Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen and 40s. freeholders

Estimated number qualified to vote:

about 2,100 in 18311

Number of voters:

1,462 in 1820


27,775 (1821); 33,120 (1831)


 Valentine John Blake514
24 June 1826JAMES O`HARA281
 Dudley Persse4
2 Aug. 1830JAMES O`HARA381
 Valentine John Blake306

Main Article

Built along a narrow peninsula at the centre of Galway Bay, the overwhelmingly Catholic borough of Galway was described in 1818 by John Christian Curwen* as being ‘of great length and crowded with low, mean cabins, which shelter a numerous population, living apparently in great poverty’, and in 1834 by Maria Edgeworth as ‘the dirtiest town I ever saw, and the most desolate and idle-looking’. Its manufactures were in decline and its port in need of attention, but what prosperity it still boasted was maintained through its trade and fisheries; the prevailing indigence no doubt contributed to the corruption and violence of elections, while the tight-knit seafaring community at Claddagh was said to be a law unto itself.2 The corporation, which comprised the mayor, two sheriffs (who acted as returning officers) and an unlimited (but in practice small) number of free burgesses, was completely close. In the words of the local historian James Hardiman, in 1820 it was

little more than a name: the ancient state and insignia of that formerly proud and opulent body have been entirely laid aside, the old and creditable offices of alderman, chamberlain, burgess, etc., have fallen into disuse and its possessions have been alienated; so that it now seems to be upheld by the respectable [Daly] family in which it has become almost hereditary, merely for the valuable patronage which it confers, and for the parliamentary representation of the town, which is commanded by means of the non-resident freemen.

However, as his History also pointed out, the electoral patron, the former Tory Member and many times mayor James Daly of Dunsandle, who had sat for the county since 1812 and had gradually taken over the handling of borough affairs from his Whig colleague and cousin Denis Bowes Daly† (d. 1821) of Dalystown, had been opposed since the Union by a growing independent interest, and it was unclear which side would ultimately triumph.3

Of the two elements in the electorate in the county of the borough of Galway, which extended three or four miles beyond the confines of the town, the role of the 40s. freeholders, who usually accounted for about half the total number of electors, was uncontroversial. By contrast the right of voting exercised by the freemen was contentious for two reasons. First, by the terms of a special dispensation in the Galway Act of 1717 (4 Geo. I, c. 15 [I]), the admission of freemen by virtue of their status as tradesmen was restricted to Protestants only, so that, notwithstanding the Relief Act of 1793, the resident Catholic tradesmen, who had organized themselves into an informal system of trade guilds in order to further their claims, were effectively disfranchised. Second, with the usual qualifications of birth, marriage and apprenticeship being no longer recognized, Daly was able to secure electoral domination by creating honorary freemen among the (Catholic) tenants on his distant estates, so that almost all the freemen were in fact non-resident.4 The Daly hegemony had been interrupted in 1813, when the family’s nominee was unseated on petition in favour of Valentine John Blake†, son of Sir John Blake of Menlough Castle, on the ground of irregularities in the recent admission of 150 non-resident freemen. Blake was a desperate character, whose conflicting desires for public heroics and personal advancement alienated him from both his independent supporters, whose cause he championed, and successive governments, to whom he professed his allegiance in pursuit of a coveted overseas appointment. Nevertheless, he provided a powerful focus for opposition to Daly in borough matters and, having employed his share of skulduggery, defeated Daly’s brother-in-law, the nabob Michael George Prendergast, at the general election of 1818.5

Yet, by the general election of 1820, the political standing of Blake, whose side of the story was later propagated in numerous letters to the press and a series of election petitions to the Commons (which he probably drafted), had been badly damaged. Taking advantage of a legal ruling in 1818 in favour of the validity of the non-resident freeman votes, of which he promptly manufactured several hundred more, Daly made public the secret arrangement he had agreed with Blake at that year’s election; it suited Blake’s purpose to portray Daly as the instigator of this compromise, but it does appear to have been Daly’s modus operandi to subvert potential rivals in this way. Under this deal, Blake was to back the Liverpool administration in the House and to leave the borough patronage to Daly in return for enjoying undisturbed possession of his seat; Prendergast had retired during the poll for this reason. For all his protestations of having their true interests at heart, at least in holding on to the seat against an otherwise overwhelmingly strong patron, this revelation compromised Blake’s credibility with the independent freeholders, who in any case disliked his continued alignment with ministers.6 Daly, whose costs in 1818 were put at £10,000, sought to contrive a similar junction with Major Robert Hedges Eyre of Macroom Castle, county Cork, but this also collapsed when Eyre threw in his lot with the independents, though not with Blake. An anxious Daly, who wrote that ‘I have long seen that it is impossible for the corporation interest to keep Galway without a loss of [?]fortune and time which I will not sacrifice’ and offered to buy off the potential opposition of the under age 14th earl of Clanricarde of Portumna by offering to share the future nomination with him, again brought forward Prendergast, who had been out of the House since 1818. When Eyre, whose suitability was not improved by the disclosure of his negotiations with Daly, absented himself, the committee of independents were obliged to fall back on Blake, who expressed his gratitude and his renewed commitment to their cause.7

On the hustings, 30 Mar. 1820, when Prendergast was proposed by Charles Blake of Merlin Park and Valentine Blake by Robert Hedges Maunsell, a nephew of Eyre and himself a possible independent candidate, Daly denied none of the allegations voiced against him, but stated that he would accede to the electors’ requests provided his interest was preserved. Prendergast, a pro-Catholic ministerialist, led throughout the nearly two-week poll and finished with a majority of 434, having received the votes of 948 (65 per cent) of the 1,462 electors (832 freemen and 630 freeholders) polled; Blake received only three votes fewer than he had in 1818, but was overwhelmed by Prendergast’s additional 618 votes, which were presumably almost all from newly created non-resident freemen.8 Blake’s petition, which was presented on 1 May, complained of personation and venality by Daly, and of the admission of non-resident votes and the exclusion of those of resident Catholics; Blake was later to allege that James O’Hara* of West Lodge, the assessor, had threatened to imprison any Catholic tradesman attempting to tender his vote. Another petition to the same effect was brought up, 8 May, as was a third, requesting a longer period for him to enter into his recognizances, 11 May.9 According to Blake, who blamed divisions among the independents for his humiliation and defeat, Maunsell’s brother Edward’s last minute refusal to produce certain documents before the committee sealed his fate, and its chairman declared Prendergast to have been duly elected, 5 June.10 Petitions from the grand jury against the charging of sheriffs’ election expenses to the county rates and from the town for inquiry into abuses in the Galway representation were presented, 7, 12 June 1820.11 A legal attempt to have the Catholic tradesman Patrick Collins admitted to the freedom failed in king’s bench early the following year, whereupon Daniel O’Connell*, though hostile to Blake, called for further investigation of the franchise.12 Blake, who in 1821 complained to ministers of having been betrayed by the Irish government, deserted by the magistracy of the town and mistreated at the hands of Daly’s friends, received short shrift in reply to his demands for local patronage and private compensation, despite his threat to seek redress in Parliament.13

Galway issued addresses to the king on his visit to Ireland in August 1821 and to Lord Wellesley on his appointment as lord lieutenant in January, and again, following the Orange attack on him in a Dublin theatre, in December 1822. A meeting was held to raise a subscription for famine relief, 6 May, and mercantile petitions for repeal of the salt duties reached the Commons, 19 July 1822, 14 Apr. 1824.14 Patrick Marcus Lynch of Renmore Lodge chaired the town meeting which approved resolutions opposing the corporation’s intended bill to improve its ability to collect local tolls and customs (its sole form of revenue), 8 Jan. 1823. Popular indignation against this measure continued, notably in the columns of the liberal Connaught Journal (which was printed in Galway), and Thomas Spring Rice, Whig Member for Limerick, took possession of the inhabitants’ hostile petition; but although Daly obtained its first reading, 21 Mar. 1823, no further proceedings ensued that session.15 During electoral speculation that autumn, the same newspaper favoured Blake, who was active in opposition to the tolls bill; he promised that either he or his eldest son would stand at the next election and entered into a detailed published correspondence in his own defence.16 Notice having been given of Daly’s desire to renew his tolls bill, another gathering took place under Lynch’s chairmanship, 23 Jan. 1824, and a dinner, chaired by Blake, was held that month in honour of the now of age Clanricarde, who was urged to exert his territorial influence in the town against the corrupt corporation.17 The bill failed, having fallen foul of the standing orders, 22 Mar., and the inhabitants, who contributed heavily to the Catholic rent and met to organize a registration campaign, had their petition in favour of the bill to restore Irish corporators’ rights presented, 31 May 1824.18 The Catholic residents agreed on 16 Feb. to object to the Irish unlawful societies bill by a petition, which was brought up in the Lords by Lord Clifden, 28 Feb. 1825.19

From the autumn of 1824 speculation arose over the implications of the known ambitions of Clanricarde, who was eyeing one of the county Galway seats as well as the borough representation. In particular, it was widely supposed that Daly, in order to secure his own return for the county against Clanricarde’s candidate James Lambert* of Cregclare, would coalesce with his colleague Richard Martin of Ballynahinch Castle, in exchange for which Martin’s eldest son Thomas Barnewall Martin†, who had been thought of as an independent challenger in 1812, would be given a free run for the town, provided he respected Daly’s supremacy there.20 Clanricarde’s preparations included asking his father-in-law Canning, the foreign secretary, to remove his main obstacle, Blake, who was involved in further (futile) legal moves to have the non-residents disfranchised, by giving him an overseas posting. Canning replied on 23 June 1825 that

we will see about Mr. Valentine Blake, but I am afraid he is not a very producible person. He has just written to me the most preposterous letter that could be imagined - to procure my interference with the lord chancellor to alter some judicial proceedings in the House of Lords ... But I do not mean that I will not therefore do what I can to take him off your hands, though (after such a specimen) I must be very cautious as to the mode of doing it.

Referring to the rapturous reception given to O’Connell, including at a dinner for him, that summer, Clanricarde replied optimistically to Canning, 19 July, that ‘O’Connell has great influence and he has spoken in Galway town in my favour knowing my politics to be ministerial, and this act may have great effect on my popularity’.21 Clanricarde, among other supporters of their cause, was thanked by a meeting of independents, 14 Aug., when Blake gave an extraordinary account of how he had obtained possession of the earliest committee book of the corporation, which provided vital evidence for the legitimacy of the voting rights of Catholic tradesmen; and also in the editorials of the Connaught Journal in September 1825, for declaring that he would return an independent for the borough, although who this would be was as yet uncertain.22

His negotiation with the Martins having failed, Daly adopted a two-handed covert strategy prior to the dissolution in 1826. He indicated to the independents that he was ready to accept one of their number, although he placed his veto against Blake, and simultaneously he agreed to allow Clanricarde (in return for not opposing him in the county) to bring forward his own man in the form of this same, ostensibly independent, individual. The choice fell on Thomas Gisborne Burke of Greenfield, a relative of Clanricarde, for whom Blake, in order not to alienate Daly, obligingly gave way.23 According to the long narrative that Burke prepared for Clanricarde, his adoption went fairly smoothly and his canvass evidently bewildered the corporation party, who thronged chaotically in the street around the deputy mayor, James Hardiman Burke, in order to enquire how they should promise to vote. Yet, prompted by doubters such as Eyre, the committee of independents met several times to consider his candidacy and Burke was pressed to pledge in favour of opening the corporation, because of the ‘nervous horror of these people of anything like an understanding between Daly and you’, of which rumours had already begun to circulate. At another meeting, 24 May 1826, when the independents mustered in force behind Burke, Thomas Martin revealed his own negotiations with Daly and accused Burke of having agreed to just such disgraceful terms as he had himself rejected. As Burke reported:

During Tom Martin’s cross-examination my situation was once or twice rather ticklish, having never heard from you the exact nature of your understanding with Daly, and therefore I had to take care to say as little as possible and yet not to say too little, for you can conceive nothing like the fears of the people here of being betrayed by us. Were you to have perceived the deathlike silence during every question of T. Martin’s to me, and my reply, and the wild bursts of applause which succeeded, you would have felt at once (what was indeed the fact) that my being able to come in without the aid of the non-resident freemen depended on each of those replies. The scene was the crisis of our popularity, for the body of the people have more unbiased votes among them and one of much more importance here than I thought. Pray send me without delay the particulars of your understanding with Daly, and watch him, for I am convinced he has a twist in him about the town yet.

The upshot was that Martin briefly started on his own account; Burke soon withdrew rather than incur further odium; Dudley Persse of Roxborough was substituted for him by Clanricarde, despite Canning’s plea for him to compromise; and O’Hara, the respected recorder, emerged as an unexpected and unlikely candidate.24

Persse, hopelessly unpopular as Daly’s suspected nominee, even though he purported to be the Clanricarde and independent candidate, was greeted with only lukewarm applause when he was proposed by Charles Blake, 17 June 1826. However, O’Hara, who received the endorsement of the committee of independents and was nominated by their chairman, Dr. Henry Blake of Renvyle, was acclaimed for his pledges to support the Catholic tradesmen and promote town improvements. A poll was begun but it soon degenerated into violence, especially after the brutal county contest, with which it was closely bound up, started in the town two days later: Persse, who was beaten up, resigned after only four of his supporters had been allowed to vote, and, standing in his place, neither Burke, who likewise withdrew under threat of assassination, nor Walter Blake of Oran Castle, whose schooner was burnt out, could get a single voter to the booths. O’Hara, who apparently received the votes of many independents, was therefore returned after an abbreviated poll, but it was Daly, not his opponents, though they kept their faith in O’Hara for a time, and still less the duped Clanricarde, who had cause for celebration. For O’Hara, another largely inactive pro-Catholic Member, was, despite his protestations to the contrary, as much Daly’s man as Prendergast had been; it soon transpired that Daly, who had attempted to poll the non-resident freemen for O’Hara, had set up Burke and Persse as decoys for his true object, which was to give the seat to a local loyalist.25 A petition, which recited these complex developments and urged investigation of the representation, was presented by the Speaker, 6 Dec. 1826, but the order for its discussion was discharged on Valentine Blake’s failing to enter into his recognizances, 8 Feb. 1827.26 Pro-Catholic petitions, approved the previous September, were brought up from the Catholics by Daly, 21 Feb., and the Protestants by O’Hara, 2 Mar., while another town petition complaining of corporate abuses was presented, 11 June 1827.27

In November 1827, when he presided at the dinner in honour of the young liberal William McDermott of Springfield, O’Hara, who had asked how he should improve the condition of the town, was urged to unite in opposing the dominant corporation over the admission of the resident Catholics.28 However, he played almost no part over the bill to equalize the voting rights of Catholic and Protestant tradesmen, which was sponsored by Rice and Lambert, who had been seated in place of Richard Martin for the county, but which got no further than its first reading, 17 Mar. 1828.29 A meeting to establish a liberal club to secure the passage of this bill and the return of opposition Members took place in the town, 30 Mar., and, following a respectably signed requisition, the Galway Liberal Club was duly formed, on the motion of Blake, 28 Sept.30 The Catholic inhabitants gathered in support of O’Connell’s return for Clare, 3 July, and that summer the liberation of the town became one of the demands of the Catholic Association and a major issue in the putative county Galway contest; Blake, who was roundly attacked on announcing his candidature in lieu of the supposedly ennobled Daly, again engaged in a lengthy public correspondence in justification of his conduct in the politics of the borough.31 In December 1828 and the following two months complaints were raised in the Connaught Journal about O’Hara, especially his acting as Daly’s lackey in defending the existing franchise, and about the shortcomings of the corporation in general, with the lord lieutenant Lord Anglesey, to whom a consolatory address was forwarded on his recall in January 1829.32 Following years of wrangling, Blake and his supporters finally gained a legal victory when the Irish lord chancellor ruled early that year that the corporation tolls were to be used for the benefit of the town and not to pay civic salaries; a subsequent appeal by the corporation to the House of Lords made no progress.33

Following meetings of the inhabitants, 1 Mar., and the corporation, 4 Mar., pro-Catholic petitions were presented to the Lords by Clanricarde and Anglesey, 9, 12 Mar., and to the Commons by O’Hara, 18 Mar. 1829.34 Dominick Browne of Castle Macgarrett, Whig Member for Mayo, who in February had announced that he would increase his registry of freeholders in the town, convened a meeting of independents to discuss how to overcome the influence of the estimated 1,500 non-resident freemen, 31 Mar. It was suggested that the anomalous character of the town’s electorate could be rectified by amending the emancipation bill that spring, but its passage and that of the related franchise measure left the right of election unchanged. Nevertheless, a commemoration dinner was held in Galway, 28 Apr., a subscription to the national tribute to O’Connell was begun, 17 May, and McDermott was thanked for his exertions in the Catholic cause, 23 July.35 A petition from Blake for inquiry into the misgovernment of the corporation was brought up by Henry Brougham, 12 June, and with a view to further parliamentary initiatives, large meetings were held on this subject, 30 Aug., chaired by Lambert, and 25 Oct., chaired by Major Thomas Bodkin of Rahoon, when Blake was among the principal speakers and O’Hara revived his independent credentials by promising to fulfil his election pledges.36 Late that year O’Hara, McDermott and the chief remembrancer Anthony Richard Blake of Hollypark were considered possible future candidates, while Valentine Blake, who had already canvassed, got up an address to the visiting Irish secretary, Lord Francis Leveson Gower, in an unsavoury attempt to exploit his government connections.37

Both O’Hara, who chaired the meeting at which it was decided to petition for a bill to improve the local docks and for a revival of the Galway franchise bill, 10 Jan. 1830, and his main rival for the representation, Blake, who enlisted O’Connell’s support, were active in promoting the interests of the town that year, their efforts being avidly reported in the local press.38 Although it was Lambert who brought up the petition for the docks bill, 19 Feb., O’Hara presented the measure, 8 Mar., and, after Daly had secured its second reading, 31 Mar., he reported from the committee, 10, 19 May, and moved the third reading, 24 May; it was given royal assent, 17 June.39 O’Hara presented petitions for repeal of the coal duties, 10 Mar., and against the increased Irish spirit and stamp duties, 4, 11 May.40 Rice, who brought up the petition for the franchise measure, and Lambert, who forced Daly to speak in his own defence by alleging that there was only one resident freeman in the borough, advocated the bill with O’Connell’s support, 4 Mar., when ministers were non-committal. Leave was given, 10 Mar., when the first of several favourable petitions was presented, and Rice obtained its first and second readings, 15, 17 Mar. The corporation’s hostile petition was brought up, 30 Mar., by Daly, who announced that he would move a wrecking amendment, 1 Apr., and kept up an obstructive opposition in the committee, 26 Apr., and at the report stage, 19 May, when counsel for the corporation stated that it would add 4,000 Catholic tradesmen to the electorate. Daly forced the House to be counted out, 20 May, and unsuccessfully divided it, with the support of his friend Peel, the home secretary, against the proposed amendments (by 25-23), 24 May, and the third reading (by 77-59), 25 May.41 On 24 June Lord Grey elicited from the duke of Wellington, the prime minister, that he would move to equalize the voting rights by disfranchising the Protestant tradesmen, which would frustrate the measure and safeguard Daly’s interest. Grey, supported by Clanricarde, opposed Wellington’s amendment to repeal the Galway Act altogether, on the ground that it contravened the spirit of the Emancipation Act, 25 June, but, after a superb speech by Lord Lyndhurst, the lord chancellor, it was carried by 62-47. In July several petitions, including one from Blake and another from O’Hara and other Galway barristers, calling for the reversal of this decision were presented, but in its essentially nullified form the bill was allowed to drop.42

O’Hara was challenged only by Blake, though there were rumours that James Hardiman Burke or the barrister John Henry North* would start on the corporation and Daly interest or that Thomas Martin would canvass as an independent, at the general election of 1830, when the electorate was said to have risen by 587 freeholders and 146 honorary freemen since 1820.43 Given the benefit of the doubt by the influential Connaught Journal, O’Hara was nevertheless unpopular in the town because of his apparent connection with Daly and his reluctance to ally with the O’Connellites in the Commons. At a meeting of the guild of shoemakers and tailors, 12 July, he responded to hostile questioning by stating that he had severed his links with the corporation by resigning the recordership in October 1826, that he sat on the cross-benches in the House and that he was sympathetic to limited parliamentary reform. Yet Blake, now reckoned to be a reformer, kept up the pressure and it was reported that Daly, to salvage what he could of his interest, was preparing to open the corporation.44 On the hustings, 2 Aug., O’Hara, who was proposed by Bodkin and had the backing of the respectable gentry, declared that he would sooner lose his seat than poll a single non-resident freeman, but Blake, who was nominated by Browne and had O’Connell’s muted endorsement, was not suffered to speak, even though he had filled the court house with his tenants. O’Hara, whose committee were violently ambushed that evening, led comfortably throughout the ten-day poll, being elected with a majority of 75. He received the votes of 381 (55 per cent) of the 687 electors polled (620 freeholders and 67 freemen); he and Blake were almost equal among the freeholders (317-303), but he had a significant advantage among the freemen (64-3). As O’Hara evidently did poll some non-resident freemen, his statement in the court house was shown up as a falsehood and Blake sent him an (unanswered) challenge over this; but the fact that so few freemen voted at all probably indicated that Daly, who was in any case preoccupied with his losing battle to retain his county seat, was prepared to let matters take their course.45 Blake’s two petitions, which, apart from going over old ground, alleged that the civil and military authorities had shown great partiality towards O’Hara, were presented by Nicholas Leader, Member for Kilkenny, 19 Nov., and O’Connell secured extra time for him to enter into his recognizances, 6 Dec. 1830. The committee decided against him, 21 Mar. 1831, and Blake, who in 1829 had applied to Wellington for a peerage on the basis of one of his ancestors having been a knight of the round table, remained out of the Commons for another ten years (though he renewed his canvass in 1832 and 1838).46

A town meeting, under the chairmanship of the radical Galway barrister Lachlan Maclachlan, approved petitions in favour of another legislative attempt to enfranchise the Catholic tradesmen, 29 Sept., and numerous petitions to this effect were brought up from 18 Nov. 1830 onwards. Although Rice moved the first reading of a new franchise bill, 3 Feb. 1831, there was no possibility of taking it further that session, and the Galway Docks Act amendment bill, which was introduced by O’Hara, 13 Dec. 1830, also ran out of legislative time.47 Petitions from the parish of St. Nicholas against the grant to the Kildare Place Society were presented to the Commons by Thomas Wyse, 16 Dec., and to the Lords by Lord Lansdowne, 21 Dec.48 Following reform meetings in Galway, 13 Dec. 1830 (chaired by Lynch), 24 Jan. and 16 Mar. (by Maclachlan), Sir John Burke of Marble Hill, the new county Member, presented the town petitions for the ballot, 26 Feb., and the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 19, 25, 29 Mar. 1831.49 At least a dozen Galway petitions calling for it to receive an additional representative were brought up between 24 Mar. and 18 Apr. 1831, and the news that the borough representation would be doubled by the Irish reform bill was welcomed, although doubts were raised about the effectiveness of this given Daly’s continuing electoral patronage.50

The usual names were touted at the general election of 1831, when the main surprise was that O’Hara, who had voted for the English reform bill, chose to retire from the fray on the ostensible ground that the cause of independence had already been secured, and that Daly, who might have stood himself or brought forward Thomas Martin, decided not to contest the seat. The scene therefore looked set for a struggle between two Catholic Liberals: Thomas Bodkin’s young son John James Bodkin of Quarrymount, a native and resident, and Andrew Henry Lynch†, son of James Lynch of the Castle, Galway, who had rendered effective service to the town in his practice as a London barrister.51 Bodkin was introduced by Anthony Lynch of the High Street and the absent Andrew Lynch was represented by Maclachlan, 6 May, when McDermott, who declined to be put up himself, spoke in favour of his brother-in-law Bodkin and suggested that Lynch was linked to Daly. Before polling began the following day, Lynch was withdrawn by his friends because Blake’s decision to swing his influence behind Bodkin made his cause hopeless. It may have been this that he had in mind when he complained in his address of a new form of domination in the town; and it was later reported by his father-in-law that although ‘he considered his return as all but certain’, it failed ‘through the manoeuvre of a false friend’.52

The vexed question of the franchise had been raised during the election and another meeting took place, under Bodkin’s superintendence, to petition for giving the vote to the Catholic tradesmen, 12 May 1831. To the surprise and delight of the Connaught Journal, in June Daly at last acted to promote what the newspaper termed his own true interest, both by sanctioning the admission of nearly 800 mostly Catholic inhabitants to the freedom, though it was alleged he favoured his political supporters, and by releasing funds for the improvement of the town.53 Bodkin, who was praised for his initial activity in the Commons in July, for instance in calling for relief from agricultural distress and the disarmament of the yeomanry, oversaw the passage of the renewed docks bill that session.54 Wyse, with the assistance of Bodkin, Lambert and Rice, took charge of the franchise bill, obtaining leave to introduce it, 24 Aug., and securing its passage, 26 Sept.55 A flood of petitions in its favour was again forthcoming that year, while others from Galway for reduction of the £3 stamp duty on freeman admissions were presented, 25 July, 2, 15 Aug., 6, 29 Sept., and, following a gathering on 29 Sept., further ones calling for the peculiar franchise to be preserved under the Irish reform bill were brought up, 4, 11, 13, 17-19 Oct.56 In the Lords, whose defeat of the reform bill had been condemned at a Galway meeting that month, Wellington again moved a wrecking amendment, 13 Oct., but this was defeated by the newly appointed lord lieutenant of the town (as well as of the county of Galway), Clanricarde, who had armed himself with legal advice, without recourse to a division. Amid rejoicing in the borough, where steps were undertaken to ensure its implementation, it was given royal assent, 15 Oct. 1831 (1 & 2 Gul. IV, c. 49).57

In January 1832, when the boundary commissioners visited Galway, there were 1,006 freemen, of whom only 83 were resident within seven miles of the borough, and 1,088 freeholders, including 921 40s. ones, making a total electorate of 2,094, exclusive of the 1,034 newly elected and mostly Catholic freemen, all but three of them residents, who had not yet been admitted because of the prohibitively expensive stamp duty. It was calculated that after the passage of the Irish measure, the electorate would comprise the 1,088 freeholders plus the 83 resident freemen and 454 new £10 householder voters, making 1,625 in total.58 Fears that the Galway Franchise Act would become a dead letter, since the Catholic freemen eligible under it had not qualified themselves soon enough, were raised at meetings, 1 Jan. and 9 Apr.; an enormous number of petitions to this effect, and others for lowering the stamp duty on admissions (which was reduced to £1), were presented to the Commons throughout the session, as were several last minute applications to the Lords, 26, 27, 30 July, 7 Aug. 1832.59 But by the Irish Reform Act, which granted the borough an additional seat, the honorary freemen elected since 1 Mar. the previous year were not enfranchised, though the 40s. freeholders, whose independence had been defended by Bodkin and Burke in the Commons, 29 June, were preserved alongside the resident freemen. Many of the Catholic tradesmen would have qualified as £10 householders, but about 800 were admitted, 18 Sept., and registered, 10 Oct., with a view to testing their right to vote. After the general election of 1832, when there were 2,062 registered electors, Maclachlan, who had been returned with the Repealer Andrew Lynch (who sat until 1841), was unseated on petition in favour of another Repealer, Martin Joseph Blake of Ballyglunin (who sat until 1857) and 688 of the recently qualified freemen were struck off.60 Although the ascendancy of Daly, whose son Denis canvassed in 1832 and stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative in 1837, had now ended, there continued to be violent contests and, unlike in the rest of the Irish boroughs, the freemen remained an impoverished and corrupt minority in the electorate.61

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. PP (1831-2), xliii. 79.
  • 2. J. Hardiman, Hist. Galway (1820), 279-84, 287-97; J.C. Curwen, Observations on State of Ireland (1818), i. 343; M. Edgeworth, Tour in Connemara (1950), 14, 15; H.D. Inglis, Ireland in 1834, ii. 22-34; PP (1835), xxvii. 528; S. Lewis, Top. Dict. of Ireland (1837), i. 645, 646.
  • 3. Oldfield, Rep. Hist. (1816), vi. 334; PP (1835), xxvii. 519, 520, 523; Hardiman, 193-6, 229, 285, 286; Hist. Irish Parl. ii. 242.
  • 4. PP (1831-2), xliii. 77; (1835), xxvii. 517, 519, 521-3.
  • 5. Late Elections (1818), 482, 483; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 657, 658; J. Kelly, ‘Politics of "Protestant Ascendancy": Co. Galway’, in Galway Hist. and Soc. ed. G. Moran and R. Gillespie, 258-60.
  • 6. Connaught Jnl. 11, 18, 25 Sept., 2, 9, 16, 23 Oct. 1823; CJ, lxxxii. 94-97; lxxxvi. 114, 115.
  • 7. Dublin Evening Post, 3, 10, 12, 17, 19, 29 Feb., 14, 28 Mar.; PRO NI, Sligo mss MIC292/2, Daly to Sligo, 11 Mar. 1820.
  • 8. Dublin Weekly Reg. 18, 25 Mar., 15 Apr.; Dublin Evening Post, 1, 6, 8, 11 Apr.; General Advertiser or Limerick Gazette, 11 Apr. 1820; PP (1831-2), xliii. 79.
  • 9. CJ, lxxv. 123-5, 159-61, 198; lxxxii. 94-97; lxxxvi. 114, 115.
  • 10. Ibid. lxxv. 272; Connaught Jnl. 11 Sept., 9, 16 Oct. 1823.
  • 11. CJ, lxxv. 287, 302.
  • 12. Dublin Evening Post, 5 Dec. 1820; Dublin Evening Herald, 16, 27 Feb. 1821.
  • 13. Add. 38289, f. 70; 38290, ff. 50, 66, 72, 74, 129, 275; 40352, f. 193.
  • 14. Dublin Evening Post, 9, 14 Aug. 1821, 29 Jan., 9 May, 31 Dec. 1822; CJ, lxxvii. 439; lxxix. 298.
  • 15. Connaught Jnl. 9, 13 Jan., 3, 27 Feb., 20 Mar., 10 Apr., 12 May 1823; CJ, lxxviii. 47, 70, 152.
  • 16. Connaught Jnl. 8, 11 Sept., 23 Oct. 1823; Add. 38297, f. 206.
  • 17. Connaught Jnl. 19, 26, 29 Jan., 2, 5, 9, 19, 23 Feb. 1824.
  • 18. Ibid. 1, 22 Apr.; Dublin Evening Post, 27 Mar., 8 July 1824; CJ, lxxix. 32, 82, 201, 440, 441.
  • 19. Connaught Jnl. 17 Feb.; The Times, 1 Mar. 1825; LJ, lvii. 63.
  • 20. Connaught Jnl. 9, 16 Aug., 13, 20 Sept. 1824, 22 Jan., 12 May 1825.
  • 21. Ibid. 7 July, 8 Aug. 1825; Harewood mss WYL 250/11/119.
  • 22. Connaught Jnl. 15, 18 Aug., 15, 19, 29 Sept. 1825.
  • 23. Ibid. 23 Feb., 17 Apr., 1, 4 May; Dublin Evening Post, 27 Apr., 3, 8 June 1826; CJ, lxxxii. 94-97.
  • 24. Harewood mss 28, Burke to Clanricarde, 30 Apr., 27 May; 31, Canning to same, 17 June; Connaught Jnl. 8, 11, 18, 25, 29 May, 1, 5, 12, 15, 19 June 1826.
  • 25. Connaught Jnl. 19, 22 June, 3, 6, 10 July; Dublin Evening Post, 17, 20, 27, 29 June, 11 July 1826; CJ, lxxxii. 94-97; Kelly, 261, 262.
  • 26. CJ, lxxxii. 94-97, 126.
  • 27. Ibid. 206, 207, 265, 541; Connaught Jnl. 14, 18 Sept. 1826; The Times, 3 Mar. 1827.
  • 28. Connaught Jnl. 3 Sept., 1, 12, 22, 26 Nov. 1827.
  • 29. Ibid. 14 Feb., 24 Mar. 1828; CJ, lxxxiii. 48, 169, 176.
  • 30. Connaught Jnl. 31 Mar., 25, 29 Sept., 2 Oct. 1828.
  • 31. Ibid. 3, 7, 24, 28, 31 July, 4, 7, 11, 14 Aug. 1828.
  • 32. Ibid. 15, 29 Dec. 1828, 5, 15, 19 Jan., 5, 26 Feb. 1829.
  • 33. Ibid. 2 Feb. 1829; PP (1835), xxvii. 530; LJ, lxii. 24, 25.
  • 34. Connaught Jnl. 2, 5 Mar. 1829; LJ, lxi. 141, 179; CJ, lxxxiv. 148.
  • 35. Connaught Jnl. 23 Feb., 30 Mar., 2, 13, 30 Apr., 11, 14, 18 May, 27 July 1829.
  • 36. Ibid. 17, 31 Aug., 3 Sept., 12, 26, 29 Oct. 1829; CJ, lxxxiv. 395; PRO NI, Anglesey mss D619/32A/3/1/249.
  • 37. Add. 40337, f. 192; Dublin Evening Post, 29 Sept., 6, 8 Oct. 1829.
  • 38. Connaught Jnl. 7, 10, 14 Jan., 1, 11 Mar., 5, 8, 12, 15 Apr., 31 May, 14, 17, 21 June 1830.
  • 39. CJ, lxxxv. 75, 76, 145, 245, 391, 446, 462, 561.
  • 40. Ibid. 158, 366, 403.
  • 41. Ibid. 134, 135, 158, 160, 181, 190, 243, 333, 448, 453, 468, 476.
  • 42. LJ, lxii. 770, 774, 847, 852, 864, 869, 899, 900; Connaught Jnl. 17 June 1830; Ellenborough Diary, ii. 276; P. Jupp, British Politics on Eve of Reform, 57, 58, 303.
  • 43. PP (1829), xxii. 256; (1830-1), xiv. 165.
  • 44. Connaught Jnl. 21, 24, 28 June, 1, 5, 8, 12, 19, 26, 29 July; Dublin Evening Post, 22, 31 July 1830.
  • 45. Connaught Jnl. 2, 5, 9, 12, 16 Aug.; Warder, 7, 14 Aug. 1830; Kelly, 263, 264.
  • 46. CJ, lxxxvi. 114-17, 149, 414; [W. Carpenter], People’s Bk. (1831), 337; Wellington mss WP1/1045/14.
  • 47. Connaught Jnl. 30 Sept., 4 Oct. 1830; CJ, lxxxvi. 108, 168, 210, 509.
  • 48. CJ, lxxxvi. 182; LJ, lxiii. 189, 190.
  • 49. Connaught Jnl. 16, 20 Dec. 1830, 24, 31 Jan., 17, 21 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 310, 407, 435, 456.
  • 50. CJ, lxxxvi. 430, 457, 465, 479, 485, 493, 501; Connaught Jnl. 24, 28 Mar., 18, 25 Apr. 1831.
  • 51. Freeman’s Jnl. 28 Apr., 3, 4 May; Connaught Jnl. 28 Apr., 2, 5 May 1831.
  • 52. Connaught Jnl. 9, 12 May 1831; M.D. Petre, 9th Lord Petre, 283.
  • 53. Connaught Jnl. 12, 16, 19 May, 2, 6, 9, 16, 27 June, 11, 17 July; Dublin Evening Post, 24 May, 14 June 1831; PP (1831), xvi. 211, 365.
  • 54. Connaught Jnl. 17, 25 July, 15, 18 Aug. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 658, 664, 672, 681, 690, 715, 740, 741, 753, 754, 777.
  • 55. CJ, lxxxvi. 782, 788, 804, 836, 854, 869.
  • 56. Ibid. 695, 717, 757, 826, 877, 890, 904, 911, 923, 928, 931, 934; Connaught Jnl. 26, 29 Sept. 1831.
  • 57. Connaught Jnl. 17, 31 Oct.; Add. 51836, Clanricarde to Holland [12 Oct. 1831]; LJ, lxiii. 1086, 1093.
  • 58. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 628; xliii. 77-79.
  • 59. Connaught Jnl. 9 Jan., 5 Apr., 6, 9, 20 Aug. 1832; LJ, lxiv. 403, 406, 408, 409, 434.
  • 60. Connaught Jnl. 11 Oct., 17 Dec. 1832; PP (1835), xxvii. 520-2; (1837), vol. xi, pt. i, pp. 563-73; NAI, Blake mss M6935/2, 3, 8, 11; H.J. Perry and J.W. Knapp, Cases of Controverted Elections (1833), 302-34.
  • 61. Kelly, 264; K.T. Hoppen, Elections, Politics and Society in Ireland, 3, 4, 75-77.