- Fishamble Street, Dublin, Ireland
- 3 July 1746 – Born
“I found Ireland on her knees…Ireland is now a nation!”
– Henry Grattan
Life Sketch from The Other Eminent Men of Wilford WoodruffCopyright © Taken from the book: The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Special thanks to Vicki Jo Anderson. Please do not copy. Irish Statesman 1746-1829
Early LifeBorn 3 July 1746 in Dublin, the first child and only so born to James Grattan and Henrietta Marlay, Henry Grattan displayed as a child exceptional gifts of intellect and a strong character. An incident that demonstrates his strength of character occurred while Grattan was a boy. Like most of the children of Ireland, Grattan knew many of the Irish superstitions, and he felt the paralyzing fear, so he went into a churchyard near his father’s house, after the clock struck midnight where he remained until “every qualm of terror had subsided.” This he did for several nights. His strength of character and intelligence made him a powerful force in a day when governments and men were ruled by bribes. Although Grattan is classified as one of the world’s greatest orators, it was not an inborn gift. He struggled greatly as his voice was not distinctive, his figure was awkward, and his delivery seemed to repulse his great audience. Grattan overcame all the shortcomings and was compared to the great Greek orator Demosthenes. As a boy Henry attended a Mr. Ball’s Academy. One day, Mr. Ball asked him to translate two lines fro the Latin classic ‘’Ovid’’. He promptly gave an interpretation that his father had told him. As he finished Mr. Ball told him to go on his knees for making such a stupid blunder. Thad night sensitive young Henry reported to his father what had happened and he was soon sent to another school. From his early youth Henry loved practicing speeches. This habit sometimes got him into difficult situations. “On one occasion his landlady in England requested his friends to remove that mad young gentleman who was always talking to himself, or addressing an imaginary person named Mr. Speaker.” Grattan and his father, who had been Dublin’s recorder for many years, got along well until Henry began to have an opinion about politics. Grattan’s father sat for a number of years in the Irish Parliament, an office that was often held by the good favor of a rich patron. The other representative for their district was a Dr. Lucas, who had raised himself from near poverty and had gained his eat by truly representing the people. The election of these two men had been the first in thirty-three years since there had been a change. Dr. Lucas believed as Jonathan Swift had written that “All government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery.” Lucas worked for a number of years before he was able to obtain the votes necessary to change the frequency of the election. Lucas’s bill was finally voted on by the Irish Parliament and approved by the English Privy Council. Young Grattan greatly admired Dr. Lucas, much to his father’s disgust, although, both father and son did agree that Ireland had a right to manage its own affairs, separate from England’s domination. Their other political views were so different that their relationship became strained and eventually the father partially disinherited his son. Grattan, upon finishing his early education, went on to distinguish himself at Trinity College in Dublin. There he began a life long study of classical literature of the great orators of the past. After completing his education at Trinity, Grattan was accepted at Middle Temple in London to further his studies for the bar. In 1772 he was accepted to the bar, but he never seriously practiced law. While in England he received word that a sister to whom he was very close had died after a short illness. Grattan writes of this sister as one, “whom I love extremely.” Her loss came as such a shock to him it made him terrible lonesome for him. A month later another sister married Gervase Bush, a lawyer who was later to play an important role in the fight for independence with Grattan. Soon after these events Grattan retreated to the countryside for a time. There he sought solace and time to work out his thoughts and lay his future plans.
Seat in Irish ParliamentWhile England was engaged in war with the thirteen colonies, many troops were withdrawn from Ireland. In an effort to help maintain order in the country local groups were organised into “volunteers.” Grattan and others became noted officers in this militia. It was the recognition of this work that brought him into public service. In 1775, Lord Charlemont gave Grattan a seat in the Irish Parliament. (Seats in Parliament at that time were often bought or “owned” by large landowners.) Grattan immediately joined with the national party whose main object was to set the Irish Parliament free from the Privy Council of England, thus giving Ireland jurisdiction over its own matters. The restrictive measures enforced by the Privy Council had been opposed by great men such as Molyneux, Swift, and Flood. But it was Grattan who was able to change this repressive legislation. In 1780 Grattan gave his famous speech entitled “Liberty as an Inalienable Right.” It has been said that no speech in Ireland was equal to it, nor probably was their a superior speech ever delivered in the English House of Commons. Other speeches may have matched it in argument and information, but in its fresh burst of energy and splendor of style it was a classic. In concluding his speech, Grattan pleaded with his fellow representatives of the people: “Do not tolerate that power which blasted you for a century, [England] that power which shattered your loom, banished your manufacturers,… stopped the growth of your people; do not, I say, be bribed … and permit that power which has thus withered the land to remain in your country.”
- Hereafter, when these things shall be history, your age of thraldom and poverty, your sudden resurrection, commercial redress, and miraculous armament, shall the historian stop at liberty, and observe–that here the principal men among us fell into mimic trances of gratitude–they were awed by a weak ministry, and bribed by an empty treasury–and when liberty was within their grasp, and the temple opened her folding door, and the arms of the people clanged, and the seal of the nation urged and encouraged them on, that they fell down, and were prostituted at the threshold?… I never will be satisfied so long as the meanest cottager in Ireland has a link of the British chain clanking to his rags; he may be naked, he shall not be in iron; and I do see the time is at hand the spirit is gone forth, the declaration is planted; and though the public speaker should die, yet the immortal fire shall outlast the organ which conveyed it and the breath of liberty, like the word of the holy man will not die with the prophet, but survive him.
DeathGrattan died on 4 June 1820. He left behind a paper to be read in the House of Commons and in it he advised England to grant the Catholics their rights; even in death he was a defender of the rights of all men. No honor was denied him in his death. All members of Parliament attended his services and he was buried in Westminster Abbey alongside Fox, the English statesman he most admired. Copyright © Taken from the book: The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Special thanks to Vicki Jo Anderson. Please do not copy. 
- ↑ Anderson, Vicki Jo. (1994). The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Cottonwood, AZ: Zichron Historical Research Institute.