The Age of John Bates: 1832–55

  • Ian Budge
  • Cornelius O’Leary


THE first election after the Reform Act (which doubled the Irish electorate) marked the emergence all over the country of political clubs and societies characterised by their devotion to political principles, but also by the more utilitarian purpose of managing the registration system at its first trial. Two main parties emerged generally, but not uniformly.I The Liberals, or Reformers, were prevalent throughout the three southern provinces and to a lesser extent in Ulster. They had been agitating for Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform, and the agitation over the previous fifteen years for these objects had provided them with a rudimentary organisation. The conservatives relied on family influence and patronage. But it is incorrect to label all the non-Liberal borough proprietors as Conservatives or Tories. Some had pursued an eclectic course in the years before 1832 — Lord Donegall, for example, voted against Catholic emancipation but in favour of parliamentary reform, and it was not until the late 1830s that such great Ulster families as the Downshires and Ranfurlys were definitely aligned with the Tories. They wished to conserve their family influence but were otherwise independent.


Royal Commission Police Rate Select Committee Parliamentary Election Town Council 


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  1. 1.
    Cf. J. H. Whyte, Irish Historical Studies, XI (September 1959), pp. 33–40.Google Scholar
  2. 48.
    The Belfast Charitable Society managed to secure the exemption of its funds and property from control of the poor law authority. Henceforth, however, it played a much more restricted role, being virtually confined to the management of the poorhouse (later Clifton House) with about one hundred and forty elderly inmates. See R. W. M. Strain, Belfast and Its Charitable Society (Oxford, 1961), pp. 294–314.Google Scholar
  3. 66.
    In 1852 six firms employing 1,000 men and boys were manufacturing flax spinning machinery in Belfast. W. E. Coe, The Engineering Industry of the North of Ireland (Newton Abbot, 1967), p. 63.Google Scholar
  4. 70.
    From 1820, in addition to temporary bodies set up to deal with emergencies (like the cholera epidemic), ‘a general permanent board of health’ had existed in Dublin with power to advise the Lord Lieutenant on the establishment of local boards. Cf. R. B. McDowell, The Irish Administration, 1801–1914 (London, 1964), pp. 168–9.Google Scholar
  5. 86.
    Although Irish law reports of this period are sometimes maddeningly uninformative, the best account of the action is to be found in Irish Chancery Reports, IV (1856), 119–72. See also D. J. Owen, History of Belfast, (Belfast, 1920), pp. 279–81 and Brief Sketch, Appendix D. The Northern Whig published the complete transcript of the Case—The Town Council in Chancery. The Case of the Attorney-General at the Relation of John Rea, Esq., v. The Belfast Municipal Corporation (Belfast, 1855).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ian Budge and Cornelius O’Leary 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian Budge
    • 1
  • Cornelius O’Leary
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GovernmentUniversity of EssexUK
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceThe Queen’s University of BelfastUK

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