MACNAGHTEN, Edmond Alexander (1762-1832), of Beardiville, co. Antrim.

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



1801 - 1812
1812 - 1820
23 May 1820 - 1826
1826 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 2 or 3 Aug. 1762, 1st s. of Edmund MacNaghten of Beardiville by 2nd w. Hannah, da. of John Johnstone of Belfast. educ. Glasgow Univ. 1778; L. Inn 1781.1 unm. 2s. 1da. by Mary Anne Fitzsimmons. suc. fa. 1781; cr. by patent chief of clan MacNaghten 1818.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1797-1800.

Ld. of Treasury [I] 1813-17, [UK] Mar. 1819-July 1830.

Trustee, linen board [I] 1810.

Sheriff, co. Antrim 1793-4.


As a Member of the Irish parliament for the county seat controlled by Lord Hertford, MacNaghten, described by Castlereagh as ‘an important individual’, was one of the principal speakers in favour of the Union. As a reward for his support he was granted the reversion of the searchership of Cork, but on the death of Sir Richard Heron in 1805 it was discovered that the office was incompatible with a seat in Parliament. MacNaghten’s claims for an alternative situation were recognized by the government, which promised to make him an Irish privy councillor at the next creation.2

Meanwhile he had become a lively Member of the Imperial Parliament. On 12 Mar. 1801 he said that ‘he was not surprised to see Members of the British Parliament averse to vote martial law, for no gentleman could have an idea of a country so polluted and affected with Jacobin principles as Ireland’. He testified to the loyalty of the Irish troops in the debate on the army of reserve bill, 27 June 1803, and on 11 June 1804 supported Pitt’s additional force bill with such ‘a considerable degree of warmth’ that he was twice called to order. He favoured the suspension of habeas corpus in Ireland, 15 Feb. 1805, as a safeguard for loyal subjects. He was classed as a doubtful Addingtonian in May 1804 and a friend of Pitt’s government in September and December 1804 and July 1805. He opposed the Grenville administration. On 17 June 1806 he was in the minority against the American intercourse bill.3

In April 1807 on the eve of the general election MacNaghten, who had been absent from Parliament of late, wrote to Sir Arthur Wellesley demanding cash compensation for the unfulfilled ‘Union promise’ by which he estimated he was losing £800-£900 per annum. Wellesley’s reply was to guarantee MacNaghten’s re-election, thereby presumably saving him considerable expense. After the election he applied for a place on the linen board, for which he had to wait three years.4

MacNaghten gave a general support to government in the Parliament of 1807. On 27 Apr. 1808 he informed the House: ‘I have ... attended here since the Union, and I declare to God, I know of no instance in which the disposition of the house has not been always favourable to Ireland’. He voted against reform, 21 May, and spoke against Catholic relief, 1 June 1810 and again on 29 June 1813, putting in a word for Orange lodges. He regularly voted against it. There was some doubt as to his line on the Regency proposals, on which Lord Hertford’s Members voted with opposition. MacNaghten was certainly in the minority on 21 Jan. 1811.

Government failed to find a place for him. At the approach of the general election of 1812 he asked to be made a lord of the treasury for Ireland, complaining to Peel, ‘no man who has so decidedly and at so much risk, supported government ... has ever been so much overlooked and really so ill used as I have been’. Peel considered that he had a strong claim but Lord Hertford arranged for MacNaghten to come in for Orford instead of Antrim and then promised the Orford seat to government if MacNaghten could be provided with an office incompatible with a seat in Parliament. Apparently this manoeuvre was abandoned, for MacNaghten got his seat on the Irish treasury board in the spring of 1813 and remained on excellent terms with Lord Hertford.5 Ill health kept him away from Parliament between September 1814 and January 1816. On 23 May 1817 he defended the Irish insurrection bill. He wrote to Peel soon afterwards expressing annoyance that as Member for an English constituency he had not been allowed to sign the address from the Irish Members approving Peel’s conduct, and thanked him particularly for his ‘defence of the Protestant constitution’. A few weeks later he again raised the question of compensation for the broken ‘Union promise’: ‘I believe there is now a means of doing it out of the pension list. I believe ... that a pension for life does not interfere with a seat in Parliament.’ His request was not granted but in March 1819 his persistence was rewarded with a place on the consolidated Treasury Board.6

A member of the Dublin agricultural society and commander of the local militia, MacNaghten interested himself in local men and affairs. He wrote to Peel about the widespread slaughter of cattle by marauders: ‘I have ordered all possible means ... to be adopted for the discovery of the offenders. If I ... find them to be poor wretches who are starving, my intention is to take no further notice of it, but if they should be ... persons of a different description, I will prosecute them to the utmost.’7 He died 15 Mar. 1832.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Winifred Stokes


  • 1. According to J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806), 359 and Gent. Mag. (1832), i. 563, he was called to the bar ‘at the Temple’ and A. I. MacNaghten in The Chiefs of Clan MacNaghten (1951), 85 states that he was a barrister. This has not been confirmed.
  • 2. Castlereagh Corresp. ii. 127; Cornwallis Corresp. iii. 43; M. MacDonagh, The Viceroy’s Postbag, 46; Add. 40221, f. 325.
  • 3. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 19, 689; Senator (ser. 2), i. 471; Add. 40221, f. 325; NLS mss 12917, Newport to Elliot, 1 June 1806.
  • 4. Wellington mss, MacNaghten to Wellesley, 28 Apr., 14 Oct., reply 12 May 1807.
  • 5. NLI, Richmond mss 65/733, 68/1056; Add. 40221, f. 325; 40222, f. 48; 40236, f. 231; 40255, f. 25; 40280, f. 105.
  • 6. Add. 40244, f. 310; 40252, f. 54; 40266, f. 66; 40267, f. 149.
  • 7. Gent. Mag. (1832), i. 563; Add. 40267, f. 149.