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 1,400 in 1820, rising to about 3,200 in 1830

Number of voters:

1,356 in 1820; 1,281 in 1830


59,045 (1821); 66,575 (1831)


 Thomas Spring Rice560
 RICE vice Vereker, on petition, 3 July 1820 
 Samuel Dickson485

Main Article

The prosperous port, improving city and garrison town of Limerick, at the mouth of the Shannon estuary, formed a parliamentary county borough covering an extensive area both north and south of the river. The more outlying of its 21 parishes were thinly populated, and three-quarters of the inhabitants lived either in the dilapidated old centre, known as English Town (roughly equivalent to the Protestant parish of St. Mary), or in the more modern and increasingly vibrant commercial suburbs of Irish Town (of which the Catholic parish of St. John was the most politically active). These geographical variations were indicative of old religious divisions and, although there was little overt sectarian unrest by the early nineteenth century, the electorate remained polarized on denominational grounds.1 The unusually large corporation, which comprised a mayor, two sheriffs (the returning officers) and an unlimited number (actually about 60 in this period) of aldermen and burgesses, was exclusively Protestant in composition. This equally applied to the freemen, who, with the usual means of admission by birth, marriage and apprenticeship being tightly restricted, were more and more often honorary creations (amounting to 305 of the 329 freemen admitted between 1817 and 1824).2 Conversely, as tenants in the rural areas of the constituency, many of the freeholders, who also faced difficulties in getting themselves registered, were Catholics.3

The different character of the two structural elements of the electorate was partly caused by the nature of the continuing political rivalry in the borough.4 The dominant figure, who united the older electoral interests of the Prendergast, Smyth and Vereker families, was the 2nd Viscount Gort of Roxborough (and Loughcutra Castle, county Galway). He, like several of his ancestors, was a former Member for the borough, and now served as constable of Limerick Castle and colonel of the city militia. Himself an alderman, he was the patron (and chamberlain) of the corporation, of which many of his relations were members, and he used it as his power base in the old city, where he owned much property. He allegedly destroyed some of the corporation’s records in order to avoid having to produce them as evidence in legal cases. He also attempted to weight the electorate in his favour by admitting his county Galway tenants as non-resident freemen, and it was perhaps significant that the number of freemen sworn in rose to well over 100 in each election year in the late 1810s.5 Opposed to Gort was another Irish peer, the 1st earl of Limerick of Dromore Castle, who sat in the Lords as an anti-Catholic Tory. He, like his much more distinguished uncle, Edmond Sexton Pery, the Speaker of the Irish Commons, had represented the borough in the eighteenth century and he still retained a significant family interest. This was mainly based on his extensive landownership in the suburbs, and particularly in the recently built Newtown Pery area, where many of his Catholic tenants would have qualified as freeholders. However, it was Gort’s family which had monopolized the one remaining Limerick seat since just after the Union, and Lord Limerick failed in his bid to regain it in 1812, when he put up his heir Lord Glentworth (the defeated candidate at Mallow in 1826).6 Thereafter the main challenge to the Verekers came in the form of a nascent independent interest, which was mainly liberal Protestant in character. With the assistance of Daniel O’Connell*, it achieved one or two legal victories against the corporation that decade, for instance over the admission of freemen as of right. The chamber of commerce, founded in 1815, provided a significant focus of its support, especially as the corporation was so resistant to economic advances.7

In 1817, when Gort inherited his title, his only son John Prendergast Vereker, an anti-Catholic ministerialist, was unsuccessfully opposed by an independent, John Tuthill of Kilmore, who subsequently dropped out of the reckoning. At the general election the following year Vereker defeated Lord Limerick’s son-in-law Thomas Spring Rice, the son of Stephen Edward Rice of Mount Trenchard; Gort was paid £800 to cover his expenses in opposing Rice’s petition, which was dismissed on a technicality.8 Rice, whose preparations included successfully lobbying Parliament over the regulations for the admission of freeholders and the receipt of pollbook evidence by election committees, stood again as the champion of independence at the general election of 1820, when he denied that the changes he had had introduced to the Irish Election Act would increase local taxation and was given what O’Connell described as a ‘great dinner’.9 (Confusingly, then and/or in May Rice was also apparently an intermediary between John Benn Walsh*, son of Sir John Benn Walsh+ of Warfield Park, Berkshire, and Limerick, who was attempting to sell the seat for £4,000, unless this actually related to Tralee.)10 On the hustings, Vereker, who was proposed by John Massy, a relation of the 4th Baron Massy of Hermitage, offered on the basis of his family connections and paid lip service to the idea of representing the wider interests of the constituency. By contrast, Rice, who was nominated by the future colonial governor Colonel Richard Bourke of Thornfield (Thornville), claimed the support of the enlightened country gentry and the genuine inhabitants and traders, and questioned Vereker’s parliamentary conduct compared to his own talents and promise as a legislator. As he acknowledged at a later election, Rice did not commit himself on the Catholic question at this time, perhaps because Lord Limerick, from whose patronage he could not entirely distance himself, had not yet come round to supporting emancipation.11

A long struggle ensued, during which evidence of bribery emerged and the military had to be called in to restore order, but Rice, whose own pollbooks flatly contradicted the lead announced each day for Vereker on the sheriffs’ authority, was defeated after a two-week contest. He promised a petition, not least because the independents had increased their freeholder registries before the contest, and boasted of the backing of the directors of the chamber of commerce and the tenants on the local estates of the 2nd earl of Clare, whose brother Richard Hobart Fitzgibbon sat for the county.12 Vereker, who received support from 59 per cent of the 1,356 electors polled, obtained the votes of 417 (or 94 per cent) of the 442 freemen, who accounted for a third of all those voting (compared to two-thirds for the freeholders). Rice, with only 41 per cent, had a majority of 156 among the 914 freeholders polled, 535 (or 59 per cent) of whom gave him their votes, but this was insufficient, given Vereker’s 379 freeholder votes, to win him the seat. Compared to the contest in 1818, when he had done similarly poorly among the freemen, Rice gained over 250 votes from the freeholders (of whom there had then been 553, as against 354 freemen), but Vereker added nearly 100 freemen and just over 100 freeholders to his tally, so maintaining a comfortable majority of 236 (down by 59 over two years).13 Rice argued that 255 non-resident freemen and 44 improperly registered freeholders should have been deducted from his opponent’s total, so that, with the votes of an additional 117 freeholders who had been refused permission to poll, he effectively had a lead of 677-497.14

Rice repeated some of these arguments in his petition, which also alleged that Gort and other corporators had obstructed the just legal proceedings of his supporters. It was presented, 9 May, and the ensuing committee examined several witnesses, 23, 24, 26, 29 June 1820, including Henry Dean Grady, who had once sat for Limerick on the Pery interest and now supported opposition. The committee having rejected Vereker’s definition of the right of election, as based on the existing franchise, 30 June, his counsel withdrew his opposition to the petition the following day and the decision to seat Rice, taken by 11 votes to four, was announced to the House, 3 July. The chairman Edmond Wodehouse reported that Rice’s plea in favour of the inhabitant traders and merchants had also been dismissed, and the right of election was therefore defined to be in the freeholders, freemen as of right, provided they were resident at the time of their admission, and certain freemen entitled to vote under the ‘new rules’ of Charles II. Wodehouse also moved that the recorder Henry D’Esterre, Gort’s brother-in-law, had been guilty of ‘gross prevarication’ on his examination before the committee and he was sent to Newgate that day. His petition, claiming that he had been confused and unwell while giving evidence, 8 July, cut no ice and he received a severe reprimand from the Speaker, 10 July 1820, when several Members suggested that he should be stripped of his office.15 The disgrace of this ‘scoundrel’ was considered by one radical source to have given the coup de grâce to the corporation’s patron, and Rice, for having obtained the rejection of the non-resident freemen, was accorded a hero’s welcome, with a procession headed by Bourke’s and Clare’s tenantry and a lengthy accolade from the leading independent John Howley, a merchant, on his return to Limerick later that month.16 The occasion was commemorated by a large painting of the ‘Chairing of Thomas Spring Rice’, possibly by William Turner of Oxford, in which he was depicted, as the epitome of virtue, standing on a triumphal platform surrounded by his leading supporters.17

Rice, who quickly established himself as an invaluable ‘man of business’ for the Whigs and proved himself an ideal local Member, particularly in relation to commercial petitions and Limerick legislation, complained about the conduct of the former treasurer and promised to support a petition alleging irregularities in the corporation’s finances which was got up at a meeting held, despite the mayor’s veto, under the chairmanship of Bourke, 11 Sept. 1820. O’Connell had issued a speculative address offering to replace D’Esterre as recorder, but that autumn the post went to Carew Smyth, who, although possibly another relative of Gort’s, was recognized as an able and impartial barrister.18 The Protestant bishop of Limerick, Thomas Elrington, moved the loyal address to the king at a town meeting in January 1821, when its content was apparently moderate enough to win over the city’s Catholics; they (as on many later occasions) attended a county meeting of their co-religionists in Limerick in order to advance their cause, 24 Mar., and gathered to approve a loyal address to George IV on his visit to Ireland, 9 Aug.19 After a petition from John Standish of Frankfort, arguing in favour of Vereker’s interpretation of the right of election, had been presented, 5 Feb., and a counter-petition from Bourke and others had been received, 12 Mar., another election committee was appointed, which, in a decision hailed as finally destroying Gort’s interest, ruled on 23 May that the franchise was

in the freeholders of the said county [of the city], and in such freemen of the said city as were resident therein at the time of their admissions to their respective freedoms; that the eldest sons of freemen, and persons who have married the daughters of freemen, and persons who have served seven years apprenticeship to freemen of the said city are entitled to the freedom of the said city and to vote at elections for the same.20

Rice and Lord Limerick brought up Limerick petitions complaining of agricultural distress in their respective Houses, 26 Feb., and others, complaining of the restrictions on entry to the freedom and spoliation of the corporation records, were presented, 1 May, 25 June.21 Despite Rice’s assistance, 12 inhabitants had their applications to become freemen refused, 4 Oct. 1821.22

A handful of petitions complaining about the excessive taxes levied by the corporation were brought up, 1 Mar., 8 May, and as a result a select committee on Limerick local taxation was appointed, 23 May 1822. Rice chaired its lengthy proceedings and reported to the House, 31 July, but nothing further was achieved that session.23 Following a requisition headed by Clare’s name, a meeting was held to congratulate the lord lieutenant Lord Wellesley on his fortunate escape from injury during the Dublin theatre riot, 28 Dec. 1822. Rice, who was also endeavouring to raise the matter of corporate taxation at this time, was interrupted by Gort, who attempted to seize control of the proceedings and to defeat Rice’s prepared address, so that order had to be restored. Rice eventually got his own way, but the mayor, Denis Fitzgerald Mahony, who extracted a similar address from the corporation, retaliated by banning a meeting on taxation which had been planned for 7 Jan. 1823.24 O’Connell wrote to his wife from Limerick, 14 Mar., where he was involved in a case of libel by one of the sheriffs, that ‘Gort was in court and I indulged myself in painting the profligacy of the corporation in its truest colours’.25 A petition from the freemen, freeholders and inhabitants for a bill to correct abuses in the corporation was presented, 11 Mar., by Rice, who oversaw its progress that session. Despite hostile petitions from the corporation, which were brought up on 6 May in the Commons and on 25 June in the Lords (which rejected another from Gort, 10 July), the Limerick Regulation Act, which slightly remodelled the corporation and prevented it spending its surplus revenue on non-municipal purposes, was given royal assent, 18 July 1823.26 Under this legislation, and at the urgent behest of Rice, an attempt was soon made by Wellesley, after whom the proposed new bridge in Limerick was named, to enable their representatives to join the corporation, but nothing came of it.27 Although the struggle was not fully over, the independents, who were thought to have spent about £30,000, now claimed to have opened the borough against the corporation, which had run up costs of over £10,000, and Gort, referring to Lord Limerick, complained of ‘the exhausted state of our corporate treasury, occasioned by the unceasing attacks of a certain titled gentleman’.28 Despite a despicable attempt to secure a payment of £18,000 from the corporation and being widely condemned for his electoral misdemeanours, Gort was rewarded by government with an Irish representative peerage that autumn; he quarrelled with Limerick in the Lords on producing another petition on local taxation, 11 June 1824.29

Among many others, petitions from the chamber of commerce were presented by Rice for the equalization of the duties on East and West Indian sugars, 24 June 1823, the continuation of the linen export bounties, 18 Mar. 1824, and against hasty alteration of the corn laws, 15 Apr. 1825, while another, against the suppression of small Irish bank notes, was brought up in the Lords, 14 Mar., and the Commons, 16 Mar. 1826.30 A typically optimistic O’Connell attended the meeting of the Catholics, 22 Mar. 1824, when William Roche, in the chair, and his brother and banking partner Thomas both spoke for their claims, and amid much excitement, including the presentation of what O’Connell called ‘a flaming address’ to him from the trades of Limerick, the city, which was assiduous in the collection of the ‘rent’, hosted the provincial Catholics’ meeting, 24 Oct. 1825.31 By then, as during election speculation in the autumn of 1824, it was assumed that any challenger on Gort’s interest would be defeated by Rice, whose patron, the 3rd marquess of Lansdowne (of Bowood, Wiltshire), offered him the support of his Limerick tenants. With one newspaper report putting the electorate at 4,000, Rice attentively kept his profile high in the city, where a dinner was held in his honour, but as he reported to Henry Brougham*, 14 Oct. 1825, ‘I am quite safe. Two ambitious attorneys are my present opponents, but they only wish to annoy me by expense’.32 One of these was Samuel Dickson of George’s Street (and Ballysimon), who in February 1826 induced several, but not all, the guilds to pronounce publicly in his favour. Rice, who described Dickson’s standing as ‘absurd, inconsistent and ridiculous’, accused him of having backed Vereker in 1818 and dismissed his claims to be the true independent candidate. Their vituperative public correspondence ended in April, and by June Dickson, whom one report had it was a rich illegitimate son of Gort’s, had withdrawn. Gort arrived that month and issued an address claiming to have defended the inhabitants’ interests under the new valuation bill, but no other challenger in the end emerged under his aegis. Instead Rice, who was given a warm welcome, including at a Mechanics’ Institute dinner, and offered on the basis of his ‘industry and perseverance in parliamentary business’, was expected to be secure at the general election of 1826, when there were reportedly 4,193 electors, including 1,352 freemen.33 Proposed by the barrister Michael Furnell, his unopposed return was duly seen as another triumph for the independent freeholder interest.34

Dickson, who intruded himself at the county Catholics’ gathering in Limerick to speak in favour of relief, 11 Aug., was the guest of honour at a dinner, 20 Sept. 1827, when he confirmed that he would have stood the previous year, had he known how much support he had, and promised to offer again at the next opportunity.35 This seemed to have arrived earlier than could have been expected in March 1828, when Dickson, now sheriff of the county, issued an address in anticipation of Rice, who had served in minor office under Canning and Lord Goderich, accepting a post in India. There were fears about finding a suitable Whig replacement, though Limerick’s kinsman Sir Aubrey Vere Hunt of Curragh Chase, the former candidate for the county, was mentioned; and anxieties were expressed whether Rice, perhaps imitating the reprehensible conduct of Stephen Rumbold Lushington in leaving Canterbury effectively unrepresented, would in fact vacate at all. Although Rice’s friends mustered under Furnell, Tuthill called a meeting, 3 Apr., to agree resolutions in condemnation of this latter possibility, which he forwarded to the sitting Member. Rice replied that he would never compromise his constituents’ interests, 8 Apr. 1828, and it soon emerged that he would remain in Parliament, having received a higher allowance from his father, who was promised financial assistance by Lansdowne in the event of any expensive future contest occurring in Limerick. Tuthill represented the inhabitants’ relief at this news, but complained of Rice having attacked their right to question his conduct.36

Not only were the trades active, but many moderate Catholic citizens joined in the agitation on behalf of O’Connell’s successful candidacy in the neighbouring county of Clare in the summer of 1828. Limerick, which was the headquarters of his campaign, gave him a rapturous reception on his way back to Dublin, and his coadjutors Thomas Steele of Cullane and the O’Gorman Mahon* of Mahonburgh, Clare, took part in a celebratory meeting there, 13 July.37 The Catholic parish of St. John’s took the initiative of establishing a liberal club, and this, which soon set about increasing the registration of freeholders, was extended to the whole city as the Limerick Independent Club, under Steele’s chairmanship, 12 Aug. Such conspicuous activities as the installation of the O’Connellite Order of Liberators and the Independent Club dinner to Steele and the O’Gorman Mahon in September, led to tussles with the county’s Brunswickers the following month, and incurred the wrath of the duke of Wellington, the prime minister, who had been warned by one alarmist that ‘there is something bad and deeply organized going on there’.38 As in the previous two sessions, several parochial petitions for Catholic emancipation were presented by Rice, 6 Feb. 1829, and, with this finally enacted, the city’s Catholics met under Thomas Roche’s chairmanship to contribute to the national testimonial to O’Connell, 12 May, when they also agreed a vote of thanks to Wellington.39 Ironically, Gort, who late the previous year had seemed to concede the need for Catholic relief, despite being a Brunswicker, took offence at the related franchise measure (which did not disfranchise 40s. freeholders in county boroughs) because, as Lord Ellenborough put it, it would not ‘give him a borough’; he, therefore, attacked the number of freeholders registered in Limerick as excessive, 9 Apr., and (unlike Lord Limerick) voted against emancipation, 10 Apr.40 The prospect of another Clare by-election that summer fuelled excitement in Limerick, where the re-elected O’Connell was honoured with a dinner, 12 Aug. 1829.41

Rice and Dickson rekindled their rivalry in canvassing speeches at meetings of the Mechanics’ Institute in September and October and at the dinner for the retiring mayor Vere Hunt, 2 Nov. 1829. By that winter, Dickson was considered to have bolstered his future chances, while Rice, who predicted he would face no Catholic or other opponent, and initiated proposals for local improvements, was again the subject of rumours about his seeking office abroad.42 When this story briefly resurfaced in March 1830 Dickson, Glentworth, who also had ambitions for the county, and an unnamed challenger all declared their intentions of standing at the next opportunity, but Rice, who scotched the speculation, had already been reassured that he would have more voters registered for him than his main threat, Dickson.43 Rice (who may have presented a similar one from the chamber of commerce, 27 May 1829), brought up the Limerick petition against the renewal of the East India Company’s monopoly, 5 Feb., as well as those from the unemployed weavers complaining of distress, 6 Apr., the chamber of commerce for reducing the coal duties, 7 Apr., and the letter press printers, 11 May, and inhabitants (who had gathered for this purpose on 5 May) against the increased Irish spirit and stamp duties, 20 May.44 Even before the king’s death in June 1830, Dickson and a mysterious joker known as ‘Paddy the Chopper’ had announced their intention of challenging Rice.45

With neither Vereker nor any other third candidate emerging at the general election that year, the popular reformer Rice, who was supported by a meeting in St. John’s parish and suffered from the unwanted endorsement of O’Connell, faced only the severe challenge posed by Dickson, who echoed Rice’s liberal and constituency sentiments but was considered a stooge of the corporation.46 On the hustings, 6 Aug. 1830, Rice was nominated by Bourke, who considered changing the tenure of his tenants so that they could vote as freeholders.47 Rice answered his critics by declaring that he was in favour of greater openness in the corporation, was not seeking to turn the city into Lord Limerick’s pocket borough, was resident when not unavoidably absent attending Parliament and was a hard-working advocate of Irish rights. To all this, Dickson, proposed by Tuthill, merely restated his claim to be the real independent candidate, and he was stoutly attacked by several barristers, including Matthew Barrington, the eldest son of the founder of the new Limerick hospital Sir Joseph Barrington, who caused a furore by asking him whether he would poll the non-resident freemen. The sitting Member led confidently throughout the seven days of polling, during which his opponent’s agents made as many objections as possible, and claimed that his victory justified his political conduct on the 14th, when a man died of a beating he had received during the contest. Dickson, who nearly fought a duel with Rice early that day, finished 311 adrift, but claimed that 568 of the winner’s votes, being improperly sworn Catholics, ought to have been struck off the poll.48

It had been reported that 279 (including 119 honorary) freemen and 2,567 (including 2,141 40s.) freeholders had been added to the electorate in the eight years to 1829, which illustrated how dominant the latter element in the constituency had become. Given the problems of determining eligibility, estimates of the actual number of electors varied, but according to the parliamentary returns of 1830 there were 2,795 freeholders and 372 freemen, and this was close to the total of 3,200 (including 506 freemen and 2,034 40s. freeholders) that was cited in the press at the time.49 Whatever the truth of that, 1,281 actually polled on this occasion, roughly a fifth of whom were freemen.50 Rice, with the same total as Vereker ten years earlier, received the votes of 62 per cent of them, presumably doing proportionally better among the freeholders, while only 38 per cent voted for the defeated candidate, whose Tory brother-in-law Sir Robert Bateson came in for county Londonderry at this election. Dickson’s petition accused Rice of using improper influence over the voters employed on building the Wellesley Bridge, Bourke and William Roche of irregularities in the swearing of Catholic electors, and their partisans of employing intimidatory tactics, which had forced the county’s police magistrate Thomas Philip Vokes to intervene. This was presented, 4 Nov., and another, on much the same lines, from the resident freemen Philip William Russell and Richard Peppard, was brought up, 22 Nov. 1830, but in neither case were the requisite recognizances entered in time, so no committee was appointed. Concerned that these allegations could not therefore be repudiated, Bourke and William Roche strongly denied them in another petition, which Rice presented, 12 Apr. 1831.51

The idea of Limerick recovering its second seat was raised in one local newspaper in September, and Rice wrote to Lansdowne, 30 Dec. 1830, agreeing that its size merited an additional Member, although he admitted to being ‘blinded by local partiality’.52 An anti-slavery meeting was held, 29 Sept., under the chairmanship of Rice, who presented the ensuing petition (or some parochial ones to the same effect) to the Commons, 11 Nov., when it was also brought up in the Lords.53 Another gathering, 11 Oct., called for further inquiry into the city’s revenues and form of government, but this was overshadowed by the large number of guild and parish meetings held that winter to petition for repeal, most of which Rice agreed to present despite his pro-Union sentiments.54 Imagining that Rice would join Lord Grey’s ministry, John O’Connell of Grenagh, Kerry, commented in late November 1830 that he worried

very much that he will find his return for Limerick a much more difficult matter than he is aware of, should any person start in opposition to him. A strong prejudice exists against him about the Subletting Act, and his opinions on this cursed repeal of the Union will bring many, I fear, to vote against him.55

Perhaps fortunately, as joint treasury secretary, Rice did not have to stand for re-election.

The mayor John Cripps refused to sanction a meeting on parliamentary reform, but an unofficial one was held under William Roche’s chairmanship, 21 Mar. 1831, when David Vandeleur Roche of Carass and John O’Brien of Elmvale moved the first resolution in favour of the reform bill. The ensuing petition, which received at least 2,000 signatures, was presented to the Commons by Rice, 22 Mar., and to the Lords by Grey, 30 Mar., while a similar one from the chamber of commerce was brought up in both Houses, 12 Apr., by Rice and Lord Limerick, although the latter was an anti-reformer.56 Rice, of course, fully endorsed the reform scheme in offering again for Limerick, which was to receive an additional Member under the Irish reform bill, at the general election that spring, when Anglesey, the reinstated viceroy, exerted the Irish administration’s influence on his behalf. Rice, whose committee was re-formed by William Roche, was evidently apprehensive of what Lord Limerick described as ‘the machinations of selfishness and folly to give you trouble’, but Daniel O’Connell ordered him to be left unmolested and Steele spouted brazenly in his favour; Dickson, who had recently been sued for his previous year’s printing expenses, quickly withdrew; Glentworth confined himself to putting down a marker for the future; and nothing came of the surprising last minute candidacy of Tuthill as an O’Connellite and radical.57 Having been reintroduced by Alderman Joseph Gabbett of High Park, Rice was therefore returned unopposed, after which he justified his taking office and announced that he would stand again once the reform bill had become law.58

A corporation petition for the English reform bill was presented to the Lords by the marquess of Westminster, 4 Oct., but, following its defeat there that month, Vereker, the new mayor, declined to authorize a city meeting on the subject. Nevertheless, the congregated trades having met for the same purpose, 13 Nov., William Roche chaired a meeting, 28 Nov. 1831, which, on the motion of Sir John Allen De Burgho of Castleconnell and Dickson, approved a pro-reform address to William IV.59 Rice brought up the petition of the tradesmen, mechanics and artisans for additional Irish seats, 23 Feb., while one from St. Mary’s parish for the abolition of Irish tithes and church rates was presented to the Lords by Lord Radnor, 14 June, and the Commons by Hume, 10 Aug. 1832.60 Commenting on the nuisance caused by the county Limerick elections being held in the city, O’Grady, one of the Members, remarked in the House, 6 July 1832, that there ‘you are annoyed by the most numerous, disorderly and desperate rabble you ever met with’.

By that summer, Rice having been forced by the potential threat of the Repealers to withdraw to Cambridge, approaches were made to the Irish poet Tom Moore, who eventually declined, while Barrington, Dickson, Glentworth, the former O’Connellite Pierce Mahony† and one of Gort’s family (in fact, it was his nephew John Vereker junior, a Conservative, who stood) were among the many candidates who jostled for influence with the new electorate.61 It was calculated that there were 413 corporators and freemen, including 116 non-residents, and about 2,000 freeholders on the registers that year, but that under the Reform Act there would be 1,800 occupiers of £10 houses, including 550 existing voters, and 1,797 other reserved rights freemen and freeholders, making a total of 3,597.62 In fact there were 2,868 registered electors at the general election in December 1832, when, at O’Connell’s instigation, William Roche, by now a highly respected Catholic agitator, and his cousin David Roche were returned as Repealers after a contest.63 In 1834 the traveller Henry David Inglis praised the monument to Rice in Pery Square as a well - merited honour, ‘for to his public spiritedness and exertions, the city of Limerick is mainly indebted for every improvement that has either been completed or that is now in progress’; but the municipal corporations commissioners reported early that decade that the continued paucity of freemen and the lack of a popular constitution meant that the city’s political and economic advancement was still retarded by its defective corporation.64

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. PP (1831-2), xliii. 89; (1835), xxvii. 543, 609; J.C. Curwen, Observations on State of Ireland (1818), i. 367, 368, 372; H.D. Inglis, Ireland in 1834, i. 294, 295, 297-305; S. Lewis, Top. Dict. of Ireland (1837), ii. 265, 268-71, 273-6; Rev. P. Fitzgerald, Hist. Topography and Antiquities of Limerick, ii. 500-13.
  • 2. PP (1825), xxii. 216; (1831-2), xliii. 89-91; (1835), xxvii. 549-555, 560; P. Jupp, ‘Urban Politics in Ireland’, in Town in Ireland ed. D. Harkness and M. O’Dowd, 108, 109.
  • 3. For a list of freeholders, see PP (1829), xxii. 44-247; the freeman roll was published in R. Herbert, ‘Antiquities of Corporation of Limerick’, N. Munster Antiq. Jnl. iv (1945), 103-26.
  • 4. This paragraph is based on Hist. Irish Parl. ii. 274-5; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 668, 669.
  • 5. Oldfield, Rep. Hist. (1816), vi. 241; PP (1824), xxi. 689; (1835), xxvii. 561, 562; Herbert, 88, 95.
  • 6. A.P.W. Malcomson, ‘Speaker Pery and Pery Pprs.’ N. Munster Antiq. Jnl. xvi (1973-4), 34, 50; Jupp, 115.
  • 7. J. Ridden, ‘"Making Good Citizens": National Identity, Religion and Liberalism among the Irish Elite, c.1800-1850’ (King’s Coll. London Ph.D. thesis, 1998), 146, 147, 155-67; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 669; PP (1835), xxvii. 608, 609.
  • 8. Add. 40298, f. 27; Late Elections (1818), 484; PP (1819), iv. 287-9; (1835), xxvii. 604.
  • 9. General Advertiser and Limerick Gazette, 22, 29 Feb., 3 Mar. 1820; O’Connell Corresp. ii. 816, 818.
  • 10. NLW, Ormathwaite mss FG1/5, p. 61; G15, ff. 61, 65.
  • 11. Ridden, ‘"Making Good Citizens"’, 167-75; General Advertiser, 24 Mar. 1820; Limerick Chron. 14 June 1826.
  • 12. General Advertiser, 28, 31 Mar., 4, 7, 11, 14 Apr.; Dublin Evening Post, 30 Mar., 1, 6, 11 Apr. 1820.
  • 13. PP (1829), xxii. 16, 17.
  • 14. General Advertiser, 11, 14 Apr. 1820.
  • 15. CJ, lxxv. 171-3, 329, 338, 383, 384, 428, 431; PP (1820), iii. 283-353; NLI mss 25632; M. Lenihan, Limerick, its Hist. and Antiquities, 454, 455.
  • 16. Peep at the Commons (1820), 22; General Advertiser, 7, 21 July 1820.
  • 17. R. Herbert, ‘Chairing of Thomas Spring Rice’, N. Munster Antiq. Jnl. iv (1945), 133-42; Ridden, ‘"Making Good Citizens"’, 173, 174.
  • 18. General Advertiser, 18 July, 1 Aug., 8, 12 Sept., 10, 24 Oct. 1820.
  • 19. Dublin Evening Post, 13 Jan.; Dublin Weekly Reg. 13 Jan., 31 Mar., 11 Aug. 1821.
  • 20. CJ, lxxvi. 29, 30, 159, 342, 346, 368; Dublin Evening Post, 2 June 1821.
  • 21. CJ, lxxvi. 108, 297, 469; LJ, liv. 67; The Times, 27 Feb. 1821.
  • 22. Dublin Weekly Reg. 6 Oct. 1821.
  • 23. CJ, lxxvii. 70, 71, 244, 290, 478; PP (1822), vii. 235-447.
  • 24. Dublin Evening Post, 31 Dec. 1822, 2, 7, 11 Jan. 1823.
  • 25. O’Connell Corresp. ii. 1004.
  • 26. The Times, 12 Mar. 1823; CJ, lxxviii. 110, 118, 125, 136, 153, 171, 195, 288, 289, 319, 327, 382, 396, 479; LJ, lv. 813, 865; Fitzgerald, ii. 494-500; PP (1831-2), xliii. 91.
  • 27. Add. 37302, ff. 249, 254; 37303, ff. 1-5, 105; PP (1835), xxvii. 547-9, 575, 576, 608; Lewis, ii. 268, 271.
  • 28. Lenihan, 457-8, 460-3; Jupp, 117; Herbert, ‘Antiquities’, 90; Malcomson, 50.
  • 29. Lansdowne mss, Clare to Lansdowne, 10 Sept.; NLW, Coedymaen mss, Williams Wynn to Plunket, 1 Nov. 1823; The Times, 12 June 1824; LJ, lvi. 380.
  • 30. The Times, 25 June 1823, 16 Apr. 1825; CJ, lxxviii. 421; lxxix. 179; lxxx. 309; lxxxi. 176; LJ, lviii. 108.
  • 31. O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1113, 1115, 1253, 1334; Dublin Evening Post, 27 Mar. 1824, 27, 29 Oct. 1825; Lenihan, 464.
  • 32. Lansdowne mss, Rice to Lansdowne, 2 Sept. 1824, Harvey to same, 27 Sept. 1825; Dublin Evening Post, 9 Sept. 1824, 18 Aug., 8, 10 Sept., 11 Oct. 1825; Brougham mss.
  • 33. Limerick Chron. 18, 22, 25 Feb, 1, 4, 22 Mar., 1, 12 Apr., 31 May, 7 June; Dublin Evening Post, 20 May, 10, 15 June 1826.
  • 34. Limerick Chron. 14, 17 June; Freeman’s Jnl. 16 June 1826.
  • 35. Limerick Chron. 18 Aug., 26 Sept. 1827.
  • 36. Limerick Evening Post, 14, 18, 21, 25, 28 Mar., 1, 4, 8, 15 Apr., 9 May, 3 June; Lansdowne mss, Lansdowne to S. E. Rice, 11 Apr. 1828.
  • 37. Add. 40334, f. 207; 40397, f. 117; Limerick Evening Post, 8, 15 July 1828; Lenihan, 482, 483.
  • 38. Limerick Evening Post, 5, 12, 22 Aug., 2, 5, 30 Sept., 3, 7, 14, 24, 28 Oct. 1828; PRO NI, Anglesey mss D619/32A/2/122; Wellington mss WP1/946/16; 963/38.
  • 39. CJ, lxxxiv. 8; Limerick Evening Post, 13, 27 Jan., 6, 13 Feb., 15 May 1829; Wellington mss WP1/1018/13.
  • 40. Dublin Evening Post, 18 Nov. 1828; Ellenborough Diary, i. 390.
  • 41. Limerick Evening Post, 29 May, 9, 16, 19 June, 14, 18 Aug. 1829.
  • 42. Ibid. 29 Sept., 20 Oct., 6 Nov.; Dublin Evening Post, 8 Oct., 29 Dec.; Warder, 2 Dec.; NLI, Monteagle mss 549, Rice to ?Lansdowne, 23 Sept., to Vesey Fitzgerald, 23 Sept., to wife, 23, 24 Sept.; Lansdowne mss, Clare to Lansdowne, 23 Dec. 1829.
  • 43. Monteagle mss 13370 (5), Limerick to Rice, 9 Feb.; Limerick Evening Post, 16, 23, 26 Mar., 6 Apr. 1830.
  • 44. Limerick Evening Post, 4, 7 May 1830; CJ, lxxxiv. 342; lxxxv. 8, 270, 271, 276, 403, 449.
  • 45. Limerick Evening Post, 4, 18 June 1830.
  • 46. Ibid. 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, 27, 30 July, 3, 6 Aug.; Dublin Evening Post, 22, 29, 31 July 1830.
  • 47. M.M.C. Power, ‘Bourke and his Tenants’, N. Munster Antiq. Jnl. xli (2001), 81.
  • 48. Limerick Evening Post, 6, 10, 13, 17, 20, 24 Aug.; Dublin Evening Post, 7, 10, 19 Aug.; Warder, 18 Aug. 1830.
  • 49. Limerick Evening Post, 9 July 1830; PP (1829), xxii. 248, 264; (1830), xxxi. 331.
  • 50. PP (1831-2), xliii. 94 (where different figures are given).
  • 51. CJ, lxxxvi. 24-26, 109, 123-6, 152, 479.
  • 52. Limerick Evening Post, 17 Sept. 1830; Lansdowne mss.
  • 53. Limerick Evening Post, 21 Sept., 1 Oct. 1830; CJ, lxxxvi. 56, 57; LJ, lxiii. 38.
  • 54. Limerick Evening Post, 12, 15 Oct., 16, 19, 26, 30 Nov., 3, 7, 14 Dec. 1830, 14 Jan. 1831.
  • 55. PRO NI, Fitzgerald mss MIC639/13/7/99.
  • 56. Dublin Evening Post, 19 Mar.; Limerick Evening Post, 22, 25 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 419, 479; LJ, lxiii. 401, 407.
  • 57. Limerick Herald, 18, 25, 28 Apr., 2, 5 May; Limerick Evening Post, 19, 26, 29 Apr., 3, 6 May; Derby mss 920 Der (14) 121/1/2, Gosset to Smith Stanley, 25 Apr.; Monteagle mss 13371 (2), Limerick to Rice, 5 May 1831; TNA HO100/238, f. 152.
  • 58. Limerick Herald, 9 May; Limerick Evening Post, 10 May 1831.
  • 59. LJ, lxiii. 1048; Limerick Evening Post, 4 Oct., 8, 15, 18, 29 Nov. 1831.
  • 60. CJ, lxxxvii. 143, 583; LJ, lxiv. 292.
  • 61. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1905, 1921, 1927, 1930, 1938; Moore Jnl. iv. 1479-81, 1498-1502; Dublin Evening Post, 30 June, 12 July, 8, 25 Sept., 25 Oct., 22 Nov., 1, 6 Dec. 1832.
  • 62. PP (1831-2), xliii. 90, 92, 93.
  • 63. Dublin Evening Post, 6, 20 Dec. 1832; O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1943; A. Macintyre, The Liberator, 56, 305.
  • 64. Inglis, i. 298; PP (1835), xxvii. 555-7, 610, 611.