FLOOD, Sir Frederick, 1st Bt. (?1741-1824), of Newtown Ormonde, co. Kilkenny and Banna Lodge, co. Wexford.
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Family and Education
b. ?1741, 2nd s. of John Flood, MP [I], of Farmley, co. Kilkenny by Jane, da. of Samuel Crompton of Wexford. educ. Trinity, Dublin 1 Feb. 1757, aged 16, BA 1761, MA 1764, LLB 1766, LLD 1772; M. Temple 1760, called [I] 1764. m. (1) 31 May 1765, Juliana (d. Apr. 1768), da. of Richard Donovan of Camolin Park, co. Wexford, s.p.; (2) 15 May 1769, Frances, da. of Sir Henry Cavendish, 1st Bt., MP [I], of Doveridge, Derbys., 2s. d.v.p. 1da. cr. Bt. 31 May 1780.
MP [I] 1776-90, 1796-7.
KC [I] 1768; bencher, King’s Inn 1770; commr. of stamps [I] Nov. 1780-9; commr. of accts. [I] May 1781-90
Custos rot. co. Wexford 1807.
Like his more famous cousin Henry Flood, Sir Frederick combined the Irish bar with a parliamentary career, purchasing seats for Enniscorthy (1776), Ardfert (1783) and briefly for Carlow (1796). He did not share Henry Flood’s opposition politics: he was on the contrary a placeman supporting government, at least until 1790, when he was deprived of his offices, probably because of his line on the Regency. He opposed the Union out of place and out of Parliament but in a letter to Pitt, 22 Oct. 1799, showed himself reconciled to it and prepared to court favour. In manner and language he was compared at that time with Michael Angelo Taylor*, but Sylvester Douglas thought him ‘a barrister of little business and mean talents’.1
In May 1801 the Marquess of Ely warned the government that Flood meant to contest county Wexford on the Catholic interest at the next election, though the prime minister was privately assured by Lord Portsmouth, Flood’s sponsor, and by his brother-in-law Lord Mountnorris that, if returned, Flood would support his government. Flood was dissuaded from standing by Mountnorris to please administration.2 He was again interested in the by-election of 1806. His benevolent neutrality then and the decisive support he gave to ministerial candidates at the general election of 1806 when, had his brother-in-law come to terms with their opponent Lord Ely, he might have become Member for the latter’s borough of New Ross, secured his appointment as custos rotulorum just before the Grenville ministry fell. He had at first asked to be a privy councillor and tried to secure a seat in Parliament from government through Mountnorris, but there was none available for him.3
In April 1812, when the viceroy was informed that Flood would come in for the county at the next election and that, like his nephew Cavendish Bradshaw he would support ministers, expecting them in return to make him a privy councillor, he demurred: ‘He was made custos rotulorum by the Talents and was supposed to have been picked out by them from the same list they took their MP Mr Colclough. Namely the disaffected. If so it will be impossible ever to put him into the Privy Council.’ The chief secretary agreed: ‘the only thing that ever makes me wish him well is his connection with the Attorney-General [William Saurin]’. So although Flood was returned unopposed for the county by over 10,000 electors, as he boasted, and without a canvass, he received no mark of recognition. He was not expected to retain the seat at the next election.4
In Parliament Flood professed independence and was labelled ‘doubtful’ and ‘neutral’ by the government, though he assured the chief secretary at the outset, 27 Oct. 1812, that he had ‘a strong bearing to the King and to what may be the existing prosperous and well conducted government of the day’. He promised ‘constant’ attendance and, with no wish for office, expected only county patronage.5 On 3 Dec. he joined in the vote of thanks to Wellington, looking, however, to ‘measures not men’ and suggesting an inquiry into the war effort. This speech he thought proof that ‘I will invariably act according to the dictates of my conscience; I will not be led away by party; I will ride my own horse, and will not be made the stalking horse of others’.
Flood continued in this vein which, as the chief secretary remarked, promised ‘much entertainment’, and now that John Fuller was out of the House, made him clown-in-chief of the Parliament of 1812, his unpolished and boisterous speeches frequently raising a laugh or a call to order, which inspired him to even more ridiculous assertions and divagations. Describing the gold coin bill as full of ‘mischievous absurdity’, 14 Dec. 1812, he said it should be entitled the ‘no coin bill’ and twice voted against it. On 22 Feb. 1813 he described the vice-chancellor bill as ‘rather a slovenly performance’, which he had voted against (11 Feb.) but would now support in its amended form. He did not disappoint his Catholic followers and always supported relief, speaking for it on 26 Feb. and 13 May. He was also in favour of Romilly’s bill to reduce the punishment for stealing, 26 Mar., and the sinecure reform bill, 29 Mar. Supporting the Admiralty registrars bill, 21 May: ‘He sat sometimes on one side of the House, and sometimes on another, but take which side he would, he did not feel that he made a part of the House, and should therefore make his vote as little stationary as his person.’ In awarding a crumb of local patronage to him that month, the viceroy remarked, ‘The experiment is worth trying but he will vote against you on every material question’. This was too severe. Flood supported government on the Irish arms bill, 25 May 1813: and did so, as he assured them, on principle, whether or not they granted him ‘the only feather or office I look to at my time of life’, a privy councillorship; and as they were not prepared to concede this and he took it well, he felt they should pay him ‘some compliments of a minor nature’, in the way of local patronage. When the chief secretary hinted that he had not supported ministers wholeheartedly, Flood admitted that he had not done so indiscriminately and hinted in return that only one question kept them apart—presumably Catholic relief, though he saw fit to complain bitterly to the Castle and in the House about the mischief he conceived to be done by the Catholic Board.6
Flood ceased to be taken seriously in the session of 1814. On 24 Mar. the House laughed when in paying tribute, not for the first time, to Wellington, a son of that ‘land of heroes’ who was ‘the best feather in England’s cap’, he proposed not merely a house in London as part of his reward, but houses in Ireland, Wales and Scotland too. Next day the House would not hear him out when he tried to bring in a motion for a bill to limit the duration of Irish elections: though the chief secretary did not dislike it, he gave it up, turning his attention instead to a ludicrous defence of the Elizabethan apprentice laws, which had never applied in Ireland, 13 May, 9 June, and to a more credible defence of agricultural protection, in which he exercised his wit at the expense of George Rose, 27 May. He let the Irish preservation of the peace bill pass, 8 July, though he thought it alarmist. He evidently saw that his parliamentary exertions were leading him nowhere and in August informed the chief secretary that he wished for his ‘requiescam in pace ... to travel about’, but as the Castle had recently learnt that Hans Hamilton* was pledged to bring him in for county Dublin when he gave up his seat, a question mark lingered over him.7
Flood sacrificed the spring assizes to attend Parliament in defence of the Corn Laws in February and March 1815. He made light of the riots, reporting that he was carried by the mob ‘just like a mackerel from Billingsgate market, and that he thought they meant to quarter him’. Peel loved to tell the tale of how Flood, pressed by the mob for his name, told them that he could not equivocate: his name was Waters. He was critical of the maintenance of the militia in peacetime, 28 Feb., and of the application of the property tax to Ireland, 19 Apr., but government obtained his support on the renewal of war with Buonaparte, 1 May, on the civil list, 8 and 31 May, and on the Irish master of the rolls bill, 7 June 1815. They were further reassured by his support on Irish and other questions in February and March 1816, despite his doubts about the renewal of the property tax. On 5 Apr. the chief secretary instructed the Castle: ‘Pray give old Flood a tidewaiter’s place as soon as you can ... He has been our most constant supporter and voted with us through all our difficulties.’8 He got little joy of it. He had been unable to secure protection for the Wexford butter trade, 27, 29 Mar. 1816, and he was unable to swallow the Irish election bill, 29 Apr., or the Irish grand juries bill, 10 June. He had come to the conclusion that Ireland’s ills were threefold: the want of resident gentry, the want of Catholic relief and the want of education. He wound up his session with a characteristic outburst on 10 June when, confronted with the public revenues consolidation bill, he declared that there was insufficient evidence for a juror to pronounce on it and settled for a personal attack on George Rose instead. Yet he voted for the Irish vice-treasurership on 14 June.
He arrived late for the session of 1817. The chief secretary expressed surprise ‘that Flood has withheld from us the benefit of his countenance’, after Flood had hinted to him on 2 Dec. 1816 his hope that his diligence in Parliament might lead to the realization of his wishes, which he need not repeat. He confined himself to Irish questions that session. He found the defeat of the Catholic claims, which he had again championed by vote on 9 May, a ‘stigma’ on Ireland, and while he supported ministers on other questions and even paid tribute to the chief secretary for his Irish insurrection bill, 23 May, he could not resist adding that it was ‘not founded on any immediate necessity whatever’. During the recess, chiding the chief secretary for neglecting him, he indicated that he hoped to secure a ‘quiet’ seat for the next Parliament, so as to ‘live and die a Member’, pursuing the same independent line, ‘with every inclination to support your politics’.9
In February 1818 Flood was at his post to crow over the failure of the Irish Grand Juries Act which he had denounced for its jobbery, and he played his part in the rejection of a gambling suppression bill, which he of course labelled a gambling encouragement bill. On 2 Mar. he recalled that he was ‘as independent as any man in that House, being bound to adhere to neither side of it’ and, in defence of the Irish army estimates, hailed Ireland as ‘the right arm of the empire ... You ought to embrace her with both arms to the end of time, as your nearest, dearest, and best of friends.’ On 11 Mar. he stood before the House ‘unplaced and unpensioned’ (a favourite phrase) and, when called to order as he rambled on two days later, assured the House: ‘He did not rise for the love of talking; for he would rather, any day, hear others speak than himself’. On 21 Apr. he was in the minority against the Irish window tax which he described as morally indefensible, and in his last speech, 13 May, condemned the Irish hearth tax, ‘a badge of slavery’.
The ensuing dissolution ended Flood’s Westminster career, on which he had embarked at 71 years of age. He was now old enough to request a baronetcy for his grandson. Nor had he had enough of Parliament: as the county was not available, he asked for ‘a quiet, independent seat’, which eluded him.10 He died 1 Feb. 1824.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. PRO 30/70/4/221; H. Macdougal, Sketches of Irish Political Character (1799), 283; Glenbervie Jnls. 177.
- 2. PRO 30/9/1, pt. 1/5, Ely to Abbot, 14 May 1801; Sidmouth mss, Portsmouth to Addington, 1 Apr. 1801; Add. 35735, f. 70; 35781, f. 41.
- 3. HMC Fortescue, viii. 81, 94, 109, 126, 133, 417; Spencer mss, Grenville to Spencer, 8 Apr. 1806.
- 4. NLI, Richmond mss 66/931, 945; 67/1032a; Add. 40218, ff. 3, 5; 40222, f. 12.
- 5. Add. 40218, ff. 7, 9; 40280, f. 72.
- 6. Add. 40186, f. 1; 40218, ff. 15, 17, 21, 23; 40280, f. 104.
- 7. Add. 40188, f. 156; 40218, f. 27.
- 8. Add. 40218, ff. 34, 67; 40290, ff. 116, 192; Diary of Lady Shelley, ii. 20.
- 9. Add. 40218, ff. 117, 138; 40292, f. 158.
- 10. Add. 38271, f. 244; 40218, f. 140.