Walter Hussey Burgh

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Burgh, Walter Hussey, an Irish statesman, was born, probably at Donore, County of Kildare, 23rd August 1742. His father's name was Ignatius Hussey. At college he was distinguished for poetic tastes and brilliant talents. He assumed the name of Burgh upon the death of a maternal uncle, the Rev. Rickard Burgh, whose estates in the County of Limerick he inherited. Nominated to a borough by the Duke of Leinster in 1768, he took a leading part in opposing Lord Townshend's government. Under Lord Buckingham's administration he obtained the rank of Prime-Sergeant. In 1779, he was returned for the University, and, on the address to the Lord-Lieutenant, after a spirited debate, he moved a resolution already concerted with Grattan: "That it is not by temporary expedients, but by a free trade alone, that this nation is now to be saved from impending ruin." In the same year his speech on limiting the supplies to six months, in consequence of the national demands not being complied with, was a splendid piece of oratory.

Mr. Froude, in speaking of this debate, writes: "It was in these debates that Hussey Burgh made his reputation as an orator, by the famous sentence so often quoted. Some one had said Ireland was at peace. 'Talk not to me of peace,' said Hussey Burgh, 'Ireland is not at peace; it is smothered war. England has sown her laws as dragon's teeth, and they have sprung up as armed men.' Never yet had Grattan so moved the Irish House of Commons as it was moved at these words. From the floor the applause rose to the gallery. From the gallery it was thundered to the crowd at the door. From the door it rung through the city. As the tumult calmed down, Hussey Burgh rose again, and, amidst a renewed burst of cheers, declared that he resigned the office he held under the Crown. 'The gates of promotion are shut,' exclaimed Grattan, 'and the gates of glory are opened.'" After the Revolution of 1782, he was appointed Chief-Baron of the Exchequer. He died 29th September 1783, aged 41. Fond of ostentatious display, it is said that he left his family in embarrassed circumstances; and that Grattan obtained a grant from Parliament for their benefit. Flood remarked of him: "He did not live to be ennobled by patent — he was ennobled by nature." Lord Temple wrote: "No one had that steady decided weight which he possessed in the judgment and affections of his country; and no one had more decidedly that inflexible and constitutional integrity which the times and circumstances peculiarly call for." His grandson held the family estates in 1868, and was High-Sheriff of Kildare in 1839-40.

Sources

22. Barrington, Sir Jonah, Personal Sketches of his own Time: Townsend Young, LL.D. 2 vols. London, 1869.

53. Burke, Sir Bernard: Landed Gentry. 2 vols. London, 1871.

141. Froude, James A.: The English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century. 3 vols. London, 1872-'4.

154. Grattan Henry, his Life and Times: Henry Grattan. 5 vols. London, 1839-'46.

196. Irishmen, Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished, Rev. James Wills, D.D. 6 vols. or 12 parts. Dublin, 1840-'7.

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