starting the Home Rule campaign. â€˜The working classes are the rulers of
England now, and their liberator is their leader and our best friend. They
will not suffer their brethren in Ireland to be sacrificed to the cold
platitudes of doctrinaires or the brutal greed and bigotry of a dominant
class.â€™219 For â€˜[t]he poor love the poor. A double bond of interest and
sympathy binds the working classes of the two countries together.â€™220
Every fresh â€˜coercion outrageâ€™ â€“ like the Glebeigh evictions (Co. Kerry),
when in the depth of winter, forty people, including infants, were forcibly
Rep., â€˜The Lord Mayor on the Mitchelstown meetingâ€™, Cork Examiner, 13 Sep. 1887, 4.
E.g. â€˜Shocking tragedy in Clare: encounter between police and moonlightersâ€™, Cork
Examiner, 13 Sep. 1887, 2.
L.a. paraphrasing a speech by Sir William Harcourt in the Commons, Cork Examiner, 13
Sep. 1887, 2.
L.a., FJ, 2 Feb. 1887, 4.
â€˜United Ireland and the outragesâ€™, cited. in Cork Examiner, 21 Jan. 1887, 3.
Ibid. For the British side of this story of class solidarity cf. chapter 5.
152 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism
expelled from their cottages by the police and left homeless â€“ cemented
the Nationalistâ€“Gladstonian solidarity. This was based on the assump-
tion that any other consideration ought to be overridden by the dictates of
humanity and natural rights.221
The effectiveness of such rhetoric was greatly increased by Gladstone
himself. His speeches against coercion and in defence of â€˜[the] legitimate
combination which is allowed [to] the people in England and denied
[to] the people in Irelandâ€™ were elaborated upon in leading articles222
and reported verbatim not only by the national press, but also in some
provincial newspapers.223 The daily spectacle â€“ in its newspaper rendi-
tion â€“ of the parliamentary debate on the latest Coercion Bill, with
vigorous speeches by Gladstone, John Morley and others, helped to
consolidate these feelings. The deliberations of dozens of meetings
throughout the land indicated both the strength of the popular feeling
against coercion, and the extent to which the â€˜Union of Heartsâ€™ was
affecting the culture of popular Nationalism. On the one hand, coercion
was condemned in liberal terms: it was â€˜cruelly oppressive . . . and abso-
lutely subversive of our civil rightsâ€™,224 â€˜violating our constitutional rights
as free citizens, insulting the dignity of our nationâ€™,225 and ultimately
inspired by the aim of â€˜coerc[ing] the Irish tenants into paying impossible
rentsâ€™.226 On the other, popular discussions did not seem to be complete
unless they were concluded by a vote of thanks â€˜to the Right Hon. W. E.
Gladstone and the great Liberal party in England for their able advocacy
of the rights of the Irish people to National self-governmentâ€™.227 At a
meeting at St Margaret (Co. Dublin) a speaker declared that â€˜[t]he terms
of the Coercion Bill were degrading and provocative, but the palliative
influence of Gladstoneâ€™s statesmanship furnished a rampart of passive
â€˜United Ireland and the outragesâ€™, cited in Cork Examiner, 21 Jan. 1887, 3. Cf. reports in
Cork Examiner, 12 Jan. 1887, 3, and 14 Jan. 1887, 3. Despite his scepticism about
Gladstone worship, Michael Davitt was one of the spokesmen for this naive faith in
democracy: see rep., â€˜Mr Michael Davitt in England: meeting at Radcliffeâ€™, FJ, 26 Sep.
L.a., FJ, 8 Nov. 1888, 4.
Thus on 20th October 1887 the Cork Examiner devoted two of its four pages to a report
of Gladstoneâ€™s Nottingham speech, which relaunched the Home Rule campaign in
â€˜Meeting in Enniskillenâ€™, FJ, 18 Apr. 1887, 6. Years later, John Redmond â€“ by then
leader of the break-away Parnellite group â€“ quoted J. S. Mill, J. Fitzjames Stephen and
Mazzini to show that Balfourâ€™s prisoners (whom Gladstone refused to release) were
being punished for â€˜politicalâ€™ offences: newscutting dated 13 Nov. 1893, in J. Redmond
Papers, NAI, MS 7419.
â€˜Meeting in Monaghanâ€™, FJ, 18 Apr. 1887, 6. 226 â€˜Meeting at Rathfarnhamâ€™, ibid.
Cited in rep., The National League: Meeting at Queenstownâ€™, Cork Examiner, 6 Sep.
1887, 3, third resolution.
Constitutional Nationalism and popular liberalism 153
resistance behind which the people were invincible (cheers)â€™.228 At the
same meeting â€“ and at many others â€“ resolutions were passed to affirm
that â€˜Mr Gladstoneâ€™s Bill for the Government of Ireland is the only
solution of the Irish difficultyâ€™.229 Even speakers who had not lost their
anti-English panache had good words for the Liberal leader: â€˜When Mr
Gladstone â€“ fine old man, grand old man (great cheering) â€“ got up to
speak a few nights before he was insulted as if he had been a mere Irish
Nationalist member by these Tories.â€™230
In one sense at least, Gladstone had achieved the most complete form
of â€˜unionismâ€™ in nineteenth-century politics. In 1886 Healy had asserted
the existence of a â€˜dual leadershipâ€™ in the Liberalâ€“Nationalist alliance,
and â€“ prophetically, in view of the outcome of the 1890 split â€“ had
acknowledged a divided allegiance.231 In March 1887 the GOM was
said to have â€˜formally taken command of the forces opposed to
Coercionâ€™,232 which was a threat to British as much as to Irish liberty.
The Nationalist press was proud to take its line against the government
from Liberal speeches,233 and the anti-tithe agitation in Wales â€“ another
popular rising for farmersâ€™ rights â€“ was closely and sympathetically
reviewed in Irish newspapers. As Liberalism developed a distinctive
â€˜Celticâ€™ image, Nationalism drew closer to this pan-Britannic phenom-
enon. The Cork Examiner reported the proposed extension to Wales of
the Home Rule principle that people should be governed according to
local ideas and that Home Rule should become the cornerstone of the
Liberal empire.234 In Ireland Protestant speakers insisted on Home Rule
as a programme of national liberty and imperial solidarity, and alluded to
â€˜Meeting at St Margaretâ€™sâ€™, FJ, 18 Apr. 1887, 6, speech by T. Oâ€™Sullivan.
Ibid., first resolution, and third resolution, â€˜Meeting at Waterfordâ€™, ibid.; see also rep.,
â€˜The National League in West Corkâ€™, Cork Examiner, 30 Jan. 1888, 3.
Speech by Dr Tanner, cited in rep., â€˜National League meeting at Donoughmoreâ€™, Cork
Examiner, 7 June 1887, 4.
Callanan, Healy, 233; cf. 350â€“1.
L.a., FJ, 25 Mar. 1887, 4; J. McCarthy to Caroline M. Praed, 24 Mar. 1887 and 2 Apr.
1887, in NLI, MS 24,958 (8).
For example, in Mar. 1888 a leader quoted Campbell-Bannerman on the latest
Coercion Bill, under which â€˜offences of a political or at least a semi-political kind
involving points of great nicety are sent to be tried, without a jury, by men whose
appointment involves executive as well as judicial functions, and who are not only judges
but servants of the Executiveâ€™ (l.a., FJ, 2 Mar. 1888, 4). For another example see rep.,
Cork Examiner, 1 June 1887, 2.
Rep., â€˜The great demonstration at Swansea: â€˜â€˜imperial, Welsh & Irishâ€™â€™ â€“ a monstre
processionâ€™, Cork Examiner, 6 June 1887, 3; see also â€˜Demonstration at Droghedaâ€™,
ibid., 3 July 1887, 3; the resolution adopted by the Thomastown branch of the INL, FJ,
14 Apr. 1887, 6; and â€˜Mr Gladstoneâ€™s visit to South Walesâ€™, ibid., 3 July. 1887, 3.
154 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism
a Nonconformist support which cut across national, confessional and
The imprisonment of Charles Conybeare, a Radical MP, and of the
eccentric poet and anti-imperialist campaigner Wilfrid Blunt added two
English martyrs to the Nationalist cause. Blunt was reported as receiving
â€˜a vast number of resolutions and private letters of congratulations and
sympathyâ€™.236 At popular meetings he was eulogized by parish priests as
â€˜an Englishman of wealth and rank and station, of great courage and
ability, who like several others of his compatriots, has come over to
Ireland to aid the oppressed against the oppressor, as he aided Arabi
against his persecutorsâ€™.237 Though of course Arabiâ€™s chief â€˜persecutorâ€™
had been Gladstone himself, the latter was reputed to have since mended
his ways. Likewise, Liberal coercion under Forster was now seen as not
quite as bad as Balfourâ€™s â€˜bloodyâ€™ regime: while the Liberals â€˜drifted into
the employment of the more despotic provisions of their Coercion Actâ€™,
the Unionists â€˜are deliberately directing their operations against political
opponents as suchâ€™.238 Now Nationalists compared Balfourâ€™s coercion
system with â€˜King Bombaâ€™s ruleâ€™, alluding to the brutal repression of the
1848â€“9 revolution in Sicily.239
The zenith of the Union of Hearts was reached in 1887â€“90, as the
â€˜Piggott caseâ€™240 brought about a further strengthening of the links
between Liberals and Nationalists. When the Liverpool Reform Club
decided to start a subscription to help Parnell defray the legal costs of
fighting the case, Liberal clubs from London and elsewhere joined the
campaign, which generated considerable emotional response among
Nationalists.241 In 1889 two nationalist novels â€“ Samuel Strahanâ€™s The
resident magistrate and Hester Sigersonâ€™s A ruined race â€“ were dedicated to
Mr and Mrs Gladstone respectively. In a letter To the clergy and laity of the
Diocese of Meath, the Roman Catholic bishop, Thomas Nulty, acknowl-
edged that â€˜[t]he masses of the English people love justice, truth, and fair
Cited in rep., â€˜The National League: meeting at Queenstownâ€™, ibid., 6 Sep. 1887, 3,
speech by the County High Sheriff of Cork, Mr Ledlie.
Rep., â€˜Mr Blunt and Lord Randolph Churchillâ€™, ibid., 1 Nov. 1887, 4.
Father J. Lucy, cited in rep., â€˜The National League . . . Clonakiltyâ€™, Cork Examiner, 1
Nov. 1887, 4.
L.a., FJ, 27 Aug. 1887, 4.
E.g. rep., â€˜Mr Gladstone in Wrexham . . . the â€˜â€˜Bomba ruleâ€™â€™ parallelâ€™, FJ, 5 Sep. 1888, 5.
On 7 March 1887 The Times started a series of articles on â€˜Parnellism and crimeâ€™, which
included the notorious claim that Parnell approved of the 1882 Phoenix Park murders.
The London newspaper was sued for libel and eventually a special commission estab-
lished that a letter in which Parnell apparently expressed approval of the murder had
actually been forged by Richard Piggott, himself a journalist.
L.a., FJ, 17 Aug. 1888, 4.
Constitutional Nationalism and popular liberalism 155
play above and beyond any nation on earthâ€™. Therefore Parnell, by
proving the falsehood of the charges and convicting his enemies â€˜of false-
hood, forgery and deliberate slanderâ€™, would win the case for Home
From 1890 the divorce scandal and subsequent split of the Nationalist
party undermined such enthusiastic â€˜Union of Heartsâ€™. Many rank and
file, including the executive of the INL, rejected the alliance and stayed
loyal to Parnell, their fallen leader.243 Working-class votes were decisive
in enabling the Parnellite Redmond to defeat Michael Davitt at the
Waterford by-election in December 1891.244 However, as McCarthy
and others had anticipated, soon public opinion turned against
Parnell.245 Their frustration was further exasperated by the incident
which brought about his downfall: â€˜You can imagine what the feeling is
with these men who have sacrificed these 12 years: & now when victory is
so near, to see all lost by the leader they had trusted. One man spoke of
the frightful levity of a leader, who had imperilled the Cause for the sake
of a woman â€˜â€˜Where have you brought usâ€™â€™ he said â€˜â€˜Into the Divorce
In his last two years Parnell had been pursuing â€˜a pan-British radical
allianceâ€™ of the left,247 and after 1891 most of the Nationalist party and
their constituents maintained their pro-Gladstone orientation. For the
anti-Parnell majority the Union of Hearts survived, and indeed, as
Callanan has put it, Nationalists displayed â€˜excessive susceptibility . . .
to Gladstoneâ€™s charismaâ€™.248 In 1891 Michael Davitt seemed unable
to perceive ideological or political conflict between Irish Nationalism
and Gladstonian Liberalism â€“ something which annoyed enormously
his opponent, John Redmond.249 But for Davitt the Liberalâ€“Nationalist
alliance was â€˜a concordat of conciliation and justiceâ€™, and the Union
of Hearts was a coming together of classes fostering radical democracy
in both countries.250 Davitt celebrated the workersâ€™ brotherhood sealed
T. Nulty, To the clergy and laity of the Diocese of Meath (1888), 12â€“13; in St Deinolâ€™s
Library, Hawarden, â€˜Pamphlets on Irelandâ€™, 5/E/2.
As McCarthy complained, â€˜the Dublin mob is all Parnelliteâ€™: letter to R. C. M. Praed, 20
Sep. 1891, in NLI, MS 29.458 (40).
Newscutting of an interview with J. Redmond, 29 Dec. 1891, in NLI, MS 7414, 12â€“13.
J. McCarthy to R. C. M. Praed, 1 Jan. 1890, NLI, MS 29,458 (26); and 18 Dec. 1890,
in ibid., MS 24,958 (32).
McCarthy reporting the words of J. (John Dillon?), in a letter to R. C. M. Praed, 4 Dec.
1890, in ibid.
D. George Boyce, â€˜Parnell and Bagehotâ€™, in Boyce and Oâ€™Day, Parnell in Perspective, 126.
Callanan, Healy, 232.
Newscutting of an interview with J. Redmond, 29 Dec. 1891, NLI, MS 7414.
Cited in Callanan, Healy, 390.
156 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism
in blood at Mitchelstown as much as at Peterloo in a previous generation.
On one occasion he underscored this point by reciting a poem which
The peopleâ€™s cause is one alone
Through all the world wide;
By foreign name or foreign tongue
That cause you canâ€™t divide!
Two races do I only see
Upon this globe of ours:
The cheated sons of woe and toil,
The juggling â€˜higher powersâ€™!
One master crushes both alike,
The Saxon and the Celt â€“
For all the pomp of lords and pride,
Our bone and substance melt.
Then hand in hand weâ€™ll face the foe
And grapple with the wrong,
And show to the Tyrant and the Slave
A peopleâ€™s will is strong.251
A couple of months later he wrote to Edward Blake â€“ on his way to
the USA on a speaking tour â€“ suggesting to him that in his speeches he