Henry Parnell, 1st Baron Congleton

Henry Brooke Parnell, 1st Baron Congleton PC (3 July 1776 – 8 June 1842), known as Sir Henry Parnell, Bt, from 1812 to 1841, was an Irish writer and Whig politician. He was a member of the Whig administrations headed by Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne of the 1830s and also published works on financial and penal questions as well as on civil engineering. He was the great-uncle of Irish nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell.

The Lord Congleton

HB Parnell, Lord Congleton by HB Doyle.jpg
In office
27 April 1836 – 19 June 1841
MonarchWilliam IV
Prime MinisterThe Viscount Melbourne
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byHon. Edward Stanley
Personal details
Born(1776-07-03)3 July 1776
Died8 June 1842(1842-06-08) (aged 65)
Political partyWhig
Spouse(s)Lady Caroline Damer
(d. 1861)
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge

Background and educationEdit

Parnell was the second son of Sir John Parnell, 2nd Baronet, Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer,[1] and Laetitia Charlotte, daughter of Sir Arthur Brooke, 1st Baronet. His younger brother William Parnell-Hayes was the grandfather of Charles Stewart Parnell. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge.[2] In 1801 he inherited the family estates in Queen's County on the death of his father,[1] bypassing his disabled elder brother according to a special Act of Parliament passed in 1789. In 1812 he succeeded as fourth Baronet, of Rathleague, on the death of his brother.[3]

Political careerEdit

Parnell represented Maryborough in the Irish House of Commons from 1798 until the Act of Union in 1801.[4] In April the following year he was elected to Parliament of the United Kingdom for Queen's County, but relinquished this seat already in July of the same year,[3][5] when he was returned for Portarlington. However, he resigned the seat already in December 1802.[3][6] In 1806 he was once again elected for Queen's County, and represented the constituency until 1832.[3][5] In 1828 he was chairman of the Select Committee on the State of Public Income and Expenditure which successfully recommended abolition of the 280-year old Navy Board and the merging of its functions into the Board of Admiralty.[7]

It was Parnell's motion on the civil list that the Duke of Wellington's administration was defeated in 1830.[1] The Whigs came to power under Lord Grey and in 1831 Parnell was admitted to the Privy Council[8] and appointed Secretary at War,[9] a post he held until February 1833. He resigned his seat in Parliament the same year but returned in 1833 as the representative for Dundee.[3][10] When the Whigs again came to power in April 1835 under Lord Melbourne, Parnell was made Paymaster of the Forces and Treasurer of the Ordnance and Navy.[1] These offices were consolidated into that of Paymaster-General in 1836, and Parnell retained this post until the government fell in 1841.[3] The latter year he was raised to the peerage as Baron Congleton, of Congleton in the County Palatine of Chester.[11]


Henry Parnell was also the author of several volumes and pamphlets on matters connected with financial questions, the most important being that On Financial Reform, published in 1830.[1] Parnell was strongly opposed to the prevailing protectionist system and passionately believed in the retrenchment of public expenditure, especially on the armed services.[12] In On Financial Reform, he advocated the repeal of taxes on raw materials and home manufactures, along with the reduction of import duties on foreign manufactures. He also favoured the reduction of taxes on "luxuries", such as tea, sugar, tobacco, wine and spirits. In order to pay for these reforms, Parnell proposed the reintroduction of the income tax.[12] According to Sidney Buxton, On Financial Reform exercised a considerable influence on public opinion and "laid before the country the financial and fiscal policy that Peel and Gladstone afterwards carried through".[12]

He was one of the main representatives of the so-called "Free Banking School," which argued that the best way to achieve monetary stability was to revoke the Bank of England's monopoly on the issue of banknotes. These ideas were defended by Parnell and others in opposition to those of the "Currency School" (which advocated legal restrictions on the amount of notes that could be issued, with respect to their deposits in specie) and the "Banking School," which advocated discretionary policy by the banks in monetary matters. The influence of the "Free Banking School" declined significantly after Parnell's death in 1842, and the Bank Charter Act 1844 eliminated the right of new banks in England and Wales to issue notes, thus consolidating the Bank of England's monopoly, which Parnell had opposed.[13]

Parnell also wrote about penal matters. In the domain of civil engineering, he authored the 1833 and 1838 editions of "A Treatise on Roads ..." in which the works and techniques of Thomas Telford are described.[1]


Lord Congleton married Lady Caroline Elizabeth, daughter of John Dawson, 1st Earl of Portarlington, in 1801. In 1842, having suffered for some time from ill-health and melancholy, he committed suicide[1] by hanging, aged 65. He was succeeded in his titles by his eldest son John Vesey Parnell.[1] Lady Congleton died in February 1861.[3]


  • Observations upon the State of Currency of Ireland, and upon the Course of Exchange between London and Dublin (1804; 2nd edn., 1804; 3rd edn. (with additional appendix), 1804).
  • The Principles of Currency and Exchange, illustrated by Observations on the State of Ireland (1805).
  • An Historical Apology for the Irish Catholics (1807).
  • A History of the Penal Laws against the Irish Catholics, from the Treaty of Limerick to the Union (1808; a ‘new edition’ appeared in vols. xx. and xxi. of the Pamphleteer (1822); 4th edn. (with slightly altered title), 1825).
  • Treatise on the Corn Trade and Agriculture (1809).
  • The Substance of the Speeches of Sir Henry Parnell, bart., in the House of Commons, with additional Observations on the Corn Laws (1814; 3rd edn. published in vol. iv. of the Pamphleteer (1814).
  • Observations on the Irish Butter Acts (1825).
  • Observations on Paper Money, Banking, and Over-Trading, including those parts of the Evidence taken before the Committee of the House of Commons which explain the Scotch System of Banking (1827, 1829).
  • On Financial Reform (1830; 2nd edn., 1830; 3rd edn., 1831; 4th edn., 1832). Selections from this book, compiled by Henry Lloyd Morgan, were published under the title of National Accounts (2nd edn., 1873).
  • A plain Statement of the Power of the Bank of England, and the Use it has made of it; with a Refutation of the Objections made to the Scotch System of Banking, and a Reply to “The Historical Sketch [by J. R. McCulloch] of the Bank of England,” (1832).
  • A Treatise on Roads, wherein the Principles on which Roads should be made are explained and illustrated by the Plans, Specifications, and Contracts made use of by Thomas Telford, Esq., on the Holyhead Road (1833; 2nd edn., 1838).
  • The Psalms: a new Version (1860; 2nd edn., 1875).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Congleton, Henry Brooke Parnell, 1st Baron" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 913.
  2. ^ "Parnell, Henry [Brooke] (PNL794HB)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g thepeerage.com Henry Brooke Parnell, 1st Baron Congleton
  4. ^ "leighrayment.com Irish House of Commons: 1692–1800". Archived from the original on 1 June 2009. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  5. ^ a b "leighrayment.com Queenborough to Queen's University, Belfast". Archived from the original on 21 March 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  6. ^ "leighrayment.com House of Commons: Plymouth to Putney". Archived from the original on 27 November 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  7. ^ Bonner-Smith, D. (1945). "The Abolition of the Navy Board". The Mariner's Mirror. 31 (3): 154–159. doi:10.1080/00253359.1945.10658919.
  8. ^ leighrayment.com Privy Counsellors 1679–1835
  9. ^ "No. 18790". The London Gazette. 5 April 1831. p. 643.
  10. ^ "leighrayment.com House of Commons: Dumbarton to Dysart Burghs". Archived from the original on 5 November 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  11. ^ "No. 20007". The London Gazette. 13 August 1841. p. 2072.
  12. ^ a b c Sidney Buxton, Finance and Politics: An Historical Study, 1783–1885. Volume I (London: John Murray, 1888), p. 32, n. ‡.
  13. ^ Anna J. Schwartz, "Banking School, Currency School, Free Banking School," in The New Palgrave: Money (London, W. W. Norton & Company, 1989), ISBN 0-393-02726-0.

External linksEdit

Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by
Hon. John Vesey
Charles Henry Coote
Member of Parliament for Maryborough
With: Eyre Coote 1798–1800
Edward Dunne 1800–1801
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Coote
Hon. William Wellesley-Pole
Member of Parliament for Queen's County
With: Hon. William Wellesley-Pole
Succeeded by
Hon. William Wellesley-Pole
Sir Eyre Coote
Preceded by
William Elliot
Member of Parliament for Portarlington
Succeeded by
Thomas Tyrwhitt
Preceded by
Sir Eyre Coote
William Wellesley-Pole
Member of Parliament for Queen's County
With: William Wellesley-Pole to 1821
Sir Charles Coote, Bt from 1821
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Coote, Bt
Patrick Lalor
Preceded by
George Kinloch
Member of Parliament for Dundee
Succeeded by
George Duncan
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Williams-Wynn
Secretary at War
Succeeded by
Sir John Hobhouse, Bt
Preceded by
Sir Edward Knatchbull, Bt
Paymaster of the Forces
Succeeded by
Consolidated to Paymaster-General
Preceded by
Viscount Lowther
Treasurer of the Navy
Preceded by
Alexander Perceval
Treasurer of the Ordnance
New office Paymaster-General
Succeeded by
Hon. Edward Stanley
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Congleton
Succeeded by
John Vesey Parnell
Baronetage of Ireland
Preceded by
John Augustus Parnell
(of Rathleague)
Succeeded by
John Vesey Parnell