Trial of Owen Kirwan for High Treason; before the Court holden under a Special Commission at Dublin, on Thursday September the 1 st: 43 George III. A.D. 1803.
From the report of William Ridgeway, esq. Barrister at law.
Thursday, Sept. 1, 1803.
Owen Kirwan was put to the bar he was arraigned the day before upon the following endictment:
County of the City of Dublin, to wit. - The jurors of our lord the king upon oath present that Owen Kirwan late of Pluncket-street in the city and county of our said lord the now king not having the not having the fear of God in his heart nor weighing the duty of his allegiance but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil as a false traitor against our said lord the now king his supreme true lawful and undoubted lord the cordial love and true and due obedience which every true and dutiful subject of our said sovereign lord the king towards him our said lord the king should bear wholly withdrawing and contriving and intending the peace and common tranquillity of this kingdom to disquiet molest and disturb and the government and constitution of this realm to change subvert and alter and our said lord the king from the royal state title hon our power imperial crown and government of this his kingdom to depose and deprive and our said lord the present king to death and final destruction to bring and put he the said Owen Kirwan on the twenty-third day of July in the forty-third year of the reign of our said lord the king at Plunket-street aforesaid in the city and county of the city of Dublin aforesaid with force and arms falsely wickedly and traitorously did compass imagine and intend our said lord the king then and there his supreme true and lawful lord of and from the royal state crown title power and government of this realm to depose and wholly deprive and our said lord the king to kill and bring and put to death.
And that to fulfil perfect and bring to effect his most evil and wicked treason and effect his most evil and wicked treason and treasonable imaginations and compassings aforesaid he the said Owen Kirwan as such false traitor as aforesaid on the said twenty-third day of July in the said forty-third year of the reign of our said lord the king, at Plunket-street aforesaid in the city and county of the city of Dublin aforesaid with force and arms falsely maliciously and traitorously did conspire confederate and agree to and with divers other false traitors whose names are to the jurors aforesaid unknown to raise levy and make a public and cruel insurrection rebellion and war against our said sovereign lord the king within this kingdom.
And that afterwards to wit on the said third day of July in the said forty-third year of the reign of our said lord the king with force and arms at Plunket-street aforesaid in the city and county of the city of Dublin aforesaid the said Own Kirwan as such false traitors as aforesaid in further prosecution of his treason and treasonable purposes aforesaid did arm himself with and did bear and carry a certain weapon called a pike with intent to associate himself with divers other false traitors armed with guns swords and pikes whose names are to the said jurors unknown for the purpose of raising levying and making insurrection rebellion and war against our said lord the king and of committing and perpetrating a cruel slaughter of and amongst the faithful subjects of our said lord the king.
And that afterwards to wit on the said twenty-third day of July in the said forty-third year of the reign of our said lord the king with force and arms at Plunket-street aforesaid in the city and county of the city of Dublin aforesaid the said Owen Kirwan as such false traitor as aforesaid in further prosecution of his treason and treasonable purposed aforesaid with a great multitude of persons whose names are to the jurors unknown to wit to the number of one hundred persons and upwards armed and arrayed in a warlike manner to wit with guns swords and pikes being then and there unlawfully and traitorously assembled and gathered against our said lord the king did prepare levy ordain and make public war against our said lord against the duty of the allegiance of him the said Owen Kirwan against the peace of our said lord the king his crown and dignity and contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided.
And the said jurors of our said Lord the king upon the oath do further present that the said Owen Kirwan being a subject of our said lord the now king and not having the fear of God in his heart nor weighing the duty of his allegiance but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil and entirely withdrawing the love and true and due obedience which every subject of our said lord the king should and of right ought to bear towards our said lord the king and wickedly devising and intending to disturb the peace and public tranquillity of this kingdom on the twenty-third day of July in the forty-third year of the reign of our said lord the king with force and arms at Plunket-street aforesaid in the city and county of the city of Dublin aforesaid unlawfully maliciously and traitorously did compass imagine and intend to raise and levy war insurrection and rebellion against our said lord the king within this kingdom and in order to fulfil and bring to effect the said traitorous compassing imaginations and intentions last mentioned of him the said Owen Kirwan he the said Owen Kirwan afterwards to wit on the twenty-third day of July in the said forty-third year of the reign of our said lord the king with force and arms at Plunket-street aforesaid in the city and county of the city of Dublin aforesaid with a great multitude of persons whose names are to the said jurors unknown to a great number to wit to the number of one hundred persons and upwards armed and arrayed in a warlike manner to wit with swords guns and pikes being then and there unlawfully maliciously and traitorously assem bled and gathered together against our said lord the now king most wickedly maliciously and traitorously did ordain prepare levy and make public war against our said lord the king hi supreme and undoubted lord contrary to the duty of the allegiance of him the said Owen Kirwan against the peace of our said lord the king his crown and dignity and contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided.
The Prisoner pleaded Not Guilty; and being asked was he ready for trial? He answered he was - he was then put to his challenges, and the following jury was sworn, after eight peremptory challenges by him, and three set by on the part of the crown:
William Edmiston, Henry Peile, William Mullock, William MacAulay, William Andrews, Alex Montgomery, Richard Babington, John Sale, Henry Browne, Andrew Lee, William Murray, Arch. Buchannan.
The prisoner was given in charge.
The Counsel and Agents for the Crown were the same as the former trials [i.e., Kearney, et al.].
Counsel for the Prisoner: Mr Curran. Mr MacNally. Agent.- Mr L. MacNally
Mr Standish OGrady opened the Indictment.
Mr Attorney General.
My Lord, and Gentlemen of the Jury, - In this case, the prisoner at the bar is accused of high treason, and your are upon your oaths, to attend to the evidence which will be laid before you, and to decide upon that evidence, whether he is guilty of the charge or not.- The nature of the indictment and the overt acts to support it, will be fully explained to you by the court. I shall call your attention to the nature of the evidence we shall lay before you, in order to show the part which the prisoner took in the rebellion. Your consideration, gentlemen, will be confined entirely to two points: - first, whether there existed a rebellion in this city, upon the wed of July last and secondly, whether the prisoner participated in that rebellion, either by concurring in the design or wilfully aiding in the execution of it. If you believe the facts which I am instructed to lay before you, the case will be as clear as the law arising upon them.
I am instructed to state to your, that upon the evening of the 23d of July last, it was observed, that a number of people went into the prisoners house in Plunket-street, and that in the course of the same evening he frequently left his house with a green bag in his hand, and directed his course to Thomas-street.- He has been employed as a vendor of cast clothes; and for any thing I know might have used the bag in that way. - After he had gone and returned several times he was observed to stand at the door with another person as it were in consultation; and at 9 oclock a rocket was observed to rise from Thomas-street which passed nearly over the prisoners house. The prisoner immediately exclaimed, Boys! Theres a rocket! He desired them to turn out, and they did turn out, all armed with pikes. He then put himself at the head of them with a pike upon his shoulder, and threatened vengeance to all those who should decline to assist.
At this time he wore a green coloured coat, and his wife fearing he would be remarked in that dress, followed him and forced him to put on another. His appearing thus armed upon the signal of a rocket will be material when you consider that in the rebel depot which was discovered near Thomas-street, sky-rockets were found, which were calculated for signals in different parts of the town. The prisoner then called out, The town is our own You, gentlemen, will consider what meaning is to be attributed to his conduct and to his expressions, and whether they do not clearly evince his guilt both as a conspirator and an actor. He immediately went in the direction towards Thomas-street, and in half an hour after, another party, headed by a man in a scarlet uniform, halted at the prisoners house, were there furnished with refreshment, and then proceeded to Thomas-street.
These circumstances are so strong, that they do not involve the prisoner merely as having a pike in his hand, but they implicate him as a leader, taking an active part and heading some of the insurgents to the scene of action.
Gentlemen, if these facts shall be proved, it will only remain for you to pronounce your verdict upon them. But before I conclude, I am to entreat that you will discharge from your minds any feeling or prepossessions you may have received upon this subject, and that you will attend solely to the evidence which we shall submit to your consideration; it is of such a nature as strongly leads me to think that we are not mistaken in the charge which we have brought against the prisoner, but if it shall appear that we are, I shall very sincerely participate in the happiness which you will feel in acquitting h im of the accusation.
Edward Wilson, Esq. was sworn and examined, and gave the same evidence as before. (Vide, Kearneys case)
Lieutenant Wheeler Coultman was sworn and examined and gave the same evidence as before (Vide Kearneys case) Among the articles found, the sky-rockets were noticed as particularly applicable in the present case.
Thomas Rice proved the proclamation as upon the former trials.
Benjamin Adams sworn Examined by Mr. Mayne.
What is your employment in life? A silk weaver.
Where do you live? In Plunket-street.
Whereabouts? - At No 12 near Francis-street.
Do you know the prisoner? I do.(witness identified him.)
How long have you know him? Ten or twelve years.
Where does he live? At No 64, Plunket-street.
Is that near you? It is almost opposite.
Do you recollect the evening of the 23 rd of July? I do.
Do you recollect having taken notice of anything particular at the house of the prisoner on that evening? I do; in the evening of the 23 rd of July, I saw the prisoner go up Plunket-street towards Thomas-street, with a green bag.
How often? I cannot say, but it was several times.
Was the bag full or empty as he went out? It was half full.
Was it so when he returned? No, it was empty.
How long did he stay away each time? About twenty or twenty five minutes.
While he was thus going backward and forward, did you observe any thing in particular at his house? I saw a parcel of men going into his place.
Did they go in all together? No, they went in separately.
What more did you observe? Between eight and nine oclock he was leaning upon the post of the door, speaking to another man.
Was it day-light or dark when you observed that? It was dark; it was between the two lights; I could discern them dis tinctly.
Where were you? Looking out from my window.
What window? In the three pair room.
What did you observe? They were discoursing, I cannot tell about what.
Did any thing particular happen? There was a rocket, which came from towards Thomas-street clear over Plunket-street where I was.
What happened then? Owen Kirwan was at this time standing at his door, and when he saw the rocket, he took off his hat and said There is the rocket my boys! He then returned into his own shop. He had a green frock coat upon him, and his wife was standing there; she got gold of the sleeve of his coat, and pulled it off, and handed him a cotton jacket which he put on; and he took a pike in his hand and put it on hi shoulder. When he got the pike upon his shoulder, he said Gods blood boys, turn ou, the town is our own to-night.
What is his employment? He is a cast cloaths man.
Has he any other employment? Not that I know of.
What more passed? He said, any man that does not turn out to-night, shall surely be put to death to-morrow.
What happened after that? He and the party ran up the street, and they turned the corner towards Thomas-street.
How many were the party? About eight or ten.
Where did they come from? From the prisoners house.
Were they armed? They were.
What arms? They had pikes.
Had the prisoner a pike when he went towards Thomas-street? He had.
Did you see any thing particular afterwards? In about half an hour, I saw a party of men with pikes come down the street.
Were they armed? They were.
With what? With pikes
How many do you suppose that party consisted of? I cannot say, for they ran very fast; I could not count them.
Did you see any thing farther? Yes; in about a quarter of an hour after that, sixty or seventy men with pikes came down the street.
Was that a larger party than the former? Much larger.
What opportunity had you of reckoning them? I am sure, if I had reckoned them they were above 100; but I speak rather below the number, and I am sure there were 70.
Did they stop in the street? They did.
Where? At Kirwans house, and a little lower down.
Did they get any thing? Yes, some beer.
Where was that? At Kirwan; hi wife had got it in before they came.
Did you hear any firing that evening? I did.
Was it at this time? No, a little after.
Where? In the direction of the Coombe.
Did you hear any other firing? I did, a few shots, but not together.
Did you see the prisoner again that night? No, sire.
Benjamin Adams cross examined by Mr Curran.
Where do you live, do you say? In Plunket-street.
Near the prisoner? Yes, sir, nearly opposite.
Had you been in habits of much intimacy with him? No, only seeing him pass by.
You were not acquainted with him? I have spoken to the man, and bid him the time of the day.
Might he have seen you at the time of the conversation? He could.
Did he speak to you? No, sir.
He did not speak? Not to me.
Did he speak in a whisper? He did not speak at first so as that I could hear him from the window where I was.
You saw him go out with a bag? I did.
Do you think there is any great harm in carrying a bag? I did.
Do you think there is any great harm in carrying a bag with something in it which you do not see? No, sir, many a man carries a bag without any arm.
Do you not believe he is a cast clothes man? I believe he was.
Is it not frequent for men in that business to carry clothes which they sell to people in a bag? I believe it is.
Do you not believe it is the common practice of tailors and persons of that kind, to carry home clothes in bag to prevent their being dropped in the street and dirtied? I believe so.
Had he a stall on which he sold clothes? He had.
Do you not believe that the clothes which were sold in the market-house were taken from the house to be sold? Yes.
Then there were two occasions upon which the bag was used, one to take clothes to his customers, and another to take them to a place of sale. He said every man who did not turn out would be put to death the next day? He did.
Did he say that to you? No.
Did he ask you to go out? No, he did not.
When did you disclose the tact that you knew any thing about what you have given evidence of? I never told any one, till I told it to my father.
How long after the 23 rd of July was that? The next day.
Then you told your father? Yes.
To whom did you tell it next? One Mr Dalton, belonging to the Rotunda Division.
To whom next? He desired me to go to the major.
To what major? Major Sirr.
There was no kind of intimacy between you and the prisoner; of course, you bore him no ill-will? I never did.
Are you a married man? I am.
You had no difference with the prisoner? No.
Was there never any dispute between you and the prisoner, or between you and the prisoners wife, on account of any circumstance respecting your own wife? Recollect yourself? Not between me and the prisoner, or his wife.
I will lead your memory to it; you and your wife do not live together? We do not.
Was she received into the prisoners house after she parted with you? One night she was.
How long ago is that? To the best of my opinion it is a year and a half ago.
Did she ever return to you again? She did.
Does she live with you? No but we converse constantly together; we do not live together on account of her mother.
Did you ever express any dissatisfaction at her staying that night at the prisoners? I never did.
Court.- You said the prisoner spoke in a whisper, or so as not to be heard? Yes, when he conversed with the man.
When he said, Turn out, the town is our own, was that in a whisper? No, it was loud.
Did he speak loud until the rocket went off? He did not; but then he spoke loud.
Mr Curran. What kept you at the window all this time? I was looking out the whole night. I had sprained my wrist and was not able to work, and was at home all that day; my father was at the door in the evening, and a woman, one of his tenants pulled him by the coat and desired him to go in saying, This is the night there is to be a massacre He came in and shut the door, and I went to the window, and remained there all night.
Stewart Home Douglas, esq.sworn. Examined Mr. OGrady.
You are an officer in his majestys service? I am.
Were you on guard the 23d of July last? I was.
Did you command any party? The light company of the 21 st regiment.
Where were they? At the Coombe Barracks.
Did any thing particular occur to you that night? Nothing, until I was told by magistrate Drury, that there was an expectation of a rising that night.
In consequence of that, did you go out with him? I did: the magistrate first took a serjeant and twelve men to patrole the streets; but a mob appeared coming from Meath-street towards the guard house, I ordered all the men out and to prime and load.
Court.- Was the mob armed? I cannot say at the time; it was growing dark, and they did not advance upon me. I drew out my company, and marched them in two divisions towards the mob.
Mr. OGrady Did you meet with any obstruction? Not till I came to the top of Meath-street, near Thomas-street when I saw in Thomas-street between 150 and 200 men drawn up with pikes on their shoulders; I there halted my men and I asked the magistrate permission to fire, which he refused.
Did you do any thing to induce him to allow you to fire? I repeatedly urged him, and my men frequently asked permission to fire.
What farther occurred? The rebels wheeled back from their centre very regularly.
Court. What do you mean by regularly? in a military manner? Yes my lord.
My OGrady Proceed and mention what passed? They then came to the charge with their pikes.
What do you mean by the charge? They brought their pikes down to the charge, in a horizontal position; after a great deal of entreaty and another great mob collecting in my rear, the magistrate permitted me to advance, but desired me not to fire, as it was not in his district. When I got leave to advance, a good may threw down their pikes which created some confusion among the rest, and they retreated towards the market-house of Thomas-street; one man about 60 or 70 years old, made an attempt with a pike upon my men; my men threw up ho pike with their arms, knocked him down and piked him with his own pike. I then marched down as far as the market-house, when my men dispersed great numbers of people armed with pikes, and drove them from the market-house out through the pillars; my party collected between forty and fifty pikes which we brought away; upon getting out of the market-house, I asked Mr. Drury where he intended to take me; he said down to my own barrack, where he would allow me to fire if any attack was made. I then marched down Francis-street and when I arrived at the barrack, I drew up my men into two parties; one fronting Meath-street, and the other to Francis-street and in about ten minutes after I was charged by the rebels from Francis-street; two or three men came forward and fired, by which two of my men were wounded, after which the party charged with a great shout; I ordered my men to fire, which seemed to check the rebels; whoever was their leader we heard him endeavouring to bring them on; but when they got the second volley they fled, and the part who had not turned the corner of Francis-street received the third volley.
Did you kill any of them? I did not like to advance my men in the dark, for fear of being surrounded, as if I had gone up Francis-street the rebels might come upon my rear form the Poddle and another small street near it; but as soon as day-light appeared I found four men lying dead with a few yards of my station and about 15 pikes; a gentleman afterwards told me he saw them carrying 14 or 15 dead bodies up through Francis-street.
Stewart Home Douglas, esq. cross-examined by Mr. Mac Nally
.You did not see the prisoner there? No, I did not.
Did the magistrate remain with you during the fight? He did not.
I thought he promised to give you permission to fire as soon as you arrived at the barrack; where did he go upon the commencement of the fight? He went into his house.
Oh! I suppose he gave you the word of command from the drawing-room window? No, he did not wait to give any word.
Mr. Mac Nally. I forgot he is an officer of peace!
Joseph Adams sworn Examined by Mr. Attorney General.
Are you acquainted with Benjamin Adams? Yes he is my son.
Were you in the city of Dublin upon the evening of the 23d of July last? I was in Plunket-street, at No 11, in my own house.
When did you first hear of any disturbance that evening? At a quarter past nine . I was nailing up some boards at a cellar, some person said the days were growing short, and I looked at my watch, I then saw some men with pikes, but at first thought they were watchmen; I said there was something the matter, and a woman took me by the sleeve and pulled me in, and then followed me and said, we will all be massacred that night.
Why did she not ell you that in the street? She was afraid of the men; but she came up to me and took me a one side, and said, that was my time. I flew up stairs, looked out of the window, and saw a number of pikemen. I thought I should be killed when the man came and desired all the boys to turn out to arms. My wife desired me to escape and leave her to the mercy of the world. I flew up to the top of the house through the dormant window, and then I saw five or six men upon the top of the house who I thought would do me out, but they were persons who had ran up like myself, we staid in the valley of the roof till near one oclock.
Were you a yeoman at that time? I was for about a week before.
Did you see any thing farther? When I heard the long roll of the army
What do you mean by the long roll? The fire from the Coombe, like a hedge firing, I said to the people we might go down, for that they had got such a supper they would not come back. We then went down and staid together till near four, when I got to the parade.
Was you son Benjamin at home that night? He was at home all that night.
Do you live opposite to Kirwans? I do.
Did you see him the next day? No, nor for a week after. The Tuesday week after I saw him at his own door.
Had he been absent from home so long a time before? Not that I recollect.
Joseph Adams cross examined by Mr Curran.
Were you intimate with the prisoner? No; we sometimes spoke to each other, he has come across the way to me, and I have spoken to him.
He is a married man? Yes.
Has children? Yes three.
One at nurse? I cant say.
Did not you hear that he went to the country to see a child at nurse? I did not.
He was taken at his own house? He was.
Mr Attorney General.
When was the prisoner arrested? He was brought a prisoner to the hall where the Liberty Rangers were on guard, the Tuesday or Wednesday week after the rebellion.
Extracts from the proclamation were read for which see Kearneys case, the case was closed.
My lords, and gentlemen of the jury;- It has now become my duty to state to you lordships, and to you, gentlemen, the defence of the prisoner at the bar. I was chosen for that very unpleasant task without my concurrence or knowledge, but as soon as I was apprized of it, I did accept it without hesitation: to assist an human being under the most awful of all situations, trembling on the dreadful alternative of honourable life, or ignominious death, was what no man, worthy of the name, could refuse to man; but it would be peculiarly base in a person who has the honour of wearing the kings gown to leave his subject undefended, until a sentence pronounced upon him had shown, that neither in fact nor in law could any defence avail him. I cannot however but confess I feel no small consolation when I compare my present with my former situation upon similar occasions. In those sad times to which I allude, it was frequently my fate to come forward to the spot where I now stand, with a body sinking under infirmity and disease, and a mind broken with the consciousness of public calamity, created and exasperated by public folly. It has pleased heaven that I should live to survive both these afflictions, and I am grateful for its mercy. I now come hither through a composed and quiet city I read no expressions in any face, save such as mark the orderly feelings of social life, or the various characters of civil occupation I see no frightful spectacles of infuriated power or suffering humanity I see no tortures I hear no shrieks I no longer see the human heart charred in the flame of its own vile and paltry passions, black and bloodless, capable only of catching and communicating that destructive fire by which we were deformed, and degraded, and disgraced; a bigotry against which no honest man should miss an opportunity of putting his countrymen, of all sect, and of all descriptions upon their guard, it is the accursed and promiscuous progeny of servile hypocrisy, of remorseless lust of power of insatiate thirst of gain labouring for the destruction of man, under the specious pretences of religion her banner stolen from the altar of God, and her allies congregated from the abysses of hell, she acts by votaries to be restrained by no compunctions of humanity for they are dead to mercy; to be reclaimed by no voice of reason for refutation is the bread on which their folly feeds; they are outlawed alike from their species and their Creator; the object of their crime is social life and the waged of their sin is social death for although it may happen that a guilty individual should escape from the law that he has broken, it cannot be so with nations their guilt is too unwieldy for such escape they may rest assured that Providence has, in the natural connexion between causes and effects, established a system of retributive justice, by which the crimes of nations are sooner or later avenged by their own inevitable consequences. But that hateful bigotry that baneful discord, which fired the heart of man, and steeled it against his brother, has fled at last, and I trust for ever. Even in this melancholy place I feel myself restored an re-created by breathing the mild atmosphere of justice, mercy, and humanity I feel I am addressing a jury of my countrymen, my fellow subjects and my fellow christians against whom my heart is waging no concealed hostility from whom my face is disguising no latent sentiment of repugnance or disgust. I have not now to touch the high raised strings of an angry passion in those that hear me; nor have I the terror of thinking, that if those strings cannot be snapt by the stroke, they will be only provoked into a more instigated vibration. Whatever I address to the Court in point of law, or to the jury in point of fact, will be heard not only with patience, but with an anxious desire to supply what may be defective in the defence.
I must observe, that this happy change in the minds and feelings of all men, is the natural consequence of that system of mildness and good temper which has been recently adopted, and which I now exhort you, gentlemen to imitate and improve upon; that you may thereby demonstrate to ourselves, to Great Britain, and to the enemy, that we are not that assemblage of fiends which we had been alleged to be, unworthy of the ordinary privilege of regular justice, or the lenient treatment of a merciful government.
It is of the utmost importance, gentlemen, to be on your guard against the wicked and mischievous representation of the circumstances which have called you now together; you ought not to take from any unauthenticated report those facts which you can have directly from sworn evidence. I have heard much of the dreadful extent of the conspiracy against this country of the narrow escape of the government from a danger permitted so to increase by a want of vigilance and caution. You now see the fact as it is; by the judicious adoption of a mild and conciliatory system of conduct, what was six years ago a formidable rebellion,, has now dwindled down to a drunken, riotous insurrection disgraced certainly by some odious atrocities; - its objects, whatever they were, no doubt highly criminal; - but as an attack upon the state, of the most contemptible insignificance. I do not wonder, that the patrons of burning and torture should be vexed that their favourite instruments were not employed in recruiting for the rebellion. I have no doubt that had they been so employed, the effect would have followed, and that an odious, drunken insurrection would have easily been swelled into a formidable rebellion; nor is it strange, that persons so mortified, should vent themselves in wanton exaggerated misrepresentation, and in unmerited censure in slandering the nation in the person of the viceroy and the viceroy in the character of the nation and that they should do so, without considering that they were weakening the common resources against common danger, by making the different parts of the empire odious to each other; and by holding out to the enemy, and falsely holding out, that we were too much absorbed in civil discord to be capable of effectual resistance. In making this o b serva tion, my wish is merely to refute a slander upon my country. I have no pretension to be the vindicator of his excellencys firmness and good sense not to discredit his own opinion of his confidence in the public safety by an ostentatious display of unnecessary open preparation; and I think he did himself equal honour by preserving his usual temper, and not suffering himself to be exasperated by the event, when it did happen, into the adoption of violent or precipitate measures. Perhaps I may be excused, if I confess that I was not wholly free from some professional vanity, when I saw that the descendant of a great lawyer (Lord Hardwicke) was capable of remembering what without the memory of such an example, he perhaps might not have done, that even in the moment of peril, the law is the best safeguard of the constitution. At all events, I feel that a man, who at all times has so freely censured the extravagancies of power and force as I have done, is justified, if not bound, by the consistency of character, to give the fair attestation of his opinion to the exercise of wisdom and humanity wherever he finds them whether in a friend or a stranger; and therefore I accede most heartily to what Mr. Attorney General has stated respecting the slowness and deliberation with which this commission has proceeded.
I hope gentlemen, that these preliminary observations have not been wantonly and irrelevantly delaying you from the question which your are to try, and which I am ready to enter into; but there still remains a circumstance to be observed upon for a moment before you enter upon the real subject of your inquiry, the guilt or innocence of the prisoner;- the fact which has been so impressively stated, - and which I am sure the attorney general would lament should produce the consequences not intended by him in such statement, - the never to be too much lamented fate of that excellent man, my lord Kilwarden. It is impossible for any man of feeling, having a head or heart, not to look at the infernal transaction with the utmost horror and indignation I had known him for twenty years no man possessed more strongly than he did, two qualities he was a lover of justice and of humanity almost to a degree of weakness, if it can be a weakness. But let us not wantonly slander the character of the nation by giving any countenance to the notion, that the horror of such a crime could be extended farther than the actual perpetrators of the odious deed. The general indignation, the tears that were shed at the sad news of his fate, show that we are not that nest of demons, on whom any general stigma could attach from such an event. The wicked wretch himself, perhaps has cut off the very man through whose humanity he might have escaped the consequences of other crimes; and by an hideous aggravation of his guilt, has given another motive to Providence to trace the murderers steps, and secure the certainty of his punishment; but on this occasion, you, gentlemen of the jury, must put it out of your minds, and think nothing of that valuable man, save his last advice, that no person should perish, but by the just sentence of the law; and that advice I hope you will honour, not by idle praise, but by strict observance.
As to the evidence, give me leave to advert to one circumstance, which ought to be removed from your minds; it was adverted to before, and I do not believe it was resisted by the officers of the crown; it occurred in the former case, - No act of parliament or commission under the great seal can be evidence in such a case as this.
Mr Attorney General.
My lord, I hope Mr. Curran will excuse me for interrupting him. No allusion was made to the act of parliament or the commission in this case; and though I did advert to them in the former no attempt was made to rely upon them as evidence.
I mentioned the circumstance in the confidence that it would be given up as not applicable in evidence, and the learned gentleman will please to recollect, that he referred to the first statement made by him, and even to the verdict found yesterday, and therefore it is right upon my part to take notice of that which might make an impression upon the jury.
This much we must say, that no notice has been taken by the Bench of any act of parliament or any other document but what has been proved in evidence before us.
If I had not been interrupted by the anxiety of the attorney general, I should have added, that as the statute, if offered would not be evidence, much less was the statement evidence. He also suggested that notoriety would be evidence; but however that may be with respect to a grand jury, it can have no influence with a petit jury. It may as well be said, that the notoriety of a man having committed a crime, is evidence of his guilt. Notoriety is at best another name for reputation, which cannot even by law be given in evidence in any criminal case, and which a fortiori could not sustain a verdict of conviction.
Mr Justice Finncane.
Public war is always taken from notoriety.
But I do not think, that insurrection can take its character of innocence or guilt from notoriety. And will add to the jury, what I am certain will meet the acquiescence of the Bench, that though the jury should leave their houses without any doubt of the fact, yet it is their duty to forget ht notoriety and attending to their oaths to decide according to the evidence, the probability of such a conspiracy at the present time. It is clear from the evidence, that it cannot be imputed to any particular sect, or party, or faction; because no sect or faction could fail (had they acted in it) of engaging one hundred times the number of deluded instruments in their design. We may then fairly ask, is it likely, that the country at large, setting even apart all moral ties of duty or allegiance, or the difficulty or the danger, could see any motive of interest to recommend to them the measure of separating from England or fraternizing with France? Is there any description of men in Ireland, who could expect any advantage from such a change? And this reasoning is more pertinent to the question, because politics now are not as heretofore a dead science in a dead language: they have now become the subject of the day, vernacular and universal, and the repose which the late system of Irish government has given the people for reflection, has enabled them to consider their own condition, and what they or any other country could have to hope from France, or rather from their present master. I scorn to allude to that person merely to scold or revile him; unbecoming obloquy may show that we don not love the object, but not what we do not fear him. What is the present condition of Bonaparte? A stranger, and usurper, getting possession of an extensive, proud, volatile and capricious people; getting that possession b7 military force, - able to hold it only by force, to secure his power he found or thought he found it necessary to abolish all religious establishments, as well as all shadow of freedom:- he has completely subjugated all the adjoining nations.
Now, it is clear, there are but two modes of holding states, or the members of the same state together, namely, community of interest or predominance of force. The former is the natural bond of the British empire: Their interest, their hopes, their dangers, can be no other than one and the same, if they are not stupidly blind to their own situation; and stupidly blind indeed must they be, and justly must they incur the inevitable consequences of that blindness and stupidity, if they have not fortitude and magnanimity enough to lay aside those mean and narrow jealousies, which have hitherto prevented that community of interest and unity of effort by which alone we can stand, and without which we must fall together. But force only can hold the acquisitions of the French consul. What community of interest can he have with the different nations that he has subdued and plundered? Clearly none. Can he venture to establish any regular and protected system of religion among them? Wherever he erected an altar, he would set up a monument of condemnation and reproach upon those wild and phantastic speculations which he is pleased to dignify with the name of philosophy, but which other men, perhaps because they are endowed with a less aspiring intellect, conceive to be a desperate anarchical atheism, giving to every man a dispensing powere for the gratification of his passions, teaching him that he may be a rebel to his conscience with advantage, and to his God with impunity. Just as soon would the government of Britain venture to display the crescent in their churches, as an honorary member of all faiths show any reverence to the cross in his dominions. Apply the same reasoning to liberty. Can he venture to give any reasonable portion of it to his subjects at home, or his vassals abroad? The answer is obvious: sustained merely by military force, his unavoidable policy is to make the army every thin, and the people nothing. If he ventured to elevate his soldiers into citizens, and his wretched subjects into freemen, he would form a confederacy of natural interest between both, against which he could not exist a moment. If he relaxed in like manner with Holland, or Belgium, or Switzerland, or Italy, and withdrew his armies from them, he would excite and make them capable of instant revolt. There is one circumstance which just leaves it possible for him not to chain them down still more rigorously than he has done, and that is, the facility with which he can pour military reinforcements upon them in case of necessity. But destitute as he is of a marine, he could look to no such resource with respect to any insular acquisition; and of course he should guard against the possibility of danger by so complete and merciless a thraldom, as would make any effort of resistance physically impossible. Perhaps, my lords and gentlemen, I may be thought the apologist, instead of the reviler of the ruler of France: I affect not either character I am searching for the motives of his conduct, and not for the topics of his justification. I do not affect to trace those motives to any depravity of heart or of mind, which accident may have occasioned for a season, and which reflection or compunction may extinguish or allay, and thereby make him a completely different man with respect to France and the world; I am acting more fairly and more usefully to my country, when I show, that his conduct must be so swayed by the permanent pressure of his situation, by the tyrannical control of an unchangeable and inexorable necessity, that he cannot dare to relax or relent, without becoming the certain victim of his own humanity or contrition.
I may be asked, are these my own speculations or have others in Ireland adopted them? I answer freely, non meus hic sermo est. It is, to my own knowledge, the result of serious reflection, in numbers of our countrymen. In the storm of arbitrary sway, in the distraction of virtue and suffering, the human mind had lost its poise and its tone, and was incapable of sober reflection: but by removing those terrors from it, by holding an even hand between all parties, by disdaining the patronage of any sect or faction, the people of Ireland were left at liberty to consider her real situation and interest; and happily for herself, I trust in God she has availed herself of the opportunity. With respect to the higher orders, even of those who thought they had some cause to complain, I know this to be the fact they are not so blind as not to see the difference between being proud, and jealous, and punctilious, in any claim of privilege or right between themselves and their fellow-subjects, and the mad and desperate depravity of seeking the redress of any dissasatisfaction they might feel, by an appeal to force, or the dreadful recourse to treason and to blood. As to the humbler orders of our people, - whom I confess I feel the greatest sympathy, because there are more of them to be undone, and because from want of education they must be more liable to delusion, - I am satisfied the topics to which I have adverted apply with still greater force to them, than to those who are raised above them. I have not the same opportunity of knowing their actual opinions; but if their opinions be other than I think they ought to be, would to God they were present in this place, or that I had the opportunity of going into their cottages, - and they well know I would not disdain to visit them, and to speak to them the language of affection and candour on the subject, - I should have little difficulty in showing to their quick and apprehensive minds, how easy it is, when the heart is incensed, to confound the evils which are inseparable from the destiny of imperfect man, with those which arise from the faults or errors of his political situation. I would put a few questions to their candid and unadulterated sense: - Do you think you have made no advance to civil prosperity within the last twenty years? Are your opinions of modern and subjugated France the same that you entertained of popular and revolutionary France fourteen years ago? Have you any hope, that, if the first consul got possession of your island, he would treat you half so well as he does those countries at this door, whom he must respect more than he can respect or regard you? And do you know how he treats those unhappy nations. You know that in Ireland there is little personal wealth to plunder; that there are few churches to rob; - can you then doubt, that he would reward his rapacious generals and soldiers, by parcelling out the soil of the island among them and by dividing you into lots of serfs to till the respective lands to which you belonged, or sending you, as graziers, to enjoy the rocks of Malta and Gibraltar. Can you suppose, that the perfidy and treason of surrendering your country to an invader, would to your master be any pledge of your new allegiance. Can you suppose that while a single French soldier was willing to accept an acre in the possession of a man who had shown himself so wickedly and stupidly dead to the suggestions of the most obvious interest, and to the ties of the most imperious moral obligations? What do you look forward to with respect to the aggrandizement of your sect? Are you Protestant? He has abolished Protestantism with Christianity. Are you Catholic? Do you think he will raise you to the level of the Pope? Perhaps, and I think, he would not: - but if he did, could you hope more privilege than he has left his holiness? And what privilege has he left him? He has reduced his religion to be a mendicant for contemptuous toleration, and he has reduced his person to beggary and to rags. Let me ask you a farther question: Do you think he would feel any kind hearted sympathy for you? Answer yourselves by asking What sympathy does he feel for Frenchmen, whom he is ready by thousands to bury in the ocean in the barbarous gambling of his wild ambition? What sympathy then could blind him to you? He is not your countryman: the scene of your birth and your childhood is not endeared to his heart by the reflection that it was also the scene of his. He is not your fellow Christian: - he is not therefore bound to you by any similarity of duty in this world, or by any union of hope beyond the grave. What then could you suppose the object of his visit or the consequence of his success? Can you be so foolish as not to see that he would use you as slaves while he held you; and that when he grew weary, which he soon would become, of such a worthless and precarious possession, he would carry you to market in some treaty of peace; barter you for some more valuable concession; and surrender you to expiate, by your punishment and degradation, the advantage you had given him by your follies and your crimes.
There is another topic on which a few words might be addressed to the deluded peasantry of this country: he might be asked What could you hope from the momentary success of any effort to subvert the government by mere intestine convulsion? Could you look forward to the hope of Liberty or property; where are the characters, the capacities, and the motives of those that have embarked in those chimerical projects? you see them a despicable gang of needy adventurers; desperate from guilt and poverty: uncountenanced by a single individual of probity or name; ready to use you as the instruments, and equally ready to abandon you by treachery or flight, as the victims of their crimes. For a short interval murder and rapine might have their away; but do not be such fools as to think, that though robbing might make a few persons poor, it could make many persons rich. Do not be so silly as to confound the destruction of property with the partition of wealth. Small must be your share of the spoil, and short your enjoyment of it. Soon trust me, very soon would such a state of things be terminated by the very atrocities of its authors. Soon would you find yourselves subdued, ruined and degraded. If you looked back, it would be to character destroyed, to hope extinguished. If you looked forward you could see only the dire necessity you had imposed upon your governors of acting towards you with no feelings but those of abhorrence, and of self-preservation of ruling you by a system of coercion, of which alone you would be worthy and of loading you with taxes, that is selling the food and raiment which your honest labour might learn for your family, to defray the expense of that force, by which only you could be restrained.
Say not, gentlemen, that I am inexcusably vain when I say, would to God that I had an opportunity of speaking this plain, and I trust, not absurd language to the humblest orders of my countrymen. When I see what sort of missionaries can preach the doctrines of villainy and folly with success, I cannot think it very vain to suppose, that they would listen with some attention and some respect to a man who was addressing plain sense to their minds, whose whole life ought to be a pledge for his sincerity and affection who had never in a shingle instance deceived, or deserted, or betrayed them who had never been seduced to an abandonment of their just right, or a connivance at any of their excesses, that could threaten any injury to their characters or their condition.
But, perhaps, I have trespassed too much upon your patience by what may appear a digression from the question. The motive of my doing so, I perceive by your indulgent hearing, you perfectly comprehend. But I do not consider what I have said as a mere irrelevant digression with respect to the immediate cause before you. The reasoning comes to this: the present state of this country shows, that nothing could be so stupidity and perversely wicked as a project of separation or of French connexion and of course, nothing more improbable than the adoption of such a senseless project. If it be then so senseless, and therefore so improbable, how strong ought the evidence be on which you would be warranted in attesting on your oaths, to England and to France, so odious an imputation on the good sense and loyalty of your country. Let me revert again to the evidence which you have heard to support so incredible a charge. I have already observed on the contemptible smallness of the number a few drunken peasants assembled in the outlets; there, in the fury of intoxication, they committed such atrocities as n man can be disposed to defend or to extenuate; and having done so, they flee before a few peace-officers, aided by the gallantry of Mr. Justice Drury who, even if he did retreat, as has been insinuated, has at least the merit of having no wish to shed the blood of his fellow christians, and is certainly entitled to the praise of preserving the live of a m ost valuable citizen and loyal subject.
In this whole transaction, no attempt, however feeble or ill-directed, is made on any place belonging to or connected with the government. They never even approach the barrack, the castle, the magazines. No leader whatsoever appears; nothing that I can see to call for your verdict, except the finding the bill and the uncorroborated statement of the attorney-general. In that statement too I must beg leave to guard you against mistake in one or two particulars: - as to what he said of my lord Kilwarden, it was not unnatural to feel as he seemed to do at the recollection, or to have stated that sad event as a fact that took place on that occasion but I am satisfied, he did not state it with the least intention of agitating your passions, or of letting it have the smallest influence on your judgement.
In you inquiry into a charge of treason, you are to determine upon evidence; and what is there in this case to connect the prisoner with the general plan or the depot which was found? I do not say that the account of these matters was not admissible evidence; but I say, that the existence of these things without a design, or proof of a design, without connexion with the prisoner, cannot affect his life; for you cannot found a verdict upon construction or suspicion.
The testimony of Adams seemed to have been brought forward as evidence of greater cogency. He saw the prisoner go out with a bag half full, and return with it empty. I am at a loss to conjecture what they would wish you to suppose was contained in it: - but men are seen at his house; does it follow that he was connected with the transactions in the Thomas-street? The elder Adams does not appear to have stated any thing material but his own fears. The proclamation may be evidence of a treasonable conspiracy existing; but it is no evidence against the prisoner, unless he be clearly connected with it; and in truth, when I see the evidence on which you are to decide, reduced to what is legal or admissible, I do not wonder that Mr. Attorney General himself should, upon the first trial, has treated this doughty rebellion with the laughter and contempt it deserved.
Where now is this providential escape of the government and the castle? Why simply in this; that no one attacked the one or the other! And that there were no persons that could have attacked either. It seems not unlike the escape which a young man had of being shot through the head at the battle of Dettingen; by the providential interference by which he was sent twenty miles off on a foraging party, only ten days before the battle.
I wish from my heart that there may be now present some worthy gentleman who may transmit to Paris a faithful account of what has this day passed. If so, I think some loyal absent may possibly find an account of it in the Publiciste or the Moniteur and somewhat in this way: - On the 23 rd of July last, a most splendid rebellion displayed her standard in the metropolis of Ireland, in a part of the city, which, in their language, is called the Poddle the band of heroes that came forth at the call of patriotism, capable of bearing arms, at the lowest calculation, must have amounted to little less than two hundred persons! The rebellion advanced with most intrepid steps till she came to the site of the old four courts and tholsel. There she espied a decayed pillory, on which mounted in order to reconnoitre; but she found to her great mortification, that the re bels had staid behind, she therefore judged it right to make her escape, which she effected in a masterly manner down Dirty-lane; the rebels at the same time retiring in some disorder form the Poddle, being hard pressed by the poles and lanterns of the watchmen, and being additionally galled by Mr Justice Drury, who came to a most unerring aim upon their rear, on which he played without any intermission with a spy-glass from his dining-room window! Raro antecedentem scelestum descript pana pede claudo. It is clearly ascertained she did not appear in her own clothes, for she threw away her regimental jacket before she fled, which has been picked up, and is now to be seen at Mr. Carletons (a Frenchman I suppose), at sixpence a head for grown persons, and three-pence for a nurse and child. It was thought at first to be the work of an Irish artist, who might have taken measure in the absence of the wearer, but a bill and receipt found in one of the pockets, it appears to have been made by the actual body tailor of her august highness the consort of the first consul; at present it is but poorly ornamented, and it is said the Irish volunteers have entered into a subscription to trim it, if it shall be ever worn again.
Happy! Most happy is it for these islands, that those rumours which are so maliciously invented and circulated to destroy our confidence in each other, to invite attack and dispirit resistance, turn out on inquiry to be so ludicrous and contemptible, that we cannot speak of them without laughter, or without wonder that they did not rather form the materials of a farce in a puppet-show, than of a grave prosecution in a court of justice.
There is still gentlemen of the jury, another topic material for you to be reminded of: This is the first trial for high treason that has occurred since the union of these island. No effectual union can be achieved by the mere letter of a statute; you may therefore declare yourselves incapable of legislation, but no mere contract can of itself work an effectual incorporation of the countries. Do not imagine, that bigotry can blend with liberality, or barbarism with civilization. If you wish really to be united with Great Britain, teach her to respect you, and do so by showing her that you are fit objects of wholesome laws - by showing her that you are as capable of rising to a proud equality with her in the exercise of social duties and civil virtues, as every part of the globe has proved you to be in her fleets and her armies; show her that you can try this cause as she would try it; that you have too much sense and humanity to be borne away in your verdict by despicable panic or brutal fury; show her that in prosecutions by the state, you can even go a step beyond her, and that you can discover and act upon those eternal principles of justice, which it has been found necessary in that country to enforce by the coercion of the law. You cannot but feel that I allude to the statute which requires two witnesses in treason. Our statute does not contain that provision; but if it were wise to enact it there as a law, it cannot be other than wise to adopt it here as a principle, unless you thin it discreet to hold it out, as your opinion, that the life of man is not as valuable here, and ought not to be as secure as in the other part of the empire; unless you wish to prove your capability of equal rights and equal liberty with Britain, by consigning to the scaffold your miserable fellow subject, who, if tried in England on the same charge and the same evidence, would by law be entitled to a verdict of acquittal. I trust you will not so blemish yourselves: I trust you will not be satisfied even with a cold imitation of her justice, but on this occasion you will give her an example of magnanimity, by rising superior to the passion or the panic of the moment.
If any ordinary case, in any ordinary time you have any reasonable doubt of guilt, you are bound by every principle of law and justice to acquit; but I would advise you at a time like this, rather to be lavish than parsimonious in the application of that principle even though you had the strongest suspicion of his culpability, I would advise you to acquit you would show your confidence in your own strength that you felt your situation too high to be affected in the smallest degree by the fate of so insignificant an individual.- Turn to the miserable prisoner himself tainted and blemished, as he possibly may be even him you may retrieve to his country and his duty by a salutary effort of seasonable magnanimity. You will inspire him with reverence for that institution, which knows when to spare, as well as when to inflict and which instead of sacrificing him to a strong suspicion of his criminality, is determined, not by the belief, but by the possibility of his innocence, and dismisses him with indignation and contemptuous mercy.
Richard Wallace sworn. Examined by Mr Mac Nally.
Where do you live? - In Plunket-street.
What number? No 64
Did you live there on the 23 rd of July last? I did
Do you know the prisoner? I do
Does he live in the same house as you? He does; I own the house.
Then he is your tenant? He is
Do you know where the prisoner was that evening? I do not; but he was at home at ten that night at his own door.
Do you know the younger Adams ? I do.
He is a married man? He is.
Do you know of any dispute between him and the prisoner? I do not.
Did you see the prisoner at an earlier hour that evening? I did not.
What time did he return from his stall? His stall! He is a cast clothes man.
What time does he generally come home in the evening? About four or five, according as he makes a bargain.
What time did you return from your work that evening? - About nine oclock.
Where you out that evening? No, I went up stairs to bed, and did not rise till eight the next morning.
Richard Wallace cross-examined by Mr. Plunket
You say the prisoners trade is that of a cast clothes man? Yes
His usual habit was to return home about four or five in the evening? It was according as he got bargains, he was a very honest poor man for the year and half he was with me.
Did you hear of any thing particular doing that evening? Not anything; only a parcel of men whom I thought were watchmen, and I did not mind them.
They passed towards Patrick-street? They did
How many were there? Seven or eight.
Was that before you saw the prisoner? It was about half an hour.
You did not see any more? No.
You never saw a pike? Not till that night.
You heard of some little disturbance that night? I did
Were you at work that night? I was.
Do you now think they were watchmen you saw? No
What do you think they were? It seems they were rebels.
And this was before the prisoner came home? It was.
Did you see the prisoner again that night? I did not.
When did you see him next? I heard he went to a child at nurse
When did you see him? In about a fortnight.
He brought back the child? I cannot say; I did not see it.
Where was it at nurse? I cannot tell.
You counted him an honest man, could he afford to stay a fortnight at the place of his childs nurse? I cannot say.
When did you hear of the work in Thomas-street? Next morning about eight.
Was the prisoner at home then? I cannot tell.
Margaret Lappin sworn Examined by Mr Curran.
Where do you live? in Thomas-street.
Do you live in the house with the prisoner? Sometimes.
Did you lie there on the night of the 23 rd of July last? I did.
Were you there all day? I was.
Did you see the prisoner on that day? I did, the whole day.
What was the latest hour you saw him? Between nine and ten, when he went to bed.
Where did you sleep? I did not sleep much that night.
Why not? I heard the noise and could not sleep much.
Was the prisoner in the bed that night? He was.
By virtue of your oath? He was.
Did he go to the country after that? He did, to see a child who was very bad.
When did he go? About a week after, and the child is not well yet.
Where was he taken? At his own place, I was by.
Margaret Lappin cross examined by Mr Mayne.
Pray, madam,- ? You need not ask me any more.
Why so? Because I know no more.
Would you rather go away? You may do what you please with me; I lived three years with the prisoner, and nursed some of his children.
You saw him on the next day? I did.
Where? In his own house.
And every day after? Yes
Was he public all that time? He was.
Did you see him with Wallace that week? I had no call to Wallace .
He lived in the house? He did.
Could he be there without seeing the prisoner? I cannot say.
Were you in bed that night? No I was up and down.
Where did you sleep? In the parlour or shop.
Where did the prisoner sleep? In the same place.
How long did he stay when he went to the country? About a week.
He was taken the next day after he came home? No not till Wednesday; he came home on Saturday.
Did you see nine or ten men about his house that night? I saw no mankind there that night.
You saw no arms or pikes that night? No such thing.
Hugh Kelly sworn. Examined by Mr. Mac Nally.
Where do you live? At No 51 Plunket-street.
How long have you known the prisoner? I cannot have known him less than 16 years.
Were you acquainted with him? As a neighbour in the place.
What has been his general character as to loyalty or disloyalty? I know nothing of his loyalty of disloyalty, or politics, or any thing of that kind. He was an honest industrious man, working for his family.
Laurence Watson sworn.- Examined by Mr. Curran.
Where do you live? In Plunket-street; I keep a brokers shop.
Do you know the prisoner? Since he was child.
Do you know his general character? I always knew him to be honest, industrious man.
Have you ever known his character impeached for disloyalty? Never.
If it had been so impeached would it not come to your knowledge? Perhaps it might; I know nothing of it.
John Hickey sworn.- Examined by Mr Curran.
Where do you live?- In Plunket-street, in the brokery line.
How long do you know the prisoner? Fourteen years.
What is his general character? An honest man.
What has been his character as to loyalty? I cannot say; I know nothing about him, but that he was a hard working man.
Do you mean to say he was a disloyal man? I do not; I know nothing of it.
Here the evidence closed, and the counsel for the prisoner and the crown respectively waived their right of observing upon the evidence.
Mr Baron George. Gentlemen of the Jury;- The prisoner at the bar is indicted of high treason, in conspiring the death of the king and levying war; and there are several overt acts laid in the indictment. I shall point your attention to those to which in my apprehension, the evidence is most applicable; because it is necessary in order to maintain indictments of this kind, that you should be satisfied, that one or more of the overt acts stated have been proved.
Gentlemen, the prisoner is accused of being one of a conspiracy formed up to levy war against the government of this country, and of being one of a multitude of persons armed and arrayed for the purpose of levying war, and that he did actually levy war to overthrow the government of the country; and as I detail the evidence, you will see how far these facts have been proved.
The first witness examined was Edward Wilson [Here the learned judge minutely recapitulated the evidence from his notes, and then proceeded.]
Now, gentlemen, the first question for you upon this occasion to form an opinion upon, is, whether there was in fact a rebellion or not? or whether it was a rising or a riot of an inferior nature? As to the question, whether there was a rebellion or not, you are to take into consideration all the circumstances of the case. You observe, that the first circumstance appearing is knots of persons of various descriptions, some of them countrymen, others townsmen, about the hour of nine oclock, apparently armed, speaking and consulting together: - All these making off, as if with one common mind, and running down Marshal-lane towards one end of Mass-lane. The next thing that appears is, this crowd coming out of the other end of the lane, opening into Dirty-lane, carrying pikes upon their shoulders, moving slowly on, as if waiting for those who were arming themselves at the depot, which was afterwards discovered to be in that lane. You are then to consider the evidence which has been given respecting the contents of that depot, and it is for you to judge from the quantity of weapons there collected and the nature of them, whether it is likely, that they were to be used in riot, or whether they were not for some greater and higher object to be accomplished by those who collected them. There was not only a quantity of pikes thrown out to supply the number of men, who were to be armed upon that occasion, but six or seven thousand are left behind there are ball cartridges, hand grenades, bottle shot, uniforms, colours, and rockets, and besides all these, large bundles of Proclamations, wet, as if fresh from the press; - You have heard some part of the contents read, and you observe how it is entitled. The Provisional Government to the People of Ireland . This proclamation does in express terms declare the purpose for which those weapons were provided. The proclamations were to be distributed among the people, after the weapons there collected, should have achieved the object for which they were collected and these proclamations seem to point out the first arrangement intended to be made, upon the overthrow of the government..
Then, gentlemen, you see farther that the multitude, then assembled, made the kings troops and forces the chief objects of their attack. It is not essentially necessary, that it should appear, that the force collected and formed was adequate to the design of the overthrow of the government; but you are to consider, what the design was. Was it revolution, or any object of less magnitude? Therefore if you cannot attribute all this preparation and conduct of the persons engaged, so far as appears to you, to any other design than revolution, you will consider whether the assertion in the indictment that was levied against the government of the country, is true or not? The fact does not in the defence that has been made for the prisoner seem to be controverted; but still you are to exercise your judgement whether all those materials, thus stored up secretly were collected and provided by insurgents and part of them used by them for a public design against the laws and constitution of the country? And if you do believe that they were collected and used after for the purposes of such a conspiracy and by preconcert, then the material point for you to consider will be, whether this was known to the prisoner, or whether he took any part to carry it into execution.
The evidence to show, that the prisoner had intimation of the design, rests upon the testimony of Adams, if you believe it; for every thing affecting the prisoner rests upon the credit you gave the witness. From his testimony it appears, that upon the rocket going off, the prisoner mad the exclamation, you have heard then had his coat changed, took up a pike, and marched at the head of seven or eight men, making the declaration, which was stated, that all who did not join should be put to death the next day You will naturally ask, how could all this happen, unless he previously knew of the matter, was acquainted with the rocket and the signal it was to convey .
Gentlemen, if you believe this, it is strong evidence to show that he knew of the design, and if he took up a weapon of that kind which all the other rebels had, and went in that direction where the other rebels were collected, you are to determine whether he did not move forward for the same purpose, and if you do believe it, that movement will be proof of the conspiracy and levying war, of which the prisoner is indicted.
As to the testimony by which the prisoner is charged, it unquestionably requires the most serious consideration. You will observe, gentlemen, that the evidence is given by an opposite neighbour, who was acquainted with the person of the prisoner for ten or twelve years, who was looking at him for a considerable time that evening, as well specifying the acts which might be indifferent, as those tending to show his knowledge of and participation in the treasonable design. Therefore it will follow that this witness cannot be supposed to be mistaken as to the person of the prisoner; but in truth this is for your consideration. If this man has been deceiving us and telling us what is not true, we must consider him to be a monster of great enormity; it is not mere perjury to swear falsely upon this occasion to convict an innocent man, who has a wife and children, and to deprive him of live by false testimony would be a most aggravated murder. You will consider, gentlemen, what motive this young man can have to destroy his neighbour in that manner. You observed the cross-examination of the witness, and the manner in which he gave his evidence. If you believe also the fact, that the prisoner went off the next morning, it will be strong evidence to corroborate the testimony of the witness.
As to the prisoner going off, there is a contrariety of evidence, which it is exclusively your province to decide upon.
You will also take into consideration the testimony of Margaret Lappin, stating, that the prisoner was at home the entire of the day and went to bed at ten oclock, and did not go out. If you believe her evidence it is impossible that the prisoner could be guilty of the facts stated by the witness for the prosecution.
Therefore, gentlemen, upon the whole of the case, you are to determine, whether the testimony of Adams is to be believed or not; - because if it is to be believed, it is our duty to tell you, that it proves the overt acts in the indictment.
But if you have such doubts as reasonable men may entertain in such a case, it is your duty to acquit the prisoner.
The jury retired and after deliberating for five minutes, returned a verdict Guilty.
The prisoner was remanded.
On Friday the 2nd September the prisoner was brought up for judgement. The indictment was read and he was asked, what he had to say, why judgement of death and execution should not be awarded against him?
I have nothing to say, but that I was prosecuted wrongfully, I beg the mercy of the Court, and to have the benefit of clergy.
Mr Mac Nally intimated, that the prisoners desire was, to have a clergyman of his own persuasion to visit him.
Mr Attorney General said he was not aware that any difficulty occurred in that respect but he would give a general order that a proper person should be admitted.
Mr. Baron George.
Owen Kirwan, after a full and patient hearing after a most minute and impartial investigation of the charge preferred against you, you have been convicted of high treason. It appears that you were a dealer in old clothes, and that you used the semblance of industry for the most wicked and destructive purpose, - a purpose which, could you and your unprincipled and cruel associated effect, would dry up all the sources of industry, confound all orders, destroy all security, and leave your country a hideous ruin.
It appears that you were an active emissary of rebellion, and had obtained, by that activity, the rank of a leader: - You were not of the multitude of devoted victims, who are led to slaughter and plunged in crime, by imposition on their ignorance and their passions; you seemed perfectly aware of what you were about, well acquainted with the plan and views of rebellion, and you engaged in it with cool deliberation and systematic wickedness.
You were calmly tried, and ably defended; that defence was heard with patience, and you have had every advantage possible to be derived from the laws more tender of life of the subject, and all the right attached to society, than those of any other country upon the face of the earth: and surely, when the excellence of those laws is considered, the protection they afford, and the pure and rational freedom enjoyed under our unequalled constitution, it is truly astonishing that any man, or body of men, could be found meditating or attempting the destruction of so beautiful a system! It would be incredible, if proofs the most melancholy were not furnished of the contrary, that such men could be found living under the dominion of a sovereign who has given to his people, and to the people of this country in particular, forty three year experience of the most exalted virtues, and the most parental anxiety for their happiness and welfare, But if insensible to the beauties of our constitution, and the allegiance which wisdom and goodness should have endeared to you and your associated in crime, it is wonderful how you could be so insensible to your own satety so wretchedly insane as to think, but for one moment, that you could seize power, - such loyalty in the people, - and such great armies formidable in numbers, in discipline, and in bravery How is it possible that you could be so mad as to think that any rabble insurrection could disturb a government not undefined, nor its members unknown? An amiable and virtuous viceroy, the faithful representative of his sovereigns goodness, is open to access, and visible to those he governs; every member of his admin istration is the same, none are ashamed or afraid to show their honest fronts to the mid-day sun.
Owen Kirwan, I most earnestly exhort you to use the time allotted to you in this world, in sincere and penitent endeavours to reconcile your soul to that of God, before whose awful judgement seat it is to appear so soon; think only of your salvation as a contrite christian should, and do not leave this world with a lie in your mouth, and go before your Maker, swaggering in vain and boastful guilt. Believe me, unhappy man, that to disclose all you know, and thus to make to your injured country and offended God all the atonement in your power, will prove an inexpressible consolation to you in you last moments, and infuse into your soul that sweet consciousness of right, which can alone qualify the bitter draught you are about to take, and justify a hope of future pardon and happiness.
Sentence of death was then passed on the prisoner, and he was accordingly executed the next day in Thomas-street.
John Keenan bled to death as a result of the explosion in the Patrick Street arms depot on July 16 1803 his brother was hanged in Thomas Street, where Robert Emmet was hanged on September 20 1803 in front of St Catherines Church.
Also hanged in Thomas Street were Edward Kearney, Owen Kirwan, Maxwell Roach, John Killeen, John McCann, John Hayes, Michael Kelly, Denis Lambert, Redmond was hanged at Coaly Quay, Felix Rourke was hanged at Rathcoole, James Byrne and John Begg were hanged in Townsend Street, Thomas Donnelly and Nicholas Tyrell were hanged at Palmerstown, Henry Howley was hanged at Kkilmainham Gaol, John McIntosh at Patrick Street.
Also hanged for their part Thomas Russell, James Corry, James Drake at Downpatrick in County Down. Andrew Hunter and David Porter were hanged at Carrickfergus in County Antrim .