Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen and 40s. freeholders

Number of voters:

1,895 in 18181


(1821): 100,658


8 Jan. 1802 HON. CHRISTOPHER HELY HUTCHINSON vice Hely Hutchinson, become a peer of Ireland 
 George Freke Evans11
 Hon. Christopher Hely Hutchinson639
 Mountifort Longfield724

Main Article

Cork was Ireland’s second most important commercial centre and, like Dublin, continued to return two Members after the Union. Parliamentary elections were influenced by a number of factors: the active family interests of Lords Longueville (Longfield) and Donoughmore (Hely Hutchinson); the usual division in such predominantly Catholic constituencies between a protestant freeman majority and a Catholic freeholder majority; a government interest derived from the city’s commercial lobby and the particular influence of a large number of local officials; and, in the last resort, as was usual in such relatively open constituencies, money and topical issues which roused passions.2

There was no real threat to the well established Longfield and Hely Hutchinson family interests until 1807, when George Freke Evans, Lord Carbery’s brother, arrived with £10,000 from Bulgaden Hall, Limerick, to boost his candidature. At the outset, Longfield’s prospects were not particularly bright, for as Lord Longueville informed the chief secretary, ‘The Papists hate him’; and the Hely Hutchinson party had to canvass for their candidate in his absence. Speeches from the hustings were uninspired: Freke Evans claimed that Cork needed ‘an honest and an independent representative’ and appeared to equivocate on the Catholic question; Francis Hely Hutchinson admitted that his brother Christopher had opposed the Union, while he supported it; Longfield on the other hand was a friend ‘to the King, Church and constitution of my country’. The temperature of the election rose no higher, for Freke Evans soon retired in the face of Hutchinson’s and Longfield’s freeman strength and the displeasure of the Catholic freeholders at his final avowal of hostility to Catholic relief.3

Thus far the Irish administration had taken little part in Cork elections, but as Hely Hutchinson was a trenchant critic of government, steps were taken to ensure his defeat in the election of 1812. The prospects seemed favourable, because his absence in 1807 had lost him some support and because the commercial lobby was not happy with such a committed opponent of government. Furthermore, the ground had been well laid by the Castle, which had given Longueville exclusive control of local patronage since 1807. The candidate chosen for their purpose by government was Sir Nicholas Colthurst, a local man of means, whose late canvass got him off to a bad start. The election began on 19 Oct. and by the 29th, Hely Hutchinson was reported to be ahead, but ‘on his last legs’; a day later the Castle was advised that the contest was regarded as one between government and opposition and that £3,000-£4,000 would ensure Colthurst’s and a government victory. The government was unlikely to have been able to spare such a sum and it was almost certainly the combination of the votes of William Bagwell* and the coalition arranged by the Castle between Colthurst and Longfield that ousted Hely Hutchinson. The latter polled six times as many plumpers as his opponents, mainly among Catholic freeholders, but was defeated by the split votes of the freemen for his opponents. It was the first time in more than 80 years that a Hutchinson had not been chosen for Cork, but his petition against the return was rejected.4

The same candidates contested the election of 1818. Hely Hutchinson was determined to recapture his seat and was aided by an impressive committee of Protestants and Catholics which had made a special effort to register Catholic freeholders to counteract the largely freeman interests of Longfield and Colthurst. Their number was estimated variously at between 900 and 1,100 out of a constituency of nearly 2,000. His preparations put the sitting Member on the defensive. The Castle tried to persuade them to renew their coalition but was unsuccessful, Longfield claiming that it had injured him in 1812 and would do even more damage now in view of Colthurst having become pro-Catholic. Colthurst, for his part, lamented Longfield’s decision (which he ascribed to his ignorance of the constituency) but hoped that his recent conversion would secure the Catholics without deterring the more liberal-minded Protestants.5

The poll commenced on 2 July and within a few days Hely Hutchinson was well ahead as a result of the combined support of freemen and freeholders and an impressive array of southern worthies such as Sir John Newport* and Maurice Fitzgerald* who made appearances on the hustings. Colthurst and Longfield were therefore left to vie for Hely Hutchinson’s spare votes and the second seat. As Hely Hutchinson’s party preferred to remain neutral, they had to fish as best they could for the Catholic vote. On 9 July, in response to a public challenge from Nicholas Philpot Leader, Longfield stated that he would ‘go the full length of the hon. baronet’ in support of emancipation. This sudden conversion, while attracting general attention (Peel called it the ‘most extraordinary and discreditable defection from the cause’) did Longfield no good. He received slightly more of Hely Hutchinson’s divided votes than Colthurst, but could not combat the latter’s respectable poll of the freeholders or his solid strength among the freemen.6 On 13 July he retired, complaining (without cause) of government perfidy in opposing him and claiming (with some justice) that Colthurst had been returned by ‘lavish money dealings’. His petition against the return was rejected.7

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Accts. and Pprs. (5), 1829, xxii, 1.
  • 2. Wakefield, Account of Ireland, ii. 303; Add. 35728, f. 74; Sidmouth mss, Hardwicke to Addington, 29 Nov. 1802.
  • 3. Wellington mss, Longueville to Wellesley, 17 May, enc. Longfield to Longueville, 16 May; Drogheda News Letter, 23 May 1807; Accts. and Pprs. (5), xxii. 1.
  • 4. NLI, Richmond mss 73/1713; Add. 40222, ff. 169, 296, 312, 317; CJ, lxviii. 55, 108; Dublin Corresp. 24 Oct., 2, 6 Nov. 1812; The leading speeches at the city of Cork election (1812), app.
  • 5. Add. 40218, f. 284; 40274, f. 218.
  • 6. Add. 40279, f. 39; Dublin Corresp. 13 July 1818; Report of the procs. at the election for the city of Cork (1818); Donoughmore mss (PRO NI T3459/D43/26, 35).
  • 7. Add. 40218, ff. 314, 316; 40279, ff. 87, 89, 122; 40295, ff. 165, 170; CJ, lxxiv. 19, 146.