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think that, at an internal of four-and-thirty years from thence,-an interval equal to the whole span of his life at that period,--I should not only find myself the historian of his mournful fate, but (what to many will appear matter rather of shame than boast) with feelings so little altered, either as to himself or his cause.'
Notwithstanding that towards the close of 1797, and the commencement of the fatal year 1798, much dissension prevailed among the chiefs of the Irish conspiracy, immense numbers of the people were organized in the north, and the returns that were made to Lord Edward as the head of the military committee, in the month of February of the latter year, gave the rebel force at that time, regimented and armed throughout the country, at little less than 300,000 men. The hope of succours from France was still not abandoned, M. Talleyrand having assured their agent that an expedition was in forwardness, which would arrive in April. A revolutionary staff was formed and other preparations made for an open insurrection, under the direction of Lord Edward, when the whole of the plot was disclosed to government by the treachery of Thomas Reynolds, a name, says Mr. Moore, 'in one country, at least, never to be forgotten.' This Judas, for a sum of money, delivered up almost all the leaders at one coup de main, and thus disconcerted the plans that had been just ready for execution. Lord Edward, however, happened not to have been present at the meeting at which his colleagues were apprehended on the 12th of March, and learning what had taken place, he continued for a while to elude pursuit. It is now understood that he might, if he had so chosen, easily have effected his escape from Ireland, as there was one at least of the powerful members of the cabinet (Lord Clare) who would have favoured his departure, and given him every possible facility for ensuring his safety. But it seems never to have occurred even in thought to Lord Edward, to abandon the post of peril which had been assigned him : on the contrary, by means of disguises, and frequent changes of his places of abode, he remained for some time in or near Dublin, endeavouring to restore the cause which, by the baseness of Reynolds, had received so severe a blow. In point of fact, the vacancies that had been created by the arrests, were filled up in a few days, and the operations of the conspirators were carried on with undiminished zeal and success towards a general explosion. The search after Lord Edward now became exceedingly active, the government having gradually learned the character and depth of the volcano upon the verge of which they were standing. On the 30th of March the whole kingdom was declared to be in a state of rebellion, and the country having been put under martial law, the troops were authorized to act without waiting for the authority of a civil magistrate.
At this juncture, Lord Edward was called upon by his old friend, Mr. Ogilvie, at the moment when he was engaged with a meeting of the chief conspirators, who were assembled in his place of
refuge, and whom he left in order to attend the summons of his friend. But the adviser tried every argument and persuasion without effect. “It is now out of the question,” said his lordship. “I am too deeply pledged to these men to be able to withdraw with honour." His retreat was at this time on the banks of the canal, in a retired house belonging to a lady, who would have sacrificed her own life to preserve his. From this abode, where he had remained a month in safety, he deemed it prudent to fly in consequence of a circumstance mentioned in the following anecdote :
During the absence, one day, of the lady of the house, the maid-servant came in alarm to tell him that she had just seen a guard of soldiers, with fixed bayonets, pass on the other side of the canal. “ And I, too,” said Lord Edward, " have observed, within these ten minutes, a man whom I know to be a police officer, looking up earnestly at the house.” The maid, whose terrors were naturally increased by the responsibility now thrown upon her, made him instantly put on a lady's night-dress and get into bed; then, darkening the room, as for a person indisposed, she placed a table, with medicine bottles upon it, beside the bed. In this situation he remained for two hours, but neither policeman nor soldiers again made their appearance; and the scene served but as a subject of mirth for the evening's conversation. It excited, however, some fears ;—even his own sense of security was disturbed by it, and his friends thought it most prudent that he should, for a time, at least, remove to Dublin, where, in the house of respectable feather-merchant, named Murphy, in Thomas-street, he was to be allowed to lie concealed for some days.” -vol. ii. pp. 59, 60.
To this house he was taken wrapped up in a countryman's great coat, and wearing a pig-tailed wig; and here he remained a fortnight in safety, walking out with his host every evening on the banks of the canal, receiving visits from the inferior spirits with which the places of his former colleagues had been filled up, and occasionally having interviews with Lady Edward, one of which was so sudden that it brought on a premature labour. From the house of Mr. Murphy his lordship removed to that of a Mr. Cormick, another feather merchant, and it will be seen, from the following extract from the evidence of a person named Hughes, taken before a committee of the House of Lords, in 1798, with how little precaution strangers were admitted to his lordship’s presence:
$" Deponent went to Dublin on the 20th of April, and remained there about nine days. He called on Samuel Neilson, and walked with him to Mr. Cormick, in the office. Cormick asked them to go up stairs; he and Neilson went up stairs, and found Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Mr. Lawless the surgeon, playing at billiards. He had been introduced to Lord Edward about a year before, by Teeling; he was a stranger to Lawless; stayed about an hour; no particular conversations; was invited to dine there that day, and did so; the company were, Lord Edward, Lawless, Neilson, Cormick, and his wife. The conversation turned upon the state of the country, and the violent measures of government, in letting the army loose.
vol. III. (1831.) NO. I.
company were all of opinion, that there was then no chance of the people resisting by force with any success.” ?-vol. ii. p. 71.
The hope of assistance from France having now vanished, the resolution was adopted by Lord Edward of taking the field about the end of the month of May, when preparations were made for a general rising. Lord Edward was to unfurl his standard in Leinster, where it was arranged that the forces of three counties should co-operate in an advance upon the capital. A military camp on the line of march was to be taken by surprise, a park of artillery was to be captured, and the enterprise was to be crowned by the seizure of the Lord Lieutenant and the other members of the government in Dublin. While this measure was in agitation, it was deemed necessary that Lord Edward should be constantly in Dublin; a reward having been now offered by proclamation for his apprehension, it was found necessary to change his place of concealment as often as possible; but, as we approach the catastrophe, we shall allow Mr. Moore to detail it in his own unadorned and affecting narrative.
On the following night (18th May) he was brought from Moore's to the house of Mr Murphy,--Mrs. Moore herself being his conductress. 1. He had been suffering lately from cold and sore throat, and, as his host thought, looked much altered in his appearance since he had last seen him. An old maid servant was the only person in the house besides themselves.
Next morning, as Mr. Murphy was standing within his gateway, there came a woman from Moore's with a bundle, which, without saying a word, she put into his hands, and which, taking for granted that it was for Lord Edward, he carried up to his lordship. It was found to contain a coat, jacket, and trousers, of dark green edged with red, together with a handsome military cap, of a conical form. At the sight of this uniform, which, for the first time, led him to suspect that a rising must be at hand, the fears of the already nervous host were redoubled; and, on being desired by Lord Edward to put it somewhere out of sight, he carried the bundle to a loft over one of his warehouses, and there hid it under some goat-skins, whose offensiveness he thought would be a security against search.
• About the middle of the day, an occurrence took place which, from its appearing to have some connexion with the pursuit after himself, excited a good deal of apprehension in his lordship’s mind. A serjeant-major, with a party of soldiers, had been seen to pass up the street, and were, at the moment when Murphy ran to apprize his guest of it, halting before Moore's door. This suspicious circumstance, indicating, as it seemed, some knowledge of his haunts, startled Lord Edward, and he expressed instantly a wish to be put in some place of secrecy; on which Murphy took him out on the top of the house, and laying him down in one of the valleys formed between the roofs of his warehouses, left him there for some hours. During the excitement produced in the neighbourhood by the appearance of the soldiers, Lord Edward's officious friend, Neilson, was, in his usual flighty and inconsiderate manner, walking up and down the street, saying occa: sionally, as he passed, to Murphy, who was standing in his gateway,— • Is he safe?!“ Look sharp.”
• While this anxious scene was passing in one quarter, treachery-and it is still unknown from what source—was at work in another. It must have been late in the day that information of his lordship's hiding-place reached the government, as Major Sirr did not receive his instructions on the subject till but a few minutes before he proceeded to execute them. Major Swan and Mr. Ryan (the latter of whom volunteered his services) happened to be in his house at the moment; and he had but time to take a few soldiers, in plain clothes, along with him,- purposing to send, on his arrival in Thomas-street, for the pickets of infantry ani cavalry in that neighbourhood.
* To return to Lord Edward :-as soon as the alarm produced by the soldiers had subsided, he ventured to leave his retreat, and resume his place in the back drawing-room, --where, Mr. Murphy having invited Neilson to join them, they soon after sat down to dinner. The cloth had not been many minutes removed, when Neilson, as if suddenly recollecting something, hurried out of the room and left the house; shortly after which Mr. Murphy, seeing that his guest was not inclined to drink any wine, went down stairs. In a few minutes after, however, returning, he found that his lordship had, in the interim, gone up to his bed-room, and, on following him thither, saw him lying, without his coat, upon the bed. There had elapsed from the time of Neilson's departure, not more than ten minutes, and it is asserted that he had, in going out, left the hall door open.*
• Mr. Murphy had but just began to ask his host whether he would like some tea, when, hearing a tranıpling on the stairs, he turned round, and saw Major Swan enter the room. Scarcely had this officer time to mention the object of his visit, when Lord Edward jumped up, as Murphy describes him," like a tiger," from the bed, on seeing which, Swan fired a small pocket-pistol at him, but without effect; and then, turning round short upon Murphy, from whom he seemed to apprehend an attack, thrust the pistol violently in his face, saying to a soiuier, who just then entered, “ Take that fellow away.” Almost at the sime instant, Lord Edward struck at Swan with a dagger, which, it now appeared, he had had in the bed with him; and, immediately after, Ryan, armed only with a swordcane, entered the room.
• In the mean time, Major Sirr, who had stopped below to place the pickets round the house, hearing the report of Swan's pistol, hurried up to the landing, and from thence saw, within the room, Lord Edward struggling between Swan and Ryan, the latter down on the floor, weltering in his blood,, and both clinging to their powerful adversary, who was now dragging them towards the door. Threatened as he was, with a fate similar
** From my mention of these particulars respecting Neilson, it cannot fail to have struck the reader, that some share of the suspicion of having betrayed Lord Edward attaches to this man. That his conduct was calculated to leave such an impression cannot be denied; but besides that the general character of his mind, bordering closely, as it did, on insanity, affords some solution of these incoherencies, the fact of his being afterwards left to share the fate of the other state prisoners would seem of itself sufficient to absolve him from any such imputation.'
to that of his companions, Sirr had no alternative but to fire, and, aiming his pistol deliberately, he lodged the contents in Lord Edward's right arm, near the shoulder. The wound for a moment staggered him; but, as he again rallied, and was pushing towards the door, Major Sirr called up the soldiers; and so desperate were their captive's struggles, that they found it necessary to lay their firelocks across him, before he could be disarmed or bound, so as to prevent further mischief. 'It was during one of those instinctive efforts of courage that the
opportunity was, as I understand, taken by a wretched drummer to give him a wound in the back of the neck, which, though slight, yet, from his position, contributed not a little to aggravate the uneasiness of his last hours. There are also instances mentioned of rudeness, both in language and conduct, which he had to suffer, while in this state, from some of the minor tools of government, and which, even of such men, it is painful and difficult to believe. But so it is,
“ Curs snap at lions in the toils, whose looks
Frighted them being free.” It being understood that Dr. Adreen, a surgeon of much eminence, was in the neighbourhood, messengers were immediately dispatched to fetch him, and his attention was called to the state of the three combatants. The wounds of Major Swan, though numerous, were found not to be severe; but Mr. Ryan was in a situation that gave little hope of
recovery. When, on examining Lord Edward's wound, Adreen pronounced it not to be dangerous, his Lordship calmly answered, “ I'm sorry for it.” —vol. ii.
Mr. Moore enters into very full details of the melancholy close of Lord Edward's life. It will only be necessary for us to add, that after suffering, with his wonted firmness, a martyrdom in consequence of the wounds which he had received, his spirit fled , we trust, to a world more worthy of it, on the morning of the 4th of June, little more than a fortnight after his apprehension. His was precisely the character to leave behind it, through all succeeding ages, a fund of unavailing regret. His manners, tender almost to weakness, engaged not the cold approbation but the enthusiastic attachment of his own family, and indeed of every body who happened to become acquainted with him in the haunts of private life. All his tastes, as we have seen, were simple, affectionate, and amiable in the highest degree. His ambition was, perhaps, the fruit rather of his discontent than of any towering impulse towards personal elevation; his talents were not remarkably brilliant, but, to compensate for this, such as they were, they were used with the most unreserved disinterestedness for what he conceived to be the real benefit of his country. His nature was, perhaps, too candid and gentle for the mighty designs which he took in hand; a little more of plebeian fire would have considerably improved it. By means of a proceeding worthy of the days of Nero, the blood of Lord Edward was attainted by the Irish Parliament after his death; in other words, his remains having already