Hugh Carleton, 1st Viscount Carleton
Carleton was born in Cork city, son of Francis Carleton (1713–1791) and Rebecca (d.1791), daughter of Hugh Lawton of Castle Jane and Lake Marsh, Co. Cork. His father was a wealthy merchant from a family which settled in Cork in the time of Charles I; he was also a powerful local politician, popularly known as "the King of Cork" for his opulence and respectability. Hugh's maternal grandfather, Hugh Lawton, was a member of the Lawton family of Lawton Hall, Cheshire, who came to Ireland with William III. Hugh Carleton was educated at Kilkenny College, where he became friends with John Scott who stood up for him and protected him against bullying. In gratitude, Hugh's father became patron to Scott, the future Earl of Clonmell, and sent both the boys off to Trinity College, Dublin and Middle Temple with equal allowances. Hugh matriculated at Dublin in 1755 and entered Middle Temple in 1758. He was called to the Irish Bar in 1764, becoming King's Counsel in 1768.
With his father's influence Carleton was assured of a seat in the Irish House of Commons: he was elected member for Tuam in 1772, for Philipstown in 1776 and for Naas in 1783. As a politician he was not a success: M.P.s complained his speeches were inaudible, though this fault did not prevent him becoming a highly successful barrister.
Carleton was appointed Recorder of Cork in 1769, Third Serjeant in 1776 and Second Serjeant in 1777. He became Solicitor General for Ireland in 1779 and Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas from 1787 to 1800. In 1787 he was invested as a member of the Privy Council of Ireland. He was raised to the Peerage of Ireland as Baron Carleton, of Amner in the County of Tipperary, on 17 September 1789, and was further honoured when he was made Viscount Carleton, of Clare in the County of Tipperary, on 21 November 1797, also in the Irish peerage. On his death without issue in 1826, both titles became extinct.
Lord Carleton was highly regarded as a judge, but his notorious hypochondria made him a subject of some ridicule, since like many hypochondriacs he in fact enjoyed excellent health. His decision to retire on the ground of ill health at 60 was greeted with derision, which was fully justified in the event since he survived for another quarter century. His former friend Lord Clonmell, whose diary is full of savage attacks on his colleagues, describes Carleton I it as "a worthless wretch, though I am his maker"; but no one else seems to have shared this view. His manner in Court was notably gloomy: John Philpot Curran joked that in every case he heard, Carleton was plaintiff (plaintive). His portrait confirms that he was a man of solemn appearance . He was deeply shaken by the murder of his colleague Arthur Wolfe, 1st Viscount Kilwarden, during the rebellion of Robert Emmet in 1803, especially as there was a rumour that Kilwarden had been murdered by mistake, Carleton being the real target.
He married firstly in 1766 Elizabeth Mercer of Dublin, who died in 1794, and secondly the following year Mary Buckley of Dorset who died in 1810. He had no children by either marriage. He lived at Willow Park, Booterstown and at a succession of town houses in Dublin. In his last years he lived in London and died at Hanover Square.
He was a member of the Royal Irish Academy.
- Ball, p. 174
- Henderson 1893.
- Lenox-Conyngham, Melosina Diaries of Ireland Liliput Press 1998 p.59
- Ball p. 223
- Henderson, Thomas Finlayson (1887). "Carleton, Hugh". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 9. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Hart, A. R. "Carleton, Hugh, Viscount Carleton (1739–1826)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4675. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921, John Murray, London, 1926, Vol. 2.
|Parliament of Ireland|
|Member of Parliament for Tuam
With: William Tonson
Sir Henry Lynch-Blosse
|Member of Parliament for Philipstown
With: John Handcock
Hon. John Bourke
|Member of Parliament for Naas
With: Lord Naas
Sir Richard Gorges-Meredyth
|Solicitor-General for Ireland
|Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas
The Lord Norbury
|Peerage of Ireland|
|New creation||Viscount Carleton