BARRY, John Maxwell (1767-1838), of Newton Barry, co. Wexford.

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



1806 - 23 July 1823

Family and Education

b. 18 Jan. 1767, 1st s. of Rt. Rev. the Hon. Henry Maxwell, bp. of Meath, by Margaret, da. of Anthony Foster, MP [I], of Collon, co. Louth, chief baron of Exchequer [I]. educ. Trinity, Dublin 1783. m. 4 July 1789, Lady Juliana Lucy Annesley, da. of Arthur, 1st Earl of Mountnorris [I], s.p. suc. fa. 1798; to estates of his gt. gdfa. James Barry of Newton Barry 7 Oct. 1800 and took name of Barry; cos. John James, 2nd Earl of Farnham [I], as 5th Baron Farnham [I], 23 July 1823.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1787-8, 1792-7, 1798-1800; rep. peer [I] 1825-d.

Commr. of treasury [I] 1807-17; PC [I] 7 July 1809; ld. of Treasury [UK] 1817-23.

Trustee, linen board [I] 1810.

Sheriff, co. Carlow 1795-6; gov. co. Cavan 1805.

Col. Cavan militia 1797-d.


Maxwell Barry was cousin and heir presumptive of the 2nd Earl of Farnham on whose father’s interest he had been returned for county Cavan in 1787, only to be unseated by Francis Saunderson*. He sat for two borough seats instead. He played a prominent part in 1798 against the rebels, who burned his house to the ground, but he forgave them and under the influence of his uncle and mentor John Foster* opposed the Union. In 1800 he unsuccessfully contested county Cavan with Nathaniel Sneyd* and, perhaps because of his cousin’s coolness towards him, offered, but did not go to a poll in 1802. He became private secretary to John Foster, Pitt’s chancellor of the Irish exchequer in 1804. In the spring of 1806 he declared his candidature for Cavan again and Saunderson, one of the sitting Members, who were both supporters of the Grenville government, retired rather than face a contest.

In his maiden speech, 18 Feb. 1807, he denied abuses in the Irish barracks administration and on 12 Mar. expressed satisfaction with recruitment under Windham’s military plan. On 4 Mar. he was added to the finance committee. On 25 Mar. he voted with the incoming Portland ministry, whereupon the Whig press commented: ‘Col. Barry ... has two strings to his bow. Hitherto he has voted with his cousin Lord Temple. He now votes with his uncle Mr Foster.’1 Soon afterwards he applied to the chief secretary to be a commissioner of the treasury in Ireland, on the strength of his experience and support.2 His uncle being restored to the Irish exchequer, he was appointed. He voted with ministers against Brand’s motion on 9 Apr. 1807 and subsequently opposed Catholic claims by speech (against the Maynooth grant) and, more frequently, as teller or by vote.3

While the Portland ministry counted on his support, Barry embarrassed them by asking for a privy councillorship for himself and a representative peerage for his cousin. It was not felt that both wishes could be gratified, but Barry obtained his, after a delay during which he also applied to be of the linen board.4 Though he only occasionally spoke in the House, usually to condemn collective fines for illicit distillation in Ireland, he voted staunchly against the Scheldt inquiry, radical agitation, sinecure and parliamentary reform in the session of 1810 and the Regency question next session, except for one division (evidently that of 1 Jan. 1811).5 On 17 May 1811 he was given leave to amend the Act on Irish vote registration. On 4 May 1812 (and again on 29 Mar. 1813) he tried to exclude the Irish pensions list from the sinecures bill.

When in May 1812 Barry supposed that Lord Wellesley might form an administration, he was in a quandary. He owed his place to Wellesley’s brother and, so his brother-in-law Lord Valentia reported:

He would be happy to support Lord Wellesley even though he should lose his place. He entirely disapproves of the late conduct of Lord Liverpool and will not support him on such principles. His own opinions agree with Lord Wellesley’s sentiments on the Catholic question, but being returned for a protestant county (Cavan), it may not be in his power to vote with Lord Wellesley on that question though he would support him on every other point.6

This bid proved unnecessary: Barry, who had voted against Stuart Wortley’s motion for a stronger administration, came to terms with Liverpool’s government and retained his office. He was a candidate for the Irish exchequer at this time but ‘much too lazy’ in the viceroy’s view and concurred happily in the preference shown to William Fitzgerald*.7 Fitzgerald found in March 1813 that Barry, a member of the select committee on the corn trade appointed that month, was anxious to resign office. The chief secretary commented to the viceroy: ‘I have not been able to learn exactly whether he is tired of its laborious duties, or whether he has a grievance. He is a very respectable man and I should be rather sorry if he gave up his seat. He is a firm Protestant too.’8 Later that year Barry presented the Irish treasury commissioners of inquiry with views of unimpeachable Fosterian orthodoxy, but by December 1814 he informed Fitzgerald that he was ‘sick of the kind of office I have held for the last seven years’ and asked him to promote his wish for retirement with compensation as soon as the treasuries of the two kingdoms were consolidated.9 In the following April, the chief secretary complained that Barry was on the Continent, neglecting his parliamentary duty, and in January 1816 it was a ‘severe attack of gout’ that kept him away. On 30 May 1816 he objected to the Irish Catholic prelates’ petition for relief and on 10 June tried to frustrate the Irish grand juries bill in the House. In January 1817 Barry, as senior member of the Irish treasury board, was awarded a place at the consolidated board, but gout still hindered his attendance for a month.10

In 1818 Barry’s cousin Lord Farnham threatened not to support him and his colleague at the general election, regarding Barry’s office as a veto on his independence and assuring the chief secretary: ‘his being in office don’t in any manner oblige me’, but the chief secretary induced him to change his mind.11 Barry’s three interventions in debate in the ensuing Parliament were all on Irish affairs. On 30 Apr. 1819 he objected strongly to the method of still fines employed by government to control illicit distillation. On 22 June 1819 he voted in favour of the extension of the franchise at Penryn. After succeeding to his cousin’s peerage in 1823 he was credited with a significant role in liberating the Irish representative peerage from government nomination.12 He died 20 Sept. 1838.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. SRO GD23/6/746, C. to J. Grant, 19 Sept. 1812; Morning Chron. 3 Apr. 1807.
  • 2. NLI, Richmond mss 66/841, memo 30 Mar. 1807.
  • 3. Morning Chron. 2 May 1808.
  • 4. Add. 40221 (Cavan); Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 489, 503, 506, 613; Add. 38242, f. 286; 38320, f. 100.
  • 5. Richmond mss 65/733.
  • 6. Add. 37297, f. 73.
  • 7. Richmond mss 72/1580; NLI mss 7821, p. 64-5; Add. 38249, f. 20; 40185, f. 11.
  • 8. Add. 40281, f. 144.
  • 9. NLI mss 7815, pp. 292-5; 7824, p. 146.
  • 10. Add. 40252, f. 152; 40262, f. 240; 40288, f. 204.
  • 11. Add. 40278, f. 150.
  • 12. Gent. Mag. (1838), ii. 546.