FALKINER, Frederick John (1768-1824), of Abbotstown, co. Dublin.
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Family and Education
b. 8 Apr. 1768, o. s. of Daniel Falkiner, barrister, of Abbotstown by Dorothy, da. of Henry Faure of Egham, Surr. educ. Trinity, Dublin 1784; M. Temple 1787. m. 23 Oct. 1798, Anne Frances, da. and coh. of Sackville Gardiner of Dublin, s.p. suc. fa. 1798; cr. Bt. 21 Dec. 1812.
M.P. [I] 1791-1800.
Sheriff, co. Dublin 1801-2.
Col. 100 Ft. 1805-16.
Falkiner’s family had lived in county Dublin since the late 17th century and were modest gentry: in 1817 his estate was worth £900 p.a. He was originally intended for the bar, but did not pursue it. He first sat in the Irish parliament for Athy on the interest of the Duke of Leinster, to whom his uncle was chaplain, and was reckoned in opposition. In 1797 he successfully contested county Dublin and went on to resist official attempts to win him over to support of the Union, being on that account hailed as ‘the most remarkable instance of inflexible public integrity in Ireland’ by Jonah Barrington.1 This judgment is singularly inapposite to his Westminster career.
Falkiner went over to Westminster ‘express’ to vote for Grey’s censure motion of 25 Mar. 1801. Subsequently, however, he promised his brother-in-law Edward Lee* to support Addington’s government in and out of Parliament. Though Lee failed to budge government out of their neutrality in county Dublin at the ensuing general election on Falkiner’s behalf, he was regarded as ‘well inclined’ in November 1801 and was then pressing the Castle for compensation for legal costs incurred in an action against Lord Landaff. In his election address, 23 Nov. 1801, he boasted of being ‘the first representative of the people in England, who publicly called for instructions, from which I have never departed’ and his brother-in-law maintained that Falkiner might feel obliged to vote for the Catholic claims in accordance with such instructions.2
Falkiner was re-elected in 1802, together with his relation Hans Hamilton who had the stronger interest, but he could ill afford the contest. He evidently borrowed money from his erstwhile patron the Duke of Leinster, a friend of the Prince of Wales and of Fox, and the result was that Falkiner appeared in the opposition minority, 4 Mar. 1803, on the question of the Prince’s finances. The Prince later acknowledged that Falkiner had claims on his friendship for his ‘services’. He came over at the Prince’s bidding in February 1804 and voted against government on Pitt’s motion for a naval inquiry, 15 Mar. In the following month he was back in Ireland raising a regiment, but reported ‘attached to the Prince of Wales’ by the viceroy, who was surprised that Falkiner supposed the Prince would condone his absence on that account. When Pitt came to power, he was listed as ‘much connected with the Duke of Leinster’. After the duke’s death in October 1804, he became a supporter of government again. On 14 May 1805 he voted against the Catholic claims, having apparently had his views on the subject, tempered as they were by the rebellion of 1798, clinched by Emmet’s rising in 1803.3
Falkiner went on to support the Grenville administration, voting for their repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. On 13 May he asked Fox for some employment ‘either civil or military’, and Fox commended him to the Duke of Bedford as ‘a very constant attender and supporter’, who wished for an early promise of Castle support at the next election. Government noted that Falkiner, who was ‘very poor’, was ‘very strongly aided by Mr Hamilton, the other Member, who supposes Mr Falkiner to be his Member, while on the other hand, Mr Falkiner takes credit for influencing Mr Hamilton’.4 He applied unsuccessfully to become an aide-de-camp to the Prince of Wales in July. He secured his re-election in 1806, but only with such assistance from his colleague Hamilton as he was warned not to expect in future. He admitted at the time that he had not ‘ornamented’ the seat ‘by ability’ and Lord Grenville found it difficult to recollect Falkiner’s political merits when asked to do so.5 There was some uncertainty as to how he would act on the dismissal of the ministry: when he sailed for England, 1 Apr. 1807, George Ponsonby informed Lord Howick that he was ‘quite our friend’, but under the influence of Hamilton, whose support would depend on his obtaining a peerage. In any case, Falkiner voted with the Portland government on 9 Apr. and made an effort to do so, since he had originally asked the dismissed ministers for leave of absence until May, for his assize duties. The Irish secretary claimed to have bought him by a promise of a pension for his wife.6
Despite the encouragement of the Portland ministry, Falkiner was defeated by a pro-Catholic oppositionist at the election of 1807, his colleague Hamilton having, as anticipated, declined to aid him. The chief secretary reported:
He wishes to be brought into Parliament of which I have told him he has no chance; but I think we ought to endeavour to have him placed on the staff as an assistant adjutant or quartermaster general, and we ought to give his wife a pension of £300 or £400 a year for which he asked when he came over to vote, that he should not suffer for his adherence to our cause.
It proved impossible to do anything for him in the military line, nor did he become an Irish privy councillor, as he wished; he had to be content with a pension of £400 p.a. for his wife, though he maintained that he was promised more and needed it, because of the disarray of his affairs, exacerbated by the shipwreck of his regiment on the way to Canada, in which their account books went down with them. He wished to regain his seat for county Dublin, where government was still prepared to concede him patronage and in 1809 pressed ministers to bestow a peerage on his colleague Hamilton, hoping to succeed to his seat: but Hamilton could not answer for Falkiner’s return, owing to his unpopularity with the Catholics. In February 1812 he made an unsuccessful application to become a member of the Prince Regent’s household, the Prince evasively wishing him on the viceroy for an Irish appointment, to no avail; but the viceroy was prepared, in July, to recommend him for a baronetcy, which he then solicited, to improve his prospects in county Dublin. He pressed the Regent, who had lately been indifferent to him, to expedite this. A last-minute bid to secure a peerage for Hamilton, who consented to the stratagem, having failed, Falkiner nevertheless engaged in an expensive canvass of the county. As his expenses rose, so did doubts about his credit and he was forced by his creditors to abandon the contest, let his house and demesne at Abbotstown, mortgage his wife’s pension, face bankruptcy and, if not in Parliament, prison.7
The viceroy, conscious of his loyalty to government and the protestant cause, saved Falkiner by offering him a seat for Lord Charleville’s borough of Carlow that had been placed at his private disposal for a friend. When he received his baronetcy in December 1812, too late to be of any use, he could not pay the £20 or £30 fee to secure the reversion of it to his nephew. He held his seat during the viceroy’s pleasure, being told that he might be required to vacate it in a year. In February 1813 he unsuccessfully applied for a seat at the treasury board in Ireland. He duly voted against Catholic claims, 2 Mar., 11 and 24 May 1813, having in the meantime paired on account of his wife’s illness. He was now resident at Cheltenham, and Peel, the Irish secretary, complained of his not having given three votes since he came into Parliament, 1 Apr. 1813. This was thought insufferable, ‘as his being brought into Parliament saved him from being a fugitive, or incarcerated’. He promised better attendance in May, but was soon out of humour at the failure of his bid to succeed Col. Vesey in command of the county militia or Corry as surveyor-general of crown lands.8
Subsequently Falkiner’s relations with government deteriorated. In October 1813 the chief secretary contemplated calling on him to give up his seat to return a ‘speaker’: Falkiner never spoke. He reacted by pressing for a peerage for Hamilton at the dissolution, to facilitate his return for county Dublin. In the spring of 1814, he paired, and, according to the viceroy, proposed to absent himself on the corn bill because he believed government to be indifferent to it. In October 1814 he intended to go to France, if his attendance was not required. He paired with the government majority on the civil list, 14 Apr. 1815, and voted with them on 31 May and 3 July, but the disbanding of his regiment that year caused him further embarrassment, government obtaining an award against him on a claim for debt which he was unable to disprove. He and Hamilton lobbied Lord Sidmouth with a manifesto of their grievances, in which Falkiner complained of the paltriness of his wife’s pension. On 4 Mar. 1816 the viceroy was informed that the Regent recommended an increase of the pension to £1,000, in view of Falkiner’s attachment to government and to him. Lord Whitworth and Peel were indignant at such a proposed ‘abuse of the pension list’ and rebuffed the suggestion, Peel suggesting that ‘if his Royal Highness is so fond of Falkiner he might possibly find him a place in his household’. He voted for the army estimates, 6 and 8 Mar., and did not, as it was reported that he would, air his grievance by absenting himself from the government lobby on the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816. He also voted with government on 7, 17 and 25 Feb. 1817. In April his debt to government, on account of which an extent on his property was issued, was compromised by an arrangement whereby he paid £400 p.a. (half his income) for six years. This increased his distress and in November he informed the chief secretary that he was prepared to vacate his seat if he obtained a pension of £1,000 p.a. for his wife. Through Lord Sidmouth, he again pressed the viceroy for this in April 1818, but the latter rebuffed it on his chief secretary’s advice.9
Falkiner was left without a seat at the election of 1818, despite a plea to Lord Sidmouth to find him one. He was driven abroad and on 24 Aug. 1819 wrote to the premier from Naples, telling his sorry tale and asking for a seat in Parliament or a post on the Continent, Lady Falkiner’s pension and his half-pay as colonel. Lord Liverpool returned a negative reply, whereupon Falkiner threatened to return to Dublin and expose government injustice towards him.10 He died at Naples, a beggar in and out of Parliament, October 1824.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. Procs. R. Irish Acad. lix, sec. C no. 1 (1957), 52; Barrington, Hist. of the Union, 504.
- 2. PRO 30/9/1, pt. 2/1, Abbot to Addington, 2 Nov.; pt. 3/3, Lee to Abbot, 9 Sept. 1801; Dublin SPO 519/124/8; Dublin Evening Post, 19 Jan. 1802; Add. 35772, f. 17.
- 3. Add. 35705, ff. 135, 302; Prince of Wales Corresp. iv. 1820; Add. 35705, f. 302; NLI, Richmond mss 74/1805.
- 4. Add. 47569, ff. 284-8; Spencer mss, Irish list, May 1806.
- 5. Wellington mss, Wellesley to Hawkesbury, 28 May 1807; Dublin Evening Post, 25 Oct. 1806.
- 6. Grey mss, Falkiner to Howick, 13 Mar., Ponsonby to same, 1 Apr.; Fortescue mss, Lady Downshire to Grenville, 29 Apr., reply 30 Apr.; Wellington mss, Sir A. to H. Wellesley, 8 Dec. 1807.
- 7. Wellington mss, Wellesley to Hawkesbury, 28 May 1807; Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 293; Richmond mss, Long to Richmond, 10 Sept. 1807, and 72/1531, 1533; 74/1805, 1849; Add. 40227, ff. 68, 70; Geo. IV Letters, i. 127, 134.
- 8. Add. 38263, f. 206; 40186, f. 55; 40195, f. 317; 40196, f. 203; 40227, f. 179; 40282, f. 35; 40287, f. 92; Sidmouth mss, Falkiner to Sidmouth, 15 Feb., 19 May, reply 18 Feb. 1813.
- 9. Add. 38263, ff. 204-5; 38274, f. 76; 40182, f. 214; 40186, ff. 190, 240, 256, 264; 40191, ff. 154, 158; 40194, f. 239; 40198, f. 47; 40199, f. 229; 40204, f. 26; 40259, f. 217; 40271, f. 266; 40286, f. 182; 40290, ff. 152-4; 40292, f. 213; 40295, f. 41;
- 10. Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Falkiner, 5 July 1818; Add. 38279, ff. 146, 367; 38286, f. 46.