PARNELL HAYES, William (?1777-1821), of Avondale, co. Wicklow.

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



12 Aug. 1817 - 2 Jan. 1821

Family and Education

b. ?1777, 3rd s. of Sir John Parnell†, 2nd bt., of Rathleague, Queen’s Co. and Letitia Charlotte, da. and coh. of Sir Arthur Brooke, 1st bt., MP [I], of Colebrook, co. Fermanagh; bro. of Sir Henry Brooke Parnell, 4th bt*. educ. Eton; Trinity Coll. Camb. 25 June 1794, aged 17. m. 1 Oct. 1810, Frances, da. of Hon. Hugh Howard, MP [I], of Bushy Park, 4th s. of Ralph, 1st Visct. Wicklow [I], 1s. 1da. suc. fa. to Avondale estate, formerly the property of Samuel Hayes, MP [I] (d.1795), and took additional name of Hayes 1801. d. 2 Jan. 1821.

Offices Held


In 1817 Parnell, a cultivated and intelligent man but a political innocent, had written to the Irish secretary Robert Peel* who, not for the first time, had disappointed his hopes of a more enlightened approach to the economic and social problems of Ireland:

I have been rather unfortunate in my applications to you, so much so that I think some explanation is due to myself for having made them. I have always been miserable at the state of Ireland and have felt something of a personal gratitude to those who seem to wish her well, however they may have mistaken the means. I was a friend to Lord Hardwicke though his government was detestable and to the duke of Bedford though his was not much better, but both intended well. But in your good intentions there appeared more warmth and vigour, and though I could not approve of your administration, which seemed to have the vice common to all of receiving the Irish in a state of pupillage and keeping them so, yet I was so far captivated as to attempt to urge you to the adoption of those measures which can alone confer lasting honour on an Irish administration, those which tend to raise the lower orders in this country from the degradation into which they have been driven down. What was intended kindly ought not to be charged to interference or indiscretion. But though sanguine I am not quite absurd, and in future my good wishes shall be equally warm without being quite so troublesome.1

In the introduction to his polemical novel of Irish rural life, Maurice and Berghetta; or the Priest of Raherty, published in 1819, Parnell declared that he ‘scarcely remembers the time, when a passion for his native country, and a painful commiseration of the deplorable state of the peasantry in Ireland, were not the strongest feelings in his breast’. This book, which he dedicated to ‘the Catholic priesthood of Ireland’, whose ‘merits have always appeared to me equal to their privations’, was savaged by a Tory journal as ‘mischievous and absurd’ and Parnell was portrayed as ‘a child playing with fire-arms; an innocent who, by way of giving light to his neighbours, sticks his farthing candle into a barrel of gunpowder’. His sincerity was never in doubt, but he found it hard to shake off his reputation as an impractical theorist.2

At the 1820 general election Parnell, who had joined Brooks’s in 1816, offered again for county Wicklow on the combined interest of Lord Fitzwilliam, Lord Carysfort and his father-in-law’s family. He was returned unopposed.3 He continued to act as an independent opposition Member, voting against the Liverpool ministry on the civil list, 8 May, the additional Scottish baron of exchequer, 15 May, military expenditure, 16 May, 14 June, and the aliens bill, 1 June, 7 July, but deprecating the Whigs’ attacks on the turncoat lawyer Charles Warren*, 1 June. He criticized the protective Irish Union duties, 2 June, spoke and voted for his brother’s motion for inquiry into them, 14 June, and supported his attempt to shorten their existence, 7 July.4 After an appeal to the House on the hardships suffered by Irish paupers under the system whereby they were arbitrarily arrested and transported back to Ireland, 7 June, he obtained information on the subject. A week later he secured leave to introduce a bill to confine the landing of repatriated vagrants to designated ports and require arrangements for their reception. It received little support and, after a nominal second reading on 10 July, was set aside.5 Parnell welcomed the advance of £1,500,000 for the relief of problems caused by Irish bank failures, 16 June, and objected to the vote of £60,000 for Millbank penitentiary, 19 June. On 28 June 1820 he spoke against calls from the government back benches for coercive legislation to quell disturbances in the west of Ireland. Two days later he called for the establishment of an eye hospital in Dublin, but was told that there were no funds.6

The failure of Parnell’s Irish paupers bill, together with that of an earlier attempt to protect children employed in Irish cotton factories, was seized on by the Quarterly Review in its attack on his response to the ridicule of his novel in A Letter to the Editor of the Quarterly Review (Dublin 1820):

Whether advanced in a bill or in a novel, in sad reality or fantastic fiction, his theories are the wildest ... the most impracticable, and the most idle even if they could be put into practice, that we have ever witnessed ... We have thought it advisable to endeavour ... to render his follies innocuous, and to enable our readers to form a fair judgement of what they may expect from any future attempt at domestic or general reform by this amiable but weak, this well-intentioned but extravagant gentleman.7

Others dealt more kindly with him after his early death in January 1821, when he had just had some success in his efforts to raise funds to improve the education of the Irish Catholic poor. ‘No man was more amiable in private life ... and even his opponents admitted that, as an honest public man, he had no superior’, observed The Times. ‘Had Mr. Parnell lived’, conjectured another obituarist, ‘the attention which he was in the habit of giving in Parliament to Irish affairs would have been productive, ere long, of lasting benefits to his country. Time only was wanting to enable him to give effect to those plans, which had been his constant study from his earliest years, for relieving Ireland from her grievances, and for ameliorating the condition of all classes of her people, in wealth, in manners, and in morals’.8 His only son, John Henry Parnell (1811-59), was the father of Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-91), the ill-fated champion of Irish home rule, on whom William’s writing and example may have had a strong posthumous influence.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


See R.F. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell, 16-29.

  • 1. Add. 40269, f. 354.
  • 2. Quarterly Rev. xxi. (1819), 471-86.
  • 3. Dublin Evening Post, 7 Mar. 1820.
  • 4. The Times, 8 July 1820.
  • 5. Ibid. 11 July 1820.
  • 6. Ibid. 20 June, 1 July 1820.
  • 7. Quarterly Rev. xxiii. (1820), 373.
  • 8. The Times, 11 Jan. 1821; Gent. Mag. (1821), i. 86.