LESLIE, Charles Powell (?1767-1831), of Glasslough, co. Monaghan.
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Family and Educationb. ?1767,1 1st s. of Charles Powell Leslie, MP [I], of Glasslough and 1st w. Hon. Prudence Hill Trevor, da. of Arthur, 1st Visct. Dungannon [I]. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 30 Apr. 1784, aged 17. m. (1) Oct. 1791, Anne (d. Jan. 1813), da. and coh. of Rev. Dudley Charles Ryder of Merrion Square, Dublin, rect. of Streamstown, co. Leitrim, 3da. (at least 1 d.v.p.); (2) 24 May 1819, Christiana, da. of George Fosbery of Clorane, co. Limerick, 3s. 4da. suc. fa. 1800. d. 15 Nov. 1831.
Sheriff, co. Monaghan 1788-9, gov. 1802-d.
Trustee, linen board [I] 1807.
Col. Monaghan militia 1797-d.; capt. Glasslough inf. 1805.
Leslie, whose family came originally from Aberdeenshire, was a descendant of the ‘fighting bishop’, John Leslie of Clogher.2 A well-connected country gentleman (he was cousin to Lord Wellesley and the duke of Wellington), he was thought to be disappointed that his brother John was promoted from Dromore to Elphin and not to the see of Clogher, which contained the family estates, in 1819. But he continued to be reckoned favourable to the administration of Lord Liverpool, on the rare occasions when he attended Parliament.3 At the general election of 1820 he was again returned unopposed for Monaghan, where, as a governor of the county and colonel of its militia, he wielded enormous influence in the early 1820s. This dominance was much to the disgust of his wary colleague Henry Westenra, Lord Rossmore’s son, who nevertheless reflected that he was too powerful to disturb and hoped that he might be removed by the award of a peerage.4 He voted against making economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820, and in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He was granted two weeks’ leave on urgent private business, 15 Feb., but was present to divide against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. He voted against abolition of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821. He divided against the Catholic peers bill, 30 Apr. 1822, and presented the Monaghan anti-Catholic petition, 16 Apr. 1823.5 He voted against parliamentary reform, 20 Feb., and repeal of £2,000,000 of taxes, 3 Mar., but for inquiry into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823. On 11 May 1824 he brought up a petition from the freemasons of Ballybay against the Secret Societies Act, the only instance of parliamentary activity which has been traced for that session.6 Having voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 15 Feb., he divided against Catholic claims, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the related franchise measure, 26 Apr. 1825. His only other known votes were for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 10 June 1825, and against the emergency admission of foreign corn, 8 May 1826.
A leading Orangeman, who joined the committee of the Grand Orange Lodge in September 1824, Leslie was encouraged then and in the autumn of 1825, when a dissolution was expected, to stand again for Monaghan, with Protestant and Tory support. Reported to be ‘more fond of money than ever’, so that he apparently would ‘not spend a stiver upon elections’, he was advised to avoid a contest by allying with the new interest of Evelyn Shirley*, hitherto an absentee landlord, who ostensibly favoured Catholic relief.7 This was set in train, but in February 1826, when he was admitted to the York Club, a prominent Irish Protestant organization, doubts were raised about his vulnerability to Westenra, whose reluctance to back the Catholics was counteracted by his father’s advocacy of their cause.8 Having offered on the basis of his past conduct after the dissolution that summer, he was criticized for attempting to preserve his undue ascendancy over the county by means of an unprincipled junction.9 He was also made the target of the Catholic Association and, in a circular letter to local priests, Daniel O’Connell* described him as having ‘grown old in the principles of bigotry’ and as ‘one of the most uncompromising enemies of his Catholic countrymen’.10 Desperate to stop the second votes of his and Shirley’s tenants going to the liberally inclined Westenra, who in the end was backed by his disgruntled patron Lord Cremorne, Leslie issued an address explaining his recent absences on the ground of illness and claiming that only he could guarantee the independence of the county by holding the other interests in check.11
Lucky to escape without injury during the ugly scenes which greeted his arrival on the hustings, Leslie was forced to resign on the sixth day of the poll. His defeat, largely owing to the spirited opposition of the Catholic freeholders, was one of the spectacular reverses suffered by the Protestant interest at the general election of 1826.12 In reply to an address of thanks for his parliamentary service from the county’s leading Tory landowners, he blamed his defeat on the influence of the Catholic clergy; he reiterated this at dinners in Armagh, 5 Oct. 1826, and Enniskillen, 2 Jan. 1827.13 His petition, which recited O’Connell’s letter, was couched in the same terms, but he allowed it to lapse, preferring, as he made clear in another address, to hold out the illusory hope of a wider Commons inquiry.14 In mid-1828 Wellesley, the recently retired lord lieutenant, recommended Leslie to Wellington, the new prime minister, as ‘a very proper person for the favour of the king’s government in Ireland whenever you may be enabled to confer the dignity of a peerage upon him’, but nothing ever came of this.15 Active in opposition to the Westenras in local politics, he attended the county anti-Catholic meeting, 10 Oct. 1828, became a vice-president of the ensuing Monaghan Brunswick Club (as well as of the Ulster Club) and was chosen for the presidency of the branch at Glasslough.16
It was at first asserted that Leslie would offer again for Monaghan at the general election of 1830, but he ruled himself out as sick. He apparently thought his position was too weak to risk another rebuff and gave his interest to the like-minded Lord Blayney’s son, who was returned with the now ministerialist Shirley, a result which was thought likely to strengthen his future interest.17 Instead, he was brought in for New Ross by his cousin Francis Leigh* of Rosegarland, county Wexford, whose turn it was to nominate the Member.18 Listed by Pierce Mahony† as ‘pro-government’ and by ministers among their ‘friends’, he was absent from the division on the civil list which led to their resignation, 15 Nov. 1830. He also missed the vote on the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., but sided with opposition for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831; he was deprived of his seat at the subsequent dissolution. He died, at his then London residence of 3 Upper Harley Street, in mid-November.19 By his will, dated 1 Nov. 1831, he left the bulk of his estates and personal wealth, which was sworn under £184,000 in Ireland and under £18,000 in England, to his eldest son Charles Powell Leslie (1821-71), Conservative Member for Monaghan, 1842-71.20 He was in turn succeeded by his brother John Leslie the painter (1822-1916), Conservative Member for Monaghan, 1871-80, who was awarded a baronetcy in 1876.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
See also A. Doyle, Charles Powell Leslie (II)’s Estates at Glaslough (2001).