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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of John Hely-Hutchinson, Lawyer & Statesman

CH35304John Hely (later Hely-Hutchinson), Irish lawyer, statesman, and Provost of Trinity College Dublin, dies on September 4, 1794 at Buxton, Derbyshire, England.

Hely is born in 1724 at Gortroe, Mallow, son of Francis Hely, a gentleman of County Cork. He is educated at Trinity College Dublin (BA 1744) and is called to the Irish bar in 1748. He takes the additional name of Hutchinson upon his marriage in 1751 to Christiana Nixon, heiress of her uncle, Richard Hutchinson.

Hely-Hutchinson is elected member of the Irish House of Commons for the borough of Lanesborough in 1759, but from 1761 to 1790 he represents Cork City. He at first attaches himself to the patriotic party in opposition to the government, and although he afterwards joins the administration, he never abandons his advocacy of popular measures.

After a session or two in parliament he is made a privy councillor and prime Serjeant-at-law. From this time he gives a general, though by no means invariable, support to the government. In 1767 the ministry contemplates an increase of the army establishment in Ireland from 12,000 to 15,000 men, but the Augmentation Bill meets with strenuous opposition, not only from Henry Flood, John Ponsonby and the habitual opponents of the government, but from the Undertakers, or proprietors of boroughs, on whom the government has hitherto relied to secure them a majority in the House of Commons.

It therefore becomes necessary for Lord Townshend to turn to other methods for procuring support. Early in 1768 an English Act is passed for the increase of the army, and a message from King George III setting forth the necessity for the measure is laid before the House of Commons in Dublin. An address favourable to the government policy is, however, rejected as Hely-Hutchinson, together with the speaker and the attorney general, do their utmost both in public and private to obstruct the bill. Parliament is dissolved in May 1768, and the lord lieutenant sets about the task of purchasing or otherwise securing a majority in the new parliament. Peerages, pensions and places are bestowed lavishly on those whose support could be thus secured. Hely-Hutchinson is won over by the concession that the Irish army should be established by the authority of an Irish act of parliament instead of an English one.

The Augmentation Bill is carried in the session of 1769 by a large majority. Hely-Hutchinson’s support had been so valuable that he receives as reward an addition of £1,000 a year to the salary of his sinecure of alnager, a major’s commission in a cavalry regiment, and a promise of the Secretaryship of State. He is at this time one of the most brilliant debaters in the Irish parliament and is enjoying an exceedingly lucrative practice at the bar. This income, however, together with his well-salaried sinecure, and his place as prime serjeant, he surrenders in 1774 to become provost of Trinity College, although the statute requiring the provost to be in holy orders has to be dispensed with in his favour.

For this great academic position Hely-Hutchinson is in no way qualified and his appointment to it for purely political service to the government is justly criticised with much asperity. His conduct in using his position as provost to secure the parliamentary representation of the university for his eldest son brings him into conflict with Patrick Duigenan, while a similar attempt on behalf of his second son in 1790 leads to his being accused before a select committee of the House of Commons of impropriety as returning officer. But although without scholarship Hely-Hutchinson is an efficient provost, during whose rule material benefits are conferred on Trinity College.

Hely-Hutchinson continues to occupy a prominent place in parliament, where he advocates free trade, the relief of the Catholics from penal legislation, and the reform of parliament. He is one of the very earliest politicians to recognise the soundness of Adam Smith‘s views on trade and he quotes from the Wealth of Nations, adopting some of its principles, in his Commercial Restraints of Ireland, published in 1779, which William Edward Hartpole Lecky pronounces one of the best specimens of political literature produced in Ireland in the latter half of the 18th century.

In the same year, the economic condition of Ireland being the cause of great anxiety, the government solicits from several leading politicians their opinion on the state of the country with suggestions for a remedy. Hely-Hutchinson’s response is a remarkably able state paper, which also shows clear traces of the influence of Adam Smith. The Commercial Restraints, condemned by the authorities as seditious, goes far to restore Hely-Hutchinson’s popularity which has been damaged by his greed of office. Not less enlightened are his views on the Catholic question. In a speech in parliament on Catholic education in 1782 the provost declares that Catholic students are in fact to be found at Trinity College, but that he desires their presence thereto be legalised on the largest scale.

In 1777 Hely-Hutchinson becomes Secretary of State. When Henry Grattan in 1782 moves an address to the king containing a declaration of Irish legislative independence, he supports the attorney general’s motion postponing the question. On April 16, however, after the Easter recess, he reads a message from the Lord Lieutenant, the William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, giving the king’s permission for the House to take the matter into consideration, and he expresses his personal sympathy with the popular cause which Grattan on the same day brings to a triumphant issue. Hely-Hutchinson supports the opposition on the regency question in 1788, and one of his last votes in the House is in favour of parliamentary reform. In 1790 he exchanges the constituency of Cork for that of Taghmon in County Wexford, for which borough he remains member until his death at Buxton, Derbyshire on September 4, 1794.

(Pictured: Portrait, oil on canvas, of John Hely-Hutchinson (1724–1794) by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792))


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Birth of William Edward Hartpole Lecky, Historian & Theorist

William Edward Hartpole Lecky, Irish historian and political theorist, is born at Newtown Park, near Dublin, on March 26, 1838. His major work is an eight-volume History of England during the Eighteenth Century.

Lecky is educated at Kingstown, Armagh, at Cheltenham College, and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduates BA in 1859 and MA in 1863, and where he studies divinity with a view of becoming a priest in the Church of Ireland.

In 1860, Lecky publishes anonymously a small book entitled The Religious Tendencies of the Age, but upon leaving college he turns to historiography. In 1861 he publishes Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland, containing brief sketches of Jonathan Swift, Henry Flood, Henry Grattan, and Daniel O’Connell, originally anonymous and republished in 1871. The essay on Swift, rewritten and amplified, appears again in 1897 as an introduction to an edition of Swift’s works. Two surveys follow: A History of the Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe (2 vols., 1865), and A History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne (2 vols., 1869). The latter arouses criticism, with its opening dissertation on “the natural history of morals.”

Lecky then concentrates on his major work, A History of England during the Eighteenth Century, Vols. i. and ii. which appear in 1878, and Vols. vii. and viii., which complete the work, in 1890. In the “cabinet” edition of 1892, in twelve volumes, A History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century is separated out.

A volume of Poems (1891) is less successful. In 1896, he publishes two volumes entitled Democracy and Liberty, in which he considers modern democracy. The pessimistic conclusions at which he arrives provoked criticism both in the UK and the United States, which is renewed when he publishes in a new edition (1899) his low estimate of William Ewart Gladstone, then recently dead.

In The Map of Life (1899) Lecky discusses in a popular style ethical problems of everyday life. In 1903 he publishes a revised and enlarged edition of Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland, in two volumes, with the essay on Swift omitted and that on O’Connell expanded into a complete biography. A critic of the methods by which the Act of Union is passed, Lecky, who grew up as a moderate Liberal, is opposed to Gladstone’s policy of Home Rule and, in 1895, he is returned to parliament as Unionist member for University of Dublin constituency in a by-election. In 1897, he is made a privy councillor, and among the coronation honours in 1902, he is nominated an original member of the new Order of Merit.

William Edward Hartpole Lecky dies in London on October 22, 1903.


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The Octennial Act Receives Royal Assent

parliament-of-irelandThe Octennial Act, an act of the Parliament of Ireland which sets a maximum duration of eight years for the Irish House of Commons, receives royal assent on February 16, 1768. Before this, a dissolution of parliament is not required except on the demise of the Crown, and the previous three general elections were held in 1715, 1727, and 1761, on the respective deaths of Anne, George I, and George II. After the act, general elections are held in 1769, 1776, 1783, 1790, and 1798.

Limiting the duration of parliament is a prime objective of the Irish Patriot Party. Heads of bills are brought, by Charles Lucas in 1761 and 1763 and by Henry Flood in 1765, to limit parliament to seven years as the Septennial Act 1716 does for the Parliament of Great Britain. The heads are rejected by the Privy Council of Great Britain, which, under Poynings’ Law, has to pre-approve any bill before it is formally introduced in the Irish parliament.

Since the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, the British government has wished to increase the size of Irish regiments, the part of the British Army charged on the Irish exchequer rather than the British. In 1767, the Chatham Ministry appoints George Townshend, 4th Viscount Townshend, as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and instructs him to secure the support of the Irish parliament for an Augmentation Bill to effect this increase. The British consider several possible concessions to win over the Irish Patriot Party, and at his speech from the throne, Townshend promises judicial tenure quamdiu se bene gesserint and hints at a Septennial Act.

Lucas again introduces heads of a Septennial Bill on October 20, 1767. Barry Maxwell introduces heads of a judicial tenure bill the same day. In November, the appointment of James Hewitt, 1st Baron Lifford, as Lord Chancellor of Ireland alienates the Undertakers who had hoped for the post. In addition, the British Privy Council adds a wrecking amendment to the judicial tenure bill, which causes the Irish parliament to reject the bill once returned to Dublin. The council also makes three amendments to Lucas’ bill – to the preamble, to extend the limit from seven to eight years, thus an Octennial Bill, and to bring forward the date of the next general election from 1774 to 1768. According to Francis Plowden, the Privy Council insists on the modification to eight years as a wrecking amendment, expecting that the Irish parliament will reject the bill on principle once any amendment has been made to it, and is disappointed when its amended bill is passed. William Edward Hartpole Lecky calls this “without foundation,” stating the actual reasons for eight years are that the Irish Parliament only meets every second year, and to reduce the chance of Irish and British general elections coinciding.

The Octennial Act reinvigorates the Commons, both with newly elected reformers and with MPs made more active by the prospect of imminent re-election. Changes include more assertiveness over supply bills and Poynings’ Law, easing the penal laws, and securing the Constitution of 1782. There are unsuccessful attempts to shorten the maximum duration, in 1773 by Sir William Parsons and in 1777 by Sir Edward Newenham.

The act is rendered moot when the Parliament of Ireland is abolished by the Acts of Union 1800. It is formally repealed by the Statute Law Revision (Ireland) Act 1879.