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

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.

Background and education

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 career

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 by 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]


Parnell was the author of books and pamphlets on matters connected with financial questions, the major important work being On Financial Reform, published in 1830.[1] Parnell was opposed to the prevailing protectionist system and advocated retrenchment of public expenditure, especially for the armed services.[12] On Financial Reform proposed 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. 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]

One of the main representatives of the so-called "British free banking school," Parnell 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 British Currency School who advocated legal restrictions on the amount of notes that could be issued, with respect to their deposits in specie, and the British Banking School, which advocated discretionary policy by the banks in monetary matters. Support for free banking declined 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, consolidating the Bank of England's monopoly.[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 were described.[1]


Parnell 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]

The couple had three sons and three daughters who reached adulthood.[14] A daughter, Frances Louisa, died when she was five years old, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Her monument bears the inscription "Sacred to the memory of Frances Louisa Parnell. Born 28 October 1806 Died 18 September 1812. Interred under this spot. This monument is placed here by her afflicted and disconsolate mother."


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Congleton, Henry Brooke Parnell, 1st Baron" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 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 Henry Brooke Parnell, 1st Baron Congleton
  4. ^ " Irish House of Commons: 1692–1800". Archived from the original on 1 June 2009. Retrieved 17 November 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ a b " Queenborough to Queen's University, Belfast". Archived from the original on 21 March 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ " House of Commons: Plymouth to Putney". Archived from the original on 27 November 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  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. ^ Privy Counsellors 1679–1835
  9. ^ "No. 18790". The London Gazette. 5 April 1831. p. 643.
  10. ^ " House of Commons: Dumbarton to Dysart Burghs". Archived from the original on 5 November 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  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.
  14. ^ Gray, Peter. "Parnell, Henry Brooke, first Baron Congleton (1776–1842)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/21386. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
Parliament of Ireland Preceded byHon. John Vesey Charles Henry Coote Member of Parliament for Maryborough 1798–1801 With: Eyre Coote 1798–1800Edward Dunne 1800–1801 Succeeded byParliament of the United Kingdom Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byCharles Coote Hon. William Wellesley-Pole Member of Parliament for Queen's County 1802 With: Hon. William Wellesley-Pole Succeeded byHon. William Wellesley-Pole Sir Eyre Coote Preceded byWilliam Elliot Member of Parliament for Portarlington 1802 Succeeded byThomas Tyrwhitt Preceded bySir Eyre CooteWilliam Wellesley-Pole Member of Parliament for Queen's County 18061832 With: William Wellesley-Pole to 1821Sir Charles Coote, Bt from 1821 Succeeded bySir Charles Coote, BtPatrick Lalor Preceded byGeorge Kinloch Member of Parliament for Dundee 1833–1841 Succeeded byGeorge Duncan Political offices Preceded byCharles Williams-Wynn Secretary at War 1831–1832 Succeeded bySir John Hobhouse, Bt Preceded bySir Edward Knatchbull, Bt Paymaster of the Forces 1835–1836 Succeeded byConsolidated to Paymaster-General Preceded byViscount Lowther Treasurer of the Navy 1835–1836 Preceded byAlexander Perceval Treasurer of the Ordnance 1835–1836 New office Paymaster-General 1836–1841 Succeeded byHon. Edward Stanley Peerage of the United Kingdom New creation Baron Congleton 1841–1842 Succeeded byJohn Vesey Parnell Baronetage of Ireland Preceded byJohn Augustus Parnell Baronet(of Rathleague) 1812–1842 Succeeded byJohn Vesey Parnell