Personnel in the Chief Secretary’s Office between 1818 and 1822

Dr. Julie Brooks, Project Archivist

Between 1818 and 1822, Ireland hosted two Lord Lieutenants, whilst three individuals served in the role of Chief Secretary. The role of Chief Secretary was very much defined by the personality and abilities of its incumbent: Robert Peel, future Prime Minister of Great Britain, served in Ireland between 1812 and 1818. Only 24 years of age at the time of his appointment, Peel’s six year tenure as Chief Secretary followed a series of short-lived appointments – Ireland had entertained in all ten different chief secretaries between 1800 and 1812.

Peel’s successor was Charles Grant, whose recall in December 1821, led to the appointment of Henry Goulburn. Whilst chief secretaries varied in talent and zeal, both Peel and Goulburn stand out as figures who, ‘….provided stability and continuity, utilised the previously dormant powers of their position, and helped to shape enduring policies which were intended to sustain the Union’. 1 By contrast, Grant has been regarded as a less successful administrator 2 – at odds with his Lord Lieutenant, Earl Talbot – he was increasingly overwhelmed as agrarian violence took hold across parts of Ireland in the late summer and autumn of 1821.

In many ways the most interesting figure of this period is William Gregory, Under Secretary: a stalwart of the Irish administration, Gregory provided continuity in the role of Under Secretary for nearly twenty years, between 1812 and 1831. Initially civil Under Secretary, he also assumed control of the office’s military department from 1819, when the civil and military Under Secretary-ships were amalgamated. In reality, his post was one of enormous significance, for it was Gregory who dealt with much of the day to day duties of the office, including prioritising and answering much of the incoming correspondence, particularly during the Chief Secretary’s regular absences in London.3

Ultimately, however, it was the clerks of the office who were responsible for carrying out the indexing and registering of the incoming correspondence, and it is the legacy of their 19th century record-keeping system that we see today. In addition, the clerks were responsible for transcribing copies of documents; transcribing copies of letters of reply to be signed by the Chief Secretary or Under Secretary; and requesting information from other branches of government. Despite the amalgamation of the post of civil and military undersecretary in 1819, the Chief Secretary’s Office at Dublin Castle continued to be divided into two departments for the handling of ‘civil’ and ‘military’ business. One name which occurs frequently in the papers between 1818 and 1822 is that of Alexander Mangin, the most senior, or ‘First’ clerk in the office’s civil department. He, along with other more senior personnel such as Thomas Taylor (clerk in civil department) and Edward Connor (military ‘First’ clerk), were permitted to correspond in their own names on more routine matters.4 A return prepared by the Chief Secretary’s Office offers an interesting snapshot of the employees of the civil branch in 1821, detailing their names, positions, years of service and salaries. [CSO/RP/1821/1141].

  • 1 Brian Jenkins, ‘The Chief Secretary’ in D. George Boyce and Alan O’Day eds., Defenders of the Union: A Survey of British and Irish unionism since 1801 (London, 2001), p.43
  • 2 Connolly, ‘Union Government, 1812-23’, p.69.
  • 3 See also The Talbot-Gregory Papers, D4100, held in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.
  • 4 For a list of the personnel of the Chief Secretary’s Office and the Lord Lieutenant’s household, see the ‘The Gentleman’s and Citizen’s Almanack’ for 1821, compiled by John Watson Stewart, Dublin, found in The Treble Almanack for the Year 1821, published in Dublin.