Griffith, Richard (1752–1820), nabob, was born in Abbey St., Dublin, on 10 June 1752, only son of Richard Griffith (1714?–1788) and his wife Elizabeth (qv) (née Griffith). At the age of 18, through the influence of a director of the East India Company, he went to Bengal as a writer. By 1776 he was accountant at Patna in Bihar and profiting from the opium trade; in 1780 he returned to Europe as a ‘factor at home’. In India he made a fortune of £60,000 according to a son, £90,000 according to a granddaughter. In 1782 he purchased Millicent, a house and lands in the parish of Clane, Co. Kildare. In 1783 he entered parliament as MP for Askeaton, Co. Limerick. Soon afterwards he published a pamphlet, Thoughts on protecting duties (1783), advocating protection and encouragement of Irish trade. He was said by a parliamentary observer to be ‘warm for reform of parliament and protecting duties; speaks very often’ (quoted in Johnston, ‘Ir. parlt, 1784–7’, p. 183). Griffith was actively interested in prison reform and at Millicent was an agricultural innovator. He became a member of the Dublin Society (1784), MRIA (June 1785), served as high sheriff of County Kildare (1788–9) and was elected to the Whig Club of Ireland (July 1789). A near neighbour was Peter Tone, father of Theobald Wolfe Tone (qv), who in the 1780s was farming at Bodenstown. Griffith was friendly towards the young Tone, is said to have given him financial aid for his studies and may well have given him his interest in India.
After leaving parliament (1790) he played a major role in the formation in December 1792 of the Friends of the Constitution, Liberty and Peace, a group of Whigs calling for Catholic relief and parliamentary reform while rejecting the radicalism of the United Irish societies. When yeomanry corps were formed he was commissioned captain of the Clane cavalry (October 1796). Alarmed at the increasing unrest in Ireland, he resigned from the Whig Club (November 1796) and was one of those justices of the peace who voted for the proclamation under the insurrection act of part of County Kildare (May 1797). When rebellion broke out on 24 May 1798 he led the Clane yeomanry in dispersing rebels threatening the town, but then he learned that his lieutenant, John Esmonde (qv), had been in command of insurgents at Prosperous. He retrieved the situation and wrote to Dublin Castle on 4 June 1798: ‘now the sword is drawn nothing but extreme severity will cure the evil’ (Chambers, Rebellion, 83).
Griffith was a proprietor of the Grand Canal Co., the main line of which passed close to Millicent. Joining its board of directors (1784), he invested most of his fortune in the company, acquiring with John Macartney (1747–1812), a controlling interest and serving as chairman (1789, 1795, 1800, 1804–5); he wrote a promotional pamphlet, Thoughts and facts relating to the increase of agriculture, manufactures and commerce by the extension of inland navigation (1795), and supervised completion of the canal to the Shannon. After the company got into financial difficulty, partly in consequence of the rebellion, partly because of heavy capital expenditure, he lost his position (February 1810). About 1808, his fortune largely gone, he had to sell Millicent for a smaller house. He moved to his ancestral Wales, settling at Holyhead in Anglesey, where he acted as agent for Post Office packets operating between Holyhead and Dublin.
Griffith married (17 September 1780) Charity Yorke Bramston, daughter of John Bramston of Oundle, Northants, and with her had three daughters and one son, Sir Richard Griffith (qv). After his wife's death (1789 or 1791) he married (20 March 1793) Mary Hussey Burgh, daughter of Walter Hussey Burgh (qv), chief baron of the exchequer, and with her had five sons and three daughters. Richard Griffith died 27 June 1820 at Holyhead and was buried locally.