LAMBERT, Henry (1786-1861), of Carnagh, co. Wexford
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Family and Educationb. 1 Sept. 1786, 1st s. of Patrick Lambert of Carnagh and Mary Anne, da. of George Lattin of Morristown Lattin, co. Kildare. m. 11 June 1835, Catharine, da. of William Talbot of Castle Talbot, co. Wexford, 2s. 6da. (1 d.v.p). suc. fa. 1808. d. 20 Oct. 1861.
Lambert, the head of an old Catholic family, had for several years been active in the politics of county Wexford.1 At the 1818 general election he assisted the return of a second pro-Catholic candidate, Caesar Colclough.2 Following the 1826 general election, when another pro-Catholic, Arthur Chichester II*, was forced to withdraw, he began working for him and was credited with being chiefly responsible for an improvement in his standing.3 He was a leading member of the county Liberal Club established in 1828 and a regular attender of county meetings for Catholic emancipation, which he publicly urged the duke of Wellington to concede, 26 Jan. 1829.4 On 28 Apr. he wrote to Wellington that having done so, there was another ‘great measure’ open to him:
The seats of many gentlemen have been demolished as they have been forced to sell their homes. They lost their estates because of a legislative Act. Nothing but misery and desolation can result from a system which decrees that the more successful a manufacturer becomes the more likely is his ruin and that all classes must surrender their property. The changes in the currency have meant that the number of buyers for merchandise has decreased. Overproduction has resulted and producers have become bankrupt. The present financial system is unsatisfactory. Since the end of the war Britain has trebled its national debt. The continuation of peace and this system is leading Britain to bankruptcy.5
On the retirement of his friend Robert Shapland Carew at the 1830 dissolution, Lambert offered as a ‘thorough-going radical reformer’, advocating reform in Parliament, the law, and the church, but condemning the ‘mockery of free trade’, under which ‘commerce is nearly annihilated’ and the agricultural interest ‘deliberately and obstinately sacrificed’.6 After a severe contest, in which Colclough and Chichester declined to assist him, he was defeated in third place, but promised to stand again.7 Complaining that ‘certain friendships that I have been for years in the habit of admitting as a matter of fact’ had turned out to be ‘a matter of farce when put on trial’, he turned to Thomas Wyse* for ‘advice and direction in the measures best calculated to place me as your zealous co-operator in the House’, and for help in securing the Portsmouth interest in county Wexford at the next election.8
At the 1831 general election he offered as a reformer with the backing of the Grey ministry, Carew having assured Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, he could ‘depend upon Lambert’s support in the House’ and in support of the Union, for ‘though a Catholic, he is strongly anti-agitation and shares the sentiments of Lord Killeen, Wyse, etc.’9 On 10 May Lambert informed Smith Stanley that he would be ‘quite unable to meet the whole of the heavy expense which must attend the contest’ as his estate was ‘heavily encumbered’, whereupon £500 from the Reform Fund Committee was forthcoming.10 After a six-day poll he was returned in second place.11 In the House he campaigned relentlessly for inquiry into the Newtownbarry massacre of 18 June 1831 and for the disbanding of the Irish yeomanry, in support of which he brought up numerous petitions; he voted to print the one from Waterford, 11 Aug. On 30 June he unexpectedly withdrew a motion for information on the yeomanry in order not to ‘embarrass’ the government. (The previous day Smith Stanley, fearing that he would ‘insist’ on bringing it forward, had asked the foreign secretary Lord Palmerston* to ‘call a cabinet to consider this whole question’.)12 Lambert maintained that a report about the ‘ripping open of the abdomen of a pregnant woman’ at Newtownbarry was true and that the yeomanry had later fired over the chapel at the funeral of the victims, 31 Aug.; and on 9 Sept. he complained of having been denounced by the Orange press and warned that ‘if justice be denied’ the ‘most lamentable consequences’ would ensue. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against the adjournment, 12 July, and gave steady support to its detailed provisions, though he was in the minority for the disfranchisement of Saltash, 26 July, when he described reform ‘as a new Magna Charta’. He voted against the grant for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies, 25 July. He divided against the disqualification of the Dublin election committee, 29 July, and the issue of a writ, 8 Aug., and with ministers on the controversy, 23 Aug. He voted against the Irish union of parishes bill, 19 Aug., and for legal provision for the Irish poor, 29 Aug. He welcomed the bill to create lord lieutenants of Irish counties, 20 Aug., and congratulated ministers on the ‘impartiality’ of their appointments, especially Carew for county Wexford, 6 Oct. He divided for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He voted for inquiry into the conduct of the Winchester magistrates during the arrest of the Deacles, 27 Sept., and opposed the grant to the Royal Dublin Society, 29 Sept. 1831.
Lambert paired for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, was granted a fortnight’s leave on account of ill health, 26 Jan., but gave steady support to its details and divided for the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. Speaking against Alexander Baring’s bill to exclude insolvent debtors from Parliament, 14 Feb., he said that there was ‘scarcely a landed proprietor who has not some judgement debts against him’ and asked ‘how long Fox and Pitt and many other great men could have remained in the House’ under it. He was in the hostile minority of four, 30 May, when he called for inquiry, and was a minority teller against it, 6 June. He spoke regularly against the ‘tyrannical and oppressive’ system of Irish tithes, presented numerous petitions for their abolition, and voted to print the one from Woollen Grange, 16 Feb. He divided against the Irish tithes bill, 8, 27, 30 Mar., when he implored ministers not to resort to coercion and was a teller for his own hostile amendment, which was lost by 130-25. On 10 July he warned that the bill would ‘raise a new class of leaders for repeal of the Union’ and complained that ‘as in 1819’ with the ‘change in currency ... so now I shall probably be stripped of a portion of my property, but it shall be seized as I am determined never to pay’; he was again a minority teller, 13 July. He was in the minority of 28 for information on military punishments, 16 Feb. He welcomed the Irish Subletting Act amendment bill, 20 Feb., and supported the Maynooth grant, 11 Apr. That month Daniel O’Connell* was advised that Lambert, who ‘deserves well of his county’, would probably lose his seat at the next general election if the Conservatives succeeded at the expected by-election.13 He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May, and the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, but was in the minority for the enfranchisement of Irish £5 freeholders, 18 June. He spoke and voted for a tax on absentee Irish landlords to provide permanent provision for the poor, 19 June. He divided with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July. He was granted a month’s leave on ‘urgent private business’, 16 July. On 5 Sept. 1832 Carew informed Smith Stanley that there might be ‘considerable difficulty’ in getting ‘moderate men’ to support Lambert at the next election, as ‘the warmth of his zeal’ had offended some and
vexes me, for when I originally supported him, he pledged himself to me to adopt my principles. However, a popular Member has a very difficult card in the present state of Ireland, and I know him to be attached to the British connection and constitution and thoroughly opposed to anarchy or violence.14
He stood as a Liberal at the 1832 general election and was comfortably returned in second place. He retired in 1834. In 1832 he published a Letter on the Currency to the chancellor of the exchequer Lord Althorp* denouncing the ‘absurd’ resumption of cash payments, under which Ireland, ‘being entirely agricultural and possessing little money capital’, had ‘suffered even more severely than England’ (pp. 7, 13, 28). His anonymous Memoir of Ireland in 1850 by an ex-MP (1851) also blamed the 1819 bank restriction for the ‘degraded condition of Ireland’ and alleged that the Irish Reform Act had created ‘a monster borough at the sole disposal of one individual’. Urging Irish Catholics to reject their ‘abject submission to the Whig party’, he claimed that ‘every concession ... from the first dawn of toleration to the repeal of the penal laws in 1829 was the work of Tories exclusively’ (pp. 1, 44, 92-93, 119). In 1852 he unsuccessfully contested New Ross as a Conservative. Lambert died in October 1861, described as ‘one of the very few now remaining of the old guard that fought the battle of civil and religious liberty’, and was succeeded by his elder son Henry Patrick Lambert (1836-96).15