Henry Grattan - Dublin Born Lawyer Opposed Penal Laws On Irish
"Grattan's Parliament" is the name usually given to the two decades of parliamentary independence which ended with the Act of Union in 1800. Certainly, there was much celebration in 1782, and parliament voted its hero £50,000 in gratitude.
The final years of the 18th century saw great commercial activity, and a prosperous Dublin acquired many of the handsome Georgian buildings for which it is noted today.
However, Grattan soon faced a challenge from an embittered Henry Flood, now out of offfice, who questioned Grattan's achievement and forced a further Renunciation Act from Westminster Commons in 1783.
Henry Grattan was born at Fishamble Street, Dublin in 1746, a member of the Anglo-Irish elite of Protestant background. He was the son of James Grattan MP, Attorney-General of Ireland, Chief Baron of the Exchequer and finally Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench (Ireland).
Grattan was a distinguished student at Trinity College, Dublin where he began a lifelong study of classical literature and was especially interested in the great orators of antiquity. Like his friend Henry Flood, Grattan worked on his natural eloquence and oratory skills by studying models such as Bolingbroke and Junius.
After studying at the King's Inns, Dublin and being called to the Irish bar in 1772, he never seriously practiced law but was drawn to politics, influenced by Flood.
He entered the Irish Parliament for Charlemont in 1775, sponsored by Lord Charlemont, just as Flood had damaged his credibility by accepting office. Grattan quickly superseded Flood in the leadership of the national party, not least because his oratorical powers were unsurpassed amongst his peers.
Under the banner of The Patriot Party, Henry Grattan stood for election as MP for Charlemont, Co. Dublin, when he was aged tweny nine. The principle aims were repealing - Poyning’s Law; Sixth of George 1; Limitation of The Life of Parliament and removal of the British Government control over the election of members to both Houses Of Parliament. He further supported all measure for the removal of Penal Laws and restrictions on Irish exports to England.
When his fears of a French invasion proved negative he focused his mind on securing a free Irish Parliament; Free Trade and Parliamentary reform. Grattan also established Non-Importation Leagues amongst traders all over Ireland which resulted in a dramatic 70% reduction of English imported goods.
The British granted Ireland free access to European markets but did not facilitate the same concession for English markets.
Many farmers and industries flourished as a direct result of new markets opening up and Grattan also campaigned for equal respect for catholic rights. By attaining such great and immense relief for his own people, Henry Grattan, the Dublin lawyer, was probably Ireland’s most respected citizen of his era.
The famous son of Ireland passed away in 1820, aged seventy four and was buried at Westminster Abbey, London.