MASSY (afterwards MASSY DAWSON), James Hewitt (1779-1834), of Ballynacourte, co. Tipperary and 87 Gloucester Place, Mdx.

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



1820 - 2 Jan. 1830
3 May 1830 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 13 Sept. 1779, 1st s. of Hon. James Massy Dawson of Dublin and Ballynacourte and Mary, da. of John Leonard of Carha, co. Galway and Brownestown, co. Kildare. educ. Exeter, Oxf. 1796. m. 11 Mar. 1800, Eliza Jane, da. of Francis Dennis of Jamaica, 5s. 7da. suc. fa. 1790. Took additional name of Dawson by royal lic. 4 Apr. 1827. d. 2 Oct. 1834.

Offices Held


Massy described his Tipperary family as having ‘been for many generations highly considered and respected as well for their loyalty as property and character’.1 His father, the second son of Hugh Massy, 1st Baron Massy, had assumed the additional surname of Dawson on succeeding to the substantial estates of his mother Mary Dawson, the daughter and heiress of James Dawson of Ballynacourte. At the 1820 general election Massy came forward for Clonmel as the nominee of its patron William Bagwell, Member for county Tipperary, whose nomination he had proposed. He was returned unopposed.2 A lax and mostly silent attender, when present he generally supported the Liverpool ministry, who incorrectly listed him as Bagwell’s ‘brother-in-law’.3 It was certainly he, rather than George Dawson, who joined Bagwell in voting ‘with opposition’ against the appointment of an additional Scottish baron of exchequer, 15 May 1820.4 He divided with ministers on their conduct of the Queen Caroline affair, 6 Feb. 1821. He voted for Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821. He divided against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821. He welcomed a motion for inquiry into the poor relief scheme of Robert Owen, which had not received the ‘attention which any proposition for the improvement of the country deserved’, 26 June 1821. He voted against further tax reductions, 21 Feb. 1822, 18 Mar. 1823, but with opposition for military economies, 1 Mar. 1822. He divided against parliamentary reform, 20 Feb. 1823. He voted for the grant for Irish churches and glebe houses, 11 Apr. He divided against ministers for inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and was probably the ‘H. Dawson’ who spoke in their defence, 26 May 1823. He presented a petition for Irish freemasons to be placed ‘in the same situation’ as those of England, 5 May, and brought up constituency petitions for Catholic claims, 24 May, and against negro slavery, 27 May.5 He divided against condemnation of the trial in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June. He voted for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June. Next month he applied to Peel, the home secretary, for a baronetcy, citing the ‘respectable standing’ of his family and the peerages of his grandfather and ‘great-uncle’ Lord Clarina. He is ‘a good attendant and regular supporter ... and he has a fortune amply sufficient to support it’, observed Peel to Lord Liverpool later that year, adding that ‘it would be advisable not to discourage a hope of success’. ‘I should have no objection ... to your saying to Mr. Massy Dawson that there was no intention of making any baronets at present, but that if there were any recommendations hereafter of gentlemen connected with Ireland, I would bring his name before the king’, replied Liverpool. Enclosing Liverpool’s response, 9 Nov. 1824, Peel advised, ‘I have an impression on my mind that independently of your Irish property, you have a considerable landed estate in this country. If I am right I will state this to Lord Liverpool when I see him. If my impression is ... erroneous ... you will perhaps write either to Lord Wellesley or Mr. Goulburn’.6 In February 1825 Massy reapplied to Goulburn, the Irish secretary, hoping that

I shall not be thought too ambitious ... though I feel myself as well entitled to higher honours as many of those who have been made peers. I have been told I am considered an absentee which is a bar to my prospects ... in reply to which I wish briefly to inform you that being in Parliament I am obliged to have a house in London, but I assure you I spend nearly six months of every year in Ireland and I have ... never missed attending both assizes in my county town ... besides which I keep in my own hands a considerable part of my own property consisting of large woods, and employ many hands of the labouring classes.

Passing the application to Wellesley, the Irish viceroy, Goulburn observed that he did not ‘know enough of the extent of his property or of his family to be able to express an opinion’.7 The baronetcy eluded him. He presented a Tipperary petition for Catholic claims, 22 Feb.8 He voted for suppression of the Catholic Association, 15 Feb., but was listed on both sides in the division on Catholic relief, 21 Apr., probably owing to confusion with George Dawson, a hostile teller, whose supposed favourable vote of 1 Mar. was surely also Massy’s. He was in the pro-Catholic majority on 10 May 1825. He divided with ministers on the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar., but was in the protectionist minorities against the emergency admission of foreign corn, 8, 11 May 1826.

At the 1826 general election he offered again for Clonmel and was returned unopposed. In the county Tipperary contest he seconded the nomination of John Hely Hutchinson I*, in whose favour Bagwell had retired.9 It was later claimed by one of the Hely Hutchinsons that he voted with their family’s head, the 2nd earl of Donoughmore.10 He presented constituency petitions against the import of foreign flour, 16 Feb., and the duties on imported coal, 27 Feb. 1827.11 He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and presented a favourable petition, 15 Feb. 1828. In February 1829 Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, predicted that he would vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, and he divided accordingly, 6 Mar. 1829. There is no other trace of parliamentary activity that year. In December 1829 he started for a vacancy for county Limerick on the combined interest of his kinsman Baron Massy and Lord Kingston.12 (He vacated Clonmel in favour of his son-in-law Eyre Coote, 2 Jan. 1830.) ‘There can be no doubt that we should support Massy Dawson, the more eagerly as he seems quite sure of his return’, Peel informed Leveson Gower, the Irish secretary, 31 Dec. 1829.13 Faced with an unexpected campaign in support of his opponent by Daniel O’Connell* and the Catholic clergy, whose interference he denounced as unconstitutional, Massy Dawson (as he was now styled) demanded military assistance to protect his freeholders from the ‘unfortunate deluded peasantry’ and pressed ministers for a baronetcy for Joseph Barrington of Limerick, in order to secure his ‘considerable interest’, much to the annoyance of Leveson Gower and Peel, who observed that ‘to gratify Barrington’s peculiar itch for a baronetcy, there being already one in his family ... would be a singular proceeding’.14 ‘Dawson and his friends have acted in a manner unworthy of their rank and fortune’, noted William Gregory, the Irish under-secretary.15 ‘I am sorry to see Massy Dawson is contesting the county of Limerick’, commented another observer, ‘it is a pity to waste so much money in [an] election, with a family of 12 children’.16 After a severe contest, in which he suffered a nearly murderous assault, he was defeated, but he was seated on petition three months later.17 He was sworn in, 3 June 1830. He continued to press ministers unsuccessfully for a baronetcy for Barrington.18 (It was later conferred by the Grey ministry in 1831.) He voted for the grant for South American missions, 7 June, but was in the minority for consular service reductions, 11 June 1830.

At the 1830 general election he offered again for county Limerick, having solicited and secured the support of government. Faced with a junction between his two opponents, however, he withdrew shortly before the expected contest, citing the likely expense.19 In county Tipperary he again seconded the nomination of Hely Hutchinson.20 He was listed by Brougham as one of those who had backed ‘the duke in the last session’. Rumours that he would start for county Tipperary at the 1831 general election came to nothing.21 He died in October 1834. By his will, dated 9 Apr. 1834 and proved under £14,000, he left annuities of £1,000 to each of his seven daughters in a trust controlled by Coote. He was succeeded in the family estates by his eldest son James (1802-37), an army officer.22

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. Add. 37303, f. 208.
  • 2. Dublin Evening Post, 11, 21 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. Black Bk. (1823), 151; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 460.
  • 4. Williams Wynn Corresp. 243.
  • 5. The Times, 6, 25, 28 May 1824.
  • 6. Add. 40367, ff. 20, 22; 40304, ff. 269-70, 272.
  • 7. Add. 37303, ff. 206, 208.
  • 8. The Times, 23 Feb. 1825.
  • 9. Southern Reporter, 22 June 1826; TCD, Donoughmore mss F/13/152.
  • 10. Wellington mss WP1/1083/19.
  • 11. The Times, 17, 28 Feb. 1827.
  • 12. Dublin Evening Post, 29, 31 Dec. 1829.
  • 13. Add. 40337, f. 348.
  • 14. Add. 40334, ff. 309, 311; 40338, ff. 23, 31.
  • 15. Add. 40334, f. 308.
  • 16. Wilts. RO, Poore mss WRO 1915/58.
  • 17. Add. 40338, f. 41; The Times, 1, 2 Feb., 1, 4 May 1830.
  • 18. Wellington mss WP1/1112/13; NAI, Leveson Gower letter bks. Leveson Gower to Singleton, 15 July 1830; Add. 40338, f. 223.
  • 19. Leveson Gower letter bks., Leveson Gower to Wellington, 6 July; Limerick Evening Post, 13 July, 3 Aug.; Dublin Evening Post, 12 Aug. 1830.
  • 20. Tipperary Free Press, 18 Aug. 1830.
  • 21. Clonmel Herald, 30 Apr. 1831.
  • 22. PROB 11/1842/78; IR26/1379/205, 207.