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Art. XI.-A LETTER TO THE EDITOR ON THE DERBY LEGAL APPOINTMENTS IN IRELAND.
Four Courts' Library, June 24th, 1858. MY DEAR FRIEND,
You and I have often talked over that faculty of the poetic mind, which very frequently makes the poet appear the prophet. Of modern poets, Geothe, perhaps, develops most clearly this faculty. How the soul of the reader reels, as it were, before the flashes of that intellect, which, long years ago, in his quiet home at Weimar, could thus word-paint the Derby appointments in Ireland
“ Das Unbeschreibliche
Hier ist gethan!” Could anything be more perfect? at Last the Indescribable is Realized, or, has Realized Itself.
From the day on which Lord Eglinton quitted the jetty of Kingstown, at the close of his former viceroyalty, to that which again brought him to our shore, the people of Ireland had read little in the Conservative and Orange newspapers, but dispraise of those in office, and emphatic descriptions of all the wonderful things to be accomplished as soon as that conglomeration of genius, ability, learning, eloquence, and Orange Protestantism, a Tory administration, should have once again obtained its proper position-office, and ascendency.
Then we should behold learning on the Bench ; then we should be overwhelmed and astonished by eloquence at the Bar ; then we should be dazzled by the splendour of a vice-regal court, rivalling, if not surpassing, that of St. James'sgorgeous dresses, family jewels, which it would be sacrilege to show at Carlisle's Drawing Rooms, lovely women, the ladies, pur sang, coming up from their country places, where they had vegetated during the usurpation of the Whigs ! And thus we dreamed of a life of joy, and thought of the bright days in store for Ireland, and extatic stuff gownsmen who read Tennyson in place of Pitt Taylor, were heard to mutter, as they fondly gazed at the Castle“We drank the Lybian Sun to sleep, and lit
Lamps which outburn's Canopus. Oh! my life
But there were graver matters than these latter. Papas had long looked for the time when once again they could eat the vice-regal dinner free from the company of a Whig, and secure from the contagion of Popery, to which they were exposed in dining with Lord Carlisle's guests. The Poor-houses wanted looking after; nuns were actually admitted to attend Catholic paupers; the elected guardians were becoming troublesome, and were nominating Catholic officers; the elective franchise, founded on poor law valuations, was going to destruction,-more ex-officios could alone make matters secure. This was an awful state of things ; down with the Whigs ! out with them! a nest of brainless destroyers, minions of the Pope, and satellites of Paul Cullen, out with them, Toryism for ever, down with Ultramontainism, civil and religious liberty all over the world, founded on sound Protestant principles !
Well, the wished for moment arrived. “Me and the Queen," said Mr. Smith, the lessee of the Drury-lane Theatre, to the electors of Bridport, “had a difference, and I would'nt give in to her ;” so it was with Lord Palmerston, he and the House had a difference, he would not give in, and therefore he went out. Loud was the joy ; The Erening Mail was in ecstacies, The Warder was in pious convulsions, in a state, like Judy M Cann, of “Wind and devotion;" The Saunders went as near writing something original as possible; several quires of drafting paper were sold by the Librarian of the Courts, and in snug quiet corners of this library might be seen, writing with a more than Alexander Dumas power of speed, the herd of briefless, brainless waiters upon Providence and Faction, those, as Macaulay describes the species, "venal and licentious scribblers, with just sufficient ability to clothe the thoughts of a pander in the style of a bell-man,” who toady Napier, and flatter Whiteside, in that burlesque of The London Standard, The Daily Express.
And what did it all come to at last? Where was the administrative talent? Naas for the chief secre
The “Fat Boy" of the Carleton sent to regulate the affairs of Ireland!“ What," writes the correspondent of The Liverpool Albion, " is the use of a chief secretary? It is astonishing how the question can be asked with Naas to the fore. What can be the functions a capacity like his is adequate to the efficient discharge of? He
looks like the winner of a first-class medal in Barnum's prize Baby show, a Titanic infant, rubbed, scrubbed, combed polished, and spread out on the hearth-rug to play with the cat and a lollypop, for the admiration of surrounding maternities and nursery maids. And he is in every respect worthy of his looks. Yet is he deemed a rising statesman. Happy state that shall have him when he is fully risen ! When that blessed hour comes there will be no need to trouble ourselves about the millennium."--and I add, unhappy the country which has him, and his herd of hungry, grasping followers quartered upon it.
But who was to be Attorney General, who Solicitor General ? Something resplendent was expected in their appointments. There was that grand galaxy of learning and eloquence, of which Ireland had heard so much, to be selected from ; and after delays without number, after disappointments and false reports, distracting to all, the whole difficulty of selection was solvedOh! shade of Curran, of Plunket, of Bushe, of O'Connell, of Sheil !-in the ignorance, the factiousness, “the wrath and cabbage" bluster of Whiteside; in the sound sense and respectable Northern stolidity of Hayes !
But there must be a Chancellor. Who shall be Chancellor? Who can tell? Is there not all the resplendent Tory bar open for selection ? So it was open, all open, with its brilliant intellects, its towering reputations, its perfection of all qualities mental and physical, and yet the Court of Chancery was turned into an auxiliary ward of the Hospital for Incurables, by the appointment to the Chancellorship of the godly but afflicted, the pious but fanatic, the moderately learned, but incurably and notoriously deaf, Joseph Napier. I object to this appointment on public and on private grounds. On public grounds, because it places in the Court of Chancery a man who was never an equity lawyer of any standing. I object to it on private grounds because, my voice being naturally weak, I cannot make the Chancellor hear me, even with the assistance of that reputed acoustic chair ; and I object further to the appointment as the principles of acoustics are not laid down as part of the Chancery rules or orders ; perhaps, however, Mr. Blackham may print them from Lardner in his forthcoming Chancery Practice.
Have you ever, my dear friend, fancied what glorious scenes of fun we shall have in the Courts as soon as, his relative and register being provided for through the Consolidated Nisi Prius court, the chief justice shall be induced to retire? Fancy the Right Hon. James bellowing, as is his style, in the Queens' Bench, as chief justice at the bar; and Francis Fitzgerald, and Mr. Brewster roaring, as they will be forced to do, in the Court of Chancery, at the Right Hon. Joseph on the bench. Fancy Macdonough, and Armstrong, and O'Ilagan, and John Thomas Ball, and David Lynch, and Sullivan, taking their Law from James Whiteside. It will be the most laughable thing in the world, and will recall the gay days when Dan and Chief Baron O'Grady used to make the Exchequer better value than Hawkins-street: or when, later, Doherty kept his court (no his audience) in roars at his mixture of wit concealing his want of law, and with a drollery sufficient to make the fortunes of half-a-dozen comedians. Thus between the man who has some law, could he hear the facts to which it is to be applied, and the man who has no law to apply to the cases which he can hear, the Queen's Bench and Court of Chancery in Ireland will present, in due time, objects of the most intense interest to a genuine Pantagruelist, as they will remind him continually of that famous third book treating of the sayings and doings of the good Pantagruel, and of those immortal lawyers and judges, Goatsnose who was deaf, and that voluble Bridlegoose, who was ignorant and insolent: and when justice Bridlegoose, we beg pardon, Chief Justice, that is to be, Whiteside, shall be set before us as having often carried Judges with him when at the bar by the aid of his juniors; and when he shall as judge, have decided cases with the help of his puisnès, what can we say but that Rabelais was right when, referring to the decisions of Bridlegoose he makes Pantagruel say, " In good sooth, such a perpetuity of good luck is to be wondered at. To have hit right twice or thrice in a judgment so given by hap-hazard might have fallen out well enough, especially in controversies that were ambigious, intricate, abstruse, perplexed, and obscure.”
But it will be said, Whiteside is a legislator, a great reformer of our law as administered in Ireland. This, my dear friend, I deny. I know that with the help of English acts of Parliament, and through the aid of Mr. William Dwyer Ferguson, Mr. Whiteside has introduced some legal alterations, but if I called a monkey Romilly, or if I nick
named an ape Brougham, would these names make either monkey or ape a Samuel Romilly or a Harry Brougham, even though I should be able to make them Attorney Generals or Chief Justices, or Chancellors.
There was a time when a judgship, or any other high legal office, was the right of a great lawyer; of one who had worked through the hard, stern, iron realities of his profession. In those old days men felt the full force of that grand truth proclaimed by Terrasson in his eulogy on D'Aguesseau,—“Quand la vertu sort victorieuse de tels combats, elle n'a besoin d'autres épreuves; il ne lui faut que des couronnes. Celle qui est due à tant de travaux, ne s'est pas fait attendre long-temps.” Now the great legal posts are the rewards of faction, the marks of gratitude for unscrupulous support; and I am firmly convinced that if any man were now living, who combined in himself all the learning of Coke, all the ability of Blackstone, all the scholarship of Mansfield, all the practical knowledge of Chitty, and all the powers of advocacy of Erskine, of Brougham, of Scarlett, of Thesiger and of O'Connell, JAMES WHITESIDE would be secure of any legal position before such man, even though he were of the faction, but out of Parliament !
Having secured the services of Napier, Whiteside, Hayes and Co., it became necessary to inflict silk gowns on the bar, and accordingly various names were set toating about the Courts. At last it was evident that “a fell," a very “ fell swoop” upon the value of the silk gown, was about to be made by the man of all others who should uphold its worth and dignity, by the Chancellor, by that high-minded, exemplary, most pious and most God-fearing man, Joseph Napier.
Having, like Geoffrey Wildgoose, in The Spiritual Quixote, “wrestled with the Lord in prayer," he resolved to call no less than twelve of the outer to the inner bar; and these following were the names given to the public:- Charles Andrews, Edward Burroughs, Hedges Eyre Chatterton, William C. Dobbs, M. P., Thomas Rice Henn, William C. Ilenderson, Charles Kelly, Alexander Norman, Henry Ormsby, Edward Pennefather, Edward Sullivan, and Robert R. Warren. Admitting that every one of these gentlemen was fully entitled to a silk gown, but in fact Sullivan, Chatterton and Norman, were the only men of the number entitled to it, and they were fully entitled to it, from business, does it not strikeany Irish lawyer as disgracefulto Chancellor Napier that