Henry Flood

Justin McCarthy
Chapter VIII | Start of Chapter

The Patriot Party soon obtained the leadership of Henry Flood, a brilliant orator and commanding politician. His father, a Chief Justice of the King's Bench, had taken care that he should have a liberal education at "Old Trinity," Dublin, and at Oxford. Henry Flood gave up most of his early life to the study of great poets and great orators, classic and modern, and for a while his ambition was to become a poet himself; but he was drawn away into political pursuits, for which Nature had qualified him. He entered the Irish Parliament before he was quite twenty-seven, and, being a man of considerable fortune, was enabled to give up his whole life to politics. He soon made a brilliant success, came to be recognised as leader of the Opposition, and therefore Parliamentary leader of the Patriot Party. He led all manner of attacks upon the corrupt systems then prevailing under the Government, and gave force and direction to the movement for securing the independence of the Irish Parliament. He made many mistakes during his leadership, and one of them proved fatal to his popularity. The mistake may well seem to have been natural and excusable, but it cost him his power over the Party he was leading. He succeeded after a long struggle in compelling the Government to remove from office an unpopular and oppressive Lord Lieutenant and put a better statesman in his place. Flood seems to have thought the new Viceroy would be thoroughly with him in his efforts to secure the independence of the Irish Parliament, and that to accept office under such a Viceroy would help to carry out the national policy. But the Irish people had seen too much of the damaging effect produced on public life by the acceptance of office under Government to allow them to acknowledge the leadership even of Flood when once Flood had become a paid official of the Crown.