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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the 40s. freeholders of the manor

Estimated number qualified to vote:

524 in 1831

Number of voters:

200 in 1826


4,114 (1821); 7,100 (1831)


 Charles Denham Orlando Jephson86
 Henry Hartstonge Pery, Visct. Glentworth37

Main Article

Mallow, a market town and watering place on the north bank of the River Blackwater, had a ‘lucrative trade’ in the manufacture of candles, soap, blankets and flannel. A corporation of a provost, 12 free burgesses and commonalty had been established by charter in 1612, but had quickly fallen ‘into disuse’, leaving the seneschal of the manor to govern the town. (The municipal corporations commissioners noted that the inhabitants believed a ‘well-regulated corporation’ would be useful.) For at least a century the Members had been elected by the freeholders within the manor, a franchise which excluded many of the householders of the town and made it ‘differently situated from any other place in Ireland’.1 For many years the representation had been dominated by the ‘principal proprietors’ of the manor, the Jephsons of Mallow Castle, but during the minority of Charles Denham Orlando Jephson, who had inherited the estates in 1813 following the death of Denham Jephson, Member from 1802-12, the independent Catholic freeholders had assumed control. In 1818 they had ousted the sitting Member, an opponent of Catholic claims, and returned his cousin William Wrixon Becher, a local supporter.2

At the 1820 general election Wrixon Becher offered again, having retained Daniel O’Connell* as his agent in the event of trouble. On 16 Mar. O’Connell learnt that he would ‘be obliged’ to attend as Jephson, though still a minor, had come forward as a supporter of Catholic claims, stressing that he owned property ‘amongst them’, ‘detested the name of an absentee’, and would be ‘unshackled’ by party. Wrixon Becher, who denied being an absentee or having given factious opposition to the Liverpool ministry, warned against letting Mallow again become a ‘closed borough’. A four-day contest ensued in which there was ‘little doubt’ of Wrixon Becher’s success. O’Connell observed of the first day, 18 Mar.:

The election commenced about one o’clock. Becher made an excellent speech ... full of excellent principle ... His antagonist ... an unfledged boy of twenty ... said simply that he was of no party and had no political principles, a most precious avowal ... The polling commenced and each party, after tendering ten votes each, closed for the day. I had the good luck to strike off the first vote tendered for Jephson, a very zealous partisan, a Mr. Crother, who had a speech ready too. There remain about 250 voters to be polled, and ... I should expect that we will either close the election altogether or at least get so far forward that I shall be able to leave ... on Tuesday [21 Mar.] ... I am very well pleased that I came here as I have been of considerable use.

On the 22nd Jephson resigned and Wrixon Becher was returned. ‘This was not a victory of Catholic over Protestant’, noted the Dublin Evening Post: ‘We had but one sponsor, constitutional liberty’ and ‘but one name, independent freeholders!’3 In the House, Wrixon Becher continued to support the Whig opposition and Catholic claims, for which Jephson campaigned locally. Reports in June 1825 that Viscount Glentworth, son of the 1st earl of Limerick, who also had ‘considerable property’ within the manor, would offer at the next opportunity prompted Jephson’s agent John Carmichael to retain O’Connell. His £20 fee, he informed Jephson, ‘you may consider large, but circumstanced as you are ... I believe it well bestowed ... You have had experience with what partisan zeal he supported Becher on your first contest’. Next month Carmichael reported that Glentworth was about to visit and that Limerick was ‘determined he shall sit for Mallow or lose £10,000’. Writing again during the rumours of a dissolution in September 1825, Carmichael observed an ‘abundance of discussion ... in the Mallow newsroom’, where ‘you continue the favourite, though blemished considerably by your Popishness’.4

Shortly before the 1826 general election Wrixon Becher announced that he would retire, hoping that he had proved useful in securing the independence of the borough and ‘defeating the hopes of any candidate’ not pledged to support Catholic claims. A meeting of his friends reported that an ‘unsuccessful canvass for a renewal’ had given him ‘strong inducements’ to go, and praised him for his ‘early and candid’ notice. At the dissolution Jephson, who had ‘already announced his intention of becoming a candidate’, offered again. He was joined by John Boyle of Cork, the editor of the Freeholder, who stood with the aim of pressing candidates about their views at the hustings. Richard Longfield, eldest son of John Longfield of Longueville, Mallow, also started, only to withdraw after a canvass revealed that ‘many of the highly respectable interests’ were ‘pre-engaged’ and many of his promised votes had ‘not been registered in time’. Glentworth was expected daily, but from his failure to address the electors it was ‘inferred’ that he had declined. Observing that there now appeared to be ‘but one’ candidate, 8 June, Boyle saw ‘no need of appearing on your hustings’, as he had been ‘satisfactorily assured’ that Jephson would ‘uphold every measure tending to Ireland’s amelioration’. He and Wrixon Becher publicly endorsed Jephson, whose return as ‘lord of the sod’ was assumed to be ‘a matter of course’.5 On the eve of the election, however, Limerick’s agent, the ‘respected crown solicitor for Munster’ Mr. Barrington, appeared with ‘all the paraphernalia’ for a contest, declaring that Glentworth would be proposed in absentia with his brother-in-law Thomas Spring Rice, Member for Limerick, acting as his deputy. ‘The principles of Glentworth are known to be liberal and his exertions in the assertion of the independence of Limerick, in which he was the precursor of Spring Rice, have obtained for him a great popularity’, observed the Dublin Evening Post, adding that his agents had secured the support of the Catholic clergy. At the nomination the court house became so overcrowded that the ‘immediate admission of air’ was ‘absolutely necessary’: orders were given ‘to break all the windows’, whereupon ‘almost all the sashes and frames’ were destroyed. Jephson was proposed by John Dillon Croker and Glentworth by Barrington, who unsuccessfully demanded that Jephson take the qualification oath, from which Glentworth, as the eldest son of a peer, was exempt. Spring Rice arrived with Sir Aubrey de Vere Hunt later that day, during which Jephson secured 30 votes and Glentworth 23 amid the ‘most furious scenes of riot and disorder’. (A legal dispute over the eligibility of voters whose freeholds were situated in the parish but not within the manor of Mallow delayed the poll.) On the second day Jephson took the prescribed oath, but Barrington, believing his delay ‘sufficient to nullify the election’, ceased to bring up more freeholders, leaving Jephson to be returned with a large majority amidst expectation of a petition.6 Three duly reached the Commons, 5 Dec. 1826, protesting that Jephson had failed to qualify on time, that his property was not actually his but ‘claimed’ under a disputed will, and that he was guilty of ‘extensive bribery’ through the provision of ‘money, meat, drink’ and ‘entertainments’. An appeal by Glentworth’s agent Henry Young for more time was presented, 13 Dec. 1826, but rejected after a short debate, 19 Feb. 1827, when the petitions lapsed.7

In the House Jephson supported Catholic claims, for which petitions reached the Commons, 14 Feb. 1827, 29 Feb. 1828, and the Lords, 20 Feb. 1827.8 In January 1829 a Brunswick Club was established by John Longfield, now high sheriff of county Cork.9 A Catholic meeting chaired by James Curtis of Carragoon House was held in support of the Wellington ministry’s concession of emancipation, 1 Feb., for which petitions were presented to the Lords, 6 Mar., 6 Apr., and the Commons, by Jephson, 12 Mar.10 That month John Wilson Croker* urged Peel, the home secretary, to include the 40s. freeholders of Mallow (and other non-corporate towns) in the disfranchisement bill, or ‘you will have Papists of the lowest order returned’. On 20 Mar. Sir John Galway wrote in similar terms to the duke of Wellington from Mallow, citing the ‘many hundred[s] of mendicants in the shape of freeholders ... spread over several thousand acres’ and the ‘misery of the existing state of this franchise’. Urging their case, 23 Mar., John Longfield explained to Wellington:

The number of voters is about 600, 400 of whom are 40s. freeholders and consist mainly of paupers. All the vice and misery of the 40s. freehold and the influence of the priests are in as strong operation in ... Mallow as in any county ... My object in making your grace acquainted with the state of the borough ... is in the hope that you will ... have it included in the bill for regulating the elective franchise, otherwise the borough will be completely in the hands of the priests. A petition from the inhabitants ... to the above effect was lately ... forwarded ... but the influence of the priests, who denounced it from their altar, prevented many Catholics from signing it who were conscious of the evils resulting from the 40s. franchise.11

A petition for the disfranchisement of Mallow’s 40s. freeholders reached the Commons, 26 Mar. A counter-petition for the continuation of their ‘ancient and invaluable privileges’ was presented to the Commons next day, and the Lords, 6 Apr. 1829.12 That year’s raising of the minimum Irish freeholder qualification did not apply to freeholder boroughs.

At the 1830 general election Jephson offered again. Rumours that Glentworth, having sent a copy of his address to ‘some friends in Mallow’, would stage another ‘vexatious opposition’ prompted a series of meetings to back Jephson, who despite having ‘little to fear’, took ‘every precaution’ and obtained public endorsements from Wrixon Becher and even the local ‘Tories’ John Longfield and John Dillon Croker. (As part of a possible deal to secure their support, Jephson subsequently declared ‘strongly and decidedly’ against O’Connell’s campaign to repeal the Union at a dinner in Cork.) Expectation of an opposition only subsided at the nomination, when Jephson was returned unopposed but declined to be chaired.13 Petitions for the abolition of slavery reached the Commons, 22 Nov. 1830, and the Lords, 14 Mar. 1831.14 At the 1831 general election Jephson, who had supported the Grey ministry’s reform bill, stood again as a reformer and ‘friend to retrenchment’. An appeal to ‘return him without trouble or expense’ was started by Wrixon Becher and Croker, one of the ‘new reforming Tories’, who at the hustings praised his stance against repeal. Pressed about the Irish reform bill, Jephson called for ‘some modifications’, including ‘an additional representative’ for county Cork. He was returned unopposed.15 A petition from the Catholics against the grant to the Kildare Place Society was presented to the Commons, 5 Aug.16 One for the reform bill reached the Lords, 9 Aug. 1831.17

Noting the ‘injustice’ and ‘inconvenience’ of Mallow’s existing boundaries that December, the commissioners recommended adding those parts of the parish of Mallow ‘not within the manor’, including the isolated suburb of Ballydaheen, by which it was predicted that 200 £10 householders would join an estimated 450 ‘freeholders reserved for life’, making a reformed constituency of 650.18 (On 13 June 1832, Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, explained that the freeholders of Mallow, including those with a ‘double right’ of voting in the borough and county, would retain their entitlements for their lives, but that contrary to the ‘wishes’ of the inhabitants, future freeholders would be ‘thrown’ into the county.) A petition for the preservation of the ancient limits and the separate enfranchisement of householders resident within the parish was presented by Jephson, 27 June.19 Mallow was one of ten Irish boroughs with under 300 householders which Dominick Browne, Member for Mayo, unsuccessfully proposed for disfranchisement, 9 July. Giving evidence to a select committee inquiry into its boundaries that month, John Dillon Croker complained that ‘a very respectable class immediately close to the boundaries’ had been excluded. One Robert de la Cour warned that the constituency would be ‘too restricted’, leaving the candidate ‘too much in the power and under the influence of the inhabitants’. Both recommended extending the limits by one mile around the church, which would add ‘from 60 to 100 voters’, but admitted that the addition of such an ‘agricultural district ... would afford great facility for manufacturing fictitious votes’. The committee determined against ‘any alteration’, 23 July 1832.20 The 1832 registered electorate numbered 458, of whom only 161 qualified as £10 householders. (Of the remainder, 250 were registered as 40s. freeholders, 26 as £50 freeholders, 13 as £20 freeholders, and eight as occupiers.)21 Four-hundred-and-forty polled at that year’s general election, when Jephson, who stood as a Liberal, was narrowly defeated by a repealer, only to be seated on petition the following year after 11 votes were disallowed.22 Jephson was re-elected unopposed in 1835 and 1837 and after surviving a series of unsuccessful challenges, was eventually defeated by a Liberal Conservative in 1859.

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. S. Lewis, Top. Dict. of Ireland (1837), ii. 338; PP (1831-2), xliii. 105; (1835), xxvii. 291-2.
  • 2. PP (1831-2), xliii. 107; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 639, 640.
  • 3. Dublin Evening Post, 4, 21, 25, 30 Mar. 1820; O’Connell Corresp. ii. 820, 821, 823.
  • 4. Cited in M.D. Jephson, Anglo-Irish Misc. 189.
  • 5. Southern Reporter, 6, 8, 13, 15 June; Cork Constitution, 6, 10, 13, 15 June 1826.
  • 6. Southern Reporter, 15, 17 June; Dublin Evening Post, 17, 20 June 1826; PP (1831-2), xliii. 105.
  • 7. CJ, lxxxii. 84, 85, 87, 117, 194.
  • 8. Ibid. 164; lxxxiii. 117; LJ, lix. 86.
  • 9. Dublin Evening Post, 22 Jan. 1829.
  • 10. Ibid. 3 Feb. 1829; LJ, lxi. 134, 351; CJ, lxxxiv. 128.
  • 11. Add. 40308, ff. 160, 162; 40320, f. 110.
  • 12. CJ, lxxxiv. 174, 178; LJ, lxi. 351.
  • 13. Cork Constitution, 17, 22, 24 July, 3, 5 Aug. 1830, 5 May 1831; Jephson, 214; I. D’Alton, Protestant Society and Politics in Cork, 172.
  • 14. CJ, lxxxvi. 126; LJ, lxiii. 320.
  • 15. Cork Constitution, 28 Apr., 3, 5 May; Southern Reporter, 7 May 1831.
  • 16. CJ, lxxxvi. 730.
  • 17. LJ, lxiii. 907.
  • 18. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 623; xliii. 105-7.
  • 19. CJ, lxxxvii. 436.
  • 20. PP (1831-2), v. 3, 13-16, 20-22.
  • 21. Ibid. (1833), xxvii. 294.
  • 22. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1944; Jephson, 190, 191.