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    Robert Emmet's short, dramatic life came to a tragic end on
    September 20, 1803. However, although his life was short
    and his struggle in vain, his efforts, vision and idealism
    left a mythic mark on Irish and on the world history.

    Born in Dublin in 1778 into a fairly-well-to-do Protestant
    family, Emmet was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. With
    high ideals of fraternity and equality, Robert, like his
    elder brother Thomas, became involved with the United
    Irishmen, an organization formed in 1791 by Wolfe Tone,
    James Tandy, and Thomas Russell to achieve Roman Catholic
    emancipation and, with Protestant cooperation,
    parliamentary reform.

    From 1800 to 1802, Emmet resided on the continent with
    leaders of the United Irishmen who had been exiled from
    Ireland following the rebellion of 1798. While there, Emmet
    attempted to enlist French support for an insurrection
    against British rule. With the promise of French military
    aid secured, Emmet returned to Ireland in 1802 and began to
    organize and arm the country in preparation for the French
    landing. However, Emmet's hand was forced in July 1803 when
    an explosion at one of his arms depot's compelled an early
    call for insurrection on July 23. His plan now awry, the
    ill-timed insurrection ended in confusion as various
    factions failed to receive or failed to heed the call to
    arms, and the promised French invasion failed to materialize.

    Determined and undaunted Emmet, wearing a green and white
    uniform, marched a small band against Dublin Castle. On
    their way, the group happened upon Lord Kilwarden, the Lord
    Chief Justice and his nephew. Emmet's followers seized them
    from their coach, piked them to death and then began to riot
    in the streets. Disillusioned by his followers' behavior and
    realizing the cause was lost, Emmet escaped and hid in the
    Wicklow Mountains.

    From there, Emmet moved to Harold's Cross to be near Sarah
    Curran, his bride-to-be (Thomas Moore's songs, 'She is far from
    the land where her young hero sleeps' and 'Oh breathe not
    the name' were inspired by Emmet's love for her). Emmet had
    hoped to escape to America but was captured on August 25,
    1803 and imprisoned at Kilmainham. He was tried for high
    treason in Green Street Courthouse where he was sentenced
    to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

    When asked if he had any thing to say in response to this
    sentence, Emmet gave what is considered to be one of the
    most famous speeches of the period. Emmet's speech to the
    court (The Speech from the Dock) could be regarded as
    the last protest of the United Irishmen:

    ' I have but one request to ask at my departure from this
    world – it is the charity of its silence. Let no man write
    my epitaph. No man can write my epitaph, for as no man who
    knows my motives and character dares now to vindicate them,
    let not prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them rest
    in obscurity and peace until other times and other men can
    do justice to them. When my country takes her place among
    the nations of the earth, then shall my character be
    vindicated, then may my epitaph be written'.

    Although he held out hope for a rescue, on September 20,
    1803, he was executed. Out of deference to his aristocratic
    background, Emmet was hanged and beheaded but was not
    subsequently disemboweled - as such a sentence usually
    involved. His burial site remains a mystery to this date.

    In 2003, Ireland and the world will remember the 200th
    anniversary of Robert Emmet's death and will commemorate an
    earlier period of history in which Irish Protestants and
    Catholics were united under one banner. In remembering those
    times, we can hope, pray and work for a modern era of
    peace and equality in this land.

    Ireland has indeed taken 'her place among the nations of the

    In preparation for the bicentennial of his death, information
    about Robert Emmet currently is being gathered on the internet
    at http://www.RobertEmmet.org

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