Hugh Law

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Hugh Law, PC (Ire), QC (19 June 1818 – 10 September 1883) was an Irish lawyer, politician and Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Born in County Down, son of John Law of Woodlawn and Margaret Crawley of Cullaville, Law was educated at the Royal School, Dungannon, and thereafter at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was elected a Scholar in 1837 and received a Bachelor of Arts in 1839. He became a barrister in 1840 and a Queen's Counsel in 1860, practicing mainly in Dublin and specialising in equity.

In politics, he started as a Conservative, but quickly turned to the Liberals. He drafted the Irish Church Act 1869 which disestablished the Church of Ireland: the drafting has been called "a monument to his skill and learning". He was also largely responsible for the drafting of the first Irish Land Act of 1870; and during the passage of the Irish Land Act of 1881 was noted for his conciliatory approach and willingness to accept Opposition amendments.

He became Law Adviser to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Spencer, in 1868. He became a Bencher of the King's Inn in 1870 and was appointed in turn Solicitor-General for Ireland in 1872, Attorney-General for Ireland in 1873, and a member of the Irish Privy Council on 24 February 1874. His promotion was regarded as a proper reward for his services to the Liberals, despite the practical problem that until 1874 he did not have a seat in Parliament and therefore could not speak for the Government in the Commons. In 1874 he was elected a Member of Parliament for Londonderry. He was appointed Attorney-General by the Liberal Prime Minister Gladstone in 1880, before becoming Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1881. As Attorney General he prosecuted Charles Stewart Parnell and other leading members of the Irish National Land League for conspiracy.

Hugh Law died suddenly aged 65 on 10 September 1883, from inflammation of the lungs, at Rathmullan, County Donegal. He was remembered as a judge whose decisions commanded universal respect.

He married Ellen White of Dublin in 1863: she died in 1875. His eldest son later bought the historic Ardbraccan House, former palace of the Lord Bishop of Meath, from the Church of Ireland . His second son, also called Hugh Law, sat initially as a Nationalist MP in the House of Commons and later served in Dáil Éireann as a Cumann na nGaedheal TD from June 1927 until 1932.


Obituary in (1883-1884) Law Magazine and Law Review, Vol. 9, pages 95–96.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Robert Peel Dawson
Sir Frederick Heygate, Bt
Member of Parliament for Londonderry
With: Richard Smyth 1874–1878
Sir Thomas McClure, Bt 1878–1881
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas McClure, Bt
Andrew Marshall Porter
Legal offices
Preceded by
Christopher Palles
Solicitor General for Ireland
Succeeded by
Henry Ormsby
Preceded by
Christopher Palles
Attorney General for Ireland
Succeeded by
John Thomas Ball
Preceded by
Edward Gibson
Attorney General for Ireland
Succeeded by
William Moore Johnson
Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord O'Hagan
Lord Chancellor of Ireland
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Sullivan, Bt