sharing
in our perils and elevating our destiny. These were my objects; not
to receive new taskmasters, but to expel old tyrants. It was for
these ends I sought aid from France; because France, even as an
enemy, could not be more implacable than the enemy already in the
bosom of my country."

[Here he was interrupted by the court.]

"I have been charged with that importance in the emancipation of my
country, as to be consided the key-stone of the combination of
Irishmen; or, as your lordship expressed it, 'the life and blood of
the conspiracy.' You do me honour over much; you have given to the
subaltern all the credit of a superior. There are men engaged in this
conspiracy who are not only superior to me, but even to your own
conceptions of yourself, my lord--men before the splendour of whose
genius and virtues I should bow with respectful deference, and who
would think themselves disgraced by shaking your blood-stained hand."

[Here he was interrupted.]

"What, my lord, shall you tell me, on the passage to the scaffold,
which that tyranny (of which you are only the intermediary
executioner) has erected for my murder, that I am accountable for all
the blood that has and will be shed in this struggle of the oppressed
against the oppressor--shall you tell me this, and must I be so very
a slave as not to repel it? I do not fear to approach the Omnipotent
Judge to answer for the conduct of my whole life; and am I to be
appalled and falsified by a mere remnant of mortality here? By you,
too, although if it were possible to collect all the innocent blood
that you have shed in your unhallowed ministry in one great reservoir
your lordship might swim in it."

[Here the judge interfered.]

"Let no man dare, when I am dead, to charge me with dishonor; let no
man attaint my memory, by believing that I could have engaged in any
cause but that of my country's liberty and independence; or that I
could have become the pliant minion of power, in the oppression and
misery of my country. The proclamation of the Provisional Government
speaks for our views; no inference can be tortured from it to
countenance barbarity or debasement at home, or subjection,
humiliation, or treachery from abroad. I would not have submitted to
a foreign oppressor, for the same reason that I would resist the
foreign and domestic oppressor. In the dignity of freedom, I would
have fought upon the threshold of my country, and its enemy should
enter only by passing over my lifeless corpse. And am I, who lived
but for my country, and who have subjected myself to the dangers of
the jealous and watchful oppressor, and the bondage of the grave,
only to give my countrymen their rights, and my country her
independence, am I to be loaded with calumny, and not suffered to
resent it? No; God forbid!"

Here Lord Norbury told Mr. Emmet that his sentiments and language
disgraced his family and his education, but more particularly his
father, Dr. Emmet, who was a man, if alive, that would not
countenance such opinions. To which Mr. Emmet replied:--

"If the spirits of the illustrious dead participate in the concerns
and cares of those who were dear to them in this transitory life,
oh! ever dear and venerated shade of my departed father, look down
with scrutiny upon the conduct of your suffering son, and see if I
have, even for a moment, deviated from those principles of morality
and patriotism which it was your care to instil into my youthful
mind, and for which I am now about to offer up my life. My lords, you
are impatient for the sacrifice. The blood which you seek is not
congealed by the artificial terrors which surround your victim--it
circulates warmly and unruffled through the channels which God
created for noble purposes, but which you are now bent to destroy,
for purposes so grievous that they cry to heaven. Be yet patient! I
have but a few more words to say--I am going to my cold and silent
grave--my lamp of life is nearly extinguished--my race is run--the
grave opens to receive me, and I sink into its bosom. I have but one
request to ask at my departure from this world, it is--THE CHARITY OF
ITS SILENCE. Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my
motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance
asperse them. Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace; and my
tomb remain uninscribed, and my memory in oblivion, until other times
and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes
her place among the nations of the earth, _then_ and _not till then_,
let my epitaph be written. I have done."

This affecting address was spoken--as we learn from the painstaking and
generous biographer of the United Irishmen, Dr, Madden--"in so loud a
voice as to be distinctly heard at the outer doors of the court-house;
and yet, though he spoke in a loud tone, there was nothing boisterous in
his manner; his accents and cadence of voice, on the contrary, were
exquisitely modulated. His action was very remarkable, its greater or
lesser vehemence corresponded with the rise and fall of his voice. He is
described as moving about the dock, as he warmed in his address, with
rapid, but not ungraceful motions--now in front of the railing before
the bench, then retiring, as if his body, as well as his mind, were
spelling beyond the measure of its chains. His action was not confined
to his hands; he seemed to have acquired a swaying motion of the body
when he spoke in public, which was peculiar to him, but there was no
affectation in it."

At ten o'clock, p.m., on the day of his trial, the barbarous sentence of
the law--the same that we have so recently heard passed on prisoners
standing in that same dock, accused of the same offence against the
rulers of this country--was passed on Robert Emmet. Only a few hours
were given him in which to withdraw his thoughts from the things of this
world and fix them on the next. He was hurried away, at midnight, from
Newgate to Kilmainham jail, passing through Thomas-street, the scene of
his attempted insurrection. Hardly had the prison van driven through,
when workmen arrived and commenced the erection of the gibbet from which
his body was to be suspended. About the hour of noon, on the 20th of
September, he mounted the scaffold with a firm and composed demeanour; a
minute or two more and the lifeless remains of one of the most gifted of
God's creatures hung from the cross beams--strangled by the enemies of
his country--cut off in the bloom of youth, in the prime of his physical
and intellectual powers, because he had loved his own land, hated her
oppressors, and striven to give freedom to his people. But not yet was
English vengeance satisfied. While the body was yet warm it was cut down
from the gibbet, the neck placed across a block on the scaffold, and the
head severed from the body. Then the executioner held it up before the
horrified and sorrowing crowd that stood outside the lines of soldiery,
proclaiming to them--"This is the head of a traitor!" A traitor! It was
a false proclamation. No traitor was he, but a true and noble gentleman.
No traitor, but a most faithful heart to all that was worthy of love and
honour. No traitor, but a martyr for Ireland. The people who stood
agonized before his scaffold, tears streaming from their eyes, and their
hearts bursting with suppressed emotion, knew that for them and for
Ireland he had offered up his young life. And when the deed was
finished, and the mutilated body had been taken away, and the armed
guards had marched from the fatal spot, old people and young moved up to
it to dip their handkerchiefs in the blood of the martyr, that they
might then treasure up the relics for ever. Well has his memory been
cherished in the Irish heart from that day to the present time. Six
years ago a procession of Irishmen, fifteen thousand strong, hearing
another rebel to his grave, passed by the scene of that execution, every
man of whom reverently uncovered his head as he reached the hallowed
spot. A few months ago, a banner borne in another Irish insurrection
displayed the inscription--


Far away "beyond the Atlantic foam," and "by the long wash of
Australasian seas," societies are in existence bearing his name, and
having for their object to cherish his memory and perpetuate his
principles. And wherever on the habitable globe a few members of the
scattered Irish race are to be found, there are hearts that are thrilled
by even the faintest allusion to the uninscribed grave-stone and the
unwritten epitaph.

* * * * *


When Emmet was dead, and the plan to which he devoted his fortune, his
talents, and his life, had sunk in failure, the cause of Irish
independence appeared finally lost, and the cry, more than once repeated
in after times, that "now, indeed, the last bolt of Irish disaffection
has been sped, and that there would never again be an Irish rebellion,"
rung loudly from the exulting enemies of Ireland. The hearts of the
people seemed broken by the weight of the misfortunes and calamities
that overwhelmed them. The hopes which had brightened their stormy path,
and enabled them to endure the oppression to which they were subjected
by expectations of a glorious change, flickered no longer amidst the
darkness. The efforts of the insurgents were everywhere drowned in
blood; the hideous memories of '98 were brought up anew; full of bitter
thoughts, exasperated, humiliated, and despondent, the people brooded
over their wretched fate, and sullenly submitted to the reign of terror
which was inaugurated amongst them. Little had the Irish patriots to
look forward to in that dark hour of suffering and disappointment. A
nightmare of blood and violence weighed down the spirits of the people;
a stupor appeared to have fallen on the nation; and though time might be
trusted to arouse them from the trance, they had suffered another loss,
not so easily repaired, in the death and dispersion of their leaders.
Where now should they find the Moses to lead them from the land of
captivity? Tone, Fitzgerald, Emmet, Bond, M'Cracken, the Sheareses--all
were dead. M'Nevin, Neilson, and O'Connor were in exile. Heavily and
relentlessly the arm of vengeance had fallen on them one by one; but the
list was not even then completed. There was yet another victim to fall
before the altar of liberty, and the sacrifice which commenced with Orr
did not conclude until Thomas Russell had perished on the gallows of

The importance of the part which Thomas Russell fills in the history of
the United Irishmen, the worth of his character, the purity and nobility
of his sentiments, and the spirit of uncompromising patriotism displayed
in his last address, would render unpardonable the omission of his name
from such a work as this. "I mean to make my trial," said Russell, "and
the last of my life, if it is to close now, as serviceable to the cause
of liberty as I can," and he kept his word. To-day, we try in some
slight way to requite that fidelity which endured unto death, by
rescuing Thomas Russell's name from oblivion, and recalling his services
and virtues to the recollection of his countrymen.

He was born at Betsborough, Dunnahane, in the parish of Kilshanick,
county Cork, on the 21st November, 1767. His father was an officer in
the British army, who had fought against the Irish Brigade in the
memorable battle of Fontenoy, and who died in a high situation in the
Royal Hospital at Kilmainham. Thomas, the youngest of his three sons,
was educated for the Protestant Church; but his inclinations sought a
different field of action, and at the age of fifteen he left for India
as a volunteer, where he served with his brother, Ambrose, whose
gallantry in battle called down commendation from the English king.
Thomas Russell quitted India after five years' service, and his return
is ascribed to the disgust and indignation which filled him on
witnessing the extortions, the cruelties, the usurpations, and
brutalities, which were carried out and sanctioned by the government
under which he served. He left Ireland burdened with few fixed political
principles and little knowledge of the world; he returned a full grown
man, imbued with the opinions which he never afterwards abandoned. He
was then, we are told, a model of manly beauty, one of those favoured
individuals whom we cannot pass in the street without being guilty of
the rudeness of staring in the face while passing, and turning round to
look at the receding figure. Though more than six feet high, his
majestic stature was scarcely observed, owing to the exquisite symmetry
of his form. Martial in his gait and demeanour, his appearance was not
altogether that of a soldier. His dark and steady eye, compressed lip,
and some what haughty bearing, were occasionally strongly indicative of
the camp; but in general the classic contour of his finely formed head,
the expression of sweetness that characterised his smile, and the
benevolence that beamed in his fine countenance, seemed to mark him out
as one that was destined to be the ornament, grace, and blessing of
private life. His manners were those of the finished gentleman, combined
with that native grace which nothing but superiority of intellect can
give; he was naturally reserved and retiring in disposition, and his
private life was distinguished by eminent purity and an unostentatious
devotion to the precepts of religion.

Such was Thomas Russell when he made the acquaintance of Theobald Wolfe
Tone in Dublin. There is no doubt that the views and opinions of Tone
made a profound impression on young Russell; it is equally certain, on
the other hand, that Tone learned to love and esteem his new friend,
whose sentiments were so much in accordance with his own. Throughout
Tone's journal we find constant references to Thomas Russell, whom he
always places with Thomas Addis Emmet at the head of his list of
friends. Early in 1791 Russell proceeded to Belfast to join the 64th
Regiment, in which he had obtained a commission; before leaving Dublin
he appears to have become a member of the Society of United Irishmen,
and in Belfast he soon won the friendship and shared the councils of the
patriotic men who were labouring for Ireland in that city.

While in Belfast, Russell fell into pecuniary embarrassments. His
generous and confiding nature induced him to go bail for a false friend,
and he found himself one morning obliged to meet a claim for L200, which
he had no means of discharging except by the sale of his commission.
Russell sold out and retired to Dungannon, where he lived for some time
on the residue of the money thus obtained, and during this period he was
appointed a Justice of the Peace for the county of Tyrone. After a short
experience of "Justices' justice" in the North, he retired from the
bench through motives alike creditable to his head and heart. "I cannot
reconcile it to my conscience," he exclaimed one day, "to sit on a bench
where the practice exists of inquiring what religion a person is before
investigating the charge against him." Russell returned, after taking
this step, to Belfast, where he was appointed to a situation in the
public library of the town, and where he became a regular contributor to
the organ of the Ulster patriots, the _Northern Star_.

In 1796 he was appointed by the United Irishmen to the supreme military
command in the county Down, a post for which his military experience not
less than his personal influence fitted him, but his political career
was soon afterwards interrupted by his arrest on the 26th of September,
1796. Russell was removed to Dublin, and lodged in Newgate Prison; his
arrest filled the great heart of Tone, who was then toiling for his
country in France, with sorrow and dismay. "It is impossible," he says
in his journal, "to conceive the effect this misfortune has on my mind.
If we are not in Ireland in time to extricate him he is lost, for the
government will move heaven and earth to ensure his condemnation. Good
God!" he adds, "if Russell and Neilson fall, where shall I find two
others to replace them?" During the eventful months that intervened
between the date of his arrest and the 19th of March, 1799, poor Russell
remained chafing his imprisoned soul, filled with patriotic passion and
emotion, in his prison cell in Kilmainham. On the latter date, when the
majority of his associates were dead, and their followers scattered and
disheartened, he was transferred to Fort George in Scotland, where he
spent three years more in captivity. The government had no specific
charge against him, but they feared his influence and distrusted his
intentions, and they determined to keep him a prisoner while a chance
remained of his exerting his power against them. No better illustration
of Russell's character and principles could be afforded than that
supplied in the following extract from one of the letters written by him
during his incarceration in Fort George:--"To the people of Ireland," he
writes, addressing an Irish friend and sympathiser, "I am responsible
for my actions; amidst the uncertainties of life this may be my
valedictory letter; what has occasioned the failure of the cause is
useless to speculate on--Providence orders all things for the best. _I
am sure the people will never abandon the cause; I am equally sure it
will succeed_. I trust men will see," he adds, referring to the infidel
views then unhappily prevalent, "that the only true basis of liberty is
morality, and the only stable basis of morality is religion."

In 1802 the government, failing to establish any distinct charge against
Russell, set him at liberty, and he at once repaired to Paris, where he
met Robert Emmet, who was then preparing to renew the effort of
Fitzgerald and Wolfe Tone. Time had not changed, nor suffering damped,
the patriotic impulses of Thomas Russell; he entered heartily into the
plans of young Emmet, and when the latter left for Ireland in November,
1802, to prosecute his hazardous enterprise, it was with the full
understanding that Russell would stand by his side in the post of
danger, and with him perish or succeed. In accordance with this
arrangement, Russell followed Robert Emmet to Dublin, where he arrived
so skilfully disguised that even his own family failed to recognise
him. Emmet's plans for the outbreak in Dublin were matured when Russell,
with a trusty companion, was despatched northwards to summon the Ulster
men to action. Buoyant in spirit, and filled with high expectation, he
entered on his mission, but he returned to Dublin a week later prostrate
in spirit and with a broken heart. One of his first acts on arriving in
Belfast was to issue a proclamation, in which, as "General-in-Chief of
the Northern District," he summoned the people of Ulster to action.

The North, however, refused to act. It was the old, old story. Belfast
resolved on waiting "to see what the South would do," and the South
waited for Belfast. Disgusted and disappointed, Russell quitted the
Northern capital and proceeded to Antrim, where at least he thought he
might expect to find cordial co-operation; but fresh disappointments
awaited him, and with a load of misery at his heart, such as he had
never felt before, Russell returned to Dublin, where he lived in
seclusion, until arrested by Major Sirr and his myrmidons on the 9th of
September, 1803. A reward of L1,500 had been offered for his
apprehension. We learn on good authority that the ruffianly town-major,
on arresting him, seized the unfortunate patriot rudely by the
neck-cloth, whereupon, Russell, a far more powerful man than his
assailant, flung him aside, and drawing a pistol, exclaimed--"I will not
be treated with indignity." Sirr parleyed for a while; a file of
soldiers was meanwhile summoned to his aid, and Russell was borne off in
irons a prisoner to the Castle. While undergoing this second captivity a
bold attempt was made by his friends to effect his liberation by bribing
one of the gaolers; the plot, however, broke down, and Russell never
breathed the air of freedom again. While awaiting his trial--that trial
which he knew could have but one termination, the death of a
felon--Russell addressed a letter to one of his friends outside, in
which the following noble passage, the fittest epitaph to be engraved on
his tombstone, occurs:--"I mean to make my trial," he writes, "and the
last of my life, if it is to close now, as serviceable to the cause of
liberty as I can. _I trust my countrymen will ever adhere to it:_ I know
it will soon prosper. When the country is free," he adds--that it would
be free he never learned to doubt--"I beg they may lay my remains with
my father in a private manner, and pay the few debts I owe. I have only
to beg of my countrymen to remember that the cause of liberty is the
cause of virtue, _which I trust they will never abandon_. May God bless
and prosper them, and when power comes into their hands I entreat them
to use it with moderation. May God and the Saviour bless them all."

Russell was taken to Downpatrick, escorted by a strong force of cavalry,
where he was lodged in the governor's rooms, preparatory to being tried
in that town by a Special Commission. While in prison in Downpatrick he
addressed a letter to Miss M'Cracken, a sister of Henry Joy M'Cracken,
one of the insurgent leaders of 1798, in which he speaks as follows:
"Humanly speaking, I expect to be found guilty and immediately executed.
As this may be my last letter, I shall only say that I did my best for
my country and for mankind. I have no wish to die, but far from
regretting its loss in such a cause, had I a thousand lives I would
willingly risk or lose them in it. Be assured, liberty will in the midst
of those storms be established, and God will wipe the tears from all

The sad anticipations expressed by Russell were but too fully borne out.
There was short shrift in those days for Irishmen accused of treason,
and the verdict of guilty, which he looked forward to with so much
resignation, was delivered before the last rays of the sun which rose on
the morning of the trial had faded in the gloaming. It was sworn that he
had attended treasonable meetings and distributed green uniforms; that
he asked those who attended them, "if they did not desire to get rid of


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