Open main menu

LAWSON, JAMES ANTHONY (1817–1887), judge of queen's bench, Ireland, eldest son of James Lawson, by Mary, daughter of Joseph Anthony, was born at Waterford in 1817, and was educated at the endowed school there. Having entered Trinity College, Dublin, he was elected a scholar in 1836, obtained a senior moderatorship in 1837, and was a gold medallist and first class in ethics and logic. He graduated B.A. 1838, LL.B. 1841, and LL.D. 1850, and served as Whately professor of political economy from 1840 to 1845. He was called to the Irish bar in 1840, and soon obtained a good practice, especially in the courts of equity. On 29 Jan. 1857 he was gazetted a queen's counsel, elected bencher of King's Inns, Dublin, 1861, and acted as legal adviser to the crown in Ireland from 1858 to 1859. He was appointed solicitor-general for Ireland in February 1861, and in 1865 attorney-general, when he was sworn a member of the Irish privy council. As attorney-general he had in 1865 to grapple with the Fenian conspiracy, when he suppressed the ‘Irish People’ newspaper, and the leaders were arrested and prosecuted. On 4 April 1857 he unsuccessfully contested the seat for Dublin University, but on 15 July 1865 came in for Portarlington, and continued to represent that place till November 1868, when he was defeated on the general election in December. He was appointed fourth justice of the common pleas, Ireland, in December 1868, and held the post till June 1882, when he was transferred to the queen's bench division. During the land league agitation he presided at several important political trials. His firm conduct made him obnoxious to those who were breaking the laws, and an attempt was made to murder him while walking in Kildare Street, Dublin, on 11 Nov. 1882, by Patrick Delaney, who was afterwards tried for the Phœnix Park murders, and became an approver. His courage never failed him, and he won the respect of his enemies, and the admiration of the general public. He was made one of the Irish church commissioners in July 1869, gazetted a privy councillor in England on 18 May 1870, acted as a commissioner for the great seal from March to December 1874, was a vice-president of the Dublin Statistical Society, and was in 1884 made D.C.L. of Oxford. He died at Shankhill, near Dublin, 10 Aug. 1887, having married in 1842 Jane, eldest daughter of Samuel Merrick of Cork.

Lawson was the author of: 1. ‘Five Lectures on Political Economy,’ 1844. 2. ‘Duties and Obligations involved in Mercantile Relations. A lecture,’ 1855. 3. ‘Speech at the Election for Members to serve in Parliament for the University of Dublin,’ 1857. With H. Connor he compiled 4. ‘Reports of Cases in High Court of Chancery of Ireland during the time of Lord Chancellor Sugden,’ 1865.

[Times, 11 Aug. 1887, p. 10; Debrett's House of Commons, 1885, p. 349; Solicitors' Journal, 13 Aug. 1887, p. 694.]

G. C. B.