John Wilson Croker papers, 1791-1899 and undated (bulk 1809-1857)
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- Croker, John Wilson, 1780-1857
- Barrister, politician, literary critic, and author. The John Wilson Croker Papers are organized into the following series: Indexed Correspondence, Non-Indexed Correspondence, and Other Papers. The collection consists primarily of letters from English and Irish politicians and personages to Croker, and provide a rich source of material on Great Britain's politics and government in the 19th century.
- 9 Linear Feet
- Material in English
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The John Wilson Croker Papers span the years 1791-1899, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1809 to 1857. The collection is organized into the following series: Indexed Correspondence, Non-Indexed Correspondence, and Other Papers. The Indexed and Non-Indexed Correspondence Series consist primarily of letters to Croker. The detailed description of the collection that follows this more general overview specifies the distinctions between these two correspondence series. The collection is a rich source of material on Great Britain's politics and government in the 19th century. Political matters discussed in the correspondence include the following: Canada; Catholic relief; the Church of England; the Conservative/Tory Party; the Corn Laws; Ireland, including its legal, political, social, religious, and economic conditions; naval affairs, including operations in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812; parliamentary reform; and relations with France and the history of the French revolution. The correspondence also illuminates the patronage system of the early 19th century, the relationships between prominent Conservatives, and the confidence that many Conservative leaders had in Croker's counsel. Statesmen and other prominent figures involved in Irish affairs or Conservative politics with whom Croker had continuing or considerable correspondence include: William Beresford; Robert Saunders Dundas, Second Viscount Melville; Francis Egerton, First Earl Ellesmere; Davies Gilbert; Henry Goulburn; William Richard Hamilton; Spencer Horsey de Horsey; Robert Jenkinson, Second Earl Liverpool; Bartholomew Lloyd; James Major; Anthony George Perrier; and Charles William Stewart Vane, Third Marquess Londonderry. The Other Papers Series contains a folder on the legal and financial matters of Croker and his family, as well as several folders holding letters and diary entries used by Louis J. Jennings to write the first collection of Croker's works.
Croker's interest in French history and politics began with the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which was partially inspired by the French Revolution. On an 1815 trip to France with Robert Peel and William Fitzgerald, Croker began collecting materials on the Revolution and its development into the French empire. His meticulous research about persons, events, and buildings continued through correspondents in France, as demonstrated by a number of items in the collection.
The collection is also a significant source of information on the United Kingdom's patronage system in the early nineteenth century. Many letters involve appeals for positions or discussions of a person's fitness for particular office.
A number of letters in the collection also relate to the legal and social affairs of Ireland and the administration of Dublin University. Correspondents include judges, government officials, attorneys, doctors, university officials, and multiple members of leading families. Salient topics in this correspondence include Catholic Emancipation, public unrest, the Potato Famine, and the administration of the university.
Selected letters and diary entries have been published in The Croker papers: The correspondence and diaries of the late Right Honourable John Wilson Croker ... secretary to the Admiralty from 1809 to 1830, ed. Louis J. Jennings, 3 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1884). Additional information may be found in Myron Franklin Brightfield, John Wilson Croker (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1940). For collections related to the John Wilson Croker Papers, see the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan.
- Biographical / historical:
Chronology Date Event 1780 Dec. 20Born in Galway, Ireland 1796-1800Student at Trinity College, Dublin University 1800-1802Studied law in London at Lincoln's Inn 1801 Jan. 1Act of Union became law, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and a unified Parliament 1802Called to the Irish bar 1804 May-1807 MayCustoms comptroller for Wexford, Waterford, and Ross May 1804Published Familiar epistles to Frederick Jones, Esq, on the present state of the Irish stage 1806 May 25Married Rosamund Carrington Pennell 1806Stood for British Parliament in Downpatrick and defeated 1807-1832Member of Parliament 1808 July-1808 Nov.Locum tenens for Sir Arthur Wellesley, chief secretary for Ireland, during his first campaign in Portugal and Spain 1808Published A sketch of the state of Ireland, past and present 1809Helped found the Quarterly Review 1809-1830Secretary to the Admiralty 1811Published Battles of Talavera: a poem, about Wellesley during the Peninsular War 1812Published A key to the orders in council 1813Published Letters on the subject of the naval war with America in the Courier, using the penname Nereus 1815Visited Paris for the second time with Sir Robert Peel and William Fitzgerald; began research on the French Revolution 1820Croker's son, Spencer Perceval Croker, died at the age of three 1821Published Letters of Mary Lepel, Lady Hervey 1823Published Royal Memoirs on the French Revolution 1824Published Letters to and from Henrietta, Countess of Suffolk, and her second husband, the Hon. George Berkeley; from 1712 to 1767 1825Published Letters from the Hon. Horace Walpole, to the Earl of Hertford, during His Lordship's embassy in Paris 1830 Jan.Used the label "Conservative" for the Tory party in the Quarterly Review 1831Published a new edition of James Boswell's Life of Johnson, with Journal of a tour to the Hebrides 1832Parliamentary Reform Act passed; Croker retired from Parliament 1842Close friend, Francis Charles Seymour-Conway, Third Marquess of Hertford, died; Croker executor of estate 1846Repeal of the Corn Laws 1848Croker edited and published John, Lord Hervey's Memoirs of the reign of George the Second 1854Formally gave up connection to The Quarterly Review 1857 Aug. 10Died at home in West Molesly, England 1871Publication of Works of Alexander Pope, by Whitwell Elwin and William John Courthope, using materials Croker collected prior to his death 1884Louis J. Jennings published the Croker papers: The correspondence and diaries of the late Right Honourable John Wilson Croker . . .
John Wilson Croker was a barrister, politician, literary critic, and author. He was tied to many prominent Tory leaders, and was among the first to call theirs the Conservative Party. Very early in his political career he became a friend of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. A strong defender of the Tory party, Spencer Perceval appointed him secretary to the Admiralty when Perceval assumed the office of Premier (Prime Minister). Although some Members of Parliament initially disapproved of Perceval's choice, decrying Croker as a novice and a political rather than a professional figure, Croker held the office through three subsequent premierships. He served in Parliament from 1807 to 1832, standing for Downpatrick (1807-1812), Athlone (1812-1818), Yarmouth (Isle of Wight) (1819 Mar 16-1820), Bodmin (1820-1826), Aldeburgh (1826-1827 May, 1830-1832), and Dublin University (1827 May 15-1830). Croker retained his affection for Ireland, long maintaining both a home and a law practice there, as well as a desire for Irish office. His support of Catholic emancipation led him to electoral loss while standing for several Irish districts, and on those occasions he was appointed to Parliament for "rotten" or "pocket" boroughs controlled by his friends. Although he supported Parliamentary reform that would have abolished some such boroughs, he opposed the Reform Act of 1832 as too radical and used it as an excuse to retire from elected office.
Croker's great passion was for literature; he wrote literary criticism as well as his own poetry, biography, history, and articles on foreign affairs and domestic politics. He had a life-long interest in French politics, particularly as it related to the French Revolution, despotism, and social stability. In the late 1820s, the Guardian, which Croker helped establish twenty years earlier, experienced a change in editorial staff and a concomitant shift in policy. Coincident to these changes, Croker's contributions began to focus on political rather than literary and foreign affairs. After he retired from Parliament, Croker used the Guardian to defend many Conservative positions, particularly those of Robert Peel. Croker's support of and friendship with Peel ended, however, when Peel endorsed the repeal of the Corn Laws. In his later years, Croker concentrated primarily on history and biography.
For a detailed history of Croker's life, see William Thomas, "Croker, John Wilson," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004-2005, and "Croker, John Wilson," The history of Parliament on CD-ROM, 1998.
- Acquisition information:
- The John Wilson Croker Papers were acquired by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as purchases from 1960-1997.
- Processing information:
Processed by Owen Yeates, January 2006
Encoded by Owen Yeates and Paula Jeannet
Completed April 2006
Accessions 60-199 to 97-065 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.
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Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.
- Statesmen -- Great Britain -- Correspondence
Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815
Catholics -- Great Britain
Corn laws (Great Britain)
- Church of England
Croker, John Wilson, 1780-1857
Croker, John Wilson, 1780-1857 -- Political and social views
Egerton, Francis, First Earl of Ellesmere
Dundas, Robert Saunders, Second Viscount Melville, 1771-1851
Jenkinson, Robert Banks, Second Earl of Liverpool
Horsey, Spencer Horsey de
Hamilton, William Richard
Stewart Vane, Charles William, Third Marquess of Londonderry
Perrier, Anthony George
Beresford, William, 1797-1883
- Canada -- Politics and government -- 19th century
France -- Foreign relations -- Great Britain
France -- History -- Revolution, 1789-1799
France -- Politics and government -- 19th century
Great Britain -- Defenses
Great Britain -- Foreign relations -- France
Great Britain -- Politics and government -- 19th century
Ireland -- History -- 19th century
Ireland -- Politics and government -- 19th century
Ireland -- Social conditions
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[Identification of item], John Wilson Croker Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University