Co. Tipperary


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

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 18,000


1801FRANCIS JAMES MATHEW, Visct. Mathew 
19 July 1802FRANCIS JAMES MATHEW, Visct. Mathew 
 John Bagwell I1760
 Kingsmill Pennefather1057
 John Bagwell I2616
17 July 1818RICHARD BUTLER, Visct. Caher5331
 Hon. Francis Aldborough Prittie3709
 William Barton539
2 Mar. 1819 WILLIAM BAGWELL vice Caher, become a peer of Ireland 
8 Apr. 1819 HON. FRANCIS ALDBOROUGH PRITTIE vice Mathew, deceased 

Main Article

In this large and populous county the Earl of Landaff, who owned 32,000 acres worth about £28,000 p.a., was the principal proprietor, while Lords Caher, Dunalley, Norbury, Hawarden and Dorchester had rentals in excess of £8,000. Lords Donoughmore and Kingston also had significant interests. The Bagwells of Marlfield were the leading commoners, but there were at least 1,400 freeholders worth over £50 in 1806 and, the population being predominantly Catholic, any Member who opposed Catholic claims—as did John Bagwell—paid for it at the polls.1

At the Union the sitting Members were Viscount Mathew, Landaff’s heir, who had opposed the measure, and John Bagwell, who had contested the county with Mathew in 1790 and changed sides twice before supporting the Union. On 18 and 21 May 1801, the Castle arranged a compromise between these two parties, who had both applied for its countenance, whereby they shared the county patronage and Landaff engaged his second votes to Bagwell. Possibly Mathew’s leanings to opposition led Landaff to assert that he would bring in his second son Montague as a friend of government, but Mathew’s opposition was muted and he remained the family representative. Possibly also Bagwell did not intend to stand again: but he had several sons and offered to bring in his son-in-law John Keily*—nothing came of this either, for Bagwell stood. Opposition was expected from Donoughmore’s son, Capt. Hely Hutchinson, who wished to oust Bagwell for his treachery over the Union. Donoughmore asked the Castle too late for the nomination of the next sheriff, 31 May 1801, and meanwhile his son, dissatisfied with a preliminary canvass, threatened massive registration including, it was alleged, ‘every cottager, even those who have cabins at the road side’. By the time of the election of 1802, this opposition had evaporated, but Bagwell remained suspicious of Donoughmore’s designs.2

When Mathew succeeded as Earl of Landaff, 30 July 1806, his brother Montague, whom he wished to replace him, was handicapped by a government pledge to support Dunalley’s brother, ‘Frank’ Prittie, who had the additional asset of being son-in-law to Lord Chancellor Ponsonby. As Landaff had supported the Grenville ministry and his brother had the same intention, he felt hard done by, but animosity was prevented by the dissolution which merged the by-election into the general election. Landaff was able to concentrate on displacing Bagwell, who was in opposition to the ministry, by urging the Prince of Wales to support his brother ‘with as much warmth as the government’s engagements to Prittie will permit’, and by securing for him the interests of the Hely Hutchinsons, Lady Kingston, Gen. Barton and Col. Bloomfield. Bagwell was outraged to discover that neither Landaff nor Prittie, who insisted on neutrality, would coalesce with him and declined a contest. According to a newspaper report he had alienated the ‘independent’ opinion of the county by his jobbery and his attempt ‘to revive religious feuds and to make his election a party affair’. He himself blamed his setback on the defective state of the registry.3

In 1807 Bagwell attempted to recapture his seat with Castle support. He was thwarted by a junction, avowed on 23 May, between Mathew and Prittie, whose support of the Catholic claims and attacks on the ministry on the hustings he described as ‘outrageous’. All the protestant gentry, he claimed, were on his side, but the Catholic mob, egged on by their priests, were predominant, intimidating his supporters until he called out the dragoons, and encouraging Catholic tenants to vote against ‘the positive mandates’ of their protestant landlords. Moreover, the local civil servants, Jephson, Holmes, Cooper, Crawford and Tidd, eluded all pressure from the Castle to give Bagwell effective support, favouring his opponents, for which he demanded retribution. He had at first been confident that he could secure the return of one of Norbury’s sons as well as his own, but fixed instead on Kingsmill Pennefather as running partner. He was reduced to appealing to the Castle for a loan of several thousand pounds, which was first ignored and then refused, and to such stratagems as hinting that Donoughmore’s support for him might be obtained for the price of ecclesiastical preferment for his son. On 3 June he gave up. Four days later a local magistrate informed the Castle that the gentry had abdicated all control over the populace.4 Bagwell’s petition against the return was unsuccessful.

The Castle were unimpressed by Dunalley’s claim in 1807 that his brother’s union with Mathew was for election purposes only and treated both Members as foes, favouring Bagwell with patronage. From January 1809 Catholic meetings in Tipperary to petition for relief intensified, and by the spring of 1812, when Bagwell pressed government for a peerage, his son William prejudiced his father’s chances by proposing to Perceval that he should stand for the county instead of his father in a bid to obtain Catholic support. Bagwell did not become a peer, though he was kept waiting for a decision until the dissolution and he once more contested the county.5

Bagwell was again defeated. His son William, who stood by him in the campaign, complained to the Castle that ‘no one servant of the crown has afforded us any help’—referring again to Jephson, the collector of Clonmel, Peter Holmes of the stamp office and Tidd the barrackmaster. Donoughmore, despite his ‘lucrative places’, supported the other side and the only consolation Bagwell derived from this election was his retaliatory contribution to the defeat of Donoughmore’s brother at Cork. Some of Bagwell’s own tenants deserted him. Gen. Mathew excited the enthusiasm of the populace ‘almost to fury’ by his harangues, described in The Times as ‘such displays of popular eloquence, as, perhaps have never been paralleled in the British Empire, whether in matter, manner or occasion’. Mathew finally threatened to secede from the next Parliament if it was no better than the last. From the Bagwells’ point of view, it was again a contest of the gentlemen versus the rabble and they sent in reports of intimidation and violence.6 On the other hand, Denys Scully, counsel for the successful candidates, informed Lord Holland, 19 Nov. 1812:

we had to resist a powerful and well organised attack upon the independence of the county—and, after a struggle of 26 days, we finally triumphed—owing to the good sense, public spirit and freedom from venality which distinguish the lower class of freeholders in that great county ... it is believed, that as the government had entertained sanguine expectations of throwing out Prittie and had even placarded Bagwell’s temporary majority over him for some days about the streets of Dublin, so their defeat in this instance was probably the sorest and most galling of any that they have met with.7

The chief secretary certainly had hopes of gaining ‘one’, but the viceroy announced that Bagwell’s defeat had been ‘expected’ by government.8

Bagwell’s son William, Member for the family borough of Clonmel, clearly intended to replace his father in future: his support for Catholic relief in the ensuing Parliament was an obvious pointer. There was, however, a more attractive contender for government favour in Viscount Caher, whose father, having steadfastly supported government as a representative peer, was created Earl of Glengall in 1816. As early as 1810, the viceroy had forecast that, although he had ‘very little parliamentary interest’ then, ‘hereafter he will have a good deal to say in the county Tipperary’. In 1812 the Castle knew of his intention to bring forward his son when of age and advised Bagwell to forego a piece of local patronage requested by Caher, so as not to alienate him before the election. In January 1816 the chief secretary asked Bagwell, who died later that year, to allow Caher to nominate the next sheriff, as he supported government and was putting up his son for the county. In December 1816 the young aspirant’s mother lobbied the prime minister for active assistance for her son from absentee English interests such as those of Lady Caroline Damer, Lady Kingston, Lord Egremont and Lord Midleton, hoping to avert another contest, the demoralizing effects of the previous one on the lower orders being generally deplored. In December 1817 Glengall informed Lord Sidmouth that he was sure his son would be returned, owing to ‘the decided change which has taken place in the politics, and general feeling of this county’, and pressed for ministerial protection. That month the sitting Members joined forces to resist Caher, but his mother assured the chief secretary that they had no doubt of success, ‘notwithstanding the junction, which has done us infinite service’.9

About 5,700 freeholders were registered and £12,000 or so spent, but Caher’s trump card was the blessing of the Catholic bishop of Thurles who applauded Caher’s espousal of ‘universal emancipation’. It was predicted that either Mathew or Prittie must yield before such a show of force. In fact Prittie did decline, only to be put up in absentia at the instigation of his relative Jephson, the collector of excise, and with the support of the local whisky dealers. He was therefore dragged back from Dublin to participate. Glengall was outraged: ‘their wish is merely to put us to expense, they not having the slightest chance’. The chief secretary thought it ‘rather unfortunate that Prittie when in Dublin expressed so strong an opinion ... on the impropriety of his becoming a candidate after his first resignation’. On 9 July 1818 Caher informed the Castle: ‘The Prittie party have offered me a majority of 2,000 over them if I would leave the town, discharge my agents, and let them and Mathew fight it out ... not one government officer has voted for me.’ In the event, Prittie was defeated and Mathew ‘lowered from his high estate of first representative’.10 Caher’s triumph was short-lived as his father died in January 1819. William Bagwell rushed into the vacuum, having ‘not the smallest doubt’ of his uncontested return, as he informed the Castle. He had consulted the new Lord Glengall, and commented: ‘I trust he has made it a point with Lord Landaff that he should support me’. Nothing came of the candidature of ‘Mr O’Callaghan’, said to be standing on Norbury’s interest ‘at the request ... of the Duke of Wellington’.11 Prittie was likewise consoled with an unopposed return a month later on the vacancy caused by the death of Gen. Mathew.

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Wakefield, Account of Ireland, i. 276; ii. 309.
  • 2. PRO, 30/9/9, pt. 1/4; 30/9/12, pt. 3, Hardwicke to Abbot, 31 May; 30/9/13, pt. 1, Chaytor to ?, 24 Apr. 1801; Wickham mss 1/45, Wickham to Addington, 7 June, 9 Nov. 1803; PRO 30/8/188, ff. 331, 333.
  • 3. HMC Fortescue, viii. 257, 270, 297; NLS mss 12918, Landaff to McMahon, 26 Oct.; Drogheda News Letter, 18, 21 Nov.; Dublin Evening Post, 18 Nov. 1806.
  • 4. Wellington mss, May-June 1807 passim; Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 38, 58, 61, 62.
  • 5. Wellington mss, Dunalley to Wellesley, 29 May 1807; Add. 40221, ff. 13-42 (Tipperary); NLI, Richmond mss 65/822, 74/1798, 1812, 1907; HMC Fortescue, ix. 267-8.
  • 6. Add. 38363, ff. 45-47; 40222, ff. 204, 211, 238, 240, 268, 270, 290, 308, 352; The Times, 13 Nov. 1812.
  • 7. Add. 51826.
  • 8. Add. 40280, f. 72; Richmond mss 69/1230a.
  • 9. Richmond mss 62/500, 66/906, 68/1079; Add. 38458, f. 206; 40182, f. 275; 40272, f. 217; 40290, f. 32.
  • 10. Add. 40271, f. 392; 40272, f. 135; 40277, f. 160; 40278, ff. 178, 208; 40279, ff. 15, 79, 106, 202, 219; 40295, f. 138; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss, Clare to Sneyd, 15 July; Dublin Corresp., 29 June, 2, 4, 15 July 1818.
  • 11. Dublin SPO 576/512/1; NLI mss 7857, p. 155, Bagwell to Vesey Fitzgerald, 15 Feb.; Morning Chron. 20 Feb. 1819.