SHAW, Robert (1774-1849), of Bushy Park, co. Dublin.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



31 Mar. 1804 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 29 Jan. 1774, 1st s. of Robert Shaw, merchant, of Dublin by 1st w. Mary, da. of William Higgins of Higginsbrook, co. Meath. educ. Trinity, Dublin 1788. m. (1) 7 Jan. 1796, Maria (d. 28 Mar. 1831), da. and h. of Abraham Wilkinson of Bushy Park, 5s. 3da.; (2) 2 July 1834, Amelia, da. of Benjamin Spencer, MD, of Bristol, Glos. s.p. suc. fa. 1796; cr. Bt. 17 Aug. 1821.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1799-1800.

Sheriff, co. Dublin 1806-7; alderman, Dublin 1808, ld. mayor 1815-16.

Col. R. Dublin city militia 1821-d.


Shaw’s father, a migrant from Kilkenny, became a prosperous Dublin merchant and accomptant-general of the post office. Shaw was returned for Bannow on Lord Ely’s interest in 1799, but forfeited the seat by opposing the Union and promptly bought another for St. Johnstown on Lord Granard’s interest. At the Union the seat was disfranchised and Shaw, who was a partner in the Dublin bank of Sir Thomas Leighton, Shaw & Co., next aspired to represent Dublin, which he achieved on a vacancy in March 1804. He then received the support of government.1

Shaw took his seat on 18 Apr. 1804 and went on to support Pitt’s second ministry. In June 1804 he introduced a bill to relieve insolvent debtors. He was the spokesman for the protestant interest on the corporation of Dublin against Catholic claims 14 May 1805. The Grenville ministry expected him ‘to pursue such a course as will be most likely to secure his re-election for the city’ but, government not complying with his request for support, he stated on his re-election that opposition to government demonstrated his political independence. He voted with the new Portland ministry, 25 Mar. 1807, and was regarded as an independent supporter of theirs, attending ‘tolerably well’.2

Irish affairs, and more particularly those of Dublin, were the chief topic of his contributions to debate. In Dublin he was conspicuous for the foundation of a charity school for Catholics and Protestants, from the sale of his pack of hounds. He voted against an increased grant to Maynooth College, 29 Apr. 1808, and, as in 1805, presented a Dublin petition against Catholic claims on 25 May. On 12 Apr. 1809 he brought in a critical motion against the Dublin paving and lighting board. On 25 Apr. he voted with the minority on the question of Castlereagh’s alleged corruption and he vacillated in his votes on the Scheldt inquiry, appearing in the government minority on 23 Feb., in the opposition majority on 5 Mar., and against government on the first two and with them on the last two divisions of 30 Mar. 1810.3

Shaw had asked for a baronetcy by January 1810 and, while he was thought a proper person for it, the government hesitated to confer it on him, particularly as, despite a vote against Catholic claims on 25 May 1810, he spoke sympathetically of them, changed his mind on the subject at an aggregate meeting and on 7 Mar. 1811 rebuked the ‘rashness and imbecility’ of the Irish government in suppressing Catholic meetings. On 25 Feb. 1811 and again on 16 May he seconded Grattan’s motion for inquiry into the effect of reduction in spirit duties on Irish distilleries; on 25 and 28 May 1810 and on 16 and 24 May 1811 he ineffectually opposed the Irish newspaper stamp duties; on 5 Mar. 1811 he agreed with Christopher Hely Hutchinson, a leading Irish oppositionist, that Irish business was ill managed in the House. A member of the select committee on commercial credit, he was a critic of the Irish budget, 20 May 1811, and a spokesman for the Irish distilling trade. In March 1812, the viceroy reported apropos of Shaw’s claims to a baronetcy, that he had been warned that his volte face on the Catholic claims was an impediment, but meanwhile had ‘sometimes voted for and I believe sometimes against us’. On 24 Apr. 1812, after voting against them on 1 June 1811, he voted for the Catholic claims, explaining that despite constituency pressure he would not oppose inquiry, though he disliked the principle. On 4 May 1812 he was in the majority against government on the sinecures bill.4

While Shaw continued to vote for Catholic relief in 1813 and again in 1817 and 1819, he was reported by Peel in November 1813 as giving ‘a very disinterested support’ to government.5 He was a member of the corn trade committee of that session. He was however listed in the minority on the property tax, 5 May 1815. Government regarded him as sufficiently well disposed to be invited to a meeting of supporters in April 1818 to rally votes for the royal dukes’ marriage allowances6 and they appear to have obtained his support. On 22 May 1817, 21 Apr. 1818 and 5 May 1819 he brought in motions against the Irish window tax, which were duly defeated, but he was in the government majority against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819: they gave a post office place to his son in 1820 and a baronetcy to Shaw in 1821. He died 10 Mar. 1849.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Cornwallis Corresp. iii. 80; Castlereagh Corresp. ii. 241; Dublin Corresp. 6 Apr. 1804.
  • 2. Spencer mss, Irish list, May; NLS mss 12916, Shaw to Spencer, 17 Oct.; Dublin Evening Post, 13 Nov. 1806; Add. 40221, f. 26.
  • 3. J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806), 480; NLI, Richmond mss 73/1697.
  • 4. Richmond mss 62/461, 507, 518.
  • 5. Add. 40285, f. 149.
  • 6. Add. 38366, f. 133.