Francis Blackburne

Life
1782-1867; ed. TCD, King’s Inns, Dublin, and Lincoln’s Inns, London; bar 1805; joined home circuit; upheld laws of eviction and rights of property, and administered Insurrection Act then renewed, on the occasion of the Stradbroke estate eviction of almost 50 families on sub-tenanted holdings, Feb. 1822; Serjeant, 1826; Attorney Gen. for Ireland, 1830-34; chief justice Queen’s bench, 1846; lord chancellor of Ireland, 1852; resigned same year; commissioner of national education, 1852; lord justice of appeal, 1856; re-appt. lord chancellor, resigned again, 1866; vice-chanc. Dublin University (TCD). ODNB

[ top ]

Works
Considerations on the Present State of the Controversy between Protestants and Papists of Great Britain and Ireland: The Subject of Discussion delivered to the clergy of the Archdeaconry of Cleveland in 1765 (London 1768).

[ top ]

Criticism
A. R. Hart, A History of the King’s Serjeants at Law in Dublin: Honour Rather Than Advantage (Dublin: Four Courts 2000), 224pp.

Commentary
Irish Catholic Chronicle , and People’s News of the Week [Dublin] (Sat., 21 Sept. 1867), “Death of the Rt. Hon. F. Blackburne”: ‘During his long and honoured life he took a most prominent part in public affairs, and, indeed, for the past half-century his life was one long course of mental activity. He retired from Chief Justiceship of the Queen’s Bench when appointed Lord Chancellor, which office he held but a short time. He was, on the creation of the office, appointed Lord Justice of Appeal, and on the accession of Lord Derby to office he was, for the second time, appointed Lord Chancellor, which high office he resigned in the spring of the year in consequence of declining health. For the short period he filled the office for the second time, he displayed all those great qualities for which he was distinguished in his mature years. In a recent brief notice of his career we observed that he was one of a great race of lawyers, who, like the Irish wolf dog, are now almost extinct. As an equity lawyer, he occupied a position not inferior to that of Pennefather, Warren, Sir Michael O’Loghlen, and a long list of other distinguished equity lawyers. He was called to the bar in 1806, and soon acquired a large and lucrative practice. We need not enter into the various steps of his promotion, but it may be interesting to know how Mr. Blackburne conducted himself in the trials for offences under the Insurrection Act, in the first administration of the Marquis of Wellesley. The office was a repulsive one, and though there was a cry of “no mercy” then, as there is now, he disregarded it, and discharged his duty without undue severity. While urging the necessity of repressing disorder, he did not fail to impress the gentry with the necessity of curbing their passions, and dealing mercifully and kindly with the people. “I am enabled,” said he, “from my observations, to state that the national character contains many elements of good. They are a generous and high-minded people-kind, affectionate, and warm-hearted-docile to power and obedient to authority, unless led away by extraneous causes. They are disorderly and revengeful, but that arises from their quick sensibility to justice. It is among your permanent duties as landlords and magistrates to cultivate and foster to maturity so much imperfect excellence. You have it in your power-God grant you may exercise it to your own safety and the happiness and tranquility of those whom Providence has committed to your care.” At his suggestion, one of the most notorious of the magistrates was deprived of the commission of the peace. He twice filled the office of Attorney-General and Lord Chancellor. He was also Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls, and Lord Justice of Appeal, a series of dignities never before filled by any member of the bar. His social acquirements contributed to the esteem in which he was held by a large circle of admiring friends. His taste for music was exquisite. In his more youthful days he sang with a sweetness and a pathos which Moore said gave an additional charm to the Irish melodies. His knowledge of the arts was varied and extensive; in fact, if we were to look around for the model of an Irish gentleman we know none whom we should prefer to Francis Blackburne. He died at his country seat, Rathfarnham Castle, surrounded by his immediate relatives; and with Francis Blackburne, with the exception of the ex-Chief Justice, has passed away the last of a race of lawyers and advocates unsurpassed by any bar in the world. He was born in 1782, entered Trinity College in 1798, called to the bar, 1805. ( Freeman.)’ For online sources, see Old Irish News [link].

[ top ]

References
Cathach Books (Catalogue No. 12) lists Francis Blackburn [sic], Considerations on the Present State of the Controversy between Protestants and Papists of Great Britain and Ireland. The Subject of Discussion delivered to the clergy of the Archdeaconry of Cleveland in 1765 (London 1768) [uncut].

[ top ]