THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: From the News Letter of May 1831

Good of name of Lord Castlereagh is defended

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 10:00 am
Lord Castlereagh's seat at Mount Stewart in Co Down. In May 1831 he was accused of corruption and of being a “desperate boroughmonger”.
Lord Castlereagh's seat at Mount Stewart in Co Down. In May 1831 he was accused of corruption and of being a “desperate boroughmonger”.

During this week in May 1831 the News Letter’s columns were filled with combative rhetoric ahead of the upcoming General Election.

One notice published by the News Letter defended the good name of Lord Castlereagh Frederick Stewart, 4th Marquess of Londonderry.

It declared: “Lord Castlereagh had been held forth to you by a factious Paper, the organ of a party – small, but active, who wish to subvert the Constitution, and found on its ruins a republic – as a desperate boroughmonger.”

Lord Castlereagh's seat at Mount Stewart in Co Down. In May 1831 he was accused of corruption and of being a “desperate boroughmonger”.

It asked: “What is the fact?” To which it answered: “Neither Lord Castlereagh, nor any of his family, has or ever had, any connection with, or interest in a close or rotten borough.”

The noticed continued: “If it was Parliamentary influence they wished for, they would support the Bill, for, if it passes, it will give to Lord Londonderry the power of influencing the return of three of the new Members – viz. for the County of Durham, for Sunderland, and for the City of Durham.”

It was stated that Lord Castlereagh stood charged with corruption. To which charge the notice replied: “The Duke of Wellington, who saw in Lord Castlereagh, a young man of great talent and promise, offered him the situation of one of the Lords or the Admiralty, (although his father was at the time in opposition to his administration). He accepted it, with the perfect understanding; that he would not support any of his measures that he did not conceive for the good of the country. Did he act up to this? The moment Mr [Henry] Golburn proposed taxes, which, he conceived, would injure Ireland, Lord Castlereagh, in place of going to a meeting at the Thatched Tavern, to enter into puny resolutions, in a bold and manly manner, went direct to the Duke of Wellington, and told him he would not support those taxes oppressive to Ireland, and that he was come to resign his office.

“And to this manly conduct, and the example thereby set to the Irish Members, Ireland was mainly indebted for the withdrawing of those taxes.

“And if he wished for place or power under the Whigs, look around you, and see some, without an atom of talent, to whom they have given £2,000 a year, merely for saying aye or nae for them; and then say at what price they would purchase Lord Castlereagh’s support, whose talents they respect, and whose opposition they would silence at any sacrifice.”

The House of Commons would pass the Great Reform Bill to expand the franchise on September 22, 1831, but this is later defeated in the Lords.

You can read my extended article on the election of 1831 on mu blog at https://throughthearchives.wordpress.com/