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W. J. Mommsen, The political and social theory of Max Weber (1989), 74, 80.
82
Marsh, Chamberlain, 119.
370 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

the other hand, though pragmatically justifiable and not irreconcilable
with British Liberal party traditions, the corporatist notion of representa-
tion which collective affiliation would have entailed was different from the
mainstream Liberal and democratic emphasis on individual rights. The
latter was the backbone of traditional English libertarian radicalism, and
still widely accepted by many artisans and skilled workers outside the
mining regions.83 Even in the north-east, the workers articulated their
communitarian ideology in liberal-individualist terms, which com-
pounded the problem by creating misunderstandings and additional
tension between local leaders and their followers, and between trade
unions and their members.
While these were real problems from an electoral point of view,
throughout the 1890s the NLF rank and file continued to worry about
both the accountability of the parliamentary party to the council and a
reduction of bureaucratic centralization within the NLF. Such demands
showed the extent to which many members wanted the NLF to remain ˜a
Parliament outside Parliament™, rather than become a modern party
machine. To their demands Gladstone had offered a charismatic, rather
than an institutional, answer. He managed to reconcile their democratic
aspiration with the needs of electioneering and party discipline through
his own personal prestige. In the short run, it worked: Liberal associations
and working-class pressure groups trusted him even when they did not
really approve of what he did. As we have seen, Irish Nationalists
regarded Parnell “ and eventually Gladstone himself “ with similar feel-
ings and attitudes. However, the GOM™s retirement, like Parnell™s fall
and subsequent death, opened up a Pandora™s box of constitutional
troubles. Eventually, Herbert Samuel told the 1897 council that there
were three ways forward for the NLF if they wanted ˜to make that
assembly the real Parliament of the Liberal party™:
One was that there should be subordinate federations, which would discuss in
provincial assemblies the various resolutions, and, after sifting them, send them
up to the General Council. A second proposal was that they should do as the
Trade Union Congress did, and sit a week for the discussion of the various
questions in which they were interested; and the third proposal was that [the]
assembly should, by some means, be split up into committees for the discussion of
the various groups of questions that went to the formation of the programme of
the party.84

83
Especially in large cities, with a differentiated economic and labour structure, attempts to
pledge trade union support for specific causes or candidates had often been resisted by
members, and the right of the leaders to do so publicly challenged: for an example see the
letter by ˜A [trade] Unionist™, Leeds Mercury, 2 Feb. 1874, 3.
84
Samuel, NLFAR, 1897, 78“9.
Democracy and the politics of humanitarianism 371

The second alternative would have been consistent with the tradition of
charismatic democracy; the third the most innovative and democratic, as
well as closest to a more modern model of a political party. However, it is
significant that it was the first one “ the effective dismemberment of the
council in regional federations “ which eventually triumphed, with the
Herbert Gladstone reforms at the turn of the century. Such a solution
favoured concerns of ˜representation™ and direct participation over those
of national debate and rank-and-file control of the party. Members would
be better able to ˜voice™ their views; however, the NLF became less able to
influence the parliamentary party and its programme. Effectively, it was
deprived of a national voice, and made more similar to the mass organ-
izations of the Irish National party before 1895, but without the electoral
advantage which the latter had enjoyed “ namely, centralization under
decisive parliamentary leadership.
In 1885“1910 there was little working-class demand for a ˜socialist™, or
even ˜independent labour™, party. However, there was need for an effec-
tive democratic party, willing and able to represent and defend the interests
of the Nonconformist middle classes and organized labour. Such a party
would voice, propose and elaborate relevant policies, and provide the
electoral organization for carrying them into the realm of practical poli-
tics. The NLF was a debating arena, but its relationship with the parlia-
mentary party was ambiguous and unclear. It incorporated two ˜souls™ at
war with each other: the autocratic electoral ˜machine™, and the demo-
cratic assembly. Neither was ever able to triumph over the other, though
for as long as Gladstone was active, his charisma maintained an equili-
brium. After him, the party went through a number of constitutional
changes and adaptations, but, in the end, still required charismatic lead-
ership to operate effectively. In the new century, the Liberals were for-
tunate enough to find Asquith, Churchill and Lloyd George, who became
viable popular leaders. However, the NLF as such could not really
become the ˜machine™ it was required to be and which the party™s labour
constituency needed in order to assert its influence. This failure must be
regarded as one of the reasons for the ˜rise of Labour™.
In Ireland, the INL and its successors dealt with similar problems in
different ways, with interesting outcomes. Partly because of the need to
assert Irish unity against both Unionists and Liberals, partly because of
the clerical ˜block vote™, but largely because of Parnell™s unique historical
role, the INL prioritized the electoral machine at the expense of the
representative assembly. Yet, finding a satisfactory balance between par-
liamentary party and mass organization was a difficult and delicate oper-
ation, which frequently had to be renegotiated, especially after Parnell™s
fall. Despite various attempts and the rise of the INF, no effective solution
372 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

was reached until 1900, with the emergence of the UIL and the reunifi-
cation of the parliamentary party. Even then, many complained that the
parliamentary masters of the ˜machine™ were suffocating the political
energy of the new generation. From 1906, Sinn Fein began to offer an
alternative source of political identity. As a party, it evolved a structure
which “ with its emphasis on participatory citizenship, representative
bodies and large, unwieldy sovereign general assembly85 “ was reminis-
cent of what the NLF and its modern ekklesia had tried to be between
1891 and 1895. But the political and social context was different and,
whether or not Sinn Fein was as ˜clericalist™ as John Dillon thought (see
chapter 1, p. 32), the Catholic clergy on whose help they relied were
increasingly anti-modernist and anti-liberal in outlook.86

Conclusion
By August 1918 Dillon was aware that his party would face ˜destruction™
at the next general election, accurately expecting it to secure no more than
seven to ten seats.87 With the obliteration of the National party, both
liberalism and internationalism were temporarily eclipsed in Ireland.
Internationalism re-emerged, in various ways, especially from the
1950s, when the republic began to play an active role in the politics of
the United Nations and Amnesty International.88 Likewise, ˜liberal™
nationalism did not die out in 1918 since its basic values and principles
were reasserted from 1922, when the country emerged from civil war to
become one of the most stable parliamentary democracies in the world.
Throughout the period from 1865 at least, the affinities between Irish
Home Rulers and British radicals were based on their shared assumption
that ˜liberty™ primarily meant self-government. This was what political
theorists often refer to as ˜positive™ or ˜neo-roman™ liberty. Of course, it

85
Laffan, Resurrection, 171“3.
86
T. Garvin, ˜Priests and patriots: Irish separatism and fear of the modern, 1890“1914™,
Irish Historical Studies, 25, 97 (1986), 67“81; S. Paseta, ˜Ireland™s last Home Rule
ˇ
generation: the decline of constitutional nationalism in Ireland, 1916“30™, in
M. Cronin and J. M. Regan (eds.), Ireland: the politics of independence, 1922“49
(Basingstone, 2000), 13“31.
87
C. P. Scott™s diary entry for 7“8 Aug. 1918, in T. Wilson (ed.), The political diaries of
C. P. Scott, 1911“1928 (1970), 352.
88
E. Keane, An Irish statesman and revolutionary (2006); M. Kennedy and J. Morrison
Skelly (eds.), Irish foreign policy 1919“1969: from independence to internationalism (Dublin,
2000); M. Kennedy and E. O™Halpin (eds.), Ireland and the Council of Europe: from
isolation towards integration (2000); O. O™Leary and H. Burke, Mary Robinson (1998).
For the internationalist dimension see M. Kennedy, Ireland and the League of Nations,
1919“1946 (1996); R. A. Stradling, The Irish and the Spanish Civil War, 1936“1939
(1999), 145“85; and English, Ernie O™Malley, 130“73.
Democracy and the politics of humanitarianism 373

was merely one among many competing “ and sometimes conflicting “
understandings of liberty discussed at the time in the British Isles. In
particular, an alternative definition assumed importance during the
Home Rule split and subsequent debate: namely, one rooted in both a
concern for the preservation of religious freedom and a fear of the political
intolerance and ˜economic bigotry™ of the Catholic peasantry in a Home
Rule Ireland. This understanding of liberty “ close to what Isaiah Berlin
has described as ˜negative™ liberty “ inspired many Radicals to reaffirm
their support for the 1800 Act of Union. Their belief that the centralized
Westminster model would be the best parliamentary framework for rec-
onciling order with progress, minority rights and individual originality
was based on a long-established constitutional tradition. Therefore it is
not surprising that so many ˜advanced™ Liberals continued to support it
after 1886. Instead, what is surprising is that not more of them did, and
that the schism was not even more devastating for the Liberal party,
which soon recovered from the split and evolved into a radicalized polit-
ical force, able to compete successfully with the new socialist and inde-
pendent labour left.
The latter was the main casualty of the prolonged Home Rule crisis. In
Ireland it was permanently marginalized by Unionism in the North and
constitutional Nationalism in the South.89 In Britain, the ILP, SDF and
early Labour party were long constrained by the Liberal straitjacket “ the
most they could do was to insist that they were ˜better™ or more ˜real™
liberals than those belonging to the party of Gladstone, Asquith and
Lloyd George. Until 1918 such claims were hardly credible.
Thus another conclusion that can be drawn from the present work is
that throughout the British Isles the Home Rule crisis was essential to
securing the viability of what Kissane describes as ˜democratic elitism™ “
˜whereby a dominant political elite proves able to absorb a variety of
influences while at the same time maintaining their pivotal position
within the system™.90 In Ireland this reflected the Nationalist party™s
˜sole rights™ over the goal of parliamentary self-government, ˜[a] most
richly ambiguous and winningly incoherent political concept™, as Jackson
puts it.91 In Ulster, Unionist hegemony developed along parallel lines,
and relied on political concepts which were similarly ˜ambiguous™ and
˜incoherent™, and equally ˜winning™ in terms of popular support. In


89
G. Walker, The politics of frustration: Harry Midgley and the failure of Labour in Northern
Ireland (1985); C. Fitzpatrick, ˜Nationalising the ideal: Labour and nationalism in
Ireland, 1909“1923™, in Biagini (ed.), Citizenship and community, 276“304; R. English,
Radicals and the republic: socialist republicanism in the Irish Free State, 1925“1937 (1994).
90
Kissane, Explaining Irish democracy, 228. 91 Jackson, Home Rule, 106.
374 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

Britain, the Home Rule agitation played a key role in bringing about what
Peter Clarke has described as ˜the greatest achievement of Gladstonian
populism™, namely ˜[running] a democratic party by keeping class out of
politics™.92 Irish working-class support for Gladstone and the rise of
Liberal nationalism in Wales deprived budding socialist groups of poten-
tial constituencies. The dawn of a new era of ˜class politics™ “ which
contemporaries had long been predicting and modern historians are
eager to identify “ was postponed for two generations. While between
1896 and 1906 social radicalism failed to sideline religion as the normal
source of political alignment, the rise of the Labour party was largely a
phenomenon of the 1920s. Indeed, even by 1929 the Labour leader
Ramsay MacDonald was more comfortable championing traditional
Gladstonian policies “ such as humanitarianism, free trade and a prin-
cipled foreign policy “ than the socialist New Jerusalem.93
Between 1906 and 1914 Liberal governments initiated ground-
breaking social legislation and managed to overcome all sorts of consti-
tutional challenges, but were unable to solve the Irish Home Rule crisis.
This failure was closely related to the outbreak of the First World War, in
itself but the culmination of a series of international crises for whose
˜mismanagement™ Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, was widely
criticized by both Radicals and Irish Nationalists, often in terms reminis-
cent of the Gladstonian tradition.94 The latter also surfaced in John
Redmond™s 1916 denunciation of the government™s repression of the
Easter Rising.95 It was a speech which the GOM would have been better
able to appreciate than either Lloyd George or the leaders of Sinn Fein.
But it was to them that the future belonged. In both countries, such a
future was to be dominated by parliamentary centralism, ˜national™ values
and the power of the executive, in contrast to the old Gladstonian
advocacy of local initiative and self-government. In a way, it was Cham-
berlain™s posthumous revenge.
Yet, the Liberal party had no shortage of post-Gladstonian idealists
or humanitarian crusaders, including intellectuals, politicians and pub-
licists such as C. P. Trevelyan, Norman Angell, Arthur Ponsonby,
J. A. Hobson, E. D. Morel and H. N. Brailsford. The last of these embodied
many of the trends surveyed in the present book: a strong critic of British
rule in Ireland, he started his career in 1898 as a Manchester Guardian
special correspondent in Crete, in the aftermath of the massacres, and

92
Clarke, Liberals and social democrats, 7.
93
Marquand, Ramsay MacDonald, 328“9; D. Howell, MacDonald™s party: Labour identities
and the crisis, 1922“1931 (2002), 227“31.
94
Lyons, Dillon, 322, 355“6. 95 Ibid., 405.
Democracy and the politics of humanitarianism 375

was an active pro-Boer from 1899. With Bryce and the Buxton brothers he
was a founding member of the Balkan Committee in 1902 and from 1907
became the censor of the government™s foreign policy (he joined the ILP in
protest against Liberal imperialism in Egypt). From 1914 he was a leading
light in the Union of Democratic Control (UDC), and after the war went
on to champion the League of Nations and a revision of the Versailles
Treaty for the purpose of redressing the vindictive peace terms imposed
upon Germany.96 Like other radicals of his generation, he was enthusiastic
about the Bolshevik revolution, a cause which at first attracted considerable
sympathy in Britain, largely on account of the combined influence of
internationalism, democracy and pacifism.97
Meanwhile, in 1919“21 H. W. Massingham fulminated against the
repressive policies introduced by the Lloyd George government for the
purpose of crushing the republican revolution in Ireland. It was like a
re-enactment of the Gladstonian anti-coercion campaigns, but with
a difference: now British Radicals advocated full independence for
Dublin and, despairing of the Liberal party™s inability to stand up for
liberty, many of them defected to Labour.98 Moreover, James Bryce, one
of the supporters of the Armenians in 1895“6, became the chairman of a
group of Radical and UDC politicians and journalists which drafted the
1915 ˜Proposals for the prevention of future wars™, which became one of
the most important preliminary schemes for the League of Nations.99
The Liberals emerged from the war hopelessly divided, while the UDC
facilitated the exodus of a significant number of both Cobdenite and
social radicals to Labour by championing the old Gladstonian faith in
rationalism and humanitarianism in foreign politics. Again, the decisive
factor was not social radicalism, but the assertion of the traditional
principles of ˜peace, retrenchment and reform™ together with democratic
control over foreign policy (the cause for which Gladstone had made his

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