Robert Emmet, 1803

33. Hardly had the century opened when, in 1803, the first rising occurred. It was organised and inspired by Robert Emmet, whose elder brother had been one of the leaders of the United Irishmen. He had been in France on behalf of its executive; and, failing to procure the help he asked, he determined to undertake the rising unaided. He was supported by no organisation in the country; therefore his plans were confined to an attack on Dublin Castle. Those plans were skilfully laid, and had been matured with great secrecy. By this means a signal was to be given to the country. But the plans miscarried, and only a hundred men went out with Emmet. They were, of course, overthrown, and their leaders executed. As it befell, the rising was small in its immediate consequences; but its after-effect was considerable. Its very failure bequeathed its tradition; and its aims, as expressed in Emmet's last words, that his epitaph should not be written till "my country takes her place among the nations of the earth," have hallowed that tradition with a peculiar symbol. The rising was extinguished in a night; but its spirit has made more history than many momentous decisions taken by grave assemblies. At this moment the actual and immediate influence of Emmet, by reason of his dying words, is as potent as the influence of living men.