Archbishop Richard Whately

Whately, Richard, Archbishop of Dublin, was born in Cavendish-square, London, 1st February 1787. This learned writer and political philosopher was consecrated Archbishop of Dublin in 1831. "Dr. Whately," wrote the Bishop of Llandaff, "accepted the arduous station proposed to him, purely, I believe, from public spirit and a sense of duty. Wealth, honour, and power, and title, had no charms for him. He has great energy and intrepidity — a hardihood which sustains him against obloquy, when he knows he is discharging a duty, and he is generous and disinterested to a fault. His enlarged views, his sincerity, and his freedom from prejudice, are more than a compensation for his want of conciliating manners." He landed with his family at Howth, about the end of November 1831, and may be said to have devoted the remainder of his life to Ireland, without in any way forfeiting his position as one of the first of English thinkers and writers.

Whilst favouring most liberal measures, he was "thorough" in his opposition to Repeal and in the advocacy of centralization, He favoured the abolition of the Viceroyalty, of the Irish office, and of everything that tended to perpetuate a feeling of distinct nationality in Ireland. He opposed the Irish poor-law as contrary to true economic principles. Propositions for the payment of the Catholic clergy met his hearty approval. His opposition to the Orange organization was strong and consistent — in his own words: "The permanent pacification of Ireland through the dominance of Orange spirit, must be by the entire extermination of at least all the adult males of the Roman Catholics." For thirty-three years from 1831 he maintained a Professorship of Political Economy in the University of Dublin, at an annual charge of £100. He was mainly instrumental, in conjunction with Dr. W. Neilson Hancock, in establishing, in 1846, the Statistical Society of Ireland, which has ever since so materially contributed to the advancement of the country, and the improvement of its laws. At a time when he believed Protestant converts in the west of Ireland were suffering persecution on account of their change of religion, he helped to establish the Society for Protecting the Rights of Conscience, of which he was president during its continuance.

Next to the immediate duties of his office, perhaps it was to the forwarding of the system of National Education in Ireland that he devoted most of his thoughts and attention. In the face of the bitterest opposition from the majority of Protestants, he supported this system, in conjunction with Dr. Murray, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. Dr. Whately wrote some elementary books for the use of the schools, and his withdrawal from the National Board in 1853, was in consequence of what he considered a breach of faith with the public — the removal of several of the elementary religious works from the list of those sanctioned by the Commissioners. He was much interested in the subject of prison discipline and punishment, and rejoiced at the ultimate abolition of transportation. He occasionally attended and spoke in the House of Lords. Writing of O'Connell's trial in 1844, he said: "I cannot say which would be the greater evil, a condemnation or an acquittal. Queen and Imperial Parliament at Dublin is the only real remedy." He met prejudice and misunderstanding rather with a lofty and stern consciousness of the rightfulness of his opinions, than any effort at conciliation. The Archbishop's private charities were munificent and judicious.

He never saved out of the emoluments of his see, and towards the end of his life was heard to say, that while he had given upwards of £40,000 away during his archiepiscopate, he could boast that he had never given a penny to a street beggar. He was a consistent opponent of slavery in America and the West Indies, although sometimes at issue with other advocates of emancipation as to the means by which it was to be accomplished. His freedom from the conventionalities of religion may be illustrated by his remark to a gentleman who was praising the good providence of God for having once delivered him from shipwreck: "Why a much greater instance of God's providence occurred to me lately — I came from Holyhead to Kingstown the other day without any accident happening us whatever." He supported the admission of Jews into Parliament. He opposed the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church, regarding the Protestants and the Radicals who favoured it "as only two different kinds of enemies to the Protestant Church; they are like the Asiatic and African hunters of the elephant; the latter wish to kill the animal for his ivory and as much flesh as they can carry off, leaving the rest of his carcase as a scramble for hyenas and vultures; the others wish to catch and keep him for a drudge."

In 1842 Archbishop Whately suffered a severe loss in the death of his friends Dr. Arnold and Bishop Dickinson. In 1856 he was attacked with creeping paralysis, which afflicted him the remainder of his days, but did not prevent him continuing his literary labours or endeavouring as far as possible to fulfil the duties of his archbishopric. A devoted husband and father, finding a solace for all the difficulties and trials of life in the society of those lie loved, the death of his daughter Mrs. Wale, a bride of but four months, in March 1860, and that of his wife soon afterwards, were crushing bereavements. For three years more he continued to struggle against the infirmities of age, keeping up a keen interest in all the questions that had occupied him during the days of his vigorous health. He quietly sank to rest on the 8th October 1863, aged 76, having been affectionately attended to the last by the Very Rev. H. H. Dickinson, son of the friend he had lost twenty-one years before. Archbishop Whately's remains rest in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. There is a monument to him in the north transept of St. Patrick's. A consideration of his works, which number no fewer than ninety-six in Allibone's list, does not come within the scope of this Compendium.


16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-'71.

347. Whately, Life and Correspondence of Richard, Archbishop of Dublin: E. Jane Whately. 2 vols. London, 1866.