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BARRY YELVERTON, VISCOUNT AVONMORE.
the period when the volunteers, having fulfilled the very peculiar functions of an irregular remedy, in an irregular state of things—an empirical nostrum for a singular disease-ceased to have any efficiency but one, which, pushed a little further, would have plunged the country in deeper darkness and more galling chains, Mr Yelverton was among those whom the absurd and most childish cant of party consistency did not prevent from resisting the arrogation of an unconstitutional faction. He saw the fetters weaving for the emancipated legislature of Ireland; he was not deaf to the revolutionary maxims that were then beginning to breathe from rank to rank, and could not well avoid the inference of what was to follow, and what did follow.
In the administration of the duke of Portland he took a frank and manly part in opposition to many dear friends with whom he had been accustomed to feel and act, and opposed the violent proceedings of the convention of delegates. He took the lead in that stand which was made by the commons against the motion of Mr Flood, on November 29, 1783, to bring in a bill of parliamentary reform, on the ground that the motion was the dictate of an armed body. We have already related the circumstances; and the extracts with which we exemplified the opposition to that rash motion were taken from Mr Yelverton's speech. He was at this time attorney-general; and it is stated by a biographical writer that his promotion had been owing to the part he took against the convention of delegates; but, referring to dates, this must be erroneous. The promotion took place in 1782, according to this writer; but the convention in question occurred in 1783; and the above-mentioned incident was the first occasion on which any noticeable opposition to that body can be detected in Mr Yelverton. His promotion was due to his place and reputation at the bar. Of course the opinions, and, in some measure, the conduct of a sound constitutional lawyer was to be calculated on; but it could be shown that there was at the moment a disposition on the part of government to dispense its favours among the leaders of the popular party.
This point being settled, it is to be admitted that the able and spirited resistance of the attorney-general on that occasion was seasonable, and must, from whatever motive, whether of political wisdom or official duty, have been viewed by the administration as a meritorious service.
The high and influential station of attorney-general, when filled by such a man, is necessarily the step to higher honour. In 1784, he was nominated a privy-counsellor, and raised to the bench as chief baron.
The rest of his career must here be briefly told. He took the side of opposition on the regency question. In 1795 he was raised to the peerage by the title of baron Yelverton of Avonmore. He also supported the union. We offer these brief statements; as the events to which they refer have not yet come in the order of our historical narration,
In December, 1800, he was further raised to the rank of viscount in the Irish
peerage. He lived till. 1805,–in the autumn of which year he died.
The claims of Sir Boyle Roche upon our notice are not, it must be confessed, of a very strong kind. Yet, it so happens that few men of his day are much more frequently named, or more the object of curiosity. The station which he filled in political society was singular, and is not without some interest for the stray gleam it reflects of the social character of his time.
He is said to have been descended from a junior branch of the Fermoy family. In early life he served in the army, and was distinguished in the American war. After retiring from the service he obtained a seat in the Irish house of commons, and enlisted from the commencement in the ranks of the Treasury bench.
He obtained a smail pension, and the appointment of master of the ceremonies in Dublin Castle. For this he was pre-eminently qualified by his handsome figure, graceful address, and ready wit. These qualities were in Sir Boyle also set off by a frank, open, and manly disposition, not always among the ornaments of that gaudy and perfumed station: the stilts of formality and the stays of fashion were needless appendages to the wardrobe of the true Irish gentleman of the old school, and, in the character of Sir Boyle, the English functionaries who came over prejudiced against the manners of our Irish capital, and, at the same time curious about the social powers and failings, the wit and blunder of our isle, found themselves agreeably enlightened on these points, by the fortunate combination of polished manners with the most native humour and spirit which met them on their first introduction to the castle.
These qualifications of Sir Boyle were, however, destined to find a wider field of display, and a more important if not more dignified office. The taste for fun and humour was universal, as it must, indeed, continue so long as the faculty of laughter endures; and, whether the notion was first suggested by the effect of some parliamentary blunder of more than usual felicity, or was the pure suggestion of administrative wisdom, it appears certain that Sir Boyle became, in course of time, a regular and most important ally of the several administrations of his time in the house, and obtained a celebrity in that position, which has made his name familiar as any other name, however illustrious.
Whenever it was thought necessary to soften down the heat generated in the debate by the overflow of Irish patriotism; to meet arguments which could not be replied to, by the unanswerable test of ridicule; or to scatter the force of plain statement by the brawn shield of burlesque, it was op such occasions that the rich and mellow brogue of Sir Boyle was heard above the uproar of debate. A happy kpack of twisting facts or ideas, which, in ordinary tongues would be but common-place, into some unexpected form of comicality, enabled him to give that turn to excited passion and feeling which deprives the orator of the better part of his power, and compels the