Henry Grattan (1746-1820)

b. 3 July, Dublin, son of James Grattan, recorder of Dublin who was a Dublin MP with Charles Lucas; descended from Sir William Brereton, a Tudor administrator in Ireland, and poss. of Irish extraction (viz., McGrattan); ed. TCD, 1763-67; studied a term at Middle Temple, London; took Irish Bar, 1772, engaging in law as a ‘briefless barrister’ while contributing patriotic writings with Henry Flood and others to Lucas’s Freeman’s Journal, later published together as Baratariana (1773); served as MP for Lord Charlemont in his borough of that name, offering his maiden speech on 5 Dec 1775, in the year that his mentor Flood compromised himself in patriots’ eyes by taking office; free trade and taxation amendments, 1779; introduced unsuccessful motion on legislative independence, 1780; carried legislative independence following Dungannon Irish Volunteers meeting of 1782 and speech of 16 April, 1782 (Esto perpetua!); granted £50,000; disagreed with Flood over ‘simple repeal’ proposal and ended friendship, June 1782; m. Henrietta Fitzgerald, 1782, with whom 2 sons and 2 dgs.; voted £100,000 by Irish parliament and accepted £50,000 for purchase of Tinnehinch, Co. Wicklow; m. (aetat. 36) and retired from active politics, 1782; his reform bill, milder than Flood’s of 1783, was introduced in conjunction with Wm. Ponsonby in 1784, and was defeated, leading to polarisation in Ireland at the onset of the French Revolution;
supported Pitt’s free-trade proposals and addressed concerning commerce and defence, latter abandoned, ending his speech on the proposed Anglo-Irish treaty with a peroration: ‘perish the Empire but live the constitution’, 1785; supported coercive legislation against Whiteboys, 1785; supported government until Pill showed himself unwilling to broach reforms, docking the power of the ‘undertakers’, being the masters of the rotten boroughs who ruled the Irish executive; sided with the Prince of Wales in the Regency Crisis of 1788-89; succeeded in carrying a Catholic Relief Act in 1792, but voted against Catholic Emancipation in 1792 and 1793 at the request of the Earl of Charlemont (James Caulfield), his patron; placed to introduce Catholic Emancipation under vice-regalty of Lord Fitzwilliam crisis, 1794; recall of Fitzwilliam for exceeding instructions, 19 Feb. 1795; warned of growing unrest in masterly speeches, and protested martial law in Ulster, 1797; accepted a visit from leading United Irishmen at home [at Tennahinch]; issued Letter to the citizens of Dublin, May 1797, deemed inflammatory; name struck from privy council on charge of membership of United Irishmen, 1798; blamed the govt. for its own crimes and provoking the crimes of the people in 1798; disenfranchised by Dublin Guild of Merchants, 15 Oct. 1798; his portrait removed from TCD; brought back from retirement to denounce the Union on the final sitting of the Irish Parliament, 15 Jan. 1800, with a Wicklow seat purchased at the expense of his friends;
spoke for two hours from his seat having suffered nervous prostration [‘Apriland’], having been virtually carried to his seat [var. 5 Oct. 1800]; spoke his final words against the Bill, 26 May 1800 (‘I will remain anchored here with fidelity to the the fortunes of my country, faithful to her freedom, faithful to her fall’ (Speeches, IV, p.23.); retired to residence at Tinnehinch, Co. Wicklow and rumoured to be preparing to set up in Russia; served as MP for Malton at Westminster, 1805-06, and later for Dublin; brought forward to front bench by Fox (‘This is no place for the Irish Demosthenes!’); refused membership of the Govt., in 1806, when Fox and Grenville came to power; supported measures to increasing executive powers against disorder in Ireland, 1807; altercation with Castlereagh; supported Catholic Emancipation but also supported the Veto, 1808; separated himself from the Whigs and threw his support behind the final thrust against Napoleon, 1815; made his last speech in Parliament, 1819, including reference to the Union (‘The marriage having taken place it is now the duty, as it ought to be the inclination, of every individual to render it as fruitful, as profitable and as advantageous as possible’); his Speeches were edited by his son in 1822 [ODNB]; d. 4 June [var. 6 June, EBrit.]; bur. Westminster Abbey close to Pitt and Fox; a statue in outer lobby of House of Parl., Westminster; Grattan’s memoirs collected by his son, Memoirs of the Life and Times &c (1839-46); he was a life-long tea-totaller (non-drinker of alcohol); two statues in Dublin (incl. Foley in College Green, and Francis Chantrey, City Hall, Dublin [by stairs]), one in London (St. Stephen’s Hall, Westminster). RR CAB PI JMC DIB DIW DIH DIL OCIL FDA

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  • Henry Grattan [his son], Memoirs of the Life and Times of the Right Hon. Henry Grattan, Esq., MP, 2 vols. [1822] (London: Colburn 1839) [see extract].
  • D. O. Madden, ed., The Select Speeches of [ ] Henry Grattan, to which is added his letter on the union, with a commentary on his career and character (London: Henry G. Bohn; Dublin: James Duffy 1845), liii, [49-]471pp., and Do. [2nd edn., as] Speeches of the Rt. Hon. Henry Grattan, ed., D. O. Madden (Dublin: James Duffy 1853, 1862), 468pp.
  • Stephen Gwynn, Henry Grattan and His Times (Dublin:  Browne & Nolan; London: George Harrap 1939), 402pp.
  • James Kelly, Henry Grattan: Life and Times [Hist. Assoc. of Ireland, No. 1] (1993), 54pp.
  • R. B. McDowell, Grattan: A Life (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2001), 288pp.
  • Danny Mansergh, Grattan’s Failure: Parliamentary Opposition and the People in Ireland, 1779-1800 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press 2005), 336pp.
  • Joseph Lee, ‘Grattan’s Parliament’, in The Irish Parliamentary Tradition, ed. Brian Farrell (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1973) [149ff.].
  • R. B. McDowell, ‘Grattan’s Parliament’, in Talamh an Eisc: Canadian and Irish Essays, ed. Cyril J. Byrne and Margaret Harry [Irish Studies St. Mary’s Coll.] (Halifax Canada: Nimbus Publ. Co. 1986), pp.3-11.
Gen. Sources
  • Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, p.197-275.
  • W. E. .H. Lecky, Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland, 2 vols. [1st edn. 1861; enlarged 1871; rep. of 1903 edn.] (London: Thoemmes Press [2000]), Vol. 1 [devoted to Grattan and Flood].
  • J. C. Beckett, ‘Grattan’s Parliament’, The Making of Modern Ireland (1967 & edns.).
See also The Life of the Right Hon. J. P. Curran / by Thomas Davis, ... And a memoir of the life of the Rt. Hon. Henry Grattan, by D. O. Madden ... With addenda, and letter in reply to Lord Clare [Duffy’s Library of Ireland (Dublin: James Duffy, ...; London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co ..., 1846), 232pp. [Life of Grattan commences at p.83; see further details under J. P. Curran, as supra.]

Bibliographical details
The Life and Times of the Rt. Hon. Henry Grattan, by his son, Vol. I (London: Colburn 1822); Vol. II (1839); Vol. III (1841); Vol. IV (1842); Vol. V (1846).

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John Carr, A Stranger in Ireland, or a tour in the southern and western parts of that country, in the year 1805 (London: Richard Phillips 1806), of which Chap. XXI is devoted to ‘Grattan, striking specimens of his eloquence and style of writing, with a plate of Tinnahinch, his seat.

Sir Jonah Barrington: Barrington likened Henry Grattan, old and ill at the time of his last address on the proposed Union, to ‘the appearance of a spectre’. (Rise and Fall of the Irish Nation, 1833, p.442; quoted in Claire Connolly, ‘Writing the Union’, in Acts of Union: The Causes, Contexts and Consequences of the Act of Union, ed. Dáire Keogh & Kevin Whelan, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001, p.185.)

Thomas Moore: In Captain Rock (London 1824), Moore makes reference to ‘Mr. Grattan’s admirable Speech on Tithes - one of the few specimens of Parliamentary eloquence, that deserves to be placed beside the great master-pieces of Burke.’ (p.312n.) In a later footnote, Moore quotes from Grattan (presum. in the same speech), speaking out against ‘the Clergyman, who thus “takes advantage of a famine - brings up, as it were, the rear of divine vengeance, and becomes, in his own person, the last great scourge of the husbandman”.’ (Ibid., p.305). He returns to Grattan again in regard to a turf-tithe, quoting: ‘I have two decrees [...] in my hand, form the vicarial court of Cloyne; the first excommunicating one man, the second excommunicating four men, most illegibly, most arbitrarily, for refusing to pay tithe of turf’ (Captain Rock, p.306).

Sydney Smith: ‘No government ever dismayed him. The world could not bribe him. He thought only of Ireland; lived for no other object; dedicated to her his beautiful fancy, his elegant wit, his manly courage, and all the splendour of his astounding eloquence.’ (Quoted in Encyc. Britannica, 1949 Edn.)

W. B. Yeats: ‘Protestant Ireland sould ask permission to bring back the body of Grattan from Westminster Abbey to Saint Patrick’s. He was buried in Westminster against the protests of his friends and followers - according to Sir Jonah Barrington, that there might be no place of pilgrimage - abandoned there without bust or monument. I would have him brought back through streets lined with soldiers that we might affirm that Saint Patrick’s is more to us than Westminster; but, though Protestant Ireland should first move in this matter, I would have all descendants of Grattan’s party, or those who voted against the Union, lead the procession.’ (Explorations p.297; quoted in A. N. Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats, Macmillan 1984, p.280.)

Edward Lysaght, “The Man who Led the Van of Irish Volunteers”: ‘Opposed by hirelings sordid, he broke oppression’s chain; / On statue-books recorded his patriot acts remain; / The equipiose his mind employs of Commons, Kings, and Peers, / The upright man, who led the van of Irish Volunteers.’ (Cited in Bryan Coleborne, ‘“They Sate in Counterview”, Anglo-Irish Verse in the Eighteenth Century’, in Hyland & Sammells, Irish Writing, Macmillan 1991, pp.45-63; p.61; for source, see Rafroidi, in References, infra.)

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Warre B. Wells, John Redmond (Longmans 1919), Preface:

‘The familiar phrase [“Home Rule”] implies both something more and something less than mere repeal of the Act of Union. It im- plies something less because the Irish Parliament, as it existed immediately before the Act of Union, was technically but only technically co-equal in sovereign power with the British Parliament. In 1494 ’ Poyning’s Law,’ enacted by Henry vn.’s Parliament at Drogheda, made the Irish Parliament then only the Parliament of the English Pale a mere shadow, entirely dependent on the English King and Council. It did not give the English Parliament, however, the power of legislating for Ireland. That power was finally asserted when, in 1719, quarrels between the Parliaments culminated in the Act known as “the Sixth of George I.,” which completely took away the independence of the Irish Parliament. But in 1782 this Act was repealed, and in the following year the Act of Renunciation declared that Ireland’s right to be bound only by the laws made by the King and the Irish Parliament was “established for ever, and shall at no time hereafter be questioned or questionable.” “Grattan’s Parliament,” therefore, during its brief existence from 1782 down to the Act of Union, enjoyed a technical position of sovereign independence a position to which the Home Rule movement of our time made no claim.’
 But, on the other hand, Home Rule implies [2] something more than mere repeal of the Act of Union; for the Irish Parliament never represented the nation, did not even represent the Protestant people, and was thoroughly corrupt. Since the Treaty of Limerick, which closed the War of the Revolution, the Government of Ireland had been completely in the hands of the small Protestant minority, who also possessed almost the whole of the land of the country and held all the offices of trust and emolument; and this “Protestant ascendancy,”; as it was called, was confirmed by the Penal Laws directed against the Irish Catholics. The proceedings of the Irish Parliament and the political history of the country during the eighteenth century have reference wholly to the Protestant colony. The struggles of the Irish Legislature for independence, culminating in Grattan’s Parliament of 1782, were the struggles of the Protestants; the Catholics had no political existence, and could have no part in any of these contests. The Home Rule movement, of course, postulates Parliament elected by equal, direct, and secret suffrage, together with an Executive responsible to it, which the Executive in the days of Grattan’s Parliament was not. The efforts of Grattan and Flood and their “Patriot Party” to secure legislative independence, it is germane to the thesis of this Introduction to observe, were crowned with success only when they were backed by the power of the Irish Volunteers, first formed about 1779, after the exploits of American privateers off the Irish coasts suggested the possibility of foreign invasion. (It was to this period that Mr. Redmond referred in his famous speech in the House of Commons on the outbreak of war.)


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Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, 1789-1850, Vol. 1 (1980), quotes Henry Grattan: ‘Touch not this plant of Gallic growth, its fruit is death [...] her [France’s] liberty is death and her state is Bedlam, where the sceptre is broken into ten thousand scorpions, in the hands of ten thousand maniacs.’ (cited in Hayes, op. cit. p.244.) [15].

Also quotes Byron: ‘If aught in my bosom could quench for an hour / My contempt for a nation which, servile tho’ sore, / Which, tho’ trod like the worm, will not turn upon power, / ’tis the glory of Grattan, the genius of Moore!’ (”The Irish Avatar”).

Further, Rafroidi quotes Grattan’s “Esto perpetua!” (Quoted in Gwynn, Henry Grattan and His Times, p.125.) [70]. Edward Lysaght dedicated to Grattan the poems ‘Grattan and Freedom’, and ‘The man who led the van of Irish Volunteers’ (Poems, 1811, pp.11-5, 87-9; see infra).

W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (1984), Henry Grattan, more Demosthenic than Burke; Byron wrote of him, ‘With all which Demosthenes wanted endowed,/And his rival, or victor, in all he possessed’ (The Irish Avatar); for him Ireland was Athens and Britain the Macedonians; his Declaration of Irish Rights (1780) expressed the ‘young appetite for freedom; used few classical allusions; his recurrent them liberty as Leland and Lawson understood it. [212]

R. F. Foster, Modern Ireland (Allen Lane 1988), p. 171, bio-note: son of Recorder and MP for Dublin; ed. TCD, associ. with Flood in Baratarania (1770) [not Bararatania], squib’s against Townesend’s viceroyalty; bar 1772; Irish Parliament, 1775; Free Trade amendment, 1779; legislative independence bill, unsuccessful, 12780-81, and successful, 1782; declined £50,000; championed Catholic Relief; seceded from Irish Commons, 1797; Westminster, 1805-20; refused Irish Chancellor-ship, 1806.

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Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th c., ed. Gerard O’Brien (1989): ‘Lecky accepts Charlemont’s explanation for the passing of the Catholic relief act of 1778 in the basis of increasing liberalism towards Catholics, fiscal debt to Catholics, and the conversion of some Catholics to Protestantism hence becoming members of the house. (See Lecky, Ireland &c., ii. 208-09). Wall however shows that no such liberal sentiment was abroad in the patriotic party, while even Grattan - regarding whom Lecky accepts Charlemont’s statement (in Charlemont MSS), that his ‘transcendent abilities’ played ‘an effectual part’ in the legislation - used his influence to curtail some of the provisions of the measure.’ (p.126.)

See also 193, n.90: during the debate on the relief bill in 1778, Grattan accused the British government of wishing to balance Papists against Protestants as they had done in Canada, and of deepening the existing sectarian divisions in Ireland. [See Burns, ‘the Catholic relief act [...] of 1778]. Further, Grattan, addressing the Mutiny Bill, Nov. 1781, said, ‘We are free, we are united, persecution is dead - the Protestant religion is the child of the constitution - the Presbyterian is the father - the Roman Catholic is not the enemy.’ (Parl. Reg.) [136], from ‘The Making of Gardiner’s Relief Act, 1781-82’, Maureen Wall, in Collected Papers, ed. Gerard O’Brien (1989), The Dungannon Convention passed on 15 Feb 1778 these two resolutions, “that we hold the right of private judgement in matters of religion, to be equally sacred in others as in ourselves”; and “That as men and as Irishmen, as Christians and as Protestants, we rejoice in the relaxation of the penal laws against our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, and that we conceive the measure to be fraught with the happiest consequences to the union and prosperity of the inhabitants of Ireland.” This was orchestrated by Grattan and Charlemont, the conciliatory gesture being drafted by the former the preceding evening and forwarded to Dungannon. His biographer writes, ‘Thus was the junction with the Roman Catholics effected.’ (Life, II, 204-06). [137];
Archbishop Butler [Catholic] described Grattan at this time as being ‘all in all with the Catholics’ [Life of O’Leary, p.281]. Grattan recalled that he had resisted the granting of fee simple in 1778, but the conduct of the Catholics since then had convinced him. [~] He argued that they had been ‘found among the foremost’ in the ‘free trade’ movement, and when it was thought necessary to ‘assert a free constitution’ they did not ‘endeavour to make terms for themselves’ with the administration. In a speech which must have misled many Catholics into believe that they would soon [be] on equal terms once legislative independence was won, he declared, ‘the question is now, whether we shall grant Roman Catholics the power of enjoying estates; whether we shall be a Protestant settlement or an Irish nation [...] So long as the penal code remains we can never be a great nation; the penal code is the shell in which the Protestant power has been hatched, and now it is become a bird, it must burst the shall asunder, or perish in it. [...] The question is not, whether we shall show mercy to the Roman Catholics, but whether we shall mould the inhabitants of Ireland into a people; we may triumph over them, but other nations will triumph over us [...] Will you go down the stream of time, the Roman Catholic sitting by your side unblessing and unblessed, blasting and blasted? Or will you take off his chain, that he may take off yours? Will you give him his freedom, that he may guard your liberty?’ [...] He hoped that Protestantism ‘will become the religion of the Catholics, if severity does not prevent them.’ (Speech of 20 February 1782; Parl. Reg.). [139].
On 16 April, before they were reintroduced in the Commons, Grattan’s famous address to the king asserting the independence of the kingdom of Ireland was passed unanimously. At the outset [...] he sought to derived maximum advantage from the Catholic bills; ‘She [Ireland] was not now afraid of the French; she was not now afraid of the English; she was not now afraid of herself. Her sons were no longer an arbitrary gentry, a ruined commonalty, the Protestants oppressing Catholics, Catholics groaning under oppression; but she was now an united land. / This house agreeing with the voice of the nation passed the popery bill, and by doing so got more than it gave, yet found advantages from generosity, and grew rich in the very act of charity. Ye gave not, but ye formed an alliance between the Protestant and Catholic powers, for the security of Ireland. What signifies it, that three hundred men in the house of commons; what signifies it that one hundred men in the house of peers, assert their country’s liberty, if unsupported by the people.’ [144].

Quotes Grattan to Catholics: ‘We are willing to become one people - we are willing to grant you every privilege compatible with the Protestant [being] ascendant’ (sic; 15 Feb. 1782; Parl. Reg. 1, 242-43). Wall remarks, Grattan knew well that this ‘one people’ would not be equal one with another, and the ‘Protestant Ascendancy’ was ten years later to become the watchword of militant Protestantism. [148] Rutland secured Grattan’s support in the move to disband the Volunteers, and especially to disarm the Catholics, while Fitzgibbon was talking in the house about the folly of Protestants to admit Catholics to ‘the use of arms’. Ignoring Grattan’s reference to the volunteers as now ‘a disgrace to the name’ since ‘a cankered part of the dregs of the people’ were associated with it (Parl. Reg., IV, 285-8), the Catholic Committee considered a motion from Archbishop that they should withdraw from the Volunteers in order to [...] &c.’ [160]

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Brian Girvin, ‘Making Nations, O’Connell, Religion and The Creation of Political Identity’, in Daniel O’Connell, Political Pioneer, ed. Maurice R O’Connell (1991), pp.13-34, When Grattan announced in parliament in 1808 that Catholic opinion was will to accept a veto as part of the resolution to outstanding restrictions on Catholics, his claim to represent the hierarchy or the Catholics was quickly repudiated [...] in a spontaneous rejection of his proposals. [See discussion of “Veto Controversy”, in Girvin,op. cit., 25.] Henry Grattan introduced his Emancipation bill in 1813, originally with no securities or vetro. George Canning, one of the leaders of Tory pro-Emancipation opinion, proposed amendment requiring government control over clerical appointments. [29].

Gerard O’Brien, ‘“Grattan’s Parliament”, 1782-1800)’, in W. J. McCormack, ed., Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture (1991): ‘[...] through political circumstances and also by way of a certain personal showmanship on his part, Grattan was credited by many contemporaries with the achievement of legislative independence. A grateful parliament voted him £50,000 as a reward for his services, thus enabling him to continue for as long as he wished as an “independent” popular politician. Until recently the part taken by Grattan in the creating of the new “constitution” of 1782 was greatly overstated by historians. His legend was established largely by his son’s five-volume biography, the hagiographical approch of which was echoed in most later historical and biographical treatments until 1986.’ (Bibl. incls. Gerard O’Brien, ‘The Grattan Mystique’, in Eighteenth-century Ireland, I, 1986 [q.p.]; Mc.Cormack, op. cit., p.261.)

Conor C. O’Brien, The Great Melody (Sinclair 1992), writes: With 50,000 men in arms under Charlemont, Grattan led the agitation; he said that an MP ‘was the servant of his constituents, whose commands he was bound to obey [...] &c.’, the very opposite of Burke’s doctrine.’ [192] ‘The Irish Houses capitulated the mob backed demand for a Free Trade amendment.’ [c.193].

Further, ‘On 19 April 1780 Grattan introduced the Resolution for Legislative Independence, “[...] that his most excellent Majesty by and with the consent of the Lords and Commons of Ireland are [sic] the only power competent to enact laws to bind Ireland.” In the Memoirs, by his son, where this is reported, Grattan is quoted as saying “I brought on the question [of legislative independence] the 19th April 1780 - that was a great day for Ireland - that day gave her liberty!” (Memoirs of the Life and Times, &c., by his son, London 1849 [recte 1846], vol. II, p.39.) That resolution was defeated through a negative amendment by 136 to 97.’ [c.198]. Cites Grattan, anticipating Wolfe Tone’s ‘England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity’: ‘[W]ar was the only time for obtaining concessions from England; it was while she was weak that she would grant Ireland her freedom’ (M. R. O’Connell, Irish Politics, p.225) [Great Melody, 198].

Grattan’s son quotes Burke’s supposed response to the movement for legislative independence in Ireland, ‘Will no one speak to this madman? Will no one stop this madman Grattan?’ (Memoirs, vol. II, p.36) [GM, [244]. In the second half of 1782, Grattan’s chief rival Henry Flood gained the ascendancy in the Independence movement by demanding that the British Parliament ‘renounce for ever any right to legislate for Ireland’ (O’Connell, op. cit. 333) [GM, 246], and Grattan had earlier driven on the point of claiming that there was ‘no body of men competent to bind this nation except the King, Lords, and Commons of Ireland’ (Irish Commons, 19 April 1780; this principle was admitted as law by Rockingham admin., Brit. Parl. Hist. xxiii, pp.35-48, 17 May 1782). [GM, 243] 12 Feb 1795, Grattan formally asks permission to introduce his Catholic Relief Bill. George III enraged when he hears of the steps taken in Dublin. Fitzwilliam’s official recall arrived on 23 Feb. 1795. [GM, 515].

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Kevin Whelan, ‘Origins of the Orange Order’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, 2, 2 (Spring/Summer 1996), p.30, quoting letter of Grattan to Fitzwilliam: ‘The war is begun in Ireland between property and poverty: it is commenced by the former on the privileges of the latter … The majorities of our House have gotten the spirit of the planters, not of the country gentlemen. They hate the papists and they hate the people.’ (April 1796; NLI mic, 5,461; Whelan, p.30); ‘The idea seems to be blood, the gentry against the common people, the noise and the spirit of hunters in the shape of members of parliament, and their game was the people’; the rich like a pack of government bloodhounds to hunt down the poor’ (Letters, p.11; Whelan, idem.)

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Declaration of Irish Rights” (speech of 19 April 1780): ‘The British minister mistakes the Irish character; had he intended to make Ireland a slave, he should have kept her a beggar; there is no middle policy [...] we may talk pauibly to England, but so long as she exercises her power to bind this country, so long are the nations in a state ofwar; the claims of the one go against the libeerty of the other, and the sentiments of the latter go to oppose those claims to the last drop of blood. The English opposition, therefore, are right; mere trade will not satisfy Ireland - they judge us by other great nations, by the nations whose political life has been a struggle for liberty; they judge us with a true knowledge of, and a just deference for, our character - that a country enlightened as Ireland, chartered as Ireland, armed as Ireland, and injured as Ireland, will be satisfied with nothing less than liberty.’ (D. O. Madden, ed., Speeches of the Rt. Hon. Henry Grattan [ 2nd edn.] Dublin 1853, pp.40-44; quoted in Pauline Holland, doct. diss., UU 2004.)

Esto perpetua! (Speech of 16 April, 1782): ‘Ages have passes away, and this is the first moment in which you could have distinguished by that appellation, I have spoken on the subject of your liberty so often, that I have nothing to add, and have only to admire by what heaven-directed step you have proceeded until the whole faculty of the nation is braced up to the act of her own deliverance. I found Ireland on her knees, I watched over her with an eternal solicitude; I have traced her progress from injuries to arms, and from arms to liberty. Spirit of Swift! Spirit of Molyneux! your genius has prevailed! Ireland is now a nation! in that new character I hail her! and bowing to her august presence, I say, Esto perpetua! She is no longer a wretched colony, returning thanks to her governor for his rapine, and to her king for his oppression; nor is she now a squabbling, fretful secretary, perplexing her little wits, and fixing her furious statutes with bigotry, sophistry, disability, and death, to transmit to posterity insignificance and war. Look to the rest of Europe, and contemplate yourself, and be satisfied. Holland lives on the memory of past achievement; Sweden has lost her liberty; England has sullied her great name by an attempt to enslave her colonies. You are the only people, - you, of the nations in Europe, are not the only people who excite admiration.’ (Grattan’s speech, 16 April 1782, quoted in Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael, Amsterdam 1986, p.123 - citing Speeches in the Irish and the Imperial Parliament, ed. by his son, 4 vols., London 1822, Vol. , p.182; also quoted in in Thomas Kettle, Irish Oratory (Maunsel 1904); Stephen Gwynn, Henry Grattan and His Times, 1939, p.125 [cited in Thomas Flanagan, The Irish Novelists 1800-1850, Columbia UP 1959,p.20.; also [in part] in Mary Campbell, Lady Morgan, London: Pandora 1988, p.13.) [For full text, see attached.]

Note: for an echo of Grattan’s Esto perpetua!, see Sir Michael Smith, judge, in Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica, Vol. II, 1821 - as attached [letter in response to the epistolary eulogy of his colleagues on retirement - as attached.)

Ministers of the Irish Crown: ‘We charge them publicly in the face of their country, with making corrupt agreements for the sale of peerages, for doing which we say they are impeachable; we charge them with corrupt agreemens for the disposal of money arising from the sale, to purchase for the servants of the Castle, seats in the assembly of the people, for doing which we say they are impeachable; we charge them with committing these offences, not in one, not in two, but in many instances, for which complication of offences we say they are impeachable; guilty of systematic endeavour to undermine the constitution in violation of the laws of the land [...]’ (2 Feb. 1790; quoted in Francis Plowden, An Historical Review of the State of Ireland [...], 1803, Vol. II, pp.296-97; cited in Robert Kee, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1972, p.37.)

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The Act of Union: ‘It is not an identification of people, as it excludes Catholics from the parliament and the state; it is not an identification of government, for it retains the Lord-Lieutenant and his court; it is not an identification of establishments; it is not an identification of revenue; it is not an identification of commerce, for you have still relative duties, and countervailing duties; [...] if it be not an identification of interests, still less is it an identification of feeling and of sympathy. The union, the, is not an identification of the two [208] nations; it is merely a merger of the parliament of one nation in that of another; one nation, namely England, retains her full proportion; Ireland strikes off two-thirds; she does so, without any regard either to her present number, or to comparative physical strength; she is more than one-third in population, in territory, and less than one-sixth in representation. Thus there is no identification in any thing, save only in legislature, in which there is a complete and absolute absorption.’ (Quoted in Foster, Modern Ireland, 1988, p.283; earlier cited in D. Madden, Speeches of the Rt. Hon. Henry Grattan, Dublin 1853, p.255, and above at p.20.)

Answer to Lord Clare: ‘The idea [of the Union] is to make your history a calumny against your ancestors in order to disenfranchise your posterity.’ (Answer to a pamphlet entitled The Speech of the Earl of Clare on the subject of a legislative union between Great Britain and Ireland, Dublin 1800, p.1; quoted in Claire Connolly, ‘Writing the Union’, in Acts of Union: The Causes, Contexts and Consequences of the Act of Union, ed. Dáire Keogh & Kevin Whelan, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001, p.179.)

Irish reps: ‘I laugh at those Irish gentlemen who talk as if they were the representatives of something higher than their native land. [...] Let me tell those gentlemen, if they are not Irishmen, they are nothing.’ (6 Sept. 1785; cited as epigraph in ‘One could still, if one had genius, and had been born to Irish, write for these people plays and poems like those of Greece. Does not the greatest poetry always require a people to listen to it?’ Malcolm Brown, Politics of Irish Literature: From Thomas Davis to W. B. Yeats (London: George Allen & Unwin 1972.)

Grattan’s address on the Catholic question, printed as an appendix in Speeches of John Philpot Curran (Dublin: Stockdale 1805), [1-16pp.; sep. p.400].

[...] I appeal to the objections you urge against me, which I constitute my judges, to the spirit of your own religion, and to the genius of your revolution; and I consent to have the principle which I maintain tried by any test; and equally sound, I contend, it will be found, whether you apply it to constitution, where it is freedom, or to empire where it is strength, or to religion where it is light.

 Turn to the opposite principle, proscription and discord. It has made in Ireland not only war, but even peace calamitous: witness the one that followed the victories of king William, to the catholics a sad servitude, to the protestants a drunken triumph, and to both a peace without trade and without constitution. You have seen, in 1798, rebellion break out again, the enemy making her expeditions in consequence of the state of Ireland, twenty millions lost, one farthing of which did not tell, in empire and blood, barbarously, boyishly, and most ingloriously expended! These things, are in your recollection. One of the causes of these things, whether efficient or instrumental, as aggravating the prescriptive system, I mean you may now remove. It is a great work. Or has ambition not enlarged your mind, or only enlarged the sphere of its action? What the best men in Irelad wished to do, but could not do, the patriot courtier and the patriot oppositionist you may accomplish; what Mr. Gardiner, Mr. Langrishe, men who had no views of popularity or interest, or any but the public good; what Mr. Daly, Mr. Burgh, men whom I shall not pronounce to be dead if their genius live in this measure; what Mr. Forbes, every man that loved Ireland, what Lord Puy, the wisest man ever Ireland produced; what Mr. Hutchinson, an able, and accomplished, and enlightened servant of the crown; what lord Charlemount, superior to his early prejudices, bending under years, and experience, and public affection; what that dying nobleman, what our Burke, what the most profound divines, doctor Newcome, for instance, our late primate, his mitre stood in the front of that measure, what these men supported and against whom? Against men who had no opinioin at that time on the subject, except that which the minister ordered, or men whose opinions were so extravagant, that even bigotry must blush before them; and yet those men had not before them considerations which should make you wise - that the pope has evaporated, and that France has covered the best part of Europe. That terrible fight is now before you: it is a gulph that has swallowed up a great portion of your treasure - it yawns for your being. - Were it not wise, therefore, to come to a good understanding with the Irish now? - It will be miserable, if any thing untoward should happen hereaster, to say, we did not foresee this danger - against other dangers, against the pope we were impregnable. - But if, instead of guarding against dangers which are not, we should provide against dangers which are, the remedy is in your hand - [t]he franchises of the constitution. your ancestors were nursed from that cradle - the ancestors of the petitioners were less fortunate - the posterity of both, born to new and strange dangers - let them agree to renounce jealousies and proscriptions, in order to oppose what, without that agreement, will overpower both. - Half Europe is in battalion against us, and we are damning one another on account of mysteries, when we should form against the enemy and march. (p.16; End.) [Available at Google Books - online [accessed 17.02.2012]; also in Hansard, Parl. Report for 13 May 1805, viz., Mr Fox’s Motion for a Committee - online; accessed 28.09.2014].


Note that Grattan is answered by Mr. Alexander, who argues that the hostility of Catholics to the British connection still calls for caution: ‘In Ireland the British Government seems hitherto, to feel no apparent interest in the power and encroachments of the Roman Catholic clergy [here discusses power exercised through excommunication in the absence of authority over civil punishment]; add to these considerations, the recollection of confiscated property, the long series of injuries alleged to have been commited by the English against the Irish, the remembrance of which has been constantly kept alive by tradition, and by recent exaggerated statements; and the well-known historical fact, that claims to property cannot fail for want of hereditary succession, as, by the Brehon law, it exists not in individuals, but in name and Septs; and the house will see the reasons and motives for that dislike to British connexion, which ever has, and still continues to influence the lower and more numerous part of the catholics of Ireland, a peasantry directed by a clergy generally ignorant in every point but their school-divinity, all influenced by common motives of action, irreconcileable to British connexion at present; under such circumstances, though we cannot anticipate what growing wealth and more diffused intercourse may hereafter effect, we must still be on our guard.’

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Irish book trade: ‘The export trade of books had become a very promising trade. The high price of books in England, and the comparative low price of books in this Country, joined to the predeliction which America had always shewn for dealing with Ireland, had induced very considerable orders from that country, particularly for Law books, and political discussions.’ (Parl. Reg., XVI, 1796; cited in R. C. Cole, Irish Booksellers and English Writers, 1740-1800, 1986).

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Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies, Vol. I [of 2] (London & Dublin 1819), pp.198-275.
Ryan’s lengthy article on Grattan lies at the core of his biographical dictionary in so far as Henry Grattan embodies the form of constitutional Irish nationalism within a British-Empire context with full civic rights for Catholics - who would therefore be unfailingly loyal - which Ryan advocates there and in every other part of his book. Charles Lucas, Henry Grattan, George Ponsonby, Lord Charlemont (Charles Ponsonby), Barry Yelverton, J. P. Curran, and (albeit in more ambiguous terms) the actors, playwriter and authors Spranger Barry, Oliver Goldsmith, R. B. Sheridan and Edmund Burke - all of these are the heroes of the Irish Nation to which his book is dedicated. Accordingly, the entry on Grattan opens with an encomium in the form of a reflection on the nature of national biography to be followed in turn by nearly eighty pages of detailed narrative respecting the campaign to gain Legislative Freedom for the Irish Parliament, culminating with Grattan"s famous “Esto perpetua!” in 1782 - certainly the most ironic words in modern Irish history.

IT has been the lot of biographers (who for the most part, from time immemorial, critics have considered as a class of beings in whose veins the blood circulates with a singular and undeviating apathy,) often to become animated with the subjects of their several memoirs, and to write the lives allotted to their charge with both eloquence and feeling.

This ability, we imagine, is required to be evinced in no trivial degree in the present instance; for although objects more attractive might have been selected, there are but few, if any, round which a lustre dwells so pure, and so dazzling, as around the shrine of the uncompromising and self-sacrificing patriot.

Painful it is also to those who are obliged from a rigorous regard to truth, to praise individuals for their public actions, and dispraise them for their private vices; to analyse the shades of character, and state minutely the portion to be admired and disapproved. Such, however, is not the case in the subject before us; rarely have we seen an instance in which the most exalted genius, seemed united with every quality that wisdom allows to be excellent, and the heart acknowledges as truly amiable.

HENRY GRATTAN, the being who has elicited the above praises, was born in the city of Dublin, in 1751. His father was an eminent practitioner at the Irish bar, and held the situation of Recorder of Dublin. His son was called to the bar in 1761; but in his forensic character be did not acquire much celebrity. [...] (p.198.)

See full copy in RICORSO > Library > Criticism > History > Legacy - via index, or as attached.

D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912); names him as a contrib. to Baratariana [the anti-Townshend squib; see George Macartney, q.v.]; also contrib. poems to Joshua Edkins’ collection of 1786-90.

Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington 1904), gives extracts from speeches, incl. ‘Declaration of Irish rights’ and ‘On the Injustice of the Disqualification of Catholics’.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1: selects Speech in the Irish Parl., 16 Apr. 1782 (later revised) [918-21]; BIOG, 957 [as above]. And see notes in FDA2, at 172 [in Irish Felon, instead of Grattan, nationalist hero becomes Tone, ed. comm.]; 212-13 [Griffith ceases pursuit of meaningless Home Rule won by Grattan in 1782]; 217 [Lecky on opponents to Emancipation, ‘they have cut themselves off from all the traditions of Swift, of Grattan, and of Curran. they have adopted a system of theory the most extreme [...] aggressive [...] unattractive. They have made opposition to the Roman Catholics the grand object of their policy (Leaders of Public Opinion, 1861)]; 220; [ibid.; ‘independent nationality [...] it is scarcely possible to cite two Irish politicians of real eminence who have not, more or less, assisted it’]; 222 [‘the ideal of Grattan or of Pitt [...] a distinct parliament or [...] a complete fusion’, ibid.]; 227n [err]; 304-06 passim [allusions in speech of Parnell]; 308 [do.]; 313 [Parnell, ‘it would be the height of madness for any Irish leader to imitate Grattan’s example and consent to disband the army which had cleared the way to victory’ (To the People of Ireland, 1890)]; 320 [Davitt quotes McCarthy quoting Grattan, ‘No man can be lavish with his honour, or woman with her virtue, or country with its liberty’ [Speech of 1 Apr. 1780, recte, ‘A nation’s liberty cannot, like her treasures be meted and parcelled out in gratitude, no man can be grateful or liberal of his conscience, nor woman of her honour, nor nation of her liberty’]; 341 [John Redmond, on the Boer War, claims Burke, Sheridan, and Grattan ‘took precisely the same stand in that evently controversy [...] about the question of this war’]; 348 [William O’Brien, ‘spirit of toleration which was the glory of Grattan’s parliament and of Wolfe Tone’s united Irishmen’]; 349 [ibid, ‘that Irish nationality [...] worshipped by [...] Grattan [...] Tone’, The Downfall of Parliamentarianism, 1918)]; 350 [ibid., allusion to Redmond’s use of Grattan]; 356 [Arthur Griffith, ‘Grattan was incompetent. He was an excellent orator, sincerely patriotic, but he was neither a statesman nor a leader of men’ (The Resurrection of Hungary, chp. 2, 1904)]; 433n [eds. footnote to College Green, in Shaw’s John Bull’s Other Island]; 932 [‘Grattan [...] born upstairs’ in the house in Yeats’s Words upon the Window Pane (1934)]; 973 [incl. as Irish by Rolleston in answer to DP Moran]; 981 [Eoin MacNeill, ‘The Dublin Bureaucracy continued to rule the land, and the failure to bring it under the authority of the Irish Parliament shows Grattan’s incompetence as a statesman’ (Our Whig Inheritance, 1936; echoing Griffith, above)]; 982n [ed. comm., MacNeill construes Molesworth’s Whigs as precursors of Grattan’s Parliament]; 990 [listed among orators in Thomas MacDonagh, Literature in Ireland, V, ‘Anglo-Irish authors’]; 1006 [Arthur Clery, ‘with Bourke [sic] and Grattan he [Sheridan] made up that triad of inspired speakers who have made eloquence peculiarly own.’ (Irish Essays, 1919)]. There is a life of Grattan by Roger McHugh (Talbot 1936) [981n].

Note reference in Thomas Davis, ‘The Young Irishman of the Middle Classes’, lecture to the TCD Historical Society, 1839; reprinted in three installments in The Nation, 1848, ‘in wealth of imagination and in expressive power. Grattan is next to Shakespeare; his speeches are full of the most valuable information on Irish politics, and are the fit hand book for an Irishman. But his style is not for imitation; let no subject assume the purple.’ [FDA1].

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, 103 [O’Faolain on ‘colonists taking on Irish colouring’]; 176 [Statue of Grattan in Denis Johnston’sOld Lady Says ‘No!’]; 179 [statue speaks, ‘have you found your Holy Curran, Galahad?’, etc.]; 321 [William Drennan, The Intended Defence, cites Grattan as one apostle of his new Testament]; 325 [Drennan takes a lengthy quote from Grattan, which the eds. cannot trace]; 570 [in discussing advent of Gaelic mystique, O’Faolain indicates absence of word Gael in Grattan et al.]; 576 [T. W. Moody, ‘the nation of Grattan [...] a protestant nation’ (‘Irish History and Irish Mythology’, in Hermathena CXXIV, Summer 1978). Also explanatory notes on Grattan’s Parliament, 103; 606n; 622n; 624; 673. Note Errata: Henry Grattan and others wrote for The Freeman’s Journal a series of political articles later issued as Baratariana (1773) [FDA1 957]; Flood, along with Grattan and Langrishe, published pseudonymous letters in Freeman’s Journal relating to recent political matters, issued as Baratariana (1772 [sic]) [958].

A. N. Jeffares & Peter Van de Kamp, eds., Irish Literature: The Eighteenth Century - An Annotated Anthology (Dublin/Oregon: Irish Academic Press 2006), select Grattan’s Speech on Legislative Independence [315; see supra].

Herbert Bell Library (Belfast), holds Life and Times of The Right Hon. Henry Grattan, by his son, London: Colburn Vol. II (1839), Vol. III (1841), Vol. IV (1842), Vol. V (1846).

Ulster Univ. Library (Morris Collection) holds Speeches [...] to which is added his letter on the Union with a commentary on his career and character (Duffy, c.1853), 468p.

End papers of Thomas Moore, Memoirs of Captain Rock (London 1824 [3rd Edn.]) list The Speeches of the Right Honourable Henry Grattan, in the Irish, and in the Imperial Parliament. Edited by his Son. In 4 vols., 8vo., £2.8.6; with extract from the Dedication: ‘They abound with precepts of philosophy, of morality, and of religion, and are founded in the spirit of genuine liberty. They furnish instruction to statesmen and to ministers, and contain advice to the people and the king.’ / ‘If they should contribute to the public good, they will accomplish the object of a life passed in the service of his country.’ Also may be had, in 8vo. 12s., boards, Miscellaneous Works of the Right Hon. Henry Grattan.

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Portraits: There is a portrait of Henry Grattan by Henry Edridge; also portrait by Gilbert Stuart (1956-1828), in Nat. Gallery of Ireland; Grattan is shown addressing members of the Irish House of Commons, with ladies in the gallery, in the canvas of 1780 by Francis Wheatley, RA, now in the Leeds Institute [rep. as cover of Johnston-Liik, E. M., ed., History of the Irish Parliament 1692-1800: Commons, Constituences and Statutes, Ulster Hist. Foundation 2000]. Grattan is also included preeminently figured in engraving of Irish House of Commons of 1790, now preserved in Bank of Ireland (College Green), standing in foreground with Henry Flood, left, and with the Earl of Charlemont, seated in foreground, right; (Grattan being figure No. 149 in key.)

Dedicatee: Grattan was the recipient of the dedication of Thomas Sheridan’s edition of Swift in 1784: ‘To Henry Grattan, Esq., Founder of the Liberties of Ireland - This new edition of the works of his great predecessor the Immortal Drapier! In whose footsteps he has trodden, and whose ideas realised, is respectfully inscribed by his grateful countryman (now made proud of the name of Irishman) The Editor’.

Improved oratory: Note that the sentence about Swift and Molyneux was not in fact uttered by Grattan on 16th April 1982, but added in the 1821 edition of the speeches by his son. (See Robert Mahony, Jonathan Swift: the Irish Identity, Yale UP 1995).

Douglas Hyde quotes Grattan as follows: ‘‘I think the diversity of language and not the diversity of religion constitutes a diversity of people. I should be very sorry that the Irish language should be forgotten, but glad that the English language should be generally understood’; and comments, ‘this seems to have been also the position taken up by his great rival Flood, who, when dying, left some £50,000 to Trinity College for the cultivation of the Irish language.’ [Literary History of Ireland, 1901 edn. p.625]

Love in a Village: Henry Grattan is named as the possible author of a political satire inspired by Love in a Village [Contrib. to Oxford Companion to Irish Literature].

Comus: Grattan wrote an epilogue for [Milton’s] Comus for Kilkenny Private Theatricals (cited in Gilbert’s History of Dublin).

The Speeches of the Right Hon Henry Grattan, in the Irish & Imperial Parliament, edited by his son (London: Longman, Hurst &c.; Dublin: Richard Millikin [1822]), are advertised in the New Irish Magazine and Monthly National Advocate (Vol. 1, No.1, July 1822).

Ex-TCD: Following the Rebellion of 1798, Henry Grattan, the doyen of conciliation, lost his place on the Irish Privy Council. He was expelled form the merchant’s guild in Dublin and had his portrait removed from Trinity College. (Review of Jim Smyth, Men of No Property, Irish radicals and popular politics in the late eighteenth century (Gill & Macmillan 1992), 263pp.

Henry Grattan (Jr.): In the Poor Law Bill 1828-33, Grattan’s son and namesake answered the view that the contemplated reform would benefit the idle than the “worthy” poor by declaring that he doubted if any law could make conditions in Ireland worse than they already were. (Cited in Thomas G. Conway, ‘The Approach to an Irish Poor Law, 1828-33’, Éire-Ireland, 6, 1, Spring 1971, pp.65-81.)

In a flap: Hickey & Doherty (Dictionary of Irish History, 1979) note his peculiar flapping gesticulations that disquieted his audience until entranced by his oratory.

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