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tional consolidation and financial retrenchment, reversing the ˜profligate
expenditure™ of the last Liberal government ˜without the services being
impoverished™.92
Chamberlain was closer to the prevalent mood of popular Unionist
Radicals in the area of more conventional domestic reforms, which were
consistent with self-help and could provide a platform around which
all ˜true Liberals™ could unite. In particular the land laws could be
reformed: through ˜free trade in land™, ˜the number of the owners of the
soil must be largely increased; the conditions of the agricultural labourers
must be improved; charities and endowments require to be overhauled in
respect of the rights of the poor [and] there must be an extension of local
government on a popular basis™.93 Again, after 1886 such demands were
no longer specifically Liberal: indeed Chamberlain insisted that there was
˜a better chance of really popular reform from a Unionist Government
than from the Parnell“Gladstone [alliance]™.94 He was echoed not only by
the Unionist quality press, but more significantly by the London penny
weeklies, which expressed their confidence that, provided ˜the Tory party
sees that it must keep its bargain with the Liberal Unionists™, ˜Englishmen
of ordinary common sense . . . have no objection . . . to secure by Tory aid
solid legislative benefits which are apparently not worth the consideration
of those Liberals who . . . see nothing worth living [for] but the accom-
plishment of the separation of the three kingdoms.™95
There was the promise that other ˜solid fruits of true Liberal legisla-
tion™ would follow “ reforms ˜likely to work silent revolutions™, such as
the 1887 Tithes Bill and the Land Transfer Bill, which was expected
to abolish primogeniture, ˜making land transfer as easy as that of


91
˜A working man™, ˜A working man™s reasons™, and ˜Reformer of 1832™, ˜Mr Gladstone on
Home Rule and temperance™, in The Scotsman, 3 July 1886, 12; for similar views see also
l.a., ˜£150,000,000™, WT, 2 May 1886, 8“9.
92
L.a., ˜Mr Gladstone at Nottingham™, WT&E, 23 Oct. 1887, 8. For the cost of the
Unionist land purchase policy see B. Solow, Land question and the Irish economy,
1870“1903 (1971).
93
L.a., ˜Who are true Liberals?™, LW, 19 June 1887, 1; l.a., ˜Allotments for labourers™,
WT&E, 10 July 1887, 6.
94
Cited in M. C. Hurst, ˜Joseph Chamberlain, the Conservatives and the succession to
John Bright, 1886“89™, Historical Journal, 7, 1 (1964), 91.
95
L.a., ˜The fruits of Liberal-Unionism™, WT&E, 17 Apr. 1887, 9.
238 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

Consols™.96 However, these disappeared in the so-called ˜Massacre of the
Innocents™ at the end of the 1887 parliamentary session “ being crowded
out by more urgent and less radical Bills. Eventually the 1888 and 1889
Local Government Acts achieved what was described as practical ˜Home
Rule™ for Scotland, as well as for England and Wales.97 Indeed in
Scotland there was a feeling among members of the Land Law Reform
Association that Chamberlain remained more interested in their griev-
ances than the Gladstonian Liberals were.98 Free education was actually
introduced in 1891, and, although it failed to impress some
Nonconformists, it did provide some evidence that Liberal Unionism
was working for the people.99 On balance, however, in the early 1890s
Radical Unionism continued to be about traditional ˜popular liberal™
causes.

Coercion, for the sake of civil and religious liberty
Thus, although there was no consensus on the specifics of the radical
agenda, there was a link between the Union and social reform: as
˜A Scottish Workman™ commented in 1886, ˜[w]e are all yet living under
some unequal laws, but these will be removed more speedily and more
fairly by one united democracy as a first motive power, with a simple sense
of justice springing from the bosom of the people.™100 While in the second
half of the 1880s even the USA was reputed to be abandoning states™
rights for ˜consolidated institutions™ at its centre, ˜[t]he fatal blot in
Mr Gladstone™s new policy is . . . his false admission that the United
Parliament has at last proved a failure; that whatever we owe Ireland is
far too great a debt to be discharged by the united wisdom and the united
resources of the three Kingdoms™.101 In particular, Ireland needed ˜the
concentration of the attention of the people in the pursuit of industry, and
time for the remedial measures of last session to work. Substantial justice

96
˜The fruits of Liberal Unionism™, WT&E, 17 Apr. 1887, 8; l.a., ˜The session and the
Union™, LW, 24 July 1887, 1.
97
˜Home Rule for England™, WT&E, 25 Mar. 1888, 9; ˜Home Rule for Scotland™, WT&E,
14 Apr. 1889, 9. The measures alluded to were the County Councils Act of 1888 and the
equivalent Bill for Scotland, passed in 1889.
98
See reports by the secretaries of the Caithnesshire Liberal Association and of the
Kingussie Liberal Association, meeting of the Western Committee of the Scottish
Liberal Association, Glasgow, 26 June 1889, in Scottish Liberal Association, Minutes,
vol. I, 219“21.
99
˜What the Unionist government has done for the working man™, The Liberal Unionist,
June 1891, 205. For a Gladstonian Nonconformist dismissal of Unionist free education
see ˜Politics™, Primitive Methodist Quarterly Review, July 1891, 567“8.
100
˜What the Unionist government has done™.
101
L.a., ˜Surrender and despair™, WT&E, 2 Feb. 1890, 8.
The rise and fall of Radical Unionism 239

has been done by the Imperial Parliament, thereby taking away the
strongest pretext for the Home Rule cry.™102
From this point of view, even ˜Home Rule All Round™ was undesirable,
for it would turn the United Kingdom into a ˜nineteenth-century
Heptarchy™, saddling Ireland with an ˜insignificant™ national Parliament
which would represent the interests of a class (the farmers) rather than a
˜nationality™.103 Indeed ˜Home Rule All Round™ might be even worse
than simple Irish Home Rule, for the latter was like ˜[inoculating] the
United Kingdom with a mild virus . . . in the hope of thus preventing the
disease from becoming more dangerous™, while the former amounted to
inoculating the ˜virus™ ˜with the special purpose of developing and inten-
sifying the disease all round™.104 Likewise, while Chamberlain declared
himself in favour of imperial federation as early as 1888, the idea was
dismissed in the Liberal Unionist on the basis of all sorts of practical
objections “ from reluctance to meddle with an imperial system which
worked well as it stood, to scepticism as to whether the colonial govern-
ments would really tolerate any pooling of legislative powers.105
Liberalism stood for ˜independence™, both national and individual, but
also insisted on civil and religious liberty, the rule of law, and peaceful and
ordered progress. The last three were the values stressed by the Radical
Unionists. The view that they ought to be enforced at all costs was linked
to the ˜muscular™ trend in Victorian culture, with its admiration for
the Spartan ˜democratic™ features of contemporary Germany as a well-
ordered society with its peasant farmers and popular militia.106
Chamberlain, despite having built his career and reputation as an advo-
cate of participatory democracy, had no time for those like Schnadhorst


102
L.a., ˜This vexed Irish question™, LW, 2 Oct. 1887, 1
103
E. Myers, ˜The nationalities of the United Kingdom™, The Liberal Unionist, 27 Apr.
1887, 66“7; and letter from ˜A Congregationalist Minister™, ibid., 4 May 1887, 93
(opening quotation for this chapter) which proposes an interesting conceptual distinc-
tion between ˜nation™ (the UK) and ˜nationalities™. Home Rule All Round was more
popular in Scotland, among both Gladstonians and Unionists; see Hutchison, A political
history of Scotland, 173 and Cameron, Mackintosh, 3. See also pp. 96, 100“1. George
Canning™s claim that the repeal of the Union would bring about a regression to the
anarchy and impotence of the Heptarchy had been reintroduced into the Home Rule
debate by Thomas MacKnight of the Northern Whig in October 1885: MacKnight,
Ulster as it is, vol. II, 98“9.
104
E. Dawson, ˜Home Rule All Round™, The Liberal Unionist, June 1890, 204“5.
105
Hurst, ˜Chamberlain and Bright™, 90. Cf. T. Raleigh, ˜Imperial federation and Home
Rule™, The Liberal Unionist, Sep. 1888, 17“18 and l.a., ˜Imperial federation™, ibid., July
1891, 226“7.
106
L.a., ˜Landed tenure: tenant farmers versus landed proprietors™, RN, 29 Sep. 1867, 4;
l.a., ˜The Irish Land Commission™, NW, 24 July 1880, 4; but see also FJ,
17 Feb. 1880, 4.
240 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

or the Lib-labs, let alone Gladstone, who seemed to regard the process as
more important than the actual result. He compared politics, including
its parliamentary variety, to a profession, such as the medical one,107
which required the centralization of power in the hands of men of proven
ability and integrity (a further way in which he was closer to the high
Utilitarianism of the Indian Council than to those operating within the
J. S. Mill tradition).
Although Chamberlain himself embodied such ˜muscular™ radicalism,
the latter was most effectively articulated for the benefit of the artisan
classes by Lloyd™s Weekly and the Weekly Times & Echo. These two widely
circulated penny papers were already pursuing a no-nonsense approach
to the agitation in Ireland in 1881“5 when they dismissed both the ˜land
war™ and Home Rule as ˜seditious agitations™ brought about by Tory
misrule and Liberal timidity with regard to helping the country to ˜pro-
gress out of distress™.108 They advocated a two-pronged strategy consist-
ing of repression and equitable land reform, in the conviction that,
although the Land Leaguers were a reckless minority to be put down,
the social grievances which they exploited to subvert the tenant farmers
were genuine and should be redressed. They also echoed the widespread
notion that reforms should not precede the restoration of order, because
the British government could not ˜stoop to make terms with law-breakers™.
As one Nonconformist Unionist put it, this was ˜[the] just and Christian
way™ of dealing with Ireland.109 Chamberlain argued that coercion
was about protecting, indeed freeing the law-abiding majority from the
terror of the moonlighters: ˜[a] law of this kind . . . becomes tyranny in
the hands of tyrants, but in the hands of men who are liberal and just may
be a law of protection and of great mercy to Ireland™.110
The Phoenix Park assassinations in May 1882, the even more atrocious
Maamtrasna murders in August (when a whole family was slaughtered),
further assassinations and murder attempts, and finally the publication of
the results of the police inquiries all contributed to consolidating, even
within Liberal circles, the impression that coercion was inevitable for the
defeat of a large-scale criminal conspiracy.111 British public opinion was
both genuinely shocked by the extent to which rural Ireland appeared to
be in the grip of organized criminal gangs and perplexed by the utter


107
E. E. Gullie, Joseph Chamberlain and English social politics (1926), 252“3. Cf.
J. Chamberlain in The Nineteenth Century, 32 (1892), 688“9.
108
L.a., ˜The end of Tory rule™, WT&E, 4 Apr. 1880, 4.
109
The Baptist Magazine, May 1886, 230.
110
John Bright™s words, cited as conclusive evidence in l.a., ˜Coercion™, LW, 30 Jan. 1881, 6.
111
T. Corfe, The Phoenix Park murders (1968), 230“64. Cf. Davitt, Fall of feudalism, 381“2.
The rise and fall of Radical Unionism 241

exoticism and mystery of it all.112 The reports and telegrams from the
troubled areas regularly published in the metropolitan press, the parlia-
mentary debates which filled column upon column in the newspapers,
the extraordinary difficulties encountered by the Irish Secretary
W. E. Forster in his well-meaning but ill-fated attempts to improve the
country™s situation “ all suggested that Britain was dealing with an alien
and inexplicable reality: ˜[t]he very air™, wrote Lord Carlingford in 1885,
˜seems charged with hostility and hatred towards England and towards
Irishmen also of my class™.113 Two years earlier, the Liberal Chief
Secretary, G. O. Trevelyan, had similarly observed that ˜[t]he effect of
getting used to what is bad in Ireland is that you get more and more
disgusted with the whole thing. The perversity of everybody who either
writes or speaks is something inconceivable.™ He concluded that ˜[i]f
these people were left to themselves, we should have a mutual massa-
cre™.114 Even Parnell was said to be living in fear that he would be
assassinated if he did not appear to ˜deliver™ concessions from the govern-
ment.115 Could the ˜Resources of Civilization™ yet stop the terror through
which the Invincibles and other Fenian sects endeavoured to frustrate the
normal operation of civil government and defeat all hopes of peace and
progress? Or was Liberalism so ˜soft™ as to back away from force as a
means of executing justice, preserving the peace, protecting life and
property, and enforcing the law? Indeed, in 1884“5 the Gordon massacre
in Khartoum created the impression that Gladstone could not be trusted
in an emergency.116
In 1886 the worst type of crisis overwhelmed the Liberal party. For
those members in both Parliament and the country who followed
Chamberlain, it was not difficult to continue to find plausible reasons to
justify further coercion. First, the National League™s claim to be the
equivalent of a ˜trade union™ was highly questionable and indeed rejected
by members of the British labour movement. Second, even if one wanted
to maintain the parallel, there was the fact that under the 1875 Trade

112
Especially in the Maamtrasna case, ˜[t]he victims, and most of the men accused of the
crime, were all called Joyce; those not called Joyce were all called Casey. None of them
spoke English.™ (Hammond, Gladstone and the Irish nation, 316.)
113
Cited in Geary, Plan of Campaign, 8. Forster™s honesty and good intentions were
acknowledged even by the Nationalists: Davitt, The fall of feudalism, 346. For the long-
term effects of these reports about episodes of ˜cruelty and lawlessness on the English
temper™ see Hammond, Gladstone and the Irish nation, 37“48.
114
Cited, in O™Farrell, England and Ireland, 177.
115
H. Labouchere to J. Chamberlain, n.d. [June(?) 1882], in Gladstone Papers, Add. MSS
44125, f. 150.
116
Chamberlain, Political memoir, 83. Chamberlain to C. Dilke, 12 Sep. 1884, in JC
5/24/368.
242 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

Union Act intimidation and violence were illegal; therefore, in this
respect, the Irish Crimes Act was hardly exceptional.117 Third, despite
Nationalist propaganda, only a tiny minority of the farmers “ 2“4 per
cent118 “ joined the Plan of Campaign: it was possible to claim that they
were not ˜the masses™, but if anything ˜the classes™, that is, the criminal
groups intent on terrifying and manipulating public opinion. The case for
coercion was constantly kept in the public eye by the steady flow of press
reports about ˜outrages™, including murder and terrorism.119
The fact that Roman Catholic priests were occasionally involved in
instances of intimidation added to the alarm, irritation and disgust felt by
a predominantly Protestant and often anti-clerical readership towards the
Nationalists. Dismissing the specifically sectarian dimension of the con-
flict as marginal, the Liberal Unionists emphasized the allegedly broader
aspect of the problem: Ireland was part of a Catholic Europe struggling
to free itself from clerical domination. ˜When Frenchmen and Italians
protest against Clericalisme, no one is so stupid to accuse them of . . .
´
˜˜appealing to bigotry™™. It is in fact against . . . the political priest that

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