Gladstone and the Irish Nation

By J. L. Hammond | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXII
THE BREAK WITH PARNELL

Gladstone had before him on November 25, 1890, the sudden prospect of the destruction of all his high hopes for Home Rule. There was a danger that the Liberal party would drop the policy, satisfied that in these changed conditions they could not carry it. It is clear from Morley's account of a talk with Chamberlain that Chamberlain expected this to happen and was thinking of reunion.1 If Gladstone could avert this danger, there was a second. The Liberal party might keep Home Rule and lose the election. In that case what would be the outlook for Home Rule? Two defeats in succession would be serious enough in themselves; they would be still more serious because they would involve the loss of the only Englishman, who, as Parnell himself had said, could persuade England to give Ireland self-government. Even Gladstone could hardly start a third campaign at ninety. If, on the other hand, Parnell would retire, Gladstone might still hope to win the next election. Everything, in so far as the prospect of saving Home Rule in England was concerned, seemed thus to depend on getting this personal issue out of the way of Home Rule. If Parnell withdrew Home Rule might still be won; if he stayed the cause was hopeless. Was it not therefore reasonable to take every step that might produce his retirement? Should anything else count against this supreme consideration?

To answer that question we must ask another.

Why had Gladstone taken up Home Rule? Because he alone had seen the Irish problem as a problem of the relations of two peoples. Salisbury, Hartington, Chamberlain,

____________________
1
Recollections, Vol. I, p, 265.

-649-

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