xxxxxIt was the year after the Fenian Uprising of 1867 (Vb) that the British Liberal prime minister William Gladstone set himself the task of pacifying Ireland. For the next twenty years, however, the island was torn apart by the so-
THE FIRST AND SECOND IRISH
HOME RULE BILLS 1886 and 1893 (Vc)
Irish Home Rule: published in The Illustrated London News, April 1886, artist unknown. Belfast: 1886, artist unknown. Map (Ireland): licensed under Creative Commons – www.wikitree.com/wiki/Categoy:Old_Kingdom_of_
Ireland. Map (Ireland): licensed under Creative Commons – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ei-
xxxxxIt was the year after the Fenian Uprising of 1867 (Vb) -
xxxxxIt was violence on that scale that convinced Gladstone that a political solution was necessary to bring peace. He had improved the lot of the tenant farmer by two Land Acts (particularly by the second one in August 1881), but such was the bitterness and mistrust within the island that he began to see some form of home rule as the only workable answer. In this he was supported by the Irish politician Charles Stewart Parnell, the president of the Irish National Land League. By his fiery oratory he had, in fact, encouraged tenant farmers to take the law into their own hands, but he strongly opposed extreme acts of violence and, by an agreement reached with Gladstone in April 1882 -
xxxxxThe First Irish Home Rule Bill was introduced in April 1886, and it was very much the work of Gladstone himself. He only had brief discussions with Parnell, and the complete draft was not discussed by cabinet until the last week in March. In broad terms, it proposed the establishment of an Irish legislature in Dublin made up of two orders -
xxxxxParnell considered that the Bill contained some “great faults and blots”, but, in general, it was warmly welcomed by the Irish Nationalist party and the Irish people. Elsewhere, however, the reception was decidedly frosty. As one would expect, the Tories strongly opposed the bill. They were deeply concerned about the effect it would have on the Protestant Unionists in the north, and exaggerated the possible consequences in order to defeat the bill. ThexConservative Lord Randolph Churchill predicted that “Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right”. And even many who were in favour of Home Rule considered that some of the details were unworkable. How, it was asked, could matters of foreign policy and trade be discussed at Westminster without Irish representation? But the greatest blow against the bill came during its passage, when some ninety Liberals split away and, calling themselves “Liberal Unionists”, formed a political alliance with the Conservatives. Among those who led this revolt was Lord Harrington, the elder brother of Lord Cavendish, one of the two ministers murdered in the Phoenix Park Murders of May 1882. There was fear among these dissident Liberals that home rule would eventually lead to the disintegration of the United Kingdom and, indeed, the Empire itself. On the 8th June the Government was defeated and the bill was thrown out.
xxxxxIn the general election the following month the Conservatives and the Liberal Unionists gained an overall majority of 118, and this enabled Lord Salisbury (1830-
xxxxxAnd alongside this scheme went “boycotting”, an effective means whereby landlords or their agents were denied any contact with the local community. Many landlords reacted violently against these tactics, evictions increased, and there were killings on both sides.
xxxxxThe year 1892 saw the fall of the Tories and Gladstone’s return to power. He at once set about the drawing up of the Second Irish Home Rule Bill. By that time Parnell was dead, but, as in the previous occasion, the prime minister sought little advice from others. As a result, the draft contained a number of errors -
xxxxxThe first and second Irish Home Rule Bills -
xxxxxThe four years of war that followed only served to entrench the position of the opposing sides in Ireland. Taking advantage of the government’s preoccupation with war on the continent, the Nationalists launched the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. This was quickly crushed and the leading rebels were executed, but by 1918 it was abundantly clear that the demand for an independent Irish republic had replaced any idea of home rule. In the election of that year 73 of the 106 Irish seats were won by members of the Sinn Fein (Ourselves Alone), the Irish Republican Party which had been formed in 1905. These refused to take their seats in Westminster, and set up their own provisional government in Ireland. There followed three years of violent civil disturbance with atrocities on both sides before a partition of Ireland was finally hammered out. In 1921 twenty-
xxxxxAs we have seen, the Liberal politician William Ewart Gladstone (1809-
xxxxxAs we have seen, the Liberal politician William Ewart Gladstone (1809-
xxxxxBut Gladstone’s attempts at pacifying Ireland was only part of his contribution to British political life. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer on two occasions, 1852 to 1855 and 1859 to 1866, and served as Prime Minister on four occasions, 1868 to 1874, 1880 to 1885, 1886, and 1892 to 1894. During a career spanning over sixty years (1833 to 1894) he made his mark -
xxxxxGladstone was born in Liverpool, the son of a wealthy merchant. He was raised as a devout Christian, and religion -
xxxxxIn home affairs he achieved a number of notable reforms, including competition for entry to the civil service, the introduction of state-
xxxxxAs early as 1839 he made himself unpopular by arguing that the First Opium War was totally unjust, and during the Russian-
xxxxxThen in 1880 he alarmed the foreign office and the military by withdrawing British garrisons from Kabul and Kandahar, two strongholds designed to strengthen Afghanistan against Russian designs upon British India. The following year saw the outbreak of the First Anglo-
xxxxxBut his greatest failure in foreign affairs, and the one which brought him an immense amount of unpopularity, occurred during the First Anglo-
xxxxxSurprisingly perhaps, Gladstone survived this storm of protest, and was briefly back as prime minister in 1886, but, as we have seen, this period and his final years in power, 1892 to 1894, were mainly taken up by his attempts to obtain home rule for Ireland. When his second bill met with failure he resigned as prime minister in 1894, refused a title, and retired to Hawarden Castle, Flintshire, Wales, a country estate previously owned by his wife’s family. From here, true to form, he led a final crusade against the Armenian Massacres in 1896. He died of heart failure two years later, at the age of 88, and his body was conveyed on the London Transport for a state burial at Westminster Abbey. Among the pall bearers were the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) and the Duke of York (the future George V).
xxxxxGladstone failed in his two political ambitions -
xxxxxIncidentally, Gladstone’s fight to win his seat for the Scottish county of Midlothian in the election of 1880 is today regarded as the first pre-
Xxxxx…… It was in 1876, during one of his periods in opposition, that Gladstone wrote his two major works: The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East, a powerful condemnation of the atrocities committed by the Turkish Ottoman Empire upon its Christian subjects, and an erudite study of the Greek poet Homer entitled An Inquiry into the Time and Place of Homer in History. ……
Xxxxx…… Gladstone enjoyed a happy family life. His marriage to Catherine Glynne in 1839, the daughter of Sir Stephen Glynne of Hawarden, proved highly successful, and they had eight children. Catherine was an intelligent, charming women who supported her husband throughout his long career. ……
Xxxxx…… Thexcartoon above is by the Irish artist and illustrator Harry Furniss (1854-
xxxxxThe Third Reform Act of 1884, which was introduced and steered through the Commons by William Gladstone, extended the increase in franchise granted by the Second Reform Act of 1867. By it, agricultural labourers and other workers in rural areas were granted the same rights as male voters in the boroughs. The Bill was passed by the House of Commons but rejected by the Conservative-
xxxxxThe Act of 1884 increased the franchise by some eight million men, but all women and 40% of adult males still remained without the vote. It was not until 1918, at the end of the First World War, that men of 21 years and over were granted the right to vote. In the meantime a number of societies were established across the country demanding votes for women. In 1897 these were joined together to form the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Society, a lively organisation which doubtless played a part in sparking off the Suffragette Movement in the opening years of the new century. It was not until 1928, however, that women gained full equality with men.
xxxxxIncidentally, New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote. As early as 1893 all women over the age of 21 were permitted to vote in parliamentary elections.
William Gladstone and
The Third Reform Act