Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen and 40s. freeholders
Number of voters:
|1801||WILLIAM CONGREVE ALCOCK|
|24 July 1802||WILLIAM CONGREVE ALCOCK||471|
|Sir Simon John Newport, Bt.||440|
|NEWPORT vice Alcock, on petition, 7 Dec. 1803|
|14 Mar. 1806||NEWPORT re-elected after vacating his seat|
|17 Nov. 1806||SIR SIMON JOHN NEWPORT, Bt.|
|6 June 1807||SIR SIMON JOHN NEWPORT, Bt.||524|
|24 Oct. 1812||SIR SIMON JOHN NEWPORT, Bt.|
|30 June 1818||SIR SIMON JOHN NEWPORT, Bt.|
A flourishing port, Waterford had a large, predominantly freeman electorate, the number of registered freeholders not exceeding 50. The governing body of 40 accordingly provided a focus for the contending interests of the local landowning families of Alcock, Bolton and Carew and of the commercial and banking house of Newport, which was said in 1795 to hold the corporation in thrall. They in turn had to contend with a small army of port officials and a well-do-do Catholic body representing four-fifths of the population, whose admission as freemen made them a force to be reckoned with. The enfranchisement of non-resident freemen and lavish treating of the venal part of the electorate were established features of the electoral scene at the time of the Union. The sitting Members Carew and Alcock were, moreover, violently anti-Unionist and resented the interference of county grandees, such as the Marquess of Waterford, in carrying an address favourable to the measure.1
Alcock, the junior Member, was returned to Westminster on the ballot and Carew eventually yielded his pretensions to his brother-in-law Sir Simon John Newport (always known as Sir John), who had supported the Union, though not in parliament. Before Pitt’s ministry fell, Newport had asked his old school friend Lord Grenville to promote his views, and even when Grenville went out of office and into opposition later that year he was pressed by Newport to obtain the viceroy’s and prime minister’s good wishes for his election. These were obtained, but the expression of them was both tardy and ambiguous, not necessarily due to want of confidence in Newport’s political intentions, and a ‘private’ letter from the Castle was not calculated to impress local officials, particularly when Alcock claimed to have government support and had the Marquess of Waterford’s and Lord Ely’s. Newport failed to browbeat them into submission through the collector. He claimed that 46 of them had deserted him at the election. Moreover Alcock, having foresworn a former pact with Newport, allied himself with the Bolton family and induced the corporation to create 107 freemen in his interest the day before the election, to the exclusion of 70 residents proposed by Newport, which completed the latter’s discomfiture after a 16-day poll.2 Newport petitioned, alleging that the franchise lay with the resident freemen and that Alcock’s victory had depended on non-residents. The committee of the House, first hectored and then abandoned by Alcock, confirmed Newport’s argument and he was seated on 7 Dec. 1803.3 This decision in favour of residence became thereafter a rallying point for Irish municipal reformers. Newport had also pressed the Castle to dismiss the recalcitrant public officials, but the viceroy saw their dilemma:
The fact is, that government was placed in an awkward predicament, by an engagement to support the friend of an opposition ex-minister, against a candidate who was strongly supported by the interest of the Marquess of Waterford. Some of the persons were relations of Alcock’s, and most of them put in by Lord Waterford.4
When Newport took office in the Grenville ministry in February 1806, his re-election was unopposed, Lord Waterford concurring in the hope of some unspecified reward and Alcock withdrawing; but it was delayed ‘by some Irish antipathy in the returning officer’, so the Speaker reported, ‘who takes this mode of taking an official revenge for some personal affront. This could not have occurred out of Ireland.’ Questions were asked in the House and Edward Lee, one of Lord Waterford’s Members, took it upon himself to exonerate the culprit.5 By April 1806 it seemed clear that Newport would not be opposed by Alcock at the next election, as the latter was looking to county Wexford. On this account the ministry hoped that Lord Waterford, who professed willingness to come to terms with the government, would now support Newport, who was nervous about his prospects. Waterford’s cousin John Claudius Beresford* informed them by 2 May that
the Beresford interest is pledged to Mr Bolton, on whose recommendation Mr Alcock’s pretensions were principally founded; and if Mr Alcock should be returned for the county of Wexford at the general election, and Mr Bolton should decline offering himself for Waterford (which Mr Beresford does not conceive to be improbable) there would be a prospect of Sir John Newport’s retaining his seat without trouble.
This hint was a sop connected with a bid to safeguard Beresford electoral interests elsewhere. The Castle did not at first inform Newport, who in any case expected the whole patronage of the city, of the negotiation; and rejected with embarrassment an election job he proposed whereby his friend May, the collector of the port, should be promoted to the revenue board to make way for Newport’s brother-in-law Creagh. It also refused to prosecute the corporation for irregularities in admitting nonresident freemen. It was not easy to help Newport: supporting Alcock’s aims in county Wexford was of no avail now that Cornelius Bolton (Member for the city in the Irish parliament of 1776) was his opponent at Waterford; and no positive understanding could be reached with the Beresfords. Thus the Castle could only give Newport its own support and promise him a compensatory seat, to be bestowed by the premier’s brother, if he were defeated. On 10 Nov. 1806 Newport informed the chief secretary, who by then was confident of a ‘considerable majority’ in his favour, that Bolton insisted on going to a poll, but on 16 Nov. that he had declined, without giving him the trouble of a poll. Bolton alleged that Newport’s early canvass, which secured him some 130 votes that would otherwise have fallen to him, had been the cause of his setback.6
Bolton presented a more formidable challenge to Newport in 1807, being recommended to the Castle as ‘a steady friend’ to government while a Member of the Irish parliament and to the Portland ministry in particular. Newport reported that apart from government influence he faced a coalition between the corporation interests of Bolton and Alcock and those of Lord Waterford (who wished for Bolton’s county interest) and Lord Ely (Alcock’s friend and relative). He also complained about a very partial returning officer and the cry of ‘the Church in danger’. The chief secretary, who believed he had done all he could for Bolton, thought Newport would certainly be beaten: ‘He has not a chance, excepting when assisted by government’. The viceroy secured the English government’s permission to offer Bolton £2,000 to assist him. Yet Bolton was defeated, declining after 13 days. He had known he would lose by the eighth day, but felt obliged to fight the government’s battle, so he informed the chief secretary. He complained of Lord Waterford’s support being half-hearted and slow, though he did not mention that a Catholic committee had threatened not to support the Beresfords in the county unless they supported Newport in the city. He lamented government’s failure to secure him John Bagwell’s* votes, which was scarcely to be expected as Bagwell was Newport’s relative and owed his interest at Waterford principally to him. Above all, he deplored the ‘Popish religion and Popish fund’. He went on:
The zeal and activity of the ministers of that religion left nothing undone to oppose me. Threats, promises, rewards here and hereafter were held out to induce men to vote against me and money was not spared on the occasion. Some who from their fortunes and rank in society should have acted otherwise, broke their engagements and betrayed the trust reposed in them.
From another source, it appears that, with their usual contrariety, the port officials had generally favoured Newport, the oppositionist.7
Bolton promised to stand again, Alcock being involved in county Wexford, but the latter was ‘unreasonable’ and embarrassed ministers by claiming the city patronage through his friend Ely. The Castle preferred to divide the patronage among Lord Waterford, Alcock and Bolton, in that order of preference.8 If Alcock had intended to challenge Newport at the next election, nothing came of it, for he became deranged and no other member of his family was available. The assumption that Edward Lee* would be his nominee was not realized. Newport’s tenure of the seat was further strengthened by Lord Waterford’s decision to support him, which discouraged John Bolton from standing as a ‘warm friend’ of government in 1812. The Castle, though forewarned by Bolton, was indignant at this ‘keystone ... to the arch’ of Beresford ingratitude and resolved to deprive Lord Waterford of city patronage. The viceroy informed the chief secretary:
We certainly have assisted Sir John Newport by letting Lord Waterford have the patronage of the city of Waterford. But if we give it to Bolton we shall assist the Duke of Devonshire’s interest, for in fact there is no patronage in that county but what belongs to the city, and Bolton is so angry with the marquess that he will certainly oppose his interest.9
Newport was now unchallengeable and on 10 Jan. 1818 he was able to come to an agreement with Henry Alcock and the latter’s brother-in-law James Wallace, the collector of the port, which, in 14 articles aimed at the extinction of the Bolton interest, ensured that Newport should not be opposed by them ‘for such time as Sir John Newport shall consider himself capable of efficiently discharging the duties of that situation’, and regulated the city patronage to mutual satisfaction. Newport could ill afford any more contests, and this pledge ‘to bring him in ... for nothing, as long as he lived’, as Lady Spencer described it, ‘set his mind at rest on the subject which went nearest his heart, for he conceived he never could come in again’.10 Newport retained the seat until 1832, although the agreement of 1818 was overthrown by resolution of the mayor and governing body on 29 June 1830.
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. CJ, lviii. 1105; G. C. Bolton, The Passing of the Irish Act of Union, 151; Sidmouth mss, Butson to Addington, 17 Mar. 1795, 29 June 1799.
- 2. Fortescue mss, Newport to Grenville, 8 Aug., 4 Oct., 16, 30 Nov. 1801, 14 Feb., 22 Mar., 17 Aug. 1802, to W. Newport, 28 Nov. 1801; HMC Fortescue, vii. 69; Dublin SPO 520/13/10, Newport to Abbot, 9 Feb.; Add. 35713, f. 85; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss, Beresford to Auckland, 12 Aug.; Wickham mss 5/31, Newport to Wickham, 21 July, to Crosthwaite 29 [July 1802].
- 3. CJ, lviii. 26; lix. 36; Add. 35724, f. 48; Wickham mss 5/32, Newport to Wickham, 7 Dec. 1803.
- 4. Wickham mss, 5/10, Hardwicke to Wickham, 16 Oct. 1802.
- 5. Fortescue mss, Newport to Grenville, Sunday , Mon. [10 Mar.]; Wickham mss 1/9/31, Abbot to Wickham, 24 May 1806.
- 6. HMC Fortescue, viii. 115, 127, 128, 175, 197, 211, 258, 261, 396, 409; Fortescue mss, Elliot to Grenville, 14 June, 4 Aug.; NLS mss 12911, Elliot to Fremantle, 16, 20 Nov.; 12917, Newport to Elliot, 11, 16, 19 June, 10, 16 Nov.; Dublin Evening Post, 20 Nov. 1806.
- 7. Add. 38568, f. 150; 51530, Grenville to Holland, 29 May 1807; Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 19, 48, 60; Wellington mss, Bolton to Foster, 5, 7 May, Foster to Wellesley, 10 May, Long to same, 11 May, Bagwell to same, 15 May, Clancarty to same, 19 May, Wellesley to Hawkesbury, 23 May, reply 28 May, Bolton to Wellesley, 8, 13 June; Fortescue mss, Newport to Grenville, 4 June ; The Irish Ancestor, viii. 18-32.
- 8. Wellington mss, Hawkesbury to Wellesley, 26 Nov. 1807; Add. 40221, ff. 13-42 (Waterford); NLI, Richmond mss 58/78; Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 359.
- 9. Add. 40185, f. 86; 40222, f. 93; Richmond mss 74/1816, 1853; Surr. RO, Goulburn mss 2/13, Peel to Goulburn, 2 Nov. 1812.
- 10. P. M. Egan, Hist. Waterford, 351; Spencer mss, Lady to Ld. Spencer, 2 Apr. 1818.