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THOMAS ADDIS EMMET.
THOMAS ADDIS EMMET, one of the most eminent advocates of the nineteenth century, was a native of Cork, Ireland, where he was born in the year 1764. His father, Robert Emmet, was a physician of respectable standing, and his mother is described as a woman of superior intellect and accomplishments. At an early period of life, Mr. Emmet was designed for the profession of medicine, and with that view was placed in the University of Dublin, and subsequently at the medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland; from which institution he graduated, a doctor of physic, in 1784. Among his fellow students here, were Doctor Samuel Latham Mitchell, since celebrated as the pioneer of scientific research in America; Sir James Mackintosh, Doctor Rogers, of New York, and Caspar Wistar, of Philadelphia.
While at Edinburgh, Mr. Emmet employed himself very industriously. He wrote a medical thesis in Latin at the time of taking his degree, which was selected for its merit, and published in the Thesaurus Medicus, by Smellie, the distinguished naturalist. The disposition of his mind, however, tended to forensic, rather than to medical pursuits; and so conspicuous was he as a speaker, that he was at this early period the president of no less than five debating societies, One of these societies embraced the whole extent of politics, literature, metaphysics, and political economy..
For the purpose of acquiring a more complete knowledge of his profession, Mr. Emmet, on closing his studies at Edinburgh, visited the most renowned medical schools on the continent, and, after travelling through Italy and Germany, returned to Ireland, with the intention of commencing practice. But the death of his elder brother, Christopher Temple Emmet, changed the course of his life. This brother was a member of the Irish bar, and is spoken of as one of the first men of Ireland. The vacancy produced by his death, it was determined Thomas Addis should occupy, and he at once set off for London, where he commenced study in the Templo. Here be spent two years; occasionally attending the courts at Westminster, where he often heard Erskine in the most splendid efforts of his eloquence. Returning to his native land, he was admitted to the bar in 1791, and commenced practice in Dublin. Soon after, he was married to Miss Jane Patten.
Mr. Emmet rose immediately to a conspicuous place at the Irish bar. He rode the circuit with Curran, and in the opinion of many, was his superior in talents, legal attainments, and general information. But this was not the time for him to realize his hopes of legal preferment. The condition of his country, impoverished by the cupidity of the English, the dark and cheerless prospect that opened upon her destinies, engrossed his attention. The resources and industry of Ireland had been regarded by the English as the legitimate objects of their unbounded desires, and the policy of their government had been directed, so as most readily to appropriate them to the use of the more aristocratic and favored subjects of the nation. While this unjust system had been carried out until it appeared to be the primary principle of the government, the progress of social and political intelligence brought the Irish people into direct collision with the authority of Great Britain.
It was during this period of suffering that the French Revolution broke out. The doctrines of freedom, declared in that moment of enthusiasm, met with a ready response from thousands of Irishmen. They hailed the occasion as “the day-spring of hope and freedom," diffusing over the land of their fathers, a silent, but enthusiastic expectation of deliverance. The Societies of United Irishmen, which had been formed in 1791, to repeal the Popery laws, to extend the right of suffrage among the Catholics, and to work other reforms, were now revived, under a new organization, the basis of which was not reform, but revolution. They were established on a plan of secrecy. There was an oath the most solemn and sacred. Protestants and Catholics—all religious sects, forgot their prejudices, and nobly rallied under one common standard. All their feelings, wishes, and hopes, were for Ireland. Her freedoin and her prosperity, claimed all their thoughts and all their devotions."
In 1796, Mr. Emmet joined the United Irishmen, and soon after was placed in their chief executive committee, where he directed all his energies .n labors of the most disinterested patriotism.
In 1798, the revolutionary organization had become perfect throughout Ireland, and the ad. herence of the people to its principles was most astonishing. “Perfect faith every where prevailed,” says Haines. “Men died on the rack and expired beneath the pains of torture, and still they would not reveal secrets to the spies and ruffians of government.” At this time, a military committee was formed, to prepare a plan of operations, and measures were taken to procure aid from France. Before they were ready, however, to declare themselves operly, their intentions were discovered by the British Government, through the treachery of one Thomas Reynolds, who had so far obtained their confidence as to be appointed a colonel in one of their regiments.
The leaders of the movement, among whom was Mr. Emmet, were now arrested and thrown into prison. This however did not prevent the general insurrection which followed a few weeks after. As the time approached, the dreadful notes of preparation were manifest in all parts of the country. In the interior the peasantry began to move in large masses to some central points. Night after night they were known to be proceeding along unfrequented roads to their places of rendezvous. The cabins throughout large tracts of country, were either deserted, or found to contain only women and children. The lower classes that were in the habit of flocking to the cities for employment, were no longer to be found in their usual places of resort. A general consternation prevailed. Even the measures taken on the part of the government promised no security. On the contrary, from their arbitrary and despotic character, they only tended to exasperate the spirit of disaffection. Martial law was proclaimed, and the people were sent to the prisons, until they could contain no more. Prison-ships were then employed, and many of the conspirators were informally executed, and many who were innocent were put to death in a summary manner. Deprived of their chosen leaders, the management of the revolutionary councils fell into the hands of less competent men. After a short but sanguinary struggle, and some partial successes in the counties of Wexford and Wicklow, the insurgents were defeated and entirely dispersed at the action on Vinegar Hill, by the forces under the command of General Lake, and in a short time afterward the rebellion was entirely crushed. A French force of about eleven hundred men, at length landed at Killala, on the northwest coast of Ireland, on the 12th of August; but it was too late, and in less than a fortnight they surrendered to Lord Cornwallis,
During his confinement in Dublin prison, Mr. Emmet experienced the greatest severity from the chief jailer. In speaking of this portion of his life, a short time prior to his death, Mr. Emmet said, that “he had a perfect idea of Sir Hudson Lowe, as the jailer of Napoleon. He so resembled his own jailer in a thousand particulars, that he could realize and believe all that Napoleon had dictated on the unfeeling and ruffianly deportment of the governor of St. Helena." The wife of Mr. Emmet was the only member of his family, who was permitted to see him, and when once admitted to his room, declared she would never leave it but with her husband. She was ordered by the officers of the prison to leave him, but she positively refused. Force was not used, but it was understood that in the event of her leaving, her return would be prevented: