BLACKNEY, Walter (1775-1842), of Ballyellin, co. Carlow
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Family and Educationb. 1 Aug. 1775, 1st s. of James Blackney of Ballycormack and Ballyellin and Gertrude, da. of John Galwey of Lota, co. Cork and West Court, co. Kilkenny. m. (1) his cos. Catherine, da. of John Wyse of St. John, co. Waterford, 3s. d.v.p.; (2) Isabella, da. of Sir Hugh O’Reilly Nugent, 1st bt., of Ballinlough Castle, co. Westmeath, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1 da. suc. fa. 1796; grandfa. Walter Blackney 1796. d. 14 Sept. 1842.
Blackney came from an old Carlow Catholic family, his great-great-grandfather and namesake having inherited Ballycormack in the 1680s from a maternal grandfather, Dudley Bagenal, the son of George Bagenal of Dunleckny, who sat for the county in the Irish Parliament of 1613. On the death of his father, 28 Mar. 1796, Blackney became heir apparent to the family estates of his grandfather Walter, who had acquired additional leasehold properties at Ballyellin and Clonmoney in 1781, to which Blackney succeeded, 29 Sept. 1796.1 In 1831 Richard Sheil* described him as a ‘county gentleman, who did not even take a part in Catholic politics and was unknown in the Association’, whose ‘only claim to public honours must have been confined to the great respectability of his family, and to his personal virtues and worth’, as ‘no one ever regarded him as likely to become the trustee of the interest of the empire’.2 In January 1829, however, Blackney had chaired a county Carlow meeting for the ‘friends of civil and religious liberty’, attended by Dr. Doyle, the influential Catholic bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, in support of the Association and the Irish viceroy Lord Anglesey, whose recall he condemned as the ‘greatest disaster that could befall our common country’. At the following year’s general election he had assisted the county’s independents in their unsuccessful challenge to the sitting Members.3 At the 1831 general election he came forward for county Carlow as a reformer, promising to ‘be in the ranks with Ireland’s best friend, Daniel O’Connell’, and was returned unopposed.
In the House he was ‘popularly called Dr. Doyle’s Member’, on account of the bishop’s part in his campaign.4 In his maiden speech, 30 June 1831, he accused opposition Members of expressing ‘unbecoming’ sentiments in the debates on the Newtownbarry massacre, which he claimed to have witnessed, and denounced the conduct of the magistrates and yeomanry of county Wexford, saying, ‘a set of butchers with their cleavers would better defend the people’s rights, and enforce authority, than the yeomen’, who should ‘never be entrusted with arms against the people’. He called for inquiry into the ‘offensive’ toasts drunk by the Carlow grand jury to the Newtownbarry yeomanry and accused the Carlow governor of being a ‘principal actor in these obnoxious proceedings’, 9 Aug. He voted for printing the Waterford petition for disarming the yeomanry and urged their immediate dissolution in Carlow, where they consisted of the ‘lowest orders’ of Protestants and contained ‘not a single’ Catholic, 11 Aug. He presented petitions for disbanding the yeomanry, 27, 31 Aug., when he alleged that ‘a woman very near childbirth’ had been ‘ripped up’ at Newtownbarry and the child ‘also shot’, and endorsed others in similar terms, 6, 9 Sept., 3 Oct. On 30 Aug. Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, notified Anglesey, the viceroy, that he had asked Blackney to ‘put off a motion which he had given notice of, for communications between you’ and the Carlow magistrates on their alleged toasts to the Newtownberry yeomanry.5 Blackney declared that if the government would ‘exhibit a disposition to disarm the yeomen, every symptom of dissatisfaction would cease’ and they ‘would not want a soldier to preserve the peace’, 7 Sept. He presented petitions against the grant to the Kildare Place Society, 8, 24, 31 Aug. He denied that the Irish people were dependent on England, citing the £120,000 which the treasury received ‘from the pockets of the poor’, 15 Aug., when he welcomed the Irish lord lieutenants bill. He presented a petition for repeal of the Distillery Act, 16 Aug. He voted for a reduction in civil list pensions, 18 July, and against the grant for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies, 25 July, but divided with ministers on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He condemned the ‘most corrupt’ conduct of the sheriff in the Pembrokeshire election and moved successfully for the committee’s evidence to be printed, 23 Sept. He divided for inquiry into the conduct of the Winchester magistrates during the arrest of the Deacles, 27 Sept. He was in the minority for legal provision for the Irish poor, 29 Aug. He welcomed the proposed appointment of Lord Duncannon*, a member of the government, as lord lieutenant of Carlow, 7 Sept., but on 6 Oct. he protested that elsewhere ‘the wishes of the people’ had not been ‘sufficiently consulted’ and too many absentee landlords chosen. He contended that the Irish public works bill gave ‘too great power’ to grand juries, noting that in Carlow they had built a gaol ‘large enough, not only for the county, but for the entire province’, 16 Sept. He denounced the grand jury cess ‘by which money is taken from the pockets of the people’ and the ‘system of jobbing’ in Ireland, 29 Sept. He warned that there were ‘too many churchmen in the commission of the peace’, which made it ‘highly disagreeable to the great body of the people’, 5 Oct. 1831. Defending the non-payment of tithes in Ireland next day, he observed that if the clergy were ‘vexatious and tyrannical’ in collecting them, ‘what can you expect but opposition and resistance amongst the suffering class?’
Blackney voted for the Grey ministry’s reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and gave generally steady support to its details, though he voted against the division of counties, 11 Aug. 1831. He divided for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct., and congratulated ministers on their ‘great measure’ the following day. He paired for the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and again supported its details, though he voted against the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 1 Feb. 1832. On 11 Feb. he defended the use of election oaths against Croker, whom he accused of speaking ‘only for the purpose of delaying the bill’. He was absent from the divisions on the third reading, 22 Mar., Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the bill unimpaired, 10 May, and the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May. On 6 June he denounced the ‘extensive injustice’ of the Irish registration system, describing how many of his tenants had been ‘refused registration because they were not able to produce my title as well as their own’ while he was attending the House. He presented and endorsed a petition against the ‘present abominable system’ from Borris, where he claimed that only three out of 150 had recently been allowed to register, and warned that ‘if permitted to continue’ this would ‘render the measure of reform abortive’, 14 June. He divided for O’Connell’s motion to extend the Irish county franchise to £5 freeholders and was in the minority of nine to enfranchise £30 rent payers on leases of 19 years, 18 June. He voted against the liability of Irish electors to pay municipal taxes before they could vote, 29 June, when he complained that ‘no one appears to know what a register is, what a freehold is, or what anything is’. He called for a jury system to replace the predominantly Protestant Irish revising barristers, with whom the people were ‘by no means’ satisfied, 2 July, and demanded the removal of county Carlow’s assistant barrister who was hostile to the ‘rights of the people’, 6 July 1832.
Blackney was in the minority for the Vestry Act amendment bill, 23 Jan. 1832, when he asserted that Ireland was determined ‘no longer to submit to the payment of tithes’. He protested that the exclusion of Catholics from the tithes committee would ‘not reconcile a pauperized population’ to their payment, 9 Feb., and that it was ‘not in the power of England to maintain the present system’, 14 Feb. He rejected as a ‘foul stigma’ allegations that he had gone from ‘chapel to chapel’ through Carlow with ‘a mob at his heels’ proclaiming ‘no tithes’ and ‘no Union’, 16 Feb., when he spoke and voted for printing the Woollen Grange petition for the abolition of tithes. He divided steadily against the Irish tithes bill thereafter, blaming the clergy for creating the problem, 2 Mar., and asking how long ministers intended to ‘persevere in their wild project of coercion’, 13 Mar. On 14 June he declared that without the ‘speedy extinction’ of tithes there would be an ‘extinction of lives, and a levelling of all property’, but he was called to order by the Speaker for repeating the observation of a clergyman opposed to the reform bill, who ‘did not scruple to tell me that the present was not the first king who had brought himself, by his acts, to the block’. He blamed the ‘misery’ of Ireland on ‘corruption, misgovernment and absenteeism’ and voted for a tax on absentee landlords to provide permanent provision for the poor, 19 June. He contended that ‘quite enough’ had been done to relieve the Irish clergy and ‘rich prelates’, 29 June, and, in a speech for which he was again reprimanded by the Speaker, charged them with ‘oppressing the poor of Ireland’, 3 July. He warned ministers that any attempt to protect tithes would prove ‘utterly impossible’, even if they tried to use ‘the whole standing army of England’, 10 July. He divided for inquiry in