ODELL, William (1752-1831), of Fortwilliam and the Grove, Rathkeale, co. Limerick.
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Family and Education
b. 1752, 1st s. of Capt. John Odell of Bealdurogy, co. Limerick by 3rd w. Jane, da. of Henry Baylee of Lough Gur, co. Limerick. educ. ?Limerick, Trinity, Dublin 1768. m. (1) settlement 25 Nov. 1773, Aphra (d. 6 Sept. 1814), da. of John Crone of Doneraile, co. Cork, 7s. 5da.; (2) 4 Oct. 1818, Anna Maria Finucane of Ennis, niece and h. of Rev. James Finucane, Catholic priest, of Kilfarboy, co. Clare, s.p.s. suc. fa. 1761.
MP [I] 1797-1800.
Commr.Commr. of treasury [I] Aug. 1810-1817, [UK] 1817-19.
Sheriff, co. Limerick 1789-90.
Lt.-col. co. Limerick militia 1793.
It was Odell’s boast that he was the only Limerick Member who supported the Union, which he did without seeking a reward. When the viceroy Cornwallis asked him if he could oblige him in any way, Odell asked for the promotion of his son in the army: ‘Lord Cornwallis promised it, but going away, nothing was done’. At Westminster, where he retained the county seat at the instigation of Lord Clare and of his ‘relation’ Lord Limerick, Odell went on to support administration, except on the inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s finances, 4 Mar. 1803, though in the autumn of that year he was detained in Limerick helping to raise the army of reserve. In the spring of 1804 John Beresford* reported of him to George Rose, ‘Colonel Odell has been with me, and will vote with Mr Pitt. He is an honourable, independent country gentleman.’ After telling the story of Cornwallis’s promise, Beresford added that Odell had since purchased his son’s troop, but felt ill-treated and wished to come to terms with Pitt.1
Apart from some expressed reservations on the Irish additional force bill, 29 June, 6 July 1804, and Catholic relief, for which he voted on 14 May 1805, Odell supported Pitt’s administration. The minister engaged either to make him colonel of the county militia, in which he had been active since 1793 and had served during the rebellion of 1798, provided Lord Muskerry could be induced to resign the colonelcy, or to place his son at the revenue board. In December 1805 the Irish secretary suggested to Pitt that Muskerry should be offered the patent office of weighmaster of Cork, worth £600 p.a., to make him resign in Odell’s favour, but nothing was arranged at Pitt’s death. Pitt’s successor Lord Grenville noted, 3 Mar. 1806:
Col. Odell: Object—Promises support—desires office for his son, as promised by Mr Pitt—is going to Ireland for the assizes—will come back to attend Pit. if written to. Answer—To enquire—favble. disposition, but cannot promise, without examination and conversation with Mr Elliot who will write to him. If he is wanted in Parliament Mr Elliot will let him know it.
In April Odell put his case to Elliot. The government stood by him at the election of 1806, despite their doubts as to his prospects. His request had not been met and on 22 Feb. 1807 he applied to Grenville either for a place for his son or for a place or pension of £600 p.a., on the strength of which Muskerry might resign the county militia in his favour.2
Receiving a negative reply from Grenville, Odell transferred his support to the Portland ministry, attending and voting with them in April 1807. His reward was their support at the ensuing election and a place at the revenue board for his son Thomas. In accepting this, he hinted that as the place was not permanent, he did not renounce his claim to succeed to the militia, but the Castle took the view that they had satisfied his claims on them fully. His attendance in 1807-8 was curtailed by illness and regimental duties, which he discovered he was unable to waive to attend Parliament, but he voted for Catholic relief, 25 May 1808. The Castle were otherwise satisfied as to his conduct, but in January 1810 he raised the question of the Limerick militia command with them. Finding that there was no chance of buying Muskerry’s resignation, as the latter wanted £6,000 as well as the equivalent of £600 a year, and that government intended the command for young Lord Clare when he came of age, he informed the chief secretary in February that he would take his chance as to the militia and asked instead for office for himself or his son, though he was warned that there was no immediate prospect of it. He nevertheless expressed to Perceval his disappointment at not being promised the militia command. The viceroy, who was confident that no obligation to him remained, commented that Odell ‘like many others ... conceives anything short of a positive refusal to be a promise’.3
Meanwhile, Odell had stood by government in their minorities on the Scheldt expedition, 23 Feb., 5 Mar. 1810, and voted against the reform of sinecures, 17 May, and of Parliament, 21 May 1810, though he voted for the Catholic claims on 1 June. When soon afterwards the chief secretary reported his wish to become a lord of the Irish treasury if a vacancy occurred, he admitted that Odell was perhaps ‘our very best attender in the House of Commons’ and that he thought ‘we could not do better than give the office to Odell’. He was placed at the treasury in August 1810, though his re-election was postponed until January 1811 to improve his prospects of re-election in his third contest for his seat. On 31 May 1811 he again voted for Catholic relief, but when on 4 Feb. 1812, on Morpeth’s motion, he voted against government, ‘stating as his reason on his legs that he should always vote for everything favourable to the Roman Catholics—but that he highly approved of the conduct of the Irish government’, the official reaction was bilious; the more so because Lady Clare had two or three days before the debate implied to the chief secretary that Odell would act as he had unless promised by the next day a job for one of his friends involving the promotion of his own son to be assistant barrister of Limerick. The viceroy thought he should be turned out, but was informed by the chief secretary, 13 Feb.:
Odell has never been near me, and he goes every day to the House of Commons and always votes with us: and takes care to let everybody know that he was forced to vote with the Catholics, so that I have very little doubt that when he is told that he must quit his office ... he will deny having authorized Lady Clare to say a word on the subject of Mr Lloyd or his son.
So it turned out, for Odell informed the secretary that Lady Clare’s intervention was unauthorized by him and that he was bound to vote for the Catholics or lose his election. Perceval instructed Wellesley Pole, however, not to remonstrate with Odell, the fate of the government being then uncertain, and although the viceroy maintained that ‘we shall be laughed at and properly too if we keep in a lord of the treasury who on such a question opposes us’, and that his retention in office caused surprise on all sides, he was allowed to remain, Perceval stating on 19 Mar. that the Prince Regent’s views on the Catholic question made it advisable. On 24 Apr. 1812 Odell, who three days before informed the House that he had just come over from Limerick, again voted for Catholic relief, though he was in the government minority on Stuart Wortley’s motion of 21 May.4
At the general election Odell received government support, having got Lord Sidmouth to recommend him to Peel, the new chief secretary, as ‘a firm friend of government’; but it was grudgingly given—Odell was denied the nomination of the next sheriff—and ungraciously received, Odell promising support ‘as long as I am treated with the friendship and attention I have so well deserved’. In January 1813 the viceroy was outraged to hear that he had applied in England for an Irish privy councillorship, which he had been specifically warned was not to go with his office, and in February the chief secretary wrote: ‘How can Mr Odell expect to retain his seat at the treasury, if he absents himself from Parliament?’. He turned up to support Catholic relief, 2 Mar. and 24 May 1813. On 25 May he supported the Irish fire-arms bill. On 16 Apr. 1814 he sent Peel a doctor’s sworn certificate that an injury caused by a fall from his horse prevented his attendance, and on 9 Nov. the loss of his wife and ‘very severe indisposition’ were his excuses. He now wished his son Thomas to become chairman of the Irish board of excise, though the Castle demurred. In February 1815 Peel reported that Odell had had the ‘audacity’ to linger in Ireland, and in March that, with ‘consummate stupidity’, he withheld his signature from treasury warrants on the assumption that his private property would otherwise be rendered liable to confiscation. After he had come over and voted with government on the civil list, 14 Apr. and 31 May, and for the Catholics, 30 May 1815, Peel quarrelled with him in denying him the nomination of the next sheriff of Limerick and Odell turned to his friends Sidmouth and Castlereagh for comfort. On 29 Dec. 1815, applying for his eldest son to be examiner of taxes in the excise, he complained of being denied county patronage and on 20 Jan. 1816 reminded Peel that he had received no favour from the present Irish government.5
Peel admitted privately that Odell had perhaps less patronage than any other Irish county Member, but thought his conduct merited such treatment. A ‘severe cold’ prevented his attendance early in 1816 but, after asking for a land waitership for his son on 12 Apr., he appeared in the government divisions of 6 and 24 May and 17 June, and, as usual but for the last time, in the pro-Catholic minority of 21 May. In December 1816 his claim to be transferred to the United Kingdom Treasury board, on the dissolution of the Irish one, based as it was on seniority alone, was reluctantly admitted, but the premier insisted on Odell’s ‘early and constant attendance’. There is some evidence that Odell heeded this, though in January 1818 a ‘severe cold’ kept him away once more. In April and Oct. 1817 he had applied for his eldest son to be distributor of stamps in county Limerick, and in renewing the application, 27 Jan. 1818, complained that he had received no county patronage for four or five years. When Thomas Odell was made a coast surveyor that year, it was at Odell’s colleague’s instigation, not his. In June 1818, Muskerry having died, he made his bid for the militia command, which the Castle had long looked forward to the satisfaction of refusing.6
Odell’s disgrace was rapid. He was obliged to give up the county in 1818 for lack of government support and though he announced that he intended to purchase a seat, none was forthcoming. He was informed that he could not retain his Treasury place out of Parliament. He had meanwhile married a Catholic and become embroiled in litigation with his family and, refusing to pay his debts, was lodged in the Marshalsea prison, where he died, ‘after a confinement of 12 years’, 8 June 1831.