Flood, Henry

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Flood, Henry

Politician, and the leading Patriot spokesman of his generation, Henry Flood (1732–1791) entered the Irish House of Commons as MP for County Kilkenny in 1759, and subsequently sat for a number of borough constituencies. The most notable was Callan, Co. Kilkenny, which involved him in a tense, costly, and sometimes violent struggle for control with James Agar of Ringwood, resulting in a duel in 1769 in which Agar was killed. Meanwhile Flood achieved a considerable measure of fame as one of the most talented parliamentarians of his generation. His reputation was grounded on his exceptional skills as an orator, debater, and propagandist, but it was his advocacy of a Patriot program, embracing limited parliaments, a Protestant militia, and the curtailment of patronage, that gave it substance.

His decision to accept the position of vice treasurer in 1775 both alienated many of his Patriot colleagues in parliament and enmeshed him in an unhappy relationship with the Irish administration that cast him into the political wilderness for six years. His dismissal in 1781 freed him to press for legislative independence as the Irish parliament neared its crucial final phase, though his more radical position on the issue set him at loggerheads with Henry Grattan. Flood's successful agitation between 1782 and 1783 of a demand that the British parliament should renounce its right to make law for Ireland enabled him to supersede Grattan as the most popular Patriot politician in Ireland at this point. But his desire to prove himself on the imperial stage at Westminster meant that he devoted increasingly less attention to Irish politics thereafter. He made an exception for the issue of parliamentary reform, to which he made a strong commitment in Ireland between 1783 and 1785 and in Britain in 1790. Even this was insufficient to sustain his career, however, for though he made a number of impressive interventions, electoral difficulties and health problems ensured that he had become a figure of increasingly marginal political consequence for some years before his death in December 1791.

SEE ALSO Eighteenth-Century Politics: 1714 to 1778—Interest Politics; Eighteenth-Century Politics: 1778 to 1795—Parliamentary and Popular Politics; Eighteenth-Century Politics: 1795 to 1800—Repression, Rebellion, and Union; Grattan, Henry


Dickson, David. "Henry Flood and the Eighteenth-Century Irish Patriots." In "Worsted in the Game": Losers in Irish History, edited by Ciaran Brady. 1989.

Kelly, James. Henry Flood: Patriots and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Ireland. 1998.

Flood, Warden. Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Henry Flood. 1838.

James Kelly