BLAKE, Valentine John (1780-1847), of Menlough Castle, co. Galway.
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Family and Education
b. 23 June 1780, 1st s. of Sir John Blake, 11th Bt., of Menlough Castle by 1st w. and cos. Eleanor, da. of Edward Lynch. educ. Trinity, Dublin 1797; L. Inn 1801. m. (1) 8 Aug. 1803, Eliza (d. 8 May 1836), da. of Joseph Donellan of Killagh, 2s. 3da.; (2) 8 Apr. 1843, Julia Sophia, da. of Robert MacDonnell, MD, 1s. suc. fa. as 12th Bt. 1834.
Blake came of an ancient Galway family whose influence in Galway town had been eclipsed by the Daly family. His father, whom he described as ‘a well meaning but an indolent man’, did nothing to restore the family fortunes and Blake was attempting to put family affairs in order when a committee of freeholders induced him to stand against Bowes Daly’s Whig nominee, Frederick Ponsonby, at the election of 1812.1 He was defeated, but unseated Ponsonby on petition after professing to be ‘warmly attached to the present government’.2 He later assured Lord Liverpool: ‘The Speaker was scarcely more regular in his attendance than I was and there was not a division of any importance during the whole of the last Parliament in which I was not named’.3 This was probably true, though in October 1813 he wished not to attend unless it was necessary, and on 13 June 1815 he defended the Irish master of the rolls bill prematurely, as he would be absent on the second reading. Blake’s only distinguishing feature in his votes was his support for Catholic relief in the divisions of 30 May 1815 and (after a speech on 28 Apr.) 9 May 1817. He again voted in favour on 3 May 1819. He believed his mind was ‘trained to business’ and on 2 May 1814 introduced a bill to extend the franchise in his constituency to the Catholics, which the chief secretary nipped in the bud. On 14 Mar. 1816 he defended the Irish elections duration bill in terms of his own election experiences.4 Peel believed that Blake, who had spoken in favour of agricultural protection, 28 Apr., and of the continuation of the Irish Insurrection Act, 13 June, would jump at the idea of speaking on the address, December 1817, but advised Castlereagh not to make him the offer.5
In fact, Blake never established a working relationship with government either at Westminster or Dublin. The chief reason for this was his belief, which he chose to base on misinterpretation of such assurances as he had received from the Castle, that government owed him the entire patronage of Galway town, which he thought necessary to maintain his interest against James Daly*, who had replaced Bowes Daly as his opponent and who was both a supporter of ministers and a personal friend of Peel, the chief secretary.6 While Peel attempted to keep the peace between them and Daly thought Blake was better treated, Blake was convinced that he was being cheated of his rights and later blamed Peel, who became a Machiavellian figure in his eyes, for all his woes.7
Blake was clearly financially insecure and by November 1814 Peel knew that he wanted a place compatible with Parliament. In January 1815 he applied unsuccessfully to ministers to be clerk of the hanaper, or for some other such office. In October 1816 he was again disappointed in an application for office.8 In May 1817, in a fresh application, he reminded the premier of the unrewarded services of his ancestor Sir Walter Blake, 6th Bt., in the time of William III, which he subsequently memorialized. In January 1818 Liverpool was still unable to oblige him.9
Blake survived a contest in 1818, but not without having hopelessly compromised himself, so James Daly, his opponent’s sponsor, informed Peel.10 He continued to support government and on 12 Sept. appealed to the premier against Daly’s conduct, which involved the exclusion of Blake from the commission of the peace for his constituency, and asked for a reward for his support. Liverpool had nothing to offer and was unable to take seriously Blake’s application in October for the appointment of accountant general to the court of Chancery.11 On 26 Nov. 1819 Blake, who had objected to the adjournment of the address two days before, made a startling speech against Whig inconsistencies. On 6 Dec. he defended the seditious meetings prevention bill. He also spoke against Russell’s motion for parliamentary reform, 14 Dec., though he had previously defended the reform of such individual boroughs as Barnstaple. Defeated in 1820, he retreated, ‘a close prisoner’ at Menlough Castle, and begged the premier to give him a seat in Parliament or office, and when (apart from the patronage of a local excise collectorship) this was denied, the government of St. Helena ‘or any other remote colony’.12 Twenty years later, after an unsuccessful bid in 1838, he was again returned for Galway town, and added to his reputation for eccentricity. He died in Paris in January 1847.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. Add. 38458, f. 211.
- 2. Add. 40223, f. 251.
- 3. Add. 38279, f. 262.
- 4. Add. 40197, f. 160; 40198, f. 164; 40286, f. 145.
- 5. Add. 40294, f. 92.
- 6. Add. 40195, f. 128; 40284, ff. 100, 115.
- 7. Add. 38289, f. 70; 40217, ff. 203, 205, 252, 256.
- 8. Add. 40287, ff. 193, 220; 40291, f. 181.
- 9. Add. 38270, f. 121; 38458, f. 211.
- 10. Add. 40217, f. 407.
- 11. Add. 38279, ff. 262, 342; 38280, ff. 101, 105.
- 12. Add. 38289, f. 70; 38290, ff. 66, 72, 74, 129.