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Lecture 6: Home Rule. Home Rule. The objective of Irish constitutional nationalists for over four decades The term was coined by Revd. Joseph A. Galbraith – a member of the Home Government Association ‘Transfiguring vagueness’ – politically useful

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home rule
Home Rule
  • The objective of Irish constitutional nationalists for over four decades
  • The term was coined by Revd. Joseph A. Galbraith – a member of the Home Government Association
  • ‘Transfiguring vagueness’ – politically useful
  • Moderates & extreme nationalists invested the term with their own meanings
issac butt s definition of home rule
Issac Butt’s definitionof Home Rule
  • Ireland, Scotland and England would have a common sovereign, executive, and national council at Westminster for international affairs
  • Each country would have its own parliament for domestic affairs
isaac butt 1813 1879
Isaac Butt (1813-1879)
  • Barrister – defended Fenians 1865-68.
  • 1869: president of the Amnesty Association
  • 1870: Founded Home Government Association to campaign for federalist system of Irish self-government
  • 1873: Initiated the broader Home Rule League
  • 1870-79: Led the home rule party in Westminster
isaac butt
Isaac Butt

‘He did not at present ask the house to concede Home Rule to Ireland. That question remained to be discussed, and perhaps to be discussed for many years.’

March 1874

biggar s four gospels
Biggar’s ‘Four Gospels’
  • To work in government time
  • To aid anybody to spend government time
  • Whenever you see a bill, block it
  • Whenever you see a raw [a sensitive issue?], rub it.

…‘must tend to alienate our truest and best English friends…It must expose us to the taunt of being unfit to administer even the forms of representative government…’Butt

‘England respects nothing but power.’

‘What did they ever get in the past by trying to conciliate them? They would never gain anything from England unless they trod upon her toes.’


1880 parnell had the support of 24 out of 59 home rule mps
1880: Parnell had the support of 24 out of 59 Home Rule MPs

1885: 86 Home Rule MPs

who pledged to vote together were elected

1874 23 of 59 home rulers were landed 1880 8 of 59 were landed 1885 5 of 86 were landed
1874: 23 of 59 Home Rulers were landed1880: 8 of 59 were landed1885: 5 of 86 were landed

Between 1880 and 1885 the number of farmers and shopkeepers, all Home Rulers, rose from 2 to 22

The number of Catholic MPs increased from 37 in 1868 to 51 in 1874, 55 in 1880 and 75 in 1885.

changes in the electorate
Changes in the electorate
  • 1872: popular participation in politics increased with the introduction of the secret ballot.
  • 1884: the third reform Act trebled the size of the Irish electorate from about 230,000 to over 700,000.
  • It brought Ireland into electoral line with England. Only 4.4% of the Irish population had the vote in 1884, compared with 9.7% in England.
  • After the 1884 Act 16% of the Irish population, the same as in England, were entitled to vote.
‘The motor of this political transformation was the simultaneous emergence of a national land agitation and a dynamic nationalist parliamentary party. The fusion was achieved through the unique leadership qualities of Charles Stewart Parnell. Before Parnell, parliamentary politics were conducted very much in the respectable way that led Fenians to denounce them so fiercely.’

Townshend, C., Ireland: The 20th Century, p29.

‘While no Irish leader of the nineteenth century has been so intensively studied, none remains so enigmatic and inaccessible.’

Lyons, F. S. L., ‘The Political Ideas of Parnell’ in The Historical Journal, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Dec., 1973), p 749.

Cartoon by John Porter, 1889, entitled: “Good health and success to both of you, say millions of Men all over the World”.
the first home rule bill 1886
The first Home Rule bill (1886)
  • Introduced by Gladstone in April 1886
  • A single-chamber assembly in Dublin, with two ‘orders’ of representative, one elite and one more popular.
  • The members of the Dublin assembly would legislate for Ireland but only within strict parameters.
  • Issues affecting the crown, defence and foreign affairs were reserved for Westminster.
the first home rule bill 18861
The first Home Rule bill (1886)
  • Control of customs and excise would remain in London.
  • Irish customs revenue would be used to fund Ireland’s ‘imperial contribution’ of almost £4.25 million.
  • There would be an Irish contribution of £360,000 to the United Kingdom national debt.
  • The United Kingdom parliament would continue to tax Ireland, yet Irish representation at Westminster would be abolished.
  • Defeated in June 1886 by 341-311

Gladstone’s conversion to Home Rule was perhaps the summit of Parnell’s achievementHome Rule seemed likely to succeed the next time roundOver 200 British members supported a principle which got only one British vote when O’Connellraised it in 1834 and a mere ten votes when Issac Butt proposed it in the previous decade

On the Dissecting Table Again, 1886. Shown about to dismember Erin are: Lord Salisbury, Hartingdon, Churchill and Chamberlain

‘If the members of the Irish parliamentary party do not wish to alienate the sympathy of the radicals of England and Wales, and indefinitely postpone the victory of a policy based on justice and right, they must insist on Mr Parnell’s immediate retirement. He must go. British politics are not what they were. The conscience of the nation is aroused. Men legally convicted of immorality will not be permitted to lead in the legislation of the kingdom.’An eminent Baptist, Dr Clifford quoted in The Star 19 Nov. 1890.


The Bishops and the PartyThat tragic story made,A husband that had sold his wife And after that betrayed;But stories that live longestAre sung above the glass,And Parnell loved his country,And Parnell loved his lass.W.B. Yeats, ‘Come gather round me Parenllites’, from Last Poems, 1936-39.


‘If the Land League can be reckoned one of the most remarkable vehicles of agrarian agitation in nineteenth-century Europe, Parnell’s party has some claim to be considered among the most remarkable political movements established in a primarily rural European society. In leadership, organisational efficiency, debating ability and political capacity it compared favourably with most continental contemporaries. In no European society, including England, did the transition from loosely organised, largely local groups to the tight central control of a national organisation occur so rapidly or effectively. The tragedy of the fall of Parnell was not only the tragedy of great leader, but also the tragedy of a great party.’ Lee, J., The Modernisation of Irish Society, 1848-1918, p109.