RUTHVEN, Edward Southwell (?1772-1836), of Bellville, Crossgar and Oakley, co. Down.

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



1806 - 1807
1830 - 1832
1832 - 31 Mar. 1836

Family and Education

b. ?1772, 1st s. of Rev. Edward Trotter, DD, of Oakley by Mary, da. of Very. Rev. James Dickson of Dromore, dean of Down. educ. Trinity, Dublin 6 Nov. 1787, aged 15; Wadham, Oxf. 11 Oct. 1790, aged 18; M. Temple 1791. m. 12 Mar. 1794, Harriet Jane, da. of Francis Price, MP [I], of Saintfield, co. Down, 3s. 4da. suc. fa. 1777; took name of Ruthven 1800.

Offices Held

Lt. army 1800, 10 Drag. 1801-3.

Capt. Down militia 1793, Downpatrick yeoman inf. 1803.


The Trotter family settled in Ireland in the mid 17th century and claimed descent from the earls of Gowrie, whose surname this Member assumed in 1800. His Christian names suggest an association with Edward Southwell, 21st Baron de Clifford, the nominal patron of the borough of Downpatrick, but he deserted him to attach himself to Lord Downshire. In 1802 it was recalled that Ruthven had ‘formerly opposed’ De Clifford (unsuccessfully in the election of 1797) and thought that government would be well advised to enlist his interest for De Clifford’s nominee.1

Ruthven’s uncle, William Dickson, Bishop of Down (d.1802) was a lifelong friend of Charles Fox, and in 1806 Ruthven’s brother, John Bernard Trotter, by then closely associated with the Whig cause in Ireland, became Fox’s private secretary. At the ensuing general election, Ruthven offered himself for Downpatrick, whereupon the sitting Member, Hawthorne, stood down: his return against the De Clifford candidate was facilitated by the support and purse of Lady Downshire, who also supported the Whig ministry.2

Ruthven first spoke on 11 Jan. 1807, verbosely supporting the printing of the army estimates. The only further intervention reported was a question on the navy estimates, 23 Jan. 1807, but the style of the first foreshadowed Ruthven’s later reputation as a babbler.3 After being ‘unavoidably absent’ in April 1807, he was defeated at the ensuing election, although Hawthorne again made way for him on condition of Ruthven’s returning the compliment in 1812; as also in 1815 and 1818 when he contested Downpatrick against Lord Glerawly, and in 1820. In 1815 he received Hawthorne’s support when the latter resigned his seat, but the Irish secretary learnt that ‘at all events nothing can be so bad as Ruthven. He is really a Jacobin, a union of Kit Hutchinson’s and Montagu Mathew’s worst political qualities.’ Peel was also indignant at Ruthven’s effrontery in applying to government for a seat for Athlone in exchange for support of John Wilson Croker* as candidate for Downpatrick. Ruthven claimed that he would support government, but Croker thought this would mean nothing but ‘talk, talk, talk’.4

When he eventually re-entered Parliament it was as a wordy ally of Daniel O’Connell and of the radicals, too eccentric to achieve any stature. He died 31 Mar. 1836, aged 63, in reduced circumstances: not, however, on account of his expenses at Downpatrick. In 1806 and 1807 ‘Lady Downshire paid the cost ... about £18,000, and Lord Glerawly paid him £1,500 to compromise the petition’ in 1815.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Dublin SPO, 520/131/2.
  • 2. DNB; Drennan Letters ed. Chart, 357; NLS mss 12914, Lady Downshire to Grenville, 23 Oct. 1806.
  • 3. Gent. Mag. (1836), i. 664; Random Recollections of the House of Commons 1830-35, pp. 326-30.
  • 4. Fortescue mss, Lady Downshire to Grenville, 8 Apr.; Sidmouth mss, Hawthorne to Sidmouth, 29 May 1807; Add. 40183, f. 251; 40200, f. 85; 40243, f. 101; 40287, f. 195; 40288, f. 43.
  • 5. PRO NI, D365, Pilson diary (copy), 4 Apr. 1836.