Lewins, Edward John (DNB00)

LEWINS or LEWENS, EDWARD (1756–1828), United Irishman, was born in Dublin in 1756. Intended originally for the priesthood, he received his education in a French seminary, and retained his Roman catholic faith, but he became a Dublin attorney. He joined the society of United Irishmen, and owing to his knowledge of the French language he was, in April 1797, sent to Hamburg as the accredited envoy of the Dublin committee in order to renew those negotiations with the French government begun in the preceding year by Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Arthur O'Connor [q. v.] for an immediate invasion of Ireland, and also, if possible, to obtain a loan of 500,000l. and a supply of arms from Spain. Having presented his credentials to Reinhard the French plenipotentiary at Hamburg, he had shortly afterwards, in company with Wolfe Tone, an interview with Hoche at some place on the Rhine. From Hoche he learnt of the intended expedition under General Daendels and Admiral de Winter, and accompanied Hoche and Tone to the Hague to assist in organising it. In July he proceeded to Paris, where he afterwards constantly resided in the capacity of confidential agent of the United Irishmen. Several attempts, notably by Samuel Turner [q. v.] the spy, in conjunction with Napper Tandy, were made to undermine his authority, but without success, and Lewins, or Thompson as he called himself in his secret despatches, seems fully to have deserved the confidence reposed in him. In June 1798, subsequent to the outbreak of the Irish rebellion, he again appealed to the Directory for assistance. He was greatly disappointed by the failure of the rebellion, and by the bitter religious spirit imparted to it. When the union was mooted he addressed a strong memorial to the French government, representing the necessity of counteracting a scheme so likely, in his opinion, to add to the power of Great Britain. He was one of those banished by act of parliament.

During the reign of Charles X Lewins exercised much influence in France through his intimate friend the Abbé de Fraysinous, bishop of Hermopolis, who was minister of public instruction and grand master of the university of Paris. He became inspector of studies at the university of Paris, and was always ready to further the interests of the Irish exiles. On his death, 11 Feb. 1828, M. de Fraysinous, with the members of the university of Paris and all the Irish exiles in France, attended his funeral at Père-Lachaise. Of his two sons, Laurence de Lewens (as he was called in France) was in the bureau of public instruction, and a knight of the legion of honour, while Hippolite was a priest.

[Memoirs of Miles Byrne, iii. 15 sq.; Lecky's Hist. vii. 381, viii. 203, 429; Wolfe Tone's Journal; Castlereagh's Correspondence, i. 270, 306; Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 342; E. Guillon's La France et l'Irlande, pp. 359–61; Fitzpatrick's Secret Service under Pitt; Madden's United Irishmen, 1st ser. i. 158.]

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