BAGWELL, William (c.1776-1826), of Marlfield, co. Tipperary.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
MP [I] 1798-1800.
Jt. muster master gen. [I] 1807-d.; PC [I] 1810.
Gov. co. Tipperary 1807; trustee, linen board [I] 1818.
Lt.-col. co. Tipperary militia 1794, col. 1805-d.
Bagwell was brought into the Irish parliament for Rathcormack by his father’s arrangement in 1798 and, like his father, turned coat on the Union question, voting against after a violent speech in favour of it, only to return to the fold in time for the rewards.1 He was returned on his father’s interest for Clonmel soon after the Union and, taking his seat promptly, acted with his father in the House. After the election of 1802 he was Bagwell’s only son in Parliament and the chief secretary confirmed in June 1803 that he had joined his father in supporting government ‘on all leading national questions’; in July 1804 he was likewise reported a reliable supporter of Pitt’s administration.2 He voted in the government minority on Melville’s conduct, 8 Apr. 1805, and then went to Ireland, where he took over the colonelcy of the county militia from his father. The latter had applied for this, 21 June 1803 and again on 15 Aug. 1804, and was indignant that any obstacle should be placed in the way of it, being confident that with an income of at least £10,000 a year in reversion, with ten years’ experience as his lieutenant, no obvious competitor and a number of precedents in his favour, Bagwell’s claims were invincible.3
Bagwell was in more active opposition to the Grenville ministry than his father, voting against Ellenborough’s having a seat in the cabinet, 3 Mar. 1806, voting and speaking against the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act 30 Apr., 6 May and, like his father, against the American intercourse bill, 17 June. On 24 June, unless ‘Col.’ Bagwell still referred to his father, he opposed Windham’s training bill as ‘one of the greatest infringements of the liberties of Englishmen that had ever been attempted’ and expressed his preference for Pitt’s defence arrangements.4 In March 1807 he at once rallied to the Portland ministry, voting with them on the divisions of 25 Mar. and 9 Apr. His father had lost his county seat in 1806 and Bagwell now supported government under the aegis of his father’s friend Westmorland.5 A speech against the militia transfer bill, 28 July 1807, suggests that he was still critical of military arrangements, all the same.
At the dissolution in 1807, the Castle cast about for suitable offices to reward Bagwell’s father and, while they could not accommodate father and son, offered a place at the treasury board for Bagwell, if his father could not be appointed joint muster master general. Bagwell had no wish for this place and his father was offered the muster mastership for himself or his son, but, after the patent had been prepared for himself, asked for the substitution of his son. This was agreed to, though it was not contrived before Bagwell’s election at Clonmel. His father had failed to become an Irish privy councillor, but ministers were agreed that Bagwell might become one ex officio and in November 1809, when the ministry would not consent to make his father a peer, the viceroy suggested the Privy Council as suitable bait to secure Bagwell’s adherence.6 Bagwell, who had differed from his constituents in supporting the corn distillery prohibition bill, 23 Feb. 1809, was a staunch supporter of government in the session of 1810, on the Scheldt inquiry January-March, against radical agitation, 16 Apr., against sinecure reform, 17 May, and against parliamentary reform, 21 May. He also voted against Catholic relief, though evidently for the last time, 1 June. In December the Castle were ready to reward him with a privy councillorship, promised him meanwhile by Lord Liverpool. On 15 Jan. 1811, the chief secretary wrote, ‘Bagwell has constantly supported us, and arrived in time for the first great division [on the Regency]. He is I believe very steady and zealous.’7 On 14 May Bagwell broke a long silence in debate in defence of the militia interchange bill and, after affirming their right to it on 30 May, denied on 5 June that his militia men feared any loss of freedom of religious practice by it.
In February 1812 Bagwell pressed Perceval for a peerage for his father, but the prime minister objected when he discovered that Bagwell proposed replacing his parent as prospective candidate for county Tipperary, with a bid for Catholic support. The viceroy noted that Bagwell, unlike other aspirants, did not offer up his sinecure office as a quid pro quo for his father’s elevation.8 On 24 Feb. and 4 May he voted against sinecure reform and on 21 May voted with ministers against Stuart Wortley’s motion for a stronger government.
Although it was his father who contested the county, unsuccessfully, in 1812, Bagwell’s changed conduct on the Catholic question, on which he had avoided voting since 1810, indicated that he had the county seat in view. On 24 Feb. 1813 he presented a protestant petition from the county asking for safeguards in exchange for Catholic relief, and on 2 Mar., 24 May 1813, 30 May 1815, 21 May 1816, 9 May 1817 and 3 May 1819, he voted for the Catholic claims. On all other questions, he supported government as before, speaking, however, only in support of the Irish illicit distillation bill, 21 June 1813, and of the Irish preservation of the peace bill, 13 July 1814, which he did not think strong enough for the disturbed areas. Thereby hangs a tale recounted by Peel the day before:
The Right Hon. W. Bagwell, in a private conference with me, protested against the introduction of the Insurrection Act, assured me that Tipperary was the Arcadia of modern times, and was absent from the House when I moved the renewal of the Act. I was very sorry for it, and hoped he would have risen in his place and have pledged himself for Tipperary, for on that very morning I had a letter from his father which I intended to read had it been necessary, full of alarm and disturbance, and recommending a friend to be a police magistrate. Here is a fine specimen of the different effects of county politics.9
Bagwell’s father died a commoner in 1816, and the Castle realized that something should be done for his son, whose sinecure emoluments had been reduced by regulation from £5,000 p.a. to about £1,000. On 10 July 1818 the chief secretary offered him a place at the linen board.10 In March 1819 Bagwell was returned unopposed for the county on a vacancy. He was in the minority against the Irish window tax, 5 May 1819, but otherwise committed to support of government. He died 4 Nov. 1826.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: Arthur Aspinall
- 1. PRO 30/9/13, pt. 2.
- 2. Wickham mss 1/45/22, Wickham to Addington, 7 June 1803; Add. 35715, ff. 68, 109.
- 3. Add. 35751, ff. 337, 346; 35785, f. 53.
- 4. NLS mss 12917, Newport to Elliot, 1 June 1806.
- 5. Add. 40221, ff. 13-42 (Clonmel).
- 6. Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 23, 24, 25, 45, 55; Wellington mss, J. Bagwell to Wellesley, 1, 12 May, Wellesley to Hawkesbury, 18 May, to J. Bagwell, 18 May; W. Bagwell to Wellesley, 19, 30 May 1807; Add. 38242, f. 286; NLI, Richmond mss 72/1493.
- 7. Richmond mss 63/609, 65/733, 73/1656.
- 8. Ibid. 62/451, 67/994, 74/1907.
- 9. Parker, Peel, i. 149.
- 10. Add. 40294, f. 171; 40295, f. 163; 40298, f. 8.