Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

6

:

a

They remained at the entrance of the private room ; but Henry Sheares declined any conversation, except in the presence of his brother.' Armstrong said, "he had no objection to wait until his brother came.' Henry, however, declined to wait; and shortly after, John Sheares arrived, and was introduced to him by Byrne. John Sheares told Captain Armstrong,' he knew his principles very well.' He then solicited him to join the cause by action, as he knew he had done by inclination ;' and Armstrong replied, "he was ready to do everything in his power for it, and if he could show him how he could do anything, he would serve him to the utmost of his power.' Sheares then informed him, he states, that the rising was very near; they could not wait for the French, but had determined on a home effort ;' and the principal way he could assist them, was by gaining over the soldiers, and consulting about taking the camp at Lehaunstown. John Sheares then made an appointment with him for the following Sunday, at his house in Baggot-street; and on that day he went and found Henry only at home. He apologised for gleavin him on the former occasion, 'having had to attend a committee that day. The informer states, he then asked about the camp, where it was most vulnerable ? how to be most advantageously attacked? John came in, and spoke about the necessity of gaining over the soldiers, and then informed Armstrong, that their intention was to seize the camp, the artillery at Chapelizod, and the city of Dublin in one night : there was to be an hour and a half between the seizing of the camp and Dublin; an hour between seizing Dublin and Chapelizod; so that the news of both might arrive at the same time. The 13th, on Sunday night, at eleven o'clock, by appointment, Armstrong had another interview with the brothers at their house, for the purpose of getting the name of some soldiers in his regiment who were known to the United Irishmen."

Having thus insinuated himself into the confidence of his victims, he carefully noted down their conversations, which were immediately reported to government. “I never," said he, “had an interview with the Sheares, that I had not one with colonel L'Estrange and captain Clibborn, and my lord Castlereagh.” Not satisfied with the amount of information so obtained, Armstrong obtained admission to the domestic circle of the Sheares, and within a few hours after quitting their table lodged depositions, which led his hosts to the scaffold. Byrne, whose integrity to his party was unimpeachable, was arrested in his own house by his neighbour, alderman Exshaw, conducted to the castle, subjected to a strict examination, and committed to Newgate on the 21st of May, 1798. He was subsequently permitted to retire to America, whence he never returned to his native land.

ART. III.-CHARLES KENDAL BUSHE.

Upon the mind of him who, in the full tide of Term, stands, as we have just stood, in the Hall of the Four Courts, how many melancholy thoughts rush back, as he contemplates the present condition of the Irish Bar, and then recalls its pastby glories.

Fifty-three years ago Ireland possessed a Bar, brilliant, witty, eloquent, and national. Proud of their profession, which, as Sir William Jones wrote, was "the only road to the highest stations in the country;" proud of their country, as in it they were the equals of the highest noble; careful of its liberties, and jealous of the integrity of its institutions, as in them they saw the best security for freedom, and for the stability of the commonwealth ; sternly consistent in the support of the party to which they attached themselves; seeing in la noblesse de la robe, a dignity higher than that of him who was but the accident of an accident, (a patrician by birth), they were ready, according to the custom of the time, to back their quarrels in the field; and an active fancy, and a ready pen, frequently required support from the quick eye, or the steady hand, upon the pistol or the rapier.*

Like their brethren of France, the Irish lawyers were jovial, gay, and literary; they never thought that “The Lady Com

.

Egan, Chairman of the county Dublin Quarter Sessions, fought the Master of the Rolls at Donnybrook, and fought Jerry Keller at the Waterford assizes upon a point of law. Fitzgibbon when Attorney General fought John Philpot Curran. Scott, Lord Clonmel, fought Lord Tyrawley, the Earl of Llandaff, and half a dozen other antagonists. Metge, a Baron of the Exchequer, fought three duels, one with his own brother-in-law. Grady, first Counsel to the Revenue, fought Maher and Campbell and many others. Curran fought many duels, and challenged Lord Buckingham, the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Bagnal Harvey, afterwards hanged for being a rebel, fought Sir Hardinge Gifford, subsequently Chief Justice of Ceylon. The Right Hon. G. Ogle, a rampant Orangeman, a Privy Councillor, fought Barney Coyle, a distiller. Henry Grattan fought Lord Earlsfort, and the Hon. Isaac Corry. The Hon. J. Hely Hutchinson, Provost of Trinity College, fought Doyle, a Master in Chancery, and his son, the Hon. Francis Hutchinson, Collector of Cus. toms for the port of Dublin, fought Lord Mountnorris. The Hon. Patrick Duigenan, a Fellow and Tutor of T.C.D. fought two duels. Patterson fought three duels. Lord Norbury, John Toler, fought “Fighting Fitzgerald.”

mon-Law should lie alone,” and they always joined the study of their profession with that of general literature.—The famous flea which, in one of the Grands Jours of Poictiers, Pasquier saw, parquée au beau melieu du sein de Mademoiselle Catherine des Roches, and which set him, and President de Harlay, and Brisson, and Pithou, and Claude Binet, and Nicholas Rapin, and Pierre de Solfour, President of the Parliament of Paris, and even Joe Scaliger, rhyming in Latin, Greek, French, and Italian,* would, in the old Irish Bar, have found ready, witty, and melodious panegyrists. They never considered that their profession required they should become prigs; and they could apply to themselves the quaint lines of old Maynard, in his XII. Wonders of the World :

“ The law my calling is,

My robe, my tongue, my pen,
Wealth and opinion gaine,

And make me judge of men.
The knowne dishonest cause

I never did defend,
Nor spunne out sutes in length,

But wisht and sought an end,
Nor counsaile did bewray,

Nor of both parties take,
Nor ever tooke I fee

For which I never spake.” Thus the old Irish Bar was constituted, but as times passed on, as our Custom-house became a nest of offices for English clerks, and its_stores became unoccupied, save by rats and vermin; as our Exchange became the mouldering and deserted proof of our decadence, as our squares became tenantless, and as the mansions of our nobility were subdivided or sold--so our national Bar, as a body, took a lower tone, and whilst its

These very curious poems were collected and published in a small quarto volume, in the year 1582. It bears the title—“La Puce; ou Jeux Poëtiques Francois et Latins : composez sur la Puce aux Grands Jours de Poictiers l'an 1579: dont Pasquier fut le premier motif.” It is dedicated to the President Harlay, in a very clever sonnet. The book is very rare. There is a copy in the British Museum, to which Robert Southey first drew our attention, and it certainly shows a state of society as bizarre as any ever witnessed. Grave judges, and lawyers, and scholars, writing about a flea-how the world would stare if Hodges and Smith or Longman should announce, “ Poems upon a Flea, by Lord Chancellor Brady, Lord St. Leonards, Sir A. Cockburn, and Dr. Whewell."

members, as individuals, continued, in many points, as of old, the esprit de corps was extinguished, never to be revived.

If we listen in the Hall or in the Library of the Four Courts, in place of the dashing, racy, conversation of former days, we hear nothing but the bald talk of budding betting men, who can tell you all the odds at Tattersall's or at Dycer's, and who

, can canvass the last letter of “Littleleg's," and speculate upon the next run with the “Ward.” We see Judges' sons and nephews looking with contempt upon their brother barristers, and introducing the cliqueism of their mothers' drawing-rooms into that place, where every man who bears himself as a gentleman, and wears a gown, is fully their equal. We perceive legal exquisites, who come down to court at one o'clock, in patent leather boots and Haubikant's gloves, and who are known only as the patrons of the Almack's subscription balls at the Rotunda, or as the habitués of Merrion-square, and as flaneurs at the bands on Kingstown jetty, where they prove their belief in Paul de Kock's maxim,"C'est si gentille d'avoir une belle cousine!” No thought of professional learning, or of Ireland, ever crosses their minds; they can tell you all the petty scandal of the city, and appear as if meant by nature for men-milliners rather than for barristers, and all their empty chatter is of the absurd, would-be, exclusive coteries of Dublin. They know nothing of pleas or of declarations, but are deeply versed in all the mysteries of the Polka, and from long practice in it, and from the propinquity which the dance requires, can name to their confreres the women whose hair is kept crépé by bandoline, and with whom it continues so naturally; and can tell whose figure owes its undulating outline to nature, and who is indebted for it to the stay-maker. Doubtless, this all arises from the present position of the Bar, and of the country. Family, or party, or clever timeserving meanness, or political scoundrelism, secures so much and so quickly, whilst merit, excepting after years of toil, commands so little in the legal profession in Ireland, that young men cannot be much condemned if they enjoy the six years probation which must elapse before the Assistant Barristership can be claimed.

But the older members of the Bar have also fallen off from the spirit of the nobler age; there is nothing more amusing than to watch the seniors in the Hall when a change of ministry is reported— The hurry, the anxiety, the distraction, the

:

whispering in quiet passages, the confabulations in retired corners, are all the very perfection of the light comedy of real life, and remind one most vividly of the Beggar's Opera, and of the famous scene between Peachum and Lockit. We do not refer to these instances of anxiety for self-advancement as crimes : to expect that men will not look for place, and desire all the position and patronage which place can give in this country, is a simple absurdity. Office in the legal profession in Ireland is, but too often, the reward or price agreed on for services performed, and for which, in many cases, a special action of assumpsit would lie were the promisee but sufficiently shameless to bring it. Queen's counsels have become as plentiful in Ireland as were crosses of the Legion of Honor in France during the rule of Louis Philip, and they have, in some cases, been distributed in a manner so lavish and so indiscriminate, that one feels inclined to apply to the appointments the epigram of Samuel Lover :“ Of modern Queen's Counsel this truth may be said,

They have silk on the back-but stuff in the head.” But the glories of the Irish bar are not entirely annihilated; doubtless, there are still men in the profession whose merit half redeems its fall---whose genius glorifies it, and by whose eloquence it is enobled. Law, in Ireland, from a great science, may, by modern and adventurous legislation, become no more than a simple craft. The great text books may be rendered useless ; our Chancellorships and our Judgeships may be abolished; those courts in which wisdom has presided, in which learning has unfolded all its hoarded treasures, in which eloquence has persuaded, or terrified, or charmed; those courts in which Pennefather, and Wolfe, and Burton, and Plunket, and Bushe, and O’Loghlen have sat as Judges ; those courts in which Curran, and Plunket, and Bushe, and O'Connell, and Sheil, and Whiteside, and Butt have flashed the brilliant glories of their genius, may be abolished; the galling stigma of degraded provincialism may be still more deeply branded on unhappy Ireland, and our national Forum, the last remaining monument—the proudest record—of Irish independence, may become the occasional seat of an English Judge-Irish law may be rendered so simple as to require no greater space than that afforded by a legal hand-book, whilst the principles of an English County Court may regulate the

« ZurückWeiter »