Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the burgesses1
Estimated number qualified to vote:
24 in 1831
5,700 (1821); 6,284 (1831)
|20 Mar. 1820||JOHN CARROLL|
|9 Feb. 1821||FRANCIS LEIGH vice Carroll, vacated his seat|
|5 Mar. 1824||JOHN DOHERTY vice Leigh, vacated his seat|
|29 June 1826||WILLIAM WIGRAM|
|6 Aug. 1830||CHARLES POWELL LESLIE|
|7 May 1831||CHARLES TOTTENHAM|
|15 Aug. 1831||WILLIAM WIGRAM vice Tottenham, vacated his seat|
New Ross, a port suitable for 1,000-ton vessels lying on a navigable stretch of the Barrow, carried on ‘a considerable export trade in agricultural produce’ brought in from its ‘fertile and productive interior’. The municipal corporations commissioners reported that the ‘utmost dissatisfaction and suspicion’ existed towards its self-elected Protestant corporation of two bailiffs, an unlimited number of burgesses (one of whom was annually elected sovereign) and ‘freemen admitted solely by special favour’. There was no ‘title to admission from birth, servitude, marriage or any other right’, and no freeman was ‘known to have asserted the privilege’ of voting since the Union, so that the burgesses ‘alone, before the Reform Act, held the elective franchise’. Numbering just 24 in 1831, they were ‘composed altogether’ of relatives and friends of Francis Leigh (1755-1839) of Rosegarland and Charles Tottenham (1743-1823) of Ballycurry (a kinsman of the 2nd marquess of Ely), who as treasurer and receiver from 1790 ‘expended on the improvement of the town a much larger sum than he had corporate funds for’, leaving ‘an expenditure little, if at all, short of £20,000 to account for’ at his death. In 1825 a financial ‘discharge of the principal sum and interest’ was agreed between his second son Henry (1770-1826) on behalf of the corporation, and his successor Charles Tottenham (1768-1843), Member 1802-5. Nearly the ‘whole of the town’ was let on short leases from the Tottenhams, who with the Leighs retained complete control over the representation and took turns at nominating the Members.2
At the 1820 general election John Carroll of Dublin, the Tottenham nominee of 1818, was brought in again as a stopgap by Leigh, who returned himself early the following year. A silent supporter of the Liverpool ministry, by whom he had been granted an excise collector’s pension in 1818, Leigh opposed Catholic relief before retiring in favour of Carroll’s uncle, John Doherty of Dublin, a prominent Irish barrister and distant kinsman of George Canning*, the foreign secretary. Doherty supported Catholic claims, in favour of which petitions reached the Commons, 25 May 1824, 13 Apr. 1825. One against alteration of the butter duties was presented there, 12 May 1825.3 At the 1826 general election Doherty retired and Tottenham returned his brother-in-law William Wigram of London, a director of the East India Company and late Member for Wexford.4 Wigram was hostile to Catholic claims, against which a petition was presented to the Commons, 19 Mar. 1827. Favourable ones reached the Commons, 16 Feb. 1827, 22 Feb. 1828, and the Lords, 6 Mar. 1827.5 He opposed the Wellington ministry’s concession of emancipation in 1829 and retired at the following year’s dissolution, when it was Leigh’s turn to nominate. On 20 July Charles Powell Leslie of Glasslough, county Monaghan, who had sat for that county from 1801 until 1826, was informed by a supporter that Leigh, his cousin, ‘seemed more anxious to put in a person of whose principles he approved, than to return himself’, but that his ‘object in going into Parliament’ was to ‘obtain a living for his son who is to take orders immediately’, so that
if you were to represent to him that both your brother [John Leslie, bishop of Elphin] and yourself being in Parliament next year might give you some influence, perhaps he would attend to your request ... I always heard him say that he never took any money for returning any Member for the town. It would be well to try him as soon as possible.6
Terms were evidently agreed and Leslie came forward as Leigh’s nominee. Rumours that a ‘highly respectable English gentleman’ had been ‘called upon by the people of Ross to contest the representation’ came to nothing, and Leslie was returned unopposed. He gave a ‘very liberal donation of £100’ to the poor of the town.7 A petition for reform was presented to the Commons, 29 Mar., but Leslie voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 19 Apr. 1831.8 At the ensuing dissolution he made way for Tottenham’s eldest son Charles, who came forward with the support of Henry Lambert*, the reform candidate for county Wexford, with whom he ‘paraded’. The local press assumed that Tottenham, who had apparently signed a requisition to convene a county reform meeting earlier that year, was sending his son to Parliament ‘for the avowed purpose of supporting’ reform and praised his ‘liberal conduct’, but three months after his unopposed return Charles took the Chiltern Hundreds, having cast only one vote for the reintroduced bill. George Annesley, Viscount Valentia, the defeated anti-reform candidate for county Wexford, was rumoured for the vacancy, but Tottenham allegedly wanted ‘a still more thorough-going Tory’ and reseated Wigram.9 Petitions reached the Commons from the Catholic inhabitants against the Kildare Place Society grant, 1 Sept. 1831, and for the abolition of Irish tithes, 14 Feb. 1832.10 Wigram opposed reform, in support of which a petition calling for an ‘equally liberal’ Irish measure was presented to the Commons, 13 July 1832.11
New Ross was one of ten Irish boroughs with under 300 electors which Dominick Browne unsuccessfully proposed for disfranchisement, 9 July 1832. The boundary commissioners felt ‘obliged to include’ the northern suburb of Irish Town with the borough, but were unable to ‘go beyond the burial ground, because the houses there cease to be contiguous’, while Modellin beyond it was ‘a separate village’. Instead they recommended adding Rossbercon on the opposite side of the Barrow in county Kilkenny, which was ‘connected with New Ross by means of a wooden bridge’, explaining that although it would ‘not add above 10 or 12’ voters, ‘being on the bank of the river it may very possibly increase’. They estimated that the reformed constituency would have 246 £10 householders (exclusive of Rossbercon) and eight resident burgesses who were not also qualified as householders, but in the event the 1832 registered electorate numbered only 130.12 There was no contest at that year’s general election, when John Hyacinth Talbot of Castle Talbot, county Wexford, in whose family the influence was now ‘chiefly vested’, was returned as a Liberal; but in 1835 Tottenham’s son mounted an unsuccessful challenge as a Conservative. He regained the seat in 1856 and retired in favour of his son Charles George Tottenham, also a Conservative, in 1863.
Author: Philip Salmon
- 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 700-1 says ‘in the freemen’; but this was not the case after 1800.
- 2. PP (1831-2), xliii. 121-5; (1835), xxviii, 113-24.
- 3. CJ, lxxix. 411, 412; lxxx. 319, 407.
- 4. Dublin Evening Post, 29 June; Wexford Evening Post, 30 June 1826.
- 5. CJ, lxxxii. 181, 333; lxxxiii. 96; LJ, lix. 135.
- 6. PRO NI, Leslie mss MIC606/3/J/7/17/23, 24.
- 7. Ibid. 39, 40, 63; Dublin Evening Post, 29 July; Carlow Morning Post, 12 Aug. 1830.
- 8. CJ, lxxxvi. 456.