BUTLER (afterwards BUTLER CLARKE SOUTHWELL WANDESFORD), Hon. Charles Harward (1780-1860), of Castlecomer, co. Kilkenny
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Family and Education
b. 9 Nov. 1780, 4th s. of John Butler, MP [I], 17th earl of Ormonde [I] (d. 1795), and Lady Susan Frances Elizabeth Wandesford, da. and h. of John, 1st earl of Wandesford [I]; bro. of James Wandesford Butler*. educ. Eton 1789-97; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1797. m. (1) 1 Oct. 1812,1 Lady Sarah Butler (d. 7 July 1838), da. of Henry Thomas, 2nd earl of Carrick [I], 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 2 da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 10 Aug. 1842, Lucy, da. of Arthur French I*, wid. of Somerset Richard, 3rd earl of Carrick [I], s.p. Took by royal lic. additional names of Clarke 31 Oct. 1820 and Southwell and Wandesford 1 June 1830. d. 7 Nov. 1860.
Cornet 14 Drag. 1799, lt. 1800, capt. 1803, brevet capt. 1802, maj. 1807, ret. 1811.
Sheriff, co. Kilkenny 1802-3; mayor, Kilkenny 1816-17.
Butler had retired from Kilkenny city at the dissolution of 1820, but later that year was seated for the county on the family interest in place of his elder brother James, who had succeeded as earl of Ormonde. Returned unopposed in absentia (a supporter attributed his detention in England to the prolonged ill health of his wife), as a gesture of commitment he pledged to divest himself of the residence at Ulcombe, Kent, left to him by his eldest brother Walter, 18th earl of Ormonde, whose wife’s maiden name of Clarke he took as an additional surname. He evidently retained the estate, for it later passed to his second son Henry Thomas (1815-85).2 A sporadic attender, inaccurately described by a radical commentary of 1823 as having ‘never attended during the three sessions of the 1820 Parliament’, when present he continued to give general support to the Liverpool administration. This was the line he and his brother, who was governor and custos rotulorum of county Kilkenny, colonel of its militia and was noted by the ministry as ‘eagerly’ seeking the Kilkenny collectorship which was ‘in abeyance’, had charted since 1815, though they did not always see eye to eye.3 Butler Clarke voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He contended that the Irish insurrection bill was unnecessarily draconian, especially the proposal enabling local magistrates to transport insolvent tenants, 7 Feb. 1822, and was in the minority for trial by jury to be included in the legislation next day. Goulburn, the Irish secretary, expressed surprise at his conduct given that Ormonde had ‘as much as any man complained of the want of legal power to put down the disturbances’.4 During a debate arising from a petition against the imposition of tithes on potatoes, 15 May, Butler Clarke defended the conduct of Irish landlords, many of whom ‘did not get a shilling in rent’. He divided with ministers against more extensive tax reductions, 11 Feb. 1822. That summer he acted as second to James Grattan* in his duel with Standish O’Grady*.5 There is no record of any parliamentary activity in 1823, but he was in the majority against condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He voted for the bill to suppress the Catholic Association, 25 Feb. 1825, having opposed Hume’s proposal to extend its provisions to Orange organisations three days earlier and deplored his expressions of sympathy for the rebellion of 1798.6 (His sensitivity was perhaps understandable, for as a young man he had taken on a party of the rebels and seen them burn down his mother’s ancestral home at Castlecomer, which was rebuilt in 1802.)7 He welcomed the proposal to disfranchise Irish 40s. freeholders, 26 Apr., and the plan of Catholic relief, which was ‘the only way to render Ireland serviceable’ beyond the imposition of military rule, 6 May. He divided for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 30 May, 6, 10 June 1825.
At the 1826 general election an attempt was made to turn him out of county Kilkenny on account of his hostility to the Catholic Association, but he stood again and comfortably topped the five-day poll.8 (He later asserted in debate that the full weight of priestly influence had been used against him, 20 Mar. 1829.) He presented petitions for Catholic relief, 2 Mar. 1827, 27 Feb., 3 June 1828, and voted thus, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828.9 He was in the minority against the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May 1827. On 3 Mar. 1828 he questioned a witness in the East Retford inquiry. He dismissed a call for the introduction of a system of Irish poor laws, insisting that the denial of Catholic civil rights was ‘the first and greatest evil under which Ireland laboured’, 1 Apr. He opposed the addition of more Irish Members to the committee on the Hibernian Joint Stock Company bill, 6 May. That day the Whig George Agar Ellis* noted that he ‘spoke so strongly and vehemently’ against the Callan enclosure bill, which he and Lord Ormonde had been all ‘for going on with’, that the committee ‘were obliged to withdraw it’, adding, ‘strange conduct this, but I am now told, he generally manages to go against his brother on most occasions’. He served on the committee again the following year, when Agar Ellis described his continued opposition as ‘particularly pig-headed and stupid’.10 Speaking ‘as an independent county Member ... not pledged to any party’, Butler Clarke denied that his Catholic constituents resented the payment of tithes following their commutation, but warned that it was inevitable that the disadvantaged among them would continue to ‘show what their feelings are when an opportunity for doing so offers’, 12 May. He joined in calls to stop a supply payment to a Dublin official under investigation for fraud, 30 May 1828.
He welcomed the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation, observing that it should have been made at the time of Union, that he ‘would far rather see a Catholic occupying my place in the House than be here myself’, and that although the cause had been assisted by the Catholic Association (which he had come to admire), he was willing to acquiesce in its suppression, 13 Feb. 1829. He presented favourable petitions, 10 Mar., when he reiterated his view that discontent over tithes had been exaggerated, 25 Mar., and voted accordingly, 6, 30 Mar (as a pair). On the 16th he deplored the preaching of an anti-Catholic sermon to the boys at Eton. He was confident that the Irish people would accept the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders as the price of emancipation, but insisted that this should be contingent on its passage, 20 Mar. He twice queried the wording of the proposed new oath of allegiance, 23 Mar. He presented Kilkenny petitions against the disfranchisement and the Irish Subletting Act, 25 Mar. He voted to allow Daniel O’Connell to take his seat unhindered, 18 May 1829. Three days later he declared that troops could be safely spared from the Irish garrison, ‘such is the beneficial consequence of the late measure’. His only known votes of 1830 were in the minorities for parliamentary reform, 18 Feb., abolition of the Irish lord lieutenancy, 11 May, and proper use of Irish first fruits, 18 May 1830.
At the 1830 dissolution Butler Clarke retired in favour of his nephew Lord Ossory, ‘conscious’ of having fulfilled his duties in a ‘very imperfect manner’, not ‘from any want of inclination to serve you’, but because of having a ‘more paramount duty to perform’, which prob