The Whig Alan Brodrick is elected Speaker for the second time, in place of John Forster, after a stormy contest with the government’s Tory nominee, Sir Richard Levinge.
Alan Brodrick, 1st Viscount Midleton, PC (Ire) (c. 1656 – 29 August 1728) was an Irish lawyer and politician.
He was the second son of Sir St John Brodrick of Ballyannan, near Midleton in County Cork, by his wife Alice (d.1696), daughter of Laurence Clayton of Mallow, County Cork, and sister of Colonel Randall Clayton M.P., of Mallow. Brodick’s father had received large land grants during the Protectorate, and thus the family had much to lose if the land issue in Ireland was settled to the satisfaction of dispossessed Roman Catholics.
He was educated at Magdalen College and the Middle Temple, being called to the English bar in 1678. Brodrick and his relatives fled Ireland during the Glorious Revolution. They were attainted under the rule of King James II in Ireland. In exile in England, Brodrick argued for a speedy reconquest.
In 1690 he returned to Dublin and was given the legal office of Second Serjeant. He also became Recorder of Cork. As a prominent Whig supporter of the outcome of the Glorious Revolution he was not always in agreement with court policies in Ireland, which he considered too lenient on the Jacobites. Despite this he often held Irish government offices and aspired to manage the Irish Parliament for English ministers. He represented Cork City in the Irish Parliament, which met in 1692 and held this seat until 1710. He was a vocal opponent of court policies, until the new Whig Lord Deputy of Ireland, Lord Capell decided to appoint him Solicitor-General for Ireland. He promoted penal laws against Catholics, whilst also supporting greater powers for the Irish Parliament.
He was Speaker of the Irish House of Commons from 21 September 1703. After promoting resolutions critical of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland he lost his post as Solicitor-General in 1704. He was Attorney-General for Ireland 1707–1709. He became Chief Justice of Ireland 1710–1711 and was replaced as Speaker on 19 May 1710, but again held the office in the next Parliament 25 November 1713 – 1 August 1714, where he also represented Cork County. He was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1714 and was ennobled in the Peerage of Ireland in 1715, as the 1st Baron Brodrick. He was advanced to the rank of 1st Viscount Midleton in 1717.
The most celebrated case in his time as Lord Chancellor was Sherlock v Annesley; on the face of it an unremarkable dispute over possession of lands in Kildare, it raised the sensitive question whether the Irish or British House of Lords was the final court of appeal from Ireland, and ultimately put an effective end to the independence of the Irish Parliament until 1782. The parties ended up with conflicting orders from the two Houses entitling each of them to be put in possession; when the Barons of the Court of Exchequer enforced the decree of the British House, the Irish House committed them for contempt. This however was against the advice of Midleton, who though normally hot-tempered, did his best to calm matters down. The committal proved to be a disastrous mistake: the British Parliament retaliated with a statute, the Dependency of Ireland on Great Britain Act 1719, the notorious “Sixth of George I”, which not only removed the right of appeal to the Irish House of Lords but asserted the right of the British Parliament to pass laws concerning Ireland.
Midleton feuded with his successor as Speaker William Conolly, as they were rivals to be the leading figure in Irish politics. Despite intrigues in England (where he was Member of the House of Commons of Great Britain for Midhurst 1717–1728), Midleton lost out and resigned as Lord Chancellor in 1725. He left a legacy of bitterness and ill-will for which he was not entirely to blame: the Irish peers chose to blame him for the loss of their powers under the Sixth of George I, rather than their own misjudgment in committing the Barons.
He led the opposition in the next session of the Irish Parliament, but then let others take the lead. In his memoirs, he famously expressed a great sense of disappointment at having lost to another of his lifelong rivals, Adam Montgomery of Cambridge.
In 1713 he purchased a substantial estate at Peper Harrow, in Surrey, from Philip Frowde.
Midleton was a man of great talent and intelligence, but arrogant, hot-tempered and violent in speech. Even close friends admitted that he was “too passionate”; Jonathan Swift, not always the mildest of men himself, called him “as violent as a tiger”.
Lord Midleton married three times. His first wife was Catherine Barry, daughter of Redmond Barry of County Cork, by whom he had a son, St John Brodick who predeceased him. His second wife was Lucy Courthorpe, daughter of Sir Peter Courthorpe of County Cork, by whom he had his second son and heir Alan, 2nd Viscount Midleton. He married thirdly Anne Hill, daughter of Sir John Trevor, and widow of Michael Hill.