Thomas Addis Emmet (1764-1827)


b. 24 April 1764, in Cork; elder br. of Robert Emmet [q.v.]; educ. TCD, grad. BA 1783; grad. MD Edinburgh, 1790, and studied philosophy there under Dugald Stewart; visited main continental hospitals; suffered the death of his br. Christopher, a lawyer; advised by James Macintosh to pursue law,and admitted to the bar 1790; practiced on the Leinster circuit; m. Jane Patten, 1791; legal adviser to United Irishmen and chief framer of their manifesto in 1792; he took the United Irishmen’s oath during the trial of some United Irishmen in 1795; held to have established The Press, organ of the United Irishmen;
appt. Sec. of the Society, 1795, and member of the executive, 1797; did not participate in the Rebellion but was arrested in Feb. 1798; held in Mountjoy Gaol with other leaders; gave ‘honourable evidence’ - as distinct from King’s evidence - under examination and went into exile in Brussels after release from Fort William in 1802; met his br. Robert in Paris [var Brussels, Oct. 1802]; acted for his br. in Paris, seeking French support which was not forthcoming in view of peace between England and France; advised against uprising, and learned of Robert’s failed rebellion in Paris, 1803; left Europe for America, 1804;
practised successfully at the New York bar and distinguished himself by eloquent pleading for the liberty of slaves taking refuge in New York; served as New York State Attorney General, Aug. 1812-Feb 1813, losing office with the return of the Federalists to power; d. 14 Nov. 1827; bur. St. Mark’s in the Bowery [East Village, NY [Broadway]; his son, born in Dublin, became a successful lawyer also and an activist for Irish freedom; reinterred in Glasnevin Cemetery at the instance of his namesake grandson, Thomas Addis Emmet, MD (1828–1919), under a Celtic cross sculpted by James Pearse, the father of Patrick Pearse;
descendants of Thomas Addis Emmet and bearers of the family name made money by marriage into a Philadelphia oil-fortune and returned from America in the twentieth century to settle at Altidore Castle, a castellated country house at Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow, where family papers and memorabilia are preserved. ODNB DIB DIH FDA

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  • C. S. Haynes, Memoirs of Thomas Addis Emmet (London, 1829)
  • Thomas Addis Emmet, Ireland under English Rule, or a Plea for the Plaintiff [with the Diary of Thomas Addis Emmet, while acting in Paris as the secret agent of the United Irishmen, from May 30, 1803, to March 10, 1804 (NY: G. P. Putnam 1903 );
  • Thomas Addis Emmet, Robert Memoirs of Thomas Addis and Robert Emmet with Their Ancestors and Immediate Family, Vols. I & II [facs. rep. of the 1915 1st Edn.] (Kildare: Warfield Press 2003), 654pp. [the author being a grandson of the subject].

See also “Examination of T. A. Emmet”, in Documents Relating to Ireland, 1795-1804, ed. Sir John Gilbert (Dublin: J Dollard 1893), as infra.

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William Drennan characterised Thomas Addis Emmet as possessing ‘more energy than caution, more eloquence than action.’ (See Roy Foster, Modern Ireland, 1988, p.265.)

Justin McCarthy, from ‘Ireland’s Cause in England’s Parliament’: ‘There is to this day a monument conspicuous on Broadway, in the city of New York, which testifies to the manner in which the citizens of that great community appreciated the public services of Thomas Addis Emmet, one of the refugees of ninety-eight.’ (In McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature, 1904, p.2,166.)

R. F. Foster, Modern Ireland (1988), bio-data: b. Cork, ed. TCD, Edinburgh, and Continent; Bar, 1790; leading counsel for United Irishmen; sec. of Supreme Council, 1795, arrested and exiled, 1798-99; tried to interest Napoleon in Ireland, 1802, but regretted connection; entered USA, 1804; large practice; pleaded for slaves; characterised by Drennan as possessing ‘more energy than caution, more eloquence than action.’ (p.265.)

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Examination of T. A. Emmet”: ‘[S]tronger measures are necessary for educating the Irish peole than are necessary in England; in the latter country no steps were taken to counteract the progress of knowledte; it had fair play, and was gradually advancing; but in Ireland you have brutalized the vulgar mind, by long continued operatoin of the poper[y] laws, which, thought hey are repealed, have left an effect that will not cease these fifty years’ (Printed in Sir John Gilbert, Documents Relating to Ireland, 1795-1804 [Dublin: J Dollard 1893], p.187; quoted in Katie Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire , Princeton UP 1997 - with the remarks: ‘Under examination by an Ascendancy tribunal in 1798, radical Thomas Addis Emmet discusses the situation of Ireland's Catholics using an explicitly Enlightenment vocabulary of despotism, educability, and improvement’, p.302 [Introduction, n.76].)

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Dictionary of National Biography
, held in Fort St. George, Scotland; assisted MacSheehy in scheme for raising Irish battalion in French pay.

There is an informative Wikipedia page on T. A. Emmet online; accessed 02.09.2010

Belfast Public Library holds Ireland under English Rule (1803); with others, Memoirs, or Detailed Statement of the Origin and Progress of the Irish Union (1802); also The Emmet Family (1898).

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