14 October 1817 - 200 years ago today - the death of John Philpot Curran - Defender of the United Irishmen

Catalpast

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14 October 1817 - 200 years ago today - the death of John Philpot Curran - Defender of the United Irishmen

14 October 1817 - 200 years ago today - the death of John Philpot Curran - Defender of the United Irishmen.

14 October 1817: John Philpot Curran died on this day. He was one of the great Legal orators of his Age and a defender in the Courts of members of the United Irishmen. He was born in County Cork in 1750 and after receiving a local education was sent to Trinity College. He was intended for the Church of Ireland, and studied divinity, but never wrote more than two sermons. He switched to Law and moved to London to continue his studies at the Middle Temple.

He suffered from a bad stammer that hampered his ability to speak publicly which he overcame by reciting the works of Shakespeare in front of a mirror until he mastered his impediment. During his second year in London he married his cousin, Miss Sarah Creagh. Her fortune and some money supplied by his family supported them until he was called to the Irish Bar in 1775. After a shaky start he soon built up a decent practise but could never free himself completely from Debt. His most famous early appearance in the Courts was  in Co Cork where he brought a case on behalf of a Catholic Priest Fr. Father Neale who had been horsewhipped by a local landlord Protestant Lord Doneraile. Against the odds Curran won the case and the priest was awarded 30 guineas! He afterwards fought a duel with a Captain St. Leger over this affair but both survived unscathed and indeed Curran was a notable duellist surviving a number of encounters.

In 1783 he entered the Parliament in Dublin  as member for Kilbeggan; three years afterwards he was returned for Rathcormack, which he represented until 1797. But he seems to have left little mark there and his great oratorical powers were confined to the Courts and his wit and intelligence in private conversations. He was an advocate of Catholic Emancipation [namely the right of Catholics to be elected to Parliament] and defended a number of the United Irishmen in the Courts. Amongst his most famous cases being Hamilton Ronan, Napper Tandy, the Sheares Brothers, Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Wolfe Tone in 1798. He was not a member of any revolutionary organisations himself did not seek or desire the violent overthrow of the Established Order in Ireland at that time.

It was in 1803 that Curran’s most infamous entanglement in Irish affairs took place when circumstances placed him at the centre of events that involved politics, his legal career and his family. It was not a happy mixture for him. The attempted revolt of Robert Emmet that summer had ended in a bloody Fiasco and in the tumult Lord Kilwarden ( a friend to Curran) had been dragged from his carriage in the streets of Dublin and hacked to pieces. It could have fallen to Curran to defend Robert Emmet of the charges brought against him. However to complicate matters further Curran’s beautiful daughter Sarah was in affair of sorts with Robert. They were secretly engaged but to how deep a degree it went after that we do not know. Correspondence was discovered between them and seen by her father. Thereafter he would have nothing to do with defending Emmet from the charges brought against him and he immediately disowned his daughter forever.

Devastated by the turn of events in Ireland he nevertheless accepted the position of Master of the Rolls for Ireland in 1806 and this brought in a lucrative salary and pension. Whether you could say he was ‘bought’ at this stage is an open question but in fairness to him he never sought Revolution but Reform.

His life became even more unhappy. His wife of many years left him and he was depressed also by the state Ireland was in after the Act of Union, without a Parliament of its own and under England’s Rule. The affairs of Ireland and the World weighed heavily upon him in his latter years:

"Everything I see disgusts and depresses me: I look back at the streaming of blood for so many years, and everything everywhere relapsed into its former degradation — France rechained, Spain again saddled for the priests, and Ireland, like a bastinadoed elephant, kneeling to receive the paltry rider."

After his resignation of this office in 1814 he resided much at his mansion in Brompton, London where he enjoyed the society of Erskine, Horne Tooke, Sheridan, the Prince Regent, Thomas Moore, and William Godwin. John Philpot Curran

In the summer of 1817 he was attacked by paralysis at the table of his friend Thomas Moore, in London. After his return home, another attack supervened, and he succumbed in London, 14th October 1817, aged 67. He was initially buried in Paddington Cemetery. His dying wish was to be interred in Ireland. In 1834 his remains arrived in Dublin on a very wet and stormy night and were brought to Glasnevin cemetery by torch light where they were reburied in an impressive sarcophagus that stands intact to this day.
 


Accidental sock

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In 1834 his remains arrived in Dublin on a very wet and stormy night and were brought to Glasnevin cemetery by torch light where they were reburied in an impressive sarcophagus that stands intact to this day.
 

The Field Marshal

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I wonder who paid for that?
It also looks very well maintained so there may be some legacy bequest fund that finances the cost?

Curran was a fine orator with a wonderful vocabulary and turn of phrase.
 

The Field Marshal

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Currans speeches which were published in Dublin.

It contains six of Currans bar speeches and thirty three of his parliamentary speeches.

Facts and events of the case are prefixed to or following each of the legal cases plus in many instances short biographies of Currans clients.
 
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The Field Marshal

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In Dublin Curran defended a man called Patrick Finney , an alleged United Irishman , on a charge of high treason on 16/1/1798.
It carried the death penalty on conviction.

Curran to the jury

"My Lords and Gentlemen of the Jury. In the early part of this trial I thought I should have had to address you on the most important occasion possible, on this side of the grave, a man labouring for his life, on the casual strength of an exhausted , and , at best, a feeble advocate.
But , gentlemen, do not imagine that I rise under any such impressions,do not imagine that I approach you sinking under the hopeless difficulties of my cause.
I am not now soliciting your indulgence to the inadequacy of my powers, or artfully enlisting your passions at the side of my client!
No gentlemen, but I rise with what of law, of conscience, of justice, and of constitution there exists within this realm, at my back, and , standing in front of that great and powerful alliance, I demand a verdict of acquittal for my client!
What is the opposition of evidence? It is a tissue which requires no strength to breakthrough, it vanishes at the touch and is sundered into tatters."

--------

Currans speech is very much longer but the excellence of his powers are displayed in the short extract above.

Patrick Finney btw was acquitted.
 
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Niall996

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In Dublin Curran defended a man called Patrick Finney , a United Irishman , on a charge of high treason on 16/1/1798.
It carried the death penalty on conviction.

Curran to the jury

"My Lords and Gentlemen of the Jury. In the early part of this trial I thought I should have had to address you on the most important occasion possible, on this side of the grave, a man labouring for his life, on the casual strength of an exhausted , and , at best, a feeble advocate.
But , gentlemen, do not imagine that I rise under any such impressions,do not imagine that I approach you sinking under the hopeless difficulties of my cause.
I am not now soliciting your indulgence to the inadequacy of my powers, or artfully enlisting your passions at the side of my client!
No gentlemen, but I rise with what of law, of conscience, of justice, and of constitution there exists within this realm, at my back, and , standing in front of that great and powerful alliance, I demand a verdict of acquittal for my client!
What is the opposition of evidence? It is a tissue which requires no strength to breakthrough, it vanishes at the touch and is sundered into tatters."

--------

Currans speech is very much longer but the excellence of his powers are displayed in the short extract above.

Patrick Finney btw was acquitted.
Total garbage. He is a lawyer or a drunken Shakespearean actor?
 

The Field Marshal

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Total garbage. He is a lawyer or a drunken Shakespearean actor?
The extract I gave is from Thomas Davis,s edited version of Currans actual speech to the jury.
It is very short as the speech itself covers several pages.

The man Finney was on trial for his life and Curran got him acquitted.

It is a style of language from over 200 years ago so there is no need to be disparaging about it.
It was also very very effective .

The witness against Finney was a scumbag called OBrien.

Curran to the jury

How then does Mr OBriens tale hang together?
Look to its commencement.
He walks along Thomas Street, in the open day [ a street not the least populous in this city], and is accosted by a man, who, without any preface , tells him he will be murdered before he goes half the street, unless he becomes a United Irishman!
Do you think this is a probable story?
Suppose any of you gentlemen be a United Irishman and that you meet me walking innocently , just like Mr OBrien, and meaning no harm, would you say " Stop Mr Curran, don't go further,, you,ll be murdered before you go half the street, if you do not become a United Irishman". Did you ever hears so coaxing an invitation to felony as this? " Sweet Mr. James O!Brien! come in and save your precious life- come in and take an oath- or you will be murdered before you go half the street..
He then enters the house where a parcel of men make faces at him.
 

SideysGhost

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I disagree with you on almost everything Catalpast but I do enjoy your historical threads, they often spur me to look up areas of history I may not know much about. Keep it up, it is appreciated.
 

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No
JPC's clever comments were legendary...

A prosecutor, infuriated by Curran's insults, threaten to put him in his pocket. "If you do that," replied Curran, "you will have more law in your pocket than you ever had in your head."

In debate with John Fitzgibbon, 1st Earl of Clare, Fitzgibbon rebutted one of Curran's arguments by saying "If that be the law, Mr. Curran, I shall burn all my law books." To which he replied "You had better read them first, my lord."

On another occasion Fitzgibbon objected that Curran was splitting hairs- surely the words "also" and "likewise" have exactly the same meaning ? "Hardly, my Lord". Curran replied. "I remember when the great Lord Lifford presided over this Court. You also preside here, but you certainly do not preside likewise".
 

Catalpast

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This should be interesting:

John Philpot Curran bicentenary
@ Bar Council, Distillery Buildings, Church Street, Dublin 4pm Sat 25 Nov
Tommy Graham, Editor of History Ireland magazine, will host a discussion on this subject with Patrick Gageby, Sylvie Kleinman, David Dickson and Michael Finucane.
History Ireland
 

Kommunist

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Interesting
 

Accidental sock

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I disagree with you on almost everything Catalpast but I do enjoy your historical threads, they often spur me to look up areas of history I may not know much about. Keep it up, it is appreciated.
This.
 

The Field Marshal

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This should be interesting:

John Philpot Curran bicentenary
@ Bar Council, Distillery Buildings, Church Street, Dublin 4pm Sat 25 Nov
Tommy Graham, Editor of History Ireland magazine, will host a discussion on this subject with Patrick Gageby, Sylvie Kleinman, David Dickson and Michael Finucane.
History Ireland
SUSPENSION OF HABEAS CORPUS.
Oct 14th 1796.

'The Habeas Corpus act is almost the only remaining guardian of our liberties; and the ministry have stabbed the guardian upon its post and in the dark.[Curran]
 
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