Home Rule for Ireland
DESCRIPTION: Hearers are urged to join the Home Rule Movement. Mr Butt and other leaders are named. Gladstone thought that the church bill would suffice, "but Paddy wants to rule himself." America and France support Home Rule. Butt leads "his little band" of MPs
EARLIEST DATE: 1966 (Zimmermann)
KEYWORDS: Ireland nonballad patriotic political
FOUND IN: Ireland
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Zimmermann, p. 61, "Home Rule" (1 fragment)
Healy-OISBv2, pp. 145-146, "Home Rule" (1 text)
Bodleian, Harding B 13(340), "Home Rule for Ireland" ("Come all you sons of Erin"), unknown, n.d.; also 2806 b.10(224), Firth c.16(407)[first nine lines illegible], "Home Rule for Ireland"
NLScotland, L.C.1270(009), "Home Rule for Ireland," unknown, n.d.
cf. "A Loyal Song Against Home Rule" (subject: the quest for Home Rule) and references there
NOTES [986 words]: Zimmermann p. 61: "Constitutional agitation had been revived in 1869 through meetings demanding an amnesty for the Fenian prisoners. A 'Home Government Association for Ireland', created in 1870 [founded by Isaac Butt], became the 'Irish Home Rule League' in 1872 and soon met with great success as the Irish Parliamentary Party. Broadside ballads praised its leaders, and looked once more for encouragement from overseas." [see also "The Glorious Meeting of Dublin" and references there].
The leaders of the movement named in the broadside are, besides Butt, are John Martin and Shea, Dr Cummins and Galbraith; the "little band" of Home Rule MPs are not named.
The reference to Gladstone and the church refers to his 1869 move disestablishing the Church of Ireland in 1869 so that Catholic farmers did not have to pay tithes to that church. In 1885 Gladstone announced his support for Irish Home Rule. (sources: "Gladstone and Home Rule 1886" in Northern Ireland Timeline at the BBC site; "Gladstone and Ireland" at the History Learning site)
Zimmermann p. 61 is a fragment; broadside NLScotland L.C.1270(009) is the basis for the description. The NLS probable period of publication as 1840-1850 is obviously incorrect when the broadside refers to events after 1870. - BS
The initial organization of the Home Government Alliance was rather ironic, as it included Protestants upset about the disestablishment of the Protestant Church (Kee, p. 61; also the notes to "The Downfall of Heresy").
Isaac Butt himself was a non-Catholic: "While Gladstone was endeavoring to solve the Irish problem by reforms, a new effort to win independence by constitutional means was launched.... This was the home rule movement, founded in 1870 by Isaac Butt, the leading Irish barrister of the age, a man of large and colourful personality, a Protestant and formerly a unionist, who had been converted to nationalist by his experience of Irish suffering in the Great Famine and then by the courage and integrity of first the Young Irelanders and then of the Fenians."
If Kee is to be believed, the Home Rulers were right about Gladstone: "Gladstone seems at first to have imagined that he could solve the problem of Ireland forever by two measures: first, By disestablishing the Irish Protestant Church and, second, legislating to compensate a tenant financially on eviction" (p. 58). The first measure came into force in 1869, and was welcomed in Ireland (although hardly by Conservatives in England). The second took the form of the first Land Bill, passed in 1870. But it corrected only a few minor abuses: Evicted tenants had to be paid for improvements they had made, but they could still be evicted. Something stronger was needed.
The mention of the Church Bill dates the song after 1869. The lack of reference to the second Land Bill, and of Gladstone's Home Rule proposal, surely dates it before 1886 -- and the lack of reference to Parnell probably dates it very early in that period. Isaac Butt had been a moderately important figure since 1848, when he defended Smith O'Brien and some of his confederates. But it wasn't until 1869 that he became a major political force, urging a program of constitutional reform.
Butt was convinced (correctly) that the Irish economy was badly mismanaged. The famine years of the 1840s "led Butt to realize that it was not enough simply to blame the laisez-faire policies of the government. It was the fundamentally unsound relationship between landlord and tenant that lay at the root of the trouble" (Lyons, p. 147).
Butt was entirely right about the economic program -- but, like many others after him, he confused political freedom with an efficient society. He didn't really have a program, except a parliament for Ireland. On that basis he managed to recruit a number of Irish MPs -- but he couldn't hold them together in Westminster (Kee, pp. 64-66. This was especially so since he had to work part-time, and wasn't really in position to head a party).
"In the general election of 1874 -- the first to be fought under the conditions of secret voting in accordance with the Ballot Act of 1872 -- Butt's new party won more than half of all Irish seats.... But his claim to separate nationhood for Ireland was not taken seriously by either British party" (Moody/Martin/Keogh/Kiely, pp. 246-247). From 1875, when Charles Stewart Parnell made his maiden speech declaring Ireland to be "not a geographical fragment but a nation," Butt was a spent force.
Home Rule nearly took care of Gladstone, too. He introduced the bill in 1886 -- and it split the Liberal party; a block of about fifty M.P.s, headed by Joseph Chamberlain, bolted (Massie, pp. 235-238). For about twenty years, Britain had what amounted to four political parties: Orthodox liberals (committed to social reform and home rule), Conservatives (opposed to social reform and home rule), the Irish delegation (which often split many ways; the most important faction, led by John Redmond, believed in home rule, though many were liberal on other issues), and the Chamberlainites (the "Liberal Unionists," who were liberal on social issues but adamantly opposed to Home Rule). It made Britain nearly ungovernable, except when the Chamberlainites managed to extract liberal concessions from the Conservatives. The Conservatives developed a policy of "killing Home Rule with kindness" (Kee, p. 111), but kindness wasn't really their specialty.
A few years later, Parnell died (October 10, 1891), and Kee (p. 115) writes that "The chances of Home Rule for the next twenty years were buried with him"; see also the notes to "We Won't Let Our Leader Run Down." For the future course of the Home Rule movement, see the notes to "A Loyal Song Against Home Rule."
Chamberlain, in addition to splitting the liberal party and postponing home rule, had one more dubious gift to give to Britain: His younger son, Neville Chamberlain. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.8
- Kee: Robert Kee, The Bold Fenian Men, being volume II of The Green Flag (covering the period from around 1848 to the Easter Rising), Penguin, 1972
- Lyons: F. S. L. Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine, 1963, 1971 (I use the 1985 Fontana Press paperback)
- Massie: Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought, Random House, 1991
- Moody/Martin/Keogh/Kiely: T. W. Moody, F. X. Martin, and Dermot Keough, with Patrick Kiely, The Course of Irish History, fifth edition, 2011 (page references are to the 2012 paperback edition)
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