WYSE, Thomas (1791-1862), of the Manor of St. John, co. Waterford

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



1830 - 1832
1835 - 1841
13 June 1842 - 1847

Family and Education

b. 9 Dec. 1791, 1st. s. of Thomas Wyse of the Manor of St. John and Frances Maria, da. and h. of George Bagge of Dromore. educ. by Michael Quin of Cashel 1797; Stonyhurst 1800; Trinity, Dublin 1809; L. Inn 1813. m. 4 Mar. 1821, at Canino, Letitia Christine, da. of Lucien Bonaparte, prince of Canino (bro. of Napoleon I), 2s. CB 1 Mar. 1851; KCB 27 Mar. 1857. d. 15 Apr. 1862.

Offices Held

Ld. of treasury Aug. 1839-Sept. 1841; sec. to bd. of control July 1846-Jan. 1849; PC [I] 13 Feb. 1849; minister plenip. to Greece 1849-d.


Wyse came from an old Anglo-Norman family who had acquired the monastic manor of St. John on its dissolution by Henry VIII and been prominent in the politics of Waterford corporation prior to their exclusion as Catholics. His great-grandfather and namesake had helped found the first Catholic Association in 1760. In 1800 he and his younger brother George entered the Jesuit college of Stonyhurst, where he was a ‘serious’ and ‘conscientious’ student and his contemporaries included John Talbot, later 16th earl of Shrewsbury, and his distant kinsman and life-long associate Richard Sheil*. Wyse and Sheil experienced remarkably similar political careers, though Sheil clearly considered himself the superior speaker, as is evident from his later satirical portrait of Wyse in the New Monthly Magazine:

His person is small and rather below the middle size ... However ... he holds himself erect, and seems a little animated by a consciousness that he belongs to an ancient family and is the owner of the manor of St. John. He is exceedingly graceful ... and at once conveys the impression of his having lived in the best society ... [He] is eminently accomplished; a master of several languages; a poet; a painter; versed in antiquities, and a traveller in the East ... His eloquence, however, is perhaps a little too rotund and full, and he is too wholesale a dealer in abstractions and too lofty an intonator of high-sounding diction: but it flows out of a copious and abundant fountain, and runs through a broad channel, amidst all the rich investings of highly decorated phrase. What he mainly wants is simplicity and directness ... He gives his hearer credit for more velocity in following him than he is entitled to, and forgets that when he arrives himself per saltum at a conclusion, full many an auditor may not be able to leap with the same agility to his consequences as himself.1

In 1809 Wyse was admitted to Trinity, where he won prizes in Greek and Latin composition and became noted for his oratory as an active member of its Historical Society. After graduating he received an annual allowance of £600 from his father, an Irish absentee landlord, and read for the bar, but on the cessation of hostilities in 1815 he decamped to the continent. There he remained for the next ten years, travelling widely and spending long periods in Italy, where he became a frequent guest of Lucien Bonaparte, prince of Canino, a younger brother of Napoleon I. Encouraged by Sheil, he agreed to Lucien’s offer of marriage to his 16-year-old daughter Letitia and, after a lengthy legal wrangle with his father, which resulted in contradictory settlements based on English and Roman law, the couple were married in 1821. His first son was born the following year but thereafter the marriage deteriorated into mutual hatred. They separated in 1828, by when it had become a ‘matter of notoriety’ that their ‘happiness had not been uniform or uninterrupted’. Thereafter Wyse, by all accounts an indifferent father, became increasingly estranged from his two sons, who remained devoted to their mother.2

In August 1825 Wyse and his family returned to Waterford, where, in an attempt to ease his financial difficulties, he threw himself into travel writing, contributing articles to the New Monthly Magazine and preparing a book, The Continental Traveller’s Oracle, or, Maxims for Foreign Locomotion (1828), for which he received an advance of £150. During the rumours of a dissolution in October 1825 he became chairman of the county Waterford election committee for Henry Villiers Stuart*, a Protestant member of the Catholic Association. At the 1826 general election he presided over Villiers Stuart’s successful campaign against the sitting Member Lord George Thomas Beresford, directing the local management of committees and travelling around with a Catholic priest, who translated his speeches into Irish. He later established the Protecting Association of Waterford to provide relief for persecuted tenants who had voted against Beresford, for which he secured funds from the Association.3 On 7 Apr. 1827, at an aggregate meeting of the Catholics of county Waterford, he proposed the appointment of a committee to draw up the rules for a county Liberal Club.4 Hearing in early February 1828 that his wife had ‘received an invitation from Lady Holland to spend some time with her in London’, he advised Lord Holland, ‘She has left this country and her family in defiance of my express prohibition and consequently I cannot consider myself responsible for her future conduct or pecuniary engagements’.5 That month he secured the support of the Association for the publication of a common manual to ‘direct the popular mind’ and help unite the ‘scattered and divergent impulses’ in the Catholic movement. His Political Catechism, explaining ‘the constitutional rights and civil disabilities of the Catholics of Ireland’, appeared shortly before the passage of emancipation the following year.6

Following the election of Daniel O’Connell for county Clare in 1828, Wyse urged Edward Dwyer, the Association’s secretary, to establish a ‘uniform’ and ‘permanent’ network of county and parochial clubs headed by the Association across the ‘entire nation’, 30 July. ‘By such a system’, he contended, ‘the Catholic or rather independent constituency of Ireland will be completely disciplined’ and ‘every county in a few months, will naturally and almost of itself become a Clare or Waterford’. He later asserted that within a few months, ‘in every county in Munster and in most counties in Leinster and Connaught, Liberal Clubs were established’, providing the Association with ‘a more visible supremacy’ and ‘a much more manageable description of power’.7 That summer he reorganized the city of Waterford club and established a county club, of which he became secretary. He also launched a campaign to open the closed corporation of Waterford, to which he was admitted as a freemen in June 1829.8 At a Munster provincial meeting chaired by his kinsman James Scully of Tipperary, 25 Aug. 1828, he denied assertions by John Hely Hutchinson, Member for county Tipperary, that the Association’s activities were ‘reckless’ and ‘prejudicial’ to the final settlement of the Catholic question or that ‘they should stand in the surliness of despondency, leaving it to the march of events to right their cause’, and demanded that England, as the ‘perverter of the ways of providence and the interceptor of all those blessings which were meant for Ireland’, immediately redress ‘a despotism unexampled for its length and iniquity amongst the civilised nations of the earth’. Next day he seconded a motion for the establishment of a Tipperary Liberal Club on the Waterford model, and at the ensuing dinner argued in favour of forming committees for the purpose of ‘detecting municipal abuses and ascertaining the rights and franchises of corporations ... in close boroughs’.9 At the club’s first meeting that October he was toasted as its founder.10 On 4 Nov. 1828 a dinner attended by over 150 persons was held for him in the city of Waterford under the chairmanship of Robert Carew, Member for county Wexford.11 Next month he successfully opposed O’Connell’s proposed mission to England to plead the cause of emancipation.12 He was a founding member of the non-sectarian Society of the Friends of Civil and Religious Liberty established in Dublin, 21 Jan. 1829. ‘Wyse and others of the Catholics ... felt as we all do how much harm to the cause the violent members of the Association do, and how impossible it is to control them unless the Protestants come forward’, an informant explained to Lord Downshire, 5 Feb. 1829.13 Writing next day from England, where he had gone to witness the Wellington ministry’s concession of emancipation, Wyse informed Dwyer that ‘the great event is about to take place’ and urged the immediate dissolution of the Association, observing that ‘it will be a glorious precedent in our history’. It was dissolved on a motion made in his absence, 13 Feb.14 On 13 Apr. 1829 he recorded in his diary:

The relief bill had just received the royal assent. This is the most memorable legislative event for two successive centuries, the Magna Carta of modern times, a real revolution ... Everything is accomplished, we are free ... Another era begins, the Union is at last sealed as well as signed. We are no longer the chained galley slave, rejoicing in the wreck of the vessel which was his prison, but a band of free fellow sailors, determined ... to sink or swim with the country.15

Next month it was reported that he had started for an anticipated vacancy at Waterford city, which did not occur.16 His Historical Sketch of the Late Catholic Association, containing a ‘frank and candid’ account of the inner workings of the Association and a ‘mass of useful’ documents relating to the struggle over the previous 60 years, was published to wide acclaim at the end of that year.17

At the 1830 general election it was expected that he would offer for Waterford city, but in the event he came forward for the county, where he was joined by Beresford and, to his dismay, O’Connell, who had accepted an invitation from the independents. After an ill-humoured public exchange he withdrew on the second day of the poll, conceding that only one ‘popular’ candidate could succeed, 13 Aug.18 Later that day he was solicited to stand for county Tipperary, where there was a last minute opening on the independent interest. After a short delay, during which O’Connell remonstrated with him that ‘in the present state of public affairs it is the duty of every man of intellect ... to lead and not check the public sentiment’, 15 Aug., he agreed to accept. In his address he declared his support for ‘constitutional reform’ and opposition to ‘every encroachment on popular rights’, including Irish tithes, the Irish Vestry Subletting Acts and the ‘flagrant abuses’ of corporations. Following a seven-day poll, in which he was widely ‘applauded’ for ‘resigning in favour of the Liberator’, he was narrowly returned in second place, amidst allegations of wholesale intimidation by his supporters and comparisons with the earlier Catholic victories in county Waterford and Clare. A petition was presented against his return but not pursued.19 Congratulating him, 26 Aug., the Whig Lord Lansdowne observed, ‘I had no expectation of seeing your name represented ... perceiving that some sort of understanding between O’Connell and the Beresfords had excluded you from the county. That a proportion of Catholic Members should enter into the representation ... was a great public object, but it is even greater that Ireland should be represented by persons like yourself’.20 ‘My county Tipperary comrades have done their duty’, observed another correspondent, adding, ‘O’Connell ‘tis true was worthy of any county in Ireland ... but ... Waterford was your native right’.21 In October 1830 a county Waterford meeting was ‘marked by clashes’ between him and local supporters of O’Connell’s campaign for repeal of the Union.22

Wyse voted for O’Connell’s motion for repeal of the Irish Subletting Act, 11 Nov., when, in a maiden speech said to be in the ‘style and language of the late Henry Grattan*’, he welcomed government plans for its amendment but argued that repeal would be ‘preferable’ and advocated ‘other remedial measures’, including the abolition of the monopolies of grand juries and corporations and the provision of loans for the employment of the Irish poor. ‘Though moderate ... I approve’, noted his agent and kinsman Edmund Scully.23 ‘A few ... find fault that you did not support O’Connell when attacked’, wrote James Scully, ‘but you must ... best judge how to act’.24 He was appointed to the select committee on the Irish poor that day. He divided for reduction of West Indian wheat import duties, 12 Nov. He had been listed by the Irish agent Pierce Mahony† as a ‘neutral’, but as ‘opposed to government’ by Henry Brougham* and one of its ‘foes’ by ministers, and he voted against them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. Next day he presented a repeal petition from Carrick-on-Suir and, in remarks that were evidently inaudible in the gallery and not ‘fairly reported’, called on O’Connell ‘to fix an early date for the discussion of the repeal question’, as he later recounted.25 ‘Your call upon O’Connell relative to ... the repeal of the Union has given a great deal of dissatisfaction’, the Catholic bishop of Waterford warned him, 27 Nov. In a similar vein, Edmund Scully told George Wyse, ‘I regret much your brother put the question to O’Connell as to the time he would bring forward the repeal of the Union so soon after Doherty asked him the same, as it has made great noise here’.26 That month Stephen Coppinger, a former secretary of the Association, reported that at a repeal meeting in Dublin a ‘severe attack’ had been made on Wyse’s parliamentary conduct.27 ‘They were ... severe on you because you did not at once declare in favour of ... repeal ... and go hand in hand with O’Connell’, explained an observer.28 Wyse brought up further repeal petitions, 22 Nov., 17 Dec., when he announced his disinclination to comment further on the issue, and 18 Dec. He explained his silence to the promoter of the latter petition:

I have already declared in the House that I should abstain from all discussion of so important a question in presenting petitions and should reserve whatever may be my opinions, until such time as it should come in a regular and practical shape before the House. I professed on the hustings the greatest readiness to represent the wishes of my constituents ... A question which during a period of such excitement did not appear of sufficient importance to produce a single observation from a single freeholder, much less a distinct demand on the candidate to support, must at least be new to the public mind and as such would appear to ... require a little more investigation and deliberation ... before we proceed to an irrevocable decision.29

He gave notice of a motion to reform the funding of Irish education, 16 Nov., and endorsed a petition against the ‘intolerable abuses’ of Irish charter schools, 16 Dec. He argued that the metropolitan police should be financed from local rather than national taxation, 18 Nov. He presented and endorsed a petition against the ‘oppressive’ Irish seaborne coals tax, 22 Nov. He denied that distress in Ireland arising from high agricultural rents was owing to the ‘exorbitancy of landlords’, contending that the ‘absence of manufactures and other outlets’ caused an ‘unnatural and pernicious competition’, which could only by remedied by enabling the ‘enterprising and industrious to take advantage of government capital’, 23 Nov. He presented petitions for the equalization of the Galway franchise that day, 16 Dec., when he called for the penalties against Catholic electors to be remedied ‘as speedily as possible’. Writing to Edmund Scully following the accession of the Grey ministry, 2 Dec., he declared:

A new impulse has been given, the old rubbish swept away. Education, employment, retrenchment, reform are the order of the day and honest men need no longer despair of the redemption of their country. With these hopes so full upon me ... how calmly I can look down on the misrepresentations which have been heaped on my parliamentary conduct. My great offence is not having stood by O’Connell when attacked by the treasury bench ... In presenting the Carrick petition, it is true I called on O’Connell to fix an early day for the discussion ... I echoed the wish of many of my constituents; in their petition they call for ‘an immediate discussion’ also ... O’Connell I shall always ardently support, whenever I think him right, but not one little bit further. This I have told him in public ... The assumption of leadership either in the House or out ... I utterly spurn. I never endured it from any man and never will.30

He secured returns of Irish county freeholders in order to determine how the disfranchisement bill had worked, 2 Dec., presented and endorsed a petition for the enfranchisement of Irish chattel leaseholders, citing the ‘preponderance of town voters over the rustic constituency’, and argued that Irish commercial towns such as Belfast, Limerick and Waterford had as good a claim to additional representatives as the ‘numerous insignificant boroughs in the south of England’, 16 Dec. On 7 Dec. it was reported to the new viceroy Lord Anglesey that Wyse had quarrelled publicly with O’Connell over repeal.31 That month Lord Melbourne, the home secretary, informed Anglesey that Parnell, Member for Queen’s County, was confident that O’Connell could be brought into government, having ‘conversed with Wyse’ who ‘knows O’Connell well’, but cautioned that ‘he is in his heart not friendly to him, and may perhaps entertain of him a worse and lower opinion than he deserves’.32 On 20 Dec. Anglesey contemplated using Wyse, whom he believed to be ‘honest’, as a possible go-between in ministers’ abortive attempt to offer O’Connell the office of master of the rolls. Four days later, however, he was warned that O’Connell had ‘made a ferocious attack on Mahony, Sheil, Wyse and others’.33 On 29 Dec. 1830 James Scully reassured Wyse that he had dined with a large party in Tipperary, who ‘all agreed that nothing could be better than your conduct in Parliament, and that if you allowed yourself to be made the follower of any man, right or wrong, you would not deserve the place you have’.34

Defending his stance on repeal at a constituency meeting in early February 1831, Wyse explained that ‘should my judgement be convinced by fair debate, I will willingly vote for the measure’ and, in a thinly disguised attack on O’Connell, declared:

Of what use is it to invite argument if, in the next breath, I declare to my antagonist that if he dares to argue against me, I will treat him as my foe, brand him as a monster, refuse to deal with him, and hold him up to popular execration? ... A just cause requires no such weapons: a man truly imbued with what liberty ought to be, will and ought to despise them.35

To the accompaniment of ‘loud cheers’ in the House, 8 Feb., Wyse denied the existence of ‘universal support’ for repeal, spoke of its ‘dangerous effects’ and of the many popular fallacies to which its agitation was attributable and demanded that O’Connell bring the question before the Commons for a ‘proper examination’.36 ‘I was cheered vehemently throughout from both sides ... and next day warmly congratulated by friend and foe’, he observed in an undated but surely related letter to his brother Francis, adding, ‘My position in that House is henceforth certain, I hope I can now afford to be utterly indifferent to the ignorance and malignity of the coteries at Waterford’.37 ‘Wyse has by his manly conduct deserved well of us all. Would he now like a baronetcy? If he would, might he not have it?’, Lord Holland told Anglesey, 9 Feb.38 He presented petitions against the grant to the Kildare Place Society, 14 Feb., 4, 29, 30 Mar., and endorsed one for repeal of the Irish Vestry Act, 16 Feb. Informing him that a constituency repeal petition had been sent to O’Connell, a correspondent explained that ‘they would not have gone out of their own county for a person to present it’ had they ‘supposed that you would have pressed ... the petition on the attention of the House in a forcible manner’.39 He welcomed the ministry’s plan of reform, but complained that Ireland had a ‘claim to a considerably greater number’ of Members, 9 Mar., and after ‘measuring fairly the extent, population and revenue’ of each country argued that it should receive 132, England and Wales 467 and Scotland 59, 20 Apr. On 19 Mar. he presented a favourable constituency petition and conceded that reform ‘would do more than anything else to promote the tranquillity of Ireland’. He deferred his motion for a bill to establish a board of public works for the employment of the Irish poor, 22 Mar., explaining that he was ‘much gratified’ that government was to adopt a ‘portion’ of his intended scheme, 30 Mar. Advocating the replacement of Irish grand juries with elected boards that day, he declared, ‘I am for domestic legislatures’ and ‘would bring them to every man’s door’, for ‘the elector to a county board would soon understand the duties of an elector to an Imperial Parliament. It would do more good than gaols or bayonets to bind the poor to the rich, and Ireland to England’. He spoke and voted for the second reading of the English reform bill, 22 Mar., and divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr.40 On 21 Apr. 1831 he contended that by making a ‘concession in time’ and ‘being liberal, whilst yet you may, revolution may yet be quenched by reform’, but ‘wait a little longer, temporize, modify, delay’, and ‘events marching rapidly will be beyond your control’.

At the 1831 general election he offered again for county Tipperary as a reformer, amidst reports that a ‘strong feeling’ had been got up against him by O’Connell, who it was rumoured would also stand.41 On 2 May James Scully advised him to retaliate and ‘either really stand for Waterford county ... or else appear to do so in a manner that may alarm O’Connell for his safety there’, adding ‘What would you think of stating that if the reformed Parliament does not do full justice to Ireland speedily, that you would then either support any measure generally recommended by your constituents or ... resign ... I do not think it could be fairly called cringing to the repealers at this critical period’.42 He spoke accordingly on the hustings, stressing his support for reform, which ‘unless ... carried’ would promote ‘a scene of blood and slaughter’, and calling for additional Members to be given to such Irish counties as Tipperary. A contest was narrowly averted at the last minute and he was returned unopposed.43 On 15 June he invited James Emerson to comment on a plan which he had ‘extensively circulated ... for the creation of a sort of local government in Ireland. It is intended to supply the want of that able administration ... and to effect a radical correction of the innumerable abuses of our church, grand jury and corporation systems’.44 He welcomed the announcement of a £500,000 grant for the new Irish board of public works and secured clarification from Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, that its commissioners would be based in Dublin rather than London, 30 June. He protested that the Irish arms regulation bill ‘would ripen the very discontent it was intended to check’ and urged ministers to ‘subdue Ireland’ by ‘other measures such as reform’, 1 July. He spoke in support of the bill to prevent corporate funds being applied to electioneering purposes, saying he knew of instances in which their charitable funds been ‘shamefully abused’, 4 July. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against the adjournment, 12 July, and gave general support to its details, though he was in the minority for the disfranchisement of Saltash, 26 July, and divided against the division of English counties, 11 Aug. He voted for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. On 14 July he condemned the grant to the Kildare Place Society ‘sect’ and spoke in favour of establishing a system of education for Ireland which was non-sectarian and ‘acceptable to the entire nation’. He campaigned steadily against grants to ‘proselytizing societies’ and for a national system thereafter, citing his desire to ‘unite Catholics and Protestants and remove the religious animosities which at present exist’, 2 Aug., and obtaining leave for a bill to establish parochial schools accountable to a board in Dublin, 8 Aug. 1831, which was introduced but went no further. (‘Much of it was put into practical operation by the government in the month following’, he explained, 20 July 1832.) He endorsed a petition for the establishment of non-sectarian scholarships to Dublin University, 19 Aug. 1831. On 29 Aug. he opposed the grant to the Dublin Society on account of its ‘exclusive character’, but defended that to the Belfast Academical Institution, whose leaders had ‘paid great attention to the various systems of education’ and ‘tried on a small scale the systems of Pestalozzi and Fellenberg’: he called for the foundation of a university ‘along similar lines’ at Cork. On 9 Sept. 1831 he welcomed Smith Stanley’s new plan of education, declaring, ‘the great point is at last conceded ... Ireland is to have a system of national education’ without reference to ‘any particular party or sect’, and urging the appointment of ‘both Catholic and Protestant inspectors’.

Wyse voted against the grant for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies, 25 July 1831. He warned that the ‘imposition’ of tithes had begun to promote a ‘spirit of insubordination’ in Ireland, 2 Aug. He divided against the issue of the Dublin writ, 8 Aug., but with ministers on the election controversy, 23 Aug. He argued and voted in favour of printing the Waterford petition for disarming the Irish yeomanry, whose ‘bayonets’ had ‘only added exasperation to discontent and bloodshed to tumult’, 11 Aug., and protested that the ‘power entrusted to them’ had ‘been abused’, 3 Oct. He welcomed the Irish public works bill, 15 Aug., noting the similarity to his intended bill next day, when he spoke in support of establishing an elected board, or Irish domestic legislature, to control trade, agriculture, charities, gaols and police, and public education. He introduced the Galway franchise bill removing impediments to Catholic electors, 24 Aug., which was read a third time, 26 Sept., and received royal assent, 15 Oct. (1 and 2 Gul. IV, c. 49). That August he was one of the deputation of Irish Members which threatened Lord Grey with ‘opposing the government’ if ‘their views of the policy fit to be pursued’ in Ireland were not adopted.45 He defended their actions and denied the use of ‘threats’, 26 Aug. A few days later Holland noted that Parnell, the war secretary, was in ‘earnest to procure offices of trust for some Catholics such as Sheil, Wyse and others’.46 He voted for legal provision for the Irish poor, 29 Aug. On 31 Aug. he declared that the Irish church was ‘nothing more than a corporation’ and asked:

Is it to continue the only one, amongst all the corporations, unaltered by the necessities and habits of the people of the present day? ... By the reform bill vested and corporate rights are swept away with a resolute and wise hand for the good of the community ... If that justification is admitted in one case, I cannot see why it should be disallowed in another.

He welcomed the government’s bill to reform the Irish grand jury system, 16 Sept., but on hearing its details told Smith Stanley it would prove insufficient to placate the Irish people, 29 Sept. 1831.

Wyse spoke at a county Tipperary meeting in support of reform in November.47 He paired for the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and again generally supported its details, though he was in the minority of 32 against the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 1 Feb. 1832. He voted for the third reading, 22 Mar., and paired for Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May. He voted for the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May, but complained that it was not ‘such an efficient reform as they had a right to expect’, protested at the different treatment of England and Ireland and called for the re-enfranchisement of the Irish 40s. freeholders, without which there would be an ‘unreformed and a reformed’ House ‘under the same roof’, 13 June. He was in the minorities for a Conservative amendment to increase Scottish county representation, 1 June, and for a system of representation for New South Wales, 28 June. He commended O’Connell’s plan to extend the Irish county franchise to £5 freeholders and voted accordingly, 18 June. He presented and endorsed petitions for an extension of the Irish bill and the enfranchisement of Carrick-on-Suir, 5 July. On 18 July he demanded abolition of the Irish registration oath, observing that it was ‘a most abominable and insulting thing to require a man to swear that he does not believe that the Pope possesses the power to order subjects to murder their sovereigns’. He voted for the Irish Vestry Act amendment bill, 23 Jan. Next day he warned that the non-payment of tithes was spreading ‘over every part’ of Ireland and that it was ‘an opprobrium on the legislature to leave the matter as it stands’. He condemned the absurdity of the Irish tithes committee making its report before hearing ‘the whole of the evidence’ and argued and was a minority teller for printing the Woollen Grange petition for the abolition of tithes, 16 Feb. He presented others in similar terms, 13, 19, 30 Mar., 6, 10, 11 Apr., 5 July, and spoke and voted to print that from Preston, 3 Aug. He divided against the Irish tithes bill, 8 Mar., and opposed it steadily thereafter, complaining that Irish Members had a ‘right’ to a ‘longer discussion’ of the subject when they had sat ‘night after night’ listening to ‘details of the boundaries of villages of which they knew nothing’, 28 Mar., and urging Smith Stanley to abandon a measure which was merely ‘coercive’ without having any remedy attached to it, 30 Mar., 10 July, 2 Aug. 1832.

Wyse divided with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. 1832. On 13 Feb. he objected to Protestant demands ‘for the full use of the Bible’ under the new plan of Irish education, observing, ‘Are there not in that volume passages unfit for youth and for the female eyes especially?’ Thereafter he presented numerous petitions and spoke regularly in defence of the new plan, clashing repeatedly with the Protestant proselytiser James Edward Gordon over his scheme to put the Bible in the hands of every child. On 20 July he called for the ‘ordonnance du jour’ establishing the new plan to be replaced by ‘permanent’ legislation following the passage of reform, to ‘which this education question was constantly made auxiliary’, adding that this had been the intention of his abandoned parochial schools bill. He recommended inquiry into a national system of secondary schools for the ‘education of the professional and middle classes’, 26 July. On 4 Aug. he urged the ‘absolute necessity’ of establishing a ‘good system for the instruction’ of Irish teachers. He was in a minority of 13 against the recommittal of the anatomy bill, 27 Feb. He called for a complete revision of the Irish grand jury system and controls on their expenditure, 5 Mar. He presented and endorsed a Galway petition against the unfair admission charges levied on Catholic freemen since the passage of his Act, 13 Mar., and brought in a bill to remedy the situation which was read a first time, 24 July, but went no further. He voted with ministers for the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr., but against the Irish registry of deeds bill, 9 Apr., and was in a minority of four against Alexander Baring’s bill to exclude insolvent debtors from Parliament, 30 May. Next day he cautioned against legislative interference to suppress disturbances in Queen’s County, where the magistrates should be allowed to ‘do their duty’, and successfully moved an amendment limiting inquiry to ‘the immediate causes’ of unrest; he was appointed to the select committee that day.48 On 5 June he postponed a tabled motion for inquiry into the state of Irish diocesan schools in order not to impede the reform bills, ‘the most important measures ever introduced in this country since 1688’. He advocated delaying inquiry into the introduction of Irish poor laws for similar reasons, 19 June. On 28 June he urged ministers to condemn the invasion of Poland by Russia, whereby ‘sworn charters have been violated, a gallant people laid in bondage, women and children massacred, and a high-spirited and intelligent nation ... blotted out from the map of Europe’. He ridiculed the appointment of a select committee on the better observance of the Sabbath, arguing that the only effect of any ‘restraints’ would be to ‘produce hypocrisy and not religion’, 3 July. He called for an extension of the forgery bill to Ireland, 6 July, and welcomed this, 31 July. He defended Dublin University’s proposed £2 admission charge to a Masters degree conferring the vote as it would ‘fund two professorships’, 9 July. Next day he obtained leave for a bill to enable tenants for life to raise money by mortgage which would ‘facilitate the raising of capital in Ireland’. On 2 Aug. he called on the House to ‘strongly express its disapprobation’ of the Diet of Frankfurt for issuing decrees that ‘have violated not only the rights of man, and of civilized Europe, but its own previous engagements’. He presented a petition for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 4 Aug. In September 1832 he published a scheme for a reorganisation of Ireland under three heads:

1) Total alteration of the ecclesiastical system, including the abolition of all sinecures.

2) Total alteration of the legislative system, as a result of which subordinate parliaments would be set up in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

3) Total alteration of the municipal system, and the extension of the principles of local government in every way possible.49

At the 1832 general election Wyse retired from county Tipperary, was rumoured to have started for county Carlow, but in the event came forward as a Liberal for the city of Waterford, where he was defeated in fourth place on account of his refusal to take O’Connell’s repeal pledge.50 He devoted the next two years to preparing his most widely read book, Education Reform, or, The Necessity of a National System of Education (1836), and nurturing the Waterford constituency, for which he was returned in first place in 1835 and sat until his defeat in 1847. (He was defeated in 1841 but seated on petition the following year.) He continued to campaign steadily on education issues, earning himself the sobriquet ‘the Member for education’, and was an ‘able but dilatory’ member of numerous select committees and the royal commission on fine arts, which oversaw the decoration of the new Houses of Parliament. Like Sheil’s, his political career faded away into second class ministerial office in the Liberal administrations of Melbourne and Russell, by whom he was appointed British plenipotentiary to Greece in 1849. Wyse died in harness of heart failure in April 1862 and was given a public funeral on the orders of the king of Greece. By his will, dated 12 Mar. 1862, he left his Waterford estates to his niece Winifrede Mary Wyse, who posthumously edited his An Excursion in the Peloponneses in the Year 1858 (1865) and Impressions of Greece ... and Letters to Friends at Home (1871). Following a legal challenge, however, the estates reverted to his estranged son and heir-at-law Napoleon Alfred Bonaparte-Wyse (1822-95), who during his lifetime passed them to his brother William Charles Bonaparte-Wyse (1826-92).51

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


See J.J. Auchmuty, Sir Thomas Wyse (1939).

  • 1. R. Sheil, Sketches, Legal and Political ed. M.W. Savage, ii. 339-40.
  • 2. Auchmuty, 2-47; The Times, 27 June 1828.
  • 3. Auchmuty, 81-96; T. Wyse, Hist. Catholic Association, i. 262-7, 342; Waterford Chron. 1 July, 2 Nov. 1826.
  • 4. Dublin Evening Post, 19 Apr. 1827; F. O’Ferrall, Catholic Emancipation, 170.
  • 5. Add. 51834, Wyse to Holland, 5 Feb. 1828.
  • 6. O’Ferrall, 173-4; Auchmuty, 115.
  • 7. Wyse, i. 342; ii. pp. clxv-cliv; O’Ferrall, 215.
  • 8. O’Ferrall, 221-3.
  • 9. Wyse, ii. p. clvii; Dublin Evening Post, 28 Aug., 2 Sept.; Waterford Chron. 1 Sept.; Tipperary Free Press, 3 Sept. 1828.
  • 10. Tipperary Free Press, 11 Oct. 1828.
  • 11. Ibid. 8 Nov. 1828.
  • 12. Wyse, i. 424.
  • 13. PRO NI, Downshire mss D671/C/12/379.
  • 14. Wyse, ii. pp. cclii, cclxvi, ccxcvii.
  • 15. Auchmuty, 118.
  • 16. PRO NI, Pack-Beresford mss D664/A/56.
  • 17. The Times, 30 Dec. 1829.
  • 18. Pack-Beresford mss A/149; Waterford Chron. 14 Aug. 1830; O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1711.
  • 19. NLI, Wyse mss 15024 (7), Hayes to Wyse, 13 Aug.; (9), Dwyer to Wyse, 16 Aug.; (6), Stephen Coppinger to Wyse, 28 Aug.; Auchmuty, 126; Tipperary Free Press, 18, 21, 25 Aug. 1830.
  • 20. Wyse mss (7).
  • 21. Ibid. (6), Osborne to Wyse, 26 Aug. 1830.
  • 22. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1716.
  • 23. Wyse mss (2), E. Scully to Wyse, 16, 19 Nov. 1830.
  • 24. Ibid. J. Scully to Wyse, 26 Nov. 1830.
  • 25. The Times, 17 Nov. 1830; Wyse mss (1), Slattery to Wyse, 27 Nov., Wyse to Slattery, 19 Dec. 1830.
  • 26. Wyse mss (2), E. Scully to G. Wyse, 30 Nov. 1830.
  • 27. Ibid. (1), Coppinger to Wyse, 26 Nov. 1830.
  • 28. Ibid. (2), R. Scully to Wyse, 30 Nov. 1830.
  • 29. Ibid. (10), Wyse to Grene, 31 Dec. 1830.
  • 30. Ibid. (1).
  • 31. PRO NI, Anglesey mss D619/32A/3/1/254.
  • 32. Melbourne Pprs. 168.
  • 33. Anglesey mss 29B/4-7; 32A/3/1/258.
  • 34. Wyse mss (2).
  • 35. The Times, 8 Feb. 1831.
  • 36. Ibid. 9 Feb. 1831.
  • 37. Cited in Auchmuty, 138, where the letter is connected with his unreported speech of 16 Nov. 1830.
  • 38. Anglesey mss 27A/101.
  • 39. Wyse mss (3), Cooke to Wyse, 20 Feb. 1831.
  • 40. The Times, 21 Apr. 1831.
  • 41. Tipperary Free Press, 4, 7 May; Wyse mss (13), Maher to Wyse, 4 May 1831.
  • 42. Wyse mss (6).
  • 43. Clonmel Herald, 14 May; Tipperary Free Press, 14 May 1831.
  • 44. PRO NI, Emerson Tennant mss D2922/C/1A/5.
  • 45. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1832; Anglesey mss 28A-B/71.
  • 46. Holland House Diaries, 41.
  • 47. The Times, 29 Nov. 1831.
  • 48. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1899.
  • 49. Freeman’s Journal, 20 Sept. 1832, cited in Auchmuty, 141.
  • 50. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1929; v. 2032; The Times, 8 Dec. 1832.
  • 51. Oxford DNB; W.A. Munford, William Ewart, 117; The Times, 23 Apr., 11 Sept., 19 Nov. 1862.