of his debts, his interference had the effect of boosting the plan: the
fund, which stood at Â£7,000 when the papal rescript was received,
reached Â£40,000, as pious Catholic peasants taxed themselves to rescue
Larkin, Consolidation of the Roman Catholic Church, 693; Oâ€™Farrell, Irelandâ€™s English
E. Larkin, The Roman Catholic Church and the emergence of the modern Irish political system,
1874â€“1878 (1996), 558â€“60.
120 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism
a Protestant landlord from bankruptcy.62 Again in 1888, when the
Unionist government successfully sought papal support against the
Nationalists, Davitt said publicly that â€˜[t]he Vatican has its politics as
well as Ireland has, but Ireland, even in the days of Oâ€™Connell, declared
through him that she would prefer to take political lessons from Stanboul
than from Romeâ€™.63 As he wrote in his account of the nationalist agitation,
â€˜[a] feeling of intense indignation swept through the country at this attack
upon the Protestant leader of a people whose Catholicity was being used
as a cover for an unwarranted interference in their political and national
Nationalists were not usually anti-clerical in the French sense of the
word â€“ with few exceptions, T. P. Oâ€™Connor being one â€“ although many
priests supported Nationalism without fully exploring the possible impli-
cations of its political platform.65 However, after the 1891 party split, the
Parnellite minority became more assertive in their rejection of clerical
interference: â€˜I donâ€™t desire to deprive a priest of his rights as a citizen
because he is a priest,â€™ argued Redmond in 1895, â€˜but what I say is that
when he comes into the political arena as a citizen his influence must be
the influence of a citizen and not what I may call the supernatural
influence which he exercises as a clergyman.â€™66 His point was somehow
conceded: William Walsh, the Archbishop of Dublin, responded that
bishops and priests had the right â€˜to exercise to the fullest extent their
natural and legitimate influence in all public affairsâ€™, but subject to certain
guidelines, including being â€˜[r]egardful of the right of all to think and act
for themselves in every matter that stands clear of the line of Christian
dutyâ€™.67 The latter was a principle which Nonconformist pastors â€“ and
certainly Presbyterian ministers in Scotland â€“ would have regarded as
In any case, the Nationalists presented their cause as non-sectarian and
â€˜patrioticâ€™ in the sense of being inspired by love for the common good:
J. L. Hammond, Gladstone and the Irish nation (1938), 364.
Cited in rep., â€˜Mr Michael Davitt on the papal circularâ€™, FJ, 30 Apr. 1888, 5. See also
S. Oâ€™Mara about the Bishop of Kerry in â€˜National League â€“ branch meetingâ€™, Cork
Examiner, 1 Jan. 1887, 3. On Nationalist anti-clericalism see Cruise Oâ€™Brien, Parnell
and his Party, 28 and n. 3, and 50; Oâ€™Farrell, England and Ireland, 137; T. Garvin,
Nationalist revolutionaries in Ireland, 1858â€“1928 (1987), 18, 27â€“8, 126â€“30; and
A. Macaulay, The Holy See, British policy and the Plan of Campaign in Ireland, 1885â€“93
(2002), 182â€“3. See also chapter 4, below.
Davitt, Fall of feudalism, 398.
Brady, T. P. Oâ€™Connor, 10; Oâ€™Farrell, Irelandâ€™s English question, 189.
Newscutting 1 May 1895 in J. Redmond Papers, 45, MS 7421, 15.
â€˜The election contest in East Wicklow â€“ The duty of the clergy â€“ Letter of the Archbishop
of Dublinâ€™, FJ, 15 Apr. 1895, 5.
Constitutional Nationalism and popular liberalism 121
â€˜We claim for all equal rights before the law.â€™68 This was a cause which
not only the Catholics, but also, as they hoped, â€˜a large massâ€™ of the
Protestant population could support.69 Parnell insisted on â€˜the high
importance of acting with every possible regard and consideration for
the susceptibilities of our Orange fellow Countrymen . . . Our policy is one
of generous toleration and consideration for all sections of the Irish
nation.â€™70 T. M. Healy, who from the mid-1890s would espouse intran-
sigently sectarian politics, in 1883 insisted that â€˜[h]e would put his foot on
the neck of oppression and injustice (cheers), whether he found it in a
Protestant landlord or a Catholic landlord (cheers). He would meddle
with no manâ€™s creed. He would interfere with no manâ€™s conscience
(cheers).â€™71 The Freemanâ€™s Journal, commenting on meetings where
declarations of this kind had been made, stressed that such demonstra-
tions â€˜were attended by Protestants and Catholics â€“ clergymen and lay
electors. The true Liberals and the true tenant-righters are equal to the
occasion . . . Protestant shakes hand with Catholic, over a question which
is not one of Creed but which is one of class â€“ the people versus the
few â€“ the substantial democracy against an effete and worthless aristoc-
racy.â€™72 According to these nationalists, the issue at stake was between
â€˜popular rightsâ€™ and â€˜democracyâ€™ (whether Catholic, Presbyterian or
Episcopalian)73 on the one hand, and aristocratic privilege on the other.
It was a crusade for constitutional rights and freedoms, and against
â€˜coercion tyrannyâ€™. It was a struggle of â€˜labourâ€™ versus landlordism.
â€˜[T]he landlords of Ireland are all of one religion,â€™ claimed Michael
Davitt in 1881 â€“ â€˜their God is mammon, and rack-rents, and evictions
their only morality, while the toilers of the field, whether Orangemen,
Catholics, Presbyterians, or Methodists are the victims whom they desire
to see fling themselves under the juggernaut of landlordism.â€™74
Throughout the period of the agitation for the first two Home Rule
Bills, Protestant Nationalist opinion was given a high profile in press
Cited in rep., â€˜Proposed National demonstration in Derry: address to the Peopleâ€™, FJ, 10
Dec. 1883, 6.
From the speech of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, cited in rep., â€˜The National League: the
Irish Billsâ€™, FJ, 21 Apr. 1886, 6.
C. S. Parnell to T. Harrington, 9 June 1884, Parnell Letters, NLI, MS 8581 (1).
T. M. Healy cited in rep., â€˜Meeting at Ballytrainâ€™, FJ, 25 June 1883, 6. For Healyâ€™s
emphasis on religious toleration and the non-sectarian nature of Nationalism in the early
1880s see F. Callanan, T. M. Healy (1996), 110. For his latent, and, later, militant,
clericalism and bigotry see ibid., 264, 372, 374â€“81.
L.a., FJ, 25 June 1883, 4.
T. M. Healy cited in rep., â€˜The Monaghan electionâ€™, FJ, 25 June 1883, 6.
Cited in F. Campbell, The dissenting voice: Protestant democracy in Ulster from Plantation to
Partition (1991), 285; for similar statements by W. Redmond and others, see Boyce,
Nationalism in Ireland, 220, n. 134, 227.
122 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism
reports.75 The latter provided full coverage both of the meetings of the
Protestant Home Rule Association76 and of any Presbyterian support
Nationalist leaders could muster in the North.77 The few Protestant
notables ready to come out and be counted were proudly introduced at
local meetings by the Catholic parish priests, who stressed that â€˜it was a
mistaken idea that because they differed at the altar they could not unite
for their motherlandâ€™.78 On the one hand, although only a small number
of ministers of various Protestant denominations were found to speak up
for the tenants by the 1881 Royal Commission,79 Protestant Nationalists
and Liberals like John Pinkerton and the Reverends Isaac Nelson and
Matthew Macaulay shared the radical agrarianism of their Catholic oppo-
site numbers, as did Alexander Bowman, a Belfast-based trade union
leader and a Gladstonian.80 Indeed, as we shall see in chapters 5 and 6,
agrarian radicalism was an important component of Liberal Unionism in
both Ulster and Scotland. On the other hand, some Protestant notables â€“
including Jeremiah Jordan (Methodist), Isaac Nelson (Presbyterian) and
several others â€“ moved from tenant rights agitation to membership of the
National party at Westminster, where, in 1891, they numbered thirteen
â€˜A Presbyterian Irishmanâ€™, letter on â€˜Presbyterians and Home Ruleâ€™, FJ, 23 Jan. 1886, 7;
and â€˜A Protestant Nationalistâ€™, letter on â€˜Protestant Nationalism â€“ its existence and
dutiesâ€™, FJ, 11 Feb. 1886, 3. For Presbyterian arguments in support of Home Rule see
the penny pamphlet by J. D. Craig, Are Irish Protestants afraid of Home Rule? Two speeches
delivered by Rev. J. D. Craig Houston and Professor Dougherty at the General Assembly of
the Presbyterian Church, held in Belfast, on June 9th, 1893, The Liberal Publications
Department (London, 1893), in National Liberal Club Collection.
E.g. the reports, â€˜Protestant Home Rule Associationâ€™, FJ, 11 Jan. 1887, 3; and â€˜The
Protestant Home Rule Association and coercion: enthusiastic demonstration last night
[in Dublin]â€™, FJ, 13 Apr. 1887, 6. For the activities and ideology of this organization
see J. Loughlin, â€˜The Irish Protestant Home Rule Association and nationalist politics,
1886â€“93â€™, Irish Historical Studies, 24, 95 (1985), 341â€“61.
E.g. â€˜The land question in the North: demonstration in North Antrimâ€™, FJ, 13 Apr. 1887,
6: the reporter stressed the â€˜Orangeâ€™ component of the crowds who listened â€˜with the
greatest attentionâ€™ to John Dillonâ€™s speech. See also Craig, Are Irish Protestants afraid of
Cited in rep., â€˜The National League: meeting at Queenstownâ€™, The Cork Examiner, 6
Nov. 1887, 3.
Report of Her Majestyâ€™s Commissioners of Inquiry into the Working of the Landlord and Tenant
(Ireland) Act, PP, xviii and xix (1881), better known as the Bessborough Commission
Cited in â€˜The representation of the County Leitrimâ€™, FJ, 19 Mar. 1880, 7. Eventually
Nelson entered Parliament for County Mayo as a follower of Parnell, and in 1885 became
president of the Protestant Home Rule Association in Belfast: Campbell, Dissenting Voice,
289, 294; G. Moran, â€˜James Daly and the rise and fall of the Land League in the west of
Ireland, 1879â€“82â€™, Irish Historical Studies, 29, 114 (1994), 199â€“200; T. Bowman, Peopleâ€™s
champion: the life of Alexander Bowman, pioneer of labour politics in Ireland (1997), 48â€“86;
Geary, The Plan of Campaign, 53.
Constitutional Nationalism and popular liberalism 123
(including Parnell).81 The post-Parnell party continued this tradition,
and counted among its leading members Quakers such as Alfred Webb
and Episcopalians like Edward Blake. The latter, a Canadian-Irish
Evangelical and former Liberal Prime Minister of Ontario, was elected
by Longford with strong clerical support in July 1892.82 His platform was
â€˜in general politics, decided[ly] Liberalâ€™.83 One of the points Blake and his
Protestant Nationalist friends tried (unsuccessfully) to impress on Ulster
Protestant opinion was that â€˜[i]t is utter rubbish to talk of the â€˜â€˜tyranny of
the Catholicsâ€™â€™ â€™.84 This was stressed also by Michael Davitt, who, speak-
ing on the second Home Rule Bill, pointed out that â€˜Catholics and
Protestants live in political harmony together in the colonies, without
any attempted interference with religious rights . . . the Prime Minister of
Canada is a Catholic, and two of the chief Orangemen of Ontario are
members of his Government.â€™85
While Nationalists and Liberals shared significant ideological ground,
the former complained about the latterâ€™s hypocrisy: â€˜[t]he Liberals are
with the Irish Party in everything save Home Rule, having got rid of all
controversy by the process of promising everything required and never
giving itâ€™.86 Of course, this criticism was not totally fair, especially with
regard to constitutional obstacles to reform. For example, Gladstoneâ€™s
1880 Compensation of Disturbance Bill (which the Nationalists wel-
comed) was killed in the Lords by a large majority.87 The popularity of
the demand for Home Rule was partly a reaction to such institutional
constraints to reform, and partly reflected the fact that a growing number
Campbell, Dissenting Voice, 294; Oâ€™Brien, Parnell and his Party, 261, and 333 n. 1.
For the support of the Roman Catholic clergy see C. Casey to Blake, 10 Mar. 1894
, Blake Correspondence, 4686. For his religious views see M. B. Faughner to
H. de F. Montgomery, 13 July 1892, PRONI, D/627/428/188. Blake, retired in July 1907
on health grounds. His correspondence attests to his personal popularity not only with
his constituents â€“ who tried to dissuade him from resigning â€“ but also generally with his
colleagues and with supporters and admirers in both Britain and Canada. For his
resignation see Blake, â€˜To the Nationalist electors of South Longfordâ€™, 19 July 1907,
and subsequent exchanges in Blake Correspondence, 2538, 2548 and 2551, NLI, 4688.
E. Blake, â€˜To the electors of South Longfordâ€™, in Election Addresses, 1892, vol. II: Counties,
Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Gladstone Library Collection, Bristol University Library.
A. S. Loghill (a Protestant admirer) to Blake, 11 Aug. 1892, Blake Correspondence, NLI,
Davitt, The settlement of the Irish Question. A speech by Mr Michael Davitt, MP, on April
11th, 1893, in the House of Commons, penny pamphlet of the Liberal Publications
Department (London, 1893), 18. Exactly the same point was made by Gladstone himself
in a speech to Ulster Protestants: ibid., 5 (Belfast, 1893), 12â€“13. Both pamphlets are in
the National Liberal Club Collection.
L.a., FJ, 6 Nov. 1882, 4. This paraphrased one of the points made by T. M. Healy in the
article, in n. 13.
E.g. Cashman, Davitt, 232â€“3.
124 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism
of people were aware that in many areas Ireland had interests and prior-
ities which could hardly be accommodated within the parliamentary
Union. The latter was of course the main source of differences between
British Liberals and Irish Nationalists. It was ultimately a difference of
national interests and as such had nothing to do with universalist ideolo-
gies such as liberalism.
Here we have the parameters and limits of the Nationalist claim to
â€˜independenceâ€™ from Gladstoneâ€™s Liberal party.88 On the one hand, if in
Ireland the 1880s saw the â€˜birth of popular liberalismâ€™, it was an Irish
movement â€“ not the â€˜westernâ€™ branch of a British one. In other words, the
rise of Irish â€˜popular liberalismâ€™ cannot be assessed by simple reference to
any British model, because Ireland and Britain were two different coun-
tries as much as Austria and Hungary. In particular, in Ireland as in
Hungary the question of full citizenship was complicated by the overlap
between national, ethnic, religious and social conflicts.
On the other hand, though the â€˜constitutionâ€™ which was staunchly
defended by the Nationalists was â€˜the Constitution of Irelandâ€™, the latter
was modelled on notions of the British â€˜constitutionâ€™ to such an extent
that Nationalism as a movement for constitutional reform reflected â€˜the
absorption of British and American valuesâ€™.89 As the USA influenced
British radicalism as well as Irish nationalism, it is hardly surprising that
eventually the two movements came to share demands and aspirations,
including the â€˜reform of the grand jury lawâ€™ â€“ that is, the creation of
democratically elected local authorities â€“ the extension of the franchise,
and the democratization of the electoral system for Poor Law guard-
ians.90 Likewise, much of the negative press which Dublin Castle
received, especially in the years of â€˜coercion ruleâ€™, replicated contempo-
rary British hostility to anything smacking of a â€˜police stateâ€™ and govern-
ment unresponsive to public opinion.
Home Rule aimed precisely at the solution of this last problem: an Irish
Parliament was the only guarantee of an executive which would respond
to Irish public opinion, ensuring a government â€˜by its own people and for
its own peopleâ€™.91 On this basis, the Nationalists claimed to be â€˜the
popular partyâ€™ (a label which British Liberals frequently applied to them-