Curran's Quarrel With Fitzgibbon

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 m
st 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.