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THOMAS ADDIS EMMET.
The following memoir of Thomas Addis Emmet is chiefly compiled from the biographies of Haines and Madden, with occasional notes and additions from other sources
Thomas Addis Emmet was the second son of an eminent physician, Dr. Robert Emmet, who held for many years in Dublin the appointment of State Physician. He had three sons Temple, Thomas Addis, and Robert. Temple the eldest, was born in Cork in 1761, was educated at the school of Mr. Kerr, and entered College in 1775 at the age of fourteen, under Mr. Hales. He was called to the bar in 1781, and during his short professional career, a period not exceeding seven years, (for he died in 1788,) his brilliant talents and eminent legal attainments acquired for him a character that in the same brief space was probably never gained at the Irish bar.
Mr. Grattan in his memoirs of his father, gives the following account of Temple Emmet : “ Temple Emmet before he came to the bar, knew more law than any of the Judges on the bench ; and if he had been placed on one side, and the whole bench opposed to him, he could have been examined against them, and would have answered better both in Law and Divinity than any Judge or Bishop in the land.” Mr. Grattan speaks of his eloquence as abounding in imagery, which gave to much of a poetic character to his oratory. The few, however, of his contemporaries who were living within the author's recollection entertained a different opinion of its
merits, and amongst them were some of the most highly gifted of their countrymen.
He was the ornament and support of the first Historical Society of Trinity College. Thomas Addis was accustomed to speak of him as one of the foremost men in point of talent that Ireland ever produced.”
Thomas Addis Emmet was born in Cork the 24th of April, 1764. He was placed at the same school as Temple, and at the age of fourteen entered Trinity College, in 1778, under the same tutor as his brother, Mr. Hale's. His career at College, if less brilliant than that of his brother Temple, was such as gave ample promise of his future eminence. His qualities were not of the same shining character. The power of his imagination were less remarkable than the solidity of his judgment and the logical precision and acumen of his reasoning faculties. His physical conformation was not robust, he was small of stature, measured in his gait, and retiring and unobtrusive in his deportment. His head and features were finely formed ; all the compactness that a phrenologist would look for in the head of a man of profound thought, and the precision in outline that a physiognomist would expect in the features of a man of fixed principles and decided character. A slight cast in his eyes, accompanied or caused by a habit of closing his eyelid, incidental to what is called “nearness of sight,” gave a kind of peering expression to his regard. The predominant expression of his countenance was benevolence. In his dress he was careless—almost negligent; he bestowed no attention on personal appearance.
Thomas Addis Emmet being destined for the medical profession was sent to Edinburgh in 1783 to pursue his studies. He devoted himself to them with uncommon ardor, and his popularity with his fellow students was so great that at one time he was president of no less than five societies, some of them connected with literary, some with scientific, some with medical subjects Having visited the principle continental schools of medicine, travelled through Germany, France, and Italy, he returned to Ireland about 1788, the period of the lamented death of his elder brother, which sad event changed his destiny, for he relinguished his profession and decided on going to the bar. He was admitted in 1790.
The earliest notice I find of the efforts of T. A. Emmet at
the bar, is in the singular case in which James Napper Tandy instituted an action against the Viceroy, the Earl of Westmoreland. The result was what might be expected. The case is interesting for the report of Emmet's speech, the first of his on record, and the longest of any that have reached us.
Before the alteration in the constitution of the United Irishmen in 1795, a case occurred before Prime Sergeant Fitzgerald, in which a conviction was obtained on a charge of administering the United Irishmen's oath then a capital offence. Emmet appeared for the prisoner on a motion in arrest of judgment. He took up the pleadings in which the words of the oath were recited, and read them in a very deliberate manner, and with all the gravity of a man who felt that he was binding his soul with the obligations of a solemn oath. The words were to the following effect :-“I A. B., in the presence of God, do pledge myself to my country, that I will use all my abilities and influence in the attainment of an impartial and adequate representation of the Irish nation in parliament ; and as a means of absolute and immediate necessity in the establishment of this chief good of Ireland, I will endeavour, as much as lies in my ability, to forward a brotherhood of affection, an identity of interests, a communion of rights, and an union of power, among Irishmen of all religious persuasions, without which, every reform in parliament must be partial, not national, inadequate to the wants, delusive to the wishes, and insufficient to the freedom and happiness of this country.” Having read the test-defended its obligations with a power of reasoning and a display of legal knowledge, in reference to the subject of the distinction between legal and illegal oaths, which the counsel for the prosecution described as producing an extraordinary impression, he addressed the court in the following terms :
"My Lords—Here, in the presence of this legal court, this crowded auditory in the presence of the Being that sees and witnesses, and directs this judicial tribunal,-here, my lords, I, myself, in the presence of God, declare, I take the oath.” He then took the book that was on the table, kissed it, and sat down. No steps were taken by the court against the newlysworn United Irishman, the amazement of its functionaries left them in no fit state of mind either for remonstrance or reproval. The prisoners received a very lenient sentence.
It was on very rare occasions that T. A. Emmet appeared as counsel for the United Irishmen, at the trials of 1797 and 1798. An understanding had been entered into with their leaders that he should take no prominent part in their behalf, from the time that he became intimately connected with their proceedings in 1796. He acted in the capacity of hamber Lawyer to their Committees, and there were few events of importance to their interests on which he was not consulted by them.
The first mention made of Emmet's taking any active part in politics is in Tone's Journal, where Emmet's introduction to the Sub-Committee of the Roman Catholics, the 15th October, 1792, is recorded. Tone states, that he was well received by the members, and “richly deserved their admiration." was the best of all the friends to Catholic Emancipation, always excepting Mr. Hutton” (himself). From this time Emmet, behind the scenes of Catholic agitation, continued to give his pen to their cause, and with his usual heedlessness of self, allowed others to take the merit of his services. At this time he was not a member of the Society of United Irishmen, but long before he joined it he was the person in every emergency consulted by the leaders.
When Tone, in the spring of 1795, was about to quit the country for America, he and Russell had an interview with Emmet, at his country seat at Rathfarnham. Tone's account of this interview as given in simple and expressive language. “A short time before my departure,” says he, "my friend Russell being in town he and I walked out together to see Emmet, who has a charming villa there. He showed us a little study, of an elliptical form, which he was building at the bottom of the lawn, and which he said he would consecrate to our meetings, if ever he lived to see our country emancipated. I begged of him, if he intended Russell to be of the party, in addition to the books and maps it would naturally contain, to fit up a small cellaret, capable of containing a few dozen of his best claret. He showed me that he had not omitted that circumstance, which he acknowledged to be essential, and we both rallied Russell with considerable success. As
* Tone's passion for raillery and grave irony as displayed in his journals, and in his references to his most intimate friends, has led to the