WEBBER, Daniel Webb (?1757-1847), of Leekfield, co. Sligo.
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Family and Education
b. ?1757, o. s. of Thomas Webber, capt. 4 Horse, of Dublin by Letitia, da. of Col. John Irwin of Tanrago, co. Sligo. educ. Portarlington until 1768;1 R. sch. Armagh; Trinity, Dublin 8 July 1774, aged 16; L. Inn 1785; St. Mary Hall, Oxf. 19 Feb. 1787, aged 25; called [I] 1788. m. 1800 Sarah, da. and h. of Charles Wood of Leekfield, 2s.
Chairman of sessions, co. Sligo until Dec. 1802; KC [I] 1814; commr. cts. of justice inquiry [I] Feb. 1815.
The Webbers were a family of minor gentry from county Cork who, at least until the mid 18th century had made little mark in public life. Daniel Webber was probably the first member of the family to be sent to university. He built up a successful practice at the Irish bar and, marrying an heiress, took up residence at her seat in Sligo.
Ill health obliged him to give up his practice and he sought less arduous duties in government service. In 1813 Lord Shannon, ‘anxious about him’, applied for an office or pension for him. Webber had already been recommended to Peel by William Saurin, 30 Sept. 1812, as a suitable successor to Patrick Duigenan* in the championship of the protestant cause, and on 19 Oct. 1813 the Duke of Richmond recommended him to Peel, if there was a vacancy for Carlow. Peel thought he would be ‘a very useful man in Parliament and a good speaker on the protestant side’, but added that ‘pecuniary circumstances’ might handicap him. The new viceroy Lord Whitworth, who thought highly of some letters he had written to Wilberforce on the Catholic question, wished to do something for Webber, who he supposed would wish to be serjeant. In an interview of 28 June 1814, Webber pointed to the chairmanship of Kilmainham as an office which would not disqualify him from Parliament. Whitworth, after hearing from Peel that Webber was not at present needed, conceded on reflection that it would not be to Webber’s advantage
to be brought forward as our champion against Plunket. His disorder to judge by the tremor of his hand and head, is of such a nature as to render the intellect unequal to great exertions. At all events his being so announced would not lead to his success.
Consequently Webber returned to his profession as a King’s counsel and became a commissioner of inquiry into the Irish courts of justice.2
In May 1816 Webber succeeded to Duigenan’s seat for Armagh. To Whitworth’s amazement he was not at Westminster for the debate on Catholic relief on 21 May, but in his audience chamber stipulating for the chairmanship of Kilmainham as a sine qua non of his services. Whitworth thought his manner ‘on the whole unpleasant and presuming’ and doubted ‘whether we shall ever be the better for [Webber’s services]—at least he begins ill’. Peel, on hearing this, expostulated, 27 May:
I am not at all sorry that Mr Webber was not present at the Catholic debate. I hear that he is a violent, intemperate man with little command over himself, and if this be his character he will do more harm than good. If I were you I would send word to him that it was a matter of perfect indifference to the government whether he went over or not—that it was due to the Primate to go over—but that you would not encourage the slightest hope of personal advantage to himself from the voyage. We do not want him and I really would not give him the promise of a tidewaiter’s place for any service he can render in this session.
Webber’s reaction was that his relationship to government was ‘a liberal and principled attachment’, not ‘a servile obligation’, and to render service on the Catholic question he was deficient only in ‘parliamentary habit’, not in argument. But the viceroy insisted, writing to Peel on 7 June:
I always thought that the Primate had not strengthened us much by giving us Mr Webber. I believe him to be a very horrible fellow. I shall however consider him as without the pale of the ld. lt.’s grace on any future occasion.
Peel was not mollified when on 3 June he reported:
The second vote Mr. Webber gave was with William Smith, the Member for Norwich, on extents-in-aid, leaving the government in a majority of 15, and ... he has given most vehement evidence against us upon the distillation committee. Depend upon it, we shall find him an impracticable and hot-headed fellow.
On 10 June Webber was an ineffectual critic of the Irish grand juries bill, in which he claimed to speak for Irish legal opinion. A week later he was in the government divisions on the public revenues bill. On 19 June, Peel wrote of him:
I hope Webber will calm his nerves and get a little less irritable before the next session. It is impossible for any man to allude to him without calling him up and extorting loud complaints from him of want of candour and so forth and long explanations of what he really did say.3
The truth of the matter was probably that Webber found it difficult to master parliamentary forms: but he gained confidence. On 29 Jan. 1817 he called Lord Cochrane to order and on 11 Mar. he opposed a new committee of inquiry into Irish judicial fees. As the debate on Catholic relief approached, Peel, by now more sympathetic, was sure he could be of ‘great service to the cause’ and undertook to encourage Webber, who had been cogitating on the subject that winter. On 28 Apr., and more forcefully on 9 May 1817, he gave full expression to his anti-Catholic views.4 Apart from a defence of the work of the Irish law courts commissioners, 27 May 1818, this was his last contribution to debate and he was not brought into the Parliament of 1818. Webber died 18 July 1847.