Co. Carlow


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 4,000 in 1815


26 July 1802DAVID LATOUCHE524
 William Henry Burton437
 Sir Richard Butler, Bt.426
30 Oct. 1812DAVID LATOUCHE680
 Walter Bagenal296
18 Apr. 1816 ROBERT ANTHONY LATOUCHE vice Latouche, deceased 
29 June 1818HENRY BRUEN 

Main Article

It was reliably reported in 1812 that although Carlow was geographically small, ‘destitute of manufacturers’ and lacking ‘a resident temporal or spiritual peer’, it was ‘tenanted by more wealthy people than almost any other Irish county’. It is certainly true that a number of gentry drew sizeable incomes from their estates in the county and that many of them possessed influential electoral interests. The most important belonged to the Kavanaghs of Borris, a Catholic family descended from the ancient kings of Leinster whose head was evidently referred to in Carlow as the ‘monarch’. Others with influence were the Bruens of Oak Park, the Latouches of Upton, the Butlers of Garryhunden and Walter Bagenal, who, since a substantial proportion of the family estates had been sold to the Latouches in the 1780s and the remainder left to his sister, lived in England and was regarded as having only an ‘hereditary’ interest.1 The electorate was probably largely Catholic in persuasion, for on at least one occasion in the period Catholic opinion was of some account in determining the course of an election.

At the general election of 1802 the sitting Members were opposed by a coalition of Latouche and Bagenal. The differences between the two parties are obscure. All four candidates had opposed the Union and none of them showed any determination to oppose ministers. Nevertheless, a contest took place and polling was brisk and evenly divided until 610 freeholders in Walter Kavanagh’s interest arrived to support Latouche and Bagenal, thereby forcing Butler and Burton to retire. Kavanagh’s motives are as obscure as those of the candidates, although he may have been influenced by the firm support both Latouche and Bagenal gave to Catholic emancipation.2

The elections of 1806 and 1807 were uncontested, although Sir Richard Butler’s heir, Thomas, canvassed with government support in 1807, only to retreat from a poll.3 By 1812 several factors threatened the sitting Members. The Kavanagh interest, upon which they both to some extent relied, had been weakened by the concession of tenancies on long leases. Moreover, after a brief visit to Carlow in 1805, Bagenal had subsequently remained in England, thus weakening his standing with the electors. In consequence, Henry Bruen decided to contest the county. Although as a relatively poor, middle-aged absentee, Bagenal might have seemed a less attractive candidate than Bruen who was ‘young, resident, very wealthy ... and lavish of his money’, his prospects at the outset were not altogether dim, and he, with Latouche, received the support of the ‘spirited Catholics’. His fortunes changed abruptly when at one point his brother-in-law Newton gave 200 of his tenants’ second votes to Bruen: ‘this was resented by the Catholics, as wantonly injuring Mr Latouche, the other popular candidate, and therefore to disappoint Newton (who speculated upon one day succeeding Bagenal) they were resolved to bring in Latouche at all events’. They accordingly neglected Bagenal, who duly lost the election. Whether the Catholic voters as a body were pleased with the result may be doubted, for Bruen proved a firm opponent of Catholic claims.4

At the by-election in 1816, one Latouche replaced another unopposed, though Newton was ‘spoken of as a candidate’, and Sir Ulysses Burgh, Bagenal’s son-in-law, declined to offer. In 1818, as in 1812, there was an abrupt change of fortune. A fortnight before the election, Walter Kavanagh died. He was succeeded by his younger brother Thomas, who, on his marriage to a sister of the Earl of Ormonde, had turned protestant. His wife’s family were well known opponents of Catholic relief. ‘A great revolution in the politics of this county has taken place’, Henry Bruen informed the chief secretary, ‘Kavanagh of Borris is dead, and if Lord Ormonde would influence his sister who is now the mistress of that interest in my favour, I should most materially be benefited.’ Government almost certainly agreed to Bruen’s request and also favoured the pretensions of Sir Ulysses Burgh. Thus the pro-Catholic Latouche was opposed by the anti-Catholic Bruen and by Burgh, whose opinion on the issue was as yet unclear. Dr Doyle, professor of Catholic theology at Carlow College, urged Catholic voters to make sure of Latouche’s return and Bruen’s defeat before casting votes for Burgh. His advice was premature, for Latouche retired before the poll in the face of his opponents’ overwhelming proprietary strength.5

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. H. Macdougal, Sketches of Irish Political Character, 299-300; Wakefield, Account of Ireland, i. 247-8; ii. 302; Add. 51826, Skully to Holland, 19 Nov. 1812; F. B. Hamilton, Picture of Parliament (1831), 44.
  • 2. Add. 35713, f. 122; 35772, f. 7; Saunders’s News Letter, 3 Aug. 1802.
  • 3. Wellington mss, Aldborough to Wellesley, 15 May 1807.
  • 4. Add. 40280, f. 64; 51826, ff. 168-9; R. Malcomson, Carlow Parliamentary Roll, 30; Dublin Corresp. 26 Oct. 1812.
  • 5. Add. 40278, ff. 113, 189; W. J. Fitzpatrick, Life and Times of Dr Doyle, i. 80.