Agitation Dinner – Daniel O’Connell in Liverpool, January 1836

The Corn Exchange, Brunswick Street, Liverpool. “Drawn by G. and C. Pyne about 1827, engraved by T. Dixon.” Courtesy of the Internet Archive and the University of Toronto.


AGITATION DINNER.-The Radicals of Liverpool dine Daniel O’Connell, M.P., Mr. Sheil, M. P., and Mr. Wise, M.P., at the Corn Exchange, Liverpool, on Wednesday next. The tickets are one guinea each.[Present day value – £ 1,172] The trio are to arrive by the mail-packet from Dublin on Wednesday morning, and an attempt is about to be made by the Irish Catholics to get up a procession from the pier where they land into the town; and for this purpose all the Hibernian clubs are to turn out with their flags and instruments of music. The place of dining will hold about 1,000 persons. This occasion will be Dan’s first public appearance in Liverpool, and the novelty of such a species of agitation may in consequence draw together a large mob. (The Times 25th January 1836)

This rather short cutting from the Times has a very pleasing circularity. A whole strand of the story runs through Liverpool at various times, and this one almost certainly brings together two different bits of the family. Mr. Sheil, M. P., and Mr. Wise, M.P. are  Richard Lalor Shiel and Thomas Wyse, who were two of the leading founders of the Catholic Association along with Daniel O’Connell. Both were at school with Patrick Grehan II at Stonyhurst, in Lancashire. Tom Wyse was married to Princess Letizia Bonaparte [Napoléon’s niece] The marriage was fairly rocky, and in May 1828 they agreed to a separation.

Letizia threw herself into the Serpentine in Hyde Park in a suicide attempt [probably from the newly built bridge] and was rescued by Captain Studholme John Hodgson who became her lover. They had three children together, who all used the surname Bonaparte-Wyse rather than their father’s surname.

Dan the man is the father-in-law of a cousin of a great aunt, and the other person who is highly likely to be at the dinner is Joshua Walmsley.  There are a number of reasons to suppose this. He was a newly elected councillor, certainly wealthy enough to afford the cost of the dinner, politically ambitious, and as a grain merchant unlikely not to have wanted to be seen at a political event at the Corn Exchange

Joshua was a Reformer,[or Whig, or Radical, the terms were fairly interchangeable] councillor won 260 votes in Castle Street ward or just over 73% of the turnout. The ward returned three Whig, or Reformer, councillors. The polling place was at the two windows of the King’s Arms Hotel fronting Castle-street. He was re-elected unopposed in 1838, and became mayor in November 1839 – 1840 while the Reformers still had a majority on the council with 28 councillors , and 16 aldermen against 20 Tory councillors.

This was the first election to Liverpool Town Council, held on Boxing Day 1835.  It was conducted under the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. The Act reformed local government replacing corporations which were largely run by un-elected freemen, by councils elected by ratepayers.

After the election of Councillors on 26 December 1835 and the Aldermanic election in January 1836, the composition of the council was  44 Reformer councillors, and 15 aldermen, and 4 Tory councillors and 1 alderman. At the meeting of the Council in January 1836, sixteen Aldermen were elected by the Council, eight for a term of six years and eight for a term of three years. 15 whigs and 1 Tory.

Joshua Walmsley was elected Mayor of Liverpool in 1839, and was knighted on the occasion of the Queen’s marriage in 1840.

Waterford election – 8th July 1841

OUTRAGE AT WATERFORD.—ELEVEN PERSONS SHOT.—On Thursday evening, [July 8] about nine o’clock, a crowd of children assembled in the Manor, and were shouting, “Down with the Tories !” “Wyse and Barron for ever !” with several exclamations of a like nature, when a monster, named Morgan, who resides in Henry-street, opened his door, and deliberately fired a pistol, loaded with balls or slugs, on the young and innocent creatures ; he then reloaded and fired again, then shut his door, and fired a third shot from his window. He succeeded in his deadly purpose. Will it be credited, he wounded eleven defenceless children, three of whom are not expected to recover ? Some boys, indignant at this horrid and brutal outrage, assailed the residence of this wretched and blood-stained man, and broke the windows in front of his house, but they were stopped by a few discreet neighbours. The police conducted the prisoner in perfect safety to the mayor’s office. The following named wounded persons (all being under the age of eighteen) sat at the side bar :—Johanna Heneberry, Alice Foley, Mary Doyle, Alice Keating, Michael Kelly, and Martin Magrath. Some of the other persons wounded were sent to the Leper Hospital, and others are in so dangerous a situation that they cannot be removed. Among the latter are a son of Mr. Thomas Torpey, a little girl named Mountain, and a boy named Quilty. About half past ten the prisoner Morgan was brought forward, when the mayor read the depositions of some of the wounded people, charging the prisoner with having fired two pistol shots. The mayor said he should commit the prisoner, and would not take bail. Since writing the above, we have heard that the child named Mountain has died of her wounds. Morgan is fully committed. – Abridged from the Waterford Chronicle.

WATERFORD (CITY).—SECOND DAY’S POLL, July 8.—The Conservatives started a fourth candidate this morning,—W. Morris Reade, Esq. The following is the close of the poll at five minutes past six o’clock p.m. :—Barron (R), 193; Wyse (R), 192; Christmas (T), 127; Reade (T), 111. Electors have been objected to on both sides as having registered out of house and premises, instead of house or premises; but the same objection having been raised at Dublin the assessor here has determined to be governed by the decision which shall be come to in the metropolis on the subject. —TEN O’CLOCK, P.M.—Four children have been severely wounded by a Conservative and his son, who fired pistol-shots and a blunderbuss laden with slugs on an unarmed mob. The perpetrators of this brutal act are in prison. Another man was stabbed by a man in the arm with a dagger, and two of the police wounded by the same instrument.

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 .

The text below is taken from the Spectator also on 17th July 1841. Both papers took a strongly anti-Tory stance.

WATERFORD CITY. Mr. [Thomas] Wyse and Mr. [Henry] Barron retired before the close of the poll, on Monday ; when Mr. [William] Christmas and Mr. [William Morris] Reade were declared duly elected. The contest was disgraced by savage riots. In the course of it, one Morgan fired a pistol, in self-defence, say the Tories ; but the persons he shot were boys and girls, eleven in number. One of them died, and Morgan was committed at the Police-office for trial. The Sheriff was thrown down and trampled on ; and four houses were “wrecked”; one of them being “literally torn down by the mob.”

Barron and Wyse having been defeated by the two Conservatives in 1841, were reseated on petition the following year.

Sir Thomas Wyse KCB (1791 – 1862), one of the ultimately successful M.P.’s probably bears more study. He was a Catholic and educated at Stonyhurst,  and Trinity College, Dublin. The family were Anglo-Irish having arrived in the C12th during the reign of Henry II. He married Princess Letizia Bonaparte [Napoléon’s niece] in Italy in 1821, when he was 30 and she was 16. The marriage seemed to be fairly rocky. After an especially violent fight in 1824, she fled to a convent and asked for a separation.  Eight months later, when Wyse threatened to leave Italy without her, she submitted to him, and travelled to Ireland with him. The arguments continued, and in May 1828 they agreed to a separation. Letizia threw herself into the Serpentine in Hyde Park in a suicide attempt and was rescued by Captain Studholme John Hodgson (1805–1890),  who became her lover. They had three children who all used the surname Bonaparte-Wyse.