WARING MAXWELL, John (1788-1869), of Finnebrogue, co. Down.

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



1820 - 1830
1832 - 1834

Family and Education

b. 1788, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of John Charles Frederick Waring of Belvedere Place, Dublin and Dorothea, da. of Robert Maxwell of Finnebrogue. m. 26 Aug. 1817,1 Madelina Martha, da. of David Ker of Portavo, co. Down, s.p. suc. fa. 1802; took additional name of Maxwell by royal lic. 9 Apr. 1803. d. 22 Dec. 1869.

Offices Held

Sheriff, co. Down 1817-18.

Capt. Inch yeomanry 1811.


Waring Maxwell’s father John, lieutenant-colonel of the Down militia, belonged to the Waring family of Waringstown, county Down, one of whom, Samuel, had represented Hillsborough in the early eighteenth century Irish Commons. John was the son of Richard Waring and Sarah, daughter of the Ven. John Maxwell of Falkland, archdeacon of Clogher. In 1783 he married his first cousin, Dorothea, whose father (d. 1769), son of the Irish Member and privy counsellor Henry Maxwell of Finnebrogue, was head of a cadet branch of the Maxwells, Lords Farnham. She was heiress to her eldest brother Edward, in recognition of which Waring informally adopted the additional surname of Maxwell. He died 26 Oct. 1802, when, by his will (proved in 1803), he left his estates in trust to his eldest son, before he could have this legally recognized; but his wife obtained a royal licence to this effect for herself and their five children the following year.2

Waring Maxwell, who had a minor interest in Down Tory politics, got up an anti-Catholic petition at Inch in April 1819.3 He offered, on the interest of Lord de Clifford, for the open and venal householder borough of Downpatrick, where he had his estates, at the general election of 1820. After seeing off challenges from other local gentlemen, including his brother-in-law David Ker*, he defeated the radical Edward Ruthven* by 42 votes.4 In the Commons he voted ‘in general’ with the Liverpool administration, but was sometimes wayward, which makes it likely that he was occasionally confused with John Maxwell, Whig Member for Renfrewshire.5 As ‘W. Maxwell’, he voted for inquiry into military expenditure, 16 May 1820, and against dockyard expenses and the ordnance estimates, 7, 14 May 1821. No doubt hostile to Queen Caroline, he divided in defence of ministers’ conduct towards her, 6 Feb. 1821.6 He was probably not the ‘John Maxwell’ who voted for more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 21 Feb., or abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May 1822, but he did apparently divide with opposition for parliamentary reform, 25 Apr.7 He divided against the Catholic peers bill, 30 Apr. He blamed Irish distress on the tithe system, 20 May, and voted for inquiry into this, 19 June.8 He was credited with votes in favour of repealing the salt and window taxes, 28 June, 2 July 1822. He divided against the repeal of £2,000,000 of taxes, 3 Mar., and of the assessed taxes, 18 Mar. 1823. He voted for inquiries into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and the state of Ireland, 12 May. He apparently voted to condemn the conduct of the lord advocate in the Borthwick case, 3 June, but the ‘W. Maxwell’ who divided for the Scottish juries bill, 20 June 1823, was probably Sir William Maxwell, Member for Wigtownshire. No trace of parliamentary activity has been found during the 1824 session. He voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., and brought up the hostile Downpatrick petition, 9 Mar. 1825. On 22 Mar. he insisted that his support for committing the relief bill did not amount to a change of heart, but he announced his conversion to the cause, 21 Apr., when he voted for the second reading.9 Yet he was again listed in the hostile minority on the third reading, 10 May 1825, and thereafter remained an opponent of emancipation. If he was not the Maxwell who spoke for retaining a metallic currency and for tax reductions, 26 May 1826, he made no parliamentary contributions that session. He was returned unopposed for Downpatrick at the general election of 1826.10

Waring Maxwell, who signed the anti-Catholic petition from the noblemen and gentlemen of Ireland in February 1827, got up another hostile petition from Inch early that year.11 He was thanked (including at a dinner in May) for his condemnation of the pro-Catholic petition from Bangor, which was presented on 2 Mar., and brought up a hostile petition from there, 5 Mar.12 He was listed in the majority against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, but was absent from the division the following session, during which he was inactive. He was again toasted at a dinner of Bangor Protestants, 8 May, and, having joined the Irish Brunswick Club, he became president of the Downpatrick branch on 14 Nov. 1828.13 In February 1829 Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, classified him as ‘opposed to the principle’ of Catholic emancipation, but he missed all the divisions in March through illness. He had been entrusted with more hostile petitions from Down, but it was apparently his kinsman Henry Maxwell, Member for Cavan, who brought up the one from Downpatrick, 30 Mar.14 Yet it was surely he, not Sir William Maxwell, who presented the petition of the North Down militia staff against the reductions in their establishment, 15 May, and he certainly voted against Daniel O’Connell being allowed to take his seat unimpeded, 18 May 1829. He was again said to be unwell during the following session, although he was listed in the minority for transferring East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 Mar. 1830.15

Facing a contest with Ruthven, Waring Maxwell withdrew at the dissolution in 1830, claiming that he had long been in ‘very delicate and uncertain’ health.16 In March 1831 he signed the requisition for the Down county meeting against agitating repeal of the Union.17 An anti-reformer, he played no part in the Downpatrick election that year, but was well enough to chair a meeting in defence of the Protestant interest at Inch in January 1832.18 Described by one radical paper as ‘that old Tory hack’, he was re-elected unopposed for Downpatrick at the general election of 1832, when Ruthven won a seat at Dublin and another reformer failed to show up.19 He retired two years later, making way for Ker, but remained an active and ‘decided Tory’ in local affairs. He died childless in December 1869, leaving the bulk of his estate to his nephew Robert Perceval (1813-1905) of Groomsport, Down, who took the additional surname of Maxwell in 1839.20

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. Belfast News Letter, 29 Aug. 1817.
  • 2. PRO NI, Perceval-Maxwell mss D3244/F/2/1; F/23; Burke Irish Fam. Recs. (1976) sub (Perceval-) Maxwell, co. Down; Index to Prerogative Wills of Ireland ed. Sir A. Vicars, 321; Hist. Irish Parl. v. 222-3; vi. 501-2.
  • 3. PRO NI, Castlereagh mss D3030/M/40; Perceval-Maxwell mss G/1/45.
  • 4. Belfast News Letter, 28 Mar. 1820; PRO NI, Ker mss D2651/3/36.
  • 5. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 476.
  • 6. Perceval-Maxwell mss G/1/9, 10.
  • 7. Black Bk. (1823), 177.
  • 8. The Times, 21 May 1822.
  • 9. Ibid. 10, 23 Mar. 1825.
  • 10. Belfast Commercial Chron. 3, 7, 17 June 1826.
  • 11. Add. 40392, f. 5; Perceval-Maxwell mss G/1/42-5; Belfast News Letter, 2 Mar. 1827.
  • 12. Perceval-Maxwell mss G/1/40, 41, 48, 49, 54; Belfast News Letter, 19 Jan., 13 Apr., 8 June; The Times, 6 Mar. 1827.
  • 13. Belfast Guardian, 13 May; Belfast News Letter, 18 Nov. 1828; Perceval-Maxwell mss G/1/55.
  • 14. Perceval-Maxwell mss E/7/31, 44; G/1/59.
  • 15. Ibid. E/7/48, 51.
  • 16. Ibid. G/1/65-70; Belfast News Letter, 16, 20 July 1830.
  • 17. Newry Commercial Telegraph, 18 Mar. 1831.
  • 18. Perceval-Maxwell mss G/1/74, 74A, 75; Belfast News Letter, 27 Jan 1832.
  • 19. Belfast News Letter, 11, 18 Dec.; Newry Examiner, 15 Dec. 1832.
  • 20. Downpatrick Recorder, 24 Dec. 1869; Perceval-Maxwell mss E/58/2.