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Dublin City

Dublin city, with an electorate of between three and four thousand,146 was by far the largest of the county-borough constituencies, and certainly the most independent. Its constituency comprised both 40-shilling freeholders and freemen: freemen were mainly admitted through the guilds, although admission could also be obtained by 'grace especial'. The city had a strong radical and aristocratic tradition, a combination not unknown in eighteenth-century England. This was reflected in the MPs returned in 1768, namely the Marquess of Kildare, the heir to Ireland's only dukedom, and Dr Charles Lucas, the Irish John Wilkes. Lord Kildare 'got in here by a sought for popularity gained merely [by] the Duke of Leinster's being in opposition to government measures, where he must still remain if he means to support it'. The Marquess was a cousin of Charles James Fox. In 1773 Lord Kildare succeeded his father as Duke of Leinster, and in his place the citizens of Dublin elected Redmond Morres, an event that caused Provost Andrews (0040) to remark to Speaker Pery (1671), 'I am not surprised that the city of Dublin have preferred Morris … because he was clearly the unfittest person. They are now completely represented.'147 Morres, a Vice-President of the Dublin Society, was reputed to be a 'violent patriot',148 while Lucas, the other member, was the most famous of eighteenth-century Irish radical agitators. The latter was reported, by a very unfavourable critic, to have 'Got in here by cajoling the very scum of the people and instilling into their mind that government always intended to hurt them and that patriotism consists in opposition to all ministerial measures. A man of an envious turbulent spirit who makes it his perpetual business to libel the great and level all that are above him, as if honour were a dangerous useless thing and nothing could grow on such lofty ground but what is fit to be rooted out. His very existence depends upon troubles and confusions, justly called by Hely-Hutchinson (1001) a bungling incendiary without parts or property.'149 Nevertheless, the Earl of Charlemont almost invariably refers to 'my excellent friend the truly patriotic doctor Lucas', or 'the tender care and effectual abilities of the excellent doctor Lucas'. Lucas had the same nuisance value as Wilkes, but with it a more genuine and sincere desire for reform. In 1760 he wrote to Charlemont:

For years I have been labouring to inform the minds of the people of Dublin, and though they have not gained all the benefits that might have been hoped, thank God! they have reaped some desirable fruits from my poor labours. From the narrowness of their own hearts, many of the people judge that I would not quit my present practice or my future prospects, to unhinge myself and imbarque again in seas of trouble to serve a public not remarkable for their gratitude to me … I will sacrifice all my enjoyments and all my private hopes in life, to exert mine utmost means to serve them.150

Lucas died in November 1771 and in the ensuing by-election his place was filled by Dr William Clement, Vice-Provost of Dublin University and King's Professor of Physic. It was thought that his enmity to the Provost within the college increased his inclination to oppose the government, of which the Provost was an ardent supporter. Membership of the opposition was a desirable qualification for parliamentary candidates for the capital, and Clement, who felt a similar animosity towards the next Provost, the famous John Hely-Hutchinson, continued to represent Dublin city until his death in January 1782.151

In 1776 Dr Clement and Sir Samuel Bradstreet, the Recorder of Dublin, were returned without opposition.152 A previous Recorder of Dublin, James Grattan, the father of Henry Grattan, was MP for Dublin from 1761 until his death in 1766. Following the death of Dr Clement in 1782, on 18 January the Archbishop of Dublin wrote to the Earl of Buckinghamshire that 'old Dr Clements [sic] was buried this day with great parades. The city has not yet fixed on a successor, but doubtless they will endeavour to choose one who will invariably oppose (as usual) the measures of Government.' Travers Hartley, 'a dissenter, a merchant of eminence in respect of opulence, knowledge and integrity' who 'will obey any instructions his constituents shall think proper to give',153 was elected for the city. Thus, in two consecutive parliaments the members for Dublin were two medical doctors, one of whom was Vice-Provost of the University; a lawyer, who was also Recorder of the city; Redmond Morres, one of the Vice-Presidents of the Dublin Society, a wealthy non-conformist merchant, and the heir of the premier peer of Ireland. This interesting selection is perhaps the best comment on the nature of the constituency. The other well-represented group were bankers: Benjamin Burton represented the city from 1703 to 1727, and his son, Samuel Burton, from 1727 to 1733. At the end of the century there was John Claudius Beresford, andimmediately after the Union John La Touche, a member of the famous banking family and a partner in the family bank.

The most controversial election of the century also involved the La Touche family. In 1741 Charles Lucas, who had previously published a scheme to prevent frauds and abuses in the pharmacy trade, was appointed to represent his guild on the Common Council. Lucas became convinced that the board of aldermen was corrupt - in particular it was self-elective - and after studying the city's charters he decided that it had usurped the rights of the corporation at large in making these elections. His potential crusade was blocked in the courts. However, on 16 August 1748, Sir James Somerville - a former Lord Mayor and representative of the powerful Merchants' Guild - died, creating a vacancy for the city.

Parliament was in recess, and the writ for an election would be delayed for about 14 months. Lucas declared himelf a candidate, got busy with his untrammelled pen, and added corruption in the House of Commons to his targets. He also insulted James Digges La Touche (5017), who had formerly co-operated with him in his dispute with the aldermen. La Touche also declared himself a candidate. Meanwhile the board of aldermen was not idle: they sponsored one of their number, Sir Samuel Cooke. In May 1749 the other city MP, Nathaniel Pearson, also died so there were now two vacancies and the aldermen hastened to put up a second candidate - Sir Charles Burton, a son of the late banker Benjamin Burton. Lucas started a weekly newspaper, Censor or Citizens Journal, devoted to preaching political purity and the exposure of political scandals, some of dubious veracity. Among those he singled out was Sir Richard Cox's (0508) distinguished grandfather, thereby bringing on himself not only a deadly enemy but potentially the Speaker, Henry Boyle (0210), and his numerous adherents. Lucas then crossed the Lord Lieutenant, the not very adroit Earl of Harrington.

The reassembled House of Commons passed a series of resolutions introduced by Cox declaring Lucas an enemy of his country, a violator of the privileges of the House of Commons etc. and ordering his confinement in Newgate Jail. At this point Lucas decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and fled the country. Dublin Corporation disenfranchised him. At the ensuing poll La Touche and Cooke were elected. Burton then challenged La Touche's election, accusing him of influencing the poll with corruption and, through his association with Lucas, with seditious publications. Feelings still ran high. La Touche was unseated and Burton declared elected by a majority of 52.154 This was the prelude to the great constitutional crisis of the 1750s. Lucas went to Leyden, where he took an MD in 1752, and then had a successful practice in London. Subsequently there was a conservative reform of Dublin Corporation in 1760 and obstacles were removed for his return to Dublin in time for the general election of 1761, when he was returned for Dublin city, which he represented until his death a decade later.155

Co. Dublin had two boroughs - Newcastle and Swords - as well as the university.

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