SOMERVILLE, Sir Marcus, 4th bt. (?1772-1831), of Somerville, co. Meath
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Family and Educationb. ?1772, 1st s. of Sir James Quaile Somerville, 3rd bt., of Somerville and Catherine, da. of Sir Marcus Lowther Crofton, 1st bt., MP [I], of the Mote, co. Roscommon. educ. by Mr. Berington, Devon; Trinity, Dublin 1 Aug. 1791, aged 19. m. (1) 1 Oct. 1801, Marianne, da. and h. of Sir Richard Gorges Meredyth, 1st bt., MP [I], of Catherine’s Grove, co. Dublin, 2s.; (2) 7 Apr. 1825, his cos. Elizabeth, da. of Piers Geale of Clonsilla, co. Dublin, s.p. suc. fa. as 4th bt. 1800. d. 11 July 1831.
MP [I] 1800.
Gov. co. Meath 1831-d.
Somerville, a ‘constant resident’ of county Meath, where he had originally been returned on the independent Catholic interest, had ‘first joined the ranks of the government’ in 1815, since when had obtained a crown solicitorship, a fishery inspectorate and a clerkship for his nominees. Following his unopposed return at the 1820 general election he was listed by the Liverpool ministry as seeking ‘office for his brother’ as his ‘first object’, silk for his lawyer kinsman Sir Henry Meredyth, and a ‘small pension’ for Lady F. Phillpot.1 A lax attender, he was granted leave on account of ill health for three weeks, 26 May, and a fortnight, 30 June 1820.2 He was present to vote in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., and against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821. He divided for Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. His claims on government were sufficient for Goulburn, the Irish secretary, to advise the lord lieutenant to turn down Lord Bective’s* request to succeed his father as colonel of the Meath militia in 1823, as it might be viewed as creating ‘a monopoly ... in favour of one family to his future prejudice’, and because Somerville’s earlier ‘application to be made a governor’ had been unsuccessful owing to the viceroy’s determination not to increase their number.3 (Bective, however, was soon in place.) Somerville voted against the production of papers on Catholic office-holders, 19 Feb. 1824. In November that year he was considered by Liverpool and the duke of Wellington for an Irish peerage following a promise ‘made by the king’, which they were ‘anxious to carry out’, but it came to nothing.4 He voted in the minority for hearing evidence on behalf of the Catholic Association, 18 Feb., presented Meath petitions against its suppression that day and 23 Feb., and divided thus, 21, 25 Feb. 1825.5 On 25 Aug. 1825 he spoke at a county meeting to promote Catholic claims, which he promised to support ‘till his last day’.6 He attended the Association dinner for the ‘friends of civil and religious liberty’, 2 Feb. 1826.7
At the 1826 general election he offered again as a ‘friend of liberty of conscience’, citing his support for Catholic claims, a ‘measure essential to the dearest interests of Ireland’. He was returned unopposed.8 He voted for relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and presented favourable constituency petitions, 12 Mar. 1828. He voted with the Wellington ministry against ordnance reductions, 4 July. On 30 Sept. 1828 he left his ‘sick bed, after a confinement of three days’ to speak at a county meeting of the Catholic freeholders, who he declared could not fail if they acted ‘prudently’.9 He attended a Dublin meeting for the ‘friends of civil and religious liberty’, 20 Jan., and a county meeting in support of Lord Anglesey following his recall as Irish lord lieutenant, 26 Jan. 1829.10 He presented multiple petitions for repeal of the Irish Vestries Act, 23 Feb. 1829, 25 May 1830. He presented petitions for Catholic emancipation, 23 Feb., and divided accordingly, 6, 30 Mar. 1829. He voted for Daniel O’Connell to be permitted to take his seat unhindered, 18 May 1829. He divided for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May 1830. He voted for repeal of the Irish coal duties, 13 May. He was appointed to the select committee on Irish tolls, 25 May. He presented and endorsed a Meath petition against increases in Irish spirit and stamp duties, warning that the agricultural interest would ‘greatly suffer’ and that the additional duty on stamps would be a ‘great embarrassment on all commercial dealings and cause the ruin of the press’, 21 June. On 6 July Leveson Gower, the Irish secretary, asked Archdeacon Singleton:
What can I say to Sir M. Somerville who presses to be made governor of his county? He states that he has supported government for 30 years and I really think that the appointment of Lord Clifton*, a political opponent, gives him some claim, particularly at the present moment, if it can serve him, however slightly, in his election interests.
A month later he wrote in similar terms, adding that Peel, the home secretary, ‘also thinks, that it would be but fair to indulge Sir M. Somerville in his wish to become a governor after so many years of support’ if ‘the lord lieutenant should think proper’. He was in place by the following year.11
At the 1830 general election Somerville offered again with the backing of government, from whom he claimed that he had ‘never received anything for himself or any of his family’. A threatened opposition by the Meath Independent Club prompted him to pledge support for economy and retrenchment, repeal of the Vestry Act, cessation of the Kildare Place Society grant, and ‘a rational reform in the state of the representation’, following which their candidate withdrew and he was returned unopposed.12 He was listed by ministers as one of their ‘friends’, but was absent from the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, when he was named to the select committee on Irish tolls. He voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he stood again, citing his support for reform and insisting that he was ‘pledged to no party’. After a five-man contest he was returned in second place.13 He was absent from the division on the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and died five days later.14 He was succeeded by his eldest son William Meredyth, Liberal Member for Drogheda, 1837-52, and Canterbury, 1854-65, who was Irish secretary in the Russell administration, 1847-52, and was raised to the Irish peerage as Baron Athlumney in 1863.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Philip Salmon
- 1. Dublin Evening Post, 11, 18 Mar. 1820.
- 2. Black Bk. (1823), 194; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 485.
- 3. Add. 37300, f. 259.
- 4. Wellington mss WP1/805/9; 806/24, 25.
- 5. The Times, 19, 24 Feb. 1825.
- 6. Dublin Evening Post, 1 Sept. 1825.
- 7. O’Connell Corresp. ii. 762.
- 8. Dublin Evening Post, 8, 29 June 1826.
- 9. Ibid. 4 Oct. 1828.
- 10. Ibid. 8, 24, 27 Jan. 1829.
- 11. NAI, Leveson Gower letterbks. 7. B3. 33., Leveson Gower to Singleton, 6 July, 6 Aug. 1830; R. Kal. (1831), 389.
- 12. Wellington mss WP1/806/25; Dublin Evening Post, 3, 17, 19, 21 Aug.; Westmeath Jnl. 19, 26 Aug. 1830.
- 13. Dublin Evening Post, 3, 12, 14, 17 May; Carlow Morning Post, 16 May 1831.
- 14. Dublin Evening Post, 14 July 1831; Gent. Mag. (1831), ii. 177.