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brought his partnership with Chamberlain to an end. Undeterred, he
himself orchestrated the final break ˜to ensure that he would not only be
sacked, but would be sacked for reasons that would rally Ulster farmers in
his support™.106 Meanwhile he had energetically renewed his old policy of
compulsory land purchase and presented it in ˜revolutionary™ terms as a
scheme for the general state-sponsored transfer of all agricultural land in
Ireland, except for that directly occupied by the landlords. His plan
convinced William O™Brien, and the United Irish League (UIL) adopted
it as part of their strategy “ indeed, used it to expand their appeal from the
˜congested™ counties of the west to the prosperous tenant farmers in the
east.107 Thus, although as Bew has written, Russell was ˜a rather unlikely
friend of the UIL™,108 especially in view of his virulent anti-Catholicism,
his Parnell-style hostility to the landowners and commitment to compul-
sory sale eventually brought him closer to O™Brien. In turn, the latter
gradually overcame his aversion to what he had frequently described as
˜the bigot of South Tyrone™. From December 1901 Russell started to
support the UIL in its struggle over the De Freyne estate in Roscommon;
then, with Nationalist help, Russellite candidates won by-elections at
East Down (February 1902) and North Fermanagh (March 1903),
which had previously been held by the Unionists. Once again the spectre
of class-based radical politics was weakening Unionism and challenging
Nationalist certainties.
Russell had always been a very independent MP, but in June 1901,
after his break with Chamberlain, he actually established his own organ-
ization, the Ulster Farmers™ and Labourers™ Union and Compulsory
Purchase Association, building on a pre-existing network of tenant
groups in the province. Like the UIL, it demanded that the policy of
compulsory purchase also be applied to grazing tracts in the west, which


105
T. W. Russell, Ireland and the empire: a review, 1800“1900 (1901), 126“7; Jackson, ˜Irish
Unionism and the Russellite threat™, 381“9; Loughlin, ˜Russell™, 55, 58.
106
Loughlin, ˜Russell™, 59; Jackson, The Ulster party, 226“7.
107
Campbell, Land and revolution, 47“50.
108
P. Bew, Conflict and conciliation in Ireland, 1890“1910: Parnellites and radical agrarians
(1987), 87.
296 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

should ˜[be] cut up and made into workable holdings™.109 Despite this, he
believed that such a radical reform would result not in the extinction, but
in the regeneration of the landowners as a ruling elite. In ways reminiscent
of Parnell and Gladstone™s vision in the mid-1880s, he thought that ˜[t]he
Irish landlord, freed from all the friction attached to ownership of land,
has a great future before him in the country. By birth, education and
position, he is entitled, and oftentimes he is well-qualified, to lead in a
country where leadership is the one thing necessary.™110
Despite this ˜conservative™ dream, Russell, again like Gladstone and
Parnell before him, played on the growing class polarization in Irish
politics, one which had recently been illustrated by the first elections
held under the 1898 Local Government Act. The latter established
county and district councils, elected triennially on simple household
franchise which included women. Although the Ulster Liberal
Unionists had always protested their support for the establishment of
county councils, Loughlin™s claim that they ˜strongly pressed™ for it
should not be taken without qualification. Only the tenant-rights faction
of the party was consistently in favour of local democracy. By contrast, the
landowners had long been worried by Chamberlain™s proposals and
regarded radicals like Russell as class enemies.111 They had reason to
fear that democracy would involve ˜[the] absolute transfer of administra-
tive control over county affairs from the representatives of the landlord
class and the larger ratepayers to occupiers at large™, resulting in ˜the
interests of the larger ratepayers [being] completely swamped™, with a
consequent ˜complete divorce between taxation and representation™.112
In a last-ditch attempt to avoid such an outcome, they pressed, unsuc-
cessfully, for two-member constituencies. Eventually Gerald Balfour,
perhaps playing to the British and essentially ˜liberal™ voters,113 pushed
through a Bill whose electoral consequences were indeed as radical as the
ULUA had anticipated. Despite Unionist reforms and the Congested
Districts Board, Nationalist feeling ran high, and its representatives

109
Russell, Ireland and the empire, 204; and ˜Compulsory purchase™ in Ireland: five speeches
made by Mr T. W. Russell MP (1901), PRONI, D/1507/A/2/3.
110
T. W. Russell, ˜Ireland and Irish land once more™, Fortnightly Review, 409 n.s., 1 Jan.
1901, 19.
111
A. C. Sellar to H. de F. Montgomery, 13 Mar. 1888, PRONI, D/627/428/36; J. Sinclair to
H. de F. Montgomery, 1 May 1888, D/627/428/44; W. Kenny to H. de F. Montgomery,
21 Apr. 1889, D/627/428/97; J. M. Stewart, MP to H. de F. Montgomery, 1 July 1892,
D/627/428/187.
112
Ulster Liberal Unionist Association, 89.
113
A. Gailey, ˜Unionist rhetoric and Irish local government reform, 1895“9™, Irish Historical
Studies, 24, 93 (1984), 52“68. Cf. C. Shannon, ˜The Ulster Liberal Unionists and local
government reform, 1885“1898™, Irish Historical Studies, 18, 71 (1973), 407“23.
Social radicalism and the ˜popular front™ 297

gained a convincing victory at the next election: 551 seats against 125
Unionist seats (86 of which were in Ulster).114 Worse still, the election
destroyed not only Unionist power in the South, but also landlord influ-
ence in the North-East. The decline of landlordism was then further
accelerated by George Wyndham, whose 1903 scheme of land purchase
was voluntary “ for compulsion would have been met with strong cross-
class resistance except in Ulster and the west of Ireland “ but effective.
Under the Act nearly 200,000 tenants became owner-occupiers
eventually.115
Russell was still ostensibly a Unionist, but argued that, with the defeat
of Home Rule, Protestant tenant farmers could at last afford to vote for
their economic interests rather than their patriotic allegiances, which
meant against the landlords, irrespective of party affiliation. Thus his
agrarian radicalism implied the politics of class struggle supplanting the
anti-Nationalist alignment, which now appeared irrelevant and obso-
lete.116 Not surprisingly, his strategy both alienated orthodox Liberal
Unionists and brought about a rapprochement between Russell and
the British Liberals: from the beginning of 1904 he was in receipt of
financial support from Herbert Gladstone.117 By 1906, although still
claiming to be a Radical Unionist, he openly campaigned against both
Conservatives and Liberal Unionists. His priority remained the achieve-
ment of compulsory purchase despite the fact that the unexpected cost of
˜Mr Chamberlain™s war™ (in South Africa) limited the government™s
ability to implement further land reform in either Ireland or Britain.118
On the other hand, Irish remedies were not universally applicable,
as illustrated by a comparison with the Scottish Highlands, where the
situation was supposedly similar to that in the west of Ireland. In 1897
the Unionist government established a Congested District Board for
Scotland, hoping that it would replicate the success already achieved by
its Irish namesake since 1891. In particular, the Scottish Board was
instructed to carry out a policy of land purchase which “ the government
hoped “ would free the landlords from the embarrassment associated with
the dual-ownership regime of the 1886 Crofter Act. As Ewen Cameron
has shown, the Board pursued this policy with some determination but
against the hostility of the crofters, who feared the loss of the protection

114
Shannon, Balfour, 103.
115
M. O™Callaghan, British high politics and Nationalist Ireland: criminality, land and the law
under Forster and Balfour (1994), 149; Campbell, Land and revolution, 79“80; T. Dooley,
The decline of the big house in Ireland (2001).
116
Russell, Ireland and the empire, 126“7. 117 Bew, Conflict and conciliation, 90“1.
118
Four-page leaflet of a speech by ˜Mr Russell on land reform™, 1906, PRONI,
D/3036/F/3.
298 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

they enjoyed under the 1886 Act and were reluctant to commute their
˜fair™ rent for the (higher) purchase annuity. Most crofters managed to
resist purchase until the Liberal government reversed the Unionist strat-
egy and instructed the Board to act as landlord on the estates already
purchased, allowing the crofters to remain as tenants.119 Worse, those
who had purchased ˜petitioned the government to resume their crofting
status™.120
Here then we have a complete reversal of the Irish scenario, and this was
not simply a result of the crofters being less politicized and assertive than the
Irish tenants. For even in Ulster, where the farmers were not nationalist and
their relationship with the gentry was less frayed than in the South, agrarian
radicals of all party persuasions campaigned for compulsory purchase. By
contrast, in the Highlands the Liberals campaigned for a retention of the
dual-ownership system against voluntary land purchase, which the Unionist
government wanted to make virtually ˜compulsory™ at the tenants™ expense.
Part of the difference was certainly owing to the fact that the Irish, empow-
ered by nationalism, had obtained more generous terms which the govern-
ment was not prepared to extend to the Highland crofters. But the
difference was also that the crofters™ real pressing need was to secure more
land and larger allotments, rather than ownership of the usually inadequate
and unprofitable small crofts they already held. Furthermore, while the Irish
tenants were small entrepreneurs who improved their farms and demanded
compensation, the latter was not a major concern for the crofters, who
depended more on the landlords™ investments. In these respects the differ-
ence between crofters and Irish farmers was one of class, the crofters being
somehow closer to the Irish labourers than to the comparatively more
prosperous and ambitious Irish tenants.121
The closest parallel to the sectionalism and rural radicalism in North-
East Ulster is therefore offered by the developments in the Nationalist
camp. There Gladstone™s 1894 resignation had been a signal for renewing
the struggle for the party™s soul. In particular, John Redmond and the
Parnellites courted agrarian radicalism and Fenianism.122 Healy seemed
bent on destroying what remained of the party ˜machine™ through his

119
E. A. Cameron, ˜Politics, ideology and the Highland land issue, 1886 to the 1920s™,
Scottish Historical Review, 72, 193 (1993), 68“71 and Cameron, ˜The Scottish Highlands
as a special policy area,1886 to 1965™, Rural History, 8 (1997), 196“201.
120
Cameron, ˜Communication or separation?™, 662; see also 657“9.
121
Although scholars are now beginning to explore the tensions, within the crofting
community, between the crofters and the even poorer class of landless Highland cottars:
Cameron, ˜Communication or separation?™, 655, 645 n. 71.
122
Bew, Conflict and conciliation, 23“4; M. Kelly, ˜˜˜Parnell™s Old Brigade™™: the
Redmondite“Fenian nexus in the 1890s™, Irish Historical Studies, 33, 130 (2002),
209“32.
Social radicalism and the ˜popular front™ 299

People™s Rights Association, which campaigned for a return to local
constituency autonomy in close alliance with the clergy. Even before
the 1895 electoral campaign, ˜Healyism™ had generated strong tensions
within both the parliamentary group and the rank and file.123 As we have
seen (chapter 3), such tensions came to a head during the election, when
Healy publicly attacked the ˜pro-Liberal™ leaders “ Justin McCarthy, John
Dillon, Edward Blake, Thomas Sexton, William O™Brien and Michael
Davitt “ famously claiming that they had ˜sold™ parliamentary seats in the
North to the Liberals for £200 each.124
The virulence of the now multiple split reflected not just differences
about internal party matters, but also fundamental divergences about the
overall Nationalist strategy. Redmond and Healy reverted to a policy of
independence from British parties, dismissing the differences between
Liberals and Unionists as irrelevant while being prepared to accept fur-
ther reforms from whatever quarter they might come. By contrast, Dillon
and the Federationists “ so named after the main anti-Redmondite
organization, the Irish National Federation (INF) “ clung resolutely to
the Liberal alliance and perceived the Nationalist cause in terms of Home
Rule alone.
A majority of the nationalists agreed: ˜The Liberal party of England had
been their allies, “ insisted the Rev. M™Polin of Newry (Co. Down) “ and
take them all in all, they had been faithful allies; and if the Irish people and
the Irish representatives were faithful to themselves and to their country
the English Liberals would also do their part, he was sure, honourably and
efficiently.™125 In particular, they denied that the Liberal alliance was
weakened by Rosebery™s accession to the leadership, despite his unprom-
ising attitude to Home Rule. For Dillon, if the latter was ˜taking a back
seat™ in Liberal politics, it was largely because of sectionalism and ˜futile
disputes™ among the Nationalists themselves.126 They reaffirmed their
confidence in Lord Rosebery and especially in John Morley. The diver-
gences between the two Liberal leaders were known, but were brushed
aside, partly because the defeat of Gladstone™s 1893 Bill meant that,
irrespective of who led party, there would be little chance of achieving



123
Rep., ˜Great Nationalist meeting in Galway™, FJ, 7 Jan.1895, 6.
124
For an account of the split see Lyons, ˜The Irish parliamentary party™, 191“5. For the
Nationalist response see l.a., FJ, 11 July 1895, 4, and ˜Mr Healy™s charges against his
colleagues: letter from the chairman of the Irish party™, FJ, 15 July 1895, 5.
125
Revd M. M™Polin, chairman of the meeting, cited in rep., ˜The conventions™, FJ, 10 July
1895, 5; similar views were expresses in l.a., Cork Examiner, 25 June 1895, 4.
126
Cited in rep., ˜The National movement: great meeting in Co. Wexford™, Cork Examiner,
2 Jan. 1895, 6; Cork Examiner, 26 May 1895, 4; Lyons, Irish parliamentary party, 48.
300 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

self-government in the near future,127 and partly because the new leader
would have to accept the case for Home Rule out of ˜necessity™ “ black,
unpleasant necessity . . . arising out of . . . the events of 1885 “ that alone,
but amply, justified H.[ome] R.[ule]™.128 Alfred Webb saw an opportu-
nity in this challenge: instead of whingeing about the defunct Home Rule
Bill, he felt that the time had come for the Irish patriots to help the British
Liberals. He argued that ˜[the Nationalists] hold themselves quite inde-
pendent, but they held that it did not show independence to refuse to help
those who had proved their willingness and anxiety to help them (hear,
hear). He believed in helping the English, Scotch and Welsh people who
had aided them when they most needed help.™129
Thus in the aftermath of the defeat of the second Home Rule Bill, there
were Federationists who welcomed the prospect of a campaign against
the House of Lords, ˜the citadel of the opponents of reform™, who had
always supported iniquity and injustice: ˜[s]lavery, religious ascendancy,
political corruption had there their last and their belated defenders. It has
defeated, delayed, mutilated every reform that was ever submitted to its
judgement.™ For the Freeman™s Journal ˜[t]he time has come to make an
end of its absurd privileges, and to clear the path of popular reform of the
last and biggest obstruction™.130 Michael Davitt thought that, ˜[i]f the
movement against the Lords is encouraged by Gladstone & the Cabinet
I think the next general election will be carried by the Liberals™.131 This
did not mean that in 1894“5 they were eager to see a dissolution. On the
contrary, they hoped that the government would stay on to implement the
work promised for the 1895 session. Its resignation in June caused ˜sur-
prise and some disappointment™. Nationalists regretted ˜[t]he abandon-
ment of a programme of most useful legislation, that had been carried to
the verge of success™, particularly Welsh disestablishment and Morley™s

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