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Emmet. I was of the Executive from the month of January to the month of May, 1797, and afterwards from December, 1797, till I was arrested.
I was then asked, as to the military organization, which I detailed. They then asked, when the returns included fire arms and ammunition.
Emmet. After the Insurrection and Indemnity Acts had been passed, when the people were led to think on resistance, and after 4,000 persons had been driven from the county of Armagh by the Orangemen.
Com. Was not the name of Orangeman used to terrify the people into the United system?
Emmet. I do not know what groundless fears may have been propagated by ignorant people, but I am sure no unfair advantage was taken by the executive. The Orange principles were fairly discussed, as far as they were known, and we always found, that wherever it was attempted to establish a lodge, the United Irish increased very much.
Lord Dillon. Why, where was it endeavoured to introduce them, except in the North and the city of Dublin?
Emmet. My Lord, I cannot tell you all the places in which it was endeavoured, but I will name one in the county of Roscommon, where, I am told, it made many United Irishmen.
Lord Dillon. Well, but that was but very lately, and I endeavoured to resist it.
Committee. When where the first communications with France?
Emmet. The first I heard of were after the Insurrection and Indemnity Acts had been carried; the next I heard of was after the French fleet had left Bantry Bay, and after it was manifest the effort for reform would not succeed; and permit me to add, on my oath, it was my intention to propose to, and from conversations I had with some of the executive directory, I am sure it would have been carried then, that if there had been any reasonable hope of reform being adopted, to send one more messenger to France, and he should have told them, the difference between the people and the Government was adjusted, and not to attempt a second invasion.
They then took me into detail through the whole of the negotiations and messages stated that the demand on our part was from five to ten thousand men, and 40,000 stand of
arms, by the first agent; that the instructions to the second agent differed by requesting more arms in consequence of the disarming the north, which had intervened, and that the French had promised we should be at perfect liberty to choose our own form of government. It was expressly stipulated with them that they should conduct themselves so.
Lord Chancellor.--As they did in Holland?
then entered into the subject of the separation.
Lord Chancellor.-How is it possible, Mr. Emmet? Just look on the map, and tell how you can suppose that Ireland could exist independent of England or France?
Emmet.-My lords, if I had any doubt on that subject, I should have never attempted to effect a separation, but I have given it as much consideration as my faculties would permit, and I have not a shadow of doubt, that if Ireland were once independent, she might defy the combined efforts of France. and England.
Archbishop of Cashel.-My God! her trade would be destroyed!
Emmet.-Pardon me, my lord; her trade would be infinitely increased. One hundred and fifty years ago, when Ireland contained not more than one million and a half of men, and America was nothing, the connection might be said to be necessary to Ireland, but now that she contains five millions, and America is the best market in the world, and Ireland the best situated country in Europe to trade with that market, she has outgrown the connection.
Lord Chancellor.-Yes, I remember talking to a gentleman of your acquaintance, and I believe one of your body and way of thinking, who told me that Ireland had nothing to complain of from England, but that she was strong enough to set up for herself.
Emmet.-I beg, my lords, that may not be considered my opinion. I think Ireland has a great many things to complain of against England. I am sure she is strong enough to set up for herself; and give me leave to tell you, my lords, that if the government of this country be not regulated so that the control may be wholly Irish, and that the commercial arrangements between the two countries be not put on the footing of perfect equality, the connection cannot last.
Lord Chancellor.-What would you do for coals? Emmet. In every revolution, and in every war, the people must submit to some privations, but I must observe to your lordships, that there is a reciprocity between the buyer and seller, and that England would suffer as much as Ireland if we did not buy her coals. However, I will grant our fuel would become dearer for a time, but by paying a higher price we could have a full and sufficient abundance from our own coal mines, and from bogs, by means of our canals.
Archbishop of Cashel.-Why, twelve frigates would stop up all our ports.
Emmet.-My lord, you must have taken a very imperfect survey of the ports on the western coasts of this kingdom, if you suppose that twelve frigates would block them up; and I must observe to you, that if Ireland was for three months separated from England, the latter would cease to be such a formidable naval power.
Lord Chancellor.-Well, I cannot conceive the separation could last twelve hours.
Emmet. I declare it to God, I think that if Ireland were separated from England, she would be the happiest spot on the face of the globe.
At which they all seemed astonished.
Lord Chancellor.-But how could you rely on France that she would keep her promise of not interfering with your government?
Emmet. My reliance, my lords, was more on Irish power than on French promises; for I was convinced that, though she could not easily set up the standard herself, yet, when it was once raised, a very powerful army would flock to it, which, organized under its own officers, would have no reason to fear 100,000 Frenchmen, and we only stipulated for a tenth part of that number.
Lord Kilwarden.-You seem averse to insurrections, I suppose it was because you thought it impolitic?
Emmet.-Unquestionably for if I imagined an insurrection could not have succeeded without a great waste of blood and time, I should have preferred it to invasion, as it would not have exposed us to the chance of contributions being required by a foreign force; but as I did not think so, and as I was certain an invasion would succeed speedily, and without much
struggle, I preferred it even at the hazard of that inconvenience, which we took every pains to prevent.
Lord Dillon. Mr. Emmet, you have stated the views of the executive to be very liberal and enlightened, and I believe yours were so, but let me ask you, whether it was not intended to cut off, in the beginning of the contest, the leaders of the opposition party by a summary mode, such as assassination? my reason for asking you is, John Sheares's proclamation, the most terrible paper that ever appeared in any country, it says, that "many of your tyrants have bled, and others must bleed," &c.
Emmet. My lords, as to Mr. Sheares's proclamation, he was not of the executive when I was.
Lord Chancellor.-He was of the new executive.
Emmet.-I do not know that he was of any executive, except from what your lordship says, but I believe he was joined with some others in framing a particular plan of insurrection for Dublin and its neighbourhood, neither do I know what value he annexed to those words in his proclamation, but I can answer, that while I was of the executive there was no such design, but the contrary, for we conceived when one of you lost your lives we lost a hostage. Our intention was to seize you all, and keep you as hostages for the conduct of England, and after the revolution was over, if you would not live under the new government, to send you out of the country. I will add one thing more, which though not an answer to your question, you may have a curiosity to hear. In such a struggle it was natural to expect confiscations; our intention was, that every wife who had not instigated her husband to resistance should be provided for out of the property, notwithstanding confiscation, and every child who was too young to be his own master, or form his own opinions, was to have a child's portion. Your lordships will now judge how far we intended to be cruel.
Lord Chancellor.--Pray, Mr. Emmet, what caused the late insurrection?
Emmet. The free quarters, the house burnings, the tortures, and the military executions in the counties of Kildare, Carlow, and Wicklow.
Lord Chancellor.-Don't you think the arrests of the 12th of March caused it?
Emmet.-No, but I believe if it had not been for those arrests it would not have taken place, for the people, irritated by what they suffered, had been long pressing the executive to consent to an insurrection, but they had resisted or eluded it, and even determined to persevere in the same line. After these arrests, however, other persons came forward, who were irritated and thought differently, who consented to let the partial insurrection take place.
Lord Chancellor.-Were all the executive arrested or put to flight by the arrests on the 12th of March?
Emmet. Your lordship's will excuse my answering to that question, as it would point out individuals.
Lord Chancellor. Did you not think the Government very foolish to let you proceed so long as they did?
Emmet.-No, my lord. Whatever I imputed to Government, I did not accuse them of folly. I knew we were very attentively watched, but I thought they were right in letting us proceed. I have often said, laughing among ourselves, that if they did right they would pay us for conducting the revolution, conceiving as I then did, and as I still do, that a revolution is inevitable, unless speedily prevented by very large measures of conciliation. It seemed to me an object with them that it should be conducted by moderate meu, of good moral characters, liberal education, and some talents; rather than by intemperate men of bad characters, ignorant and foolish, and into the hands of one or other of those classes it undoubtedly will fall. I also imagined the members of Government might be sensible of the difference between the change of their situation, being effected by a sudden and violent convulsion or by the more gradual measures of a well conducted revolution, if it were effected suddenly by an insurrection; and I need not tell your lordship's that if there had been a general plan of acting, and the North had co-operated with Leinster, the last insurrection would have infallibly and rapidly succeeded, in such case you would be tumbled at once from your pinnacle; but if a revolution were gradually accomplished, you would have had time to accomodate and habituate yourselves to your new situations. For these reasons I imagined Government did not wish to irritate and push things forward.
Lord Chancellor.-Pray, do you think Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform any objects with the common people?