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ment, are from year to year superseded by the dominating influence of



248
Ibid., 5. For similar praises for Irish Catholic priests and their social influence see report of
the Leeds Deputation in ˜Politics™, Primitive Methodist Quarterly Review, Oct. 1890, 755.
249
Report of deputies commissioned to visit Ireland by the Executive of the Scottish Liberal
Association, 5“6.
250
MacKnight, Ulster as it is, 215.
251
SLA, National Conference of Liberal Associations, 3 June 1887, resolutions III and V,
NLS, Acc. 11765/35. Cf. Hutchison, Political history of Scotland.
Home Rule in context 99

English interests and opinions in the Imperial Parliament™.252 The
Scottish revivalist Professor J. Stuart Blackie supported Scottish devolu-
tion for three sets of reasons, which he described as ˜Utilitarian™ (in the
sense of better government), ˜Patriotic™ (in the sense of Scottish national
pride) and ˜Imperial™, affirming his belief that ˜the strength of Britain lies
not in the overgrowth of a monstrous centralisation in the English section
of the empire, but in the harmonious balance of a well-calculated strength
in all the separate social units of which the empire is composed™.253
Hutchison has claimed that, in contrast to the NLF, the SLA was never
controlled by the radicals. However, as we have already seen, the SLA did
espouse Home Rule for Scotland at an early stage: this was in fact quite a
˜radical™ step, and its political significance was emphasized by the fact that
the caucus also adopted a series of other reform proposals generally
associated with radicalism. These included a Liquor Traffic Local Veto
Bill and the drastic democratization of the electoral and franchise system,
˜excluding University representation . . . embodying the principle of ˜˜one-
man-one-vote™™ and reducing the period of residence required to obtain
that vote™ in order to procure ˜the true representation of all classes in the
Imperial Parliament™.254 Moreover, the SLA demanded the payment
of Members of Parliament ˜out of the Imperial Exchequer™ and that of
˜the returning officers™ expenses out of the local rates™.255
The debate on social policies was often initiated by local branches. At
the beginning of 1889 the Ross and Cromarty Liberal Association pro-
moted a reform of the Crofters™ Act, demanding the extension of its
provisions to all tenants ˜paying an annual rent of not more than £50™,
the enlargement of the crofters™ existing holdings and the creation of new
ones by the Crofters™ Commission. They further requested ˜[that] the
people be directly represented on [that body] by qualified assessors
chosen by the people themselves™, that financial aid be provided for the
erection of new buildings and ˜stocking new and enlarged holdings™ and,
finally, ˜[that] in order to develop the national resources of the Highlands,
and to relieve immediate wants of certain sections of the people, harbour,



252
Resolution adopted at a District Conference of Liberal Associations, 20 Oct. 1887,
NLS, Acc. 11765/35. Over the next few years this remained standard argument for
Scottish devolution: cf. l.a., The Scottish Highlander, 8 Oct. 1891, 4.
253
Blackie, Home Rule and political parties in Scotland. A review (1889), 11.
254
Resolution IV, adopted at a District Conference of Liberal Associations, 20 Oct. 1887,
NLS, Acc. 11765/35.
255
From the Glasgow Junior Liberal Association, Resolutions Adopted at a District
Conference of Liberal Associations, 20 Oct. 1887, ibid. See also Resolutions adopted
at a National Conference, res. 3, Edinburgh 9 May 1888, in ibid.
100 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

roads, railways, and other works of public utility be commenced by the
Government without unnecessary delay™.256
From 1889 the SLA programme included an Eight-Hour Bill for the
miners, the compulsory sale of land ˜for the erection of public buildings and
dwelling houses in the immediate vicinity of towns™, allotments for the
agricultural labourers and an increase in smallholdings, complete religious
equality through church disestablishment, free education, reform of regis-
tration, payment of MPs and triennial parliaments. In 1889 the Scottish
caucus ˜initiated a movement to secure Free Education for Scotland out of
the Probate Duty™ through door-to-door canvassing with pamphlets.257
As it happened, English hostility to ˜landlordism™, which years of public
discussion and exposure by government commissions had identified as
the root cause of the social question in both Ireland and the Highlands,
was rekindled by Unionist plans to buy off the Irish landowners.258 Land
purchase was cited as a further argument for Scottish Home Rule,
because the SLA claimed that, if such a buying-up occurred, Scotland
would be made to pay heavier taxes in order to redress centuries of
English misgovernment in Ireland, thus compounding the existing dis-
advantages of the already intrinsically inequitable fiscal arrangement
under the unreformed Union.259
For the SLA Home Rule was part of a programme for the federal
reconstruction of the United Kingdom,260 a cause pursued with partic-
ular energy by the Scottish Home Rule Association (SHRA). In 1892 its
secretary, James Reith, proposed to the Irish Nationalist leader, Edward
Blake, the formation of a ˜Joint Parliamentary Party of the Representation
of Scotland, Ireland and Wales™, to demand ˜Home Rule all round™ as
the only just solution to the Home Rule question.261 Several of Blake™s
other Scottish and English correspondents strongly supported such a

256
Resolution received from Mr G. G. Macleod, President, Ross and Cromarty Liberal
Association, in Materials for the preparation of the Annual Meeting of General Council,
Edinburgh, 19 Feb. 1889, vol. XL, SLA Meeting and Conference Agendas 1885“91,
Acc. 11765/35.
257
Circular to Secretaries of Liberal Associations in connection with the distribution of
Free Education Pamphlets, Manuscript circular signed A. Macdougall, 29 Mar. 1889,
XL, National Conference Programme, 22 Nov. 1889, in Acc. 11765/35, NLS.
258
The Scottish Liberal Association, Conference of the Western Associations, Glasgow,
4 June 1890, ibid.
259
Scottish Home Rule Association, 11 Sep. 1890, SLA Meeting and Conference Agendas
1885“91, ibid.
260
Resolutions Adopted at a National Conference, Glasgow, 22 Nov. 1889, vol. XL, SLA
Meeting and Conference Agendas 1885“91; see also District Conference of Liberal
Associations, Kilmarnock, 6 Nov. 1890, ibid.
261
J. Reith to E. Blake, 9 Aug. 1892, in NLI, Blake Letters, [221] 4684. Enclosed with the
letter Reith sent an ˜Outline of a Federal Union League for the British Empire™.
Home Rule in context 101

solution,262 which was also advocated by some Scottish Liberal Unionists
(hence the SHRA™s claim that ˜all parties™ in Scotland endorsed the
cause).263 Although Blake himself agreed, his Irish colleagues were not
prepared to throw their lot in with the British federalists.264 As C. P. Scott
of the Manchester Guardian wrote to Blake in 1895, there was widespread
concern that an effect of any attempt ˜to grant Home Rule to Ireland as
part of a measure for granting it to England, Scotland & Wales w[oul]d be
to postpone it to the Greek Kalendas™. Scott concluded: ˜you appear to
think that a general scheme might be advanced and yet the partial scheme
alone passed. I think this w[oul]d be excessively dangerous™, indeed ˜[it]
would be folly . . . to make Home Rule for Ireland in any degree con-
tingent on a larger scheme. No doubt both in Scotland & in Wales there is
need for some considerable measure of devolution of legislative powers,
but their need is a different & a smaller one than that of Ireland and it
w[oul]d be well to keep it entirely distinct.™ For, whatever the new party
leader Lord Rosebery thought of federal schemes, Scott concluded, ˜I am
certain that in England, which makes up so very much of the greater part
of the whole, there is no desire or demand for anything of the kind.™265
There were good reasons for being cautious. Different and sometimes
contrasting radical agendas came under the general umbrella of ˜Home
Rule all round™, which many radicals associated with church disestablish-
ment. The latter meant different things to different people. While in
Wales disestablishment was part of a nationalist platform which culmi-
nated in the demand for Home Rule for Wales,266 in England it was a

262
See E. L. Gales (Frome Division, Bath), 30 Aug. 1892, NLI, Blake Letters, [274] 4684;
J. Milne Watts (Glasgow) to E. Blake, 9 Aug. 1892, ibid., [222] 4684, and H. French
(Taunton) to E. Blake, 10 Aug. 1892, ibid., [228] 4684. Cf. J. M.[orrison] D.[avidson],
˜The Book of Erin™, RN, 6 May 1888, 5. The views of Morrison Davidson are further
discussed in chapter 6, 287“91.
263
Printed circular dated 15 Oct. 1890, addressed to the Secretary of the Liberal
Association, conveying the resolution of the 3rd Annual Conference of the Scottish
Home Rule Association (which had taken place on 24 Sep. 1890). Signed: John S.
Blackie, Chairman, John Romans, Vice-Chairman (one of the conveners of Gladstone™s
Midlothian Committee), Ch. Weddie, Hon. Sec., Th. McNaught, Hon. Sec.,
W. Mitchell, Hon. Treasurer, Scottish Home Rule Association, NLS, Acc. 11765, 35;
printed letter/leaflet signed Ch. Waddie, addressed to The Secretary of the Liberal
Association, dated 13 Nov. 1890, NLS, Acc. 11735.
264
E. Blake to Sir J. Leng, MP for Dundee, 26 Jan. 1896, in NLI, Blake Letters [1644]
4687. Blake believed that ˜a great general policy [to be taken up along with Irish Home
Rule] . . . has the incidental merits of minimizing the evils of the Lords, & removing the
difficulties inherent in the scheme of partial Home Rule now before the Country™.
265
C. P. Scott to E. Blake, 28 Jan. 1895, in NLI, Blake Letters, [1647], 4687.
266
Andrew Reid to T. Gee, 8 Feb. 1890, NLW, T. Gee MSS, 8308D, 250; I. Dorricott,
˜Disestablishment in Wales and Monmouthshire™, Primitive Methodist Quarterly Review, Apr.
1887, 307“16. Cf. D. W. Bebbington, ˜Religion and national feeling in nineteenth-century
Wales and Scotland™, in S. Mews (ed.), Religion and national identity (1982), 489“503.
102 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

democratic proposal to replace the traditional hierarchical relationship
between church and society with an American-style ˜free market™ within
which all religious groups would compete for converts.267 Finally, for the
Scots disestablishment was a controversial ecclesiastical issue, not only
dividing the Church from the Dissenters, but also splitting the latter
between those who wanted separation between church and state and
the supporters of a reformed but established Presbyterianism.
The issue was further complicated by the overlap between ecclesiastical
and class divides in the Highlands, where the Land League regarded the
established church as the crofters™ enemy, an organization which
˜supported the lairds and was the bulwark of landlordism and the refuge
of Toryism™.268The Scottish Highlander, ˜the poor crofter™s paper™, was
particularly scathing about the economic cost of the established church
and what it dismissed as ˜state Christians™.269 The clearances and
Disruption were defining episodes for the culture and class identity of
many of its readers. While at the time the Highland Free Church enjoyed
a reputation of social and political radicalism “ ˜those Fenians of ours™,
according to an embittered churchman270 “ the ˜state church™ was per-
ceived as a class institution. One Dissenter asked rhetorically: what did
the Kirk do during the Highland clearances, when the crofters, ˜as well-
behaved and God-fearing a class of men as ever the world looked upon™,
were forced to abandon their holdings? ˜Dumb dogs every one of them; or
if they did speak, it was in favour of the landlords.™ Again the established
church did not show any sympathy for the Highlanders at the time of the
Great Disruption, ˜when, in 1843, the people and their ministers had to
forsake churches and manses for loyalty to their Master . . . Had they been
loyal too, we know the issue might have been very different then.™271



267
G. Howell, Letter Book, Spring 1878, in Howell Collection, IX; ˜The Church and the
Working Classes™, Durham Miners™ Association, Monthly Report, no. 44, Jan. 1884,
pp. 4“6, in Durham Co. Record Office, D/DMA 7.
268
Councillor Gunn (Inverness) in report, ˜The Lentran oppression case™, The Scottish
Highlander, 17 Sep. 1891, 6.
269
L.a., ˜State Christians in the Highlands and what they cost™, The Scottish Highlander,
26 Feb. 1891, 4; the definition of the newspaper as ˜the poor crofter™s paper, without
subsidy or aid from landlords™, appears in a letter signed ˜The Highlands First™, ibid.,
19 Mar. 1891, 3.
270
Devine and others have claimed that, over the issue of the clearances, the Free Church
was actually as supine and pro-landlord as the established church, a view which has been
recently subjected to substantial revisionism: A. W. MacColl, Land, faith and the crofting
community: Christianity and social criticism in the Highlands of Scotland, 1843“1893
(2006), 19“57.
271
Free Churchman, ˜The state church in the Highlands™, The Scottish Highlander, 5 Mar.
1891, 5.
Home Rule in context 103

However, as already indicated above, the Free Church as a whole had
long been divided over the issue. Some, led by the Highland minister John
Kennedy, accepted that the existing connection between church and state
was unscriptural, but were adamant that the confessional principles
of historic Presbyterianism ˜bound [the Free Church] to seek, not the
annihilation of that connection, but its rectification™.272 Non-ministerial,
non-party political lobbies such as the Laymen™s League also articulated
opposition towards the disestablishment and secularization of the
endowments of the Church of Scotland. The League promoted the
reunion of all the Scottish Presbyterians but wanted to reform and
so preserve the principle of the establishment as the embodiment of
Scottish national identity. They insisted that ˜from time immemorial
the Scottish People have maintained the principle that Religion should
be recognised by the State™, and that the church was now under threat
from ˜the British Parliament, contrary to the wishes of the people of
Scotland™.273
Not surprisingly, some Welsh Liberals suspected that ˜[there] is no
urgency whatever in the Scotch grievance. There is no national movement
behind it. There is much religious sentiment against the notion of secular-
ization of religious endowment. There is substantial division in Scotch
Liberal ranks.™274 In fact, they feared that the campaign for Scottish
disestablishment would delay, rather than help, the cause of Wales, in
particular because ˜Mr Gladstone has been from the first a little playfully
perverse on this point™: being a Scottish MP, he claimed special interest in
the disestablishment of the Church of Scotland, but used this to stop
Welsh disestablishment.275 By the same token, they were eager to avoid
any involvement with the movement against the Church of England,
insisting that disestablishment should be pursued as ˜a Welsh question
pure and simple™, rather than ˜the thin end of the wedge of the Liberation
Society™.276 Wales should fight as Wales, seeking all the allies it could
find, but always insisting that the church question was a national, not an
ecclesiastical issue.

272
A. Auld, Life of John Kennedy, DD. (1887; 1997), 106“7; see also the ˜Petition™, ibid.,
151“3.
273
Laymen™s League, leaflet, n.d. [c.1890], SLA Papers, NLS, Acc. 11765/35.
274
Stuart Rendel to T. Gee, 30 Oct. 1892, in NLW, T. Gee MS 8308D, 274a (emphasis in
the original).
275
Ibid. For Gladstone™s attitude ˜from the first™ see W. E. Gladstone to T. E. Ellis, 2 July

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