Grattan, Henry (1789–1859), MP, biographer, and newspaper proprietor, was the second son of Henry Grattan (qv), MP and landowner, and Henrietta Grattan (née Fitzgerald). Much of his childhood was spent at Tinnehinch, his father's country estate in Co. Wicklow. After the act of union (1801) his disillusioned father retired temporarily from politics and diverted his energies to reading, walking, and educating his four children. Henry junior recalled accompanying his father and elder brother James on walks in the country and reading out passages from various books, though no one could ‘scarce speak tranquilly on the union’ and if his father ‘ventured to speak on the subject his eyes almost filled with tears’ (Memoirs, i, 44). This profound sense of loss made Henry determined to carry on his father's work and campaign tirelessly for legislative independence and for the emancipation of catholics. He studied at TCD (BA, 1808), trained as a barrister, and became involved in Dublin politics. At the Drogheda by-election (1818) he gave a long speech describing how Ireland had been ‘duped by the union’ and was now blighted with soaring debts, declining manufactures, a destitute catholic population, and absenteeism. He urged the electorate to vote for Mr Wallace who was not ‘indebted to the favour of the Castle’ (Speech of Henry Grattan junior, 3). After the death of his father in 1820, he hoped to replace him as MP for Dublin city. At the outset it looked as though he might win on the basis of his father's formidable reputation, and he was warmly welcomed wherever he addressed the public. But his pro-catholic stance disturbed many in the merchants' guilds, and a powerful campaign headed by Orangemen was launched against him. On polling day a group of soldiers on horseback trampled some of those who stood outside Grattan's tally rooms (causing a number of injuries) and one man was dragged out of his carriage and sent to Newgate gaol on trumped up charges. This led to suspicions that there was a conspiracy at the highest levels to ensure that at least one of the Dublin seats would remain ‘Orange’. His opponent Thomas Ellis, an Orangeman, won 1,094 votes compared with Grattan's 785. Grattan pressed on with his political campaigning and in 1822 edited The speeches of the Rt Hon. Henry Grattan.
He was eventually elected MP for Dublin city in 1826. As a result of his marriage in the same year to Mary, the only child of Philip Whitfield Harvey (who owned at least two Dublin newspapers in the period 1802–26), he acquired the Freeman's Journal. Grattan used this newspaper as an important mouthpiece for the pro-emancipation movement and as a means of highlighting the plight of silk weavers and other vulnerable groups in the Dublin city constituency. Once emancipation had been achieved (1829), he still penned long opinion articles on other ‘catholic disabilities’, ‘the evils of absenteeism’, restrictions on the Irish butter trade, and the shortcomings of the subletting act and poor laws. Daniel O'Connell (qv) held him in high regard and in 1828 remarked that ‘I deem Grattan one of the most useful of our Irish representatives’ (Fitzpatrick, i, 163). The government tried to clamp down on the Freeman's Journal and Grattan was found guilty of seditious libel; but no action was taken against him and he sold the newspaper in 1830.
In 1830 he lost his Dublin seat but within a year was back in parliament as MP for Co. Meath (1831–52). He was a popular MP (elected unopposed after 1837) and in the 1830s served alongside Daniel O'Connell's son Morgan (qv). In May 1843 Grattan (and several other prominent Irish whigs) resigned from the magistracy when O'Connell and thirty-three other pro-repeal JPs were dismissed by the government. In the period 1839–46 Grattan published his five-volume Memoirs of the life and times of the Rt Hon. Henry Grattan. In the introductory chapters he resorted to simplistic and polemical language: ‘prior to Grattan's time Ireland can scarcely be said to have existed as a nation’ and ‘the Irish were bad, but the English were infinitely worse’ (Memoirs, i, 19). But the main text is interspersed with hundreds of verbatim letters and remains a useful quarry for biographers. Henry junior was a proud man who on at least three occasions threatened to resolve personal disputes by resorting to arms. He was obsessed with living up to the ‘Grattan name’ and exaggerated the role that his father played in obtaining limited legislative independence in the 1780s. Ironically he was himself the victim of a ‘cult of personality’, since the role that he played in the campaign for catholic emancipation in Dublin has been largely ignored; O'Connell by contrast has achieved an iconic status as ‘The Liberator’. Henry junior died in 1859 at his home, ‘The Abbey’, Celbridge, Co. Kildare.