In a debate on attachments in the Irish House of Commons, in 1785, Mr.
Curran rose to speak against them; and perceiving Mr. Fitzgibbon, the
attorney-general (afterwards Lord Clare), had fallen asleep on his seat,
he thus commenced:--I hope I may say a few words on this great subject,
without disturbing the sleep of any right honorable member; and yet,
perhaps, I ought rather to envy than blame the tranquility of the right
honorable gentleman. I do not feel myself so happily tempered, as to be
lulled to repose by the storms that shake the land. If they invited any
to rest, that rest ought not to be lavished on the guilty spirit.
Although Mr. Curran appears here to have commenced hostilities, it
should be mentioned, that he was apprised of Mr. Fitzgibbon's having
given out in the ministerial circles that he would take an opportunity
during the debate, in which he knew that Mr. Curran would take a part,
of putting down the young patriot. The Duchess of Rutland, and all the
ladies of the castle were present in the gallery, to witness what Mr.
Curran called, in the course of the debate, this exhibition by
When Mr. Curran sat down, Mr. Fitzgibbon, provoked by the expressions he
had used, and by the general tenor of his observation, replied with much
personality, and among other things, denominated Mr. Curran a puny
babbler. Mr. C. retorted by the following description of his opponent:
I am not a man whose respect in person and character depends upon the
importance of his office; I am not a young man who thrusts himself into
the fore-ground of a picture, which ought to be occupied by a better
figure; I am not one who replies with invective, when sinking under the
weight of argument; I am not a man who denies the necessity of
parliamentary reform, at the time that he approves of its expediency, by
reviling his own constituents, the parish clerk, the sexton, and the
grave-digger; and if there be any man who can apply what I am not, to
himself, I leave him to think of it in the committee, and contemplate
upon it when he goes home.
The result of this night's debate was a duel between Mr. Curran and Mr.
Fitzgibbon; after exchanging shots, they separated, but confirmed in
their feeling of mutual aversion.
* * * * *
At the assizes at Cork, Curran had once just entered upon his case, and
stated the facts to the jury. He then, with his usual impressiveness and
pathos, appealed to their feelings, and was concluding the whole with
this sentence: Thus, gentlemen, I trust I have made the innocence of
that persecuted man as clear to you as--At that instant the sun, which
had hitherto been overclouded, shot its rays into the court-house--as
clear to you, continued he, as yonder sun-beam, which now burst in
among us, and supplies me with its splendid illustration.