The death on 1 August 1714 of Queen Anne marked the end for the Stuarts as the ruling house of Britain and Ireland. James II’s son, James Francis Edward Stuart, was perceived by many (Jacobites) in Ireland, as the legitimate heir to the throne, and therefore James III, but he was precluded by the English Act of Settlement of 1689, which barred Catholics from the succession. Moreover, James Francis Edward declined the overtures of English Tories prior to the death of Anne to convert so his rights could be asserted. This obliged English Protestants to look elsewhere for a crowned head of Great Britain and Ireland, and they identified an acceptable candidate in George, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, the elector of the German principality of Hanover, who was a lineal descendant of James I – the first Stuart king of England and Ireland.
George I’s accession was promulgated in both kingdoms with appropriate ceremony, but this was less important than his acceptance by the generality of Protestants since this was the prerequisite for a secure Hanoverian succession. It also had important political ramifications, as George I placed a high premium on loyalty, and proven loyalty to the Hanoverian succession was crucial in determining who was to be entrusted with political power. This had profound implications for the two party system that had flourished during the reign of Anne. It meant that the Whigs, who were forthcoming with sincere professions of loyalty, were destined to dominate government for the foreseeable future, while their great rivals, the Tories, who aspired to a Stuart Protestant succession, no longer possessed a raison d’etre, and they were consigned to political oblivion.
The transition from the party system that had flourished during Anne’s reign to the more fluid interest politics of the early Hanoverian era was not trouble free. George I’s undertaking to ‘preserve the settlement of the true Protestant religion’ was warmly received by Irish Protestants, but the Whigs also expected that their Tory rivals, who had exercised a powerful, and contentious, sway in the corridors of power during the latter years of Anne, would be purged. The necessity of this was vividly and, as far as the future governance of the kingdom was concerned, tellingly demonstrated by the contentious manner in which the Tory–dominated Privy Council of Ireland between 1711 and 1714 refused to accede to the nomination by Dublin Corporation of a Whig to the lord mayoralty of Dublin. Problems were also encountered elsewhere, which affirmed Whigs in their determination to purge Tories from all positions of power and influence. Thus the Privy Council, which included more than fifty of the most important officeholders, most influential judges and best connected peers among their number, was reconstituted in September 1714, ‘with all the persons who have acted irregularly in the great affair of the city of Dublin … left out’ and an essentially Whig Council appointed in its place. A similar approach was adopted in respect of the judiciary, the revenue and the army, while Whig influence was bolstered the House of Lords by the elevation of Whigs to the peerage. Furthermore, former bastions of Irish toryism, such as the corporations of Kilkenny and Galway, were legally restructured to bring them into line with the Whig character of the Protestant ‘nation’ that represented the apex of the social pyramid of this ancien regime society.
2. The ‘Protestant Nation’Since one of the defining characteristics of an ancien regime society was a hierarchy of orders, eighteenth-century Ireland conformed to the European norm in this respect. However, Ireland deviated from what was normative in that the bulk of the social elite was ethnically and religiously different from the majority of the population. Comprising circa 20 per cent, or 400,000, of the country’s population, which oscillated between 2 and 2.5 million during the first half of the eighteenth century, the ‘Protestant nation’ embraced a social community that spanned the social spectrum from peers at one end to tradesmen and tenants at the other. Though commonly described today as the ‘Protestant ascendancy’, this term had no currency prior to the 1780s and early 1790s, when it was appealed to by conservative ideologues, who apprehended that the Protestant constitution was in danger of being undermined by the actions of Catholics without and reform-minded Protestants within. Prior to that moment, the favoured descriptive term employed by Irish Protestants was ‘Protestant interest’. Significantly, both this term and its more value-laden successor reflected that fact that religion took precedence over ethnicity and culture as the primary defining characteristic of Irish Protestants. Significantly, it also accurately reflected the fact that though a majority of Ireland’s Protestants were of English or Scottish origin, they included a significant percentage of French Huguenots, and converts from Catholicism from among the ranks of the Irish and Old English among their number.
The centrality of religion to the identity and outlook of Irish Protestants was manifest constitutionally in the fact that the Church of Ireland was an established church, and that Irish Protestants were united during the first half of the eighteenth century in their determination to secure the ‘Protestant constitution in church and state’ against its critics and opponents. Since in the Irish instance, the primary enemies of Protestantism were Catholics, Irish Protestants felt entirely justified in excluding Catholics from access to the political process and in curbing their economic, social and religious rights. To do otherwise must be to endanger their security.
The sensitivities of Irish Protestants on this point were honed by the communal memory of the experience of rebellion and massacre endured by their forbears in the seventeenth century. They had been refreshed by the events of 1688-91, when Jacobitism was at its most aggressive, and they were sustained in the collective consciousness of Irish Protestants through the eighteenth century by annual commemorations recalling the events of the1641 rebellion and the implication that the Irish Catholic population awaited an opportunity to repeat this horrific episode. This perception was reinforced locally by the celebrations of the relief of Enniskillen, Londonderry and Cork in 1689-90, and among the Protestant population at large by the celebration of William of Orange’s victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne.
It was affirmed further by their perception of the Catholic Church as a despotic institution, presided over by a Pope whom many Protestants conceived of as the Antichrist, whose object was to bring about their forced conversion, and if that did not prove possible, their destruction. In support of this conclusion, Protestants drew from the experiences of those who had suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church since the Middle Ages, pointed critically to the activities of the Inquisition, and cited Church documents, including the consecration oaths of bishops, that committed them to pursue heresy unto death.
The visible unease to which this gave rise among Irish Protestants was reinforced by their acute consciousness of the fact that they were the beneficiaries of a conquest that had resulted in the expropriation of the vast bulk of the lands of the kingdom. This accounts for the many Penal Laws that served not only to sustain those currently in possession, who owned over 85 per cent of the kingdom’s land in 1703, but also to discourage Catholics from retaining even their modest toehold. As a result, the percentage of land in Catholic possession fell to an estimated 5 per cent within two generations as landed Catholics availed of the incentives to convert to maintain possession of their patrimonies, or embraced Protestantism in order to fulfil their traditional role as social leaders.
This did little to ease the anxieties of Irish Protestants, but it provides an explanatory context for the enthusiasm with which they embraced events celebrating the Protestant succession. From their position, the monarchy was entirely deserving of celebration for the part it had played in assisting them to achieve their ascendant position in Ireland, and as a symbol of their commitment to the British connection. William of Orange was held in especial favour, inevitably; as well as his birthday (4 November), he was honoured publicly on the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne (1 July), the Battle of Aughrim (12 July), and the relief of the siege of Londonderry. These occasions also served an important purpose in generating a sense of communal solidarity and identity among Irish Protestants that countered the doubt and uncertainty to which Irish Protestants, as a minority identity, were prone. This was counted also by time, for as the actual memories of the seventeenth century diminished, Irish Protestants become more assured and confident as the eighteenth century progressed.
This was manifest architecturally in the replacement of houses constructed in the seventeenth century with elegant Palladian and Neo-classical mansions in the eighteenth that were as revealing of their outlook as of their increasing rent-rolls. It is identifiable on a still larger scale in the construction or reconstruction of cities (Dublin most notably) along more expansive lines; in the development of a road and canal network; and in the pervasive spirit of improvement that was a feature of their embrace of the spirit of eighteenth century patriotism. And it can be perceived in the greater manifestations of political assertiveness, which, for all the rhetoric that suggested otherwise, was less about independence, than it was about redefining the Anglo-Irish connection in a manner that afforded Irish Protestants a greater say in the governance and making of law for the kingdom of Ireland.
3. The structure of central government
Governance and law were matters of burning concern to the members of the Protestant nation because they were explicitly subordinate to the will of English ministers. This was symbolised by the fact that the Irish executive was headed by a lord lieutenant, generally an English politician, and seldom of the first rank. Moreover, following the example set by the Earl of Lord Rochester, 1700-01, they were non-resident, which meant that they restricted their presence in Ireland to coincide with the meeting of parliament, and delegated the responsibility at other times to lords justices, who were invariably chosen from among the holders of major office in Ireland such as the Lord Chancellor, the speaker of the House of Commons and the Archbishop of Armagh. This arrangement served to ensure that the ‘secretary to the lord lieutenant’, or ‘chief secretary’ as he was better known, played an essentially modest and subordinate during this period, though the more able and ambitious (Lord Duncannon (1741-5); Edward Southwell (1703-07, 1708-10)) not only demonstrated the potential of the office, they also wielded considerable influence in their own right.
At any event, the government of Ireland depended for its efficient operation on the attentiveness, energy and ability of a comparatively small number of office-holders or, if they were sinecures, of their deputies. This lent itself to inefficiency when the incumbent was less than able and, on occasion, to corruption, when he was venal. But the most striking feature of the commissioners of the revenue, who managed the kingdom’s largest bureaucracy and who performed a crucial revenue collecting function, or the deputy vice-treasurer, who oversaw the receipt and disbursement of funds from the exchequer, was the scrupulousness with which they performed their duties. This did not mean that they did not profit, and in some instances profit greatly, from the salaries that came with these positions and from using the public money for which they were responsible for personal purposes. This was not illegal, and there is little evidence to suggest that fraud (while it did occur) was endemic at this or at other levels in the system. These office holders performed a vital administrative role without which the government of Ireland could not have functioned. By contrast, the holder of ostensibly important offices such as the secretary of state or the chancellor of the exchequer were of little real consequence politically and administratively.
This could be true also of the members of the Privy Council. This body played a central role in the making of law, and a vital part in government as the source of proclamations, which were one of the primary means by which the Irish administration communicated its decisions to the population and responded to social, political and other problems. However, only a minority of councillors contributed actively to this work, and to the other work performed by the Council. Prominent among their number were the Lord Chancellor, who was the principal law officer and the head of the Court of Chancery, and the chief judges of the courts of King’s Bench, Chancery, Exchequer and Common Pleas.
The primary responsibility of the judiciary was to oversee the administration of justice. They were assisted in this task by eight judges and by the main law officers – the attorney general, solicitor general, prime serjeant – and they were enabled thereby to ensure that the law percolated, however inadequately in respect of the more remote areas, through the kingdom. The main courts, which performed a national function, sat in Dublin; special courts of oyer and terminer met monthly or as required in the main cities, while assize courts were conducted, accorded to a well-established schedule, twice yearly throughout the five assize circuits in the main country towns. It was here that the representatives of government in the localities – grand jurors, magistrates, high sheriffs, sheriffs, justices of the peace, parish constables – came face to face with those responsible for its administration at national level. Meanwhile, offences of a lesser consequences were largely dealt with locally in privately run manor courts or courts leet, though there was nothing akin to nationwide network of such courts.
Such local courts were frequently presided over by the agent of the local landlord. Since agents were, as this suggests, individuals of some stature in the community they also sat on grand juries. These played a central role in the judicial process by determining which cases were brought to trial at the assizes. Their role in overseeing the construction of roads, bridges and in authorising expenditure in public works was no less crucial. They performed an essential local government function in this capacity, and were an important register of local influence, which encouraged resident landlords to participate on such bodies.
4. The representative system
Local eminence was an important consideration for those with political ambition. The Irish parliament was bicameral; membership of the smaller upper house, the House of Lords, was reserved to peers of the realm, whose number rose during the eighteenth century, and to the 22 archbishops and bishops of the Church of Ireland. The House of Commons was less exclusive. Comprising three hundred MPs representing 150 two-seat constituencies, only the thirty-two county constituencies, and the eight county boroughs, which included Dublin and Cork among their number, can be described a popular.
The electorate in the counties was composed of all registered forty-shilling freeholders, which meant that it ranged from less than a thousand in counties such as Waterford, Longford and Galway to several thousand in the more populous and protestant counties of Down, Antrim and Londonderry. Dublin city had a comparable number of freemen, but the situation in the remaining 120 boroughs, which comprised 55 corporation boroughs without freemen, 36 corporation boroughs with freemen, 12 potwalloping boroughs and Trinity College, was palpable leaner. The electorate in a majority of the corporation boroughs without freemen was confined to the officers of the corporation and thirteen burgesses. This made them tempting targets for ambitious men eager to build up political interests in the House of Commons, and a striking number of such boroughs were brought under the control of the leaders of major interests as the result either of power struggles or of attentive management. This process was assisted, moreover, by the ratification in 1748 of the Newtown Act, which permitted corporations to elect non-residents as officers and burgesses.
Obviously, the larger the electorate the greater the difficulty in bringing a borough under control. This meant that corporation boroughs with freemen were less obviously amenable than those without, but since borough owners and others were enabled in many instances to control the admission to the freedom of a borough, this did not prove a forbidding obstacle. As a result, major borough managers such as Henry Boyle, Henry Agar, the first Earl of Bessborough, William Conolly and others were enabled to control both. Indeed, they managed also, through forging alliance with other landowners, who directed how freeholders should vote, to determine the outcome in county constituencies.
5. Politics in the reign of George I: Wood’s halfpenceThe collapse of the Tory party with the inauguration in 1714 of a Hanoverian succession signalled the end of the Whig-Tory party conflict that had characterised the reign of Queen Anne, and the emergence of a struggle for office between rival Whig factions. The rivalry that dominated politics during the reign of George I (1714-27) was between William Conolly and Alan Brodrick, the son and heir of the Lord Chancellor, Viscount Midleton. Of the two men, Conolly was the more politically adept. A self made man, who had built up an extensive fortune through profitable speculation in land, he was by dint of the fact that from 1715 he was speaker of the House of Commons, chief commissioner of the revenue and a lords justice (in the absence of the lord lieutenant) in pole position to overcome all rivals. Broderick, by contrast, could draw on a powerful political connection based in County Cork and the reputation successive members of his family had earned as the voice of Irish Protestantism. However, this meant that Brodrick was more inclined than his rival to take a confrontational approach, with the result that when lord lieutenants were obliged to choose most tended to side with the more dependable Conolly.
This was a matter of profound consequence in the mid-1720s when Irish public and political opinion famously collided with the attempt by the King and his ministers to sell the right to produce £108,000 in low denomination copper coin for Ireland to William Wood, an English ironmonger. This was not so unprecedented as opinion in Ireland conceived it to be, but the public mood was tender. Having recently endured the humiliation of the Declaratory Act (1720), by whose terms House of Lords at Westminster was recognised as the court of dernier appeal in Irish law cases and the British parliament was legally empowered to make law for Ireland, Irish opinion was instinctively suspicious of every suggestion emanating from London. Such feelings contributed in no small way to the rejection in 1720-1 of a proposal to establish a Bank of Ireland. It ensured that the reaction in 1724-5 to the proposal to introduce low denomination copper coinage was still more negative, though the depleted state of the Irish coinage warranted such an initiative. No less significantly, Irish opinion found a champion in Jonathan Swift. Writing under the pseudonym of M.B. Drapier, Swift deployed his prodigious talents as a propagandist in support of the patriot argument that it was for the Irish parliament alone to decide on the laws and initiatives appropriate for the kingdom of Ireland.
The dissemination and embrace of Swift’s argument was greatly facilitated by the dramatic expansion in the public sphere in Ireland in the 1720s. The most striking index of this is provided by the rise in the number of newspapers and pamphlets being published. Swift contributed to this in his guise of M. B. Drapier, but he also produced a number of other less comforting works, the most notable of which was A Modest Proposal, in which he deployed his satirical genius to great effect in an attempt to stimulate a more enterprising attitude to economic development. Swift was prompted to do this by the famine conditions that gripped large parts of Ireland in the late 1720s, and it is significant that it met with a positive political response. This led directly to a number of improving initiatives such as the founding in 1731 of the Dublin Society, and to the emergence of a more overt culture of improvement that assisted with the economic development of the country.
6. The Undertaker System, 1733-65Meanwhile, the political fallout from the Wood’s halfpence dispute convinced the Irish administration that it was more advantageous to place its trust in one individual to manage the House of Commons than to choose between the leaders of two major parliamentary interests. The beneficiary of this development was William Conolly, for though he maintained some distance between himself and Dublin Castle when the halfpence dispute raged, he proved more reasonable and dependable than the Brodricks who openly opposed the scheme. This led directly to the decision, in 1726, to sack Lord Chancellor Midleton, following which the administration had no option but to appeal to William Conolly, whose role expanded accordingly from that of a parliamentary manager to that of ‘undertaker’. This involved taking a more pro-active stand, first, in forging a working majority for the Irish administration in the House of Commons. Secondly, it assured him of a direct say in determining what legislation would be presented to parliament; and thirdly, it involved securing approval for government measures and, when appropriate, in opposing those that were regarded with disfavour.
The undertaker system proved effective at keeping Irish politics on an even keel for several decades, though William Conolly’s death in 1729 meant he did not live long enough to witness this. No less significantly, he was not see his vision of a modern house of parliament become a reality either, for though he set in train the process that was to ensure that the kingdom of Ireland by 1740 was equipped with arguably the finest parliament house in Europe, this pleasure belonged to others. As there was no natural successor from within the ranks of his own lieutenants, it took some years of political uncertainty following Conolly’s death before Henry Boyle of Castlemartyr, County Cork, assumed the role of undertaker in 1733.
As the possessor of a patriot reputation and the leader of what was once the Brodrick connection, Boyle was regarded with distrust by many in the corridors of power. However, he was able to overcome these reservations. He was extremely capable, and while he could be combative in defence of his own, and on occasion Irish, interests if he believed ministers were being unreasonable, he was not disposed to be pugnacious for the sale of it. He was enabled as a result to ensure that the vital task of securing approval through the 1730s and 1740s for the supply bills that provided the funding required to pay for the administration of Ireland was forthcoming. As the speaker of the House of Commons, chief commissioner of the revenue and, in the lord lieutenant’s absence, one of the lords justices, Boyle was ideally placed to monitor events, and to ensure that the members of his extensive connection and the leaders and members of the different interests that joined forces with him were appropriately rewarded.
Moreover, he was sufficiently shrewd to accommodate other ambitious interests when it was to his advantage to do so. This was a wise course of action, as it meant as the Ponsonbys emerged as a force from the late 1730s that Boyle did not seek to do the impossible and displace them in the affections of the lord lieutenant, the Duke of Devonshire, to whom they were connected by marriage. He contrived instead to keep them on side by allowing them more then their share of influential office. This worked satisfactorily until the early 1750s, when the Ponsonbys teamed up with the ambitious primate, George Stone, and a new lord lieutenant and chief secretary, who argued simplistically that it was crucial for the future security of British interests in Ireland ‘to bring power back to the Castle’. The implication that Boyle had sought consistently over a period of nearly two decades to assert the autonomy of the legislature at the expense of Dublin Castle was misleading. However, it encouraged his opponents to persist in their intrigue to taken his place. Realising that he had to demonstrate his strength if he was to retain his influence, Boyle chose his ground carefully, and he determined in 1753 to oppose a bill appertaining to the allocation of the surplus money in the Irish exchequer. Since this was a politically sensitive matter, Boyle had chosen well and it inaugurated a political crisis – the Money Bill Dispute – lasting until 1756 that provided ministers with an unwelcome demonstration of just how unstable Irish politics could be if the concerns of Irish Protestants were not afforded due attention.
The Money Bill Dispute concluded with a compromise whereby Boyle accepted a peerage effectively to retire from political life, John Ponsonby succeeded him as Speaker, and Primate Stone (significantly) was left out in the cold. The expectation in governmental circles was that Irish politics should revert to the familiar efficient pattern visible during the 1740s, but this was not to be. True, the system of parliamentary management centred on political interests undertaking to usher government legislation onto the statute book continued to function through the late 1750s and early 1760s, but the system wanted for the stability evident earlier. This can be attributed in part to the fact that John Ponsonby was not as adept as Henry Boyle, but it was also the case that ministers no longer placed the same degree of confidence in Irish undertakers, and entertained increased unease at the non-residence of lord lieutenants.
7. The Catholic Committee
The Catholic population, meanwhile, maintained a low profile for most of the early Hanoverian era. This was a prudent tactic during the reign of George I (1714-27) and the first two decades of that of his successor, as Irish Protestants remained deeply fearful of Catholic intentions. The failure of the Catholic population to emulate their Scottish equivalents and rise up in support of the Bonne Prince Charlie and the restoration of the Stuarts in 1745 served to ease such fears. Few Protestants were prepared as yet to contemplate repealing any of the laws against Catholics on the statute book, but they were no longer willing to contemplate new ones. Elements of Catholic opinion observed this keenly, but they were unsure how best to proceed. Their inaction was encouraged by the divisions that were revealed within their communion in 1727 when the efforts of a number of realists to secure support for an address of loyalty to George II on his accession to the throne was resisted by a strongly jacobite element, with a number of bishops of the Catholic Church to the fore. Such differences persisted, but the evident decline in support for Jacobitism evident in the attitude of the rising Catholic middle classes, encouraged other Catholics to take the initiative.
They were lead by Charles O’Conor, a landowner and scholar based at Belanagare, County Roscommon, John Curry, a medical doctor based in Dublin, and Thomas Wyse, a landowner from County Waterford, who had been engaged for some time in the preparation of tracts aimed at countering the negative view of Catholics and Catholicism offered the Protestant Irish public. Personally persuaded that because there was no prospect of a Stuart succession, it was in the interest of Catholics to accommodate to the state and accept the Hanoverian succession, they were encouraged to step up their activities in the 1750s by the divisions within Protestantism reveal by the Money Bill dispute, and by the willingness of some Protestants to contemplate amending those Penal Laws that applied to the Catholic Church. These considerations encouraged the foundation in July 1756 of the Catholic Committee to take advantage of the improving atmosphere, and of the opportunity presented by the outbreak, also in 1756, of the Seven Years War between Britain and France. These combined in 1759 when Charles O’Conor organised an address from a large body of Catholic gentlemen to George II congratulating the king on the recent victories of his armies over France and assuring him of their allegiance.
Such addresses were well received, and Catholics seemed further to demonstrate that they were deserving of trust in the autumn and winter of 1759-60 when they did not respond to a proliferation of reports of an imminent French invasion, or to the brief capture by a French privateer, Francois Thurot, of Carrickfergus in February 1760 to rise in support. However, differences within the Catholic Committee on the content of an address to George III on his accession to the throne also in 1760 indicated the lack of unity within Catholic ranks. More significantly, the refusal by the Irish parliament in 1762-3 to sanction an scheme that would have allowed Catholics to serve in the British military abroad, and in the years following, to approve a sequence of proposals to enable them to lend money on mortgage and to lease land indicated the continuing disinclination of Irish Protestants to approve even modest measures of Catholic relief. What the efforts of the Catholic Committee during the late 1750s and early 1750s served to do was to place the question of Catholic rights on the political agenda. No less significantly, it was now possible for Catholics, by acknowledging publicly that they accepted the legitimacy of the ruling house of Hanover, to avow that they no longer aspired to effect the restoration of the Stuarts.
8. Conclusion: Lord Townshend and the end of the Undertaker System, 1767-72
The manifest increase in political instability in Ireland that was one of the major legacies of the Money Bill dispute (1753-6), allied to the greater recognition in Britain of the advisability of placing their expanded empire of a sounder administrative footing, encouraged ministers to consider reconfiguring the administration of Ireland. They did not envisage a radical departure, as the cabinet decision made in February 1765 to authorise the future lords lieutenants should reside in Ireland for the whole of their term in office, indicates. Moreover, a change in government shortly afterwards ensured that no steps were taken in the short term to implement this decision, and it appeared to have been forgotten about when Lord Townshend was appointed Lord Lieutenant in 1767.
George, Lord Townshend (1724-1807) has been described as warm hearted and sensitive, but in keeping with his distinguished service as a soldier, he could be quarrelsome as well as decisive. Sent to Ireland with the responsibility of obtaining parliamentary approval to increase the size of the Irish army establishment, Townshend was quickly embroiled in political controversy when he declined to meet the high price demanded by the leaders of the main Irish political connections in return for their support. Unwilling to be dictated to, Townshend determined to reside in Ireland with a view to reforming the basis of government there by strengthening the position of Dublin Castle. His ministerial colleagues were wary, not least because they did not wish a replication in Ireland of the problems they were currently experiencing in the American colonies. However, when the leading interests in Ireland persisted in their non-cooperation and engineered the rejection of a money bill in 1769, Townshend was authorised to proceed with his plans. He prorogued parliament as a demonstration of his earnestness, and in the interval between the prorogation and its resumption (December 1769-February 1771), he set about constructing a nexus of interests that would enable the administration to secure parliamentary approval for its legislative agenda.
This was a difficult and demanding task not least because it involved the dismissal of officeholders, including John Ponsonby – the leading undertaker. Townshend’s abrasive personality also contributed to the generation of resistance, but this was secondary to the conclusion of political and public opinion alike that Townshend was embarked on the same strategy aimed at undermining the liberties of the subject as Britain was in respect of it North American colonies. This added greatly to the controversy generated by Townshend, but he was enabled to make progress towards achieving his goal by divisions within the ranks of his opponents, and by the readiness of a coterie of ambitious men, eager for power and preferment, to join forces with him. The Castle’s authority in the House of Commons was far from entirely secure by 1772 when Townshend was replaced. However, he had constructed a Castle interest that was generally capable of carrying the day in parliament and strengthened the position of the executive. This bode well for the future stability of Irish politics and the Anglo-Irish nexus if future lords lieutenant proved as capable as Townshend. But this, of course, was not to be.
Dr James Kelly