Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parnell, Henry Brooke

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Contains subarticle [[#John |John Vesey Parnell]] (1805–1883).

PARNELL, HENRY BROOKE, first Baron Congleton (1776–1842), born on 3 July 1776, was the second son of Sir John Parnell [q. v.], by his wife Letitia Charlotte, second daughter and coheiress of Sir Arthur Brooke, bart., of Cole-Brooke, co. Fermanagh. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, but did not take any degree. At the general election in the summer of 1797 he was returned to the Irish House of Commons for Maryborough. He spoke in support of the Regency Bill on 11 April 1799 (Report of Debate, &c, pp. 138-41), and voted against the union. On the death of his father in December 1801 Parnell succeeded to the family estates in Queen's County, which had been settled upon him in consequence of his brother's disabilities by an act of the Irish parliament passed in May 1789 (Journals of the Irish House of Commons, vol. xiii., see index). In April 1802 he was elected to the parliament of the United Kingdom for Queen's County, which he represented until the dissolution in June of that year. He was returned for the borough of Portarlington at the general election in July 1802, but retired from parliament on his appointment as escheator of Munster in December following. At a by-election in February 1806 he was again returned for Queen's County, which he thenceforth continued to represent until the dissolution in December 1832. Parnell was appointed a commissioner of the treasury for Ireland in the ministry of all the talents in February 1806, and took part in the debate on the Irish budget on 7 May following (Parl. Debates, 1st ser. vii. 45–8). He retired from office on Lord Grenville's downfall in March 1807. On 18 April 1809 he brought forward a resolution in favour of assimilating the currency of Ireland with that of Great Britain, which was, however, negatived without a division (ib. 1st ser. xiv. 75–89, 91). On 30 May following his motion for the appointment of a commission to inquire into the manner in which tithes were collected in Ireland was rejected by a majority of seventy-one (ib. 1st ser. xiv. 792–4, 799–80), and on 13 April 1810 he failed to obtain the appointment of a select committee for a similar inquiry (ib. 1st ser. xvi. 658–72). On 19 Feb. 1810 he was appointed a member of the bullion committee, of which Francis Horner [q. v.] was the chairman (Journals of the House of Commons, lxv. 105). He supported Grattan's motion respecting the Roman catholic petitions on 1 June 1810 (Parl. Debates, 1st ser. xvii. 252–6), and on 8 May 1811 made an elaborate speech in defence of the report of the bullion committee (ib. 1st ser. xix. 1020–51). He again brought the question of Irish tithes before the house on 11 June 1811 (ib. 1st ser. xx. 572–80), and in the following session gave his support to Lord Morpeth's motion for an inquiry into the state of Ireland (ib. 1st ser. xxi. 622–35). On the death of his elder brother in July 1812 Parnell succeeded to the baronetcy. On 2 March 1813 he supported Grattan's motion for a committee on the Roman catholic claims (ib. 1st ser. xxiv. 986–1004). As chairman of the select committee appointed to inquire into the corn trade of the United Kingdom, he drew the attention of the house to their report on 15 June 1813 (ib. 1st ser. xxvi. 644–59), and on 5 May 1814 his resolution in favour of permitting the exportation of grain without duty or bounty was carried (ib. 1st ser. xxvii. 666, 707–16, 717, 722). His motion for a committee of the whole house on the laws affecting Roman catholics was defeated on 30 May 1815 by a majority of eighty-one (ib. 1st ser. xxxi. 474–82, 524). On 25 May 1819 he supported Peel's resolutions with respect to the resumption of cash payments (ib. 1st ser. xl. 757–60), and in July following he brought forward a series of forty-seven resolutions concerning the retrenchment of the public expenditure (ib. 1st ser. xl. 1429–38, 1551–3, 1564–8). On 24 June 1823 Parnell asked for the appointment of a committee to inquire ‘into the extent and object of the disturbances existing in Ireland,’ but was only supported by thirty-nine votes (ib. 2nd ser. ix. 1148–85, 1202–3). On 10 Feb. 1825 he opposed the introduction of the Irish Unlawful Societies Bill, and asserted that there could be ‘no other termination to its destructive operation but insurrection and rebellion’ (ib. 2nd ser. xii. 204–33). In the same month he introduced a bill ‘to amend the law in Ireland respecting the subletting of tenements,’ and a bill ‘to regulate the office of justice of the peace in Ireland’ (ib. 2nd ser. xii. 621–4, 624–5). He spoke at great length on the Customs Consolidation Bill on 17 June 1825 (ib. 2nd ser. xiii. 1222–42). On 15 Feb. 1828 he was appointed a member of the select committee on the state of the public income and expenditure of the United Kingdom (Journals of the House of Commons, lxxxiii. 76), of which he was subsequently nominated chairman (Parl. Papers, 1828, vol. v.).

Parnell supported the second reading of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill in March 1829 (Parl. Debates, 2nd ser. xx. 1200–5). On 15 Nov. 1830 his motion for referring the civil list to a select committee (ib. 3rd ser. i. 525–31, 532) was carried against the government by 233 votes to 204, and on the following day the Duke of Wellington resigned. Parnell succeeded Charles Watkin Williams-Wynn as secretary at war in Lord Grey's administration on 4 April 1831, and was sworn a member of the privy council on the 27th of the same month (London Gazette, 1831, i. 643, 874). By entering into an unauthorised negotiation with the French post office, and by encouraging Joseph Hume to bring a motion against our own post office, he exasperated the postmaster-general (the Duke of Richmond), and narrowly escaped dismissal (Greville Memoirs, 1874, 1st ser. ii. 243, n.) The ministry declined to concur in his proposed reduction of the army estimates, which he calculated would save the nation 600,000l. a year (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. xi. 1020–3), and he was shortly afterwards dismissed from office for his refusal to support the ministry in the division on the Russian-Dutch war question on 26 Jan. 1832 (Thomas Raikes, Journal, 1856, i. 9). Parnell had previously pressed upon Melbourne ‘in the most urgent manner the necessity of gratifying O'Connell’ (Melbourne Papers, 1890, p. 167). He now wrote to Brougham urging him to secure the support of O'Connell and the leading Irish Roman catholics, assuring him that he was the only member of the cabinet who comprehended the Irish question; and adding, ‘most of your colleagues are not only ignorant of it, but, as it seems, incapable of understanding it’ (Life and Times of Lord Brougham, 1871, iii. 174–5). On 23 May 1832 Parnell called the attention of the house to the state of Queen's County, and moved for a select committee to inquire into the general efficiency of the law in Ireland for repressing outrages and disturbances (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. xii. 1416–1417, 1428). He declined to contest Queen's County at the general election in December 1832, and on 27 March 1833 was appointed a member of the excise commission of inquiry (Parl. Papers, 1837, vol. xxx.). At a by-election in April 1833 he was returned for Dundee, which he continued to represent until his elevation to the House of Lords. In May 1835 he both spoke and voted against the government on the navy and the army estimates (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. xxvi. 1041–2, xxvii. 348–9, 356). On the formation of Lord Melbourne's administration Parnell was appointed treasurer of the navy (22 April 1835) and paymaster-general of the forces (14 May 1835). By a treasury warrant of 1 Dec. 1836, under 5 and 6 Will. IV, c. 35, these offices were consolidated with those of the paymaster and treasurer of Chelsea Hospital and treasurer of the ordnance, and the duties transferred to a new official styled the paymaster-general, a position which Parnell filled until his death. On 15 March 1838 Parnell spoke in favour of the abolition of the corn laws, and declared that ‘there was no one interest in the country which derived any advantage from the corn laws but the landowners’ (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. xli. 935–7, 939). In March 1839 and in May 1840 he again supported Mr. Villiers's motion (ib. 3rd ser. xlvi. 647–654, liv. 611–16). He spoke for the last time in the House of Commons during the debate on the sugar duties on 14 May 1841 (ib. 3rd ser. lviii. 439–45). He was created Baron Congleton of Congleton in the county palatine of Chester on 20 Aug. 1841, and took his seat in the House of Lords on the 23rd of the same month (Journals of the House of Lords, lxxiii. 572), but never took any part in the debates. After suffering for some time from ill-health, he committed suicide by hanging himself in his dressing-room in Cadogan Place, Chelsea, on 8 June 1842, and was buried on the 14th of the same month in the burial-ground of St. George's, Hanover Square, in the Bayswater Road, where in 1842 a tablet was erected in the chapel to his memory.

Congleton was an active and useful member of the most liberal section of the whig party. He was a fluent but monotonous speaker. He achieved a high reputation in his day, both as a political economist and as a writer on finance. In the art of giving a plain, lucid statement of complex financial matters he had few superiors. In his treatise on ‘Financial Reform,’ which had a considerable influence on public opinion, he laid before the country the financial and fiscal policy which Sir Robert Peel and Mr. Gladstone afterwards carried out (Sydney Buxton, Finance and Politics, 1888, i. 32, n.) Greville called him ‘a very bad secretary at war, a rash economical innovator, and a bad man of business in its details’ (Memoirs, 1874, 1st ser. ii. 243).

He married, on 17 Feb. 1801, Lady Caroline Elizabeth Dawson, eldest daughter of John, first earl of Portarlington, by whom he had three sons, viz.: (1) John Vesey, second baron Congleton [see below]; (2) Henry William, third and present baron Congleton; and (3) George Damer, vicar of Long Cross, Chertsey, from 1861 to 1875, who died on 17 Dec. 1882; and three daughters, viz.: (1) Caroline Sophia, who became the wife of Charles Thomas Longley [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury, and died on 9 March 1858; (2) Mary Letitia, who was married, first, to Lord Henry Seymour Moore, and, secondly, to Edward Henry Cole of Stoke Lyne, Oxfordshire, and died on 6 May 1881; and (3) Emma Jane, who became the wife of Edward, fifth earl of Darnley, and died on 15 March 1884. Lady Congleton survived her husband many years, and died at Paris on 16 Feb. 1861, aged 78. A portrait of Congleton by Samuel Lane was exhibited at the loan collection of national portraits at South Kensington in 1868 (Cat. No. 319). Several of Congleton's speeches were separately published. He was the author of the following works:

  1. ‘Observations upon the State of Currency of Ireland, and upon the Course of Exchange between London and Dublin,’ Dublin, 1804, 8vo; 2nd edit. Dublin, 1804, 8vo; 3rd edit. (with additional appendix), 1804, 8vo.
  2. ‘The Principles of Currency and Exchange, illustrated by Observations on the State of Ireland, 1805; with an Appendix containing the Substance of the Evidence given before the Committee of the House of Commons,’ London, 1805, 8vo.
  3. ‘An Historical Apology for the Irish Catholics,’ 1807, 8vo.
  4. ‘A History of the Penal Laws against the Irish Catholics, from the Treaty of Limerick to the Union,’ London, 1808, 8vo; a ‘new edition’ appeared in vols. xx. and xxi. of the ‘Pamphleteer’ (London, 1822, 8vo); 4th edition (with slightly altered title), London, 1825, 8vo.
  5. ‘Treatise on the Corn Trade and Agriculture,’ 1809, 8vo.
  6. ‘The Substance of the Speeches of Sir Henry Parnell, bart., in the House of Commons, with additional Observations on the Corn Laws,’ London, 1814, 8vo; the third edition was published in vol. iv. of the ‘Pamphleteer,’ London, 1814, 8vo.
  7. ‘Observations on the Irish Butter Acts,’ London, 1825, 8vo.
  8. ‘Observations on Paper Money, Banking, and Over-Trading, including those parts of the Evidence taken before the Committee of the House of Commons which explain the Scotch System of Banking,’ London, 1827, 8vo; another edition, 1829, 8vo.
  9. ‘On Financial Reform,’ London, 1830, 8vo; 2nd edit. London, 1830, 8vo; 3rd edit. London, 1831, 16mo; 4th edit. enlarged, 1832, 8vo. Selections from this book, compiled by Henry Lloyd Morgan, were published under the title of ‘National Accounts,’ 2nd edit., London, 1873, 8vo.
  10. ‘A plain Statement of the Power of the Bank of England, and the Use it has made of it; with a Refutation of the Objections made to the Scotch System of Banking, and a Reply to “The Historical Sketch [by J. R. McCulloch] of the Bank of England,”’ London, 1832, 8vo, anon.
  11. ‘A Treatise on Roads, wherein the Principles on which Roads should be made are explained and illustrated by the Plans, Specifications, and Contracts made use of by Thomas Telford, Esq., on the Holyhead Road,’ London, 1833, 8vo; 2nd edit. enlarged, 1838, 8vo.

John Vesey Parnell, second Baron Congleton (1805–1883), born in Baker Street, London, on 16 June 1805, was educated first in France, and afterwards at Edinburgh University, where he took a prize for mathematics. Though intended by his father for the army, he joined the Plymouth brethren in 1829, and in May 1830 he established a meeting-room in Aungier Street, Dublin, which is said to have been ‘the brethren's first public room’ (Andrew Miller, The Brethren: a brief Sketch of their Origin, Progress, and Testimony, p. 21). In September 1830 he set out on a mission to Bagdad, in company with F. W. Newman and Edward Cronin. The mission proved a failure, and Parnell, after two years' residence at Bagdad, went on to India, where he was equally unsuccessful. He returned to England in 1837, and spent the remainder of his life in travelling over the country on preaching tours, and in endeavouring to spread the doctrines of the ‘brethren.’

He succeeded his father as second Baron Congleton in June 1842, but did not take his seat in the House of Lords until 4 Nov. 1852 (Journals of the House of Lords, lxxxv. 8), ‘his conscience not allowing him to take the necessary oaths’ (Groves, Memoir, p. 90). He sat on the cross-benches, and spoke but three times in the house (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. cxxxviii. 2028, cxxxix. 1856, cxli. 998). He died at No. 53 Great Cumberland Place, Hyde Park, on 23 Oct. 1883, aged 78, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery on the 29th of the same month, when numbers of the ‘brethren’ from all parts of the country attended the funeral. Congleton was a simple-minded enthusiast, with gentle manners and a retiring disposition. He married, first, in 1831, at Aleppo, Nancy, the sister of his colleague, Edward Cronin. She died at Latakia a few months after her marriage, from the hardships to which she had been exposed while travelling. He married, secondly, at Bagdad, on 21 May 1833, Khatoon, younger daughter of Ovanness Moscow of Shiraz and widow of Yoosoof Constantine of Bushire. She died on 30 May 1865, aged 57. He married, thirdly, on 21 Feb. 1867, Margaret Catherine, only daughter of Charles Ormerod of the India Board, who survived him, and by whom he had an only daughter, Sarah Cecilia, born on 5 Aug. 1868. He was succeeded in the title by his brother, Henry William, third baron Congleton (1809–1896). Besides several tracts on various religious subjects, he published ‘The Psalms: a new Version,’ London, 1860, 8vo; a ‘new edition, revised, with notes suggestive of interpretation,’ London, 1875, 16mo.

[Diary and Correspondence of Lord Colchester, 1861, vols. ii. iii.; Walpole's History of England, vols. i–iv.; Random Recollections of the House of Commons, 1836, pp. 230–3; Georgian Era, 1834, iv. 468–9; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878, pp. 428–9; Gent. Mag. 1842 pt. ii. pp. 202–4, 677; Annual Register, 1842 Chron. pp. 104–5, 271, 1883 pt. ii. p. 175; Stapylton's Eton School Lists, 1864, pp. 4, 11; Burke's Peerage, 1892, p. 317; Foster's Peerage, 1883, p. 180; Cecil Moore's Brief History of St. George's Chapel, p. 57; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. viii. 509–11, ix. 98; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 214, 229, 241, 256, 271, 283, 298, 314, 327, 339, 348, 360, 374, 690; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890; Macculloch's Literature of Political Economy, 1845, pp. 170–1, 179, 180, 200, 338; Dict. of Living Authors, 1816, p. 262; Watt's Bibl. Brit. 1824; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit. 1870, ii. 1510; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Groves's Memoir of [the second] Lord Congleton, 1884; Newman's Personal Narrative in Letters principally from Turkey in the years 1830–3, 1856.]

G. F. R. B.