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terprise, however grievous the wrongs which had been endured, and it was expected might be redressed by resistance, and an appeal to the sword, is one, which the defenders of the revolution of 1688, treat as a problem, the solution of which depends on the consideration of the probability and ultimate advantage of success; the sufficiency of the means, the extent of popular support, and the amount of suffering occasioned by the struggle. Whenever rebellion has been unsuc
successful, a prima facia case of moral guilt is established. Had Washington failed, it would never have been conceded that he was justified in resisting oppression. The chance, however, of success or failure, do not determine the question of moral guilt or justification. In Emmet's case, it is evident that he was the victim of deception, that he was deluded, misled, and sacrificed by designing men, whose machinations, his youth, his inexperience, his confiding nature, were unfit to cope with. The question is, meshed as he was in the toils of villany, what possibility of success was there for his plans, had they been carried into execution in the capital ? Had the representations made to him of extensive co-operation been realized, were these plans of his adequate to the accomplishment of his object? Could that object have been attained without the shedding of much blood ? Had his plans been carried into successful operation in the capital, the probability is, that Kildare, Wicklow, Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny, would have immediately risen, and that in one week, from the outbreak, six counties at least would have been in rebellion. His plans necessarily depended for success on the realization of the assurances he received of cooperation in the provinces. They were adequate to the proposed object, provided treachery was not stalking behind each attempt to put them in operation, and treading in his footsteps at every movement of advance. The men of '98 were four years organizing the country ; the more they organized the more they were betrayed ; where they organized least in the County of Wexford, there, their cause was best served. Robert Emmet evidently traced the failure in 1798, to this system of wide spread and long pursued organization. He left the people alone, he counted on them whenever they were wanted, and all his organizations were of his plans in the capital, and all his preparations consisted in providing weapons, ammunition, and warlike contrivances for his adherents. Of the latter,
a few words will be said hereafter. Four months were spent in the preparations of the men of 1803, four years were spent in those of the men of 1798. The latter counted half a million of enrolled members, the former counted on the rising of nineteen counties whenever they should be called on.
There was no swearing in of members in 1803, consequently no perjured traitors. Lord Edward Fitzgerald expected 300,000 men of the half million would take the field. Robert Emmet expected the great body of the people would be with him, once his plans in Dublin were successful; they failed, and he found himself at the head of eighty men, on the 23rd of July when he sallied forth to attack the Castle, but then the meditated attack supervened on disconcerted plans, drunkenness among his followers, treachery on the part of his agents, a false alarm, a panic and desperation ; and it terminated in confusion, plunder, murder, and a disgraceful rout. What would have been the result if his attempt had been made under different circumstances ? A result attended with more real peril to the government than any that had environed it in the course of the former rebellion, with the exception of the danger that was involved in the proposition of the sergeants of the regiments, then garrisoning the capital, to the chief leaders assembled in council, at Sweeetman's, in Francis-street, when their proposal of delivering up the Castle, and other important places, to the United Irishmen was the subject of discussion.
The question of the possibility of obtaining the object sought by Robert Emmet, without much bloodshed, is one that requires some consideration to answer.
In European countries where revolutions have taken place, without much effusion of blood, they have invariably been commenced in the capital. When attempts to revolt have begun in the provinces, the shedding of blood has generally been in a ratio with the distance from the capital. The reasons of this result are too obvious to require observations. I believe one of the chief reasons for Robert Emmet's determination to strike the first blow in the capital, and to paralize the action of government at its source, was to avoid as much as possible the effusion of blood.
His conduct, after the failure of his plans in Dublin, is a proof of the disposition of mind that led to his determination. When Lord Kilwarden's murder was made known to him, he
felt like B. B. Harvey, at the sight of the smouldering ashes of the barn of Scullabogue, when he said, “our hopes of liberty are now at an end.” He was pressed to make the signal of the second and third rocket, for the advance of the men in reserve, who were stationed at the Barley-fields, at the canal, and at other appointed places; he refused to do so, there was no hope of success, and he would not be the means of unnecessarily shedding blood. It was then he recommended his followers to disperse, and, accompanied by some of his friends, abandoned his enterprise. At the subsequent meeting with Dwyer, and some of the Wicklow and Kildare men in the mountains, they pressed him to consent to the rising of the people in those counties, and, commencing an immediate attack on the chief towns, he refused to do so. He saw the hopelessness of a renewal of the struggle after the failure of the first attempt; and, let it be remembered, the men who were pressing this advice upon him were of a very different stamp from many of those by whom he was surrounded in the streets of Dublin.
In some things there were traits of mind, exhibited by Robert Emmet, that had more to do with a youthful imagination, than matured reflection. There was a romantic turn of thought displayed in those stratagems for eluding detection, of which I have previously spoken as practised in Milltown, Harold's Cross, and Patrick-street, trap doors, subterranean cavities, secret passages, and chambers. We have seen the inefficiency of such means of safety at Harold's Cross. In Patrick-street, on the other hand, the result of such contrivances was fortunate for the time being. Still the dependance on such stratagems, and not only on the fidelity, but likewise on the discretion of upwards of forty men, not for a short period, but for upwards of four months, is an evidence of that turn of mind to which I have referred, and of little experience of the world. He was deceived from the beginning, and deserted at the end, by many who made large professions of support when there was a mere possibility, but not a reasonable expectation of success; and who were found wanting when danger, and the doubtfulness of the issue, presented themselves to their view. There is another matter of more important consideration than any other connected with his enterprise, the question of the origin, in Ireland, of those preparations for insurrection,
which Robert Emmet was sent over from France, by some of the United Irish leaders, there to inquire into the nature of. Did these preparations originate with the friends or the enemies of their cause? Were they commenced, or suggested, by parties, who, finding their consequence diminished, their power restrained, their former means cut off of maintaining a position in society, independently of industrious pursuits, or their own legitimate resources, had become weary of a return, or an approach even to a return, of an administration of government of a mild and constitutional character ; and who were desirous of a pretext for going back to the old regime of “sword law,” under which they flourished, and of which, for the time being, they had been recognized as useful and necessary agents ? Some of these parties, when the reign of terror ceased, were unable to settle down to the honest occupations which they had relinquished for military pursuits in 1797, and 1798, violated the laws, and expiated their crimes on the scaffold, or in penal settlements. Messrs. Crawly, Coates, and Fleming, were members of yeomanry corps. O'Brien was not a military man, but one of all work, a right-hand man of the redoubted Major. His fall, however, was attributed to the cause above referred to. But others, whose circumstances were less desperate, and were not driven by their indigence, or their headstrong passions, to the commission of similar crimes, feeling their insignificance in tranquil times, remembered their impotence in troubled ones, and not only longed for their return, but contrived in secret to effect it.
This is a very important question, and I feel bound to state, that the result of my inquiries leads me to the conclusion, that such was the origin of those views which were communicated in 1802 to certain of the leaders of the United Irishmen in Paris. I have already shown that the authorities were not ignorant of the preparations that were making in Dublin for an insurrection in the summer of 1803. The full extent of them they probably did not know at the commencement; but the general objects and the principal parties engaged in them, there is little doubt they were acquainted with, Lord Hardwicke was incapable of lending his countenance or sanction to the originating of the designs of the parties I have alluded to; but when they were so far matured and successful as to render the existence of a dangerous conspiracy no longer doubt
ful, when it was represented to him that the best way of defeating it (having a clue to its object and the means of disconcerting its plans), was to allow it to proceed and to expend itself without detriment to the Government, but with certain ruin to its own agents, there is reason to believe the course of action suggested was submitted to by him, and though successfully acted on, that it was attended with the most imminent danger to the State. The parliamentary record of the dispatches between the Government and the General can leave little doubt of the fact. These matters are still subjects for grave inquiry, and they have a very important bearing on the judgment that is to be formed of the plans and projects of Robert Emmet, and of his character in relation to them.
Previous reference has been made to the debate on Sir John Wrottesley's motion for an inquiry into the conduct of the the Irish Government relative to the insurrection of the 23rd of July, on the 7th of March, 1804 : but some extraordinary admissions of Lord Castlereagh, elicited on that occasion, are worthy of notice, and some statements of other members with respect to the attempt, which was, in the words of Lord Castlereagh, “only the wild and contemptible project of an extravagant young man.” “Though he agreeed with the Hon. Baronet that preventive measures were preferable to punishment, he thought that principle might be carried too far , and it was material not to urge the rebels to postpone their attempt by any appearance of too much precaution and preparation. The Hon. Baronet might laugh, but it was expedient that the precautions should not have been carried to such an extent as to alarm the fears of the rebels, and thereby induce them to delay their project. Besides, it was desirable that the measures afterwards applied for to Parliament should be claimed on ostensible, not on arguable grounds !"
This was worthy of his Lordship. In 1798 he boasted that measures—(in plain English, cabin burnings, tortures, and free quarters)—had been taken to cause a rebellion to explode prematurely. In 1803, to use the words of Mr. Windham on that occasion, he“ maintained the monstrous doctrine that rebellion was to be fostered till it came to a head, that the cure might be radical. This might be good policy for a general against an open enemy. He might watch him, and let him