Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/309

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES

In the year 1798 two Irish gentlemen, brothers, distinguished members of the bar, named John and Henry Sheares, were tried for high treason, and sentenced to be "hanged, drawn, and quartered." In the Cork Evening Post, July 23, 1798, there is a graphic account of their execution. On the gallows, standing hand in hand, both declared that they had only tried to reform the oppressive laws which bound Ireland. The report says:

"After hanging about twenty minutes, they were let down into the street, where the hangman separated their heads from their bodies, and, taking the heads severally up, proclaimed, 'Behold the head of a traitor!' In the evening the trunks and heads were taken away in two shells." The complete enormity of the sentence, if not actually omitted, is not further described in this case.

In the case of Robert Emmet the details are left out of the official report, with the significant words, "after hanging until he was dead, the remaining part of the sentence was executed upon him."

Between Robert Emmet and Edward Kelly the sentence for high treason was never used, and never altered.

Let us see how Robert Emmet was killed. An eye-witness, Mr. John Fisher, of Dublin, a well-known man, wrote the following words: "I saw Robert Emmet executed . . . . The execution took place at the corner of the lane at St. Catherine's Church, in Thomas Street, and he died without a struggle. He was immediately beheaded upon a table lying on the temporary scaffold. The table was then brought down to market house, opposite John Street, and left there against the wall, exposed to public view for about two days. It was a deal table, like a common kitchen table." A short time after the execution, within an hour or so, Mrs. McCready, daughter of Mr. James Moore, a well known Dublin citizen, in passing through that part of Thomas Street, observed near the scaffold, where the blood of Robert Emmet had fallen on the pavement from between the planks of the platform, some dogs collected lapping up the blood. She called the attention of the soldiers, who were left to guard the scaffold, to this appalling sight. The soldiers, who belonged to a Scottish highland regiment, manifested their horror at it; the dogs were chased away. "More than one spectator," says Dr. Madden, repeating the words of eye-witnesses, "approached the scaffold when the back of the sentinel was turned to it, dipped his handkerchief in the blood, and thrust it into his bosom."

The official English report of the execution of Robert Emmet, published in the Dublin Freeman's Journal of September 22, 1803, says: "After hanging until dead, the remaining part of the sentence of the law was executed upon him."

If the question of these atrocities be one of humanity, and not of