Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Shaw, Frederick

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SHAW, Sir FREDERICK (1799–1876), Irish politician, born at Bushy Park, co. Dublin, on 11 Dec. 1799, was second son of Sir Robert Shaw, bart., by his wife Maria, daughter and heiress of Abraham Wilkinson of Bushy Park. The father, a Dublin banker, sat in the Grattan parliament (1798–1800) for Bannow Borough, co. Wexford, voting against the union, and was afterwards for twenty-two years (1804–26) member for Dublin city in the imperial parliament. He also served the office of lord mayor of Dublin, and was created a baronet in 1821.

Frederick, the second son, entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1816, but shortly afterwards removed to Brasenose College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1819. In 1822 he was called to the Irish bar and quickly attained a considerable practice. In 1826 he was appointed recorder of Dundalk, an office which he vacated two years later on his nomination to the recordership of Dublin.

His father's influence, combined with his own abilities, soon led to his selection as one of the tory candidates for the representation of Dublin. In 1830 he successfully contested the city, defeating Henry Grattan's son. At the general election of 1831 he was unsuccessful, but was awarded the seat on petition, and held it for the brief remainder of the unreformed parliament. Each of his elections for the unreformed constituency of Dublin cost him 10,000l. At the election which followed the Reform Act he was returned in conjunction with Serjeant (afterwards Chief-justice) Lefroy for the university of Dublin; and between 1830 and his retirement from parliament in 1848 he was four times re-elected for the same constituency.

In the House of Commons Shaw rapidly acquired a reputation. Possessing debating talents of a high order, he became the recognised leader of the Irish conservatives, and was regarded as the most capable opponent of O'Connell, though he did not take the extreme tory view of any question, and had been a supporter of catholic emancipation before that measure was passed. His most considerable parliamentary achievement was in the debate on the charges brought by O'Connell against Sir William Cusack Smith [q. v.], one of the Irish judges. O'Connell had on 13 Feb. 1834 carried by a majority of ninety-three a motion for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the conduct of Baron Smith in introducing political topics in his judicial charges. A week later a motion to rescind this resolution was carried, notwithstanding ministerial opposition, as a result mainly of Shaw's eloquent vindication of the accused judge.

On the accession to office of Sir Robert Peel in 1834 Shaw declined on professional grounds all preferment beyond a seat in the Irish privy council. During this short administration he was, however, the chief adviser of Lord Haddington's Irish government, which was called by opponents the Shaw viceroyalty (Owen Maddyn, Ireland and its Rulers, ii. 245–65). On the return of the whigs to office Shaw became one of Peel's most active colleagues in opposition, being in the opinion of Mr. Gladstone ‘a ready, bold, and vigorous debater, able to hold his own against whatever antagonist, and possessed as I think of the entire confidence of Sir Robert Peel’ (Letter from Mr. Gladstone, 14 March 1896). He took an active but not extreme part in the opposition to Lord John Russell's Municipal Corporations Bill of 1835. Although he had entered parliament as the accredited representative of conservative and protestant principles, Shaw's opinion and conduct had by 1847 become too liberal for some of his old supporters, and at the elections in that year he only retained his seat for the university after a very severe contest with Sir Joseph Napier [q. v.], afterwards lord chancellor.

In 1848 broken health obliged him to resign his seat and retire from political life. On the death of his elder brother Robert, unmarried, on 19 Feb. 1869, he succeeded to the baronetcy. Early in 1876 he resigned his office of recorder of Dublin, receiving an address from the bar. He had been made a bencher of the King's Inns in 1835. He died on 30 June 1876. Shaw married in his twentieth year, on 16 March 1819, Thomasine Emily (d 1859), daughter of the Hon. George Jocelyn, and granddaughter of Robert, first earl of Roden, and left issue five sons and three daughters.

[O'Connell's Corresp. ii. 270, 302, 399; Shiel's Sketches, ii. 332; Thomas Lefroy's Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy, 1871; Burke's Peerage; private information.]

C. L. F.