(â€˜â€˜Democracyâ€™â€™ would mean something else, possibly in Chicago) in the
triumph of the Home Rule cause in the Commons . . . together with the
part that the Irish Representatives will play in keeping forward labour
legislation &c.â€™252 This internationalist vision of democratic solidarity
may have been due â€“ as Callanan has argued â€“ to Davittâ€™s â€˜superimposi-
tion of a simplistic radical paradigm on nationalist politicsâ€™, in the expec-
tation that Irish politics would follow the conventional leftâ€“right
divide. However wrong he may have been on this last point, Davitt was
not alone in voicing such a â€˜simplistic radical paradigmâ€™ at the time.
Indeed, granted that Home Rule remained â€˜the priority over all other
thingsâ€™, under the leadership of Justin McCarthy and John Dillon the
party moved further towards an understanding of Nationalist politics
in â€˜conventionalâ€™ terms. Nationalism involved a non-sectarian campaign
in which the Irish party and the Liberals were aligned against the
M. Davitt, cited in â€˜The National Federation: meeting of the Central branchâ€™, FJ, 28
July 1892, 5.
Davitt to Blake, 12 Sep. 1893, in Blake Letters, 4681, NLI.
Constitutional Nationalism and popular liberalism 157
It was a struggle of â€˜democracyâ€™ versus the House of Lords and aimed
at establishing â€˜libertyâ€™ in a country disfigured by â€˜Castle ruleâ€™ and
confused by unfounded sectarian scares.253 Likewise, after his accession
to both the House of Commons and the partyâ€™s committee in 1892,
Edward Blake stressed that â€˜[i]n general politics I am a decided Liberal,
ready to co-operate in all well considered measures of reformâ€™.254
He insisted on the relevance for Ireland of the Canadian social
and constitutional experiment â€“ a view which, as we have seen, was widely
shared at the time. This was indeed one of the reasons why so
much expectation was invested in Blake by both his constituents and
the leaders of the Irish party. In a telegram sent by Michael Davitt to the
organizers of a meeting at which Blake was due to speak, he â€˜respectfully
advise[d] [that] he [Blake] should deal with beneficial effect Home Rule
Canada upon religious rights and feeling and maintenance of imperial
integrity. Also development loyal feeling after agitation which
won Canadian autonomy.â€™255 Blake was only too happy to comply. In a
speech given by him at the Eighty Club in August 1892, he insisted that
Ireland was not â€˜exceptionalâ€™. Indeed, Canada, like Ireland, had â€˜a power-
ful Orange party . . . bigoted men in the Roman Catholic Church and in
the Protestant denominationsâ€™, and many who â€“ before Home Rule â€“
prophesied that â€˜the majority in race and creed would use their power to
oppress the so-called loyal minority which posed as the English party, and
argued that the connection [with the UK] depended upon its continued
ascendancy, or on the continued deprivation of the popular rights
demandedâ€™. Yet, concluded Blake, these prophets had proved wrong.
For Canada had also
good men with nerves (laughter) . . . the sober and settled thought of the great
majority of our people of each creed and race had shown itself superior to the
efforts of bigots, the cries of alarmists, the aims of extremists of whatever creed or
race, and has satisfactorily proven our adhesion to the principles of civil and
religious liberty and equal rights (hear, hear). Markedly have we shown the
efficacy of covenanted organic guarantees and restrictions, which have ever
been sacredly observed.256
John Dillon to E. Blake, 6 Oct. 1894, and â€˜Confidential note on affairs of Irish partyâ€™,
typescript memo, attached to Blake to J. Dillon, 7 Nov. 1894, both in Blake Letters, 4681
[86 and 92], NLI; A. Webb, MP, An address to the electors of Waterford (1888), 9, 11.
Blakeâ€™s electoral address to the electors of Longford, Dublin, 7 July 1892, in Blake
Letters, NLI, 4684 .
Telegram, Davitt to Knox or Oâ€™Connor, McCarthy Committee Rooms, Derry, n.d.
[probably early July 1892], Blake Letters, 4681.
Cited in rep., â€˜The Hon. Edward Blake, MP â€“ banquet at the Eighty Clubâ€™, FJ, 5 Aug.
158 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism
This speech â€“ welcomed by the Freemanâ€™s Journal as â€˜moderate, for-
cible and eloquentâ€™257 â€“ followed Blakeâ€™s election to the Nationalist
partyâ€™s committee, and confirmed the partyâ€™s intention â€˜to give Mr
Gladstone a free hand in the pending struggleâ€™. Partly as a reaction against
the break-away Parnellite group, which was fiercely critical of Gladstone
and the Liberal alliance,258 mainstream Nationalists were pushed
towards positions which could be perceived as hardly distinguishable
from those of the Liberal party itself. They were contemptuously labelled
â€˜the Irish Whigsâ€™ by the frustrated Parnellites259 â€“ who, in turn, were
regarded as Unionists in disguise by the Nationalists.260 Yet, the
Parnellites too were arguing their case in strictly â€˜liberalâ€™ terms:
Our object is to confer on the whole of the Irish people, without distinction of
religion or politics, the blessings of freedom. To secure to the humblest man the
same liberty in the exercise of his political rights as enjoyed by the richest and most
powerful in the land. We have not struggled to put down one tyranny in order to
set up another. We demand for ourselves and for all other men, though they may
be opposed to us in politics and in religion, liberty to think and to act. Our motto is
liberty for all, licence for none.261
To a large extent the GOMâ€™s personal prestige and charisma remained
unaffected. Even Redmond continued to admit that the Liberal leader
was a true Home Ruler â€“ though one of the very few in the Liberal
party262 â€“ and that â€˜[i]t [was] to the interest of every Irishman that Mr
Gladstone should return to power, and that as soon as possibleâ€™.263 Not
only were â€˜Gladstone Printsâ€™ used as propaganda material in Longford in
1892,264 but the electoral campaign that year provided opportunities for
Nationalist leaders to praise repeatedly â€˜that eminent and venerable
statesmanâ€™, whose â€˜liberal mind and the sense of what was fairâ€™ had
â€˜always carried him in the direction of justice and rightâ€™. As soon as
Ireland returned a majority of representatives pledged to Home Rule
â€˜Mr Gladstone seized the opportunity, and said that he, as a constitutional
L.a., FJ, 5 Aug. 1892, 4.
J. Redmond in newscutting of a speech at Elphin, 12 Jan. 1896, in J. Redmond Papers,
J. Redmond, MP and Sweetman (the candidate) in rep., â€˜The public meetingâ€™, FJ, 15
Apr. 1895, 6.
The â€˜Factionistsâ€™ â€“ as the Parnellites were nicknamed by the Nationalists â€“ were
regarded as almost more dangerous than the Unionists: l.a., FJ, 18 July 1892, 4.
J. Redmond: newscutting dated 11 Oct. 1895, in J. Redmond Papers, MS 7421.
The other two being Morley and Labouchere: newscutting dated 7 July 1892, in
J. Redmond Papers, NAI, Ms 7417.
J. Redmond in a newscutting from the New York Herald, 16 June 1892, in J. Redmond
Papers, NLI, MS 7418.
T. W. Delany to E. Blake, 16 Aug. 1892, in Blake Correspondence, NLI, 4684.
Constitutional Nationalism and popular liberalism 159
Minister, would give Ireland Home Rule because a majority of her
representatives demanded itâ€™. Although the Bill had been defeated, â€˜Mr
Gladstone had not surrendered or gone back in his word to Ireland
(cheers). Mr Gladstone was faithful and true.â€™265
Eventually such expectations were not fulfilled, but Nationalists
remained fascinated by the Liberal leader to the end. Justin McCarthy â€“
who was present in the House when Gladstone delivered his last speech â€“
wrote in a private letter: â€˜[The speech] was splendidly delivered â€“ it was a
call to the country to do battle against the tyranny of the House of Lords. I
cannot tell you what an emotional time it was when he was speaking â€“ that
last speech. Oneâ€™s mind went back & back: and it seemed like the sin[k]-
ing for some sun. At last the sun went out in a blaze of light & splen-
dour.â€™266 In Ireland, even after his retirement, the mention of Gladstoneâ€™s
name at public meetings frequently elicited enthusiastic reactions.267
Nationalist novels continued to be dedicated to the GOM â€“ as in the
case of Ada Ellen Baylyâ€™s Doreen: the story of a singer (1894). Among the
Irish in Britain his name became a battle cry and guarantee of the reli-
ability of the Liberal alliance.268 Behind this persistent enthusiasm for the
GOM there were sentimental and emotional factors, as in 1886. Despite,
or because of, the ultimate defeat of the second Home Rule Bill, the
Nationalists were deeply moved by Gladstoneâ€™s loyalty to â€˜the Causeâ€™:
â€˜If Mr Gladstone has never faltered in his services to Ireland, Ireland has
not faltered in the confidence with which she has repaid him.â€™269 The
statesmanâ€™s retirement added weight to his words and deeds, which
continued to attract the reverent comment of the anti-Parnellite press:
He is still the great missionary power, preaching Home Rule to the people of Great
Britain . . . He was the first great apostle of National Brotherhood to the two great
democracies and he brought that glorious gospel home to hearts of both people
Mr. T. D. Sullivan, MP, in rep., â€˜The Irish National Federation: bohern Abreena
Branchâ€™, FJ, 25 Apr. 1892, 5. Cf. l.a., FJ, 24 June 1892, 4; see also John Deasy, MP,
in rep., â€˜The Nationalist Convention in Louthâ€™, 23 June 1892, 6.
McCarthy to R. C. M. Praed, 2 Mar. 1894, NLI, MS 24,958 (39).
â€˜Mr Gladstone (cheers) had devoted the last years of his magnificent life to the work of
undoing all the injustice which his country had inflicted on Ireland in the past, and to his
(Mr Dillonâ€™s) own knowledge . . . he was in his retirement thinking more of Ireland than
of any other subject.â€™ (John Dillon cited in rep., â€˜The National movement: great meeting
in Co. Wexfordâ€™, Cork Examiner, 2 Jan. 1895, 6. See also rep., â€˜Nationalist meeting in
the North [Magherafelt, Co. Derry]â€™, ibid., 18 Jan. 1895, 5.)
â€˜Go to the polls and support only the candidates who are in favour of Mr Gladstoneâ€™s
Irish policy, to the return of the Liberal party â€“ the party of Home Rule â€“ the party which
has never taken up any great cause without ultimately carrying it to victory.â€™ From the
Manifesto of the Irish National League of Great Britain, signed by T. P. Oâ€™Connor, in
FJ, 11 July 1895, 5.
L.a., â€˜Mr Gladstoneâ€™s eighty-fifth birthdayâ€™, FJ, 29 Dec. 1894, 4.
160 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism
[sic]. In the old days it was the reproach of the Coercionists that he had single-
handedly converted the Liberal party and the people of Great Britain to the
principles of Home Rule.
And the Freemanâ€™s Journal continued, quoting â€˜Gerald Massy, the poet of
Well they may call him the one man power,
Standing alone where thereâ€™s room but for one,
In his pride of place like a mountain tower
That catches the rays of the rising sun.
We in the valley of final decision
Gather around him as close as we can
To see what he sees from his summit of vision â€“
The triumph that beckons the Grand Old Man.270
By 1895 Gladstone had been elevated to the status of a lay saint in
Nationalist hearts â€“ â€˜he is a miracle, not a manâ€™.271 The â€˜Friendly Sons of
St Patrickâ€™ â€“ an organization of Irish Americans â€“ forwarded to Gladstone
a farewell address, which was â€˜finely engrossed on vellum and bound in
morocco leather, beautifully embossed with goldâ€™. It celebrated
and testified to the success of Gladstoneâ€™s own interpretation of Home
Rule and the Irish national cause. The eulogy started by stating that
â€˜[t]he civilized world sees with equal regret and admiration the close
of an unusually long career as a leader, devoted alike to the best interest
of his native country and to those of humanity.â€™ It went on to praise
Gladstoneâ€™s â€˜heroic and persistent endeavourâ€™ to secure for the people
of Ireland â€˜the simple meed of political and social justice enjoyed by
Great Britain and her coloniesâ€™ â€“ for example, Canada, â€˜and the colonies
of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the West Indiesâ€™. And
it concluded by expressing to Gladstone the â€˜admiration, respect and
gratitudeâ€™ of â€˜Americans of every race and creedâ€™.272 Blake wrote in
similar terms: â€˜Among the peoples of that Continent [America] your
personality has become identified with the cause of freedom, and you
are to them the embodiment of their highest ideal of the statesman.â€™273
â€˜Mr Gladstone will doubtless receive many messages of congratulation. But none will be
warmer than those that well, pure and warm, from the hearts of every Irishman worthy of
the name.â€™ (L.a., â€˜Mr Gladstoneâ€™s eighty-fifth birthdayâ€™, FJ, 29 Dec. 1894, 4.)
Ibid. 272 Rep., â€˜Irish-Americans and Mr Gladstoneâ€™, FJ, 8 Jan. 1895, 5.
Blake to W. E. Gladstone, 2 Mar. 1894, in Blake Letters, , 4683. For a Canadian
â€˜odeâ€™ to Gladstone, Blake, Laurier, Cleveland and Henry George see letter by Thomas
Harris, â€˜a poor farmerâ€™, to Blake, 28 Jan. 1893 in ibid., 4685. For prose versions of
similar panegyrics about the GOM and Irish freedom see M. E. Keep, Mayor of Halifax
and former President of the Irish Charitable Society, to Blake, 24 Feb. 1893 , and
M. D. McEniry to Blake, 28 Feb. 1893 , both in ibid.
Constitutional Nationalism and popular liberalism 161
Commenting on Gladstoneâ€™s 1845 aborted tour of Ireland, the Freemanâ€™s
How different might have been the story of Ireland had the Gladstone of 1845
known even as much as of Ireland as the Gladstone of 1870! When the light came,
however, this friend of justice did not sin against it. He followed it bravely and
loyally to the end, and made it a beacon to those who had been ignorant of
Irelandâ€™s story and blind to her rights. The beacon will never cease to burn as
long as British history contains the name of Gladstone.274
Empire and jingoism
The â€˜Union of Heartsâ€™ popularized a psuedo-â€˜Burkeanâ€™ interpretation of
the links between national self-government and the empire.275 Centred
around the notion of the compatibility between â€˜local patriotismâ€™ and
â€˜imperial loyalismâ€™, which Gladstone had championed from 1886,276
such a view was endorsed by the strong pro-Home Rule lobbies in the
settlement colonies and especially Canada. Already in May 1882 the
Canadian Parliament had written to the Queen, commending the advan-
tages of federalism and its applicability to Ireland.277 In February 1886
the Assembly of Quebec â€“ a province comparable to Ireland in that it was
divided along religious and language lines â€“ commended the imperial
dimension of Home Rule.278 These moves were widely echoed in Ireland.
In January 1887, the Nationalist MP T. P. Gill surveyed the events which
led â€“ through rebellion and reform â€“ to Canadaâ€™s â€˜home ruleâ€™ in 1867,
L.a., FJ, 8 Jan. 1895, 4. For responses in the USA, Australia and New Zealand see E. L.
Godkin, â€˜American opinion and the Irish questionâ€™, Nineteenth century, 22 (Au. 1887),
285â€“92; J. F. Hogan, The Irish in Australia (1887) and the modern studies J. P. Oâ€™Farrell,
The Irish in Australia: 1788 to the present (2001) and R. P. Davis, Irish issues in New
Zealand politics, 1868â€“1922 (1974).
J. E. Redmond cited â€˜the great Irishman Edmund Burkeâ€™ as a leading authority on the
matter of how to rule Ireland: rep.,â€˜The National League: the Irish Billsâ€™ (a meeting of
the Central branch of the INL to comment upon the 1886 Bills), FJ, 21 Apr. 1886, 6. As
early as October 1885 the Freemanâ€™s Journal had run a series on â€˜Colonial constitutionsâ€™
by Sir Charles Gavan Duffy (FJ, 8 Oct. 1885, 5).
W. E. Gladstone, â€˜The first Home Rule Bill, April 8, 1886â€™ in Gladstoneâ€™s speeches ed.
by A. Tinley Bassett (1916), 640â€“3; rep., â€˜Mr Gladstone in Wrexhamâ€™, FJ, 5 Sep. 1888,