MP of the month: William Christmas

With the festive season approaching, there could be no more fitting ‘MP of the month’ than William Christmas (c. 1799-1867), Conservative MP for the city of Waterford, 1832-5 and 1841-2, whose biography is one of the latest to be added to our web resource.

The scion of a family that had been active in the politics of Waterford since the mid-seventeenth century, Christmas doggedly campaigned on behalf of the Conservative cause in his native city, and proved a staunch defender of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. He was, however, supportive of cautious measures of reform, backing changes to the Irish tithe system and endorsing factory reform.

While not unsympathetic to the voice of public opinion, he was a convinced opponent of ‘democracy’, and believed that there were times and occasions when it was ‘the bounden duty of a Representative of the people—having necessarily, from his position in that House, a clearer insight into public affairs than those who were placed at a distance from them—not blindly to yield to popular clamour, but rather to resist it, and to point out to the people what was for their true and ultimate interest’.

Daniel O’Connell, the popular leader of Irish Liberalism, of whom our MP was a vigorous critic, felt however that William was ‘a Christmas of the darkest and most ungenial winter’. Indeed, the month of December proved to be a fateful one for Christmas. After seconding the Conservative candidate at the stormy County Waterford by-election on 29 December 1866 the veteran campaigner was attacked by ‘a set of ruffians’ as he was leaving the polling place and beaten with branches torn from nearby trees. Having made only a temporary recovery, Christmas died at his home at Whitfield Court in March 1867.

For details of how to access the full biography of Christmas on our preview website, see here.

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