Robert Emmet 18th Century Patriot - Remembered In Song & Verse
As sentence of death was about to be proclaimed, Robert Emmet stood up in the dock and stated
‘When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written’.
Robert Emmet was born in Dublin in 1778 and was a student at Trinity College in 1795 when the masters of the educational establishment informed Robert that he was being expelled from the college due to his enunciation of French Revolutionary principles.
England and France had an unsavoury alignment for several centuries and Emmet’s perceived oral justification of the French reached unto the tutors of Robert.
After a series of disciplinary warnings about his continued lecturing of the French idealism, he ignored their comments and was finally expelled. He then joined The United Irishmen and was dearly welcomed and received honourably into the organisation.
Robert made a great impression on the leaders of the movement and they duly dispatched their new volunteer to travel to France to interview Napolean. The leaders were keen to establish if the French would consider invading Ireland around the demise of the 18th century.
In France Robert lost no time in seeking out Napolean and managed to obtain a personal meeting. After some deliberation Napolean instructed Robert Emmet to return to Ireland and convey to his superior officers that he would give serious consideration to an Irish invasion.
Napolean was informed that thousands of Irish catholics, tormented with the Penal Laws, may consider supporting and even joining the French army.
On his homeward journey Emmet devised a rebellion plot for 1803 and with the consent of his colleagues, he appointed himself as the Irish rebellion organiser to recruit volunteers to fight alongside the French in Ireland.
His family had recently invested over £2,000 in a legacy to him and Rober,with his new found wealth, rented two Dublin houses to prepare for battle. He began storing ammunition in the houses and also recruited a team of men to make arms unknown to the authorities. The weapons he made included pikes and hand grenades.
All men engaged in arms manufacture were sworn to secrecy and this led to its own problems as the essential skills required for making artillery were in short supply.
With no sign of a French invasion, Emmet went on a solo trip. A blunder in manufacture created an inappropriate explosion and this also gave rise to tension amongst his men. A rising of arms was planned for many weeks ahead but the explosion changed Emmet’s logic. He now hastily re-arranged the rising for an earlier date of two weeks before the appointed date.
With a small number of volunteers he set out for Dublin Castle from Rathfarnham and along the journey he sought to recruit several men but the response was minimal. He did manage to attract a handful of volunteers who never worked and sought easy pickings on offer looting shops and homes.
Approaching Dublin Castle a number of his recruits spotted a horse and carriage with some passengers on board. Lord Kilwarden was making his return to Dublin Castle with his nephew and he asked of his captors ‘If they knew who he was’.
The reply was ‘No’ and he then announced that he was Lord Kilwarden. The attackers then gleefully replied ‘well you are just the man we are looking for’.
Kilwarden and his nephew were then taken from the carriage and killed instantly.
When word of the fatal incident reached Emmet he became very agitated but undaunted he continued to Dublin Castle to discover that only a very small number of his comrades took up arms alongside him.
He immediately instructed his comrades to follow him to the Wicklow mountains to regroup.
Only a small number of men agreed and in despair Emmet gave the order to disperse when the attack became rowdy and confused.
He made his own way back to Rathfarnham but was soon captured, tried and sentenced to death by hanging in Thomas Street, Dublin in 1803.
It later transpired that his defence solicitor was in fact a British spy who had no regard for his clients welfare.
The Bould Robert Emmet was a condemned man long before his historic trial trial.