CROSBIE, James (c.1760-1836), of Ballyheigue, co. Kerry

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

1801 - 1806
1812 - 1826

Family and Education

b. c.1760, 1st s. of Pierce Crosbie of Ballyheigue and Frances, da. of Rowland Bateman of Oakpark. educ. Harrow 1770. m. 1785, his cos. Elizabeth, da. of Rowland Bateman, MP [I], of Oakpark, 4s. 2da. d. 20 Sept. 1836.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1797-1800.

Sheriff, co. Kerry 1792-3, gov. 1803-31, custos rot. 1815-d.

Lt.-col. Kerry militia 1797, col. 1801-d.

Biography

Crosbie, the head of a junior branch of the Kerry family of that name, represented his native county from 1797 and came to monopolize its principal offices, but his relations with his third cousin and chief patron Lord Glandore had deteriorated badly even before the latter’s death in 1815, when he succeeded him as custos rotulorum, and his own inactivity and lack of wealth gradually undermined his political standing at home.1 He spent most of his time at Ballyheigue, which he turned into a romantic castle in about 1809, and, according to a family source, he avoided travelling in winter, having once been wrecked off the Welsh coast.2 Certainly he was known as a ‘parliamentary absentee’ and was almost entirely silent, although to him was attributed the anecdote that, in referring in debate to another Member, he had said, ‘Sir, if I have any partiality for the hon. gentleman, it is against him’.3 Except on the Catholic question, of which he was a supporter, he generally sided with the Liverpool administration, from whom, not without making a nuisance of himself, he extracted the maximum advantage in the distribution of county patronage.4 He was again returned unopposed at the general election of 1820.5

He voted against economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820, repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., omitting the arrears from the grant to the duke of Clarence, 18 June, and Hume’s motion for economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821. He divided against censuring ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821, and reform of the Scottish representative system, 2 June 1823. On Henry Brougham attempting to present a petition alleging that he had received £1,000 by obtaining a collectorship for his son-in-law William Meredith Twiss, 26 June, Crosbie, in a low tone of voice, unequivocally rejected the charge and threatened legal redress. Having consulted the other Kerry Member, the knight of Kerry, Brougham again brought it up, 27 June, 1 July, when Crosbie acquitted his colleague of improper interference and the motion to lay the petition on the table was defeated by 51-26.6 Thomas Spring Rice*, for one, considered him to be certainly guilty of corruption and this affair may have been behind Crosbie’s (foiled) challenge to the retired Dublin barrister Peter Bodkin Hussey that autumn and his plea early the following year to Peel, the home secretary, over what he referred to as an unfounded charge.7 He, who had of course voted for Catholic relief on 26 Feb. 1821, chaired the county meeting in its support, 5 Feb. 1825.8 He missed the call, 28 Feb., and was ordered into custody, 2 Mar., but on the 4th was excused on account of the dangerous illness of his brother Pierce (d. 1827). However, he divided for the second, 21 Apr., and third readings of the relief bill, 10 May. His only other known vote was for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 10 June. He spoke for emancipation at the Kerry Catholics’ gathering, the first of several he attended, 7 Aug. 1825, and he accepted the invitation to the dinner of the friends of civil and religious liberty in Dublin on 2 Feb. 1826.9 As in 1822 and 1824, no evidence of parliamentary activity has been traced during the 1826 session.

In 1823 Daniel O’Connell* had commented that Crosbie ‘has not the least chance of sitting again; his health is much impaired and his fortune gone’.10 Yet he had canvassed in the late summer of 1824, when Ennismore’s son William Hare offered, and stood again, with the mustered support of his friends and of O’Connell, at the general election of 1826.11 Although not a gifted speaker, he was warmly applauded on the hustings and would have been elected on the show of hands, 24 June. The following day, when an election riot was violently suppressed, he accused Ennismore of ruffianly behaviour and struck him. O’Connell advised him to withdraw before the illegally delayed poll opened, but he persisted, finishing well behind the knight and Hare.12 His promised petition was presented, 5 Dec. 1826, but he was unable to pursue it.13 Ennismore initiated legal proceedings, which ended amicably and inconsequentially on Crosbie admitting in court, 24 Nov. 1827, that during their altercation he had threatened to horsewhip him.14 Nothing came of O’Connell’s suggestion in August 1828 that he was a possible candidate for Tralee on the independent interest there.15 James Kelly of Clipstone Street, Portland Road, Middlesex, had a petition, alleging that Crosbie had used his official influence in Kerry to thwart enforcement of the repayment of his £300 debt, brought up, 12 June 1829, and the report of the commissioners of inquiry into the Irish courts of justice into the case was presented, 7 July 1830.16 It may have been because of this that in September 1829 Lord Francis Leveson Gower, the Irish secretary, advised Peel, apparently in relation to a memorial of Crosbie’s wishes, that ‘from what I have heard of his proceedings, I think the knowledge that government had consulted them in any instance would throw some discredit upon us’.17 He had stated in June 1829 that he would come forward again for Kerry, but although he canvassed in the approach to the general election of 1830, it was his eldest son Major Pierce Crosbie who in the end offered and was defeated in a brief contest.18 It was reported that he might stand at the general election the following year, but he never re-entered Parliament.19 He died in September 1836, being succeeded by Pierce (1792-1849). The obituary notice in one Tralee newspaper noted that ‘constitutionally liberal in his political principles and consequently Conservative, he invariably supported Catholic emancipation and was always highly popular, notwithstanding the ungrateful and unprincipled machinations of demagogues and agitators’.20

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell

Notes

  • 1. Hist. Irish Parl. iii. 547; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 539.
  • 2. M. Bence-Jones, Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988), 22-23; Harrow Reg. 1571-1800 ed. W.T.J. Gun, 59.
  • 3. Black Bk. (1823), 149; Moore Jnl. ii. 765.
  • 4. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 539; Add. 40296, ff. 12-13; 40297, ff. 7, 55-56; O’Connell Corresp. ii. 847a.
  • 5. General Advertiser or Limerick Gazette, 24 Mar. 1820.
  • 6. CJ, lxxviii.431-2, 444; Brougham mss, knight of Kerry to Brougham, 26 June 1823; O’Connell Corresp. ii. 1041.
  • 7. Lansdowne mss, Rice to Lansdowne, 2 Sept.; The Times, 13 Nov. 1824; Add. 40373, f. 50.
  • 8. Dublin Evening Post, 10 Feb. 1825.