Co. Kildare


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

Background Information

Number of registered freeholders:

952 in 1829; 496 in 1830

Number of voters:

286 in 18301


 Marmaduke Cramer Roberts81

Main Article

Kildare produced mainly oats, wheat and potatoes. There were several market towns, including Maynooth, home to the Catholic seminary, and Rathangan, and the disfranchised boroughs of Athy, Kildare, Naas and Harristown. The venue for county elections was that of the assizes, held at Athy in winter and Naas in spring and summer.2 The representation had long been dominated by the Fitzgeralds, dukes of Leinster, who owned ‘nearly one-third’ of the county, and the banking family of Latouche of Harristown, who had acquired a substantial stake by purchase, but whose influence declined in this period. Their mutually supported nominees had sat undisturbed since the Union: Robert Latouche, head of the family from 1810, had replaced his ageing father in 1802 and Lord William Fitzgerald, brother of the 3rd duke, who had succeeded in 1804, had taken over from his uncle Lord Henry in 1814. Both families were Whig and supporters of Catholic claims, but this did not prevent the emergence of an independent Catholic interest.3

At the 1820 general election Latouche and Fitzgerald were returned unopposed.4 On 24 Oct. 1821 a ‘very numerous’ meeting of the Kildare Farming Society, chaired by Leinster, with Latouche as vice-president, suspended its subscriptions on account of agricultural distress.5 Both Members stood again at the 1826 general election, ‘professing the same liberal principles’, and were returned unopposed, Fitzgerald, who had been detained in Paris, in absentia.6 Petitions for Catholic claims reached the Lords, 12, 16 Mar. 1827, and the Commons, 16 Mar. 1827, 7 May 1828.7 Both Members signed the Protestant declaration of October 1828 in support of emancipation, for which Catholic meetings were held at Naas, 19 Oct., 23 Nov., when a Liberal and Independent Club was started under the chairmanship of the Rev. Gerald Doyle, the town’s parish priest.8 Attempts to establish a Brunswick Club at Rathangan in December were opposed by the local clergy and led to disorder, following which a number of Catholics were arrested. In the ensuing prosecution they were successfully defended by Daniel O’Connell’s* son Maurice O’Connell*, who accused the magistrates of bias.9 Meetings of the ‘friends of civil and religious liberty’ were held at Rathangan, 28 Dec. 1828, when 5,000 assembled, 11, 18 Jan. 1829.10 Both Members voted for the Wellington ministry’s concession of emancipation, for which petitions reached the Commons, 13, 16 Feb., 6, 20, 26 Mar., and the Lords, 1 Apr.11 Hostile petitions were presented to the Lords, 10 Feb., 10 Apr.12 One from the Catholic clergy and the influential bishop of Kildare, Dr. James Doyle, against the securities suppressing religious communities reached the Lords, 1 Apr.13 By the accompanying alteration of the franchise the registered electorate was reduced from 952 to 496, of whom 25 qualified on the new minimum freehold value of £10, 86 at £20 and 385 at £50. The official return, based on the registers for January 1829, reported the disfranchisement of 496 40s. freeholders, but a memorandum in Anglesey’s papers estimated the number at 761 in early April.14 Petitions for repeal of the Irish Vestry and Subletting Acts were presented to the Commons, 26 Feb., 7 Mar., and the Lords, 1 Apr. 1829.15 One against increases in Irish stamp and spirit duties reached the Lords, 1 July 1830.16

At the 1830 general election Fitzgerald, who was in Italy, and Latouche offered again. On 17 July Archdeacon Singleton informed Lord Francis Leveson Gower, the Irish secretary, that there would again be ‘no contest’, but that day Latouche quite unexpectedly withdrew, citing ‘engagements in business and private life’ which were ‘incompatible’ with the duties of a Member.17 The Dublin Evening Post complained that he ‘ought to have acquainted the county at an earlier period’ and allowed them more time to find a ‘suitable’ replacement. Two local candidates immediately declared: Marmaduke Cramer Roberts of Sallymount, an ‘independent’ supporter of ‘constitutional’ principles ‘pledged to no party’, who had the backing of Latouche; and George Cockburn of Shanganagh, a ‘liberal all my life’, who ‘reluctantly’ came forward after failing to ‘induce Mr. Lattin or any other gentleman of undoubted independence to offer’. Sir Josiah William Hort of Hortland was also spoken of, but on finding that his ‘old and valued friend’ Roberts was already in the field he declined, promising to stand on the ‘first suitable vacancy’. On 21 July Richard More O’Ferrall of Balyna, a founder member of the Catholic Association, offered with the backing of the Doyles and the Liberal and Independent Club, asserting his support for retrenchment and reform and disapproval of Latouche’s ‘abrupt withdrawal’ and ‘attempt to inflict upon you his own nominee’. In response Roberts publicly denied being the ‘nominee of any man’, while Latouche protested that his ‘having only 5 or 6 freeholders registered in time to vote’ was ‘sufficient proof’ that he ‘could not have contemplated anything so objectionable’. After a few days Cockburn withdrew in favour of O’Ferrall, who was said to be ‘pretty sure of success’.18 At the nomination Fitzgerald, who had arrived just in time, welcomed the revolution in France which had delayed his journey home and promised to support reform and ‘never treat you as my late colleague has done’. Roberts pledged to ‘protect the liberty of the press’ and ‘do away with every system of taxation’, which was greeted with ‘loud laughter’ and cries of ‘tithes, tithes!’. O’Ferrall was proposed by Cockburn, who declared that it was ‘not to be tolerated that one man should think of handing over the county to another, like a debenture’. The first contest since the Union ensued, during which Fitzgerald took an early lead, assisted by split votes from both candidates, and the struggle was between O’Ferrall and Roberts, who was ‘supported by the Tories and clergy; every one of whom voted for him’. On the second day Roberts resigned and Fitzgerald and O’Ferrall were returned.19 Lady Tavistock later noted that her husband had been ‘charmed at the duke of Leinster’s having tried his election plan [of spending no money] ... with great success. Lord William came in for the county with flying colours against great expense on the part of the other candidates’.20

Petitions for repeal of the Union from Naas and the tradesmen of Athy were presented to the Commons, 6 Dec. 1830, 16 Mar. 1831.21 One for a better system of regulating Irish education grants reached the Lords, 15 Apr. 1831.22 Both Members voted for the Grey ministry’s reform bill and opposed Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment. At the ensuing dissolution Fitzgerald retired. O’Ferrall offered again as an ‘unflinching advocate’ of reform, promising to support the bill’s extension to Ireland and ‘every measure of economy and retrenchment’. Hort redeemed his earlier pledge and stood as a reformer and was joined by Cockburn, who offered again as an ‘old emancipator and reformer, I even believe a radical’. On finding that Hort had secured the interest of Leinster, who controlled about half the registry of ‘not more than 500 voters’, so that with his own interest Hort could rely on 350 voters, Cockburn retired, regretting that his ‘friend’ Leinster had not backed him. O’Ferrall and Hort were returned unopposed.23 Frederick Ponsonby of Bishop’s Court, brother of the 2nd Baron Ponsonby, told Lord Howick*, the colonial under-secretary, 30 May 1831, that he believed he could have ‘carried’ the county and obtained the ‘thousand or fifteen hundred pounds which a contest might have required had I chosen to stand, but I let Sir William Hort, who pledged himself voluntarily to your bill, walk over’.24

A petition for ‘full and fair’ representation for Ireland was presented to the Lords, 4 Oct. 1831.25 Petitions for the abolition of tithes reached the Commons, 23, 31 Mar., 9 July, and the Lords, 2, 16 Apr. 1832.26 On 27 May Edward Dwyer reported to Daniel O’Connell on ‘how well the people of Kildare’ had behaved in an attempted forced sale of cattle for the recovery of tithes:

When the sheriff ordered the sale to commence, not a bidder could be found. The officer commanding ... was informed that a man with a musket was concealed behind a cowshed ... He interrogated him and it appeared that he belonged to a yeomanry corps. He was taken prisoner ... What might have been the consequence if this scoundrel fired on the army as he evidently intended, it must have been either a Newtownbarry or Carrickshock affair, lamentable in either case. Every man had his hat marked with NO TITHES. The sheriff ordered the cattle home ... and the immense multitude ... over 40 to 50,000 ... dispersed in the most orderly manner, their clergymen leading the way to their parishes.27

On 3 Oct. 1832 a ‘great’ anti-tithe meeting was held on the Curragh of Kildare, at which resolutions of the ‘usual strong and uncompromising character of anti-tithe proceedings in the county’ were passed and Doyle and Edward Ruthven, son of Edward Southwell Ruthven*, a candidate at the next election, gave ‘animated addresses’.28 By the Irish Reform Act, 191 leaseholders (165 registered at £10, 23 at £20 and three at £50) and eight rent-chargers (two at £20 and six at £50) were added to the freeholders, who had increased in number to 923 (581 registered at £10, 130 at £20 and 212 at £50), giving a reformed constituency of 1,122. At the 1832 general election O’Ferrall and Ruthven defeated Hort in a contest between three Liberals, in which 327 polled.29 The Members survived another Liberal challenge from Ponsonby in 1835. Apart from the return of one Protectionist in 1847 the county remained a Liberal stronghold until the advent of Home Rule.

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. Based on the figures in Key to Both Houses (1832), 343, which are mistakenly referred to as the number of registered voters.
  • 2. S. Lewis, Top. Dict. of Ireland (1837), ii. 79-84.
  • 3. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 662, 663; Dod’s Electoral Facts ed. H. Hanham, 161; Key to both Houses, 343.
  • 4. Dublin Evening Post, 9, 25 Mar. 1820.
  • 5. The Times, 1 Nov. 1821.
  • 6. Dublin Evening Post, 10, 17, 20, 29 June 1826.
  • 7. LJ, lix. 152, 167; CJ, lxxxii. 327; lxxxiii. 324.
  • 8. Dublin Evening Post, 7, 23 Oct., 29 Nov. 1828.
  • 9. Dublin Evening Post, 6, 20 Dec. 1828, 13 Jan. 1829.
  • 10. Ibid. 3, 27 Jan., 3 Feb. 1829.
  • 11. CJ, lxxxiv. 28, 34, 109, 154, 173; LJ, lxi. 324, 325.
  • 12. LJ, lxi. 24, 383.
  • 13. Ibid. 326.
  • 14. PP (1830), xxix. 463; PRO NI, Anglesey mss D619/32A/1/1.
  • 15. CJ, lxxxiv. 85, 110; LJ, lxi. 326, 327.
  • 16. LJ, lxii. 789.
  • 17. Dublin Evening Post, 15, 20 July 1830; Add. 40338, f. 223.
  • 18. Dublin Evening Post, 22, 24, 27, 29 July, 10, 14 Aug. 1830; NLI, Wyse mss 15024 (4).
  • 19. Dublin Evening Post, 19, 21 Aug. 1830; Key to Both Houses, 343.
  • 20. Add. 51675, Lady Tavistock to Lady Holland, 27 Aug. 1830.
  • 21. CJ, lxxxvi. 148, 390.
  • 22. LJ, lxiii. 440.
  • 23. Dublin Evening Post, 26, 28 Apr., 3, 10 May 1831.
  • 24. Grey mss.
  • 25. LJ, lxiii. 1054.
  • 26. CJ, lxxxvii. 214, 239, 471; LJ, lxiv. 139, 171.
  • 27. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1894.
  • 28. The Times, 8 Oct. 1832.
  • 29. PP (1833), xxvii. 300.