Government and the regulation of borough corporations in early eighteenth-century Ireland

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Abstract

The early eighteenth century was marked by an increasingly partisan exploitation of the powers invested in the Irish privy council under the ‘New Rules’ of 1672 to disapprove chief magistrates, recorders, and town clerks in twenty-one named boroughs. When in opposition, Irish Whigs accused their Tory counterparts of behaving in a manner reminiscent of Lord Tyrconnell in 1687–88, an incendiary charge which resurfaced whenever Dublin Castle exhibited partiality to its own supporters in disputes within corporations. Such interference in municipal affairs reached a climax in 1717 when acts of parliament were passed to reorganize the corporations of Galway and Kilkenny, disfranchising burgesses and changing electoral processes. This article surveys the use made by successive councils of the power of disapprobation, in order to answer two questions: first, whether councillors were engaging proactively or were responding to political divisions and disputes within boroughs, as historians have argued was the guiding principle in relations between government and corporations in England after 1688; and second, whether the two parties, Tories and Whigs, differed in any significant way over the council’s role or the various constitutional issues agitating local factions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-51
Number of pages21
JournalEighteenth-Century Ireland
Volume38
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2023

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