The Irish House of Lords: A Court of Law in the Eighteenth Century

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This unique work examines the role of the Irish House of Lords - Ireland's final court of appeal - from 1783 up to the Act of Union in 1800, placing the court in the context of the political and constitutional history of the time. Utilizing a broad range of sources, including rare law reports and archives, the book traces the importance of particular decisions of the Irish lords and what they tell us about penal laws and other phenomena of Irish life at that time. The book also examines the judges of the court, their individual contributions, and their judicial attitudes. The personalities and lives of some of the leading judges and others who were involved in key decisions in the 18th century bring an added dimension to the book. Some of the material discussed is relevant to a wider constitutional debate - one that stretches across the Atlantic to encompass the American colonies and deals with the ostensible supremacy of the English king or parliament in the 18th century. The ownership of land, the interests of Irish families, and the exploration of substantive legal issues in respect to 'leases for lives renewable forever' raises issues that might otherwise be overlooked by historians, not least in respect to leases for lives and the penal laws. Just before the union with Great Britain in 1801, when the Irish parliament ceased to exist, the jurisdiction of the Irish court of Exchequer Chamber was expanded, which presaged a similar development in England in 1830 and which does not seem to have been noted elsewhere. The book therefore helps to put the British legal system in a wider context and to point out the Irish influences upon it, which have tended to be ignored in the past. It is a nuanced and intriguing insight into some of the people who contributed centrally to the development of this distinctive Irish institution, and it is an exploration of the impact of some of the key judgments on the ways in which everyday life might be influenced in Ireland.