Co. Armagh


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 6,000 in 1815; 3,767 voted in 1818


17 Nov. 1806ARCHIBALD ACHESON, Visct. Acheson 
13 Mar. 1807 WILLIAM BROWNLOW vice Acheson, become a peer of Ireland 
23 Sept. 1815 HON. HENRY CAULFEILD vice Brownlow, deceased 
10 July 1818CHARLES BROWNLOW1839
 Hon. Henry Caulfeild1261

Main Article

Armagh was fairly prosperous and, appropriately enough for the county which contained the headquarters of both the Catholic and Established churches, possessed an almost equal number of Catholics and Protestants. The leading electoral interests belonged to the Caulfeild, Acheson and Brownlow families, the first two being ennobled with the respective earldoms of Charlemont and Gosford, and until 1812 elections were largely settled between them without much reference to political issues.1 Subsequently, however, the Catholic question loomed large and affected the course of events.

In December 1801, when there was the prospect of a contest at the next election, Cope, a substantial landlord in the county and distantly related to the Achesons, requested and secured the promise of government support against a possible challenge by Henry Caulfeild, an opponent of the Union and of ministers.2 The latter’s family interest proved too powerful and Cope withdrew.3 In 1806 Acheson and Caulfeild supported the Grenville administration and, in return, both received its support and were unopposed.4

At the by-election of 1807 Brownlow replaced Acheson without a contest and with the latter’s support, but within weeks a canvass for the general election began. Lord Gosford, as Acheson had become, hoped that his brother would stand, but obstacles neither he nor a co-operative chief secretary could overcome prevented it. Gosford therefore supported Richardson and Brownlow in that order, confident of their success. Caulfeild, who had also canvassed, was thereby placed in a precarious situation. Hitherto he had enjoyed the support of the Brownlow interest, but the new head of that family, William Brownlow, directed it against him. On 22 May he withdrew from the contest, and a week later appealed to the independent electors to shake off any indifference they felt for elections in consequence of the Union, in order to overthrow the ‘powerful combination of the landed interest’ represented by the Gosford-Brownlow coalition.5

Caulfeild did not contest the election of 1812, but in 1815 opposed Charles Brownlow senior, brother of the deceased Member. This time he was supported by Gosford, like whom (and unlike Richardson and Brownlow) he supported Catholic relief. In the face of this new coalition which ‘vexed’ the lord lieutenant, it was Brownlow who withdrew, thus presenting Caulfeild with an unopposed return.6

In 1818 the Catholic question cut even more deeply across the traditional issue of ‘independent’ candidates confronting ‘a powerful combination of the landed interest’. Caulfeild was supported by Gosford, by a substantial Catholic landlord in the person of Sir Capel Molyneux and probably by a large section of Catholic opinion. Charles Brownlow junior and Richardson were supported by government, by a leading opponent of the Catholic claims, Col. William Blacker, and—so Caulfeild alleged—by a secret combination of the major landowners. Caulfeild was well beaten, though an ‘independent’ elector promptly surveyed the poll books and published his view that Caulfeild had been supported by a majority of the independent electors and defeated by the sheer weight of proprietary strength. George Ensor, the local reformer, wrote, ‘I am persuaded coalitions in this county are ended for half a century’. Col. Blacker, on the other hand, saw the defeat of Gosford and Caulfeild as a victory for anti-Catholic feeling in the county. If Blacker was correct, it was a pyrrhic victory, for in 1826 both Caulfeild and Brownlow were returned as supporters of Catholic emancipation.7

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Wakefield, Account of Ireland, ii. 302.
  • 2. Add. 35781, ff. 100-1.
  • 3. Add. 35735, ff. 76-82.
  • 4. Spencer mss, Irish list, May 1806.
  • 5. Wellington mss, Gosford to Wellesley, 2, 8 May 1807; Add. 40221, f. 16; Drogheda News Letter, 23 May 1807; Belfast News Letter, 29 May 1807.
  • 6. Dublin Corresp. 17 Oct. 1812; Belfast News Letter, 22 Sept. 1815; Add. 40190, f. 238.
  • 7. Saunder’s News Letter, 9 July 1818; Dublin Corresp. 27 June, 18 July 1818; Add. 35153, f. 48; 40279, f. 75; Dublin Evening Post, 10 Aug. 1826.