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Case of Mr.
1806. bar. A man, who had worn the King's gown
twenty-four years, and had truly woró it as the mantle of honor and independence ; le meant John Philpot Curran.* Mr. Saurin tenaciously persisted in the address being presented by the Attorney General; and it was resolved, that Mr. Sherlock, the Father of the Bar, should wait on the Chancellos, to learn when he would be pleased to receive it.
The conduct of government to Mr. Currán forms one of the most mysterious and inportant transactions of this short-lived administration, in as mucb as it deeply affected the feelings, interests and reputation of one of the very few public characters, to which Ireland has unceasingly looked up with love, confidence and admiration. It is an act of national justice to draw aside the reil, and shew how her long tried and trusty friend and supporter on all occasions, was in this instànce treated. The Irish fairly appreciate the sincerity and good will of their rulers by their conduct towards those, who cordially éspouse the people's cause. Mr. Curran opened his political career, by making his country's cause his own. Upon no occasion, under no menace, under no danger, under no persecution, under no lure, no promise, no temptation, did he ever qualify his principles, moderat his zeal, or relax his énergies in the popular cause.
• Thas early and shrewdly was it anticipated, that a particidal reluctance existed some where, to bring those two rivals into public contact.
In the year 1989, when a torrent of misrule and corruption was bearing every thing before it, Mr. Curran was one of the select band of patriots, * who formed a virtuous connection to stem it. In
settling amongst themselves their prospective ar: rangements, it was then openly agreed upon by
the whole párty, that if any circumstances should 3 arise, under which it might become honorably
open to them to accept of office, it should be on the terms' of Mr. G. Ponsonby taking the first, and Mr. Curran's taking the second place in the course of their professional advancement. That
precedency to Mr. Ponsonby was not then con1ceded from his superior situation at the bar (Mr.
Curran was then far above him) but solely on the ground of his family connections in the country. Upon the basis of that compact, which was als ways publicly known to the whole party, Lord Fitzwilliam, in 1795, nominated Mr. G. Ponsonby to the office of Attorney General, and Mr. Curran to the place of Solicitor General.: On the late change, Mr. Curran was the only interested member of that party, who remained in Ireland. He reposed in full confidence, that the compact was still in force; and when Mr. G. Ponsonby had accepted the seals, he expected, of course, tó have been appointed to the next attainable situation, which was the office of Attorney General. It was, in fact, the only place in the power of the
* It was a small party, though powerful in talent, virtue, &c. · The Duke of Leinster, Lord Punsonby, Mr. Grattan, Mr.
George Ponsonby, Mr. Forbes, Mr. Bowes Daly, &c.
Reign of Ceres
of George III. 1806. 'new administration to vacate. From its official
rank in the government, it was the natural passage to that place in the King's Bench, to which, as next in professional advancement, Mr. Curran was entitled under the compact to look up to. Since the final arrangement of the new ministry, he had been apprised by letters from Mr. Grattan, Mr. G. Ponsonby himself, and others in London, that his interest had been taken care of. Mr. Ponsonby had moreover communicated the same to a relation of Mr. Curran's, then in London; directing him to inform Mr. Curran, that his place of Attorney General was fixed; consequently that
his quitting Ireland would be useless. ., The Rolle: The Duke of Bedford soon after arrived in offered to Mr.Curran."
ton Ireland, and Mr. G. Ponsonby, the new Chancel.
for became, to all substantial purposes, the Irish minister. At the first meeting, which was accidental, Mr. Curran was assured by the Chancellor, that his friends had not been unmindful of him, and hoped, that he would find every thing perfectly to bis satisfaction. Within some few days, the Duke of Bedford sent for Mr. Plunket, the then Attorney General, and assured him, that he was not to be removed. To Mr. Curran the fact was incomprehensible. The Chancellor left it in all its darkness ;* for when they next met,
* Sensible of the extreme difficulty of verifying certain secret acts of the Cabinet, which are nevertheless highly interesting to the public to be known, the Author hopes to be justified in his attempt to dévelope the system of governing Ireland, for submitting to the reader some circumstances, which were at that time not lightly believed by the few, who were the most obo
- (it was again by accident) ihis Lórdship was silent 1806., on the subject. The mystery began to unveil' itt!
- servant of the passing events of that critical period. He pretends.
not to possess any document, by which he can prove the full: truth of the manœuvre. He abstains, therefore, from mentioning names. An intimate friend of the then 'Attorney General,'
who well know his iteadiness to draw wirh Lord Grenville and -. Mr. Ponsonby, under whose controul and management the af
fairs of Ireland were likely to devolve, and wishing to secure for his friend the important situation, from which he hoped to preclude his intended successor, exerted his influence upon the mind of a very respectable prelatē, now 'no more, so success-'
fully, aš to have instilled into it all his own prejudices against · Mr. Curran. He represented to the Rey. Prelate the extreme danger of admitting to the councils of the executive, and invest-,
ing with political authority the man of the people, whose rights at he had alvvays supported with such transcendant powers, and
who had advocated the cause of the most noted rebels with 'an
ardor :scarcely compatible with loyalty. That' to name him to L, the important aýd confidential situation of his Majesty's Attor
ney General, would be to let the enemy into the camp, and sur, ? render the system at discretion. The reverend prelate, though = formerly noted for his liberality of sentiment, was electrified
with the sympathies of his friend, and was persuaded to exert his warmest efforts with his brother in England, whose opinion in the cabinet was supposed to have great weight. As soon as the course
of the post would allow, these unfair representations from Ireland i were conveyed over the head of the Lord Lieutenant, and lodged
in the hands of a noble member of the British cabinet, who permit- ted them to lose nothing by transmission, and in a very short space
of time a Veto was put upon the admission of Mr. Curran into any .
situation of political confidence or power, and something like a Ķ peremptory mandate was dispatched to Ireland, to confirm Mr.
Plunkett in his situation. If this account be correct, Mr. Curran Was' sacrificed to the intrigues of the secret cabinet, and with hin were given up the principles of that partý, which had conie
into power, upon the aroived undertaking to change the whole 2 VOL. 11.
1806., self from England. Lord Ponsonby, then confined
in London by that sickness, which was soon to terminate his valuable life, in a letter to Mr. Curran expressed indignation at the delay, which then had taken place in effecting the appointment of the office of Attorney General, as all others had been long settled. That letter Mr. Curran shewed to the Chancellor, but he received no explanation whatever. After a lapse of some weeks, Mr. Curran waited upon the Duke of Bedford, by his Grace's desire, and was then, to his utter astonishment, apprised, that he was to be Master of the Rolls, as soon as the necessary arrangements should have been made. Mr. Curran had never before seen the Duke of Bedford, consequently could not with propriety allude to any of the commanding features of that. transaction, of which his Grace was to be presumed, as in reality he was, totally ignorant.' 'Mr. Curran, therefore, respectfully retired, with an almost decided purpose, to decline the appointment. It certainly was a direct departure from the compact with Mr.
political system of Ireland. That Veto was put upon his appoint, ment, precisely because he was the fittest, the only man in the existing circumstances, who could, and it was well known, that he would fill the office, according to the original spirit of patriotism, which had brought the party together. It is possible, that Mr Grattan may have been collaterally touched by this
clandestine Vero. If it existed, it was concealed from Mr. Cur. -- Tan, and privately assented to by those; who appear to have been called upon either to communicate it to the party affected by it, or to sacrifice their situations to the principle, upon which they had attained them.