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outstripped in professional position by those who are more exclusively engaged in the Four Courts. The late Chief justice Whiteside was an example of a long Parliamentary career passed almost entirely in opposition, but his reputation was such that all the time he could spare from Westminster was eagerly claimed by clients in Ireland. He had already become recognised as the most attractive and persuasive speaker of his time at the Irish Bar before he entered Parliament. Young Keogh, whatever he might anticipate, had no such established reputation to fall back upon, whilst his political godfathers had little to promise him. They were Tories whom the Tories had discarded, and who held together as a party by their individual ability, and the accident of their seniority to newer men, rather than by any direct influence which they exercised outside. On the fall of Sir Robert Peel’s administration in I846, the Peelite party was chiefly represented in Ireland by the late Right Hon. Abraham Brewster, who was mainly instrumental in attracting Keogh to this side in politics, and the uncertainty of the outlook was sufficiently illustrated in the fact that Mr. Brewster did not attain that cherished goal of all Irish barristers, a seat on the Bench, until 1866, nearly twenty years after the time we now speak of, whilst Mr. Keogh had concluded his Parliamentary career by accepting a judgeship in 1856. But calculations of professional success or of party prospects were little heeded by the impetuous young barrister, who saw the arena of the House of Commons opened to him, and felt confident of his power to hold his own in it. Returned for Athlone, in 1847, by the aid of the Peelites and his personal connection, he continued to occupy the seat for the next nine years. The condition of Ireland at this time practically suspended the functions of its Parliamentary representatives. The business of Parliament was twofold, first, to bring its utmost aid in relief of famine, and secondly to apply promptly those measures of coercion
which the wild schemes of the “Young Ireland” party made necessary. In relieving the famine neither Government nor Parliament required any stimulus, and in the other measures it was not necessary that a representative of popular feeling, allied with a party in opposition, should participate further than by close observation and correction where necessary. Accordingly, Mr. Keogh’s career during the early years of the Parliament of I847 attracted very little attention, nor did he attempt any strong part in the House until 1851, when on the introduction of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill he delivered a passionate philippic against the Government for what he denounced as their attempt “ to rekindle religious hate” in Ireland. The Peelite party, generally, opposed the Bill, but this speech was more than a service to the policy of his immediate political associates. The Irish Roman Catholic members who ordinarily supported the Government of Lord _]ohn Russell, were, after the Durham letter, cut adrift from their party moorings, and the trenchant terms in which Mr. Keogh spoke presented him to the country as the leader and representative of the movement which the Roman Catholic Bishops set agoing with a view to the coming election. The member for Athlone became at once the champion of a party which was to be definitely organised and materially strengthened at the coming election. Mr. Keogh was the principal, and not the least popular of the speakers, at the series of public meetings organised by the Bishops in the autumn of I851. A number of Englishmen who had recently joined the Roman Church were prominent in the electoral campaign, and made large contributions to the expenses, and the result was the return of some fifty members, pledged to defend the Roman Church and act as an Independent Opposition. The question of leadership was not pressed with that distinctness which has troubled the counsels of the Home Rule party in subsequent years, but practically it rested with William Keogh, Frederick Lucas, Mr. Moore,
and Mr. Duffy, now Sir Charles Gavan Duffy of Melbourne. Among these able men the most important Parliamentary position and the largest Parliamentary experience belonged to Keogh, whilst he also enjoyed the confidence of Mr._[ohn Sadleir, a member of the party,who was supposed capable of assisting to develope a new commercial future for Ireland. Lucas represented the “ neophyte ” religious element, whilst Moore and Duffy typified different sides of Irish national feeling. All went merrily as long as the struggle with Lord Derby’s Government lasted. The Peelites had kept aloof from that experiment, and worked cordially with the new Irish party in bringing about the‘ fall of the Ministry. Then came the tidings that Lord Aberdeen’s new Government included Mr. Sadleir as a junior Lord of the Treasury, and Mr. Keogh as Solicitor-General. The repeal of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, a Bill on Education, above all a scheme on the Land question, made no part of the ministerial policy, yet these were only a portion of the programme to which the Independent Opposition was said to be pledged. A furious crusade was at once commenced against the new officials. The violence of the language used both in and out of Parliament has perhaps no parallel in our political life in the nineteenth century. The Ecclesiastical authorities encouraged it from their discontent with the spirit of independence which Mr. Keogh always showed in his dealings with the Church, and in the hope of forcing the Government to buy off the
popular outcry by some concession. The Nationalists were delighted to have clerical authority to back them up in
abusing a Solicitor-General, and the fury of the struggle was increased by the vehement scorn with which the attack was repelled. Mr. Keogh met his assailants with indignant defiance. His case was simply that he had come into Parliament as an adherent of the Peelite party, and from his professional position naturally a candidate for office, should that party have office to bestow. His position on the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill was his natural one as a Roman Catholic and a Peelite. VVhen the Peelites formed their new combination, office naturally fell to his share, and though he was anxious to reform the Irish Land Laws, and achieve other things, he did not see that his declining the natural result of his Parliamentary career would advance the desired ends. The contest had not died out when the suicide of John Sadleir and the failure of his bank revived popular excitement, and supplied a new topic of declamation against Sadleir’s political associates. About this time, a vacancy occurring in the Court of Common Pleas at Dublin, Mr. Keogh accepted the post, and withdrew from Parliamentary life.
As a puisne judge in Ireland there was little scope for that strong, vehement nature ; but no one, who ever attended even a sitting in chambers before Mr. justice Keogh, will forget the freshness and life and noble zeal for justice which he brought to the business of his Court. He was not a learned lawyer, but he never failed to appreciate a legal argument, and hisjudgments were always distinguished by the clearness and precision with which he dealt with the questions before him. His demeanour as a judge at Nisi Prius extorted even from the Nationalist press testimonies to his dignity and impartiality.
When the increasing violence of the Fenian agitation obliged the Government in I865 to seize the Fenian papers and prosecute the writers, Mr. justice Keogh was chosen as one of the judges to preside at the series of trials which took place at the Court in Green Street, Dublin. His enunciation of Constitutional principles and his earnest appeals to the people to keep clear of the evil counsels which the Fenian agents offered, exposed him to a renewed storm of popular odium, and his position was the more remarkable from the fact that, though a Roman Catholic of distinguished ability and of irreproachable private life, the Roman Church encouraged rather than repressed the attacks made upon him. Though he had been allied with the clerical party in his resistance to the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, he was one of the few Roman Catholics who did not owe his seat to the favour of his Church ; and when the struggle connected with the Ecclesiastical Titles Act had passed away, he took every occasion of asserting in the House of Commons his attachment to law and the principles of public policy, as distinguished from that submission to Church authority which it was becoming the practice of Rome’s supporters to demand from all adherents of their Church engaged in public life. His independence of the new Roman Catholic school was further illustrated by a literary discourse which the judge was invited by the Afternoon Lecture Society to deliver at Dublin in 1865. He chose Milton for his subject, and made the poet the text for a dissertation of great eloquence and power on the service done to human liberty by the Covenanters and the Commonwealth. There was nothing in his lecture beyond its force and glowing language which would have attracted special attention thirty years before, but coming from a Roman Catholic of brilliant parts and high position when Roman Catholic Ireland was being gradually nursed by Archbishop Cullen into the newest Ultramontane ideas, when the Syllabus had been already promulgated and the clerical powers were in all directions preparing for the Vatican Council, in such circumstances this panegyric on a heretic poet whose works had been placed on the Index, this eulogy of a political party whose career in Ireland had been long a subject of denunciation, produced in that island a sensation even greater than that occasioned subsequently by the more widely known Galway judgment. Cardinal Cullen, another typical character in the Ireland of the last generation, and who, within the last month, has himself passed away, made the judge’s lecture the subject of a Pastoral to his flock, and unpopular as the judge had long since been, he thenceforth became the special object of clerical animadversion.