Robert (2) Emmet, the eldest son of Thomas (1) Addis Emmet (TAE) and Jane Patten, was born in Dublin on Sept. 9, 1792, probably in the Emmet house on St Stephen's Green which Dr Emmet had divided in half, giving half to his son TAE (1) and wife Jane Patten. Robert lived there until 1800, when his mother Jane took him and his two younger sisters, Margaret and Elizabeth, and went to London to persuade British authorities to allow her to join her husband in the Ft George prison in Scotland. Once she received permission, the four of them traveled up to the northern Scottish highlands and spent two years living there. The twenty United Irishmen in the jail found their isolated imprisonment greatly enlivened by the children's presence - tutoring, writing text books for them and generally being involved with every aspect of their education - gave the prisoners a welcome focus.
Robert (2) came to New York with his parents from France in November of 1804 when he was twelve and probably went to the school in Flushing, NY, which was started and run by the young man, Mr Thompson, who had brought the three younger Emmet boys to New York from Ireland in 1805. Robert graduated from Columbia College in 1810 - the only institution of higher learning in New York at the time. He became a lawyer like his father and practiced law with him, taking over the practice after TAE died in 1827. He is said to have "attained high rank in his profession," and was held "in high regard by the members of the bar." He was elected to the NY State Assembly in 1828, was a registrar in the Court of Chancery, New York City's Corporation Counsel and was later made a judge in the NY State Supreme Court.
In January of 1817 he married Rosina Hubley in Lancaster, PA. We haven't yet figured out how he met Rosina, but an Emmet cousin, Rosina (618) Cochrane Maize inherited a box full of letters between the two of them which we hope will provide the answer once Rosina (618) has had a chance to decipher the spidery handwriting. The newly weds lived in the city with Robert's parents at first, and raised their eight children there. They also spent a lot of time at the family's country house on Middle Road (now Fifth Avenue), and were as involved with the family parties and escapades as the younger brothers and sisters.
In May of 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville interviewed "the well known son of TAE (1)" and Robert took him to a dinner on June 23rd to introduce him to New York's most distinguished social leaders. Always active in political advocacy for a free and independent Ireland, Robert was President of the Repeal Association in 1841 - a group formed to pressure the British government to repeal the Act of Union between Ireland and England. In 1848 he was part of a Directory formed to send aid to his countrymen who were attempting to overthrow the British; he spoke at a large meeting, saying "If Ireland cannot achieve her independence without bloodshed, let it be with blood." In addition he was one of the founders of the Republican Party which was initially formed to advocate for the abolition of slavery because the Democratic Party was controlled by southern slave owners at the time. The first national convention of the Republican Party was held in Philadelphia in 1856 and Judge Robert Emmet (2), the former Democrat, was the keynote speaker.
In 1849 Robert went to the theater on Astor Place to watch a performance of Macbeth, starring a family friend, the famous British actor named William Macready. On the same night, in a different theater, an equally famous actor, Edwin Forrest, an American with an Irish background, also appeared in Macbeth. There was no love lost between the two actors - in fact, they were engaged in a bitter personal feud; the press, followed every detail, and most New Yorkers were equally divided in their affections. Macready was seen as a snobbish aristocratic and elite Englishman, while Forrest was thought to be the embodiment of robust egalitatian American values.
On the night of May 10th, the audience in the Astor Place theater was so raucous that most of the lines could not be heard. A crowd gathered outside and started to throw paving stones at the windows, and the police could not hold them back. When Macready retreated to his dressing room, Judge Emmet came in, urged the actor to put on some robes to cover his kingly costume, and ushered him out a side door, walking him hastily through the mob to his own house at 68 West 8th street, a short distance from Astor Place. There Robert's two sons, Robert (13) and Richard Stockton (14) managed to find a carriage, brought it to the house at 4 in the morning and Richard spirited Macready to the Emmet country house in New Rochelle. From there, he took the actor on a train to Boston and remained with him until a ship to England was found. Macready never returned to America and never stopped referring to Dick Emmet, whose bravery and kindness saved his life.
Robert and Rosina bought a country place in New Rochelle in the 1830s, perhaps to escape the increasingly difficult conditions in the city. Rosina died in New York, not long after the Astor Place Riots, and all but one of her children survived her. She was buried in the NYC Marble Cemetery in a vault purchased by Robert (2)'s younger brother Tom (6). Her husband lived on another twenty years, avoiding the cholera epidemics in New York, the commercial interruptions caused by the Civil War and the Draft riots of 1863 - moving to New Rochelle for good in 1860 with six of his adult children, including William Jenkins (17) and his wife Julia with four of their children. Robert (2) was one of the founders of the NYC Bar Association in 1870, helping to draw up the constitution and the by-laws. Three years later he died in New Rochelle at the age of 80. Praised by all for his ability and integrity, he is believed to be buried in Beechwoods Cemetery in New Rochelle alongside other members of his family.