Text of legislation

How Irish statutes were made

Sources for Irish legislation, 1692–1800

General Index of Bills

Members of parliament

Regnal years and statute numbers


Contact Us

Members of parliament

Members of parliament are named at different stages of legislation in the Journals of both houses. They are recorded in the Database as follows.

1692 to 1782: Members named as (1) being given leave, or ordered to, introduce heads of a bill; (2) presenting heads of a bill to the house; (3) reporting from a committee on heads of a bill to the house.

1783 to 1800: Members named as (1) being given leave, or ordered to, introduce a bill; (2) presenting a bill to the house; (3) reporting from a committee on a bill to the house in which it was initiated; (4) reporting from a committee on a bill to the second house to consider the bill.

The names of members are displayed in the detailed view of measures in the Database, and will be seen when you search for or browse measures. The name of every member of parliament has (like every bill) a 4-digit unique number. These numbers appear beside the names of members, and you can click on them to see more information about a member and a list of all measures he was associated with. You may also wish to search for or browse the names themselves.

Scope of Database recording of names of members
The limitations of the recording of names in the Database should be appreciated. The Database only records specific aspects of a member’s legislative activity: appearance as the first-named member given leave, or ordered, to introduce a measure; as the member presenting; or as the member reporting from committee. When more than one member is named at the leave stage, only the first-named is recorded. The many members named in the Journals in the lists of select committees considering measures are not recorded. In addition, the Journals say little or nothing of the contributions of individual members in debate in the house or in committees of the whole house.

The 4-digit numbers for members are similar to those for bills. The bill numbering system builds on an existing series (in the General Index of the Journals of the house of commons). In similar fashion the member-name numbering system builds on the series devised by the History of the Irish Parliament.

History of the Irish Parliament
The History of the Irish Parliament, by the late Professor Edith Mary Johnston-Liik and published by the Ulster Historical Foundation in 6 volumes in 2002, contains a political survey (1690–1800), accounts of the Irish statutes (1692–1800), constituencies, electoral legislation and other matter relating to the Irish parliament. It also contains biographical entries on every one of the 2,271 members who sat in the Irish house of commons between 1692 and 1800. The work was republished in paperback in 2007. It is also available online: much of the work can be consulted without charge, while detailed biographies can are available on payment of a fee.

Other reference works consulted
The following works have been drawn on extensively for the identification of members referred to by office, episcopal and peerage titles.
G.E.C[okayne] and V. Gibbs, The complete peerage (13 vols in 14, London, 1910–59).
T.W. Moody, F.X. Martin and F.J. Byrne, (eds), A new history of Ireland, vol. ix. A companion to Irish history. Part 2: maps, genealogies and lists (Oxford, 1984).
R. Lascelles (ed.), Liber munerum publicorum Hiberniae (2 vols, London, 1852).
F.E. Ball, The judges in Ireland, 1221–1921 (2 vols, London, 1926).

Identification of members
The recording of members named in connection with legislative measures is straightforward. The identification of these members however often poses difficulties.

These difficulties almost all concern members of the house of commons, which often had two or more members with the same surname. Some belonged to well-known political families, such as BeresfordGore, Ponsonby; other examples are Burton, Caulfeild, Cuffe, Fitzgerald, Hamilton, Montgomery, Skeffington, Upton and Wynne. Since the Journals frequently do not record a first name, it is impossible to say with certainty which member is referred to. Sometimes even the combination of first name and surname is inadequate: the ‘Mr Thomas Burgh’ mentioned in 1735 might have been one of two members of that name, and the ‘Mr Thomas Burgh’ mentioned between 1780 and 1790 might have been one of two (other) members of that name.

Where only one member bore a surname there is of course no difficulty: ‘Mr Tydd’ was always John Tydd, the only member ofthat surname in the entire 18th century. Several Coddingtons were MPs during the 18th century, but the only one sitting in 1773 was Dixie Coddington, and the mention of ‘Mr Coddington’ in that year must therefore refer to him.

Patterns of legislative activity
The Database reveals some of the patterns of members’ legislative activity. Most members of both houses never appear in the Database at all. Others appear with great frequency. The outstanding example was Viscount Ranelagh, who was remarkably active in the house of lords between 1763 and his death in 1797, appearing over 800 times. He seems to have been succeeded in this role by the Earl of Mayo, who appears 166 times in just two sessions (1799 and 1800). The bishops were quite active in the 1690s and early 18th century, but only William King, Archbishop of Dublin, appears more than 20 times.

The house of commons had a much larger active membership, and no members ever dominated its business as in the house of lords. John Parnell appears 288 times, and Arthur Wolfe and John Foster both appear over 90 times.

Some members, such as John Fitzgibbon, usually appear in connection with successful measures. On the other hand the eccentric Sir Richard Bulkeley was only associated with failures, and even William Conolly did not have a notable success rate.

Changes of name and title of members of parliament
Assigning numbers to members of parliament allows the Database to (a) retain the original forms of the names as they occur in the Journals and (b) follow the appearance of the same individual under different names and titles.

Changes of offices held and changes of names and titles make it difficult to follow the careers of some members of parliament in the Journals without frequent recourse to reference works. For example, Arthur Wolfe appears in the house of commons under his own name (1785–6); as Solicitor General (1787–9); as Attorney General (1789–98). In 1798 he was made a peer, and appears in the house of lords as Lord Kilwarden (1798–1800).

The holders of certain offices were invariably described in the Journals by the title of the office rather than by their personal names.These include the offices of Attorney General; Solicitor General; Secretary of State; Lord Chancellor; and Provost (of Trinity College).

Many members of the house of commons later sat in the house of lords. They might be created peers, like William Flower, who became the first Lord Castle Durrow; or they might succeed to peerages, like Joshua Allen who on his father’s death became 2nd Viscount Allen. Several former members of the commons were elevated to the position of Lord Chancellor, and thus sat in the house of lords as Speaker. The Lord Chancellor was not however a member of the house unless a peer. The judges were not members either, but they attended the house and they regularly prepared certain types of legislation.

Some members who sat successively in the two houses were active in both, e.g. Barry Maxwell. Others appear in the Database only as members of one house. Robert Jocelyn appears only in the house of commons, and is not mentioned after succeeding to his father’s peerage. Humphrey Butler, on the other hand, appears only after entering the house of lords.

Finally, some ‘lords’ appear in the house of commons, e.g. Lord Delvin and Lord Newtown-Butler (always referred to as ‘Lord Newtown’ in the Journals). These were the sons of peers, who enjoyed courtesy titles during their fathers’ lifetimes. Delvin later succeeded as Earl of Westmeath, Newtown-Butler as Earl of Lanesborough.

Numbers and values in name fields of Database
You may find the details below useful if you want to understand how name information was collected and classified.

0001–2271: ‘identified’ members of the house of commons
About 725 members of the house of commons appear in the Database. These are of course only a minority of the total of 2,271 of MPs who sat between 1692 and 1800, as recorded in the History of the Irish Parliament. MPs who subsequently sat in the house of lords also appear within this range of numbers: some indeed are only recorded in the Database during their time in the house of lords. Most of course appear in connection with one or more of the 4,000 or so legislative measures in the Database. About 140 do not, and have been included because they may be one of the ‘unidentified’ members (see below under ‘6000+’).

3000+: bishops in the house of lords
These numbers are assigned to the ‘spiritual peers’, i.e., the bishops of the Church of Ireland, who sat in the house of lords.

4000+: lay peers in the house of lords
These numbers are assigned to the ‘temporal peers’, or holders of hereditary peerage titles, who sat in the house of lords and who had not previously sat in the house of commons.

6000+: ‘unidentified’ members of the house of commons
These numbers are assigned to about 140 members of the house of commons who are treated as ‘unidentified’. Their names are recorded as they occur in the Journals, but in these cases there is not enough detail to distinguish them from other holders of the same surname. The ‘Mr Hassett’ who occurs in 1705 could be either John Blennerhassett or Robert Blennerhassett. ‘Mr Hassett’ therefore is assigned the number 6014, and John and Robert Blennerhassett are included in the Database with their History of the Irish Parliament numbers 0166 and 0170. No measures can be definitely connected with either of these Blennerhassetts, but one of them was unidentified ‘Mr Hassett’.

7000: No leave recorded
In many cases the Journals do not record the granting of leave, or making of an order, to bring in a measure. This occurs frequently in the house of lords. In the case of the house of commons the leave field is often left blank, usually for money bills. Such bills were not introduced without leave. They were however usually based on resolutions of the committee of supply reported to the house, which approved them and ordered bills based on them to be introduced. In the course of the 18th century these resolutions became more numerous and complex, and the number of money bills increased. As a result, it is very difficult to connect leave for a single measure with the preceding general adoption of such resolutions.

7001: No member named (at leave stage)
Sometimes the first stage is recorded, but no member is named. This occurs frequently in the house of lords.

7002: Judges
In the house of lords the order to bring in a measure was sometimes given to the judges attending the house, rather than to named members of the house.

7003: Existing committee
Sometimes leave was given, not to one or more named members, but to an existing committee. Sometimes a petition for a bill had been referred to a committee, which reported favourably and which was then instructed to prepare the measure.

7004: No member named (as presenting)
Sometimes the Journals record the presentation of a measure without naming a member. This occurs almost exclusively in the house of lords; in the later 18th century it is very common in the case of private bills.