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British Democracy and Irish Nationalism 1876“1906

A major new study of the impact of Home Rule on liberalism and
popular radicalism in Britain and Ireland. Eugenio Biagini argues that
between 1876 and 1906 the crisis of public conscience caused by the
Home Rule debate acted as the main catalyst in the remaking of popular
radicalism. This was not only because of Ireland™s intrinsic importance
but also because the ˜Irish cause™ came to be identified with democracy,
constitutional freedoms and humanitarianism. The related politics of
emotionalism did not aid in finding a solution to either the Home Rule
or the Ulster problem but it did create a popular culture of human rights
based on the conviction that, ultimately, politics should be guided by
non-negotiable moral imperatives. Adopting a comparative perspective,
this book explores the common ground between Irish and British
democracy and makes a significant contribution to the history of
human rights, imperialism and Victorian political culture.

EUGENIO F. BIAGINI is Reader in Modern British and European
History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Robinson
College, Cambridge. His publications include Liberty, Retrenchment
and Reform: Popular Liberalism in the Age of Gladstone, 1860“1880
(1992), Gladstone (2000) and, with Derek Beales, The Risorgimento and
the Unification of Italy (2002).
For Derek Beales and Peter Clarke
British Democracy and Irish
Nationalism 1876“1906

Eugenio F. Biagini
Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK
Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521841764

© Eugenio F. Biagini 2007

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provision of
relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place
without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published in print format 2007

eBook (EBL)
ISBN-13 978-0-511-36617-8
ISBN-10 0-511-36617-5 eBook (EBL)

ISBN-13 978-0-521-84176-4
ISBN-10 0-521-84176-3

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of urls
for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not
guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

page ix
Note on capitalization
List of abbreviations

1 Home Rule as a ˜crisis of public conscience™ 1
Crisis? What crisis?
The historiography
The politics of humanitarianism
A synopsis

2 ˜That great cause of justice™: Home Rule in the context
of domestic Liberal and radical politics 50
Before the ˜Hawarden kite™
The politics of emotionalism
The Dissenters
Coercion and ˜slavery™
The ˜feminization™ of Gladstonianism
The Celtic fringe

3 Constitutional Nationalism and popular liberalism in Ireland 108
The roots of Irish ˜popular liberalism™
Constitutional rights and social tensions
The Union of Hearts
Empire and jingoism

4 ˜Giving stability to popular opinion™? Radicalism
and the caucus in Britain and Ireland 169
˜Athenian democracy™ or ˜American caucus™?
The dream of party democracy, 1886“95
The Irish model
˜Direct democracy™ and the representative principle in the NLF
political theory

5 Joseph and his brethren: the rise and fall of Radical Unionism 217
The rising hope of those stern and unbending Radicals, 1882“6
Coercion, for the sake of civil and religious liberty

viii Contents

Ulster™s Liberty
The impotence of being earnest

6 Social radicalism and the revival of the Gladstonian
˜popular front™ 275
Radicals parting ways
From Radical Unionism to socialism: the strange trajectory
of the Weekly Times
Sectionalism or class struggle?
˜No voice at Hawarden™?
Armenian atrocities
The National Democratic League

7 Democracy and the politics of humanitarianism 353
Home Rule and the politics of humanitarianism
The significance of the ˜New Liberalism™
The role of the mass party


In the preparation of this book I have accumulated many debts of gratitude,
in particular to friends and colleagues. Colin Barr, Derek Beales, Paul Bew,
Peter Clarke, Vincent Comerford, Almut Hintze, Martin Pugh, Alastair
Reid, Deborah Thom and Ian Wilson have read drafts of various chapters
and have generously offered their advice and criticism. Phiroza Marker
and Danilo Raponi have provided valuable help, working as my research
assistants. Moreover, my gratitude goes to my former colleagues in the
Department of History of Princeton University, the Master and Fellows
of Churchill College Cambridge for electing me to a By-Fellowship
in 1995“6, the Pew Charitable Trust for the Evangelical Scholars
Fellowship and the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB), each
of which helped fund research leave at critical junctures, respectively in
1995“6 and 1999“2000; and especially to the Warden and Fellows of
Robinson College Cambridge, whose collegiality, friendship and support
I have greatly enjoyed since they elected me one of their number in 1996.
Moreover, I wish to record my thanks to the Library Managers of
the Bishopsgate Institute, London, for permission, to quote from the
G. Howell Papers; to the Librarian of the Tyne and Wear Archives,
Newcastle upon Tyne, for allowing me to quote from the Joseph Cowen
Papers; to the Sub-Librarian of the Birmingham University Library for
letting me quote from the Joseph Chamberlain Papers; to the Archivist of
the Churchill Archives, Cambridge for permission to quote from the
C. Dilke and the W. T. Stead Papers; to Mr C. A. Gladstone and the
Archivist of the Flintshire Record Office, Hawarden for permission to
quote from the Gladstone Papers; to the Librarian of the Sheffield
University Library for permission to quote from both the A. J. Mundella
Papers and the H. J. Wilson Papers; to the Librarians of the National
Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales and to the Public
Archives of Canada. The material reproduced from collections of papers
in the National Library of Ireland is the property of the Board of that
Library and has been reproduced with their permission. Finally, my
thanks are due to DACS on behalf of the Jack B. Yeats Estate, for
permission to reproduce the illustration on the book cover.
Note on capitalization

I have used capital initials for nouns and adjectives describing political
opinions and movements (e.g. Liberal, Nationalist, Radical, Socialist,
Labour, and related nouns) when they refer to membership of, or close
association with, political parties or parliamentary groups bearing such
name or inspired by related ideologies.


J. S. Mill, Collected Works, ed. by A. P. Robson and
A. J. M. Robson, 32 vols. (Toronto and London, 1963“96)
DN Daily News
FJ Freeman™s Journal
The Gladstone Diaries, ed. by M. R. D. Foot and
H. C. G. Matthew, 14 vols. (Oxford, 1968“94)
ILP Independent Labour Party
INF Irish National Federation
INL Irish National League
IRA Irish Republican Army
JC Joseph Chamberlain Papers, Birmingham University Library
LCA Liberal Central Association
LRC Labour Representation Committee
LW Lloyd™s Weekly
NA National Archives, London
NC Newcastle Daily Chronicle
NDL National Democratic League
NLF National Liberal Federation
NLFAR National Liberal Federation Annual Reports
NLI National Library of Ireland, Dublin
NLS National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
NLW National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
NW Newcastle Weekly Chronicle
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. by
H. C. G. Matthew and B.Harrison (Oxford, 1994)
PRONI Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast
RN Reynolds™s Newspaper
SDF Social Democratic Federation
SLA Scottish Liberal Association
Ti The Times
UIL United Irish League
WLF Women™s Liberal Federation
WT&E Weekly Times & Echo

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