Blennerhasset, Harman (DNB00)

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BLENNERHASSET, HARMAN (1764?–1831), lawyer and politician, was the youngest of three sons of Conway Blennerhasset of Conway Castle, Killorglin, county Kerry, Ireland, where the family had settled in the time of Elizabeth, and his mother was the daughter of Major Thomas Lacy, the descendant of an old Anglo-Norman family. He was born in Hampshire on 8 Oct. 1764 or 1765, during a temporary visit of his parents to England. He received his education at Westminster School and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A. in 1790 and LL.B. in the same year. Having, through the death of his elder brother, succeeded to the family estates, he spent some time in travel on the continent, where he imbibed so strong republican notions that he 'resolved to quit this country for the United States of America. While in England, obtaining the necessary outfit, he made the acquaintance of Miss Agnew, daughter of the lieutenant-governor of the Isle of Man, whom he married. Having disposed of his lands to a relative, and supplied himself with an extensive library and various philosophical apparatus, he shipped for New York in 1796. In 1798 he purchased the upper part of a beautiful island on the Ohio, about two miles below Parkersburg, and erected on it a splendid mansion, surrounded by fine grounds and adorned with costly pictures and statues. In this modern paradise he passed a retired and studious life, occupied in the study of chemistry, galvanism, astronomy, and similar sciences, until in 1806 he became implicated in the treasonable schemes of Aaron Burr without properly realising their intent. In support of the views of Burr he published a series of papers in the 'Ohio Gazette,' under the signature of 'Querist,' and he also invested a large sum in providing boats, provisions, and arms in aid of Burr's contemplated expedition. In the spring of 1807 he was arrested, and although he regained his liberty, his house had during his absence been destroyed and pillaged by the mob, and in the abortive enterprise of Burr he had expended a large part of his fortune. He thereupon purchased 1,000 acres of land near Gibsonport, Mississippi, with the view of beginning the culture of cotton, but the venture turned out unsuccessful. In 1819 he removed to Montreal and commenced practice as a lawyer, hoping through the favour of his old schoolmate, the Duke of Richmond, to obtain a judgeship. Disappointed in this, he sailed in 1822 for Ireland to endeavour to recover his estates by a reversionary claim. In this he was also unsuccessful, and again courting retirement, he removed to the island of Guernsey, where he died in 1831.

[Hickson's Selections from Old Kerry Records, 1872; Reports of Trial of Colonel Aaron Burr, late President of the United States; Safford's Life of Harman Blennerhasset, 1853; Safford, The Blennerhasset Papers, embodying the Private Journal of Harman Blennerhasset. 1864.]

T. F. H.