CHICHESTER, Arthur I (1769-1847), of Greencastle and Castlecary, co. Donegal and 15 Sackville Street, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 8 Dec. 1769,1 1st s. of Rev. William Chichester, LLD, of Broughshane, co. Antrim and Clonmanny, co. Donegal and 1st w. Mary Anne, da. of George Harvey of Malin Hall, co. Donegal. educ. Wadham, Oxf. 1791; L. Inn 1791; King’s Inns 1798, called [I] 1799. unm. suc. fa. 1815; cr. bt. 27 July 1821.2 d. 25 May 1847.
Sheriff, co. Donegal 1814-15; weighmaster, Belfast.
Capt. Moville inf. 1815.
Chichester was returned by his kinsman, the 2nd marquess of Donegall, for Carrickfergus in 1812 and Belfast in 1818. A member of the corporation of both boroughs, he occasionally served as mayor of Carrickfergus and frequently presented to the Commons petitions from the commercial interests of Belfast. At the general election of 1820 he was returned for Carrickfergus after Lord Belfast, Donegall’s eldest son, withdrew in order to contest county Antrim (in fact, he finally came in for Belfast).3 The other patron of the borough, Lord Downshire, declined to back an opposition to Chichester, who, he commented ‘if he is agreeable to the electors, is certainly a very gentlemanlike man and attentive in Parliament on some questions’.4 An inactive supporter of Lord Liverpool’s ministry, who was ever hopeful of patronage, he received a baronetcy in 1821.5
Chichester expressed doubts about government legislation relating to Irish distilleries, 14, 18, 24 July 1820.6 He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. Although his last vote on the Catholic question had been hostile, he divided for relief, 28 Feb. He voted against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and Hume’s motion for economies and retrenchment, 27 June. He denounced the Belfast reform petition, 16 Apr., and urged repeal of the duties on fuel and machinery imported into Ireland, 19 Apr. 1821.7 He voted for Lethbridge’s protectionist resolutions on the agricultural distress report, 8 May, and against inquiry into Irish tithes, 19 June, and repeal of the salt duty, 28 June 1822. He voted against the Irish tithes composition bill, 16 June 1823. He was added to the select committee on the survey of Ireland, 14 May 1824, one of several Irish committees on which he served in this Parliament. Having previously pressed ministers to endorse the proposed navigation between Lochs Erne and Neagh, he presented a petition for leave to introduce a bill to this effect, 18 Feb. 1825, and helped secure its passage that session.8 After dividing for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 15, 25 Feb., he cast his last vote for Catholic claims, 1 Mar. He thereafter had another change of heart and, having presented a hostile petition from Belfast, 25 Mar., divided against the second, 21 Apr., and third reading of the relief bill, 10 May, and against the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr.9 He voted for the Cumberland annuity bill, 6 June 1825. He divided against Russell’s resolutions for curbing electoral bribery, 26 May 1826. At the general election that summer, when he stated that his conduct was motivated by the ‘honourable and earnest desire to act right’ and was described as an Orangeman, he survived a token challenge from the independent interest at Carrickfergus, mounted in the name of Downshire’s brother Lord George Hill*.10
Chichester attended the county Antrim meeting for addressing the king on the death of the duke of York, 6 Feb., but appears to have been absent from the division on the Catholic question, 6 Mar. 1827.11 He was granted three weeks’ leave on account of illness in his family, 23 Mar., and another three days for urgent business, 1 May. He spoke in support of the Donegal petition complaining about the levying of rates, 25 May. He voted with Canning’s ministry for the grant to improve water communications in Canada, 12 June 1827. He divided against Catholic relief, 12 May 1828, and his only other known vote that session was with the Wellington administration against reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July. In September he was made a vice-president of the Ulster Brunswick Club and on 4 Oct. 1828 he chaired a meeting in Carrickfergus to establish a club there, not, as he claimed, to oppress the Catholics but to preserve the public peace.12 He was listed by Planta, the patronage secretary, as likely to be ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, but (like Lord Belfast) he divided steadily against it in March 1829; he voted against allowing Daniel O’Connell to take his seat unhindered, 18 May. He advocated encouragement of Irish fisheries, 11 May. In September 1829, as mayor of Carrickfergus, he resisted demands for the admission of a substantial number of freemen.13 He was in minorities for repeal of the Irish coal duties, 13 May, and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May, and in the majority against Jewish emancipation, 17 May 1830.
At the general election of 1830 Chichester faced a serious contest at Carrickfergus against Hill, but withdrew, alleging malpractices, at the end of the first day of polling. Since Lord Belfast, in whose triumphant procession he joined, succeeded in the county contest, Chichester was brought in for Belfast by the Donegall-controlled corporation. He attended the Belfast meeting which issued a declaration against repeal of the Union, 5 Nov., and spoke against O’Connell on this subject in the House, 19 Nov.14 Listed by ministers among their ‘friends’, he divided with them in the division on the civil list which led to their resignation, 15 Nov. An election petition purporting to come from the freemen and freeholders of Carrickfergus was lodged that day, but, although Chichester claimed that some of the signatures were genuine, 17 Dec. 1830, it was exposed as a fraud and Hill survived it. Chichester signed the requisition for the county Antrim meeting which addressed the lord lieutenant against agitation of the repeal issue, 19 Feb. 1831.15 Following the example of Donegall and Lord Belfast, who had retained office under the Grey ministry, he presented the Belfast reform petition, 18 Mar., and voted for the second reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He was again returned for Belfast at the ensuing general election.
Chichester was absent from the division on the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and voted for hearing counsel on the Appleby petition, 12 July 1831. However, thereafter he divided steadily in favour of the bill’s details when present. He moved the second reading, 15 July, and brought up the report, 25 July, of the Ulster Canal amendment bill, which was given royal assent, 23 Aug.16 He voted against censuring the Irish government over the Dublin election, 23 Aug., and, speaking as an officer, defended the maintenance of the Irish yeomanry, 3 Oct. He divided for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He was absent from the division on the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, but voted for clause 36, 8 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and Gateshead, 5 Mar. 1832. He paired for the third reading, 22 Mar., and voted against increasing the county representation of Scotland, 1 June. He sided with ministers against the production of information on Portugal, 9 Feb., for the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr., and for the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July. He voted against making permanent provision for the Irish poor by the introduction of an absentee tax, 19 June, and for the Irish tithes bill, 13 July. His only other known vote was to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June 1832.
He was unable to stand for Belfast at the general election of 1832 because another of Donegall’s sons, the inexperienced and less popular Lord Arthur Chichester, stood successfully on the family interest. Chichester was therefore obliged again to contest the venal borough of Carrickfergus, where he was accused of failing to fulfil his promise to make available £100 for the good of the town.17 As a Liberal, he promised in his address ‘to ensure the contentment and happiness of the people, and to perpetuate the stability of our unrivalled constitution’; but he was attacked for his votes on reform, which he insisted had not weakened the institutions of the country, and had to point out to critics of his religious views that he had supported the Kildare Place Society and opposed the ministerial plan for Irish national education. He was defeated by the Conservative Conway Richard Dobbs, by 495 votes to 447, after a five-day contest involving extensive bribery.18 A petition was entered against Dobbs’s return, but the committee voided the election and an attempt was made to disfranchise the borough. Chichester never sought to re-enter Parliament and apparently failed to gain further patronage.19 In 1833 Edward Littleton* recounted that Chichester
in the last Parliament went to Lord Althorp* and told him his story and made his request, and going out of the room kept exclaiming, ‘Well, my lord, I think myself the most ill-used man in all Ireland’, upon which old George, who has been porter to all the chancellors of the exchequer for the last 30 years, came into the room immediately after Sir A.C. was gone, and said, ‘My lord, I hope you won’t mind what Sir A.C. has said, for I have heard him say the same thing to all the chancellors of the exchequer for the last 20 years’.20
He died from bilious fever in May 1847, at his house in Adelaide Place, Belfast. Described as a zealous committeeman on local benevolent societies, his office of weighmaster, recently purchased from the 3rd marquess of Donegall, reverted to the corporation at his death.21 His baronetcy became extinct, but his estate was presumably inherited by his nephew, the Rev. William Chichester (1813-83), prebend of Christ Church, Dublin, to whom administration of his property within the province of Canterbury was granted on 27 Sept. 1847.22 He, who was also heir to the last Viscount O’Neill (John O’Neill*), was created Baron O’Neill in 1868.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
- 1. King’s Inns Admission Pprs. 85; HP Commons, 1790-1820, vol. i, p. xxiii.
- 2. London Gazette, 28 July 1821. Not 11 Sept. 1821, as given in HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 437.
- 3. Belfast News Letter, 7, 17 Mar. 1820.
- 4. PRO NI, Downshire mss D671/C/12/237.
- 5. Add. 40296, f. 10; 40298, f. 4; Black Bk. (1823), 146; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 456.
- 6. The Times, 19, 25 July 1820.
- 7. Ibid. 17 Apr. 1821.
- 8. Belfast News Letter, 23 Dec. 1823, 25 Feb. 1825; CJ, lxxx. 73, 229, 231.
- 9. The Times, 26 Mar. 1825.
- 10. Belfast Commercial Chron. 10, 17, 19 June 1826.
- 11. Belfast News Letter, 9 Feb. 1827.
- 12. Ibid. 7 Oct.; Belfast Guardian, 30 Sept. 1828.
- 13. Belfast News Letter, 2 Oct. 1829.
- 14. Ibid. 30 July, 6, 10, 17 Aug., 30 Nov. 1830.
- 15. Ibid. 11 Feb. 1831.
- 16. CJ, lxxxvi. 689, 777.
- 17. Northern Whig, 25 Oct., 5, 12 Nov., 3, 10 Dec. 1832.
- 18. Ibid. 17, 20, 24 Dec.; Belfast News Letter, 13 Nov., 18, 21 Dec. 1832; PRO NI D2381/1.
- 19. He is not to be confused with Arthur Chichester (1783-1869), of Stokelake House, Devon, Conservative Member for Honiton, 1835-7.
- 20. Three Diaries, 354.
- 21. Belfast News Letter, 28 May; The Times, 29 May 1847; Gent. Mag. (1847), ii. 89.
- 22. PROB 6/223.