WHITE, Luke (c.1740-1824), of Woodlands and Luttrell's Town, co. Dublin.
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Family and Education
b. c. 1750. m. (1) 7 Feb. 1781, Elizabeth, da. of Peter de la Maziere of Fleet Street, Dublin, 5s. 3da.; (2) 1800, Arabella, da. of Henry Fortescue, 1s.
Sheriff, co. Dublin 1804-5, co. Longford 1806-7; gov. co. Leitrim 1817-d.
He rose, by slow degrees, from being the poorest, to be the richest man in Ireland. He commenced business as an itinerant bookseller at Belfast ... The knowledge he thus acquired of public sales, procured him the situation of clerk to an auctioneer in Dublin. There he opened a small book-shop, became eminent in that line, sold lottery tickets, and by his speculations in the funds, and contracting for government loans, acquired his enormous wealth.
White subscribed £3,000 to the anti-Union campaign in January 1800 and in April the Irish government contracted with him for a loan of £1,500,000, whereupon a Castle official commented that White ‘notwithstanding his politics, would not have bid so high if he thought the Union would not be carried’. A first instalment of £75,000 as security on the loan was paid, but the second of £225,000 was not and White stood to forfeit the first. His petition to the Irish parliament alleging that a leak had depressed the funds on which he depended was supported by Isaac Corry, 15 July. It was not a severe setback for White who bought Lord Carhampton’s estate for £96,000 and was later reported to have spent some £200,000 on his attempts to get himself and his sons into Parliament.1
In July 1805 White informed the Castle that he meant to stand for county Dublin and hoped for their support. He was admitted to be ‘a very proper person’, though no promise was given him then, nor in November, when he applied again.2 In 1806 he stood as a supporter of the Grenville ministry, to whom he had offered his services again as a loan contractor, but was rather unexpectedly defeated.3 His eldest son Thomas contested county Leitrim unsuccessfully in 1806 and White again sponsored him in 1807, when he declined a poll. In 1812 he contested Leitrim himself, only to be defeated. He continued to push his sons forward, and when Lt.-Col. White succeeded in the command of the county Dublin militia in 1813, government had to stress to his competitors (the sitting Members) that the appointment had no political implications, though White made no secret of his wish for his son to be in Parliament as a supporter of government, reserving only his avowed support for Catholic relief.4 In 1816 White himself applied to be governor of Leitrim, and although government were apprehensive of the political implications they at length acceded.5 In 1818 he ousted one of the sitting Members, who, in his unavailing petition against the return, accused White of unbridled expenditure.
White was counted in opposition during his first Parliament.6 He made no known speech until 1821, but voted with the minority on the salaries of the junior lords of Admiralty, 18 Mar., and the royal household bill, 19 Mar. 1819; against state lotteries, 4 May; against the Irish window tax, 5 May, and on the sinking fund, 13 May. He paired against the address, 24 Nov. 1819. His son Luke had meanwhile contested unsuccessfully the by-election for county Longford, and eventually three of his sons became county Members—for Longford, Leitrim and Dublin—while the eldest, Thomas, was cut off with £5,000 p.a., allegedly for refusing to stand for county Dublin as a champion of the Catholics.7 He died 25 Feb. 1824.