Examples of these stones in private collections are extremely rare as the Causeway area has been National Trust property for many years and it is illegal to remove anything from the site.
Pre Christian Ireland had a very precise set of laws which usually involved a payment by the perpetrator of a crime to the victim or the victim's family. The punishment for default was death. The records of these laws (mostly dating from Christian era documents) state that slaves and cattle were an accepted medium of large exchange. Presumably smaller exchanges were made on a similar basis with tools and ornaments. There are a number of gold and gold plated rings found in Irish and other Celtic contexts referred to as 'ring money'. The variation in the quality and standard of these pieces does not suggest a fixed denomination but rather that these items were used like hack silver and assayed at every exchange. The gold plated pieces are a problem in this context as they do not seem to be likely to have been made in imitation of solid pieces nor would they have been easy to assay. Hoards of Irish Celtic gold ornaments often consist of quantities of cloak fasteners suggesting that these items were used as a medium of exchange rather than just for fastening cloaks. But as with the ring money there is no evidence for a fixed series of weights and measures being used in their manufacture. We are grateful to John Stafford Langan, www.irishcoinage.com, for this note.
For other early coinage of Ireland including Viking silver pennies, see lots 468-474
The last member of the Wolfe family to live at Forenaughts, was Emily Maud Wolfe, the daughter of Cumann na nGaedhal TD George Wolfe and proudly counted amongst her ancestors Theobald Wolfe Tone and the famous General James Wolfe who was killed during the Seven Year’s War. Up until her death on the 28th of April 1980 she regularly attended the Bodenstown commemorations.
Robert Emmet was born in Dublin in 1778. After attending Whyte’s Academy, in the company of Thomas Moore, Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, , he entered Trinity College, Dublin in October 1793 and became involved in political activism. He was elected secretary to the secret United Irish Committee in the college, and was expelled in April 1798 as a result and fled to France to avoid the many arrests that were taking place in Ireland after the 1798 Rebellion. After his return to Ireland Emmet began to prepare for rebellion with fellow revolutionaries Thomas Russell and James Hope. Unlike in 1798, the preparations for the uprising were successfully concealed, but a premature explosion at one of Emmet's arms depots killed a man and forced Emmet to bring forward the date of the rising before the authorities' suspicions were aroused. As part of the preparations Emmet wrote this proclamation addressing it from “The Provisional Government to The People of Ireland”. It began by reiterating republican sentiments expressed during the previous rebellion and calling on the Irish population to claim their right to independence “You are now called on to show to the world that you are competent to take your place among nations, that you have a right to claim their recognisance of you, as an independent country ... We therefore solemnly declare, that our object is to establish a free and independent republic in Ireland: that the pursuit of this object we will relinquish only with our lives ... We war against no religious sect ... We war against English dominion.” The Proclamation not only served as a call to arms but also as an interim constitution and is remarkably forward thinking in terms of constitutional law.
The lines “we will not imitate you in cruelty; we will put no man to death in cold blood, the prisoners which first fall into our hands shall be treated with the respect” predates the first Geneva Convention by 60 years, which is considered today as the basis on which rest the rules of international law for the protection of the victims of armed conflicts on the treatment of prisoners of war. Seán Ó Brádaigh, in his 2003 book recording the life of Emmet, Bold Robert Emmet, put forward his argument that the proclamation contains ‘a moral framework’ for those ‘unfortunate but sometimes necessary events in human life’.
Shortly after the rebellion began it disintegrated into little more than a riot, in stark contrast to the beliefs and ideals that Emmet displayed in the proclamation. Emmet was unable to secure the help of rebels from Wicklow under the command of United Irishmen leader Michael Dwyer and many rebels from Kildare who had arrived to help, turned back due to the lack of firearms they had been promised. Nonetheless the rising went ahead in Dublin on the evening of 23 July 1803. Failing to seize Dublin Castle, which was lightly defended, the rising amounted to a large-scale riot in the Thomas Street area. Emmet personally witnessed a dragoon being pulled from his horse and piked to death, the sight of which prompted him to call off the rising to avoid further bloodshed. However he had lost all control of his followers and in one incident, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, Lord Kilwarden (see lot 40), reviled as chief prosecutor of William Orr in 1797, but also the judge who granted habeas corpus to Wolfe Tone in 1798, was dragged from his carriage and hacked to death. Sporadic clashes continued into the night until finally quelled by the military at the estimated cost of twenty soldiers and fifty rebels dead. After being captured Emmet was put on trial and made no attempt to defend himself however he requested that his Proclamation of the Provisional Government be read out in open court as it reflected his beliefs, morals and aspirations. It expressed his views on the rebellion, and emphasised his humanitarian concerns about the treatment of prisoners and the conduct of the republican government. The proclamation however was one which the British authorities had no intention of giving any publicity to and Emmet’s request to have it read was rejected by the court. However Emmet did manage to integrate direct quotations and paraphrased parts of his proclamation into his famous speech from the dock. He detailed the actions of the past eight months, the attempt to wrest power from England ‘with their own hands’, the point that foreign assistance was not ‘the foundation of the present exertion’ and referred to Ireland taking its place among the nations of the earth. Emmet was found guilty of treason and was hung, drawn and quartered – one of the last convicts to suffer this barbaric execution - on 20 September 1803 in Thomas Street, Dublin.
Due to the destruction and suppression of the proclamation it never fully received the status and acknowledgment as the hugely important historical document that it is. It provided inspiration for Pádraig Pearse in writing the 1916 Proclamation and summed up Emmet’s remarkable opinions, some of which could be described as too modern to be accepted or understood in 1803.
Approximately 10,000 copies of the proclamation are reputed to have been secretly printed on Emmet’s orders on 23 July 1803, but the British authorities went to great efforts in order to ensure that its content was suppressed and they were nearly all destroyed. It is hard to believe that so many were printed clandestinely, and it is far more likely, as in the case of the 1916 Proclamation, that the numbers printed were in the hundreds. As far as we have been able to ascertain there are three examples in private hands, of which the present example is one. About 500 copies of the 1916 Proclamation were printed, of which some fifty survive, mainly in public collections. We can find no record of an example of the 1803 Proclamation in either the National Library of Ireland, The National Museum of Ireland or Trinity College Library. As the penalty for possession of the 1803 Proclamation was very harsh, and could even, in certain circumstances, lead to the gallows, there were few prepared to keep it, which has made it one of the rarest, if not the rarest important printed document of Irish revolutionary history.
Recruitment poster printed by Abraham Bradley King, Dame Street, Dublin in November 1806. An extremely scarce example of attempts by the British Army to find recruits in Irish speaking areas of the country. It describes in detail the different branches of the army that a recruit could join, pay and conditions, service abroad, pensions etc. The United Kingdom's struggle with France during the Napoleonic wars required the British Army to expand rapidly. Ordinary recruiting methods failed to supply the number of men required to fill the Army ranks. Generals called for conscription for the first time in British History, although this was never enacted for the regular army. These problems with recruitment would remain a constant theme during the Napoleonic wars, and the British Army looked everywhere they could, including the Irish speaking areas of Ireland, to try and find new recruits.