1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Emmet, Thomas Addis

21645701911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 9 — Emmet, Thomas AddisRonald John McNeill

EMMET, THOMAS ADDIS (1764–1827), Irish lawyer and politician, second son of Robert Emmet, physician to the lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and elder brother of Robert Emmet (q.v.), the rebel, was born at Cork on the 24th of April 1764, and was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and at Edinburgh University, where he studied medicine and was a pupil of Dugald Stewart in philosophy. After visiting the chief medical schools on the continent, he returned to Ireland in 1788; but the sudden death of his elder brother, Christopher Temple Emmet (1761–1788), a barrister of some distinction, induced him to follow the advice of Sir James Mackintosh to forsake medicine for the law as a profession. He was called to the Irish bar in 1790, and quickly obtained a practice, principally as counsel for prisoners charged with political offences, and became the legal adviser of the leading United Irishmen. When the Dublin corporation issued a declaration of Protestant ascendancy in 1792, the counter-manifesto of the United Irishmen was drawn up by Emmet; and in 1795 he took the oath of the society in open court, becoming secretary in the same year and a member of the executive in 1797. Although Grattan had a profound contempt for Emmet’s political understanding, describing him as a quack in politics who set up his own crude notions as settled rules, Emmet was among the more prudent of the United Irishmen on the eve of the rebellion. It was only when convinced that parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation were not to be obtained by constitutional methods, that he reluctantly engaged in treasonable conspiracy; and in opposition to bolder spirits like Lord Edward Fitzgerald, he discountenanced the taking up of arms until help should be obtained from France. Though not among those taken at the house of Oliver Bond on the 12th of March 1798 (see Fitzgerald, Lord Edward), he was arrested about the same time, and he was one of the leaders who after the rebellion were imprisoned at Fort George till 1802. Being then released, he went to Brussels, where he was visited by his brother Robert in October of that year; and he was in the secrets of those who were preparing for a fresh rising in Ireland in conjunction with French aid. After the failure of Robert Emmet’s rising in July 1803, the news of which reached him in Paris, where he was in communication with Bonaparte, he emigrated to the United States. Joining the New York bar he obtained a lucrative practice and in 1812–13 was attorney-general of New York; his abilities and success being such that Judge Story declared him to be “by universal consent in the first rank of American advocates.” He died while conducting a case in court on the 14th of November 1827. Thomas Emmet married, in 1791, Jane, daughter of the Rev. John Patten, of Clonmel.

See authorities under Emmet, Robert; also Alfred Webb, Compendium of Irish Biography (Dublin, 1878); C. S. Haynes, Memoirs of Thomas Addis Emmet (London, 1829); Theobald Wolfe Tone, Memoirs, edited by W. T. W. Tone (2 vols., London, 1827); W. E. H. Lecky, Hist. of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, vol. iv. (Cabinet edition, 5 vols., London, 1892).  (R. J. M.)