Dublin election 10th July 1841

THE DUBLIN ELECTION.—On Saturday [10th July], a new project was started by the Tories to prevent their defeat. They brought to the poll a batch of freemen, or pretended freemen, not registered six months, and some who were not registered at all. The assessor decided upon admitting every man of them ! At the last election of this city, a similar attempt was made by the Tories, but the then assessor, Mr. George, although himself a Tory, at once decided against the proposition and the unregistered and unqualified freemen were rejected. At half-past three o’clock, Mr. Monahan, counsel for the Liberals, applied to the sheriff to open another booth for voters in the letter M, as 600 of them remained unpolled. The assessor peremptorily refused. It is by such means as these that the Tories will effect a temporary triumph in the city of Dublin. A new trick has just been discovered, which it is feared has had a considerable influence on the election. Some of the Tory agents were detected in Mr. O’Connell’s committee-rooms busily engaged in marking ” dead,” and ” gone away,” on the slips which were laid out for the agents, in order to bring up the Liberal voters, and this of course prevented the agents in seeking out the parties named on the slips.

RETURN OF THE TORIES. — OUTRAGEOUS PROCEEDINGS.— (July 11.) It was not until after five o’clock this (Sunday) morning that the sheriffs and their assessor completed the return of the votes polled at the election, which was announced as follows :—

Gross Poll.

  • West, (T), 3,860,
  • Grogan, (T), 3,839 ;
  • O’Connell, (R), 3,692 ;
  • Hutton, (R), 3,662.
  • Majority of West over O’Connell, 168 ;
  • Majority of Grogan over Hutton 177.

This majority has been obtained by the most reckless violation of law and decency, and by the monstrous decisions of the assessor, especially that regarding household voters, rejected because “house and premises” appeared in their certificates, signed by the registering barrister. They might just as reasonably have been rejected for having noses upon their faces. Every respectable barrister, whether Whig or Tory, openly exclaims against this most unwarrantable and shameless decision. But the decision of the assessor, yesterday, was, if possible, a more monstrous violation of law and common sense : he decided that freemen not six months registered, or freemen not registered at all, should be admitted to vote, although the law expressly declares that no man can vote whose name has not been at least six months on the register. When this decision was announced, a horde of unfledged freemen, or pretended freemen, manufactured for the purpose by the dying corporation, rushed into the booths and voted for the Tory candidates. At this moment the Liberals were fast breaking down the small Tory majority. “Well, then,” said the Liberal agents, ” if six months registry be not necessary for Tories, it surely is not necessary for Liberals, and we have an immense majority of voters registered within six months.” Accordingly, numbers of household voters of this class came up, but they were rejected, on the ground that they were not six months registered. The very same class of freemen voters were brought forward by the Tories on the last day of the Dublin election in 1837, when the assessor, Mr. George, although a decided Tory in politics, refused to allow their votes. But the climax of Tory injustice is yet to come. At three o’clock yesterday, the polling in booth M was altogether stopped, by order of the sheriffs. There are nearly twice as many voters in this letter as in any other, and more than two-thirds of them are Liberals. The sheriffs refused, although repeatedly applied to, to appropriate two booths; in order that time might be allowed for polling all. At three o’clock yesterday afternoon, when the Liberals were gaining considerably in the booth M, the sheriffs altogether stopped the polling, on the pretence that it was necessary to put on the disputed votes from the previous day. At this moment there were hundreds of Liberal voters waiting to be polled in booth M. An application was again made to the sheriff to open a second booth, but there was a peremptory refusal. All the other booths were kept open until five o’clock, although in most of them, especially the booths where the Tories had been strongest, there were none to poll. By this proceeding, hundreds of Liberal electors have been altogether excluded from recording their votes. At a later period of the day the corporate functionaries, having become frightened at the probable consequences of their own conduct, it was announced that booth M would be open for votes for a short time after five o’clock ; but the Liberal voters, after waiting in the open street all day, had of course gone to their homes, on hearing it announced that the poll had finally closed.

DUBLIN CITY. The scenes of anarchy and bad spirit with which the polling commenced on Tuesday week were continued till the close on Saturday, with augmented violence. Each side charges the other with unfair attempts to influence the votes, and with outrage; but the charge of violence is mostly preferred by the Tories, while the Liberals are the strongest in the accusation of partiality. To judge as well as one can at a distance, by means of grossly contradictory accounts, both parties seem supported in their allegations by facts. It is said that as soon as Mr. O’Connell heard who was to be the Assessor, a Mr. Waller, he exclaimed that, no matter what the numbers might be for him, he should not be returned. The charges on this head are very distinctly stated by an elector, who writes to the Morning Chronicle from Dublin, on Saturday night-

” In Ireland, for a voter to establish his right to vote, on coming to the poll he must produce the certificate of his registry; which is given to him by the Clerk of the Peace, under the authority of the Registering Barrister, and for which he is in no way responsible. On this occasion great numbers of these certificates describe the qualification as for “house and premises,” or “a Lease and concerns.” In all these cases the Assessor decided for the rejection of the votes; stating that it should have been for ‘a house’ alone, and that the insertion of the words ‘and premises’ in the certificate invalidated the vote; although the Act of Parliament distinctly states that the certificates shall be conclusive as to the right of voting; and notwithstanding that he thus assumed a power not given to the Judges, of overruling the decisions of the Registering Barrister, when favourable to the claimant. It may not, at first sight, be obvious how this decision injures the Liberal interest, as it would apparently tell equally against Tories and Liberals; but it is only necessary to point out that there are about 2,000 freemen in Dublin to whom it does not apply; five-sixths of whom, through bribery and gratitude to the Corporation who made them, invariably vote for the Tories. This happy invention for disenfranchising whole constituencies has, for the first time, been brought into play, as it were by concert, in all places where, by the existence of freemen and an unscrupulous Sheriff, the Tories could gain by it; and Athlone, Dublin, and Waterford, will, in consequence, return five Tories to the next Parliament, in the face of undoubted Liberal majorities of the bona fide electors in each of those places. Another decision of the Assessor made last night, when the success of the Liberals, with fair play, was pretty evident, was, that ‘ Freemen, though only freemen for one day, were entitled to vote’ ; a decision which, although they might have carried the last Dublin election by it, they had not then the courage to make, but which the near prospect of office and power has now given them heart to venture on.” 

Englishmen, who since the Reform Bill [of 1832] have seen the City of London polled out in one day, will be surprised at hearing that the City of Dublin cannot be polled out in five. But so it is. At five o’clock this evening, the latest hour allowed by law for keeping open the poll, about 200 electors tendered their votes for O’Connell and Hutton, accompanied by a declaration that they had attended at letter M booth, to which they belonged, without having it in their power during the whole of the election to record their votes. The explanation is this. The names beginning with that letter are by far the most numerous in Dublin; and of them the vast majority are Liberals. It was therefore obviously the interest of the Tories that obstacles should be thrown in the way of their voting. The first step to this end was to allot but one booth, and that most inconveniently placed, for the letter; the second, to place in it to receive the votes a deputy physically incompetent for the duty; who, by putting the oaths to all voters occupied on the average five minutes in recording each vote. But will it be believed in England, that, not content with this, at about three o’clock this day, the Sheriff or his Assessor sent arbitrarily to stop the polling at that booth, about 70 votes having been given in it for the Liberals and 13 for the Tories by that hour ? He actually did so; and it was only on the indignant remonstrance of those present that he consented to open it again at about four, and continue it until five, when the tender of the 200 voters incapacitated from voting took place.

Further authentic evidence of this obstruction is given in a letter which Mr. Henry Grattan wrote to the Morning Register” I was stopped in the street today, by a number of electors, who complained to me that they could not poll in booth letter M. I went with them to the committee-rooms of Messrs. O’Connell and Hutton. I advised them to draw up a statement of their complaint, which they could, if required, verify by affidavit. They did so; and, having signed it, I accompanied them to the assessor’s room, and the paper was handed to the agent. I proceeded with a number of electors to booth M; and though upwards of 1,600 (as was stated to me) were to poll there, the booth was small, being in size not larger than any of the rest. There was no accommodation for the electors; and being in the open street, they were exposed to the torrents of rain that were then falling. I remained there for three quarters of an hour, and, with my watch in my hand, I minuted the poll ; and, from three minutes after three o’clock to twenty minutes to four o’clock, the electors were polled at the rate of five minutes each man. I saw some unable to get in — numbers complained they could not poll — one elector had been there two days — another, with only one leg, had been standing half the day unable to get polled — others stated they could not wait, as they were obliged to leave Dublin that evening. The agent of Messrs. O’Connell and Hutton had each upwards of twenty certificates in their hands, and the electors were unable to come up — many went away tired and disgusted, and I saw them afterwards unable to get polled.” These statements are made with so much confidence, and are so faintly disputed on the other side, that much doubt is thrown on the final result of the poll as it was declared by the Sheriff at five o’clock on Sunday morning, as follows—West, 3,860; Grogan, 3,839 ; O’Connell, 3,602; Hutton, 3,662.

It is difficult to say how much the violence of the O’Connell party is to be attributed to exasperation at such proceedings. The first day that the polling commenced, Mr. O’Connell bitterly complained in public of the conduct of the Assessor : his language, indeed, was peaceful ; but his complaints and evident forebodings of failure were calculated in the highest degree to inflame the passions of the irritated people. Large bodies of men, it is said, maintained a lawless patrol in the streets, impeding some voters and driving others to the poll. Among those, the coal-porters were conspicuous. The following sidelong explanation of the Dublin Pilot of Friday tends to substantiate the assertions of the opposite party-

“The multitude which surrounded the Court-house throughout the day was densely numerous ; but nothing could be more laudable than the peaceful and orderly manner in which they conducted themselves. A single votary of Bacchus was not to be seen in this immense concourse. The coal-porters left their work upon the Quays at an early hour; and in a body nearly three hundred strong marshalled themselves in the various avenues leading to the hustings: they were all of them provided with whips, shillelaghs, or thongs, with which they with gentle violence kept the crowd in good order, putting them off to either side of the road, and thus keeping a clear and unobstructed passage in the middle, through which the cars and other vehicles conveying the voters might pass. What a fine instance was there not here of disinterestedness and honest zeal in these poor fellows, sacrificing a day’s earnings that they might contribute their humble efforts to facilitate the advancement of the popular cause !  Ubiquitous jarveys were flying all day through the town. [ ie. people were rushing about town in hired coaches all day] “

It is easy to suppose that the city in which coal-porters, in bodies three hundred strong, were allowed to perform the office of police “with gentle violence,” was not kept in the best order. The military were called out on Thursday [8th July] to protect the voters as they proceeded to the poll ; and they were afterwards reinforced. But riots were of constant occurrence. The outrages upon individuals, however, most distinctly prove the uncontrolled state of the place. We copy a few instances from the accounts in the Times- ” A large party of coal-porters proceeded in regular battle array up to Meath Street, to the house of an aged gentleman named Cradock, an officer on half- pay : the ruffians forced an entrance, and proceeded to search the premises, in order to drag the owner to the hustings to record his vote for the Repealers. They found the poor old gentleman in bed, unwell; and on declaring his inability to comply with their behests, they fell upon him with bludgeons, and inflicted two extensive fractures on his skull. The unhappy man was conveyed to the Meath Hospital; where, on inspection by the resident doctors, the wounds were pronounced to be of a decidedly dangerous character.”

The correspondent of the Times gives another tale from the mouth of Mr. Nugent, a Roman Catholic butcher-  ” He assured me that he has been obliged to quit his house and provide himself with a private lodging; that the forebodings of the mob who attacked his house on Wednesday, and declared to him that there was not a grazier in Smithfield who would venture to make a sale to him, have been verified to the letter; that he went to Smithfield on Thursday, and could not make a single purchase, and was seriously recommended by a grazier who was kindly disposed towards him, to hasten away from the market, lest he should meet with personal violence. He assured me that he has already sustained a loss of about 60/. [shillings modern day £3,580]  in damage to his house and furniture, and that he fears he shall be obliged to close and forsake an establishment in which he has resided and carried on business for twenty-two years.”


” Mr. William Gorman, barrister-at-law, was wantonly and brutally assaulted in Capel Street, on Saturday last. He lies seriously indisposed at his residence in Harcourt Street. Notwithstanding the numerous wounds inflicted on his head, strong hopes are entertained of his recovery by Dr. Kirby, who is in attendance. The learned gentleman was with difficulty rescued from a ferocious mob, and escorted to his house in a great state of exhaustion by a body of mounted police.”

One more-

” An old man named Cox, upwards of seventy years old, residing in Usher Street, who registered as a Conservative, had been waited upon to vote for Messrs. West and Grogan ; but he said it would injure him severely if he voted, and he was not further pressed. A body of coal-porters was sent to bring him, but he refused to go, and barricaded his house. They went away disconcerted ; and a second time they came, he thought to get out by the back way, but the premises were surrounded. Seeing no chance of escape, he took with him his gun for protection and climbed to the top of a house in his yard to escape through a neighbour’s house. He was seen, and menaces uttered against him; and in raising his gun to his shoulder it went off, as we are informed, unintentionally on the part of Cox, and the discharge took effect, and shot off the finger of a coal-porter. He got into a neighbour’s premises; he let himself down out of a loft by a rope, and was, as he thought, secure from his pursuers; but he had no sooner alighted than he was secured and carried off to Green Street, put into a cellar, his life threatened, a knife displayed, and told that his throat would be cut if he did not vote for O’Connell and Hutton. His coat was torn, and he was otherwise ill-used ; and finally, seeing there was no escape, he consented to be brought to the booth, and there stated to the deputies that it was from fear and danger of his life he gave his vote for O’Connell and Hutton. This fact was entered on the poll-book, and informations of the facts were lodged by him at the Head-office of Police. Cox got 30s. in silver, to pay for his coat, from some of the agents for the Liberal candidates. He had to sleep at an hotel from apprehension ; and four policemen were put in charge of the house and premises.”

The subjoined version of this same story, given by the Dublin Pilot, is a sample of the contradictions to be met with- ” Mr. Cox, of Usher Street, was waited on by a parcel of men belonging to the Tory party, who thought to compel him to vote for them ; but he refused ; and after some time they went away, swearing they would kill him. In a short time after, a few of the Liberal party waited on him ; when he imagined that they were the same persons who first visited him, and, very unfortunately for all parties, Mr. Cox fired on the people, and shot a man named Campbell very severely in the hand. Mr. Cox subsequently voted for O’Connell and Hutton.”

The same paper supplies one or two charges of violence against the Tories-

” About one o’clock, a riot, which for some time assumed rather a serious appearance, occurred in Capel Street. The origin of it we could not correctly ascertain but of this fact we are cognizant, that a person named Scott, a friend of West and Grogan, drew a loaded pistol to fire on the people ; but the deadly weapon was at once rescued from him; and although this act was in itself quite sufficient to enrage the populace, yet they behaved with the most steady and cool forbearance.”

The next is headed ” Orange insult to a clergyman “

” In booth K, a Catholic clergyman came up to vote ; when West’s agent said to him, ‘Oh, here is one of the surpliced ruffians ‘ An affidavit to the fact was sworn, and laid before the Sheriff.”

The Liberals having expressed a doubt as to the legality of the declaration on Sunday morning, the Sheriff went to the Court-house on Monday, and repeated the declaration.

The above text was found on p.6, 17th July 1841 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

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