CAREW, Robert Shapland (1787-1856), of Castleborough, co. Wexford

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



1812 - 1830
27 Sept. 1831 - 13 June 1834

Family and Education

b. 9 Mar. 1787, o.s. of Robert Shapland Carew†, MP [I], of Castleborough and Anne, da. of Rev. Richard Pigott, DD, of Dysart, Queen’s Co. educ. Eton 1799-1802; Christ Church, Oxf. 1804; ?Edinburgh Univ. 1807-8. m. 16 Nov. 1816, Jane Catherine, da. of Maj. Anthony Cliffe of New Ross, 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 1829; cr. Bar. Carew [I] 13 June 1834; Bar. Carew [UK] 9 July 1838; KP 18 Nov. 1851. d. 2 June 1856.

Offices Held

Ld. lt. co. Wexford 1831-d.


Carew, who acquired a reputation as an ‘old fox’ for his electioneering intrigues, had sat from 1812 as an ‘independent’ for county Wexford, where it was allegedly ‘well understood’ that he ‘held the representation merely to gratify his father’, who had been its Member, 1806-7.1 At the 1820 general election he offered again, citing his ‘past conduct’ as ‘a pledge for the future’. A contest with his former opponents was averted at the last minute and he was returned unopposed.2 Although he never joined Brooks’s, he continued to vote with the Whig opposition to the Liverpool ministry on most major issues, including economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation. He was granted a month’s leave on urgent private business, 3 July 1820. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He asserted that the sentiments of the people were favourable to relief, 23 Mar., and although he was granted six weeks’ leave, 7 May, he spoke again in similar terms, 27 May 1821. He voted for parliamentary reform, 25 Apr. 1822, 24 Apr. 1823. In an apparent reference to his vote for inquiry into diplomatic expenditure, 15 May, Joseph Phillimore* informed the duke of Buckingham that Carew had previously advised him that he would not support it, 17 May 1822.3 He presented a petition from himself and his former colleague Colclough for a reform of Irish tithes, 20 May, warned that there would be ‘no repose’ without their abolition, 14 June 1822, and welcomed the commutation bill, 6 Mar. 1823.4 He recommended modifications to the Irish constables bill, 7 June 1822.5 He endorsed a petition for repeal of the malt tax, 17 May 1824.6 He condemned the suspension of Irish habeas corpus but disclaimed any support for the Catholic Association, 14 Feb. 1825. He declined to attend the Association dinner for the ‘friends of civil and religious liberty’, 2 Feb. 1826.7

At that year’s general election his coalition with ‘an Orangeman’ against the Whig Arthur Chichester II* was criticized by the Catholic press, who warned that if he had ‘renounced his faith’, the ‘day will come when it will take upon him tremendous vengeance’, but Chichester withdrew and he was returned unopposed.8 Carew was the only Member to attend a Munster province Association meeting, 29, 20 Aug. 1826.9 Of his chairmanship of the Berwick-upon-Tweed election committee (6 Mar. 1827), Lord Howick complained that he had ‘no authority whatever’ and let ‘the nominee on the other side do just as he pleases’.10 He was granted six weeks’ leave on its completion, 23 Mar. He voted for Catholic claims, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and regularly presented petitions in its favour and for repeal of the Irish Subletting Act. He divided for the duke of Clarence’s annuity bill, 16 Mar. 1827. He voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. On 26 Jan. 1829 he chaired a county meeting of the ‘friends of civil and religious liberty’, to which O’Connell had been invited but declined to attend, where he argued that ‘while the Catholic is depressed, the Protestant and the country is not raised, but injured’ and commended Lord Anglesey, the recalled viceroy, for his ‘impartial and popular’ government.11 He presented a steady stream of petitions for the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation and voted accordingly, 6, 30 Mar. He endorsed a petition complaining that the suppression of the Jesuits would have ‘most injurious effects’ on ‘one of the best schools in Waterford’, 27 Mar. 1829. He divided for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 Mar. 1830. That session, when present, he voted steadily with the revived opposition for economy and reduced taxation and brought up several petitions for the abolition of Irish tithes and Irish spirit and stamp duties. He was granted a month’s leave on urgent private business, 6 Apr. He divided for the second reading of the Jewish emancipation bill, 17 May, and paired for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June 1830.

At the 1830 dissolution Carew, who had succeeded his father the previous year, retired, despite being ‘certain of his return’, citing the incompatibility of his family obligations with the ‘more sustained and exclusive attendance’ in Parliament which the times required.12 Following the accession to power of the Grey ministry Sir James Graham, first lord of the admiralty, thanked Carew for his ‘kindly congratulations’ and hoped he would ‘come back to Parliament on the first opportunity’, as ‘we want a few Irish gentlemen of your stamp in the House; men with less vaunt of patriotism on their tongues and more virtue and honesty near their hearts’.13 On 20 Dec. 1830 Brougham, the lord chancellor, expressed his ‘deep regrets ... in common with all our friends both here and in Ireland at your being for the present out of Parliament’ and hoped that ‘the day is not far off when ... you will be restored to us’.14 The following month Lord Grey thanked him for his ‘approbation of the principles on which the administration has been formed and the promise of your support’ and agreed to forward to the appropriate place his application for an East Indian cadetship; but on 24 Jan. 1831 he was notified that ‘cadetships are not to be had for some time’.15 On 13 Apr. 1831 Grey informed him that his ‘opinions on the repeal of the Union’ and parliamentary reform coincided with his own.16

During the 1831 general election Carew obtained a grant of £500 from the Reform Fund Committee to assist the return of Henry Lambert, whom he proposed.17 He warned Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, that O’Connell, whom ‘you cannot trust’, would ‘lose Kerry’, but hoped that he would ‘come in somewhere, as he is less dangerous in Parliament than out of it’.18 On 24 July 1831 Grey acknowledged Carew’s application to become the first lord lieutenant of county Wexford and indicated that with his ‘property, residence, character and efficient support of Whig principles’ there would be ‘little difficulty’.19 He was duly appointed that September, to the consternation of Lord Courtown, who protested to the duke of Wellington that it was ‘an affront to the respectable gentlemen of the county’.20 On 15 Aug. Graham assured Carew that the government would ‘not overlook the necessities’ of Ireland, adding, ‘I wish you were in Parliament’ and that ‘all your country’s Members were such as you’.21 The following month he ‘sacrificed his own private feelings and love of retirement’ to come forward for a vacancy in county Wexford, where he had the ‘confidence of all parties’, in order to prevent a ‘severe contest’ with the Tories, which ‘would be most calamitous in the present excited state of the county’.22 ‘It has afforded me the greatest satisfaction to hear that in the present emergency you have answered’, wrote Grey.23 At his nomination he argued that ‘reform was necessary in the church, in the state, and in the Commons’. He was returned unopposed.24

Carew voted for Lord Ebrington’s motion of confidence in ministers, 10 Oct. 1831. During the crisis of that month he sent Grey details of his ‘family and personal claims’ to a peerage if there were new creations:

My family have been in Parliament for above 150 years and since there was anything like public opinion in Ireland, always supported popular and constitutional principles. My grandfather was offered a peerage in 1772, but declined to accept any favour from a Tory administration. My father was offered a peerage and any other patronage he pleased in 1800, but declined on similar grounds and because he was then as opposed to the Union as he was subsequently friendly to the measure. I might now have been a peer of 50 years’ standing, but I can assure your lordship that I am much more proud of having inherited the political honesty of my ancestors. For myself I have been 20 years in Parliament and I need not say what has been my political conduct while many who now prefer claims to a Whig administration were the supporters of every antecedent ministry.

Carew, who did not ‘expect any immediate answer’ and hoped to be ‘excused this egotism’, suggested that ‘should there be a change of ministry’, an ‘attempt will be made to deprive me of the lord lieutenancy, on the score of my being a commoner’.25 Grey replied, 4 Mar. 1832, that he believed that ‘no such circumstance will occur’ and acknowledged the ‘attention due’ to his ‘support of liberal principles’.26 He was absent from the division on the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, but gave steady support to its details and divided for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted with ministers on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., against the production of information on military punishments, 16 Feb., and for the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. He contended that the ‘oppressiveness of the tithe laws is universally felt’, 14 Feb., and was in the minority for printing the Woollen Grange petition for their abolition, 16 Feb. He advocated reform of the Irish church, but insisted that any advance to the clergy should be repaid by tithes payers, 13 Mar. He suggested that the yeomanry were ‘not a proper’ force to uphold the laws, 31 Mar. On 9 Apr. he was one of the Members ‘usually opposing ministers’ on tithes who supported Crampton’s amendment regarding the payment of arrears.27 Next day O’Connell was erroneously informed that

Carew, who certainly is no ultra liberal ... and does not despise either the Castle or its aristocratic minions, will be raised to the peerage and his apathy to say the least has annihilated his popularity. A vacancy takes place and not an honest straightforward man qualified can be found to come forward to the hustings.28

That month Carew disclaimed any part in an anti-tithes meeting at Newtownbarry held in his name, about which he was ‘extremely annoyed’.29 He had advised Smith Stanley that he might miss the second reading of the Irish reform bill on account of returning home to ‘ensure peace’, but on 30 Apr. he promised to

be in London (please God) on Friday in time for the Irish reform, for as you say we shall be hard pushed. I had written to Ellice to get me a pair till Monday, but have now written to say I will be over. Nothing could be more injurious or more secure O’Connell’s projects than defeat on the Irish reform. I fully expect that if we can settle the tithes and church cess creation all will be well, but everything will depend upon that.30

He was absent from the division on Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May, but was present on the 25th to vote for the second reading of the Irish bill, in support of which he brought up numerous petitions. Four days earlier he had warned Smith Stanley that he had been reading his tithes report ‘carefully by myself, and am sorry to say there is much of which I cannot approve, and when I say so, I fear others will be much more unmanageable’.31 On 2 July he seconded Grattan’s motion for their abolition, declaring that he had no wish to act against ‘men with whom I have for 20 years co-operated’ and had ‘not attended the meeting of Irish Members’, but that when he saw their resolutions he ‘could not dissent from them’. Explaining that he had ‘through life opposed Protestant ascendancy’ and would ‘with equal vigour’ resist ‘Catholic ascendancy’, he demanded a complete reform of the church establishment, payment of the clergy, the appropriation of its surplus revenues ‘to the purposes of charity’ and the ‘extinction of church rates’. He voted with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July. Thereafter he sent regular reports from Ireland to Smith Stanley, who on 9 Aug. agreed that ‘we must come to an extensive and general reform of the church establishment’ and advised him that ‘on the question of the surplus ... we have determined on issuing a commission for Ireland’.32 Describing a county meeting against tithes at which he had spoken, 10 Aug. 1832, he told Smith Stanley, ‘I am not made to speak any good English, but I suppose it was intelligible to them’.33 The following month he informed him that he had ‘yielded to what appeared to me a very general wish that I should continue in Parliament’, since ‘if I stand there will probably be no contest, otherwise the Tories will start’.34 He topped the poll at the ensuing general election. In 1834 the Grey ministry gave him an Irish barony, which was upgraded to a United Kingdom peerage in 1838. Carew, a ‘consistent Liberal’ noted for his ‘judicious exertions to improve his estates’, died at Castleborough in June 1856.35 He was succeeded in the peerage by his elder son Robert Shapland Carew (1818-81), Liberal Member for county Waterford, 1840-7.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. TCD, Courtown mss P33/14/6, 35, 44.
  • 2. Dublin Evening Post, 9, 21 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 328.
  • 4. The Times, 21 May 1822.
  • 5. Ibid. 8 June 1822.
  • 6. Ibid. 18 May 1824.
  • 7. O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1278.
  • 8. Courtown mss 14/88, 105; Wexford Evening Post, 30 May, 20 June 1826.
  • 9. O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1334.
  • 10. Grey mss, Howick to Grey, 7 Mar. 1827.
  • 11. Wexford Evening Post, 27, 30 Jan. 1829.
  • 12. PRO NI, Pack-Beresford mss D664/A/151; Wexford Herald, 7 July 1830.
  • 13. TCD, Shapland Carew mss 4020/18.
  • 14. Ibid. 19.
  • 15. Ibid. 20, 22.
  • 16. Ibid. 24.
  • 17. Derby mss 920 Der (14) 125/111; Shapland Carew mss 26.
  • 18. Derby mss 128/15.
  • 19. Shapland Carew mss 27.
  • 20. Ibid. 29; Wellington mss WP1/1195/13.
  • 21. Shapland Carew mss 28.
  • 22. W. Suss. RO, Goodwood mss 1434, f. 491; Shapland Carew mss 31; Wexford Independent, 17 Sept. 1831.
  • 23. Shapland Carew mss 30.
  • 24. Wexford Herald, 28 Sept.; Wexford Independent, 28 Sept.; Dublin Evening Post, 29 Sept. 1831.
  • 25. Shapland Carew mss, 31.
  • 26. Ibid. 36.
  • 27. The Times, 10 Apr. 1832.
  • 28. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1885.
  • 29. Derby mss 128/15, Carew to Stanley, 1 Apr. 1832.
  • 30. Ibid. 30 Apr. 1832.
  • 31. Ibid. 21 May 1832.
  • 32. Shapland Carew mss 41.
  • 33. Derby mss 128/15.
  • 34. Ibid. Carew to Stanley, 5 Sept. 1832.
  • 35. Dublin Evening Post, 3 June; The Times, 4 June 1856.