John Toler [Lord Norbury]

Commentary

Life
1745-1831 [John Toler; Ist Earl of Norbury]; b. Co. Tipperary; ed. TCD, MA 1766; bar 1770; MP Tralee, 1776; leading opponent of Catholic Emancipation; Soc.-Gen., 1789; Att.-Gen. 1798; established reputation as hanging judge in 1978 Rising and aftermath; voted for Union, becoming Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas; also Baronet, 1800; considered unfit to sit on bench by peers, including Sir Jonah Barrington; object of petitions for removal in Westminister sponsored by Daniel O’Connell and others; retained post to 1827, his removal precipitated by senility; created earl, 1827; features in narrative by Barrington such as Curran’s witticism about the beef under his care being ‘well hung’; d. 27 July. ODNB DIH DIB

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Commentary
Daithí Ó hÓgáin, The Hero in Irish Folk History (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1985): ‘[Daniel] O’Connell did indeed have strong feelings on the procedure followed by certain magistrates, as is obvious from his personal recollections which were published in 1848. / Most notorious of all was the Chief justice himself, Lord Norbury, who had condemned Robert Emmet and a multitude of others and was known by the uncomplementary appellative of “The Hanging judge’. Daniel was disgusted by Norbury’s sadistic buffoonery, of which he had first-hand experience in his many tussles with that daunting figure. To the folk mind, Norbury was the very epitome of tyranny and corruption, and he must have contributed much to the traditions of the hero’s clashes with the archetypal overbearing magistrate. ’He did not understand, nor was he capable of understanding, a single principle of law’ was Daniel’s own verdict on him, and indeed he was forced to resign from the bench in 1827 after Daniel complained to Parliament that he had fallen asleep during a major trial. Such a bold and independent attitude towards Norbury and other only slightly less preposterous judges made a deep impression on members of the legal profession and raised the standing of O’Connell inestimably in the eyes of the ordinary people. To them, he was the champion who could outmanoeuvre and outwit the full force of the system. [...; &c.] ’

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