Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Madgett, Nicholas

MADGETT or MADGET, NICHOLAS (fl. 1799), Irish adventurer, born at Kinsale, co. Kerry, was (according to a secret correspondent of Lord Castlereagh—probably Samuel Turner) in 1799, at the time of Humbert's expedition to Ireland, near sixty years of age, and had lived for forty years in France. He was employed in the French foreign office in 1794 and the succeeding years in negotiating measures between the French government and Irish politicians for a French invasion of Ireland. In 1794 he gave William Jackson (1737?–1795) [q. v.] his instructions before Jackson set out on his fatal mission to Ireland to ascertain the chances of success for an immediate French expedition. When Wolfe Tone went to Paris in February 1796, Delacroix, the foreign minister, told him to speak without reserve to Madgett. During his eight months' stay in Paris, Tone saw much of him, and Madgett translated for him memorials to the French government, and showed great zeal in forwarding preparations for a French expedition to Ireland. His favourite scheme of obtaining recruits among the Irish prisoners of war, for which purpose he visited Orleans before Tone left, Tone thought ‘damned nonsense,’ but believed Madgett ‘very sincere in the business,’ though he ‘pestered him confoundedly.’ Lord Castlereagh's correspondent reported that Madgett lived in the Rue de Bac, near Thomas Muir [q. v.], with whom he was in the strictest intimacy, and that he was ‘one of the most active instruments of the French Directory in everything that respects Ireland.’ In August 1798 Castlereagh's secret agent was sworn by Madgett and Muir into ‘the secret committee for managing the affairs of Ireland and Scotland.’ In the third volume of ‘Lettres officielles et confidentielles de Napoleon Bonaparte’ there is a memorandum signed by Madgett and addressed to Delacroix, informing him that George III had funds in the Bank of Venice (10,000,000l. sterling), and requesting him to represent to Bonaparte the importance of seizing them (Castlereagh Corr. vol. i. editor's note to p. 398).

Another Irishman, a priest named Maget, has been wrongly identified with the Irish adventurer. Maget the priest returned to Ireland in 1793 from a comfortable living in the south of France (Cork Gazette, 22 July 1795), and ‘made himself very remarkable in all public circles by vehement denunciations of the French revolution. Having thus recommended himself to the English government, he became a spy [in Paris] and was apprehended as such by the Convention, and handed over to the Committee of Public Safety to be disposed of’ (Madden, United Irishmen, 3rd ser. i. 31, note). This person seems to have arrived in France with a passport in the name of Hurst in May 1794, and was imprisoned as a spy till 24 Nov. 1795. His age was stated to be thirty-six.

[Madden's United Irishmen, 2nd ser. p. 32, 3rd ser. i. 129; Fitzpatrick's Secret Service under Pitt, pp. 74–5; Howell's State Trials, xxv. 833; Castlereagh Corr. i. 306, 308, 309, 397, 398; Cornwallis Corr. ii. 389, note; Wolfe Tone's Life, Glasgow ed., pp. 75, 100–45; Alger's Englishmen in the French Revolution, p. 230 and note, also App. p. 346.]

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