The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

II. Historians, Biographers and Political Orators

§ 76. Plunket

It is not as an Irishman that it is usual to remember Palmerston; but not a few orators of Irish birth were the descendants of an age when the art of oratory had been fostered by the spirit of parliamentary independence, or themselves lived at a time when the Irish bar, as the one high-road to a career of public distinction, encouraged an eloquence directly appealing, in manner as well as in matter, to broad popular sympathies. Among the successors of Grattan, William Conyngham, afterwards lord, Plunket—to whom, in spite of O’Connell and “the anti-vetoists,” the conduct of the catholic relief movement was, in the first instance, entrusted—was probably, the most finished speaker. His career at the Irish bar reaches back some years into the eighteenth century, and he did not resign the Irish lord chancellorship (in which he had exhibited very high judicial qualities) till 1841. One of the finest of his speeches was that of 21 February, 1829, on the catholic claims, which, while demonstrating that the exclusion of catholics from the legislature was a constitutional innovation, upheld the Irish church establishment as, historically, part of the constitution. This and other speeches by him which remain are, certainly, on a very high level of both argument and style. The gravity of his eloquence frequently rose to imaginative loftiness; and, in the opinion of a cultivated critic, he would, had he been bred in parliament, have been the greatest speaker that ever appeared in it. Lord Brougham compares his twofold eminence, at the bar and in parliament, to that of Berryer, perhaps the most exquisite speaker to whom it has been the lot of anyone now living to listen.