CALLAGHAN, Daniel (1786-1849), of Lotabeg, nr. Cork

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



29 Mar. 1830 - 1834
1835 - 29 Sept. 1849

Family and Education

b. 7 June 1786, 2nd s. of Daniel Callaghan (d.1824) of Sidney House, Cork and Mary Barry of ‘Donalee’; bro. of Gerard Callaghan*. ?unm. d. 29 Sept. 1849.

Offices Held


This branch of the Callaghans, distant kinsmen of Lord Lismore, had remained Catholic, thereby enduring ‘confiscations’ and marriages ‘beneath their rank’ until their fortunes were restored by Callaghan’s father, who established a ‘monopoly of trade’ supplying the navy in Cork during the Napoleonic wars and became one of Ireland’s ‘most successful merchants’. Callaghan appears to have been the most active of his six brothers in the family business, and on his father’s death to have assumed control.1 In 1820 he intervened in a duel which followed his brother Gerard’s unsuccessful candidacy for Cork, insisting that his younger brother Patrick was ‘perfectly satisfied’ after his first shot severed the finger of Christopher Hely Hutchinson, one of the Members.2 It has been stated that at the 1826 Cork by-election he refused on ‘public principle’ to vote for Gerard, who had abandoned the family religion to become a ‘red hot Protestant’, but at the 1829 by-election he lent him his full support, providing ‘both money and personal exertions’.3

The unseating of Gerard as a government contractor supplying the navy created a vacancy in 1830, for which Callaghan came forward with the unlikely support of the local Brunswick Club, who, it was said, had determined on ‘putting a Catholic in for a while, in order to keep the seat for one of their most virulent, violent and obnoxious members’, and considered it ‘better to vote for a Papist than a liberal Protestant’.4 Lord Francis Leveson Gower, the Irish secretary, observed that there was nothing in Callaghan’s character to ‘induce government to interfere against him’ and declined to assist his opponent.5 Pressed at the nomination, Callaghan praised the ‘beneficial influences’ of the established church but denied being his brother’s locum, although he admitted that at the next election he would ‘retire before him rather than come into such an unnatural collision’. After a 13-day contest of ‘unparalleled severity’ he was returned 16 votes ahead of his rival. A petition against his return on the ground of his also being a government contractor came to nothing.6 He took his seat, 26 Apr. 1830. In his maiden speech, 12 May, he repudiated claims by Daniel O’Connell that John Doherty*, the Irish solicitor-general, had withheld evidence or acted improperly at the trial of the Doneraile conspirators, where he had served on one of the juries. He voted for repeal of the Irish coal duties next day and was mistakenly listed as his brother in the majority against Jewish emancipation, 17 May. He defended the West India spirits bill, 5 July, and was in the ministerial majority against the reduction of judges’ salaries, 7 July 1830.

At the 1830 general election it was expected that he would retire in favour of Gerard, but to the fury of the Brunswick Club he offered again after family friends, with whose decision the brothers had ‘agreed to abide’, determined that he had the ‘best chance of success’.7 On 27 July Leveson Gower offered government support, observing that it was ‘a primary duty to repay as far as possible ... your independent support during the last session’.8 At the nomination Callaghan denied accusations that he was a ‘thick and thin supporter’ of ministers who had ‘purchased’ their backing by a ‘slavish surrender of his judgement’, saying that despite ‘every solicitation’ he had voted with opposition for repeal of the coal tax and abolition of the death penalty for forgery. (He was, however, not listed as dividing for the latter, 24 May, 7 June 1830.) Pressed further, he pledged support for the abolition of slavery, economy and reduced taxation, and measures to ‘purify the system of election’. After a seven-day contest he was returned in second place. A petition to unseat him as a government contractor was again unsuccessful.9 He was listed by ministers as one of the ‘doubtful doubtfuls’, but he voted with them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented Cork petitions for the abolition of slavery, 23 Nov., 6 Dec. 1830, 10 Mar. 1831. He brought up and endorsed petitions for relieving coopers in the butter trade from distress and encouraging their emigration to North America, and for the admission of Catholics to Cork corporation, 23 Dec. He contended that repeal of the Union would create ‘all the horrors of revolution and civil war’ and condemned O’Connell’s ‘ferment on this subject’, 23 Dec. 1830, but presented Cork repeal petitions, 10 Feb., 10 Mar. 1831. He was appointed to the select committees on the East India Company, 4 Feb., 28 June, and public finances, 17 Feb. He complained that the distillery bounties enabled Scotland to manufacture spirits ‘much cheaper’ than Ireland, 16 Feb., and obtained returns on the issue, 22 Feb. On 10 Mar. he accepted that Ireland ‘ought not to be allowed to grow tobacco, so long as England and Scotland are prohibited’. He presented a Cork petition against alteration of the timber duties that day, and warned that any relaxation of Ireland’s colonial import duties would facilitate the ‘admission, duty free, of provisions from the United States through Canada’, 11 Mar. He blamed the decline of the Irish soap industry and distress of her kelp growers on the ‘absurd system of drawback’ enjoyed by English manufacturers, 16 Mar. He voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s English reform bill, 22 Mar., but noted that while his Protestant constituents agreed with the ‘justice and propriety of reform’, they objected to any extension of the franchise that would ‘give a greater number of Catholic electors than at present’, 18 Apr. 1831. He divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment next day.

At the ensuing general election he offered again as a ‘friend’ to the ‘extinction of close boroughs’ and an ‘extension of the elective franchise’, which he believed could be kept ‘moderate’ by adopting an Irish £10 householder franchise based on ‘ascertained’ rather than ‘assumed’ rental values. On the hustings he assured those ‘who were once arrayed against him’ of the ‘sincerity’ of his support for reform, which dated from when the duke of Wellington had declared himself opposed to any change. Following the last minute withdrawal of another candidate he was returned unopposed.10 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against adjournment, 12 July, and gave generally steady support to its details, although he voted against the partial disfranchisement of Guildford, 29 July 1831. He voted for the bill’s third reading, 19 Sept., its passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He was in the minority of 41 for civil list reductions, 18 July. He divided against disqualification of the Dublin election committee, 29 July, but with ministers on the controversy, 23 Aug. He voted for printing the Waterford petition for disarming the Irish yeomanry, 11 Aug. He presented Cork petitions against the grant to the Kildare Place Society and the importation of foreign flour, 12 Aug. He saw ‘great benefits’ in appointing lord lieutenants to Irish counties but protested that the appointment of commissioners of Irish public works looked ‘like a plan for making places for three or four gentlemen’, 15 Aug. He regretted that some of the Doneraile witnesses were ‘still maintained at the expense of the people’ that day, supported a petition against the conviction of the conspirator John Leary, 19 Sept., and seconded O’Connell’s motion for information on the subject, 27 Sept. He divided for legal provision for the Irish poor, 29 Aug. He voted against the issue of the Liverpool writ, 5 Sept., and quarantine duties next day. He objected to Irish grand juries having power to raise money for public works, but abandoned his threatened hostile amendment in favour of one by Hume, 16 Sept. He refuted claims that ministers had chosen non-resident Irish lord lieutenants of counties and defended the appointment in county Limerick of his ‘friend’ Richard Fitzgibbon*, 6 Oct. He was appointed to the select committees on the state of the West Indies that day and 15 Dec. He presented and endorsed a Cork petition for repeal of the drawback on English soap, which had ruined Irish producers because of the ‘smuggling back’ of subsidized English exports, 11 Oct. 1831, and campaigned steadily for its abolition thereafter.

Callaghan deprecated the failure of ministers to increase the number of Irish Members or disfranchise any corporate boroughs and warned that ‘unless they satisfy the just desire of the people ... to be represented ... I shall most reluctantly withdraw from them’, 12 Dec. 1831. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and steadily supported its details. Writing to William Smith O’Brien*, 5 Jan. 1832, he hoped that Lord Grey would

believe what everyone else has ... for a long time past ... that his ministry cannot pass the reform bill or any other bill the Tories choose to oppose, without an infusion of 40 to 50 Whigs into the House of Peers. We of the Commons are easily managed by the present men but would not be ruled by any Tory minister. For the peace of the country I hope therefore they’ll make peers.11

He divided for the third reading, 22 Mar., and Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May. He voted for the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May, but thought its details should ‘coincide with ... the English’, 6 June. He was in the minority for O’Connell’s motion to extend the Irish county franchise to £5 freeholders, 18 June, and supported an unsuccessful amendment for the words ‘or other building’ to be inserted in the clause relating to the Irish £10 householder franchise, in accordance with the English bill, 25 June. He condemned the government’s decision to abandon the disfranchisement of freemen, 2 July. ‘That so material a part of the bill should have been given up without a struggle’ in the Lords, he remonstrated, 3 Aug., was a ‘slur upon ministers and the House’. He warned that Irish freeholder certificates would be withheld by landlords, destroying ‘that freedom of election which it is desirable to establish’, and argued for a reduction of polling numbers at each booth from 600 to 400, 6 July. He proposed giving votes to multiple occupiers ‘if the rent, divided among them’ amounted to more than £50 each, but desisted in the face of opposition, 9 July 1832.

He complained that Cork had ‘thousands on thousands of poor destitute creatures’, 23 Jan., and called for the introduction of ‘some system’ of poor laws, 8 Feb., 19 June 1832, when he voted for a tax on absentee landlords to provide for poor relief. He divided with ministers on the Russian Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July. He demanded the immediate end of Irish tithes, without which there could ‘not be peace and prosperity’ in Ireland, 8 Feb., and voted to print the Woollen Grange petition for their abolition, 16 Feb. Next day he reported to Smith O’Brien that the ‘system of compulsory provision for the clergy’, which ‘government seem disposed to continue’, would not ‘last long’:

We are giving it such blows in every discussion that petitions against tithes give rise to, that government are daily giving way from the high grounds they appeared to have taken up.12

He seconded and divided for a motion to postpone the Irish tithes bill, 6 Apr., and spoke and voted steadily against it thereafter, although he was one of the Members ‘usually opposing ministers’ who divided for Crampton’s amendment regarding the payment of arrears, 9 Apr., and against making further modifications, 1 Aug. He was in the minority of ten for the reception of a petition for the abolition of tithes next day, when he presented one in similar terms from Cork. He protested that the drawback on malt harmed Irish producers and urged its immediate abolition, 17 Feb., 30 Mar. He urged the necessity of finding alternative ‘means of support’ for Cork’s foundling hospital in the event of the repeal of the local coal duties, 7 Mar., for which he presented a petition, 23 May. He brought up petitions for the Dublin coal trade bill and the Cork infirmary bill, 9 Mar. He presented one in support of the Irish registry of deeds bill, 16 Mar., but divided against restoring the registrar’s salary to its former level, 9 Apr. He voted against the government’s temporizing amendment on the abolition of slavery, 24 May. He presented and endorsed petitions against the ‘unnecessary’ dispersal of a Cork meeting by the military, 7 July, 2 Aug., insisting that it was ‘absurd to talk of rebellion in Ireland at the moment’, 10 Aug. 1832.

At the 1832 general election Callaghan, who had ‘originally professed himself opposed’ to repeal of the Union, after some hesitation ‘pledged himself to vote for it’ and was re-elected with the support of O’Connell.13 He was defeated as a Liberal in 1835, but seated on petition, and successfully contested the next three general elections. He was apparently ‘tipped’ for appointment under the Liberals as vice-president of the board of trade, but Lord Melbourne, the premier, ‘objected on account of his having been a pledged repealer’. He died from cholera in September 1849.14

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. D.O. Madden, Revelations of Ireland, 185-6;
  • 2. Madden, 208; TCD, Donoughmore mss D/43/46.
  • 3. Madden, 212-3; PRO NI, Carr Beresford mss T3396, Beresford to ‘My Dear Sir’, 30 June; Cork Constitution, 11 July 1829.
  • 4. Southern Reporter, 11, 13 Mar. 1830.
  • 5. NAI, Leveson Gower letterbks. 7. B3. 33, Leveson Gower to Gregory, 16 Mar., to Singleton, 16, 20 Mar. 1830.
  • 6. Southern Reporter, 16, 18, 27 Mar.; Cork Constitution, 16, 30 Mar. 1830.
  • 7. Donoughmore mss G/7/17; Southern Reporter, 24, 29 July 1830.
  • 8. Leveson Gower letterbks. Leveson Gower to Callaghan, 27 July 1830.
  • 9. Southern Reporter, 31 July, 5, 12 Aug. 1830.
  • 10. Ibid. 26, 28 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 11. NLI, Smith O’Brien mss 427/141.
  • 12. Ibid. 427/154.
  • 13. Derby mss 920 Der (14) 125/4, Barrington to Smith Stanley, 16 Nov. 1832; O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1921, 1930; Dod’s Parl. Companion (1847), 141.
  • 14. Gent. Mag. (1849), ii. 653.