Vol. 4: Hayton, David

Type: Article

Hayton, David ‘Two Ballads on the County Westmeath By-Election of 1723’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 4 (1989), pp 7-30.

This article discusses the dispute over the 1723 by-election for County Westmeath, in which two rivals in the Irish Parliament, Speaker William Conolly and Lord Chancellor Midleton, patronized opposing candidates. Formerly Whig allies, Conolly and Midleton were now on opposite sides; Conolly remained a loyal Whig courtier while Midleton was seen as a ‘trouble-maker’, taking up strong opposition to ‘Wood’s Halfpence’. According to Hayton, the by-election must be viewed within this “wider political context”. Conolly’s support of Richard Levinge and Midleton’s backing of Levinge’s opponent, Robert Rochfort, stirred up new controversy in the midst of what was already a “crisis in Irish politics and Anglo-Irish relations”. “The by-election was an ill-tempered affair, full of noisy complaints and protests,” which prompted the returning officer to close the poll prematurely. The article contains the texts (taken from manuscript) of two anonymous ballads written during the controversy, “The Beginning, Progress and End of the Westmeath Election” and “Sir Owen MacHugh”.