FLOOD, Henry (1732-91), of Farmley, co. Kilkenny.
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Family and Education
b. 1732, illegit. s. of Warden Flood, chief justice of Ireland 1760-4, by Miss Whiteside1 whom he subsequently married. educ. Trin. Dublin 1747; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1750; I. Temple 1750. m. 16 Apr. 1762, Lady Frances Beresford, da. of Marcus, 1st Earl of Tyrone [I], s.p. suc. fa. 1764.
M.P. [I] 1759-76, 1777-83.
Jt. vice-treasurer [I] 1775-81; P.C. [GB and I] 1776, struck off both 1781.
Mr. Flood’s views are now strongly bent to get into the British Parliament. He has expressed his wishes for this to Lord North, and repeated them frequently ... His Lordship has given him no hopes of his assistance, but leaves it to his Majesty’s consideration.
Nothing further is known of Flood’s Westminster ambitions till 1783, when he was returned for Winchester on the Duke of Chandos’s interest. On 8 Dec. 1783 he attended the House for the first time, when Fox’s East India bill was debated, and began with an apology for venturing to speak ‘totally unacquainted as he was with the subject of Indian concerns, not having read the reports on the table, and knowing no more of their contents than he had heard at a distance ... He thought it however, an indisputable act of parliamentary duty to say something upon the occasion.’4 He went on to attack the bill, and the unprecedented powers which Fox was attempting to acquire. John Burgoyne reported to Lord Northington, lord lieutenant of Ireland, 9 Dec.:5
At four in the morning when the House had been long in clamour for the question [Flood] rose to speak ... He began unluckily professing himself unattached to any party, and equally unconnected with ministry and Opposition; this created a diversion in the House, and whether that circumstance diverted him, or the fatigue of his journey, or the heat of the House had exhausted him, it is certain from the avowal of all parties that his speech was not only below mediocrity, but upon a class with the very lowest form in parliamentary speaking ... In short Flood has made a début ... of the most discouraging kind.
His only other long speech in this Parliament was against the sending of troops to Ireland, 10 Dec. 1783. He was classed by Robinson in January 1784 as a supporter of Pitt, and again in Stockdale’s list of 19 Mar.
During his first months in Parliament Flood continued on very friendly terms with the Duke of Chandos who wrote to him at length, professing great admiration for what he was doing in Ireland, and concern for his well-being. At Christmas, when a dissolution seemed imminent, it was agreed that he should again come in for Winchester. But at the dissolution in March, while Flood was in Ireland, Chandos returned his brother-in-law Richard Gamon. In the dispute that followed Chandos maintained that Flood had undertaken to retire whenever his seat was wanted for Gamon, while Flood asserted that ‘not a hint ever fell that his Grace had any intention to have Mr. Gamon returned for Winchester’.6 He now claimed that Chandos was obliged to find him a seat elsewhere which Chandos denied; Flood, infuriated, sent him a challenge which he ignored, merely reiterating his readiness ‘to give Mr. Flood every assistance in his power to procure him a seat’.
Flood next stood for Seaford in March 1785. The previous election there had been declared void, and Flood was introduced by T. H. B. Oldfield with a view to overthrowing the Treasury interest. Though Flood topped the poll, the returning officer brought in the Treasury candidates. Again the election was declared void. Flood once more topped the poll, and again two Treasury candidates were returned; but on 26 Apr. 1786 Flood was seated on petition.
The same day Daniel Pulteney wrote to the Duke of Rutland: ‘This man will attempt some mischief, I suppose, as soon as he can’; but on 18 Jan. 1787: ‘I think Mr. Flood is so low that I might safely enough abuse him, if ever he introduces Irish subjects in an English House of Commons.’ When on 15 Feb. 1787 Flood discoursed against the commercial treaty with France, inquiring why such concessions should be granted to France and denied to Ireland, his language, wrote Pulteney, was ‘so barbarous to an English ear, his manner of arguing so abstracted and void of illustration, and his tout ensemble somehow or other so disgusting, that he fell infinitely below my expectations, and will never make the slightest impression on our side’, nor even ‘gain much confidence with the Opposition.’7 His one recorded vote was with Pitt over the Regency, 1789.
On 4 Mar. 1790 in a speech on parliamentary reform Flood proposed that one hundred new Members be added, elected by a ‘numerous and new body of responsible electors; namely the resident householders in every county’. This would add ‘a body of responsible constituents of such number that the majority of the people may have the exercise of the franchise’, without interfering with existing borough ownership.8 His scheme received no support from Pitt, and was negatived by a motion to adjourn the House. Flood did not stand in 1790.