Pratt, Benjamin (1669–1721), provost of TCD, was born at Garradice, Co. Meath, eldest son of Joseph Pratt (d. December 1705 or January 1706) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Audley Mervyn (qv) and widow of Nathaniel Poole. He had three younger brothers and a sister. His father, originally from Leicestershire, had obtained lands in Meath under Oliver Cromwell (qv), and was high sheriff of Co. Meath in 1698 and Co. Cavan in 1702. Benjamin entered TCD in 1684, graduating BA (1689), MA (1692), BD (1699), LLD (1702), and DD (1705). His date of ordination is not known, but he was a fellow of the college from 1693 and professor of laws 1704–10. In 1698 the Irish house of commons addressed King William (qv) for a grant of £3,000 for the college, and in October 1699 Pratt travelled to England to negotiate in connection with this.
In February 1700 he obtained royal consent to take two years leave from his college duties to travel abroad. Independent means and polished manners gave him an entrée to fashionable society, and he appears to have spent much of this time in London, where Jonathan Swift (qv) was one of his companions; he was in Padua in February 1701. In 1703 he was appointed chaplain to the duke of Ormond (qv) and to the house of commons.
In 1710 the provost of TCD, Peter Browne (qv), resigned to become bishop of Cork and Ross, and on his recommendation Pratt succeeded him. The appointment was strongly opposed by the whig lord lieutenant, Lord Wharton (qv), and Browne was said to have later regretted his role. In October 1712 Pratt obtained leave of absence, and spent much of the following two years away from the college. Though his scholarship was acknowledged, his lax attitude to the duties of his office was criticised. It was, however, his tolerance of provocative displays of Jacobite sympathies by students of the college that attracted particular censure. His most determined opponent was William King (qv), archbishop of Dublin. The flight (1715) of the duke of Ormond, Pratt's patron and chancellor of the university, weakened his position. King enlisted the help of Samuel Molyneux (qv), private secretary to the prince of Wales, to persuade the latter to accept the chancellorship of the university; the prince's assent was ominous for the provost. King then, with the support of the archbishop of Canterbury, devised a plan to persuade Pratt to resign the provostship in return for the deanery of Down. He was willing to move, but attempted to hold out for a bishopric; threatened, however, with episcopal visitation by King and with an inquiry by the house of commons, he submitted.
Pratt was installed as dean of Down in June 1717; his remaining years were without controversy. He married at Lurgan (24 July 1718) Lady Philippa Hamilton, third surviving daughter of the 6th earl of Abercorn (qv); they had no children. He died 5 December 1721; his widow subsequently married Michael Connell, and died 27 January 1767.
John Pratt (1670–1741), a brother, was MP for Dingle (1713–14, 1715–27), constable of Dublin Castle, and deputy vice-treasurer of Ireland. He too was an Ormond client and a friend of Swift, and his official career ended in disgrace when his defalcations in the public treasury resulted in his imprisonment in 1725. Another brother, Mervyn (1687–1751), was MP for Co. Cavan, 1715–27.