Navan Election 1754

Journals of the House of Commons of the Kingdom of Ireland, Volume 9, page 504.


Mr. Malone reported from the Committee of Privileges and Elections, the matter as it appeared to them, touching the election for the Borough of Navan, in the County of Meath; and the resolutions of the Committee thereupon; which report he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the table, where the same was read, and is as follows.

Mr Speaker,

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The Committee of Privileges and Elections, to whom the petition of Richard Hamilton, Esq., complaining of an undue election for the Borough of Navan, in the County of Meath, was referred, have taken the matter thereof into consideration, and examined witnesses produced before them, in the most solemn manner, pursuant to the order of the house, and have directed me, for the better information of the house, to report the proceedings of the Committee, upon the said petition specially, which I have accordingly done in manner following, (to wit.)

Your Committee first met and proceeded to hear the matter of the said petition, on Tuesday the second day of December, instant, 1755 in the morning, and after reading the said petition, and the several orders of reference from the House to the Committee, and the orders of the House appointing the time and manner of the Committee's proceedings, the petitioner's counsel stated the petitioner's case, and mentioned that the Borough of Navan in the County of Meath, was incorporated by letters patent of King James the first, in the twenty first year of his reign, by the name of the Portrieve, Free Burgesses and Commons of the Town or Borough of Navan, and that the said corporation was to consist of a Portrieve, eleven free Burgesses and Commons or Freemen, the number of which was unlimited, and that the Portrieve, Burgesses and Commons, were on every thirteenth of September in every year, to elect a Portrieve out of the Burgesses, who was to sworn into office, on the twenty ninth of September, in the same year before the last Portrieve then living, and that as often as any Portrieve should happen to die, or be removed within the year after his election, that the then Burgesses and Commonality should, within ten days after the death or removal of such Portrieve, chose another for the remainder of the year. That the charter was silent as to the manner of electing Burgesses to represent the Borough in Parliament, but that the usage had constantly been to elect by the whole body corporate.

That on the thirteenth of September, one thousand seven hundred and fifty three, (13-9-1753) John Preston, Esq., then one of the representatives of said Borough in Parliament, was elected Portrieve of the said Borough, and was sworn into office on the twenty ninth, (29-9-1753) and died on the twenty seventh of December following (27-12-1753).

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That on Sunday the sixth of January, one thousand seven hundred and fifty four (6-1-1754), Edward Noy, one of the Burgesses, and a known agent for your worthy fitting member, came to Navan in the evening, and sent privately for two Burgesses Peter Metge and Thomas Barry, four freemen (out of about two hundred) and the town clerk, and in a private room in an inn, had himself chosen Portrieve, without any further notice or ceremony.

That the Easter term, one thousand seven hundred and fifty four (1754) and information was filed in the Kings bench, against the said Edward Noy, for usurping the office of Portrieve. To which information in Trinity term following, he pleaded and confessed the usurpation, upon which judgment of ouster was had, and a Mandamus issued direction the election of a magistrate for the remainder of the year, in the room of the said John Preston deceased, pursuant to the statute of the nineteenth year of his present Majesty.

That Peter Metge took upon him to hold the election and presided on the twenty ninth of July, one thousand seven hundred and fifty four 29-7-1754). That the candidates were, the right honourable Thomas Carter Esq., and the said Thomas Barry, who is a brother-in-law to the said Peter Metge, and Metge declared Barry elected, though Carter had the majority, and Barry held for the remainder of the year. That on the thirteenth of September, one thousand seven hundred and fifty four (13-9-1754), Barry held an election for a Portrieve for the succeeding year, and the said Mr. Carter and Mr. Metge were candidates, and Barry declared Metge duly elected, and refused receiving any votes for Mr. Carter, pretending an ancient usage of the corporation, that no person could be put in election of Portrieve, who was not one of three, who had been before put in nomination for that purpose, and notwithstanding it was offered to shew from the books, that the usage had been broke through in many instances, and particularly that the said Barry had been, in the year one thousand seven hundred and forty five (1755), elected Portrieve although he had not been put in nomination, he directed the town clerk not to take down on his poll book, and persons names, who offered to vote for Mr. Carter; and although Mr. Carter had an undoubted of legal votes, yet Barry declared Metge duly elected, without telling or declaring any numbers, although pressed to do so by Mr. Carter’s friends.

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That the thirteenth of September, one thousand seven hundred and fifty five (13-9-1755), Nathaniel Preston Esq., and Mr. Carter were candidates for the office of Portrieve, but Metge for the same reasons, as were given by Barry the year before, refused to receive any votes for Mr. Carter; and not withstanding Mr Carter had an undoubted majority of legal votes, yet Metge declared Mr. Preston, (who is great uncle to the sitting member) Portrieve, and swore him into office, the twenty ninth of September last.

That a writ having issued, to elect a Burgess to serve in Parliament, in the room of the said John Preston, deceased, the twentieth of October last was the time appointed for that purpose, when the sitting member and the petitioner appeared as candidates. That the nearness of relation between the returning officer and the sitting member did operate so strongly, as to show itself in many instances of partiality. That the magistrate in the course of the poll voted for the sitting member, which never ought to be done, but wher the numbers are equal, and the magistrate received the sitting member’s vote for himself, which ought not to be done, where there are but two candidates; and returned the sitting member as duly elected, and refused a scrutiny, and rejected fourteen freemen, who offered to vote for the petitioner, and received for the sitting Member the votes of twenty three persons, though well founded objections were made to them. That the vote of any one person, who offered to vote for the sitting member, was not rejected; and that by that means, the numbers of the poll for the sitting member were ninety, and for the petitioner eighty only, tho’ the true majority of the petitioner was near twenty, that the fourteen who offered to vote for the petitioner, and were rejected, consisted of two classes; the first class, those whose names appear on the books as freemen; the second class, those whose names were not to be found on the books, but had for many years enjoyed their freedom without dispute, and had been received upon contests for the magistracy. That the first class were eight in number, and those of the second, six. That the only objection to the first class was as to their identity, and not supported by proof; and that though proof was offered, to show the identity of the persons, the magistrate would not suffer them to go into it. The second class always voted, though their names were not on the books. That the struggle for the magistracy was for two purposes; first, to preside at the election, and have power to do good offices to the person the magistrate inclined to favour. Secondly, to get the books and other papers into their hands; and by that means, all the evidence on which the title of

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the voters stood, which advantage was not lost. That no books of an earlier date than one thousand six hundred and eighty four, relative to the corporation, appeared. That there are three volumes of them, the first is from one thousand six hundred and eighty four, to one thousand seven hundred and six, the leaves of which are all unpaged, and loose in the binding, which makes it impossible to know how many have been lost or secreted. That the second volume is from one thousand seven hundred and six to one thousand seven hundred and thirty eight, to the present time. That the leaves in the second volume are loose in the binding, but paged; and by that means it was discovered that there was a leaf wanting, which appeared to have been cut out. That it was the usage for the freemen, on their admission, to take the oats and subscribe the declaration, and that two rolls were kept for that purpose. That if the books of the cor[oration had been regularly kept, there would be a correspondence between the books and rolls. That there are twelve names in one of the rolls which are not in the other. That both rolls would appear to have been cut so visibly, that part of the names cut still remained. That the unevenness in cutting of one of the rolls, left the name in one column, but took it off in another column. That there was a rasure in another part and a name wrote over against it, of a person who voted for the sitting Member, and that the name so wrote was not on the corresponding roll. That some of the persons who voted for the sitting Member personated freemen, who were dead; and as such, the counsel for the petitioner mentioned Richard Wilkinson, whose father was a freeman, and of the same name; and that the word(junior) was interlined in the book, in a different hand and ink. That it appeared that the father wrote very well, and had been active in the corporation, and wrote his name on the rolls in a fair good hand; but that the son could not write at all, but was a marksman; but he was called out to say, that it was his brother directed his hand. That there are entries made on the rolls against the freemens names that are dead. That such an entry was made before the names of William Williams and John Williams on the roll, but was erases out as it stood against John Williams, but was still legible. That a John Williams was found, who voted for the sitting Member, and said, he had been free forty seven years, and was admitted in one thousand seven hundred and seven, and that Colonel Preston was then Portrieve; but it appeared from the books, that Charles Lambart, Esq., was then Portrieve, and that Williams never pretended to have done one corporate act; and said he did not know he was free until he was lately told so. That

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John Holmes was rejected as an imposter the thirteenth of September, one thousand seven hundred and fifty four, that the entry in the books of the admission of one of that name, was in one thousand seven hundred and nine, and he found it necessary to appear of an age, to make it probable he was the man, though in fact he was not born at that time. That at the election for Portrieve, the twenty ninth of July, one thousand seven hundred and fifty four, he presented himself crouching as an old man, and came in on crutches; that when he was detected, he burst out a laughing, and ran out of court. That he did not attempt to appear at the two succeeding elections for Portrieve, or at that for the two Burgesses, yet his vote was received for the sitting member at the last election. That Thomas Proudfoot personated his uncle of that name, who was a real freeman and had been long dead, and was described in the books as an inhabitant of Navan; and that the man who voted admitted he never was an inhabitant of Navan.

The counsel further said, that Proudfoot, the nephew, could have been but sixteen years old at the most, at the date of the admission,that the uncle appeared to have signed the books, and to have been active in the corporation. That William Foster was so conscious he had no right to vote, that he, within two or three years before the election, applied to Metge to be admitted free, and all along paid tolls as any other stranger, and that others would by the proofs appear in the same circumstances. That five of the sitting Members voters would be struck off, by the before mentioned objections, and that they would also show, that the Portrieve and sitting Member’s votes ought also to be struck off, and the votes of three other persons who voted for the sitting member, and were either papists or married to papists, making ten in the whole, which would take off the whole majority on the return; and that besides this, Henry Stiles was admitted to vote for the sitting Member, though he had not been free six months before the election, whose vote being taken off  would give a majority of one to the petitioner. And the counsel for the petitioner said, they would establish twelve unquestionably, who were rejected, and also two more, which would make fifteen. That every person who applied for the petitioner since the election, was denied access to the books. That notwithstanding there is an order of the corporation, that the books should not be taken out of the town of Navan, they were about a year ago sent to the said Edward Noy to Dublin. That there were informations then depending, in respect to the two usurpations of Barry and Metge,

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and the present magistrate. And the counsel for the petitioner called upon the counsel for the sitting member, to say whether the charter was as it had been opened; and the counsel for the sitting member having admitted the charter to be as stated, the counsel for the petitioner then said, they would first proceed to give evidence to support the right of voting of fourteen persons, who voted for the petitioner, and whose votes were rejected by the magistrate: and for that purpose, they produced Mr. George Kavanagh as a witness, who being examined, said, that he was employed as a clerk, and took the poll for the petitioner, and that Arthur Francis Meredith, Esq., offered to poll for the petitioner, but that his vote was not received, and was objected to, that he was not the person admitted, but that there was no evidence given, to support the objection; but evidence was offered to show that he was the person admitted, and for that purpose Barnaby Connor, Town Sergeant of the corporation of Navan, was offered to prove, he had received fees on the admission of Arthur Meredith, from Captain Meredith, his grandfather; that Mr. Noy alleged, it was a brother of Mr. Thomas Meredith’s that was admitted, but Mr. Noy offered no proof of it; that Mr. Thomas Meredith was in court, and offered to prove his brother was not the person admitted; that Arthur Meredith produced a copy of his father’s will, in which Francis was in two places struck out, and said he did not take the name of Francis till after his father’s death; that Thomas Meredith offered to prove, that his brother Arthur was not born till five years after the admission.

Then, at the desire of the counsel for the petitioner, a transaction of the corporation, p. 131, in the second volume, dated the eleventh of July, one thousand seven hundred and twenty one, was read, and thereby it appeared, that the words of Arthur Francis were rased, and after Arthur Meredith, junior wrote at large, Mr. Charles Meredith, Thomas Meredith, John Meredith, Henry Meredith, Mr. Hugh Echlin, William Hill, and Thomas Allen, as persons then admitted free of the corporation.

The witness being cross examined, said, he was neither Burgess nor Freeman of Navan, and believed Mr. Meredith lived within three miles of Navan, and that he heard Mr. Arthur Francis Meredith say, he did not know he was free of Navan, till of late. That he read the part of the will where the rasure of the word Francis was. Being asked, what was the testator’ name to the will, made answer, he could not positively say what it was, but that, to the best of his recollection, it was either John or Thomas, and he believed it was Thomas. He further said, that he went to the prerogative office, to see the will of Mr Arthur Francis Meredith’s father, and said, he did believe the copy that was produced below was true. And being asked,

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Said, he could not say whether it was Mr. Meredith, the father, who struck the name Francis out of the will, or not. And being asked, said, he believed he was desired by Mr. Lambert to go to the prerogative office to look into the original will; that the returning officer would not receive any evidence of Mr. Arthur Francis Meredith’s being the person admitted, and that Mr. Noy, or some other person, said; that Mr. Meredith was not the person admitted on the book. And the witness being asked, if he spoke from his original book, said, he did, and that it was wrote in court, and no alteration made in it since.

And then the counsel for the petitioner produced Mr. James Thomas, who being examined, said, he was clerk to the Register of the prerogative office, and that the will by him was, he believed, the original will of Lieutenant General Thomas Meredith, which is dated the twelfth of June, one thousand seven hundred and nineteen, and that he found it in the prerogative office, and that the word Francis is twice struck out, in the first place, where the testator devises his Oxfordshire estate, and in the other where he disposes of his plate, and that the attestation takes notice of the striking out Francis twice. That the probate of the said will was granted the seventeenth day of March, one thousand seven hundred and nineteen.

And then the counsel for the petitioner produced Mr. Theophilus Ormsby, who being examined, said he was at the late election for Navan, and in court when Mr. Arthur Francis Meredith offered to vote for the petitioner; that Mr. Noy attended at the time, and that Mr. Noy was Recorder, and a freeman, and made almost all the objections, and that the sitting Member made no objections the whole day. That Mr. Noy said, it must have been Arthur, the brother of Mr Thomas Meredith, that was made free. Whereupon the said Thomas Meredith said, it could not be his brother, for that his brother Arthur was not born for five years after the date of the aforesaid entry of admission. That Arthur Francis Meredith told the witness, he did not know he was free of Navan until he got a list of the freemen, in which his name was. And being asked if the tolls and customs of the said town of Navan did not belong to Mr. Meredith , said, that the third penny of the money received, and half the toll of the corn and other things belonged to the said Arthur Francis Meredith. And the witnessed being asked, said, that the tolls of the four fairs belonged to the said Arthur Francis Meredith, and that the corporation had nothing to do with them. The witness being asked, said, his mother was living, and a reputed papist, and that he voted for the petitioner;

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that his father is a protestant, and offered to vote for the petitioner; but his vote was rejected, and he was objected to as being married to a papist. And being asked, said, his father was a protestant, an had been so since he knew him; that the witness had been always bred a protestant, and never of any other religion, and had been so before his age of twelve years. And being asked, if he was objected to as not being a protestant, said, he was, but not until after he was polled; that before he was polled, there was no objection to his vote as a papist, but that the objection made to him was, that there was no date to the entry of his admission; that afterwards, either Arthur or Nathaniel Preston objected to the witness, as being born of popish parents, and the witness replying, that no such objection could be made to him, as his father was a protestant, and that no attention was had to the objection. The witness being asked, said, his father kept a publick inn in Navan; that he himself was an attorney, and as such took the oaths, and subscribed up to whig principles.

The counsel for the petitioner then produced George Betts, who being examined, said, he was Deputy Clerk of St Mary’s parish, and that the book then produced by him was the original registry book of the said parish, and thereby appeared, that Arthur Meredith, son of Thomas Meredith, Esq., by Catherine his wife, aged eleven days, was baptised the tenth of September, one thousand seven hundred and twenty six.

And the witness being cross examined, said he knew of no other entry relative to any other Arthur Meredith.

And the counsel for the petitioner produced Barnaby Connor, who being examined, said, he knew Arthur Francis Meredith; that he was admitted free when a boy, but not sworn. And being asked the reason of his knowledge, said, it was because he was then Town Sergeant, and in court. That captain Meredith, the grandfather of Arthur Francis Meredith, gave the witness and his comrade a piece of money, as usual on such occasions, and that he supposed the reason of its being given to him was, that he, the witness, might remember his admission.

The witness being cross examined, said, that Arthur Francis Meredith was not present, and believed it was above thirty years ago, but could not tell the year; that he knew Thomas Meredith, the nephew of the captain; that the witness did not remember that any other of the family were then admitted, but that they might, for aught he knew; and that the captain gave him an English shilling and a bottle of wine. The witness being asked,

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said, he knew Hugh Ecblin, that he was a freeman, but did not remember that he got any money from Ecblin on his admission. The witness being asked if he knew William Hill, said he did, and that he believed he was made free before he became Town Sergeant, which he believed was thirty six or thirty seven years, and that he thought and believed Hills’s corn passed free, when he was Town Sergeant. The witness being asked, if the corn of Mr Arthur Francis Meredith paid toll said, it did. The witness being asked, if he knew one Thomas Allen, said, he did, and believed he was a butcher in Kells, and that he was a freeman, and passed as such, but how long he could not say. And the witness being asked, said, there was another Allen free of the corporation.

And then the Chairman, by order of the Committee, left the chair, and no further proceedings were had before the Committee, on the said second day of December.