Coercion and Conciliation in Ireland, 1880-1892: A Study in Conservative Unionism

Coercion and Conciliation in Ireland, 1880-1892: A Study in Conservative Unionism

Coercion and Conciliation in Ireland, 1880-1892: A Study in Conservative Unionism

Coercion and Conciliation in Ireland, 1880-1892: A Study in Conservative Unionism

Excerpt

In recent years the origins, tactics, and aims of the Home Rule movement have received much attention from British and Irish scholars. Gladstone's pilgrimage toward the grail of Irish nationhood--what Tim Healy once referred to as "Gladstone and the Western Question"--as well as the character of Parnell and his constitutional agitation" have long fascinated historians and politicians alike. The years between 1880, when the New Departure first began to affect the course of British politics, and 1892, when Gladstone won his last lease of office, embrace a period of acute turmoil both in Ireland and at Westminster. One indication of the virulence of the Irish Question was that in little more than a decade ten different men served as chief secretary for Ireland. Lord Salisbury was not exaggerating when he declared in March, 1887: "All the politics of the moment are summarised in the word 'Ireland.'" And the dismembering of both the Liberal and Irish parties within a span of five years provides conclusive proof, if any is needed, of the turbulence that marked this era of prolonged depression in trade and agriculture.

In view of the crucial nature of Anglo-Irish relations in the 1880's, it is curious that one side of the story has either been neglected or, worse, widely misunderstood. The forces dedicated to maintain the Act of Union, and in particular the dominant section led by Lord Salisbury, have not been treated to the attention that their long tenure of office would seem to merit. Admittedly, biographies of the leading Conservative politicians abound, but too often they are the devoted productions of relatives or disciples. In the absence of any unifying essay on Conservative Unionism during its formative phase I have tried to examine the premises on which the Conservative leaders opposed Home Rule, to appraise government policy in Ireland from 1885 to 1892, and, lastly, to explore the impact of the Irish Question on Conservative tactics and thought. The scope of this book, therefore, is not merely confined to administrative details in Dublin Castle . . .

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