Langrishe, Sir Hercules (1731–1811), 1st baronet, politician, was the eldest surviving son of Robert Langrishe (c.1696–1770) of Knocktopher, Co. Kilkenny, gentleman usher of the black rod, and his wife, Anne Langrishe (née Whitby). Educated at TCD, he graduated BA in 1753; he later received an honorary LLD (1764). Following the Langrishe family tradition, Hercules was elected MP for Knocktopher, their Co. Kilkenny borough, in 1761, and held the seat until it was abolished in 1800 by the Act of Union. A friend of Henry Flood (qv), he was involved in the disputed election of 1776 at Callan. Although he and Flood were returned for the constituency, this was reversed after a successful petition by the Agar family. Opposed to the viceroy Lord Townshend (qv), Langrishe contributed to Baratariana, a collection of essays by leading patriots that satirised Townshend's administration. He was also a poet of some ability, and performed plays for the benefit of his friends. On one occasion he caused offence to Flood by performing a version of ‘Macbeth’ with an epilogue which satirised him. Another close friend was Henry Grattan (qv) with whom he met other politicians in the 1770s to discuss parliamentary strategies. Langrishe thus helped to found the Society of Granby Row, a club formed for political discussion and entertainment.
On 24 January 1777 Langrishe was created a baronet. An accomplished parliamentarian, he held a number of offices, including collector of the revenue for Kilkenny (1758–68), commissioner of barracks (1766–74), supervisor of accounts for the barracks (1767–74), and commissioner of the revenue (1774–1801). A supporter of legislative independence (1782) and the proposed regency (1789), he acted with the government on most other issues. On one question his position was particularly significant: catholic relief. A vocal supporter of catholic concessions, but not of enfranchisement, in the 1770s and 1780s, he wrote a letter to Edmund Burke (qv) for advice on the subject in 1791. This prompted a famous response of sixty printed pages, published by Burke as Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe (1792). It is seen as Burke's first major public statement on Ireland and was a powerful analysis of the necessity for removing the remaining civil restrictions on catholics. Encouraged by this, Langrishe made a public stand on the question, and on 25 January 1792 set out proposals for a relief bill in parliament, which was passed as 32 Geo. III, c. 21, on 18 April. He was appointed an Irish privy councillor in 1792. Despite his public support, Burke was privately suspicious of Langrishe and ‘the Herculean faction’, while his son Richard considered him a rogue. Nevertheless Burke honoured Langrishe with a second public letter on the catholic question in 1795. Langrishe was an opponent of parliamentary reform, and the outbreak of war with revolutionary France led him to vote against a catholic relief bill in 1796. In the final Irish parliament he was an unenthusiastic supporter of the Act of Union, resigning his seat in 1800 after accepting a nominal office. For the loss of his boroughs he was awarded £13,862 10s.
Langrishe retired from public life when he left parliament. He died 1 February 1811 at his residence at St Stephen's Green, Dublin, and was buried on 8 February at St Ann's church in the city. He married on 13 May 1755 Hannah Myhill (d. 1803), daughter and co-heir of Robert Myhill of Kilkenny; they had three sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Sir Robert Langrishe (1756–1835), was baptised on 25 October 1756; he was educated at Eton College and the university of Glasgow. He entered the Middle Temple in London and the King's Inns in Dublin and was called to the Irish bar in 1781. Taking the advice of his father, he decided to enter parliament in search of advancement and was returned for Knocktopher in the 1783 general election. He used his legal training to chase lucrative offices, and in 1784 he was appointed solicitor of the stamp office, a post worth £200 per annum; the following year he was appointed commissioner of the barracks, a sinecure worth double that amount. Unlike his father, Robert had little interest in parliamentary affairs: he was a man on the make, content to live off his father's reputation. Appointed secretary of the accounts office in 1796, he vacated his seat under the terms of the place act and retired from parliament; the seat was sold in 1797. After the union he attempted to establish a bank in Cork, but it collapsed in December 1803 after only three months. He succeeded as 2nd baronet on his father's death, and after serving as a revenue commissioner (1810–23) withdrew completely from public life. He married, in March 1782, Anne Boyle, with whom he had two sons and six daughters. He died 25 April 1835.