Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Butler, Simon

BUTLER, SIMON (1757–1797), first president of the United Irishmen of Dublin, was the third son of Edmund, tenth Viscount Mountgarret, and his wife Charlotte, the second daughter of Sir Simon Bradstreet, bart. He was born in July 1757. Having been called to the Irish bar in Michaelmas term, 1778, he was made a king's counsel and a bencher of the Honourable Society of the King's Inns, Dublin, in Trinity term, 1784. With Wolfe Tone he was a zealous leader of the United Irishmen, and on 9 Nov. 1791 he presided at the first meeting of the Dublin society of that body. He compiled a digest of the popery laws, which was published in 1792, and made a great impression on the minds of the people. For this work, and ‘for other professional business,’ the ‘Catholic Committee’ voted him 500l. On 1 March 1793 Butler and Oliver Bond [q. v.], as chairman and secretary respectively of the Dublin Society, were summoned before the Irish House of Lords on account of a paper which had been issued by the society, referring to a committee of secrecy of that house. They avowed the publication, but submitted that it contained nothing unconstitutional. The lords, however, voted it a ‘false, scandalous, and seditious libel; a high breach of the privileges of this house, tending to disturb the public peace, and questioning the authority of this High Court of Parliament,’ and thereupon ordered the defendants to be imprisoned in Newgate gaol for six months, and to pay a fine of 500l. each. On the termination of his imprisonment, Butler went with his friend, Archibald Hamilton Rowan, another energetic leader of the United Irishmen, to Scotland, where they continued to aid in directing the proceedings of the society, until they were compelled to fly the country. On 18 Jan. 1795 Butler married Eliza, the daughter of Edward Lynch of Hampstead, in the county of Dublin, by whom he had an only son, Edward. Though his name was erased from the list of king's counsel in 1793, he remained a bencher of the King's Inns until his death, which took place at his lodgings in Brompton Row on 19 May 1797, in the fortieth year of his age. An etching of him and his friend Rowan as they appeared in the streets of Edinburgh in 1793, by Kay, will be found in the second volume of ‘Original Portraits,’ No. 230.

[Kay's Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings (1877), ii. 121, 168, 171, 176–7; Plowden's Historical Review of the State of Ireland (1803), ii. pt. i. 376–94; Sir Richard Musgrave's Memoirs of the different Rebellions in Ireland (1802), i. 112–54; Gent. Mag. 1797, lxvii. pt. i. 529; Annual Register, 1797, p. 97.]

G. F. R. B.