Moore, Robert Ross Rowan (DNB00)

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MOORE, ROBERT ROSS ROWAN (1811–1864), political economist, born in Dublin on 23 Dec. 1811, was eldest son of William Moore, the head of a branch of the family of Rowallan [see Mure, Sir William] which had settled on a small estate in Ulster in 1610. His mother, Anne Rowan, who was her husband's first cousin, was daughter of Robert Ross Rowan of Mullaghmore, co. Down, a lieutenant in the 104th foot. Moore was sent in 1828 to the Luxemburg School, near Dublin, one of those established by Gregor Von Feinagle [q. v.] He obtained many prizes, and in 1831 entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A. in 1835. He spoke regularly at the Dublin University Debating Society, and was one of the chief opponents of his friend Thomas Osborne Davis [q. v.], maintaining that Ireland's prosperity would be better secured by general toleration, free trade, and closer relations with Great Britain, than by political independence. Their friendship was uninterrupted till the death of Davis (Sir C. Gavan Duffy, Life of Davis, p. 149). After taking pupils at Carlow he read law, and was called to the bar as a member of Gray's Inn 28 April 1837 (J. Fister, Gray's Inn Register, p. 455); but political economy was the subject to which he gave most of his time, and he took part in movements for popular improvement. On 15 Aug. 1839 he gave a lecture in Dublin 'On the Advantages of Mechanics' Institutions,' which was afterwards published. He became a member of an Irish anti-slavery society, and in 1841 visited Limerick, and successfully opposed a scheme for exporting apprentices to the West Indies.

Moore's economical studies led him to take interest in the agitation then beginning for the repeal of the corn laws. George Thompson [q. v.] introduced him to John Bright, with whom and with Cobden he soon became intimate, and he joined the Anti-Cornlaw League. Bright in after years stated on several occasions that a large share of the success of the agitation was due to Moore's lucid exposition of economical principles, and to the illustrations of them by which he convinced masses of people in all parts of Great Britain that free trade would lead to national prosperity, and protection to continued arrest of trade. Bright and George Thompson visited Ireland in December 1841, and Moore's first important public speech on free trade was at a meeting held at the Mansion House, Dublin, on 23 Dec., when he moved a resolution in favour of the total and immediate repeal of the corn laws. From this date till the repeal in May 1846 he devoted his whole time and energy to the cause, speaking repeatedly as the representative of the league at meetings held in the chief towns of England and Scotland. With both Bright and Cobden he spoke several times at Salisbury, and often supped there with the father of Henry Fawcett (Stephen, Life of Fawcett, p. 4). At Cupar in January 1844 the freedom of the burgh was conferred upon Cobden and Moore after they had addressed a meeting in the town (Prentice, ii. 152). A month later Moore spoke at the great series of meetings in Covent Garden Theatre, and was invited to be a candidate for the representation of Hastings. In March 1844 he contested that borough at a by-election, but was defeated, receiving 174 votes (Acland, Imperial Poll Book). He was presented with a silver inkstand by his supporters, and an enthusiastic elector, Benjamin Smith, M.P. for Norwich, had a list of the 174 free-trade electors printed in letters of gold, and distributed as a record of the contest. The working men of Exeter in 1845 presented him with a piece of plate, with an inscription commemorating their admiration for his speeches in favour of free trade.

On 1 Jan. 1845 Moore married Rebecca, daughter of B. C. Fisher, and soon after took a house near Manchester, as the most convenient centre for his work in relation to the league. He gave much aid to J. L. Ricardo [q. v.] in the preparation of a book published in 1847, 'The Anatomy of the Navigation Laws' (Preface). When the corn laws were repealed he found it difficult to resume the work of his profession, in which his prospects of success in Ireland were secure. He remained in England, visiting Ireland occasionally, and withdrew altogether from public life. The constant exertion of oratory, and of travelling in the league agitation, had broken down a not very robust constitution. In the latter years of his life he wrote a volume of fables in rhyme for children, but they were not published. He went to Bath, and there died 6 Aug. 1864, of angina faucium. He was buried with his father in Mount Jerome cemetery, Dublin, and left an only son, the author of this biography. His portrait by C. A. Duval, to whom many of the supporters of the league sat, is in the possession of his son, and medallions of his head in relief were sold at the Anti-Cornlaw League bazaar held in Covent Garden Theatre in May 1845. He had inherited from his father a taste for literature, and had, besides a love of every kind of learning, an excellent memory. In speaking he excelled in lucid exposition, and in illustrations which came home to his hearers. He never drank wine, and was with difficulty persuaded to swallow some in his last illness. He gave his whole abilities and the flower of his life, without any prospect of personal advantage, to the spread of doctrines which he firmly believed would relieve misery and extend happiness.

[Archibald Prentice's Hist. of the Anti Cornlaw League, London, 1853; John Morley's Life of Richard Cobden, 1881, i. 275, 287; Henry Ashworth's Recollections of Richard Cobden, M.P., and the Anti-Cornlaw League, London, 1876; Henry Jephson's The Platform, its Rise and Progress, London, 1892, ii. 320; Holyoake's (with notes by John Bright) Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life, London, 1891, vol. i.; Anti-bread Tax Circular, 1841-3; The League, 1843-6; family papers; reports of speeches in numerous local newspapers.]

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