Weekly Comment:
Irish Patriot Remembered

Robert Schlesinger, his mother Alexandria Emmet Schlesinger, and Consul General Barbara Jones.

By Patricia Harty, Editor-in-Chief
November 1, 2016

About 75 people turned out in rainy weather, on Thursday October 27, 2016 at 3:30 PM for the rededication of the 1818 monument honoring Irish patriot and New York lawyer, Thomas Addis Emmet, at St. Paul’s Church on Broadway and Fulton Street in Manhattan.

Among those in attendance were numerous descendants of Emmet, including Alexandria Emmet Schlesinger, the wife of the late great historian, Arthur Schlesinger, and the couple’s adult son, Robert Schlesinger.

Thomas, a member of the revolutionary United Irishmen, a nonsectarian organization whose objectives were Catholic emancipation and the end of British rule in Ireland, was born in April 24, 1764, in the Hammond’s Marsh area of Cork City, to Dr. Robert Emmet from Tipperary and Elizabeth Mason from County Kerry.

The Emmets were an affluent family of Ireland’s Protestant ascendency class. Thomas was educated at Trinity College and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, from where he graduated with a degree in medicine, Thomas decided to study law following the death of his elder brother Christopher, a leading Irish barrister. As a barrister, he defended Irish political prisoners, including the patriot leader James Napper Tandy. A close associate of Wolfe Tone, he became the legal adviser to the Society of the United Irishmen, who became convinced that the only way to free Ireland from the shackles of British authority was through rebellion.

Arrested on the eve of the 1798 Rebellion, Thomas was imprisoned until 1802 when he was exiled to Brussels. He later moved to Paris, where he tried to enlist French help in the fight for Irish freedom. It was in Paris where he heard of his brother Robert’s execution for his part in the Irish rebellion of 1803.

Heartbroken over his brother’s death, whose political views he had nurtured, Thomas emigrated to the U.S. in 1804 with his wife, Jane Patten, and became one of the most respected lawyers in the nation. He served as New York State Attorney General (1812-13). He died in 1827 in a New York courtroom of a heart attack while trying a case.

After Thomas’ death his friends erected an obelisk in his memory in St. Paul’s Churchyard. It is said to be the oldest standing Fenian/Irish Rebel monument in the United States.

Over the past 200 years, nature had taken its toll on the monument, rendering the inscribed texts in English, Latin and Gaelic, illegible. A visitor from Ireland, William McCarthy, an admirer of Emmet, offered to make a donation to the church to fund the restoration of the monument, and a year later the project has been completed.

Tarara McCarthy, a niece of William’s read a message from her uncle at the dedication ceremony. Other speakers included Consul General Barbara Jones, Eric M. Reuben, Managing Partner, Emmet, Marvin & Martin, LLP, and Hillary Sweeney, Irish language lecturer at Glucksman Ireland House NYU, who read a poem in Irish, which translated reads:

He wished for prosperity

For the land of his birth;

He honored and was praised

In the land of his death. 

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