Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen and 40s. freeholders
Number of voters:
about 1,000 in 1818
|1801||HENRY DEANE GRADY|
|16 July 1802||CHARLES VEREKER|
|10 Nov. 1806||CHARLES VEREKER|
|15 May 1807||CHARLES VEREKER|
|12 Feb. 1810||VEREKER re-elected after appointment to office|
|21 Oct. 1812||CHARLES VEREKER||139|
|Henry Hartstonge Pery, Lord Glentworth||27|
|25 July 1817||JOHN PRENDERGAST VEREKER vice Vereker, become a peer of Ireland||412|
|22 July 1818||JOHN PRENDERGAST VEREKER||601|
|Thomas Spring Rice||306|
Limerick, the third city of Ireland, was a prosperous port with a predominantly Catholic population. Electoral control was disputed by two distinct parties. The more powerful at the Union was headed by John Prendergast Smyth (later created Viscount Gort) and was based on his control of the majority in the corporation, which could, when necessary, create honorary and non-resident freemen. Viscount Pery and his nephew the 1st Earl of Limerick headed the other party. They were large property owners and allied themselves with the local trading and Catholic interests associated with the new section of the city and which regarded the corporation as inadequate and unrepresentative.1 Until 1801 these two parties returned a Member each. Pery’s Member Grady succeeded on the ballot, but at the election of 1802, Prendergast Smyth’s nephew Vereker, unlucky on the ballot, replaced Grady (who took legal office) unopposed. Vereker and his uncle, having opposed the Union, had forfeited local patronage to Lord Limerick and the recovery of it became one of Vereker’s main objects. By 1808 he had succeeded.2 He was in fact quite secure, and apart from a murmur of independence in 1806 and a token opposition in the name of Col. Sankey in 1807,3 faced no contest until 1812, when Limerick’s son, Lord Glentworth, was of age to oppose him. Glentworth’s allies were the ‘Friends to the Independence of Limerick’, who aimed to break the monopoly of Vereker’s uncle in the corporation. Glentworth polled only 12 freemen to Vereker’s 124, the freeholders dividing equally between them.4
This unequal contest was the prelude to all-out warfare between the two parties. Daniel O’Connell†, who had denounced corporation thraldom on behalf of the independent party on the hustings, claimed in March 1814 to have achieved ‘the freedom of the city’ by establishing at law the right of freemen by birth, marriage or servitude against the non-resident militiamen and Galway tenants introduced by Vereker’s party. The corporation appeal in King’s bench against this decision failed. By December 1816 the bishop of Limerick could allege:
The violent party politics of this city render it very difficult to effect any public object of utility, the corporation headed by Lord Gort and Col. Vereker against the Independents (chiefly Roman Catholics) supported by Lord Limerick, each party opposing the other with the utmost fury.5
Lord Limerick’s candidate, John Tuthill of Kilmore, a pioneer member of the independent party aided by public subscription, was foiled by the town clerk in his bid to inspect the list of freemen.6 When Vereker succeeded his uncle as Viscount Gort in 1817, he put up his son against Tuthill who, though he polled more freeholders than Vereker, could still secure only 17 freemen against his opponent’s 226. Tuthill, in a petition of 28 Jan. 1818, sought to expose the irregularity of Gort’s electoral control through non-resident freemen and prevention of inspection of the freeman roll, but it was not pursued.7 Limerick, meanwhile, had assured the chief secretary, 23 Oct. 1817, that Tuthill was not a foe of government, and the latter acquired the doubtful asset of the support of William Odell, the insecure county Member.8 At the general election of 1818, in any case, Tuthill made way for Limerick’s son-in-law Thomas Spring Rice†, who was beaten by nearly two to one on the strength of the non-resident vote.9 Limerick did not give much for Vereker’s chances of retaining his seat, and although Spring Rice’s petition against the return failed, owing to his inability to produce a poll clerk to authenticate his votes, he succeeded in unseating Vereker on petition after the election of 1820.10
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. Wakefield, Account of Ireland, ii. 306; Castlereagh Corresp. ii. 346; M. Lenihan, Limerick, 361, 392, 398, 401, 413-19, 430-2.
- 2. Wickham mss 5/19, Wickham to Marsden, 7, 15 Mar. 1803; Wellington mss, Wellesley to Richmond, 16 Nov. 1808.
- 3. Drogheda News Letter, 21-25 Oct. 1806; Gen. Advertiser and Limerick Gazette, 5 May 1807.
- 4. Add. 38568, f. 207; 40221, f. 221.
- 5. O’Connell Corresp. i. 462; Add. 40261, f. 104.
- 6. O’Connell Corresp. p. ii. 618.
- 7. CJ, lxxiii. 7.
- 8. Add. 40271, ff. 77, 93.
- 9. Morning Chron. 24 June 1818.
- 10. NLI mss 7854, p. 215; CJ, lxxiv. 22, 171, 189; Parl. Deb. xxxix. 734, 897.