Grattan, Henry

Grattan, Henry grătˈən [key], 1746–1820, Irish statesman. A lawyer, he entered (1775) the Irish Parliament and soon became known as a brilliant orator. Aided by Britain's preoccupation with the American Revolution and its fear of the revolutionary potential of the Irish volunteer army (see Ireland), Grattan led the successful fight for abolition of the restrictions on Irish trade and the repeal of Poynings's Law (see under Poynings, Sir Edward). Having thus gained nominal legislative independence for the Irish Parliament, he worked to eliminate the system by which English patrons continued to control it, advocating Catholic Emancipation as the only means for making the Irish Parliament truly representative. The Catholic Relief Act (1793) gave Catholics the right to vote in Ireland, but hopes raised in 1795 that Catholics would be allowed to sit in Parliament were soon dashed, and Grattan retired (1797) in indignation at the government's policy. In 1800, on the last day of the debate on the parliamentary union with England, Grattan appeared in the Irish Parliament and made the greatest speech of his career in opposition to the Act of Union. He sat in the British Parliament from 1805, taking little part except to support Catholic Emancipation.

See G. O'Brien, Anglo-Irish Politics in the Age of Grattan and Pitt (1986).

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