Henry Grattan, an Irish statesman and orator, born in Dublin, July 3, 1746, died in London, May 14, 1820. His father, a barrister and a Protestant, was for many years recorder of Dublin and also a member of the Irish parliament. Henry entered Trinity college, Dublin, in 1765, and graduated with distinction in 1707, after which he removed to London and became a student in the Middle Temple. His admiration for the eloquence of Lord Chatham determined him to become an orator. He was admitted to the Irish bar in 1772, and in 1775 entered the Irish parliament as representative of Charlemont. He at once joined the opposition, and united with Flood and the leading patriots of the day in endeavoring to obtain free trade for Ireland. On April 19, 1780, he introduced and supported with great eloquence the famous declaration of right, denying the power of the British parliament to legislate for Ireland. His motion was lost, but he became the idol of the Irish people. He fired their national spirit, and through his influence the volunteer bands assembling from all parts of Ireland were swelled to the number of 80,000. These volunteers held a meeting at Dungannon in February, 1782, and passed unanimously the resolution drawn up by Mr. Grattan, that "a claim of any body of men, other than the king, lords, and commons of Ireland, to make laws to bind this kingdom, is unconstitutional, illegal, and a grievance." On April 10, 1782, he repeated in the house of commons his motion for a declaration of Irish right.
The resolutions were carried by an overwhelming majority. Mr. Fox decided instantly to yield, and brought in a bill for repealing the act (0 George I.) by which the British parliament claimed the right to bind Ireland by British laws. Grattan was now the most popular man in Ireland, and parliament proposed to vote him £100,000 "as a testimony of the national gratitude for great national services." It was only at the earnest request of his friends that he agreed to accept half the amount. During the following sessions of parliament he found a bitter and sarcastic opponent in Flood, who encouraged the story which had been set on foot, that Grattan having received his pay had ceased to be a patriot. In 1785, by his opposition to the propositions regarding the trade between Great Britain and Ireland, known as Ord's propositions, he regained his popularity. In 1790 he was returned to parliament by the city of Dublin. On the arrival in 1795 of Earl Fitzwilliam, he associated himself with that nobleman in originating plans for the peace and prosperity of his native country. After the earl's recall dissensions arose, and the society of United Irishmen proposed to form a republic, and opened intercourse with France to gain help.
Grattan, after advising conciliatory measures in vain, withdrew from parliament. When Mr. Pitt proposed measures for uniting Great Britain and Ireland, he again obtained a seat in parliament as member for Wicklow, for the express purpose of opposing this measure; but when the union had been effected he entered the imperial parliament as representative of the borough of Malton in 1805, and of Dublin in 1806. In opposition to the corporation of his native city, he advocated Catholic emancipation, and undertook a journey to London, while in feeble health, to present a petition from the Catholics to the house of commons. When his friends remonstrated, he replied that he would be happy to die in the discharge of his duty, and he did in fact sink under the exer-tion soon after his arrival. Grattan was below medium stature and exceedingly unprepossessing in appearance. His oratory was impassioned, and he was often entirely overcome by his subject. His private character was without a blemish. His speeches were edited by his son Henry Grattan (4 vols., London, 1822), and a selection from them by D. O. Maddyn (Dublin, 1845). A volume of his miscellaneous works appeared in 1822, and his "Life and Times" by his son in 1839-'46 (5 vols., London).