WHITE, Luke (c.1750-1824), of Woodlands, (formerly Luttrellstown), co. Dublin and Porters, Shenley, Herts.
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Family and Educationb. c.1750. m. (1) 6 Feb. 1781, Elizabeth, da. of Andrew de la Maziere of Fleet Street, Dublin, 4s. 4da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 6 Jan. 1801, Arabella, da. of William Fortescue of Cork,1 1s. d. 25 Feb. 1824.
Sheriff, co. Dublin 1804-5, co. Longford 1806-7; gov. co. Leitrim 1817-d.
In 1803 Lady Hardwicke, the wife of the Irish viceroy, gave the following account of White, who had risen from obscurity as a bookseller to accumulate great wealth as a speculator and contractor for government loans:
He was the servant of an auctioneer of books (some say he first cried newspapers about the streets). As he rose in his finances, he sold a few pamphlets on his own account ... His talent for figures soon made him his master’s clerk, and he afterwards was taken into a lottery office, where his calculations soon procured him a partnership. Good luck attended him in every speculation, and he knew how to profit by it, but with the fairest fame. He continued his trade in books on the great scale, and was equally successful in all the train of money transactions ... His next view was landed property to a great amount. Lord Carhampton* ... determined to sell his estate at Luttrellstown ... which place Mr. Luke White bought, to the great offence of all the aristocrats in Ireland ... As it was wished by Lord Hardwicke that some attention should be paid to this extraordinary man, I suggested ... that we should propose to come and see it, both Mr. White and his wife being too modest to invite us, without our previously intimating that we wished it. A breakfast was therefore settled for this day, and no doubt the loan, the lottery or the stocks never gave Mr. White half the trouble and perplexity of this party ... The day was excellent and we all proceeded in grand cavalcade to Woodlands, the name of the place being changed, some say at the desire of Lord Carhampton. Mr. White is a very well-looking man of fifty, and has a very fine countenance, sensible and penetrating ... Mrs. White is a very well-behaved little woman, without fuss or bustle. His manners I thought particularly good. There were about sixty people, with a magnificent breakfast, and the party afterwards walked or drove about the grounds, which are most extremely beautiful. We then returned to the house and found ices, etc., and after a little very good music we departed, much pleased with our day on our own account, and far more for our hosts, for it would have been very uncomfortable had there been any mishap or awkwardness that could have raised a smile on the saucy faces of Dublin.2
White, who also had parliamentary ambitions on his sons’ accounts, retained his seat for county Leitrim without opposition at the general election of 1820, when his son Thomas was again the defeated candidate in county Dublin, but his son Luke did not persist in again contesting county Longford.3 A ‘decided reformer’, as Daniel O’Connell* described him, White continued to oppose government when present.4 He took a month’s leave, 4 July 1820. He attended to vote against the omission of Queen Caroline’s name from the liturgy, 23 Jan. 1821. He paired for further divisions on the queen, 26 Jan., 6, 13 Feb., but on one of these occasions evidently did so with Carhampton and each ‘went comfortably off to bed, without finding out that they were on the same side’.5 He condemned the conduct of the sheriff of Dublin in curtailing the pro-Caroline county meeting, and voted for inquiry into this in the House, 22 Feb.6 He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb., when he thanked the pro-Catholic Irish secretary Charles Grant for his ‘excellent and manly speech in behalf of his suffering country’. On 23 Mar. he denied allegations that Irish Catholics were hostile to the relief bill: they were ‘most warmly engaged in its favour’.7 He voted to make Leeds, scheduled for enfranchisement in place of Grampound, a scot and lot borough, 2 Mar., and for parliamentary reform, 18 Apr. He divided to end the duty on farm horses, 5 Mar., and paired for repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821. He voted for more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11 Feb. 1822, and for other economies that session. He divided for parliamentary reform, 25 Apr., and Brougham’s condemnation of the influence of the crown, 24 June. He voted against the Irish constables bill, 7 June, and for tithe reform, 19 June 1822.
In January 1823 White spoke at the county Dublin meeting in support of the pro-Catholic viceroy Lord Wellesley after the Orange demonstration against him the previous year. His reputation as a resident and independent landlord helped secure the return of his son Henry for county Dublin at a by-election, which he attended, the following month.8 Either he or Henry divided for repeal of £2,000,000 in taxes, 3 Mar. The next day White voted for inquiry into the Irish church establishment. Denying charges that Catholic priests had improperly influenced voters to secure his son’s election, 17 Apr., he said:
They were a most exemplary body of men. If people were better informed about Ireland, its population would not be maligned and calumniated. A concession of the claims was not so much a boon to the Catholics as a grant for the sake of the peace and security of the empire.
He spoke to the same effect, 22 Apr., and said a few ‘inaudible’ words on the Irish joint tenancy bill, 27 May.9 He paired for parliamentary reform, 24 Apr., and voted for Scottish reform, 2 June. He divided against the silk bill, 9 June, to inquire into naval promotions, 19 June, and for the Scottish juries bill, 20 June 1823. His last recorded vote was for information on the government’s attitude to the Franco-Spanish war, 17 Feb. 1824.
White, who was reputed to have ‘realized the largest fortune ever made by trade in Ireland’, died in February 1824.10 On the 27th the duke of Bedford commented to Lady Holland: ‘Old Luke White will cut up well and tallow richly on the kidneys. This is butcher’s language and I dare say unintelligible to you, but in plain English he must have died immensely rich’.11 So he did, leaving property amounting to at least £30,000 a year in real estate and £100,000 in cash and securities. In his will, dated 4 July 1823, he directed that his Hertfordshire property be sold and the proceeds added to his personal estate. He distributed his lands in eight Irish counties and his property in Dublin among his four sons with his first wife. He made handsome provision for his daughters, continued to his second wife for life the annuity of £1,000 which he had secured to her ‘on our separation’, and to his son with her, William White (1801-57), he gave £500 a year until he reached 25, when he became entitled to the sum of £10,000. White’s eldest son Thomas (d. 1847), who never entered the Commons despite several attempts, fared relatively poorly, allegedly because he had refused to stand for county Dublin as a supporter of Catholic relief. His second son, Samuel, replaced him as Member for Leitrim; his third, Luke (d. 1854), who stood unsuccessfully for Leitrim in 1830 and Longford in 1831, came in for the latter as a Liberal after the passage of the Reform Act; and his fourth, Henry, who left the representation of county Dublin in 1832, also later represented Longford.12