Lord Edward Fitzgerald

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter XXXVI. ...continued

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On the 12th of March, 1798, the Leinster delegates, who had been long since betrayed, were seized by Major Swan, in Dublin. Fifteen persons were present, the greater number of whom were Protestants. Emmet, MacNevin, Jackson, and Sweetman, were seized the same day. Arthur O'Connor had already been arrested on his way to France, with Father Coigley. The latter was convicted on May 22, at Maidstone, and hanged on evidence so inconclusive, that Lord Chancellor Thurlow said: "If ever a poor man was murdered, it was Coigley!"

The arrest of Lord Edward FitzGerald occurred soon after. The room in which he was arrested and the bed on which he lay is still shown, for the brave young noble had won for himself the heart's love of every true Irishman. The story of his life would occupy more space than can be given to it. To abridge it would be to destroy more than half of its real interest. A severe wound which he received in the struggle with his captors, combined with the effects of excitement and a cruel imprisonment, caused his death. He was a chevalier sans peur et sans reproche. Even his enemies, and the enemies of his country, could find no word to say against him. With him died the best hopes of the United Irishmen, and with his expiring breath they lost their best prospect of success.[5]

Lord Edward died on the 4th of June. The 23rd of May had been fixed for the rising; but informations were in the hands of the Government. Captain Armstrong had betrayed the Sheares, two brothers who had devoted themselves to the cause of their country with more affection than prudence. The base traitor had wound himself into their confidence, had dined with them, and was on the most intimate social relations with their family. On the 12th of July he swore their lives away; and two days after they were executed, holding each other's hands as they passed into eternity.

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[5] Success.—The real betrayer of this brave but unfortunate nobleman has only been discovered of late years. Dr. Madden was the first to throw light upon the subject. He discovered the item of £1,000 entered in the Secret Service Money-book, as paid to F. H. for the discovery of L. E. F. The F. H. was undoubtedly Francis Higgins, better known as the Sham Squire, whose infamous career has been fully exposed by Mr. Fitzpatrick. In the fourth volume of the United Irishmen, p. 579, Dr. Madden still expresses his doubt as to who was the person employed by Higgins as "setter." It evidently was some one in the secrets of Lord Edward's party. The infamous betrayer has been at last discovered, in the person of Counsellor Magan, who received at various times large sums of money from Government for his perfidy. See the Sham Squire, p. 114. Higgins was buried at Kilbarrack, near Clontarf. In consequence of the revelations of his vileness, which have been lately brought before the public, the tomb was smashed to pieces, and the inscription destroyed. See Mr. Fitzpatrick's Ireland before the Union, p. 152.