Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 13.djvu/341

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lucrative practice at nisi prius. He estimated his loss by this treatment at 30,000l. His revenge came in the following year. The Dublin board of aldermen had the right to elect a lord mayor, subject to the approval of the common council. In 1790 the burgesses had pledged themselves to accept no placeman or pensioner as mayor. On 16 April the aldermen elected Alderman James, who was a commissioner of police. The common council rejected him without assigning any reason. The aldermen declining to make any other choice, the common council became thereon entitled to elect, and headed by Napper Tandy chose, by eighty-one to eight, Alderman Howison, the popular candidate. The aldermen re-elected James, who thereon petitioned the privy council for a declaration that the common council could only reject him if they assigned a reason. The petition was heard before Lord Clare and the privy council, and a new election was ordered. The farce was repeated, and the matter came before the privy council again on 10 June. Curran, who was a member of the Whig Club, in which the opposition to James had originated, was leading counsel for Howison. He refused any fee, for his reward was of a different kind. Knowing that nothing that he could say could injure his client or affect the result, he attacked Clare with the most undisguised and bitter virulence. Clare cleared the court and endeavoured without success to induce the council to refuse Curran any further hearing, but in vain. The decision was, as a matter of course, in favour of James, but he at length put an end to the dispute by resigning and thus allowed Howison to be elected without opposition.

Curran's practice and his parliamentary importance had meantime been steadily increasing. In 1776 he had been in the well-known case of Newbery v. Burroughs. He went the Munster circuit twice a year and was received in the neighbourhood of his home as a popular hero. On one of his circuits he wrote the plaintive song called the ‘Deserter's Answer,’ ‘If sadly thinking with spirits sinking,’ which was afterwards set to music. As his circumstances improved he had removed his residence in Dublin from Redmond's Hill to Fade Street, and thence in 1781 to 12 Ely Place. About 1786 he leased a site in a glen near Newmarket, and built a house there, which, as prior of the Monks of the Screw, he called the Priory. This he afterwards let, and in 1790 bought Holly Park, an estate of thirty-five acres, at Rathfarnham, about four miles from Dublin, on the road to Whitechurch, situated on a hill and commanding a noble view, which, under the name of the Priory, he retained till his death. He was careless at this time in money matters, and large as was his income he did not trouble himself to keep a regular fee-book. He found relief from work in several visits to the continent, to France with Lord Carleton's family in the autumn of 1787, and in the following August to Holland. His parliamentary importance was also growing during these years. In 1786 he spoke on the question of the Portugal trade on 11 March, and again on the 13th on Forbes's motion for the reform of the pension list. Owing to the distress prevalent in Ireland during these years he moved an amendment to the address in 1787 and spoke on pensions, on tithes, and against the extension of the English Navigation Act to Ireland on 23 Jan., 19 Feb., and 12 and 13 March respectively. His only speech during 1788 was upon contraband trade. At the end of that year George III became insane, and Pitt, who had defeated Fox and secured the imposition of considerable restrictions on the power of the regent, was anxious that they should be adopted by the Irish parliament. Every vote was of moment. Curran was told that a judgeship should be the price of his, with the prospect of a peerage. He, however, refused. A formal opposition was now constructed; the Duke of Leinster, Lord Ponsonby, and his brother George all resigning their places in order to take part in it. Grattan and Curran with Daly and Forbes all joined. The immediate contest, however, dropped on George III's sudden recovery. On 21 April 1789 Curran supported a bill for forbidding excise officers to vote at parliamentary elections, and on the 25th spoke against the government's mode of bestowing the posts in the Dublin police. In 1790 he was betrayed into a duel on political grounds. He fought five duels during his career: one with St. Leger, one with Fitzgibbon, one with Lord Buckinghamshire, one with Egan, chairman of Kilmainham (in which Curran made his famous proposal that he should equalise matters by marking his small outline in chalk on Egan's big body, ‘hits outside not to count’), and lastly, this in 1790, with Major Hobart, Irish chief secretary to the viceroy, Lord Westmore. Having on 4 Feb., in a speech on the salaries of the stamp officers, made a strong attack on the extravagance of the administration, and its bestowal of patronage on venal persons, Curran was insulted in the street a few days after by a government press-writer, who shook a stick at him. He applied to Major Hobart to dismiss the man, and was curtly refused. Curran sent his old antagonist, Egan, with a message to Major Hobart, and a duel was