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H. M. Hyndman, Edward Aveling and Eleanor Marx, Tom Mann, Ben
Tillett, J. Keir Hardie, and J. Ramsay MacDonald, as well as lesser-
known Christian socialists, feminists and radicals of various political
and party affiliations. It records the views of a variety of people, ranging
from otherwise unknown activists to men and women who rose to
national prominence.
The leading articles are of particular interest in the case of Reynolds™s
Newspaper, which must be regarded as an exception to what the authors of
Seems so! wrote about the papers not forming political opinion and
˜[w]orking-class political opinion possess[ing] no newspapers™.173
Reynolds™s was, at any rate, a radical weekly with a Chartist pedigree and

172
See detailed discussion in ˜Introduction™ to Biagini, Liberty.
173
S. Reynolds, Bob and Tom Woolley, Seems so! A working-class view of politics
(1911), 158.
Home Rule as a ˜crisis of public conscience™ 45

a reputation for appealing to proletarian radicalism, among miners, sol-
diers and sailors, as well as artisans and labourers. It was unusual because
of its ability to sustain a close relationship with its highly politicized
readership, including a number who celebrated annual ˜reunions™ as
well as summer holiday excursions.174 Its editor, W. M. Thompson,
called them ˜the Reynoldsites™ and thought that they were a democratic
movement. In 1899“1906 he actually demonstrated the accuracy of
his claim when he summoned his readers to form the short-lived but
highly successful National Democratic League (see below, chapter 6).
Therefore, the views expressed in Reynolds™s are worth studying not only
because the newspaper was widely circulated and known to be influential,
but also because more than any other mass-circulated political weekly it
expressed the post-Chartist mind-set of popular liberalism.
Quite unusually for popular weeklies, we know much about the
editorial staff of Reynolds™s Newspaper. The names of all the journalists “
together with their literary pseudonyms and short biographical sketches “
were published in an article in 1905.175 Most of them were long-term
employees (one for more than forty years), a fact which helps to explain
the paper™s remarkable continuity in terms of ideology, themes and
language. Thompson, chief editor from 1894 (when he replaced
Edward Reynolds, brother of the paper™s founder), was born in Ireland
in 1857 and had long been involved in working-class causes and journal-
ism. A founder of The Radical, described as ˜the first Co-operative
Democratic paper in London™, and a barrister specializing in issues
pertaining to the application of the Employers™ Liability Act and
Workmen™s Compensation Act, he was the standing counsel for a number
of trade unions and had acted in high-profile labour cases, defending
Burns, Hyndman, Champion, and Cunninghame Graham. He had been
a Radical parliamentary candidate and, like other Reynolds™s staff, had sat
on the London County Council as a Progressive. With his solid middle-
class background Thompson was not an ˜organic™ intellectual. He was
rather the early twentieth-century equivalent of the gentleman-leader of
the Chartist and pre-Chartist radical tradition. Like his sub-editor,
F. H. Amphlett, he was active in the National Liberal Club. R. Wherry
Anderson (born 1865), who wrote under the pseudonym of ˜Gracchus™
from 1880 (replacing Edward Reynolds when the latter became chief editor),
was a member of both the National Liberal Club and the Fabian Society,
but described himself as an ˜Opportunist Socialist™, that is, ˜[he] believed
in joint action between advanced Radicals, Progressives and Socialists™.

174
˜˜˜Reynolds™s™™ Reunion™, RN, 20 Dec. 1903, 1 and ˜Our reunion™, RN, 27 Dec. 1903, 4.
175
RN, 1 Jan. 1905, 1.
46 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

Other editors variously described themselves as humanists, anarchists,
democrats and republicans. One, the 65-year-old John Morrison
Davidson, had also been a columnist for the Daily Chronicle and the
Weekly Times (see chapter 6). He was an organic intellectual, in
Gramscian terms, having ˜lived by the cause™. Despite describing himself
as a pacifist anarchist, a republican and a Scottish nationalist, he was
essentially inspired by Christian socialism.
How these diverse currents of radicalism could coalesce and prosper
under the Gladstonian umbrella is explored in the rest of this book.
Chapter 2 focuses on the arguments used by British supporters of
Home Rule. The idea had been discussed already from the late 1860s
and the 1870s. From 1882 the debate was radicalized by the anti-
imperialists and the peace lobby, who drew parallels between the Irish
question and the British invasion of Egypt. Interestingly, this resulted not
in the ˜othering™ of Ireland, but in the rejection of the ˜orientalist™ stereo-
types with regard to Egypt and in the application of Irish (˜white™ and
European) models to India.176 The groups most committed to Home
Rule included miners, Nonconformists, the Women™s Liberal Federation
(WLF), and Scots and Welsh national revivalists. As one Durham miner
put it, they saw Home Rule as a legitimate demand for the Irish ˜to be let
alone™ “ an improved version of collective self-help. The WLF “ estab-
lished in 1887, initially to campaign for Irish self-government “ soon
developed and articulated a sophisticated ˜feminist™ platform.177 This
chapter shows how such activism and self-confidence originated from
the application of the new emphasis on moral imperatives and human
sympathy generated by Home Rule to both gender roles and citizenship.
In particular, emotionalism, which had traditionally been perceived as a
specifically feminine disability, now became a virtue, something of which
women boasted as adding to their fitness to be involved in the public
sphere.
Chapter 3 discusses the liberal dimensions of Irish Nationalism with
reference to the land agitation, the political role of the churches,
the influence of British and continental European political thought, and
the campaign for constitutional rights against coercion, culminating in the
˜Union of Hearts™. It was not merely a tactical convergence, as illustrated
by the Irish response to jingoism and the Armenian atrocities of the late
1890s, which is further discussed in chapter 6. Chapter 4 is about the

176
C. A. Bayly, ˜Ireland, India and the empire, 1780“1914™, Transactions of the Royal
Historical Society, 6th series, 10 (2000), 392“4.
177
M. Pugh, The march of the women: a revisionist analysis of the campaign for women™s suffrage,
1866“1914 (2000), 70“1, 132“7.
Home Rule as a ˜crisis of public conscience™ 47

popular party ˜machines™, primarily, the National Liberal Federation
(NLF) and the Irish National League (INL). It was an issue of consid-
erable importance: popular radicalism had always been about democracy,
but from the 1880s the question became how to make democracy work.
Moreover, the growing awareness of national politics created the question
of how programmes should be developed and who should define the
policies which Liberalism (or Nationalism in Ireland) was about.
Claiming to be the general assembly of the Liberal party members, the
NLF demanded policy-making powers, a claim which the parliamentary
party was never prepared to accept. There was a similar clash going on in
Ireland. Within the INL and its local conventions the activists™ demo-
cratic ambitions were initially crushed by Parnell, but resurfaced after his
fall in 1891 and again at the end of the century with the growth of the
United Irish League (UIL), which more than any other previous develop-
ment emphasized the tensions between rank-and-file democracy and the
parliamentary elite.
The irony is that “ for all their emphasis on ˜democracy™ “ supporters of
the NLF were reluctant to provide membership figures (the Women™s
Liberal Federation, by contrast, did so regularly). This was in part
because in theory any Liberal elector or non-elector could attend local
caucus meetings and vote for the local executive council. The number of
representatives which each Liberal association would be allowed to send
to the national council of the Federation was in proportion to the number
of parliamentary electors in each constituency, irrespective of the total of
party members. In this also the NLF tried to be like a ˜parliament™ for
Liberal supporters nationwide, a representative assembly parallel to the
British Parliament and claiming democratic legitimacy because, unlike
Parliament, it was elected by universal male suffrage. Of course, this was
only the theory, because in practice most people were insufficiently moti-
vated to make use of their ˜rights™.
Thus, if chapters 2 and 3 are about the politics of emotionalism and the
populism of humanitarian imperatives, chapter 4 is about attempts to
give organizational dependability and method to the politics of emotion-
alism or, as one apologist euphemistically put it, to ˜give stability to
popular opinion™. It was ironic that Joseph Chamberlain, one of the
original architects of the NLF, was not only rejected by the organization
he had created, but also was always completely out of touch with the
politics of emotionalism. This is discussed in Chapter 5, which deals with
Radical Unionism. The first section examines the transformation of
Chamberlain, the rising hope of those ˜stern and unbending™ radicals
until 1886, into their nemesis. Historians have often seen his defection
as originally caused by a personality clash with Gladstone. This chapter
48 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

argues that there were more fundamental causes, emerging in 1881“5
from Chamberlain™s experience in government, social reform ambitions
and the imperial crises in Egypt and India. From these he concluded that
only a strong, united imperial government could deal with such crises and
face both the problem of poverty at home and the Irish question across the
channel. His Unionism originally represented a coherent form of liberal-
ism, and was perceived as such by many at the time, especially by those
who were concerned about relieving destitution, increasing literacy and
popular education, and reforming land tenure.178 He emphasized mate-
rial, tangible results and was impatient with ˜sentimental™ humanitarian-
ism and peasant nationalism. His clash with the Gladstonians about
Ireland and collectivism was similar to the clash within the NLF between
those who were primarily interested in electoral results and those who
insisted that the citizens™ active participation in the political process was
more important.
There was no clear and uncomplicated ˜liberal™ answer to the questions
raised by the Home Rule debate about individual liberty and participa-
tory democracy or nationality and empire. But the fact that the large
majority of both the caucus and the Liberal electors remained loyal to
Gladstone placed Chamberlain and the other Liberal Unionist leaders in
a situation of dependence on Conservative support. At some stage
Chamberlain had to choose between his radicalism and the Conservative
alliance. While he opted for the latter and went to the Colonial Office in
1895, his erstwhile close ally, the Northern Irish T. W. Russell, was
himself ready to rock the Unionist boat in the pursuit of social reform.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Nationalists experienced similar dilemmas
in their sometimes too close alliance with the Liberals. In the 1890s this
resulted in a succession of groups breaking away from the anti-Parnellite
Irish National Federation. Some of them, in order to maximize the
benefits of land reform, were prepared to co-operate both with Unionist
pressure groups and with the government.
Such tensions within both Radical Unionism and Nationalism are
further discussed in chapter 6, which is about the recasting of popular
radicalism in both Ireland and Britain between the general elections of
1895 and 1906. Social radical movements and pressure groups, including
the ILP and the UIL, rejected the Liberal party and the official Irish
nationalist organizations, feeling that they had betrayed their radical
mandate. As one English Dissenter put it, ˜the old Liberal party is still

178
P. Bew, ˜Liberalism, nationalism and religion in Britain and Ireland in the nineteenth
century™, in S. Groeveld and M. Wintle (eds.), Britain and the Netherlands, vol. XII:
Under the sign of liberalism (1997), 93“101.
Home Rule as a ˜crisis of public conscience™ 49

pledged to Adam Smith rather than Jesus Christ™.179 But this quotation
also suggests that Christian radicalism remained more effective in inspir-
ing and galvanizing the radical ˜people™ than any secular version of social-
ism. Moreover, throughout this period it was not class, but various
humanitarian concerns “ such as the 1896 Armenian atrocities and the
agitation against ˜methods of barbarism™ and Chinese slavery after the
Second Boer War “ that mobilized and united rank-and-file Liberals with
various other currents of radicalism. Thus the last section of chapter 6 is
devoted to the revival of a Chartist and Gladstonian movement in the
shape of the National Democratic League. Although their demands were
primarily concerned with domestic policy, they reasserted their support
for Home Rule, which by then had become “ together with free trade “
one of the issues on which there was general agreement between Liberals,
radicals, Labour, and the socialist societies.


179
W. Jones Davies, ˜The new party™, Primitive Methodist Quarterly Review, Oct. 1895, 719.
2 ˜That great cause of justice™: Home Rule
in the context of domestic Liberal
and radical politics




That the object of the League shall be. To enlighten the British Public as
to the Political Condition and Relations of Foreign Countries; To dis-
seminate the Principles of National Freedom and Progress; To embody
and manifest an efficient Public Opinion in favour of the Right of every
People to Self-government and the maintenance of their own
Nationality; To promote a good understanding between the Peoples of
all Countries.1
It is the custom to attribute the strength of the popular feeling [in favour of
Home Rule] to the overwhelming personal popularity of Mr Gladstone,
and there can be no doubt that his identification with the cause of justice
to Ireland has contributed immediately to its creation. But not wholly.
Nations are not moved to enthusiasm unless there is an undercurrent
of strong motive. The truth is that the people have now been awakened
for the first time to the enormity of the injustice which has been done
to Ireland; and the popular mind is possessed with an intense and pas-
sionate desire to render generous, if tardy, justice. There is all the emotion
of strongly-stirred sympathies; and the tide surges around the only
man who can give legislative expression to popular sentiment.2



Before the ˜Hawarden kite™
At the beginning of the Home Rule crisis Chamberlain expressed the view
that ˜[i]n this great controversy there are three powerful influences all
working in favour of the Gladstone™s Bills™. These were: ˜first . . . the
Liberal feeling in favour of self-government™; ˜second . . . the impatience
generally felt at the Irish question & the hope to be rid of it once for all;

1
˜The Peoples™ International League™, Minutes of the Provisional Committee, 5 June 1847,
signed by Ashurst, Shaen, Stansfield [sic, sc. Stansfeld], Watson, Thornton Hunt,
Hawkes, Linton and P. A. Taylor, Jun., in Archivio W. J. Linton, Biblioteca Feltrinelli,
Milan, VI, 18.
2
L.a., ˜The classes against the masses™, The North-Eastern Daily Gazette, 29 June 1886, 2.

50
Home Rule in context 51

and . . . third . . . the tremendous personality of Mr Gladstone himself™. He
concluded that ˜[the] last of these three has had the greatest effect in
causing Liberals to accept the proposals without careful personal invest-
igation of them™.3 Most historians agree with him. By contrast, the
present chapter argues that in Britain, although Gladstone™s charisma
swayed many wavering voters during the 1886 general election, popular

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