The Armagh Election 1753

Vol. 2 No. 1 - 1971

The Armagh Election of 1753

by Kieran Clendinning

Perhaps one of the bitterest election campaigns ever fought in Armagh was the bye-election of 1753, between Francis Caulfeild, brother of Viscount Charlemont and William Brownlow of Lurgan.

This contest, for the representation of the country in the old Irish House of Parliament in Dublin, was a test to halt the Brownlow's influence in Armagh. The main party of the Irish House derived their control from patronage, and the family connections. Their business was to maintain the English interest, ensure passage of money bills, and stifle complaints about expenditure; they were nicknamed the Undertakers.

The opposition were called the Patriots because they insisted on the constitutional rights of the Irish Parliament, but up to 1750 they had neither regular leaders nor a fixed policy.

Francis Caulfeild supported the Patriots, which because of its strong Protestant tendencies, had the support of some of the landed gentry in the county. Mr. Samuel Blacker of Carrickblacker, Portadown threw his whole-hearted support behind him stating that "His wishes were for Caulfeild who shall always be a friend of the late revolution the time our constitution was begot".

Brownlow supported the English interest (Undertakers) and was endorsed by the Primate Archbishop Stone, a protégé of Dorset (Lord Lieutenant 1730). Stone was barely forty years of age when he attained the Primacy and it was he who ruled Ireland for George II.

William Brownlow, baptised Shankill 25th April 1726 was the son of William Brownlow (MP 1711-1715. 1729-1739.) and Lady Elizabeth the eldest daughter of the Earl of Abercorn.

Lady Elizabeth becomes a Catholic

Shortly after his father's death in 1739, his mother took William, who suffered from a weak chest, with his two sisters to live in France. Lady Elizabeth became a member of the Roman Catholic Church and later married secondly Martin Count de Kernic.

William was only twenty-seven when he fought the bye-election. Because of his mother's conversion to the Catholic Faith and his early days living in France and Italy his opponents directed a vicious and libellous attack against him in the hope of fixing the label of Jacobite on him.

Not only did they attack him personally buy they vented their spite on the Brownlow Family including his grandfather Arthur (Chamberlin) Brownlow, who had taken his seat in the parliament of James II in Dublin 1689, and who encouraged various religious groups to settle in Lurgan. When other landlords were denying Civil Rights to those who were not of the Established Church, Arthur Brownlow granted leases to Catholics, Presbyterians and Quakers. (The first Presbyterian congregations was founded in High Street in 1684, the Quaker settlement flourished and the Meeting House was extended in 1697). To counter act these charges William Brownlow's party had pamphlets published. One of these was called `Seasonable Advice to the Freeholders of the County Armagh. By a Brother Freeholder', printed in 1753. Copy of this is in the R.I.A. Library. Halliday Pamphlets. Box 212.

Seasonal advice to the Freeholders of the County Armagh

From this source we learn why the writer took up his pen.

  1. The election campaign had not been carried in a fair and open manner and the methods used by Caulfeild's supporters were mean and low.
  2. The chief slanders on Brownlow had been published in print in the form of memorials and letter.
  3. Caulfeild had not a single freehold in the country and was a mere youth, not twenty years of age, lately taken from school and just entered college. Brownlow had a "goodly residence" in the county whilst his opponents had not a house to live in nor an acre of grounds or authority.

This pamphlet then sets out to repair the Brownlow's reputation by describing Arthur Brownlow as an honest Patriot who - chose to stay in his country rather than flee from it as many others were doing. - The same Arthur Brownlow sat in William's Parliament and was there called to account for his setting in that of James, by a certain gentleman who looked with greedy eyes upon his fair estate. He was, however, acquitted of the charges brought against him.

Great kindness to Protestant Dissenters

William's father was described as a pious and sincere member of the Established Church who lived in imitation of his father's virtue, with a true Christian spirit, who showed great kindness to Protestant Dissenters who surely ought never to be forgotten by them.

In answer to Caulfeild's supporters, who had tried to blast the reputation of the candidate about his youthful day in France and Italy -"About that time his mother began to discover an affection for Popery with the result that his sisters took alarm, - His sisters immediately returned to Ireland, but on medical advice he was sent to Italy, to which country he proceeded without his mother. There he was in the charge of a young gentleman, the son of a pious clergyman of family and of fortune who attended him until he returned home".

This particular election was one of the most exciting that ever took place in the county. There were dinners and entertainments of all kinds, not to speak of fighting and rioting. Another interesting pamphlet has just been published by the Public Records Office, Belfast in their Education Facsimile on Election, Dated November, 10th 1753, is called, An important account of the whole proceedings at Armagh during the Election with its causes of the late disturbance at that place.

I do not doubt, but you have the Curiosity to be well informed of what passed at the Armagh Election, and as you know I am at present on the Spot , you probably expect an Account from me, of those Riots and Tumults, which are so much spoken of. All which are in two or three printed Papers which I have seen, charged to the Account of Mr. Brownlow and his Friends, and therefore must be supposed to have been published by the Partisans of the opposite Side, You know, I interest myself very little in this Election, and I am sure you are fully satisfied I should tell no lies for either of the Candidates; the Public will also be convinced of the Falsehood of those printed Accounts, as soon as the Affidavits are published, which were taken on that Occasion.

The Election began on Friday the 26th of October, on which Day as Mr. Whaley's Servant was going with his Master's Great coat to wait on him Home, he was knocked down in the public street, by Mr. Caulfeild's Party, without even the Pretence of any other Provocation, that his Master appeared for Mr. Brownlow; as Mr. Whaley thought fit to overlook this Affront, it was attended with no ill Consequences.

Mr Brownlow's servant assaulted

Next Day Mr. Brownlow's Servant had his Head broke by a young Jakanaper, who asked him, who he was for; and on his saying he was for his Master, the young Gentleman instantly struck him on the Head with a Cudgel; and this also in Consideration of his Age and Insignificance was winked at, and the Blow not returned.

In the Evening of that Day, after the Court was over, Mr. Caulfeild's Drums beat round the Town, the Mob gathered and fell on those of the other Side, who appeared in the Streets, which produced a pretty sharp Conflict, in which Mr. Caulfeild's Party were worsted and forced to retire, though headed by two eminent Champions of that Side in Arms, who fairly animated them to, and forlook them in the Fray.

On Monday Morning Mr. Brownlow's Friends complained in the Court of the Riot on Saturday, and imputed it to Mr. Caulfeild's Party, who by Beat of Drum had brought the Mob together with-out any imaginable Reason for their assembling, but to do Mischief; and it was' insisted that the Drums should be discharged, which was refused, unless Mr. Brownlow would also send away his Band of Music; but this he thought very unreasonable, as no Complaint could be possibly alleged against them, who were never made use of to draw the Rabble together.

On that Evening Most Mischief happened; when the Gentlemen on both Sides had retired to Dinner with Friends, the Drums were beat round the Town, the Mob of 114r. Caulfeild's Side assembled, broke the Windows of such Houses as were open for Mr. Brownlow, assaulted the People, who were obliged to defend themselves, and gather such a Boday as were able to repel Force with Force, which was eventually done, the Windows of Mr. Caulfeild's Houses were broke in their turn, and his People dispersed, notwithstanding the Encouragement given them in the very (louse where he and his Friends then were, by sending out to them large Quantities of Drink, and some other less warrantable Methods; it must be owned their Drums were then taken from them, but that signified nothing, they got another Drum and beat a second and a third Time, their Forces were rallied in the Church-yard, and they marched in a body to the house where Mr. Brownlow and his Friends were sitting, though a private one, broke the Windows with such great Stones, as seemed intended for more than breaking Glass; Mr. Richardson very narrowly escaped being hurt, by one of more than three Pounds Weight; and it is hard to say, what might have happened if Mr. Brownlow's People had not come to his Defence and beat them off, after which, they in return broke the Windows of Mr. Caulfeild's House.

Altercation in Court

Next Morning there was a great Altercation in Court, on-Occasion of the Riot, each Party endeavouring to throw the Odium of it on the other; but as the Drums were no longer defensible, they were Silenced, and we have been quiet ever since.

It was indeed apprehended that we should have some Disturbances on Monday last, but none happened till Friday on the 9th inst.

The Poll being equal the Day before, Mr. Caulfeild began polling with ten such Freeholders as the Sheriff had admitted all along before, after which Mr. Brownlow was told he might proceed. A Gentleman on Mr. Brownlow's Side then asked whether they had any more Votes to offer, to which it was answered they had, but as they were not present, they would not delay the Court; Mr. Brownlow then went on with a Number equal to theirs, and they not having any more, he proceeded with 97 Ten Pounders out of his own Estate alone, after which he told the Sheriff he would trouble him no farther, and agreed to the Motion made by the other Side twice before, the count the Poll and conclude the Election; while this was doing, Mr. Caulfeild's

James Caulfeild, 1st Earl of Charlemont

Drums were beat about the Town, the Streets were instantly filled with a Rabble, a Chair was carried into Court by Mr. Caulfeild's People, who brought for him, he was carried by his People to his own Lodgings with still louder Acclamations. When both the Gentlemen retired to Dinner, the Drums still continued Beating, and as they had always been the Prelude to a Battle before, Mr. Brownlow's People stood together. On the most careful Enquiry, I cannot learn who began the Fray, as each Side charged it on the other; the Drums however give to much Reason to impute it as a design'd Thing by that Party to which they be-longed; the Quarrel at first was only among a few, who began

it with their Sticks, and in the whole I do not find that Mr. Brownlow's People used any other Weapons; Triumph and Insolence on one Side, Rage, Disappointment, and Despair on the other, with such a Profusion of Drink on both, soon brought on a more general Battle, in which Mr. Brownlow's Mob were Victorious; the other Party had recourse to more effective Arms, some Gentlemen, as appears by the Examinations taken, appear-ed among them, many Shots were fired: one Tenant of Mr. Brownlow's who has a wife and five Children was Shot, and His Life is despaired of. Another who was only looking out at a Window, was Shot in the Face, and as I am informed has lost an Eye; I cannot learn that any of Mr. Caulfeild's People are dangerously Hurt.

The two Competitors are gone off this Morning, and we have peace at last.

The actual Poll Books of the election passed into Lord Gosford's hands. Copies made Lieut - Col. G. H. Johnston of Kilmore in 1898 are preserved in Armagh Library.

From these Poll Books we learn that -

The election began on Friday October 26th, 1753, at a County Court held for electing a knight for the shire for the said county. The writ being read, beginning at one o'clock in the afternoon. Mr. Blacker objects to proceeding to poll this day it being past eleven o'clock in the morning, at which time he alleged the sheriff ought to have begun the poll. Thomas Verner, agent for Mr. Caulfeild, objects against the sheriff's tossing up in point of place between the candidates - and stormed up. The candidates to change places each day by agreement. The candidates tossed up who should poll first. Mr. Caulfeild won the toss. Before any Freeman were polled Mr. Brownlow objected against Mr. Caulfeild being under age. Sir Archibald Acheson on behalf of the freeholders, objected to the hour of opening the poll, it being after eleven o'clock, now a quarter after one o'clock. Sir Archibald objected that the sheriff proceeded to poll without opening the court, after this the poll began, but Mr. Caulfeild having polled a freeholder previous to the objections the court proceeded.

The election continued daily, Sunday excepted from Friday, October 26th, until November 9 th, on which evening the court adjourned until the next morning Saturday November 10 th at eight o'clock we are told that "after the sheriff had declared Mr. Brownlow duly elected Mr. Caulfeild demanded a scrutiny. The sheriff thereupon told Mr. Caulfeild that he would attend at eight o'clock the following morning which he accordingly did and sat until ten o'clock and then sent word to Mr. Caulfeild to know would he attend. The said Mr. Caulfeild sent a messenger who told the sheriff he would not". This was signed Meredith Workman as sheriff.

The White Thorn Inn or Byrne's Inn
on site now occupied by Shankill Buildings.

The most striking feature of this election was not the animosities between the rivals, but the enormous expenses that the candidates incurred. Francis Caulfeild's brother the Earl of Charlemont reckoned that it cost him £1,000.

The personal expense that William Brownlow incurred is recorded in an illuminating manuscript kept by his cousin the Rev. Arthur Fforde, Rector of Shankill, who acted as his agent at that time. It contains 125 entries filling 4 pages and is a most interesting document, for the wealth of information that is given on the extravagant expenditure necessary for Brownlow when he first sought the suffrage of the electors of Armagh.

Accounts to Innkeepers Armagh

According to this document Brownlow must have been an excellent host for the amount of food and wine consumed was enormous. Entered in the ledger are 7 accounts paid to Innkeepers in Armagh for entertainment.

APRIL 15 the Paid Cash - Mr. Ogle bill for entertainment of Freeholders - (£679. 12s. 10d.); Paid Cash - Robert McKinstry (£467. 0s. 11d); APRIL 16 the Paid Cash - William Halls - (£205. 3s. 3d.); APRIL 17 the Paid Cash - George Burleigh (£310. 3s. 9½d.) Tim Coyn (£115. 0s. 6), James Gillespie (£272. 0s. 0d.), Daniel Canavan (£200. 14s. 9d.); JUNE 10 the Paid Cash - John Clendinning, Mr. Nicholson's bill Richill (£60. 0. 0.), Mr. William Nicholson, the sitting member for the constituency warmly espoused the Brownlow cause. Other entries give an interesting insight to elementary matters concerning the election.

Paid: Christopher Byrne expense to Newry with letter (10s. 0d.) Paid: C. Hasty for Ale to ye populance (£3. 2. 0), Paid: John Scott Clerk of the Peace for registering Freeholders (£11. 10s. 4d.), Paid: Henry and Robert Joy for Advertising you offering your-self as a Candidate. (£3. 10s. 11d.).

The Joys established the Belfast Newsletter in September 1737 and at that time was the third newspaper in the country. The name Joy or Joyeuse is of Huguenot origin.

Paid: For five places on Belfast Stage (£2. 11s. 0d.).

This is a most interesting entry, for during the eighteenth century, stage-coaches were not very common in Ireland, even though the Lisburn - Armagh road was under the Turnpike Trust from 1732 , the surface was in a deplorable condition. A regular coach service between Belfast and Armagh did not come into service until 1807. This ran on Monday, Wednesday and Friday returning alternate days, the fare 14s. 1d inside and 7s. 7d. outside.

Brownlow's rivals were of the opinion that he was high and haughty. I wonder have the next items anything to do with this charge.

Paid: A. Wisdom (barber) for attendance at Armagh (£1. 2s. 9d.). Paid: John McCann for hire of horse to A. Wisdom to Dublin (11s. 4½d.)

Accounts to Lurgan Innkeepers

Some of Lurgan's famous Innkeepers appear in the entries

Paid: Susie Gardner (widow) was the proprietress of the Hand and Hammer Inn which stood near the site of McNabb's Chemist Shop.

Paid: David Malcomson (£23. 10s. 11d.).

David Malcomson was the owner of the Cross-Keys Inn. This hostel had 13 beds with stabling for 18 horses.

Paid: John Shaw of Lurgan (£23. 10s. 3d.).

John Shaw was the Innkeeper of the famous Black Bull Inn which stood at the head of Windsor Avenue and figured prominently

in the social life of the town until it was removed to make room for the new entrance gates to the castle.

When all these and other entries are totalled up, they come to the staggering total of £5,456. 18s. 9½d.

One of the least recorded facts about William Brownlow, was his patronage of the Gaelic poet, Peadar O'Doirnin (1704 -1769 "The Bard of Louth".

How long the bard lived in Lurgan no one can tell but he must have been in Lurgan, or Armagh during the electioneering, for it is during this time that he composed his only known work in the English language "The Independent Man" as an advice to Brownlow and his friend.

These stanzas were what O'Doirnin as a mere observer hoped would one day come to pass.

The Independent Man

by Peadar O'Doirnin

Here's a health to all those that at liberty goe
That travel the road without a command,
That drink and that sport, that sit in their clothes
Whilst taking repose with a glass in their hand.
I am one of their sort, the track of their sole,
I love it by Jove, while e'er I stand,
I'll keep my own `Vote', I'll give it to none
I value no more a Parliament Man.

What do I care for Holland or Hague,
Or trouble my brains with packets or news
From Germany' states to Lobquid's retreat,
Their taking of Prague, or Spaniards confuse.
But what if they break their masts upon sea,
Or bother to death each other by course;
They will give no more share of profit or gains,
Pox on them if e'er they beg for a truce.

For kings or their guards I care not a straw
No colour at all shall make me stand,
To Dukes or to Lords or to Ladys at ball
I never will crawl with cap in my hand;
Their states and their claws, prelates and its laws,
The Minister's cause to me is all one.
I am not a Novel or Barron Claw,
I don't value Bashaw or great Coly Can

A Whig or a Tory, High Church or Low Church,
Protestant, Roman, Quaker or Clan
Shall ne'er controul me to any other notion
But the same motive I have in hand;
I'll travel the road, I'll meddle with none,
I'll let them alone by sea and by land,
For Providence store me want of their board,
I'm covered with clothes and that's my demand.

What makes me say so in viewing the motions
Of several folks of strife and command,
The General's trophy, the Cabinet's glory,
The Minister's cloak, the Lawyer his fan,
The Mariner's rows in hazard for more,
The Craftsman in Co. with courage takes on,
But I'll wager my hose along with my shoes
That they'll braek other's noses before they'll have done.

But when powers agree and join as you will see
A turrent carrier to Britain will come,
They'll pellmell all three, not sparing degrees,
The gray and the green with bullet and drum,
They'll stale and they'll pierce each other most fierce,
I'll laugh in my slieve and drink of rum,
And I'll sit like Peer, being void of all fear
With a bottle of beer under my thumb.

In Heaven's great name, how can they blame
The poor man, or shame him, in the long run
Ambition's their game, what else do they mean,
But purchase high fame, great power and fun
They may swear a big oath that never they'll loath
The poor dupe that votes for them, 'tis their plan;
But I'll keep my own vote, I'll give it to none,
Then what need I care for a Parliament man