Robert Emmet's Insurrection (1800-1803)

Patrick Weston Joyce

928. In 1802, Robert Emmet, a gifted, earnest, noble-minded young man of twenty-four, younger brother of Thomas Addis Emmet, attempted to reorganise the United Irishmen. He had just returned from France and had hopes of aid from Napoleon. He employed all his private fortune in the secret manufacture of pikes and other arms. His plan was to attack Dublin Castle and Pigeon House fort; and he had intended to rise in August 1803, by which time he expected invasion from France; but an accidental explosion in one of his depots precipitated his plans. The 23rd of July was now fixed; on which day he expected a contingent from the celebrated Wicklow rebel, Michael Dwyer; and another from Kildare.

929. By some misunderstanding the Wicklow men did not arrive; and though the Kildare men came, there was no one to direct them. Towards evening a report was brought that the military were approaching; whereupon, in desperation, he sallied from his depot in Marshalsea-Lane, into Thomas-street and towards the castle, with about 100 men.

930. The city was soon in an uproar; the mob rose up; and some stragglers, bent on mischief and beyond all restraint, began outrages. Meeting the chief justice lord Kilwarden, a good man and a humane judge, they dragged him from his coach and murdered him. When news of this outrage and others was brought to Emmet, he was filled with horror, and attempted but in vain to quell the mob. Seeing that the attempt on the castle was hopeless, he fled to Rathfarnham.

931. He might have escaped: but he insisted on remaining to take leave of Sarah Curran, daughter of John Philpot Curran, to whom he was secretly engaged. He was arrested by major Sirr on the 25th of August at his hiding-place in Harold's Cross; and soon after was tried and convicted, making a short speech of great power in the dock. On the next day, the 20th of September 1803, he was hanged in Thomas-street.