Available from Boydell and Brewer
Number of voters:
about 2,000 in 1815
|1801||MAURICE BAGENAL ST. LEGER KEATINGE|
|JOHN LATOUCHE I|
|20 July 1802||LORD ROBERT STEPHEN FITZGERALD|
|21 Nov. 1806||LORD ROBERT STEPHEN FITZGERALD|
|21 May 1807||LORD HENRY FITZGERALD|
|22 Oct. 1812||LORD HENRY FITZGERALD|
|23 Mar. 1814||LORD WILLIAM CHARLES O'BRIEN FITZGERALD vice Fitzgerald, vacated his seat|
|4 July 1818||LORD WILLIAM CHARLES O'BRIEN FITZGERALD|
The most important landowner in Kildare at the beginning of this period was the 2nd Duke of Leinster (Fitzgerald), whose estate was reliably estimated to comprise 70,000 acres, or nearly one-fifth of the entire county.1 The Fitzgeralds, who were closely related to several important Whig families (Fox was Leinster’s cousin), had largely dominated county elections in the 18th century until the immediate pre-Union years, when pressing domestic and financial problems began to weaken their interest. The 1797 election, which saw the return of Keatinge, who was under Leinster’s influence, and Latouche, a banker who had recently bought substantial property in the county, to some extent reflected the declining strength of the Leinster interest and the growing influence of Latouche.
Subsequent events did not work to Leinster’s advantage. His estate was adversely affected by fierce fighting during the ’98 rebellion and in 1799 and the early months of 1800 the question of the Union upset the ‘harmony’ that it was said ‘the habits of early friendship and long intimacy’ had established among the Kildare gentry and which had no doubt worked to his electoral advantage.2 In particular it had led to a difference of opinion between Leinster, as an anti-Unionist, and Keatinge, who supported the measure. Thus at the point when the Irish parliament had accepted the Union, Leinster’s prospects in an uncertain political future were somewhat bleak. His estates were unsettled, his political interest was weak and his long association with the Whigs unlikely to be of much profit for the present; in addition, his eldest son and heir was a mere child. In June 1800 he therefore promised to support his brother, Lord Robert Fitzgerald, at the first Imperial election. As Fitzgerald was a Unionist he could argue in Kildare that this decision was a means ‘of reconciling, by his own example [as an anti-Unionist], all those over whom he has influence in the county’. To his Whig friends he could stress that there was no dereliction of principle, because Fitzgerald had agreed to vacate the seat if and when the Whigs took office. To the Castle he could point out that Fitzgerald was a Pittite and therefore hope to secure the government interest in the event of a contested election. Finally, within his own family circle, he was able to explain that Fitzgerald was the best locum tenens for his son.3
Leinster’s wish to smooth matters in Kildare and prevent a contested election was nearly disappointed. By the end of 1801, three other candidates had emerged besides Fitzgerald and Robert Latouche (who hoped to replace his ageing father) with the result that nearly 2,000 freeholders had been registered in anticipation of a contest. Of these, Keatinge, who was naturally disgruntled with Leinster’s preference for Fitzgerald, was one. Col. John Wolfe, a fervent anti-Unionist and former Member, and Sir Fenton Aylmer, a substantial loyalist landowner who looked to the independent interest, were the others. All the candidates solicited government support. Aylmer soon retired and Leinster decided that his own interest was so weak that he would have to form an alliance with Latouche to retain a seat against a strong challenge from Wolfe. Even this decision proved insufficient to settle the matter as Wolfe and Keatinge continued to canvass until the last moment. In the end it was pressure from the Castle in favour of Latouche that persuaded Wolfe to decline, and faced with a three-cornered contest Keatinge also bowed out.4 Fitzgerald and Latouche were therefore returned unopposed.
The result of the 1802 election established a precedent for all the subsequent elections of this period, for on each occasion Latouche and a Fitzgerald were returned unopposed. The alliance between the two families, uneasy at times,5 no doubt annoyed the ‘middling’ gentry, but in so far as it included a mutual support of Catholic relief it seems to have satisfied the predominantly Catholic population of the county.
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. Wakefield, Account of Ireland, i. 263.
- 2. PRO NI, Tickell mss, Maj. Tickell to Leinster, 4 Dec. 1801.
- 3. PRO 30/8/135, f. 170; Castlereagh Corresp. iii. 355-6; Add. 51803, Leinster to Holland, 18 Mar. 1802.
- 4. CJ, lviii. 1110; PRO NI, Tickell mss, Leinster to Tickell, 7 Jan.; Add. 35723, ff. 56-58; 35735, f. 137; Drogheda News Letter, 6-10 July; Saunders’s News Letter, 19 July 1802.
- 5. Bedford mss, Ld. H. Fitzgerald to Bedford, 16 Nov. 1806.