Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Duigenan, Patrick

DUIGENAN, PATRICK (1735–1816), Irish politician, son of a farmer named O'Duibhgeannain, was born in the county of Leitrim in 1735. His father had intended him for the catholic priesthood, but the boy's abilities were perceived by the protestant clergyman of his parish, who educated him, and eventually made him a tutor in his school. He succeeded in gaining a scholarship at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1756, took the degree of B.A. in 1757, and M.A. in 1761, in which year he was elected to a fellowship. He became an LL.B. in 1763, and an LL.D. in 1765, and was called to the Irish bar in 1767. He first made his mark in Dublin by leading the opposition against the election of John Hely Hutchinson as provost of Trinity College in 1771, and by writing numerous pamphlets on the subject, which he collected into a volume under the title of ‘Lachrymæ Academicæ, or the present deplorable state of the College.’ After this opposition he felt bound to resign his fellowship when Hutchinson was elected, and he then devoted himself to his practice at the bar, which increased rapidly. He became a king's counsel, and a bencher of the King's Inns in 1784, and king's advocate-general of the high court of admiralty of Dublin in 1790. His politics were of a most pronounced protestant type, and he was soon looked upon with great favour by the government because of his declared opposition to the schemes of Grattan and his friends. His protestantism brought him into notice with the Irish bishops, and he became in quick succession vicar-general of the dioceses of Armagh, Meath, and Elphin, judge of the consistorial court of Dublin, and judge of the admiralty court. He was brought into the Irish House of Commons in 1791 as M.P. for Old Leighlin, and gave evidence of his religious opinions by his speech on the Catholic Bill, which was published in 1795. He was also strongly in favour of the union, and was one of the leading speakers on the government side during the debates on that question, and when it was finally carried he was appointed one of the commissioners for distributing compensation under it. For this service he was sworn of the Irish privy council, and was soon after appointed professor of civil law in Trinity College, Dublin. He was elected M.P. for Armagh in 1798 and by the same constituency to the first united parliament of Great Britain and Ireland; he continued to sit for that place until his death. In the united parliament he displayed bitter opposition to all demands for catholic emancipation in Ireland; he spoke upon hardly any other subject, but upon this he was the most violent speaker in the House of Commons. Yet, in spite of his convictions, he married a Miss Cusac, a catholic lady, whom he permitted to keep a catholic chaplain, and at his death he left all his fortune to his wife's nephew, Sir William Cusac Smith [q. v.], son and heir of Sir Michael Smith, who was master of the rolls in Ireland. Duigenan was almost as famous in the House of Commons for his antiquated bob-wig and Connemara stockings, as he was for his anti-catholic proclivities. He died suddenly, after being present at the debate the night before, at his lodgings in Bridge Street, Westminster, on 11 April 1816.

[Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography; Phillips's Curran and his Contemporaries; Grattan's Life and Times of Henry Grattan; Gent. Mag. May 1816.]

H. M. S.