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selves) and indeed managed to attract a large share of the vote which
formerly had gone to the Irish Liberals, sometimes cast by electors who

See, e.g., l.a., FJ, 30 Oct. 1882, 4. 89 Kissane, Explaining Irish democracy, 113.
Resolutions cited in rep., ˜The Ballinasloe Tenants Reform Association™, FJ, 18 Mar.
1880, 5.
L.a., FJ, 18 Apr. 1882, 4.
Constitutional Nationalism and popular liberalism 125

still professed to be Liberal.92 As Nationalism became more and more
˜constitutional™ after 1882, the proposed alternatives to the Union were
consistently drawn from the imperial experience, and were accompanied
by the claim that Australia and Canada also supported the cause of Home
Rule for Ireland.93 This implied that Home Rule was ˜safe™, loyal and fully
compatible with the British constitutional tradition and ongoing mem-
bership of the empire.
As Kissane has noted, ˜the wide range of demands besides Home Rule
that the party now made of the British state™ is both important and
revealing.94 In particular, from 1882 the Irish National League (INL)
provided for its supporters what could be described as a programme of
˜homely™ liberalism. The League™s constitution consisted of six long
articles, the first of which concerned Home Rule. The others dealt with
land laws, local government, parliamentary and local franchises, and ˜the
development and encouragement of the Labour and Industrial Interests
of Ireland™.95 The land reform clauses “ periodically updated in later
editions of this document in response to government legislation “
included the establishment of ˜an occupying ownership or Peasant
Proprietary™ by means of Treasury loans, compulsory purchase of
˜waste™ lands, better compensation for improvements, and ˜the admission
of leaseholders to the benefits of the 1881 Land Act™. Under the heading
˜Local Government™, the INL asked for the creation of elected County
Boards with extensive powers over education, public works, police and
local magistrates, together with ˜[t]he transfer to County Boards of the
management of union workhouses, lunatic asylums and other institutions
supported by local rates™. With regard to the parliamentary franchise, the
INL demanded full equality with Britain. As for the defence of ˜Labour
and Industrial Interests™, pride of place was given to the erection of
dwellings for farm labourers (a demand tentatively addressed by the
1883 Act), and ˜out-door relief for labourers during illness™. Moreover,
the League asked for the creation of an Industrial Committee with
representatives from all branches of industry, trade and agriculture, for
the purpose of ˜encouraging the use and sale of Irish products™, the
organization of industrial exhibitions and the production of ˜scientific
reports of the industrial capacities™ of the various regions around the

See rep., ˜County Dublin election: the nominations “ meeting at Kingstown™, FJ, 25 Feb.
1883, 2; l.a., FJ, 8 Mar. 1883, 4.
L.a., FJ, 20 Dec. 1882, 4. 94 Kissane, Explaining Irish democracy, 100.
Constitution of the Irish National League, Heffernan Papers, NLI, MS 21,910, acc. 1921.
The constitution was published in FJ, 16 Oct. 1882. For a contemporary commentary
see l.a., FJ, 16 Oct. 1882, 4.
126 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

This radical catechism represented a systematic expression of Irish
˜popular liberalism™. Like Gladstonian liberalism in Britain, the INL
aimed at attracting working-class support while retaining its hold on the
˜middle-class™ farming vote. As Hoppen has shown, to a large extent it
was successful.96 Branch after branch of the Labour and Industrial Union
decided to merge with Parnell™s organization, which, they thought,
˜embrace[d] in its programme all the forms necessary for constituting a
free, contented and prosperous nation™.97

Constitutional rights and social tensions
The mist of night had scarcely disappeared over the valley of the Suir this
(Saturday) morning, when Head Constable Ward and 15 fully-armed constables
paraded in front of their barracks at Carrick-on-Suir [Co. Tipperary]. After the
inspection of their pouches, in which were ammunition . . . the men formed fours,
and a bailiff marched within with writs. The bailiff was acting for Thomas Lalor
JP . . . Mr Lalor is a Catholic, and lives amidst his tenantry. In recent years he added
to the small property of Cregg “ to which on his father™s death he succeeded “ the
townlands of Ballinagrana, Figlash, Mainstown, and Newton. On acquiring these
latter places, which he purchased in the Encumbered Courts, he raised the rents,
and kept them at this standard until the Land Courts altered some, a proceeding
which so displeased him that in all cases he appealed against the fair rent.98

Without waiting for the outcome of the appeal, Lalor sought and
obtained writs of eviction, after rejecting his tenants™ compromise pro-
posals (involving a rent reduction of 15 per cent). As the constables
approached Newton, the scene was set for a violent confrontation, ulti-
mately caused by Lalor™s ability to ˜circumvent™ the law, which a weak or
allegedly biased Irish government was unable to enforce. Despite the fact
that few peasants were awake in the early hours of a November morning,
the constables were sighted before they had reached the first house. ˜Then
from every house along the mountain side, up the glen, and away on the far
hills shrill cries and like-sounding horns™ alerted the whole community.
The church bells were rung and before long were echoed by the bells of the
villages nearby. As the constables struggled to overcome the resistance of
the first farmhouse, large crowds “ eventually numbering about one

Hoppen, Elections, politics and society, 477“8.
Rep., ˜Meeting at Mulligar™, FJ, 1 Nov. 1882, 5; for other similar statements see the reports
of meetings at Clonoulty (FJ, 4 Nov. 1882, 3) and Newbridge (FJ, 6 Nov. 1882, 6).
Rep., ˜Writ-serving near Carrick-on-Suir™, FJ, 16 Nov. 1885, 7. The landowning class in
nineteenth-century Ireland was by no means entirely Protestant: in 1861 43 per cent of
landlords were Roman Catholic, in comparison with 48 per cent belonging to the Church
of Ireland: F. Campbell, Land and revolution: nationalist politics in the west of Ireland,
1891“1921 (2005), 288. About 10 per cent of the great landowners were Catholic.
Constitutional Nationalism and popular liberalism 127

thousand men and women “ gathered around them. The climax was
reached when the constables, in their attempt to arrest a farmer, ˜almost
bayoneted a woman. At this the crowd closed on the police, who were
forced to wade waist-deep the river™, constantly pursued by the peasants.99
Irrespective of whether Lalor was ˜representative™ of Catholic land-
lords, this incident conveys the extent to which nationalism and the
land question encompassed a multi-layered social and political conflict,
with associated, and sometimes competing, forms of legitimacy. If, as one
Nationalist leader put it, ˜[t]he agrarian war was . . . the landlord enforc-
ing his legal rights, and the tenant standing by his natural rights™,100 such
conflict between ˜rights™ did not necessarily reflect the Protestant/
Catholic divide. In the episode reported above, the landlord (himself a
member of the local community) refused to abide by legally defined ˜fair
rents™, and rejected the compromise offered by his tenants. A riot ensued,
and eventually the police came to grief when they seemed to be ready to
use their weapons against women “ thus violating another ˜natural right™,
namely, the respect and protection due to the female members of the
On the whole, ˜the union of all classes . . . and ranks in this country™101
claimed by Parnell was almost as problematic and elusive as that
other plank of the Nationalist creed “ ˜the union of all creeds™. While
the ˜social-integrationist™ ideology was largely the product of urban agi-
tators, in rural constituencies class conflict split both the Catholic and the
Protestant communities.102 The demands of various groups had to be
negotiated again and again, as the movement for land reform achieved
new successes from 1881. There was continuous tension between differ-
ent social groups “ not only between landlords and farmers, but also and
increasingly between large graziers, smaller tenant farmers and farm
labourers.103 Though the INL interceded for the concession of rent-free

˜Writ-serving near Carrick-on-Suir™. This episode is reminiscent of the ˜Battle of
Carraroe™ of January 1880, and suggests that the police had not learned the lesson
quite as well as Paul Bew has suggested in Land and the national question in Ireland,
1858“82 (1978), 92“3.
T. D. Sullivan, MP, cited in rep., ˜The National League™, FJ, 29 Mar. 1883, 2.
C. S. Parnell, cited in rep., ˜The representation of the County Tipperary™, FJ, 24 Mar.
1880, 7.
S. Clarke, ˜The social composition of the Land League™, Irish Historical Studies, 17, 68
(1971), 447“69; J. R. B. McMinn, ˜Liberalism in North-Antrim, 1900“1914™, Irish
Historical Studies, 13, 89 (1982), 28“9; Geary, The Plan of Campaign, 49; see also
chapter 6, pp. 291“8.
See D. E. Jordan, Land and popular politics in Ireland: county Mayo from the Plantation to
the Land War (1994), 8“9, 262“3; P. Bew and F. Wright, ˜The agrarian opposition in
Ulster politics, 1848“87™, in S. Clark and J. D. Donnelly (eds.), Irish peasants, violence
and political unrest, 1780“1914 (1986), 223“4; J. W. Boyle, ˜A marginal figure: the Irish
128 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

plots of land for the labourers, and tried to act as a mediator between
farmers and farm workers, the latter often felt neglected and manipu-
lated, especially after Gladstone™s legislation of 1881“2.104
As some Nationalist leaders feared,105 the second Land Act, supple-
mented by the Arrears Act in 1882, had a considerable impact on the
targeted social groups,106 to the extent that ˜Mayo “ the cradle of the
Land League, was the principal county . . . to swamp the courts with
petitions to have the rents judicially fixed.™107 These reforms did not
˜pacify™ Ireland, but brought about the ˜constitutionalization™ of popular
protest. If Peelite reforms and Gladstonian free trade undermined the
revolutionary potential of Chartist ideology, the reforms of 1881“2
started a similar process in Ireland. However, the two Land Acts made
no provision for a minority of embittered small farmers and the whole of
the labourers. These groups had provided much of the manpower for the
agitation, but, like British artisans after the 1832 Reform Act, felt
bypassed, if not betrayed, by 1881“2. As the farmers basked in the
˜three Fs™, which had no relevance for the poorer social groups, the
farm workers began to wonder about the aims and purposes of the agi-
tation they had supported.108 Characteristically, both Parnell and Glad-
stone were responsive to their plight. In order to provide organization
and support for such a rural ˜proletariat™, the Labour and Industrial
Union was formed in August 1882 under Parnell™s auspices. In October,
the INL, reviving part of the more radical features of the old Land

rural labourer™, in ibid., 311“38; D. S. Jones, ˜The cleavage between graziers and
peasants in the land struggle, 1890“1910™, in ibid., 374“413; G. Moran, ˜Land
League in the west of Ireland, 1879“82™, in ibid., 205.
E.g. the reports of meetings in FJ, 27 Dec. 1882, 6 and in FJ, 3 Jan. 1883, 6 (Rathvilly,
Co. Carlow). Cf. P. Bew and F. Wright, ˜The agrarian opposition in Ulster™, in Clark
and Donnelly, Irish peasants, 193.
˜Gladstone by his acceptance of the Lords amendments has killed the Land Bill but yet
the d”d whigs and miserable traitors must be watched or they will try and bamboozle
the people into putting some reliance in it.™ (P. Egar to Dunn, Paris, 17 Aug. 1881, in
Harrington papers, NLI, MS 8577 (ii).)
Cruise O™Brien, Parnell and his Party, 127; Comerford, ˜The land war and the politics of
distress™, 47“8; Comerford, Fenians, 238; Jordan, Land and popular politics, 306“10;
Silverman, An Irish working class, 172, 211; Moody, Davitt, 498“9, 528“31. The Land
Act ˜produced a general reduction in rent of nearly 20 per cent . . . The balance of
opinion among ministers principally involved was in favour of true fair rents fixed from
time to time in court, with freedom of contract thrown overboard.™ Vincent, ˜Gladstone
and Ireland™, 216.
After the passing of the 1881 Act, ˜[a]pplications from tenants [for legal revision of their
rent] poured in at the rate of several thousand a day™ (B. Lewis Solow, The land question
and the Irish economy, 1870“1903 (1971), 161). Cf. Moran, ˜James Daly™, 202.
˜That as the labourers of Ireland have proved faithful to the tenants during the last
agitation, resulting in two remedial measures for the latter, we now call on them to share
with the labourers some of the benefits conferred by the Land Act.™ Cited in rep., ˜The
Irish National League . . . meeting in Kilrush™, FJ, 18 Dec. 1882, 7.
Constitutional Nationalism and popular liberalism 129

League™s programme,109 adopted some of the farm workers™ demands in
a successful bid for their support. Then in 1883 the Liberal government
passed the Labourers™ (Ireland) Act, virtually an attempt to outbid Par-
nell. The Act transferred part of the responsibility for the erection of
adequate working-class housing to the boards of Poor Law guardians.
Though this was an important step, and was well received by the labour-
ers, Gladstone™s Act was only partly successful, as the farmers were
reluctant to fund working-class housing out of the poor rates.110
However, from Gladstone™s point of view, the Labourers™ Act served at
least a political purpose. Like the 1881 Land Act for the farmers, the 1883
Act provided the labourers with an alternative to agrarian radicalism “
that is, a legal framework within which they could claim their rights. It
conveyed the impression that the government cared and was responsive
to popular protest. Furthermore, by throwing the financial burden of
working-class housing on to the rate-payers, the Labourers™ Act fuelled
class conflict and political tension between farmers and labourers, thus
compounding the difficulties of the Nationalists. If the aim of the Liberal
strategy was to defuse the Nationalist threat by institutionalizing class
conflict “ a tactic which belied the INL ideology of ˜national™ unity “ there
was evidence that concessions to the labourers would do the trick. Thus at
an INL meeting in Dunlavin (Co. Wicklow) in 1883, when the chairman,
Edward O™Kelly, appealed to national unity, he discovered that his audi-
ence were of a different opinion:
They had assembled to obtain a Land Act. The Land Act that had been given had
completely failed to give justice to the farmers. They were also assembled to
agitate for the amelioration of the condition of the agricultural labourer.

Cf. ˜Irish National Land League “ National Convention, 15th September, 1881™ in
Lalor Papers, NAI, MS 8574 (4), Clause 8: ˜That each farmer be recommended to set
aside land for the use of the labourer or labourers, members of the League, employed on
his holding, in the proportion of at least half an acre of tilled land for each thirty acres of
tilled land in his occupation (or the grass of a cow for each labourer), pending further
legislation for enabling labourers to become owners of the land; and that the direct or
indirect payment made by the labourer for such plot shall not exceed the rent payable for
it by the farmer.™
Boyle, ˜Irish rural labourer™, 332. For an example see J. Dillon to E. Blake, 8 Apr. 1895,
and enclosed letter by William McDonnell, a labourer who intended to appeal to the
Irish Chief Secretary (Morley) to overrule the Longford board of guardians. ˜The
Guardians and farmers of this Division “ McDonnell argued “ seem to think anything
in the way of housing was good enough for the poor. They compel their labourers to
reside in houses they would consider unsafe and unfit for their cattle . . . It is a fact that
the Act of Parliament passed for the benefit of such men as me. [sic] Can be made nil and
void by the opposition of unprincipled Guardians to gratify their friends.™ (Blake Letters,
NLI, 4681[110].)
130 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

A Voice “ That is what we want.
The Chairman trusted they would all unite until that was obtained “ farmer,


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