Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Law, Hugh

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LAW, HUGH, LL.D. (1818–1883), lord chancellor of Ireland, only son of John Law of Woodlawn, co. Down, by his wife Margaret, youngest daughter of Christopher Crawley of Cullaville, co. Armagh, was born in 1818. He was educated at the Royal School at Dungannon and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was elected to a scholarship in 1837, and in 1839 graduated B.A., having obtained the first senior moderatorship in classics. In 1840 he was called to the bar and joined the north-eastern circuit, but he practised principally in the courts of equity in Dublin and in Irish appeals in the House of Lords. In 1860 he became a queen's counsel. Until the disestablishment of the Irish church was proposed, he took little part in politics, though generally he was believed to be a conservative, but he then sided with the liberal party, drafted the Irish Church Act, a monument of his knowledge and skill; he was also the draftsman of the Irish Land Act of 1870. He had been appointed legal adviser to the lord-lieutenant at Dublin in 1868; in 1870 he became a bencher of the King's Inns, Dublin, and solicitor-general for Ireland in 1872 in succession to Palles, who became attorney-general. In December 1873 he was sworn of the Irish privy council, and was appointed attorney-general, which office he held until the fall of the Gladstone ministry a few weeks later. He entered parliament for Londonderry in 1874, was re-elected in 1880, and became Irish attorney-general in Mr. Gladstone's second administration in April 1880. He conducted the prosecution in December 1880 of Mr. Parnell and the other traversers for conspiracy in establishing the Land League. In committee on the Land Bill of 1881 he was the premier's chief assistant, and proved himself very ready and conciliatory. It was he who, almost without discussion, accepted the 'Healy' clause (T. P. O'Connor, Gladstone's House of Commons, p. 212; and Parnell Movement). He succeeded Lord O'Hagan as lord chancellor for Ireland in 1881, and resigned his seat in parliament. As chancellor he and his decisions commanded universal respect. After a very brief illness he died of inflammation of the lungs on 10 Sept. 1883, at Rathmullen House, co. Donegal. He married in 1863 Ellen Maria, youngest daughter of William White of Shrubs, co. Dublin, who predeceased him in 1875.

[Law Times, 15 Sept. 1883; Law Journal, 15 Sept. 1883; Irish Law Times, xvii. 489; Solicitors' Journal, 15 Sept. 1883; Times, 4 Sept. 1883.]

J. A. H.