Sir Jonah Barrington

Barrington, Sir Jonah, was born 1760 or '67, the fourth of sixteen children of John Barrington of Knapton, near Abbeyleix, Queen's County. His pleasing presence, lively conversation, talents, and pushing activity, contributed largely to his advance in public life. He was called to the Bar, 1788, and two years afterwards, as Member for Tuam, he entered Parliament, where, he says, "I directed my earliest effort against Grattan and Curran, and on the first day of my rising, exhibited a specimen of what I may now call true arrogance." He was rewarded by Government for his arrogance, in 1793, by a sinecure in the Custom-house, worth £1,000 a-year, and a silk gown. He lost his seat in 1798; but sat for Banagher in 1799. He boldly voted against the Union, though it deprived him of his sinecure and stopped his further advancement. Nevertheless, most inconsistently, he acted as government procurer for bribing at least one member to vote for it.

In 1803 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the city of Dublin in the Imperial Parliament, although Grattan, Curran, Ponsonby, and Plunket voted for him. The Government now thought he was worth buying again, and accordingly made him judge in the Admiralty Court, and knighted him.

In 1809 he published, in five parts, the first volume of the Historic Memoirs of Ireland. It is thought that he was induced to delay the second volume — the Government shrinking from the exposure of their conduct in carrying the Union, and it was understood that to purchase his silence he was permitted to reside in France from about 1815, and act as judge by deputy. This foreign residence was, indeed, necessitated by embarrassments arising from his extravagant mode of living, and the dishonourable stratagems he often resorted to in business transactions.

In 1827, he published two volumes of Personal Sketches of his own Time. In 1830, by an address from both Houses of Parliament, he was removed from the Bench, in consequence of well-proven misappropriation of public moneys. In 1833 appeared the third volume of Personal Sketches, and in the same year the delayed volume of his Historic Memoirs. This book was subsequently reproduced in a cheaper form as The Rise and Fall of the Irish Nation. His works are interesting, racy, and valuable — although his statements of fact cannot always be depended on — containing much of personal incident, related in a fascinating style. He died at Versailles, 8th April 1834.


22. Barrington, Sir Jonah, Personal Sketches of his own Time: Townsend Young, LL.D. 2 vols. London, 1869.

254. Notes and Queries (1). London, 1850-'78.
O'Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.