LONGFIELD, Mountifort (1746-1819), of Castle Mary, co. Cork.
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Family and Education
b. 22 Aug. 1746, 2nd s. of John Longfield of Longueville, and bro. of John Longfield*. m. 22 June 1778, Frances, da. of John George Bateman of Dromultin, co. Kerry, 3s. 2da. suc. to Castle Mary estates of his cos. Richard, 1st Visct. Longueville [I] 1811.
MP [I] 1776-1800.
Weighmaster, Cork 1792-1802; clerk of ships entries, Cork 1792-9; commr. of revenue [I] 1799-1802.
Cornet, 3 Horse 1766, lt. 1769, capt. 1772, maj. 1780, lt.-col. 1781, ret. 1789.
Gov. Cork 1791-8; lt.-col. R. Cork city militia 1793-1805, col. 1805-17.
‘Mounty’ Longfield was an MP for 42 years. He was first returned to the Irish parliament by his cousin Richard, who later became Lord Longueville, on account of his political and personal interest in Cork. Later he abandoned his military career and looked to civil employment in the county. In 1792 he took on lucrative revenue duties; in 1797 he captured one of the prestigious city seats at considerable personal expense and in 1799 was promoted to the revenue board with a salary rise of £500. From the early 1780s he consistently supported the Irish administration and continued to do so during the Union debates, his cousin claiming that the family had been convinced of the ‘utility and necessity of the measure’ by Lord Westmorland and Pitt.1
As Cork retained two Members after the Union, Longfield’s passage to Westminster was relatively smooth. The only substantial difference the measure made to his circumstances was that by reducing the number of Irish offices tenable with a parliamentary seat it obliged him to resign from the revenue board. His place was taken by his son Richard, though he also had hopes of a place compatible with a seat in Parliament worth £1,400 a year, which did not materialize.2 As to politics, his position then and later was to support those who defended the constitutional status quo, especially where the Catholic question was concerned. In 1817, for example, he requested a job for a friend on the grounds that he was ‘an honest man, a good Protestant, [and] a steady supporter of the constitution’.3 Like most Irish Members he expected that his support to governments would be rewarded by their attention to his claims for patronage. Unlike some, however, he does not appear to have demanded such attention, so he was generally regarded in official circles as ‘a very reasonable man’.4
In company with Lord Longueville, Longfield, who first spoke in justification of martial law in Ireland, 16 Mar. 1801, supported both Addington and Pitt (1801-6) except, according to an inaccurate report, on the question of the Prince of Wales’s revenue, 31 Mar. 1802, and certainly on the Irish spirits warehousing bill, 12 and 13 July 1804, which he opposed on behalf of his constituents. He opposed the Grenville ministry 1806-7. As a result of his opposition to the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, Lord Grenville and Fox suggested disciplinary action and Longfield’s brother was dismissed from the revenue board. As soon as Lord Grenville was himself dismissed in 1807, Longfield offered his services to the Duke of Portland and successfully requested that his brother be restored to his office.5
Longfield gave consistent support to both the Portland and Perceval ministries6 and in May 1811 succeeded to his cousin’s estates and political interest in Cork, but not to his title, which lapsed. The inheritance was not an immediate financial boon, however, owing to various settlements that his cousin had made on the property. In order to increase his own permanent income, Longfield therefore requested that in exchange for his son’s vacating office, his wife be given a pension. The Castle was impressed with the suggestion of an exchange rather than a direct request for an additional income from official sources: the chief secretary even referred to it as ‘an improvement upon the good old Irish system’. The idea was dropped when Longfield discovered that the exchange would leave him £200 worse off.7 There can be no doubt, however, of his good standing with the Castle. In September 1812, for example, the viceroy raised the subject of a peerage for him, applied for by Longfield in ‘a round about way’, and expressed surprise to the prime minister that, considering the nature of Longfield’s inheritance, the question had not been raised before. Peel, the chief secretary, got wind of it and supposed that Longfield’s support of another ministerialist candidate for Cork city at the forthcoming election might depend on a peerage. Nothing came of it, though Longfield did support Colthurst at the election, and when Lord Whitworth raised the question in 1814, Peel assured him that it would be throwing a peerage away.8
Longfield continued to support government, but in his absence from Cork became increasingly touchy about his monopoly of patronage there and in February 1818 informed Peel that he could not continue to support Colthurst without further damaging his interest and his purse. Finding Colthurst strongly supported by government, he made a desperate bid to secure himself by wooing Catholic support, which was given in the first instance to Hely Hutchinson. Considering that he had invariably voted against Catholic claims in Parliament, it was a faux pas. He lost his seat. Hearing of his admission ‘into the bosom of the Holy Mother Church’, Peel commented that it was a ‘most extraordinary and discreditable defection from the cause which he has always supported, and on his consistency in the support of which all the character he had as a public man depended’. Longfield wrote ruefully, 14 July 1818, ‘I have been a most strenuous supporter of the present ministry ever since their formation, Sir Nicholas [Colthurst] only a few years ... I hope your new friend will be as steady as I have been.’9 He died 8 June 1819.