Back

ⓘ Jesse Smythes was an English born judge and colonist in Elizabethan Ireland. He held office as Solicitor General for Ireland and Chief Justice of Munster, and w ..




                                     

ⓘ Jesse Smythes

Jesse Smythes was an English born judge and colonist in Elizabethan Ireland. He held office as Solicitor General for Ireland and Chief Justice of Munster, and was heavily involved in the Plantation of Munster. He was noted for his deep hostility to the native Irish, which was more virulent than that of the average English colonist of the time.

Little is known about his family, about his early life or career until 1584, when he was appointed solicitor-General in Ireland. He was, as far as is known, the first Englishman to hold the office: his appointment at the personal request of Queen Elizabeth I, who was unhappy with the quality of service provided by her Irish law officers, and believed that it will be better than the British. At the same time he was appointed chief justice of Munster. He seems to have been quite diligent officer, he wrote to Francis Walsingham at the end of October of the same year describing the difficulties with the prosecution of the Queens case in the court of exchequer of Ireland, and his attempts to resolve these difficulties.

There is an interesting view of his duties in the court of castle chamber, the Irish equivalent of star chamber in 1586. Patrick Flatsbury and his brother Edmund, Johnstown, Kildare, was charged with the murder of Hugh burn. According to a later indictment against the jury, the evidence of murder was overwhelming, yet the jury, in clear violation of the evidence, acquitted the two accused. Smithy to pursue assize in the castle chambers for perjury, it is because they violated their oath to deliver a true verdict and to set a "contagious example" for the other jurors. They were found guilty and fined, although given their poverty, the fine was small.

He resigned from the post of solicitor-General in 1586, perhaps because of his increasing role in the plantation of Munster. He received considerable land in the province of Munster, where he settled 600 English tenants. He was noted for his exceptional rigor to the original Irish inhabitants: he refused any Irish tenants, boasted that there was "mere Irish" in his land, and noted that he "wanted to set fire to the nest, not that such a bird should be nesting in any home." If the Irish were to remain on their lands, he thought it could only be on the condition that they adopt the common law, for which he had great reverence: he likened the bringing of common law in Ireland to Moses, giving the law to his people.

In 1588 he sat on the judicial Commission, headed by sir Edmund Anderson, chief justice English General jurisdiction for flood control trial over claims to lands, forfeited by the Earl of Desmond. Since the Commission was mandated to find in favor of the crown, where possible, the findings were in most cases is a foregone conclusion, and only one Irish claimant of eighty-two years have been even partially successful, in that he was given permission to bring his case to court.

The British government was informed of his recent death in 1594, Jan. William Saxey his successor in as chief justice of Munster.