The Irish Demosthenes

Justin McCarthy
Chapter VIII | Start of Chapter

Flood could no longer lead the party after this ill-advised step, but there was then a man in the Irish House of Commons even better qualified by genius and noble character to take the direction of the Parliamentary movement. This man was Henry Grattan, one of the greatest orators of ancient or modern times. The praises he received from some of his great English admirers are so lavish and so strong that they might be thought extravagant if it were not certain that they represent the general estimate then formed of him, and if we had not his own speeches to justify the estimate. Byron called him "ever-glorious Grattan, with all that Demosthenes wanted endued, and his rival or victor in all he possessed." When at a much later period of his life Grattan entered the English House of Commons, and was about to take a modest place on a back bench, Charles James Fox went up to him, told him that was not the place for the Irish Demosthenes, and with friendly pressure compelled him to take a more prominent position. Grattan and Flood were for a time close allies and companions in the Irish House. Flood's ill-advised step in accepting office led to a breach not only in the political relationship, but in the private friendship of the two men, who denounced each other publicly on more than one memorable and melancholy occasion in the Irish House of Commons.