MAXWELL, Henry (1799-1868), of Farnham, co. Cavan

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



24 Feb. 1824 - 19 Oct. 1838

Family and Education

b. 9 Aug. 1799, 1st s. of Rev. Henry Maxwell (later 6th Bar. Farnham [I]), rect. of Annagh, co. Cavan and Lady Anne Butler, da. of Henry Thomas, 2nd earl of Carrick [I]; bro. of Hon. James Pierce Maxwell† and Hon. Somerset Richard Maxwell†. educ. Fortland sch.; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1818; Trinity, Dublin 1820; King’s Inns 1823; L. Inn 1824. m. 3 Dec. 1828, Hon. Anna Frances Esther Stapleton, da. of Thomas, 12th Bar. Le Despenser, s.p. suc. fa. as 7th Bar. Farnham [I] 19 Oct. 1838; KP 12 Nov. 1845. d. 20 Aug. 1868.

Offices Held

Rep. peer [I] 1839-d.

Grand sec. Orange Order [I].

Capt.-commdt. Fortland yeomanry corps.


Ultimately descended, like his distant kinsman John Waring Maxwell* of Finnebrogue, county Down, from the clan of Calderwood, Lanarkshire, Maxwell’s ennobled Farnham branch of the family had long been the dominant territorial and electoral force in county Cavan. Henry’s father and namesake, the younger son of another Henry Maxwell, bishop of Meath, whose elder brother was the 1st earl of Farnham, entered the church but apparently resided permanently in northern France, perhaps for financial reasons; Peel, the home secretary, commented derisively in 1823 that ‘such men as Mr. Henry Maxwell, drawing enormous sums from Irish livings, and leading a profligate life at Boulogne, are the real enemies of the establishment’, but a legal connection remarked to this Member in 1830 that ‘your father could, in my opinion, return home and appear, if there was one man in London who would take some trouble and reason with the English creditors’.1 Maxwell, who was educated at universities and inns of court in both Ireland and England, was therefore taken care of by his uncle, the bishop’s elder son, John, who took the surname of Barry on inheriting extensive estates in county Wexford and sat for Cavan in the United Kingdom Parliament. When Barry, an inveterate opponent of Catholic relief, succeeded his cousin (the 2nd earl of Farnham) as 5th Baron Farnham in July 1823, his nephew was brought forward in his place. Declaring his principles to be those of his predecessor, he was duly returned at a by-election the following February, when nothing came of a threatened contest.2 He survived a petition and vindicated the conduct of the sheriff, 11 May 1824, when he declared that he was not himself an Orangeman, although he must soon afterwards have become one.3

Maxwell brought up his county’s anti-Catholic petition, 10 Feb., and was appointed to the select committee on the state of Ireland, 17 Feb. 1825. He voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 15, 25 Feb., and against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21, 26 Apr., 10 May. He pointed out that it was not he, but John Waring Maxwell, who had made the earlier Commons intervention that was (in fact, erroneously) interpreted as implying his conversion to the Catholic cause, 22 Apr., 9 May.4 He divided with ministers for the grant to the duke of Cumberland, 30 May, 6 June 1825, but no trace of parliamentary activity has been found for the 1826 session. Farnham, who in September 1825 considered his return as certain, coached him through the technicalities of the canvass that followed the dissolution in 1826, warning him to ‘take particular care always to speak in your own name and never to use mine respecting the election’.5 Emphasizing his local associations and speaking strongly against Catholic relief, he was returned with his future brother-in-law Alexander Saunderson after a severe contest against two liberal and emancipationist candidates, whose campaign was promoted by the Catholic Association and supported by many of the mostly Catholic 40s. freeholders. He denounced the electoral interference of the priesthood in his final address and at the dinner for the defeated county Waterford Member Lord George Beresford in Cavan, 30 Aug. 1826, and again saw off a petition which alleged intimidation on Farnham’s part.6

He spoke at county meetings to address the king on the death of the duke of York and to petition Parliament against Catholic relief, 25 Jan. 1827, and gave his support to his uncle’s scheme to promote the Protestant Reformation in Cavan the following day.7 Having signed the anti-Catholic petition of the Irish noblemen and gentlemen, he presented numerous hostile petitions from his county, 14 Feb., 2 (when he reiterated his criticisms of the priests) and 5 Mar., and voted against relief, 6 Mar.8 He took six weeks’ leave on urgent business, 8 Mar. He voted in the Canning ministry’s minority against the Penryn election bill, 7 June 1827. Between 17 Apr., when he asked Peel if negotiations were under way with Rome, and 23 June, when he objected to the Maynooth grant, he brought up numerous anti-Catholic petitions and he divided in this sense, 12 May 1828. He voted with the Wellington administration against inquiry into chancery administration, 24 Apr., and reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July. On 13 Oct. 1828 he moved the resolution for establishing a subscription for the Brunswick Club at the county meeting in Cavan and that autumn he was prominent in Protestant activities there and in Dublin, where he had by now become secretary of the Orange Order.9 In January 1829 Maxwell was considered as a possible mover or seconder of the address by Planta, the patronage secretary, who, however, rightly listed him among those ‘opposed to the principle’ of the emancipation bill. He condemned it out of hand, 5 Feb., and, predicting on the 9th that Parliament would be deluged by hostile petitions from Britain and Ireland, he on that and many subsequent days brought up an enormous number of them. He voted against emancipation, 6, 18, 27, 30 Mar., and divided for a higher £20 franchise under the related franchise bill, 26 Mar. He spoke and was teller for the minority against the Maynooth grant, 22 May. In October 1829 the Ultra leader Sir Richard Vyvyan* listed him with the ‘Tories strongly opposed to the present government’. He was granted leave on urgent private business for a month, 8 Feb., and again, for three weeks, 8 Mar. 1830. He voted against Jewish emancipation, 17 May. Having presented a Newtownbarry petition on the subject, 18 May, he obtained leave for his own (unsuccessful) bill to regulate Irish county rates, 20 May 1830.

At the general election of 1830, when Maxwell was advised not to ensnare himself with his friend Anthony Lefroy’s* ambitions in county Longford, he maintained a studied neutrality in the muted Cavan contest between his colleague, who was again returned with him despite having voted for the Catholics, and Sir William Young, another local Protestant.10 On 11 July Leveson Gower, the Irish secretary, had floated the idea of backing Southwell with Young, ‘for the purpose of excluding Maxwell’, in a letter to Planta, who listed him among the ‘violent Ultras’ that autumn.11 He duly voted in the majority against ministers on the civil list, 15 Nov. He was in the minority of four for Quintin Dick’s motion that the petition of Sir Harcourt Lees for repeal of the Act of Abjuration be printed, 23 Dec. 1830. He was presumably the ‘Mr. Maxwell’ who, on 4 Feb. 1831, moved for a call of the House on the 18th in order to secure a full attendance for what he considered to be such an important session. He brought up petitions from Cavan for the grant to the Kildare Place Society, 16 Mar., and, following his votes against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr., from Newtownbarry and elsewhere against parliamentary reform, 20 Apr. 1831. A stout anti-reformer, he was returned at the ensuing general election, this time with Young’s son John, following another contest with Southwell.12

Maxwell vindicated the conduct of the magistracy and yeomanry of county Wexford over the Newtownbarry affray, 23 June, and was forced to return to this topic, 12 July, 26, 27, 31 Aug., 9, 13 Sept. 1831. He voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least five times to adjourn the proceedings on it, 12 July, for using the 1831 census to determine the boroughs in schedules A and B, 19 July, and to postpone consideration of the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July. He divided against the Irish union of parishes bill, 19 Aug., to censure the Irish government over the Dublin election, 23 Aug., for preserving the voting rights of non-resident freemen, 30 Aug., and for Waldo Sibthorp’s complaint of a breach of privilege against The Times, 12 Sept. He voted against the third reading, 19 Sept., and passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. He again divided against the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept., and on 6 Oct. criticized Farnham’s being passed over for the lord lieutenancy of Cavan on partisan grounds. He was present at Protestant meetings in Dublin, 7 Dec. 1831, and Cavan, 13 Jan., and was granted leave to attend the assizes, 27 Feb., and again, 5 July 1832.13 He paired against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, but voted in person against the third reading, 22 Mar., and for Waldo Sibthorp’s amendment relating to Lincoln freeholders, 23 Mar. 1832. Convinced, as he wrote in an address from the Grand Orange Lodge in March, that reform would only pave the way for a Catholic ascendancy in Ireland, he became a founder member of the Carlton Club in London that month.14 He divided against the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and to preserve the voting rights of Irish freemen, 2 July. His only other known votes were against Crampton’s amendment to the Irish tithes bill, 9 Apr., Sadler’s motion for permanent provision for the Irish poor by a tax on absentees, 19 June, and, having brought up the Orange Order’s petition against it that day, the Irish party processions bill, 25 June 1832.

Described as ‘Orange to the core’, Maxwell was again returned for Cavan at the general election of 1832 and sat as a Conservative until 1838, when he succeeded to the barony which his father had recently inherited from his brother.15 A lifelong defender of the Irish church and an accomplished genealogist, he was killed with his wife, and about 30 others, in the Abergele railway disaster in August 1868. They had joined the front carriage of the London to Holyhead express at Chester, and it was this portion of the train which bore the brunt of a collision with the accidentally detached rear wagons of a goods train, one of which was carrying petroleum. Their incinerated remains, only identifiable from their pocket watches, were interred with those of the other victims in Abergele.16 He was succeeded in his title and estates by his brothers, both former Conservative Members for Cavan, Somerset Richard (1803-84) and James Pierce (1813-96), who in 1885 was considered by some to have succeeded to the baronetcy of Maxwell of Calderwood.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. Add. 40329, f. 188; N. Gash, Secretary Peel, 375; NLI, Farnham mss 18613 (4), Fox to Maxwell, 22 June 1830.
  • 2. Farnham mss 18602 (3), Maxwell to Blackwood, to Bective, 28 Feb.; Belfast News Letter, 2 Mar. 1824.
  • 3. The Times, 12 May 1824; PRO NI, Leslie mss MIC606/3/J/7/21/4.
  • 4. The Times, 23 Apr., 10 May 1825.
  • 5. Add. 40381, f. 367; Farnham mss 18602 (17), Farnham to Maxwell, 26, 29 May 1826.
  • 6. Dublin Evening Post, 8, 10, 20, 29 June, 8 July; Impartial Reporter, 29 June, 3 July, 7 Sept. 1826.
  • 7. Enniskillen Chron. 1, 8 Feb. 1827.
  • 8. Add. 40392, f. 5; The Times, 15 Feb., 3, 6 Mar. 1827.
  • 9. Impartial Reporter, 23, 30 Oct., 13, 20 Nov.; Belfast News Letter, 18 Nov. 1828.
  • 10. Farnham mss 18613 (4), Fox to Maxwell, 22, 28 June 1830; 18602 (41), Maxwell to Southwell, 13 Aug.; Enniskillen Chron. 29 July, 19 Aug. 1830.
  • 11. NAI, Leveson Gower letter bks. M738.
  • 12. Enniskillen Chron. 19, 26 May 1831.
  • 13. Belfast Guardian, 16 Dec. 1831; Ballyshannon Herald, 20 Jan. 1832.
  • 14. Belfast Guardian, 31 Mar. 1832.
  • 15. Enniskillener, 27 Dec. 1832; Gent. Mag. (1838), ii. 546, 658.
  • 16. Cavan Weekly News, 21, 28 Aug.; The Times, 21, 22 Aug.; Ann. Reg. (1868), Chron. pp. 106-11.