Frederick Shaw (not Abraham Brewster) in cartoon

Published in Issue 6 (November/December 2020), Letters, Volume 28

Sir,—In the 1844 cartoon illustrating Rob Christie’s article about Abraham Brewster (HI 28.6, Sept./Oct. 2020, p. 21), the figure exiting left is not Brewster, as stated in the caption, but Frederick Shaw (1799–1876), Recorder of Dublin and MP for Dublin University, Robert Peel’s principal Irish political ‘fixer’. The devil’s remark, ‘P’Shaw don’t mind them’, hints at his identity.

In the same article we are told that ‘the Earl of Aberdeen’s Tory party gained power in December 1852’. Aberdeen was in fact the leader of the dissident ‘Liberal Conservative’ faction known as the Peelites, who had broken with the mainstream Tories (led by Derby and Disraeli) after Peel (who had died in 1850) was deposed by a back-bench revolt; the Aberdeen government was a coalition of Whigs and Peelites, with the Tories in opposition. Brewster’s subsequent support for the Whig governments of Lord Palmerston was not as unusual as it may seem; many Conservative Irish Protestants, who saw Disraeli as untrustworthy because of his attempts to win Irish Catholic support in the 1850s, regarded Palmerston as a Protestant champion because he supported Italian nationalism against the temporal power of the papacy and appointed Evangelical bishops under the influence of his son-in-law, Lord Shaftesbury, and many of these resorted to Toryism after Palmerston’s death in 1865 and the emergence of Gladstone (seen as semi-Catholic and moving towards support for disestablishment of the Church of Ireland) as heir apparent to the new Liberal premier, Earl Russell. (This was the political trajectory followed by the conservative Dublin Evening Mail newspaper.)—Yours etc.,

PATRICK MAUME

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