WALKER, Charles Arthur (?1790-1873), of Belmont House, co. Wexford
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Family and Educationb. ?1790, 1st s. of Thomas Walker of Tykillen, co. Wexford and Maria, da. of William Acton of West Aston, Kilmacurragh, co. Wicklow. educ. Trinity, Dublin 17 July 1806, aged 16; L. Inn 1812. m. 10 Feb. 1836, Eleanor, da. of Joseph Leigh of Tinnekelly House, co. Wicklow, 2s. 3da. suc. fa. 1837. d. 29 Oct. 1873.
Walker’s family originated in Cheshire, whence they migrated to Ireland in the seventeenth century. His great-grandfather Peter Walker acquired the Wexford property by marriage. Peter’s son Charles Walker, a barrister, was an Irish master in chancery from 1754 until his death in 1790, when he was succeeded in that post by his eldest son Thomas Walker, this Member’s father, who held it until 1806. Charles Arthur Walker, whose younger brother Thomas entered the army, was educated for the bar, but was not called. At the general election of 1831 he stood for the local borough of Wexford as a ‘liberal’ but not a ‘revolutionary’ reformer having, so he claimed, rejected earlier invitations to do so because he was ‘of retired habits [and] attached to country pursuits’. The strength of feeling in favour of the Grey ministry’s reform bills frightened off the sitting Member and Walker was returned unopposed, calling on his fellow Protestants to unite with Catholics in support of reform and the redress of Irish grievances.1
He followed Daniel O’Connell and Richard Sheil in criticizing the amended county franchise contained in the reintroduced Irish reform bill, 30 June 1831, arguing that it would deliver Wexford into ‘the hands of the aristocracy’. He took no part in the debates on the reintroduced English bill, but voted for its second reading, 6 July, and steadily supported its details, with the exception of a vote against the division of counties, 11 Aug. He voted for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and for the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. He was much concerned with the repercussions of the recent massacre of civilians by yeomanry at Newtownbarry in Wexford, which he condemned, 23 June, and demanded inquiry into, contending that ‘the employment of the yeomanry force in Ireland is one of the most fertile causes of discontent and disaffection in that country’, 30 June. He spoke and voted for disarming the yeomanry, 11 Aug., and had more to say on the subject, 31 Aug., 9 Sept., 3, 12 Oct., when he presented petitions in similar terms. He divided against government to reduce the grants for civil list services, 18 July, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies, 25 July. He was in O’Connell’s minorities on the Dublin election controversy, 29 July, 8 Aug., but he sided with ministers in the first division of 23 Aug., though he did not stay on to vote on Gordon’s censure motion. He voted to suspend the Liverpool writ, 5 Sept. He divided against the Irish union of parishes bill, 19 Aug., and for legal provision for the Irish poor, 29 Aug. He was in the small minorities for inquiry into the Deacles’ allegations, 27 Sept., and against the grant for repairs to royal residences, 28 Sept. On 6 Oct. he denied that there was ‘any illegal combination’ against the payment of tithes in his diocese of Ferns, but admitted that ‘a very strong and very natural disinclination to pay tithes, which are frequently extortions, exists to a great extent among both the Protestant and Catholic inhabitants’. His attack on the bishop of Ferns for pursuing a legal vendetta against a distressed farmer drew protests from supporters of the Protestant ascendancy, but he stood his ground, protesting that ‘we see the landlords of a county coming forward with premiums to encourage agriculture and industry in Ireland, and the church instantly endeavouring to crush the rising spirit of improvement by taxing it’. He voted for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831.
Walker voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, again supported its details, and divided for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 16, 20 July, relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr., but was in the minorities for vestry reform, 23 Jan., information on army flogging, 16 Feb, and inquiry into the Peterloo massacre, 15 Mar. He repeated his calls for tithe reform, 24 Jan., 14 Feb., when he deplored Lord Grey’s threat to ‘deluge Ireland once more with blood’ to enforce their collection. He voted in the small, mainly Irish, minorities on the issue, 8, 27 Mar., and on 30 Mar. criticized the government’s plan for a levy to recover arrears, urging them to combine coercion with remedial action and arguing in favour of a thorough reform of the Irish church establishment. He voted against the arrears of tithes bill, 6 Apr. He had reservations about the retrospective aspect of the Irish subletting bill, but considered it ‘a great improvement’ on the existing law, 20 Feb. He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May, the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against Conservative amendments to the Scottish measure, 1, 15 June. In committee on the Irish bill, he was in the minorities for the enfranchisement of £5 freeholders, 18 June, and against the payment of municipal taxes as a prerequisite of registration, 29 June; but he welcomed its extinction of the voting rights of future Irish freemen, 2 July, though he wanted the clause requiring Catholics to take the qualification oath to be amended, 18 July. On 23 May he opposed Parnell’s motion for inquiry into the efficiency of the Irish coercive laws, arguing that the disturbances in Queen’s County had been provoked by ‘acts of gross oppression’. He divided for the immediate abolition of colonial slavery, 24 May, was a teller for the minority of four against Alexander Baring’s bill to exclude insolvent debtors from Parliament, 30 May, and divided for Hunt’s bid to suspend military flogging and for a tax on Irish absentee landlords to provide for the poor, 19 June. He voted for coroners’ inquests to be made public next day and for a system of representation for New South Wales, 28 June. He opposed the introduction of the ‘extremely partial’ Irish tithes composition bill, 13 July, and brought up petitions for the abolition of tithes, 17, 26 July. On 25 July he resisted Hume’s attempt to reduce the salary of the Irish registrar of deeds. He was in the minority of 16 for Sheil’s call for more radical tithe reform, 24 July, objected to proceeding with the composition bill when there were only five Irish Members present, 31 July, and voted in two tiny minorities for amendments to the bill, 1 Aug., when he demanded ‘legislation accompanied with justice instead of injustice’. Next day he asserted that most Irish landlords were hostile to the measure. He presented more petitions for the abolition of tithes, 11 Aug. 1832.
Walker, a pragmatic Repealer, was returned unopposed for Wexford at the next three general elections. He died at Tykillen in October 1873.2