A Compendium of Irish Biography/Whiteside, James

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Whiteside, James, Chief-Justice of the Queen's Bench in Ireland, was born at Delgany, County of Wicklow, 12th August 1804. His father was rector of the parish. He took his M.A, degree at Trinity College, Dublin, entered at the Middle Temple, and in 1830 was called to the Irish Bar, and rose into practice with singular rapidity, being especially fortunate in his defence of prisoners. In 1840 he published a work on the Law of Nisi Prius, which went through several editions. In 1842 he was called to the inner Bar, and two years afterwards his defence of O'Connell and his fellow-traversers in the state trials raised him to the first rank in his profession. Impaired health obliged him to spend two years in Italy, and we have the result in his Italy in the Nineteenth Century (1848), followed by the Vicissitudes of the Eternal City (1849). In 1848 he was counsel for Smith O'Brien and his associates when on their trial for high-treason at Clonmel. In 1851 Mr. Whiteside was returned to Parliament for Enniskillen,a seat he subsequently exchanged for the representation of Dublin University. He had always been a staunch Conservative, and soon became one of the props of that party in the Lower House, and shared in its successes, holding the office of Solicitor-General for Ireland during Lord Derby's first administration in 1852, and that of Attorney-General in his second administration in 1858-'9. During his parliamentary career he occupied an almost unique position at the Irish Bar, The acknowledged leader in the Nisi Prius Courts in Dublin, he appeared at assize times as a "special" counsel in almost every case of magnitude. He was one of the most strenuous opponents of the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and made several brilliant speeches in the House of Commons on the subject. He more than once refused the offer of a puisne judgeship, and when, in 1866, his party again came into power, it was felt that high place was due to his eminent services. After a few weeks of office as Attorney-General, the retirement of Chief-Justice Lefroy made room for his appointment as Chief-Justice of the Queen's Bench, over which he presided for ten years. We are told that his "courtesy, his abounding and facile humour, which exercised itself on the most incongruous subjects; the pleasant literary flavour of all his sayings; the quaint abundance of his illustrations; the grace and charm of his manner, rendered attendance in his court one of the pleasautest of intellectual enjoyments." He died at Brighton, 25th November 1876, aged 72. Besides his books on Italy, he was the author of some minor sketches, including a series of lectures on The Irish Parliament. [1] [2]

  1. Annual Register. London, 1756–1877.
  2. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.