Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hart, Anthony

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HART, Sir ANTHONY (1754?–1831), lord chancellor of Ireland, was born about 1754 in the island of St. Kitts, West Indies. He is said to have been educated at Tunbridge School, and to have been for a short time a unitarian preacher at Norwich. He was admitted a student of the Middle Temple in 1776, and was called to the bar in 1781. He confined himself exclusively to equity work, and after practising twenty-six years behind the bar was in 1807 appointed a king's counsel, and in the same year was elected a bencher of his inn. In 1816 he was made solicitor-general to Queen Charlotte. Having been appointed vice-chancellor of England in the place of Sir John Leach, he was admitted to the privy council and knighted on 30 April 1827. He took his seat in the vice-chancellor's court in the following month. Upon the resignation of Lord Manners he was promoted by Goderich to the post of lord chancellor of Ireland. On accepting this office Hart expressly stipulated ‘that he was to have no politics, general, local, or religious; and that of Papists and Orangemen he was to know nothing.’ He was sworn in at Dublin on 5 Nov. 1827, and took his seat in the court of chancery on the following day, when he immediately became involved in a serious misunderstanding with the Irish master of the rolls in reference to the right of the latter to appoint a secretary (Irish Law Recorder, i. 5–6, 67–71, 81–7, 114–115). Hart did his best to shorten equity pleadings, which he considered were ‘too prolix in Ireland’ (ib. i. 500). While he was lord chancellor a singular case affecting the rights of the Irish bar arose, a full account of which will be found in O'Flanagan's ‘Lives of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland’ (ii. 391–398). Upon the formation of Lord Grey's administration towards the close of 1830, Lord Plunket was appointed in Hart's place. Hart sat as lord chancellor for the last time on 22 Dec. 1830, and was addressed in a farewell speech by Saurin on behalf of the bar (Irish Law Recorder, iii. 67–8). Hart was an amiable man, a sound lawyer, and a patient and urbane judge. His judgments were both able and impartial, and were delivered in a quiet lucid manner. It is stated ‘as a fact without precedent that not a single decision of his was ever varied or reversed’ (Burke, History of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland, p. 210). He died in Cumberland Street, Portman Square, London, on 6 Dec. 1831. An engraving taken from a portrait of Hart, sketched by Cahill, forms the frontispiece to the first volume of the ‘Irish Law Recorder.’

[O'Flanagan's Lives of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland, 1870, ii. 376–402; Burke's Hist. of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland, 1879, pp. 204–10; Foss's Judges of England, 1864, ix. 23–4; Torrens's Memoirs of Viscount Melbourne, 1878, vol. i.; The Georgian Era, 1832, ii. 550; Gent. Mag. 1831, vol. ci. pt. ii. p. 566; Annual Register, 1831, App. to Chron. pp. 259–60; Dublin Morning Post, 23 Dec. 1830; Hughes's Register of Tunbridge School, 1886, p. 14; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. vii. 7, 178.]

G. F. R. B.