Gladstone and the Irish Nation

By J. L. Hammond | Go to book overview
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In the summer of 1889 Gladstone wrote to Döllinger in reply to a letter in which Döllinger had been expressing his Unionist views and his reasons for them. "It is most touching," replied Gladstone

"that your misgivings as to Home Rule in Ireland should spring from the high value you set upon the vocation of England. It is in truth, my completely accordant estimate of that vocation which makes me almost more anxious for Home Rule on England's behalf than on Ireland's. Ireland is at present a source of military weakness, as well as of moral discredit. It is fearful to reflect that, when Bonaparte was threatening us with invasion, we had to keep 140,000 armed men in Ireland, for which, six or seven years before, 50,000 had sufficed. However I cannot complain of the march of opinion in this country. I may die, and (which would be more serious) Parnell may die; but the end will come so soon as the people have an opportunity of giving judgment."1

Thus in the summer of 1889 Gladstone thought that the worst disaster that could befall Home Rule would be the death of Parnell. He learned in the winter of 1890 that he was wrong. Parnell's death would have been a small disaster compared with Parnell's disgrace. Home Rule might have survived the first; it was destroyed--for Gladstone's lifetime and long after--by the second.

Between the close of the Commission and the issue and discussion of the Report Parnell made his first and only visit to Hawarden. Everything promised well for the success of the Liberal party and it was obviously desirable that the details of a Home Rule settlement should be carefully examined as the time for action approached.

Gladstone to Döllinger, July 13, 1889.


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