Document of the Day – The John Sadleir Archive

Guest post by Professor R.V Comerford (Emeritus)

John Sadleir (1813-56) was one of the most notorious swindlers of the nineteenth century, whose ultimately disastrous speculations extended from Ireland to Britain and across much of Western Europe, ending with his suicide in 1856.

john sadleir 1814-1856
John Sadleir (1813-1856)

He was also a lawyer and an MP and was re-elected for Carlow in 1852 as one of the leading figures in the new Independent Opposition Party. Subsequently, and in contravention of party policy, Sadlier and a number of others supported a new government, in which Sadleir was appointed a junior minister at the Treasury. The recipient of these letters, Michael Dunne, was a prosperous farmer newly elected as MP for Queen’s County, but lacking the financial and social resources to maintain a conventional parliamentary lifestyle in London.

In these letters Sadlier is endeavouring generally to justify support for the government to an uncertain grass roots follower, and in particular he is trying to prevail upon Dunne to travel to Westminster for crucial House of Commons votes. Of particular interest is Sadleir’s attempt to prepare Dunne for the famous budget of 1853.

Sadleir P1
Letter from Sadleir to Michael Dunne. 18 April 1853

This removed the burden of accumulated Famine-era debt from the poor law unions, but at the price of extending income tax to Ireland. Sadleir endeavours to soften the blow by arguing that the sum involved will have been made up within a few years, after which income tax will be abolished! This collection is a small but revealing window into the internal workings of an early experiment in independent Irish parliamentary politics.

Sadleir P2
‘If Income tax extended to Ireland…the tax will be reducing + will altogether disappear I hope in 1860’. Sadleir to Dunne 18 April 1853













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