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England engaged in newspapers, and when sent out of England, under the Alien Act, was in the pay of France at the time, and was editor of Bell's Weekly Messenger.
Mr. Lewis Goldsmith, at page 270 of his work, in the correspondence between the two governments, says, "it appears that France proposed to the ministers of England that if they would send Georges, and the other French emigrants, who are enemies to France, out of this country, the French would offer a reciprocity !!! Now, what does the reciprocity mean but to deliver up all the United Irishmen in the same manner that he did the Italians.” The fact stated by Mr. Goldsmith is perfectly true ; Robert Emmet's information to his brother on this subject was not erroneous.
Mr. Goldsmith states, that numerous spies and agents of Buonaparte were sent over to England, but that “the mission of Colonel Beauvoisin was the most important of all. He was sent over to engage persons to assassinate his Majesty, and to organize a plan for the destruction of our naval arsenals at Portsmouth and Plymouth. He was also sent to 'surveiller the Count d'Artois, who then resided at Edinburgh. That Colonel Beauvoisin had frequent conferences with Despard. I am convinced he told it to Tallrin in my presence, and that Despard was urged to commit the crime of regicide, by Buonaparte, in times of profound peace, will never be doubted, after some facts which I can communicate on that subject. About three months before Despard was apprehended, I was sitting in a coffee-room with two English gentlemen, one of whom is now in London, (a Mr. J. F -t) ready to confirm this statement. The other is still in France, and therefore I cannot refer to him ; a Frenchman came up and told me, in the presence of those two gentlemen, that the French government had laid a plan to have the King of England assassinated, and that he was to be shot in the park.' When this man quitted us, I observed, that it would be proper to inform the British minister in Paris of what we had heard ; one of the gentlemen said he would communicate it to Mr. Fox, or to some of his friends, who were then in Paris, with whom he was intimate. I do not know that he did make such communication, but, if he did, I am certain that it was disregarded, as those gentlemen, from the magnanimity of their own nature, could not suppose that a man placed in the high situation of
Napoleon Buonaparte could instigate or promote assassination."
When the news arrived in Paris of Despard having been apprehended, Mr. Goldsmith says he was sent for by Talleyrand late in the evening, (it was on the evening when the paper was to be published.)* Mr. Talleyrand appeared very much agitated, and asked him if he had heard any news. He replied he had not. Talleyrand then went into an inner room, and brought out a packet of English newspapers ; he gave the editor one, and pointed out the article which gave the particulars of Despard's apprehension. Talleyrand was visibly agitated; he asked the editor if he knew Despard, “si c'etoit un homme sur, and if he was intimate with The editor observed that he knew very little indeed of him, and, so far from being "un homme sur," he was in general regarded as a madman by those who knew him.
“It was past midnight when the editor left him ; at five in the morning Talleyrand sent his carriage for him, and the editor learned from the servants that the minister had just returned from St. Cloud. When the editor saw le citoyen minister, he gave him an article, tout fait, for insertion, which ran thus :--'All Paris, and the First Consul in particular, learned with horror and indignation, the atrocious attempt which has been made upon the life of his Britannic Majesty, by a desperate Jacobin of the name of Despard. The feelings manifested on this occasion by the First Consul were very different to those expressed by the King of England, when he heard it rumoured that General Buonaparte had been assassinated in Egypt.” The next day Colonel Despard's character was vilified in all the minor French papers.
February 7, 1803, Colonel Despard was tried at the Surrey Assizes, before Lord Ellenborough, on a charge of high treason, conspiring to assassinate the King, &c. When the names of the jury were called over, Colonel Despard rose, and “begged that the court would grant him permission to say a few words, in order to do away from the minds of the jurors with any unfavourable impressions which might have been made upon them by those vile publications which, at various times since his arrest, had appeared against his character." The Lord Chief Justice interposed, and said that was not the
* The Cabinet of Buonaparte, p. 253 to 265.
proper time to urge anything material to his defence. Colonel Despard replied, “I am sorry for it, my Lord.”
Mr. Serjeant Best and Mr. Gurney addressed the jury on the part of the prisoner. No evidence was brought forward to contradict the crown witnesses; but to the character of the prisoner, Lord Nelson, Sir Alured Clerk, George Long, Esq., and Sir Evan Nepeau, appeared, and each of them gave the highest character it was possible for men to give, relative to the conduct, courage, and military talents of the prisoner, at the period of the acquaintance of each with Colonel Despard in foreign countries.
The prisoner, on being asked if he had any thing to add to what had been said by his counsel, said, “his counsel had acquitted themselves so entirely to his satisfaction, he had no wish to say any thing."
After the Solicitor-General had replied on the part of the crown, the Chief Justice charged the jury. His lordship observed, that it was admitted that a traitorous conspiracy did exist ; but it was denied that it was the prisoner's. The principal evidence, was that of accomplices who had become approvers. It was for the jury to consider its value, and the corroboration of it by other witnesses.
The jury withdrew for about half an hour, and on their return, the foreman pronounced the prisoner “Guilty," adding, “ but we most earnestly recommend the prisoner to mercy, on account of his former good character, and the services he has rendered his country." Colonel Despard heard the fatal verdict pronounced with the utmost composure and firmness.
On the 9th of February, twelve of the persons arrested on the 16th November, 1802, were tried, and nine of them were found guilty, and sentenced to death. When Colonel Despard was asked, if he had any thing to say, why sentence of death should not be passed upon him ? he said, "My lord, I have only to say, that after the charge was brought against me, of which I have not the most distant idea ; and since my committal, I have had no time to consult my solicitor on the means of refuting that charge, or of destroying the credit of the witnesses produced. I have, therefore, nothing to say now, but what I said when first brought to the bar, that I am not guilty.”
At the conclusion of the address of the Chief Justice,
Colonel Despard said, -“I beg to say a few words, in consequence of something that has fallen from his lordship. The seduction of the unhappy men involved in my fate, has been imputed to me ; but I do not conceive, that any thing appeared in the course of the trial, or evidence, to justify such an imputation.”
The warrant for the execution of Colonel Despard and six of his associates, reached the governor of the new prison in the Borough, on the 19th of February. . Colonel Despard received the dreadful intelligence with his wonted firmness. He had entertained some expectation of mercy, and manifested a momentary disappointment. He said—"The time was short."
Mrs. Despard* had been constantly with her husband from the time of his conviction.
The following morning, at eight o'clock, the prisoners were brought from their cells, and one after the other drawn in a hurdle, across the court-yard of the prison. They were then conducted to the scaffold, which had been constructed, as to admit of having the seven prisoners placed in a line, and executed at the same moment. A few minutes before the execution took place, Colonel Despard came forward in front of the scaffold, and addressed the multitude assembled, in these words :
“Fellow citizens, I came here, as you see, after having served my country ; faithfully, honourably, and usefully served it, for thirty years and upwards, to suffer death upon a scaffold, for a crime, of which I protest I am not guilty. I solemnly declare, that I am no more guilty of it, than any of you who may be now hearing me. But, though his Majesty's ministers know, as well as I do, that I am not guilty, yet, they avail themselves of a legal pretext to destroy a man, because he has been a friend to truth, to liberty, and to justice—(there was loud cheering from the populace)—because he had been a friend to the poor and the oppressed. But, citizens, I hope and trust, notwithstanding my fate, and the fate of those who, no doubt, will soon follow me, that the principles of freedom, of humanity, and of justice, will finally triumph over falsehood,
* She was a Spanish creole, a remarkably fine woman, and much younger than her hushand, who then appeared to be about sixty years
I was afterwards able to afford her an asylum from destitution. She lived in my family at Lyons for some years. —Lord Cloncurry.
tyranny, and delusion, and every principle hostile to the interests of the human race." And now, having said this, I have little more to add,” (he paused a moment,) “I have little more to add, except to wish you health, happiness, and freedom, which I have endeavoured, as far as was in my power, to procure
and mankind in general.” When the other prisoners were brought from their cells, they conducted themselves with propriety, and displayed the utmost composure. The seven unfortunate men having been placed in a line, and tied up one after the other, the signal was given, and they were all launched into eternity the same instant. Colonel Despard's body was the first taken down. The head was severed from it; and the executioner, holding it up by the hair, held it towards the populace, and cried out in a loud voice' “This is the head of a traitor-Edward Marcus Despard."
The remains of this ill-fated gentleman were then removed by his friends, and interred in Paddington by his own desire, he expressed some days previously to his execution, to a friend, to whom he said, “ he believed the remains of many of his countrymen were buried there."
There is great reason to believe that no plot whatever for the murder of the sovereigy, or of the royal family (for the witnesses contradicted one another on this point) was contemplated. This was a police office invention.
There is no question, however, but that the objects of the society were treasonable, and that the overthrow of the constitution was mplated ; but so far from Despard having inveigled the persons who had been arrested with him into that society of which they were members, he was entrapped into its affairs by others, for the especial purpose of prosecution. That society, and its different ramifications, were composed solely of soldiers, dismissed seamen, and working men. These associations were subordinate to a secret society, composed of men of a very different class, which had been in being since the year 1795, and was called “The Secret Committee of England." It was composed of delegates from England, Ireland, and Scotland, who formed an executive directory. Despard was probably either a member of that Society, or in connection with it, without being formally a member. One of its members was Ben