Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tisdal, Philip
TISDAL, PHILIP (1703–1777), Irish politician, baptised in St. Mary's church, Dublin, 1 March 1702–3, was son of Richard Tisdal (registrar of the Irish court of chancery, and member for the borough of Dundalk, 1707–13, and county of Louth, 1713–27, in the Irish parliament), by his wife Marian, daughter of Richard Boyle, M.P. for Leighlin, a descendant of the great Earl of Cork. Richard Tisdal died in October 1742. Tisdal received his education at the school of Thomas Sheridan (1687–1738) [q. v.] in Capel Street, Dublin, and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he entered on 11 Nov. 1718, and where his tutor was Patrick Delany [q. v.], Swift's friend. He graduated B.A. in 1722, and entered as a law student at the Middle Temple in 1728. In 1733 he was called to the Irish bar, where his success was rapid, and, having by his marriage in 1736 added to his already high and influential connections, he became in 1739 a candidate for the representation of Dublin University. He was defeated at the poll by forty-four votes to thirty-eight, the aid of Swift, in perhaps the last public exertion of his influence, procuring the return of Alexander McAulay. Swift's interest in the election was probably stimulated by the memory of an old animosity, Tisdal being a near relative of the Rev. William Tisdal or Tisdall [q. v.] (Swift, Letters, 1711). Tisdal was, however, declared duly elected upon petition, and continued to represent the university till 1776. On 21 Jan. 1741–2 he was appointed third serjeant-at-law, and became a bencher of the King's Inns, and on the death of his father was appointed to succeed him as registrar of the court of chancery. In 1743 he was one of the leading counsel for the plaintiff in the celebrated Anglesey peerage case [see Annesley, James]. In 1745 he was appointed judge of the prerogative court, an office which he retained until his death. In 1751 Tisdal was appointed solicitor-general, and on 31 July 1760 attorney-general, appointments which he owed to some extent to the influence of Primate Stone, to whose fortunes he had attached himself.
During this period of continuous advance in his profession Tisdal's distinguished parliamentary talents had raised him to great eminence as a politician. At the general election of 1761 he was again returned, by a large majority, for Dublin university, and in the same year received the freedom of the city of Cork; that of Dublin had been conferred in 1760. In 1763 he became principal secretary of state and keeper of the seal, with the management of the House of Commons, and led the house with tact and ability down to the change of system which followed the appointment of Lord Townshend as viceroy in 1767 (see Caldwell, Parliamentary Debates, and the Hibernian Magazine). On the death of the lord chancellor, John Bowes (1690–1767) [q. v.], Tisdal made a strenuous effort to gain the seals. The influence of Lord Townshend ‘nearly prevailed on the cabinet to raise that ambitious lawyer to the chancellorship … but the government would not venture to appoint an Irishman to such a post,’ and James Hewitt, viscount Lifford [q. v.], was appointed (Walpole, Memoirs of George III, ed. Le Marchant, iii. 110). In this administration, and in that of Lord Harcourt, Tisdal retained his influence, which was probably greater than that enjoyed by any other Irishman in the middle of the eighteenth century, his luxurious living and social habits adding in the eyes of both Townshend and Harcourt to his merits as an adviser. As a leading member of the Irish cabinet Tisdal is satirised in ‘Baratariana’ under the name of ‘Don Philip the Moor,’ and also in ‘Pranceriana,’ and Irish periodical literature testifies abundantly to the importance of ‘Black Phil,’ as Tisdal, from his dark complexion, grave demeanour, and sardonic temper, was commonly known.
In 1776 Tisdal's election for Trinity College was opposed by Richard Hutchinson, son of the provost, Hely-Hutchinson, Tisdal's lifelong rival at the bar and in parliament. Tisdal was defeated, but was returned at the same general election for Armagh. A petition was lodged against Hutchinson's return, which was subsequently declared void. Tisdal died in Belgium, at Spa, on 11 Sept. 1777, and was buried at Finglas, near Dublin.
Tisdal married, in 1736, Mary, daughter of the Rev. Rowland Singleton, and niece and coheiress of Henry Singleton, chief justice of the common pleas and master of the rolls. The great wealth of this lady, who was also a distinguished beauty, aided Tisdal's political career. Mrs. Tisdal was the chief patroness in Dublin of Angelica Kauffmann, who was a frequent visitor at Tisdal's residence at Stillorgan Park, co. Dublin, and at his town mansion in Leinster Street.
Portraits of Tisdal and his wife and two daughters, his only children, including two portraits of Tisdal by Angelica Kauffmann, passed to the possession of Tisdal's descendant, Mr. Tighe, at Ashgrove, Ellesmere, Salop. There is also a portrait of Tisdal, as a young man, by Latham, in the collection of the provost of Trinity College, Dublin. His papers were by his directions destroyed after his death.[Notes kindly furnished by Surgeon-captain W. W. Webb; Donoughmore Papers, Hist. MSS. Comm., 12th Rep. App. pt. iv. passim; Hardy's Life of Charlemont, i. 152; The Batchelor, or Speculations of Jeoffry Wagstaffe, 1773; Pugh's Remarkable Occurrences in the Life of Jonas Hanway; Gilbert's History of Dublin, iii. 249; Duigenan's Lachrymæ Academicæ, 1777, p. 39; Hutchinson's Commercial Restraints of Ireland, ed. W. G. Carroll, pp. xxi–xxiii; Stubbs's History of Dublin University, p. 236; Caldwell's Debates relative to the Affairs of Ireland; Campbell's Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland, 1777; Burke's Landed Gentry.]