The Court of Admiralty of Ireland, 1745-1756
Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin
September 7, 2009
American Journal of Legal History, Forthcoming
In the mid-eighteenth century the Irish Court of Admiralty formed one component in the network of courts of vice-admiralty - extending from Gibraltar to the colonies of America - commissioned by the Lord Admiral of England. Throughout the first part of the eighteenth century the Irish Court of Admiralty operated discretely, its activities confined to processing very modest quantities of instance work. Then unexpectedly, starting about 1745, there commenced a period of turbulence. The cause of this agitation was the appointment as judge of a highly combative and indiscrete Scots civilian émigré, Dr Hugh Baillie. This ‘pushing and somewhat multi-pated personality’ determined on extending the power of the Court: on expanding the Court’s instance jurisdiction past the limits set by the courts of common law; on obtaining prize jurisdiction (which had always been prohibited to it); and on converting the constitutional status of the Court from a mere court of vice-admiralty to an independent court of admiralty for Ireland. In the course of ten years of fighting Dr Baillie managed to provoke virtually every important interest group (the Commissioners of Admiralty in England, Dublin mercantile interests, the justices of the Irish Court of King’s Bench and the English Court of Admiralty) on which his success as judge depended. Eventually, the Admiralty, tired of its contentious and chaotic Irish judge, summoned the Attorney General, William Murray (later Lord Mansfield), to a crisis meeting on the state of the Irish Admiralty Court. In November 1756 judge Baillie was dismissed.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 44
Keywords: Legal history, Admiralty courts, Ireland, eighteenth century
JEL Classification: K10, K40
Date posted: September 7, 2009
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