Joy, Henry, jnr (1754–1835), newspaper proprietor and local politician, born 17 October 1754 at Belfast, was the eldest of the three sons of Robert Joy (qv), textile manufacturer and his wife, Grizell (née Rainey) of Magherafelt, Co. Londonderry (d. 1762). He was a grandson of Francis Joy (qv), and a first cousin of Henry Joy McCracken (qv). He is not to be confused with another first cousin, Henry Joy (qv) (1766?–1838), barrister and judge. The Joys were presbyterians who belonged to the Third Belfast congregation.
An active Volunteer and advocate of parliamentary reform, Henry Joy (known always as Henry Joy junior to distinguish him from his uncle Henry Joy, a Belfast notary) was secretary of a committee appointed by a convention at Lisburn to communicate with reformers in England (1783). He was one of the delegates nominated to represent Carrickfergus at the Grand National Convention which met in Dublin in November 1783 and one of the Belfast delegates at the Dublin convention of 1784. With the revival of the Volunteer movement in the early 1790s he was active again and was a joint secretary of the Dungannon convention of February 1793. After his father's death (1785), if not before, Joy took control of the Belfast News Letter (founded by his grandfather), and proved a very active editor, contributing many pieces himself. The revolution in France won his (and so his newspaper's) enthusiastic approval. In 1789 the News Letter sold 2,050 copies per day, in 1794 2,904, bringing a salary for Joy of £200 p.a. and a profit in 1794 of £1,222.
Joy joined the Northern Whig Club at its formation (28 February 1790) and was secretary when it was agreed to celebrate the fall of the Bastille by a parade and banquet in Belfast (14 July 1791). He welcomed the pro-whig pamphlet of Theobald Wolfe Tone (qv), A review of the conduct of administration (1790), which he immediately got reprinted in Belfast, afterwards signing the letter notifying Tone of his election to membership of the Northern Whig Club. But by the time Tone paid his first visit to the Ulster town in October 1791, the politics of the two men were diverging, the catholic question having come to the fore. Tone included Joy when referring to ‘the liberality of people agreeing in the principle but doubting as to the expediency’ (diary, 25 October 1791). As Joy himself had put it some months before, the point of difference among Belfast reformers was ‘whether the entire enfranchisement of the Roman Catholics, including suffrage at elections, should be immediate or progressive’. Another point of difference was attitude to events in France. Some reformers, members of the Belfast Society of United Irishmen, started a newspaper, the Northern Star, which reported sympathetically the advance of republicanism. Joy retaliated in the Belfast News Letter with two series of anonymous articles, ‘Strictures on the test taken by certain of the societies of United Irishmen’ (February to March 1792) and ‘Thoughts on the British constitution’ (December 1792 to November 1793). The latter stated a firm preference for ‘the revolution of 1688’. Joy reprinted them in a book that he and William Bruce (qv), a cousin and lifelong friend, compiled of texts illustrative of recent events, Belfast politics . . . in the years M,DCC,XCII and M,DCC,XCIII (1794). With the execution of Louis XVI (21 January 1793), the remaining sympathies of Joy and his newspaper for the French revolutionaries ceased.
If the arrival in Dublin (3 January 1795) of a reforming whig viceroy, Earl Fitzwilliam (qv), seemed to be an endorsement of Joy's belief in political moderation, the viceroy's precipitate recall six weeks later and the ensuing bitterness among presbyterians and catholics alike must have been deeply disillusioning. The episode may have been a factor in Joy's decision to sell the Belfast News Letter in May 1795. Another factor was the competition of the Northern Star. Joy found no room for his whig politics after 1795 and, though he subscribed for the relief of men arrested for sedition in 1797, he was one of the 150 Belfast citizens who on 29 May 1798 pledged their ‘support of our king and country’ and appealed for the six brass cannons that had belonged to the Volunteers to be given to the local military commander, Major-general George Nugent (qv). On 8 June (just after the outbreak of rebellion in Ulster), with Bruce, Thomas Whinnery (qv), and others, he formed a supplementary corps of yeomanry. Increasingly he came under Bruce's influence with the result that William Drennan (qv), previously an admirer of Joy, referred to the pair in November 1804 as ‘the Irish Pitt and Castlereagh’. After the rebellion of Robert Emmet (qv) Joy joined the Belfast yeomanry as a first lieutenant in the merchants’ corps (August 1803).
Joy was indefatigable in his spirited and practical support for several beneficent public undertakings in his native town: the Charitable Society, the dispensary, the fever hospital, the Society for Promoting Knowledge, the harp festival, and the Belfast Literary Society. He was a supporter too of Edward Bunting (qv) in his systematic study of Irish folk songs. He continued to write on political matters and in 1817 brought out another compilation of texts, Historical collections relative to the town of Belfast, the preface of which is a summary of his views on the politics of Belfast from its foundation until 1800.
Henry Joy died in 1835 leaving much property around Belfast. His wife was Mary Isabella Holmes (1771–1832), eldest daughter of John Holmes (1745–1825), a Belfast merchant trading with Russia and from 1787 a partner in Ewing's Bank. The couple had five sons: Robert (d. 1813); William, a physician in London; Henry Holmes (1805–75), a barrister; Frederick (d. 1853), a solicitor; and John Holmes (b. 1810?), a clergyman of the established protestant church who served in the Glens of Antrim before moving to England.