DAWSON, Richard (1762-1807), of Dawson Grove, co. Monaghan.

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



1801 - 3 Sept. 1807

Family and Education

b. 16 Apr. 1762, 3rd s. of Richard Dawson of Ardee, co. Louth by Anne, da. of Sir Edward O’Brien, 2nd Bt., MP [I], of Dromoland, co. Clare. educ. R. sch. Armagh; Trinity, Dublin 1775; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. 1780; L. Inn 1780. m. 22 May 1784, Catherine, da. of Col. Arthur Graham of Hockley, co. Armagh, 1s. 4da. suc. fa. 1782.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1797-1800.

Trustee, linen board [I] 1801.

Sheriff. co. Monaghan 1792-3.


Dawson, heir presumptive to his uncle Thomas, Lord Cremorne, whom he predeceased, came in for his county in 1797 with Cremorne’s support. He was associated with the family bank in Dublin. He opposed the Union, but on 9 June 1800 gave a lead to several other county Members who had done so in declaring in debate that he disapproved of secession and, as the Union had been passed, would not only subject himself to it but would ‘exert himself to induce his constituents to reconcile themselves to its provision’.1

Dawson was one of the ablest county Members returned to Westminster in 1801. The Castle were uncertain as to his intentions and he proved independent. On 16 and 18 Mar. 1801, while he reluctantly approved the Irish martial law bill, he objected to the admission of officers who were minors to courts martial in a motion defeated by 72 votes to 17. Next day he spoke and voted against the Irish master of the rolls bill. On 10 June he objected to the further discussion of the martial law bill when so few Irish Members were present and, being overruled, expressed his ‘warmest opposition’ to it. When the viceroy lamented to his half-brother Charles Yorke that the minister had not consulted such a man as Dawson on the measure, he was informed in reply that Dawson was ‘not at all to be depended on and was completely DRUNK at the time he made his speech. I never saw such an exhibition in the House of Commons before.’2 On 12 and 23 June he objected to the Irish contested election bill being debated so late in the session, maintaining against ministers that it was unpopular with Irish Members, few of whom were present.

Dawson gave his ‘hearty approbation’ to peace in debate, 4 Nov. 1801, but otherwise confined his interventions to Irish matters. On 2 Nov. he had complained of the delay in granting Irish election writs and secured one to supply himself with a colleague for Monaghan, while on 17 Nov. he complained of the ‘amphibious’ constitutional rights of Irish peers. On 7 May 1802 he went away before the division on an Irish question. He was concerned at the incorporation of the Irish militia, which could not readily be replaced, 14 June, and again opposed the Irish election bill, 17 June. On 16 Mar. 1803 he paid tribute to the Irish militia for their services in 1798. When on 4 Mar. he had voted for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s finances, the Castle’s comment was ‘like him’.3

Dawson was a leading Irish spokesman, as well as a teller for government, against Wrottesley’s motion of 7 Mar. 1804 for inquiry into the Emmet uprising, which he characterized by the ‘blundering metaphor’ of ‘an abortion which the best doctor could not prevent’.4 Two days later he was a critic of the Irish taxes on windows and linen export. He described the latter on 3 Mar. (when he admitted that his constituents had admonished him to oppose it) and on 8 June 1804 as ‘injurious’. Himself a trustee of the linen board, he upbraided Foster the Irish chancellor for maintaining the tax. On 22 June he was a teller against one of the Irish taxes, having two days before said he would accept them all except that on registration of freeholds. He had declined voting on Pitt’s additional force bill, 18 June, though the chief secretary thought he would support ministers once that question was ‘got rid of’.5 On 5 July he asked for the delay of the Irish additional force bill and likewise on 13 July for that of the Irish spirits warehousing bill, of which he bitterly remarked: ‘if this advantage to Ireland was an oversight in the Act of Union, the surrender of the constitution of that country may be said to be a greater oversight’.

Although in September and December 1804, Dawson was listed a supporter of Pitt’s ministry, which had reckoned from the start that he would vote with them ‘if Lord Cremorne makes it a point’, he had drifted, in their eyes, into ‘doubtful Opposition’ by the following summer. This was warranted by his conduct. He opposed the Irish habeas corpus suspension bill by speech and vote, 8 Feb. 1805, and again by vote on 15 Feb. On 15 Mar. he was a critic of the Irish budget, particularly the taxes on timber and horses, and suggested an impost on the ‘pernicious’ Irish custom of whisky distilling, which ‘did not produce a shilling to the Exchequer’. In that and the next session he was of the Irish finance committee. On 1 2 June 1805 he voted with the majority for the prosecution of Melville by the attorney-general, though ministers had hoped to get at him through his uncle.6

Dawson was evidently well disposed towards the Grenville ministry, who reciprocated and added him to the finance committee, but noted that he wanted promotion in the peerage for his uncle Cremorne and further provision in the Church for his brother. He left the House before the division on Brand’s motion following the dismissal of the ministry, 9 Apr. 1807, but, out of power, the latter were doubtful of his support.7 He seems to have been shy of the Catholic question. The Portland ministry expected him to act with opposition and he voted with the minority on the Irish arms bill, 7 Aug. 1807, and on Sheridan’s Irish motion of 13 Aug., but died in Dublin on 3 Sept., before his attitude became any clearer. The viceroy was perhaps too blunt in a subsequent allegation that Dawson was ‘always against us’. Be that as it may, Dawson was remembered in Monaghan in 1813 as ‘the most active in promoting improvements, the most useful and the most popular man this country ever knew’.8

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Arthur Aspinall


  • 1. Cornwallis Corresp. iii. 251; HO 100/94, Castlereagh to Portland, 9 June 1800.
  • 2. Add. 35701, ff. 28, 38.
  • 3. Add. 35713, f. 92; 35766, f. 321.
  • 4. Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 8 Mar. 1804.
  • 5. Add. 35715, f. 84.
  • 6. Add. 31229, f. 256.
  • 7. Dublin Evening Post, 23 Apr.; Morning Chron. 22 June; Fremantle mss, box 46, Buckingham to Fremantle, 16 June 1807.
  • 8. NLI, Richmond mss 62/487; Essex RO, Barrett Lennard mss C63, T. to Sir T. Barrett Lennard, 21 Mar. 1813.