County Dublin

CO. DUBLIN – 77%, [56,800 + Dublin city c. 300,000] c. 1,200–1,500 [c. 2,000 (1815)]





Dublin city 32%

County borough


3,000–4,000 freemen and freeholders (3,000 in 1806)

Dublin University (TCD)


Provost (2 seats) post-1776

70 Scholars and 22 Fellows

?Open (2 seats)

(unchanged 1800–32)



Earl of Lanesborough;

12 burgesses

sold 2 seats 1776–9 (£7,000–

8,000) to David La Touche




160 electors

Co. Dublin -Constituency

Co. Dublin was not a large county, but its electorate was still surprisingly small in view of its proximity to the capital. In 1785 the chief interests were listed as the Archbishop of Dublin, Lord Meath, Lord Howth, Colonel Talbot, Lord Carhampton, Mr Domvile (0647), Luke Gardiner, Sir Edward Newenham, Sir Stratford Tynte and Mr Deane (0605), and it was noted that the county was ‘much influenced by popular interests. Many of the voters inhabitants of the city and suburbs’ – this must have increased as the city grew throughout the century.

A political commentator of 1790 thought that ‘From its numerous subdivisions of property, owing to the various villas and country seats of gentlemen of fortune and opulent citizens in the vicinity of the metropolis, its electors are indeed numerous and should be independent’, but he complains this is not so. Indeed, successive generations of the leading interests sat for the county. John Allen, with two short breaks (1695–9 and 1713–14), sat from 1692 until his elevation to the peerage in 1717.

Sir Compton Domvile was returned in 1727 and sat for the county until his death in 1768; his father Sir Thomas (0649) had sat for Mullingar in the 1692 parliament of William III, while his cousin, William, sat for Co. Dublin from 1717 to 1727.

The Brabazon family, Earls of Meath, represented the county in successive generations, and Anthony Brabazon represented Co. Dublin from 1761 until he succeeded his father as Earl of Meath in 1772. He was succeeded by Luke Gardiner, who represented the county until he was elevated to the peerage in 1789.

Sir Edward Newenham, a noted duellist, represented the popular interest from 1776 to 1797. When the poll for Co. Dublin closed on 14 May 1790 the voting was: Sir Edward Newenham 867, John Finlay 709, R. W. Talbot 745; the Sheriff declared Sir Edward Newenham and R. W. Talbot duly elected. This provoked a backlash, and a group of freeholders met with a view to presenting a petition to parliament ‘praying that John Finlay be received as one of the representatives for Co. Dublin to the preclusion of Richard Wogan Talbot’. Finally on 28 February 1791 it was reported that ‘Mr Talbot … resigned the contest for the representation of Co. Dublin with Mr Finlay. Whereby the latter gentleman we hear will be declared the sitting member.’

Co. Dublin - Boroughs

Dublin borough

Dublin city, with an electorate of between three and four thousand, was by far the largest of the county-borough constituencies, and certainly the most independent. Its constituency comprised both 40-shilling freeholders and freemen: freemen were mainly admitted through the guilds, although admission could also be obtained by ‘grace especial’. The city had a strong radical and aristocratic tradition, a combination not unknown in eighteenth-century England.

This was reflected in the MPs returned in 1768, namely the Marquess of Kildare, the heir to Ireland’s only dukedom, and Dr Charles Lucas, the Irish John Wilkes. Lord Kildare ‘got in here by a sought for popularity gained merely [by] the Duke of Leinster’s being in opposition to government measures, where he must still remain if he means to support it’. The Marquess was a cousin of Charles James Fox.

In 1773 Lord Kildare succeeded his father as Duke of Leinster, and in his place the citizens of Dublin elected Redmond Morres, an event that caused Provost Andrews (0040) to remark to Speaker Pery (1671), ‘I am not surprised that the city of Dublin have preferred Morris … because he was clearly the unfittest person. They are now completely represented.’ Morres, a Vice-President of the Dublin Society, was reputed to be a ‘violent patriot’, while Lucas, the other member, was the most famous of eighteenth-century Irish radical agitators. The latter was reported, by a very unfavourable critic, to have

Got in here by cajoling the very scum of the people and instilling into their mind that government always intended to hurt them and that patriotism consists in opposition to all ministerial measures. A man of an envious turbulent spirit who makes it his perpetual business to libel the great and level all that are above him, as if honour were a dangerous useless thing and nothing could grow on such lofty ground but what is fit to be rooted out. His very existence depends upon troubles and confusions, justly called by Hely-Hutchinson (1001) a bungling incendiary without parts or property.

Nevertheless, the Earl of Charlemont almost invariably refers to ‘my excellent friend the truly patriotic doctor Lucas’, or ‘the tender care and effectual abilities of the excellent doctor Lucas’. Lucas had the same nuisance value as Wilkes, but with it a more genuine and sincere desire for reform. In 1760 he wrote to Charlemont:

For years I have been labouring to inform the minds of the people of Dublin, and though they have not gained all the benefits that might have been hoped, thank God! they have reaped some desirable fruits from my poor labours. From the narrowness of their own hearts, many of the people judge that I would not quit my present practice or my future prospects, to unhinge myself and imbarque again in seas of trouble to serve a public not remarkable for their gratitude to me … I will sacrifice all my enjoyments and all my private hopes in life, to exert mine utmost means to serve them.

Lucas died in November 1771 and in the ensuing by-election his place was filled by Dr William Clement, Vice-Provost of Dublin University and King’s Professor of Physic. It was thought that his enmity to the Provost within the college increased his inclination to oppose the government, of which the Provost was an ardent supporter. Membership of the opposition was a desirable qualification for parliamentary candidates for the capital, and Clement, who felt a similar animosity towards the next Provost, the famous John Hely-Hutchinson, continued to represent Dublin city until his death in January 1782.

In 1776 Dr Clement and Sir Samuel Bradstreet, the Recorder of Dublin, were returned without opposition. A previous Recorder of Dublin, James Grattan, the father of Henry Grattan, was MP for Dublin from 1761 until his death in 1766. Following the death of Dr Clement in 1782, on 18 January the Archbishop of Dublin wrote to the Earl of Buckinghamshire that ‘old Dr Clements [sic] was buried this day with great parades.

The city has not yet fixed on a successor, but doubtless they will endeavour to choose one who will invariably oppose (as usual) the measures of Government.’ Travers Hartley, ‘a dissenter, a merchant of eminence in respect of opulence, knowledge and integrity’ who ‘will obey any instructions his constituents shall think proper to give’, was elected for the city.

Thus, in two consecutive parliaments the members for Dublin were two medical doctors, one of whom was Vice-Provost of the University; a lawyer, who was also Recorder of the city; Redmond Morres, one of the Vice-Presidents of the Dublin Society, a wealthy non-conformist merchant, and the heir of the premier peer of Ireland. This interesting selection is perhaps the best comment on the nature of the constituency. The other well-represented group were bankers: Benjamin Burton represented the city from 1703 to 1727, and his son, Samuel Burton, from 1727 to 1733. At the end of the century there was John Claudius Beresford, and immediately after the Union John La Touche, a member of the famous banking family and a partner in the family bank.

The most controversial election of the century also involved the La Touche family. In 1741 Charles Lucas, who had previously published a scheme to prevent frauds and abuses in the pharmacy trade, was appointed to represent his guild on the Common Council. Lucas became convinced that the board of aldermen was corrupt – in particular it was self-elective – and after studying the city’s charters he decided that it had usurped the rights of the corporation at large in making these elections. His potential crusade was blocked in the courts. However, on 16 August 1748, Sir James Somerville – a former Lord Mayor and representative of the powerful Merchants’ Guild - died, creating a vacancy for the city.

Parliament was in recess, and the writ for an election would be delayed for about 14 months. Lucas declared himelf a candidate, got busy with his untrammelled pen, and added corruption in the House of Commons to his targets. He also insulted James Digges La Touche (5017), who had formerly co-operated with him in his dispute with the aldermen. La Touche also declared himself a candidate. Meanwhile the board of aldermen was not idle: they sponsored one of their number, Sir Samuel Cooke.

In May 1749 the other city MP, Nathaniel Pearson, also died so there were now two vacancies and the aldermen hastened to put up a second candidate – Sir Charles Burton, a son of the late banker Benjamin Burton. Lucas started a weekly newspaper, Censor or Citizens Journal, devoted to preaching political purity and the exposure of political scandals, some of dubious veracity. Among those he singled out was Sir Richard Cox’s (0508) distinguished grandfather, thereby bringing on himself not only a deadly enemy but potentially the Speaker, Henry Boyle (0210), and his numerous adherents. Lucas then crossed the Lord Lieutenant, the not very adroit Earl of Harrington.

The reassembled House of Commons passed a series of resolutions introduced by Cox declaring Lucas an enemy of his country, a violator of the privileges of the House of Commons etc. and ordering his confinement in Newgate Jail. At this point Lucas decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and fled the country. Dublin Corporation disenfranchised him. At the ensuing poll La Touche and Cooke were elected. Burton then challenged La Touche’s election, accusing him of influencing the poll with corruption and, through his association with Lucas, with seditious publications. Feelings still ran high. La Touche was unseated and Burton declared elected by a majority of 52.

This was the prelude to the great constitutional crisis of the 1750s. Lucas went to Leyden, where he took an MD in 1752, and then had a successful practice in London. Subsequently there was a conservative reform of Dublin Corporation in 1760 and obstacles were removed for his return to Dublin in time for the general election of 1761, when he was returned for Dublin city, which he represented until his death a decade later.

Dublin University

During the eighteenth century, the only university in Ireland was the Elizabethan foundation of Trinity College Dublin, incorporated by charter on 3 March 1592 - originally with a Provost, three Fellows and three Scholars. Between 1610 and 1613 James I endowed the college with grants of plantation lands, and in 1613 he granted the university a further charter enabling it to return two members of parliament. By the end of the eighteenth century the College electorate numbered 92, and was composed of 22 Fellows and 70 Scholars.

Officially exclusively Anglican, it was the stronghold of the ‘ascendancy’. It exercised an immense influence over the Irish parliament, which it faced across College Green, and in the galleries of the House of Commons many of the students received their first political education by following the debates on the floor beneath them. Until 1795 they were admitted to the galleries when wearing their gowns. In 1795 they lost this privilege for shouting and cheering an inflammatory speech of Grattan (0895) following the recall of Lord Lieutenant Fitzwilliam. Alumni Dublinenses gives some indication of the large numbers of students who graduated from Dublin University to the nearby House of Commons, where the affairs of ‘our College’ invariably aroused the keenest interest.

In 1774 Lord Harcourt informed Lord North that the Provost had ‘in a manner, the disposal of a Borough’. This was due to the pre‑eminent position of the Provost within the College, combined with the fact that he was the nominee of the Crown, and to the Crown alone he was ultimately responsible. The governing charter of the University had been remodelled by Archbishop Laud during the seventeenth century, and in it the Provost had been given extremely wide powers. To him belonged the direct or indirect bestowal of all academic rewards or emoluments, including the virtual nomination of all Fellows and Scholars.

In addition the Provost had very wide disciplinary powers which he could exercise against a large number of minor offences as, although the statutes enforcing them had been tacitly allowed to lapse, they were still technically in operation. The governing board of the College was composed of the Provost and the seven Senior Fellows; the Provost had an absolute veto, if he chose to exercise it, over any decision taken by the majority of the board. Under these circumstances the Provost, who was also the returning officer at parliamentary elections, could feel reasonably assured of seeing his nominees returned to parliament for the University, and this was usually the case before John Hely‑Hutchinson (1001) was appointed Provost in 1774.

Representatives of the University were expected to be well connected and respectable. William Molyneux (1425) had represented the University for both parliaments of William III and his son, Samuel (1423), sat briefly in the parliament of George II. In 1768 this essential qualification led to a curious shifting of candidates involving three boroughs – Dublin University, Clogher and Ballyshannon.

The Provost, Francis Andrews (0040), wished to bring into parliament his relation, William Gamble (0839), ‘whom he had not the face to recommend to the College’, so he arranged with the Bishop of Clogher that the bishop’s candidate, Sir Capel Molyneux (1421) – who was ‘nephew to the famous Molyneux (1425), Locke’s friend’ – should stand for the University, while John Staples (1985), the brother‑in‑law of Thomas Conolly (0459), should stand for Clogher and William Gamble should replace Staples as Conolly’s nominee for the completely rotten borough of Ballyshannon. This would ensure respectable candidates for both the bishop and the University.

In the general election of 1768 this complicated manoeuvre was completely successful, and it is an interesting comment on the state of the Irish representative system. Provost Andrews had a reputation for being ‘an excellent Politician’, although personally ‘He is arbitrary, supercilious and turbulent yet a most faithful counsillor [sic] to G[overnmen]t.’

The appointment of John Hely‑Hutchinson as Provost on the death of Francis Andrews in June 1774 was extremely unpopular both socially and academically. His appointment was purely political, although it must be added that Hely‑Hutchinson was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant Irishmen in an age of uncommon lustre. As an orator he was on a par with Grattan, Flood (0762), who was his rival for the Provostship, and Anthony Malone (1336), while his written opinion on the economic condition of Ireland in 1779, as submitted by the Lord Lieutenant to the Secretary of State for the Southern Department, was equalled in clarity and detail only by that of John Foster (0805).

Nevertheless, he was not an academic, although as Provost he was to prove both able and efficient.

His successors, Dr Richard Murray (1795–9), and Dr John Kearney, were non‑political appointments: both were in holy orders, and Dr Kearney became Bishop of Ossory in 1806. Kearney had previously been Vice‑Provost and on his appointment Lord Cornwallis, though sorely pressed for patronage on the eve of the Union, wrote that

The situation of Provost might have been disposed of, at this moment, to more political advantage; but it appeared to me more for the interest of the University, and consequently for the character of Government, that the appointment should be purely with a view to the promotion of learning, and good discipline within the College.

The interests of the College had an inflexible patron in the Vice‑Chancellor and Visitor, John Fitzgibbon (0749), Earl of Clare, who as a young man had successfully petitioned against the return of the Provost’s nominee in the 1776 parliamentary elections and himself represented the University constituency from 1778 to 1783.

Able, ambitious and one of the greatest pluralists in Ireland, John Hely‑Hutchinson was undoubtedly attracted to the office of Provost by the political power apparently attached to it, but it is unlikely that he wished to do more than exercise the same political power as his predecessor had possessed. However, this appointment was the signal for a cold war between the Provost and a number of the disappointed Fellows of the College led by Dr Patrick Duigenan (0664). The quarrel reached such dimensions that in 1777 Dr Duigenan published a book entitled Lachrymae Academicae, which purported to be a description of the conduct of Hely‑Hutchinson since his appointment, with special reference to the 1776 election for the College.

This was followed by a law suit for libel, instituted by the Provost of the University against the Regius Professor of English Law, but after a hearing of 15 days the judge dismissed the case with the comment ‘that he left the school to its own correctors’. It is probable that the actual facts given in the book by Duigenan are quite true, but that his interpretation is warped by his opinion of the Provost.

Prior to the election of 1776, the Provost had recalled his son from Oxford, as MPs for the College were expected to be members of it and also to build up an interest in its support. Of the election itself, Dr Duigenan gave the following description:

On the day of election of members of parliament, the Provost himself being the returning Officer, two of the choicest ruffians who excelled all the rest in savage behaviour and brutality, were stationed in the hall, having received proper instructions for their conduct. After the poll had been taken by the Provost and many of the voters had left the hall, the Provost read over the list of the voters, and each of these two men made objections to the votes of several of the Fellows and scholars, though no objection had been made when they respectively voted: under colour of these objections, they most villainously traduced the characters of several of the Fellows, in the opposite interest to that of the Provost; boldly asserting the most scandalous falsehoods, without attempting the least proof of them: knowing themselves, by his protection secure from any Collegiate punishment …

From this description it is hardly surprising to see that Richard Hely‑Hutchinson (1003) led the poll. However, a successful petition was made against his election and he was replaced by John Fitzgibbon, afterwards Earl of Clare.

The Provost – in so far as this was possible for a consummate politican - did not openly interest himself in future elections for the constituency until the election of 1790, when he only just managed to secure the return of his second son, Francis Hely‑Hutchinson (1000). The election was a rowdy one, in the course of which ‘a bullrush chair’ in ‘two parts’ was thrown at the Provost, now nearly 70 years of age. The election was controverted, and it was only the influence of the chairman that persuaded the committee to reject the petition.

Had the appointment of John Hely‑Hutchinson not resulted in a bitter quarrel within the University, the Provost would probably have continued to influence the returns for the College, as his predecessors had done. A considerable amount of prestige was attached to representing the College, and throughout the century most of its members were men of considerable ability.