PERRIN, Louis (1782-1864), of 3 Granby Row, Dublin

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

1831 - 8 Aug. 1831
1832 - 1834
1835 - Aug. 1835

Family and Education

b. 15 Feb. 1782, s. of Jean-Baptiste Perrin (d. 1818), French language teacher, of Leinster Lodge, Athy, co. Kildare and w. Mary Daly.1 educ. R. Sch. Armagh; Trinity, Dublin 1796; M. Temple 1804; King’s Inns 1806, called [I] 1806. m. Apr. 1815, Hester Connor, da. of Rev. Abraham Augustus Stewart, vic. of Donabate, co. Dublin, 7s. (at least 1 d.v.p.). d. 7 Dec. 1864.

Offices Held

KC [I] 1827; bencher, King’s Inns 1832; 3rd sjt. [I] 1832, 1st 1835; att.-gen. [I] Apr.-Aug. 1835; PC [I] 11 May 1835; 1st commr. municipal corporations [I] 1835; j.k.b. [I] 1835-60.

Biography

‘Honest Louis Perrin’, as Daniel O’Connell* dubbed him, was descended from a French Huguenot family, which eventually established itself in Ireland. His father, who for many years worked as a French tutor to the gentry, achieved some celebrity with his numerous and much reprinted textbooks, especially the Grammar of the French Tongue (1768) and Fables Amusantes (1772).2 ‘John’ Perrin, whose younger son Mark (1792-1877) entered the church, died in 1818 and was buried in Palmerstown, county Dublin.3 Louis, who was born in Waterford, was a scholar at Trinity when he took an active part in the defence of the rebel Robert Emmet in 1803, sitting close to his college friend during the trial and, on judgment being given against him, dramatically entering the dock to give him a last embrace.4 Having qualified in 1806, he swiftly became eminent in criminal and revenue law, although his progress was impeded by the disgrace of one of his near relations, an attorney who was severely punished for professional misconduct, and by his own liberal views, which were at odds with the conservative character of the bar. A kindly, dark complexioned, somewhat solitary figure, who delivered his vigorous opinions in a slow and ponderous style, his manners matched his habitual bearing, being ‘independent, abrupt and honest - a little curt, perhaps, but never purposely uncivil’. In 1831 Richard Sheil*, who commented that he was ‘universally admitted to be the best common law lawyer of the Irish bar’, described his frank but grave countenance as being marked ‘by a certain republican homeliness, intimating a natural, careless manliness of taste and not without its peculiar dignity’.5

Perrin, who had long associated with liberal and Catholic barristers, was mentioned as a possible candidate for Dublin during the general election of 1830.6 As O’Connell’s leading counsel early the following year, his announcement of the Catholic leader’s having changed his plea from not guilty to guilty caused general astonishment, 15 Feb.; O’Connell nursed a grudge against him for ‘deserting ME on Blackburne’s infamous attachment motion [the previous month], upon this paltry defence that I was not the person nominally attached’, but forgave him because he was ‘so superior to the great mass of his profession [and] he has so many good and excellent and amiable points about him’.7 Described by the lord lieutenant, Lord Anglesey, as a penniless but ‘very able, popular barrister’ who would be a ‘great acquisition’ to the Grey administration, he was brought forward for Dublin with Robert Way Harty, the lord mayor, as a reformer at the general election of 1831, when the bar apparently contributed at least £3,000 to a subscription in his support.8 On the hustings, 6 May, when he condemned the corruption of the corporation of Dublin and advocated a householder rather than a freeman franchise, he called for free trade, retrenchment, lower taxation, alteration of the jury laws and the abolition of colonial slavery. He was returned just behind Harty after a severe contest against the sitting Tory Members, a triumph which, as he declared, demonstrated the validity of reform as a palliative and not a threat to the constitution, and the primacy of the cause over the disadvantages of his lack of wealth, connection or station. Perrin, who was criticized for representing the perpetrator of the fatal shooting of a woman during the illumination on the 19th, again thanked the independent electors for his return at the joint celebratory dinner, 31 May 1831.9

It was reported in the Tory press that Perrin, who had incurred enormous expenses, had almost refused to go over to attend Parliament in protest at the Irish government’s failure to pay them.10 However, he of course voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against adjourning the proceedings on it, 12 July, against using the 1831 census to determine the boroughs in schedules A and B, 19 July, and steadily for the details. In his only reported speeches, he argued that the parties involved in the Castle Pollard affair should be allowed to institute private legal proceedings, 11 July, and that the yeomanry should be disarmed, or even suppressed, if no end was put to the Orange outrages in which it was involved, 18 July. He presented petitions from the Dublin wine merchants against higher duties on wine, 12 July, and from the 40s. freeholders of Balbriggan calling for the franchise to be restored to them, 15 July. Implicated in the widespread bribery at the election, he was unseated with Harty, 8 Aug., after which Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, noted that ‘poor Perrin is I hear very low, but ready to do every thing in his power to assist his successors’.11 At one point during the renewed canvassing that month, he was ‘of opinion that defeat was certain, and that it would be less prejudicial to the government to give it up at once’; but he continued to work for the unsuccessful reform candidates, including as one of their counsel during the by-election contest and at the subsequent election committee at Westminster.12

In August 1831 O’Connell commented that ministers were ashamed of their conduct on the Dublin election and that Perrin would be rewarded with a borough, as ‘they will not be contented to leave him out of Parliament’.13 The following month Anglesey, who opposed giving him a position on the bench because he would be needed in the Commons as a law officer, hoped he could be seated for the remainder of the Parliament for county Louth, where a vacancy had occurred, and wrote to Smith Stanley that ‘we want this triumph over Dublin’.14 He was publicly spoken of as a plausible candidate and went to Dundalk to gauge the lie of the land that month, but withdrew in order to clear the way for Sir Patrick Bellew.15 Anglesey, who continued to believe that he was ‘a most safe and judicious man’, stated in October that he would have preferred him to Philip Crampton* as Irish solicitor-general.16 O’Connell, whose extreme speech on the Union highly offended Perrin that month, was angered at his being put up for Dublin the following year because he declined to pledge in favour of its repeal. Ministers approached O’Connell with the offer of giving him a free run provided he brought Perrin in with him, but this was rejected. On O’Connell’s late entry for Dublin, Perrin withdrew and instead won a seat as an advanced reformer for county Monaghan at the general election of 1832.17 He became Irish third serjeant that year, when his brother Mark was apparently the moving force behind the radical Dublin newspaper, the Plain Dealer.18 In 1835, after a brief spell as attorney-general for Ireland and having been chosen to head the commission on Irish municipal corporations, whose report was mainly his work, he was appointed a puisne judge of king’s bench. He died, at his residence of Knockdromin, near Rush, county Dublin, in December 1864, ‘one of the most able, upright and conscientious judges who ever sat on the Irish bench’. Of his sons, four were entered at King’s Inns in Dublin, although Louis later became rector of Garrycloyne, county Cork; two others, including James, who fell at Lucknow in 1857, were army officers.19

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell

Notes

  • 1. King’s Inns Admission Pprs. ed. E. Keane, P.B. Phair and T.U. Sadleir, 399.
  • 2. Gent. Mag. (1865), i. 123; F.E. Ball, Judges in Ireland, ii. 275, 349; R. Watt, Bibliotheca Britannica (1824), ii. 747u.
  • 3. J. D’Alton, Hist. Co. Dublin, 394, 641; Clergy of Dublin and Glendalough, 968.
  • 4. D. Plunket, Life of Lord Plunket, i. 218; Oxford DNB.
  • 5. R.L. Sheil, Sketches of Irish Bar (1854), i. 313-14; ii. 361-6; New Monthly Mag. (1831), ii. 3-4; Dublin Evening Post,