National Biography No.3: Anthony Malone.

From The Dublin Penny Journal, Volume 1, Number 26, December 22, 1832.

On the 5th of December, in the year 1700, was born Anthony Malone, a man who would have been an ornament of his profession and his country, even though he had not lived at a period of her history when distinguished talents, if united with integrity of conduct, were regarded by those in power with jealousy and fear.

If most of the celebrated men of Ireland have been but the naturalized descendants of her conquerors, she may at least claim an undivided title to the family of Malone. It is a branch of that of O'Conor; and it is a remarkable fact, in a country where continued disturbances have led to such frequent and extensive forfeitures of inheritances, that the lands originally granted by the king of that name to the founder of this family, about the close of the 11th century, have continued to this day in the possession of his descendants. More than one distinguished man of this family lived during the last century, amongst whom the most eminent were Richard Malone, who died in 1744-5; and his son Anthony, the subject of the present notice --the only lawyer of the time who rivalled his father in legal attainments, and was thought by many to have surpassed him. He was admitted a gentleman commoner of Christ Church, Oxford, in the year 1720; and in 1726 was called to the Irish Bar, where he continued to practise for 50 years, the brightest ornament of his profession. In 1727, he was elected representative for the county Westmeath, which he continued to represent to the time of his death, except during the period which elapsed from the death of Geo. II. in 1760, to the election in 1768. In 1740, he was appointed his Majesty's Prime Sergeant at Law, at that time the highest office in his profession, and which he lost in January 1754, because he warmly supported, in the House of Commons, their right to dispose, without the previous consent of the crown, of the unappropriated surplus of revenue raised by act of Parliament--a right which it is surprising that it should ever have been questioned, but which would create much more astonishment should there ever again be occasion for its exercise. Under the Duke of Bedford's government, in 1757, he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland, from which office he was removed in 1760, after having filled it with consummate ability for above two years, during which time he regularly attended the court, and decided all equity cases with such complete satisfaction to all parties that there never was an appeal from his decision. His removal from office on this, as on the former occasion, was the consequence of his asserting the rights of the House of Commons against the encroachments of prerogative, exercised at this time in the most arbitrary manner, through the medium of a corrupt privy council. He maintained the privilege of the House to originate the supplies; and though this act of resistance, as it was called, did not fall within the exercise of his judicial functions, yet as it was an act of integrity, it was thought by the court as a disqualification in him for the office of a judge; and, "as he was raised to that office for his capacity, he was dispossessed of it for his virtue." After this, he resumed his barrister's gown, and was soon afterwards honoured with a seat in the Privy Council, and a patent of precedence at the bar before any of the law officers of the Crown--a precedency, as was justly observed in the same publication, which nature had given him before, and which the king could not take from him. He continued in possession of full business to the week before his death, which took place on the 8th of May, 1776, after an illness of eight days.

The following character of this distinguished man is abridged from a sketch contained in a work of one of his contemporaries, and we regret that the limits of our periodical do not permit us to transcribe it entire,

"The singular modesty, disinterestedness, and integrity of this accomplished orator, added such a grace and lustre to his consummate abilities, that it was impossible not to love and respect, as well as admire him.

"The profession in which he was engaged, and of which he had the profoundest knowledge, was peculiarly calculated to display the soundness of his judgment and the fertility of his invention. The clearness and strength of his conceptions, and the simple and perspicuous method in which he arranged the most complicated subjects, made conviction appear the natural and necessary result of his eloquence , insomuch that, when he spoke on the side of truth and justice, and addressed an able and upright judge, he usually swayed and decided his opinion by a luminous statement of the question in dispute which he afterwards enforced by accumulated arguments, urged with such weight, and placed in such various lights, that they seldom failed to force conviction on the slowest apprehensions and most unwilling minds. If he could be said to have any defect as an advocate, it resulted from that integrity of understanding which formed the basis of his character as a lawyer and a judge. He was never perplexed with subtilties himself, and was unwilling, we had almost said, unable to perplex and mislead others. His irresistible power of persuasion seemed, therefore, in some measure to desert him, when his duty to his client called on him to enforce doctrines which the rectitude of his judgment had already condemned. Yet to this circumstance it was perhaps owing that he kept his discernment untainted by the indiscriminate defence of right and wrong, and his faculties unimpaired to the last, and did never meet with the fate of many of the same profession, who begin with dexterity in confounding others, and end in confusing themselves. "His style was a perfect model for the eloquence of the bar; always adequate, and never superior to his subject. He seemed studiously to avoid, as hurtful to his purpose, all ardentia verba, all ornaments of language, and all flowers of rhetoric; so the force of his speech resulted rather from the general weight, energy, and excellence of the whole, than from the splendour of particular parts. All was clear and flowing, simple, yet impressive; and such was the comprehension of his mind and the accuracy of his expression, so perspicuous his arrangements, and so numerous his arguments, that when he ceased to speak, the subject appeared utterly exhausted; there was nothing omitted, nothing superfluous, and to add to his speech, or to confute it seemed equally impossible.

"Even the less splendid qualities and petty habits of this extraordinary man may not be unworthy of being recorded. His memory was so tenacious, that there was scarcely a cause in which he had been engaged during half a century of which he could not give a satisfactory account whenever a reference was made to it at the bar. He never committed to paper a single sentence that he spoke either at the bar or in Parliament, nor was it his custom to set down the heads of arguments; he, however, often lay awake all night for several hours, revolving the causes to which he was to speak on the following day.

"His gentle and placid temper gave an habitual complacency to his countenance. He seemed incapable of saying or doing any thing without a certain grace and felicity accompanying his words and actions. On no occasion, in private life, was he known to be disturbed by slight inconveniences, nor did he in public ever appear in the smallest degree ruffled, unless he was provoked by obstinate and petulant folly, which sometimes extorted from him a reprimand, delivered with warmth, but never with asperity,

"In the first stage of his political career, he spoke in Parliament with more ardour and vehemence than accompanied his speeches during the latter years. Having found, by observation and experience, that in all contests with England, Ireland was finally the sufferer, he thought it most prudent to make the best compromise that could be made with our more powerful neighbours; and on all great occasions to conciliate rather than exasperate. From the time of the accession of George the Third, he generally, though unplaced and unpensioned, supported the measures of Government; yet such was the delicacy of his feelings, that no man of his weight and abilities ever obtained so few favours, either for himself or others, from those who had the administration of affairs."

Though our task is to record the characters of those whom death has placed beyond the reach of flattery, and not to eulogise the living generation, we cannot avoid remarking the strong resemblance which the above sketch bears to a distinguished member of the same profession in our own times. The peculiar modesty of that individual would feel hurt by the coupling of his name with so high a panegyric, but the members of his profession will find no difficulty in identifying him with the best features of the picture; and in placing it before the public, we feel no fear of a contention for the palm when we inscribe upon it (asking pardon of our readers for difference of gender)

"H KAAH AABHTO."  (Please note that last letter of `AABHTO' should be Omega and not `O')