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Curran's Quarrel With Fitzgibbon

Irish Humour Home

Curran distinguished himself not more as a barrister than as a member of
parliament; and in the latter character it was his misfortune to
provoke the enmity of a man, whose thirst for revenge was only to be
satiated by the utter ruin of his adversary. In the discussion of a bill
of a penal nature, Curran inveighed in strong terms against the
Attorney-General, Fitzgibbon, for sleeping on the bench when statutes
of the most cruel kind were being enacted; and ironically lamented that
the slumber of guilt should so nearly resemble the repose of innocence.
A challenge from Fitzgibbon was the consequence of this sally; and the
parties having met, were to fire when they chose. I never, said
Curran, when relating the circumstances of the duel,--I never saw any
one whose determination seemed more malignant than Fitzgibbon's. After I
had fired, he took aim at me for at least half a minute; and on its
proving ineffectual, I could not help exclaiming to him, 'It was not
your fault, Mr. Attorney; you were deliberate enough,' The
Attorney-General declared his honor satisfied; and here, at least for
the time, the dispute appeared to terminate.

Not here, however, terminated Fitzgibbon's animosity. Soon afterwards,
he became Lord Chancellor, and a peer of Ireland, by the title of Lord
Clare; and in the former capacity he found an opportunity, by means of
his judicial authority, of ungenerously crashing the rising powers and
fortunes of his late antagonist. Curran, who was at this time a leader,
and one of the senior practitioners at the Chancery Bar, soon felt all

the force of his rival's vengeance. The Chancellor is said to have
yielded a reluctant attention to every motion he made; he frequently
stopped him in the middle of a speech, questioned his knowledge of law,
recommended to him more attention to facts, in short, succeeded not only
in crippling all his professional efforts, but actually in leaving him
without a client. Curran, indeed, appeared as usual in the three other
courts [of the Four Courts at Dublin]; but he had been already
stripped of his most profitable practice, and as his expenses nearly
kept pace with his gains, he was almost left a beggar, for all hopes of
the wealth and honors of the long-robe were now denied him. The memory
of this persecution embittered the last moments of Curran's existence;
and he could never even allude to it, without evincing a just and
excusable indignation. In a letter which he addressed to a friend,
twenty years after, he says, I made no compromise with power; I had the
merit of provoking and despising the personal malice of every man in
Ireland who was the known enemy of the country. Without the walls of the
court of justice, my character was pursued with the most persevering
slander; and within those walls, though I was too strong to be beaten
down by any judicial malignity, it was not so with my clients, and my
consequent losses in professional income have never been estimated at
less, as you must have often heard, than L30,000.

Next: High Authority

Previous: Curran And The Judge

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