Co. Waterford


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

Background Information

Number of voters:

3,300 in 1815


6 Jan. 1806 JOHN CLAUDIUS BERESFORD vice Beresford, deceased 
 Edward Lee285
 Cornelius Bolton5
28 June 1811 SIR WILLIAM CARR BERESFORD vice Beresford, vacated his seat 
23 Oct. 1812RICHARD POWER I 
25 Apr. 1814 RICHARD POWER II vice Power, deceased864
 Wray Palliser804
25 May 1814 LORD GEORGE THOMAS BERESFORD vice Beresford, called to the Upper House 

Main Article

The 5th Duke of Devonshire, an absentee Whig grandee, had the leading proprietary interest on paper. It had become so run down that his kinsman William Brabazon Ponsonby*, to whom he entrusted its management, had come to terms with the Marquess of Waterford, head of the Castle-orientated Beresford family, who had the strongest resident interest, whereby each returned one Member. This compromise ended on the death of the marquess on 3 Dec. 1800, his son and heir determining ‘to act alone’, in defiance of the Ponsonbys, who in vain negotiated with him to preserve an arrangement under which ‘everything was easy and inexpensive’.1 When Richard Power, the duke’s nominee, took his seat at Westminster with the marquess’s uncle John Beresford in 1801, he was already a marked man: the marquess’s Member for Dungarvan, Edward Lee, was secretly designated to throw him out and the duke’s agents were resigned to the situation. This was how Lee glossed over the situation to the Castle, 12 Dec. 1801:

I think myself perfectly secure of representing the county Waterford at the ensuing general election and the sooner it takes place the better for me, for as the registry now stands, I have a decided superiority: the great majority of the resident men of property will support me; the policy of the late Marquess of Waterford, was to get one of his own family to represent the county, and for the second seat to support that person who had the greatest number of friends in the county; the present marquess pursuing the same line of conduct supports Mr Beresford and me ...

A few days later, in hot pursuit of some 30 votes controlled by (Sir) John Keane*, Lee added that he meant ‘to show such a decided majority in my favour, as to induce Mr Power to decline standing, as a contest (if it can be avoided) is not a desirable thing’.2

As the Castle had predicted, Power was duly ‘thrown out’ in 1802, and since the duke resisted Ponsonby pressure to register his voters in time, did not stand a poll.3 A scherzo was provided by Sir Thomas Osborne, who after advertising his candidature in November 1801, recommended the electors on the eve of the election to return two ‘Englishmen’, in preference to ‘natives’ (Osborne again offered in 1807, hardly seriously).4 In January 1806 John Claudius Beresford replaced his deceased father unopposed, but the advent of the Grenville ministry soon afterwards posed a threat to the Beresfords, owing to the restoration to power in Ireland of the Ponsonbys. George Ponsonby*, now lord chancellor of Ireland, was anxious to reestablish the pre-Union compromise in the county: but neither his ailing brother William, now Lord Ponsonby, nor the Marquess of Waterford was very forthcoming. The former thought that the latter had overreached himself in 1802 and that any union with him would offend their political friends; the latter would concede only that he might ‘take no part’ against the Devonshire-Ponsonby interest in the county. Lord Grenville did not wish to alienate the Beresfords, and much time was devoted by him and his agents in the summer of 1806 to patching an agreement between these two major Irish clans. An uneasy compromise was reached, whereby Power was restored to his seat at the expense of Lee. The latter stood a contest, but was unable to make good his claims on Lord Waterford, who disowned him readily enough, having been jealous of his bids for local power; on the government, which he had supported but which gave the preference apologetically to Power and Beresford; or on the independent and Catholic interests, who were drawn to the bigger battalions in coalition. Apropos of this, Sir John Newport*, Power’s brother-in-law, reported on 6 Nov. 1806:

the county ... is at present in rather a mysterious state from [Wray] Palliser’s having declined in favour of Beresford, and Barron’s having declared his second votes also for Beresford; whereas we had reason to believe he would not have declared them until he saw Power safe. Until this change took place, it was universally believed that Beresford would have been [?] flung, and indeed I am well assured that he himself thought so and seemed little solicitous about it. How it may be now, I cannot say. Lee says he will be foremost on the poll, and undoubtedly if assiduity and activity can effect it, he will be so. I have, however, great hopes that Palliser’s second votes will be declared for Power. If so, I think Lee will be the losing candidate.5

Beresford rallied to the Portland ministry in 1807, but a committee of the Catholic gentry tied his hands by threatening not to support him for the county unless he backed Sir John Newport, the pro-Catholic candidate, for the city. Otherwise, Lee might have been resuscitated on the Beresford interest.6 In fact, the Beresfords had to be content after 1806 with one seat, which they reserved for members of the family. Power retained the other, though there was some friction between him and the young 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1812, when the latter’s agent informed him that Power ‘does not consider himself so much your Grace’s Member as Mr Ponsonby’s, and yet he is chiefly returned by your power, and must be no longer returned than while you support him even in the present low state of your freeholds’. The duke then declared he would support ‘old Mr Power ... on condition that he comes in and not his son. In two years ... I should be able to bring in both Members, when my voters are registered, which is not the case with one now.’ The fact was that the duke had meant to put up William Ponsonby, Lord Bessborough’s son, and then George Ponsonby, the Whig leader, who fancied his prospects with the Catholic voters, but had given it up on finding that Power was averse to it. As Lady Bessborough explained, Power having ‘great interest, and who joined with [the duke’s] might carry anything, but opposed to him just now that his votes have been so neglected would make it very doubtful and enormously expensive, so that I rather think it will be given up for this time’.7

On Power’s death in 1814, his son at once applied for and obtained the duke’s interest, promising the same Whig line, and defeated Wray Palliser the Castle favourite. The latter was backed by the Beresfords in a bid to regain the monopoly of county patronage and by the Boltons, opponents of Power’s uncle, Sir John Newport, in the city. The viceroy thought that the news of Allied victory would have ‘a more salutary effect ... than even the assistance of the Marquess of Waterford’, but in this he was wrong.8 On the other hand, Power’s 60-vote victory was not auspicious for the Duke of Devonshire’s hope of returning both Members. His agent informed him, 16 May 1814:

Notwithstanding the resentment of the independent party is very strong at this moment against the Marquess of Waterford for attempting to nominate both the county Members, yet I know that many who have voted for Mr Power would in the event of a new contest vote for Lord George Beresford, whose partisans would retort on your Grace that you was attempting the same thing, and produce an effect by it, if you should set up a candidate who has no connection with the county.... Should any gentleman with a personal influence in the county sufficient to supply the defects I have foretold offer himself as a candidate, I should think your Grace might be advised to give him your warmest support in opposition to the house of Beresford, but under present circumstances I think to nominate would be to spend a great sum of money with a slight chance of success.9

So Lord George Beresford was returned unchallenged later that month as a substitute for his kinsman Gen. Beresford, now a peer. The compromise was preserved in 1818.

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Fortescue mss, G. Ponsonby to Grenville, 21 Aug. 1806.
  • 2. PRO 30/9/1, pt. 3/3, Lee to Abbot, 10 Nov., 12, 20 Dec. 1801.
  • 3. Chatsworth mss, W. B. Ponsonby to Heaton, 8 Mar. 1802, Garde to Devonshire, 15 June 1803; Add. 35735, ff. 76-82 (co. Waterford); Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss, Beresford to Auckland, 12 Aug. 1802.
  • 4. The Times, 19 Nov. 1801, 25 June 1802; Dublin Evening Post, 12 May 1807.
  • 5. HMC Fortescue, viii. 127-8, 194-5, 211, 229, 314; Drogheda News Letter, 21-25 Oct. 1806; Sidmouth mss, Wickham to Addington, 11 Dec. 1803; NLS mss 12917.
  • 6. Wellington mss, Clancarty to Wellesley, 19 May 1807; Portland mss PwF 10522.
  • 7. Chatsworth mss, Knowlton to Devonshire, 28 Sept.; Carlisle mss, Devonshire to Lady Morpeth, 11 Oct. 1812; Leveson Gower, i. 460, 463; Add. 51826, Scully to Holland, 19 Nov. 1812.
  • 8. Chatsworth mss, Power to Devonshire, 21 Mar., Palliser to same, 26 Mar. 1814; Add. 40187, ff. 218, 229, 240, 246.
  • 9. Chatsworth mss, Knowlton to Devonshire, 16 May 1814.