|New Phases of the Irish Revolution
(1880 - 1882)
Taken from The Life of Gladstone
by John Morley
Published in 1907 by Macmillan and Co
William Ewart Gladstone
The agitation of the Irish land league strikes at the roots of all contract, and therefore at the very foundations of modern society; but if we would effectually withstand it, we must cease to insist on maintaining the forms of free contract where the reality is impossible. – T. H. GREEN.
On the day in 1880 when Lord
Beaconsfield was finally quitting the official house in
government had to deal with a state of things in
Two years later he said at
I frankly admit I had had much upon my hands connected with the doings of the Beaconsfield government in almost every quarter of the world, and I did not know, no one knew, the severity of the crisis that was already swelling upon the horizon, and that shortly after rushed upon us like a fiend.
So came upon them by degrees the
predominance of Irish affairs and Irish activity in the parliament of 1880,
which had been chosen without much reference to
A social revolution with the land
league for its organ in
Before the cabinet was six months
old the duke was plucking Mr. Gladstone’s sleeve with some vivacity at the
Looking back upon these events, Mr. Gladstone set out in a memorandum of later years, that during the session of 1880 the details of the budget gave him a good deal to do, while the absorbing nature of foreign questions before and after his accession to office had withdrawn his attention from his own Land Act of 1870:-
Late in the session came the decisive and disastrous rejection by the House of Lords of the bill by means of which the government had hoped to arrest the progress of disorder, and avert the necessity for measures in the direction of coercion. The rapid and vast extension of agrarian disturbance followed, as was to be expected, this wild excess of landlordism, and the Irish government proceeded to warn the cabinet that coercive legislation would be necessary.
Forster allowed himself to be persuaded by the governmental agents in Ireland that the root of the evil lay within small compass; that there were in the several parishes a certain limited number of unreasonable and mischievous men, that these men were known to the police, and that if summary powers were confided to the Irish government, by the exercise of which these objectionable persons might be removed, the evil would die out of itself. I must say I never fell into this extraordinary illusion of Forster’s about his ‘village ruffian.’ But he was a very impracticable man placed in a position of great responsibility. He was set upon a method of legislation adapted to the erroneous belief that the mischief lay only with a very limited number of well-known individuals, that is to say, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act… Two points of difference arose: first, as to the nature of the coercion to be used; secondly, as to its time. I insisted that we were bound to try what we could do against Parnell under the existing law, before asking for extraordinary powers. Both Bright and Chamberlain, if I remember right, did very good service in protesting against haste, and resisting Forster’s desire to anticipate the ordinary session for the purpose of obtaining coercive powers. When, however, the argument of time was exhausted by the Parnell trial and otherwise, I obtained no support from them in regard to the kind of coercion we were to ask. I considered it should be done by giving stringency to the existing law, but not by abolishing the right to be tried before being imprisoned. I felt the pulse of various members of the cabinet, among whom I seem to recollect Kimberley and Carlingford, but I could obtain no sympathy, and to my dismay both Chamberlain and Bright arrived at the conclusion that if there was to be coercion at all, which they lamented, there was something simple and effective in the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act which made such a method preferable to others. I finally acquiesced. It may be asked why? My resistance would have broken up the government or involved my own retirement. My reason for acquiescence was that I bore in mind the special commission under which the government had taken office. It related to the foreign policy of the country, the whole spirit and effect of which we were to reconstruct. This work had not yet been fully accomplished, and it seemed to me that the effective prosecution of it was our first and highest duty. I therefore submitted.
By the end of November Mr.
Gladstone explained to the Queen that the state of
The opening of the session of
1881 at once brought obstruction into full view. The Irish took up their
position as a party of action. They spoke incessantly; as Mr. Gladstone put it,
‘sometimes rising to the level of mediocrity, and more often grovelling amidst
mere trash in unbounded profusion.’ Obstruction is obstruction all the world
over. It was not quite new at
Mr. Forster brought in his bill. Its scope may be described in a sentence. It practically enabled the viceroy to lock up anybody he pleased, and to detain him as long as he pleased, while the Act remained in force. The debate for leave to introduce the bill lasted several days, without any sign of coming to an end. Here is the Speaker’s account of his own memorable act in forcing a close:-
Monday, Jan. 31:- The House was boiling over with indignation at the apparent triumph of obstruction, and Mr. G. yielding to the pressure of his friends, committed himself, unwisely as I thought, to a continuous sitting on this day in order to force the bill through its first stage.
On Tuesday, after a sitting of twenty-four hours, I saw plainly that this attempt to carry the bill by continuous sitting would fail, the Parnell party being strong in numbers, discipline, and organization, and with great gifts of speech. I reflected on the situation, and came to the conclusion that it was my duty to extricate the House from the difficulty by closing the debate of my own authority, and so asserting the undoubted will of the House against a rebellious minority. I sent for Mr. G. on Tuesday (Feb. 1), about noon, and told him that I should be prepared to put the question in spite of obstruction on the following conditions: - 1. That the debate should be carried on until the following morning, my object in this delay being to mark distinctly to the outside world the extreme gravity of the situation, and the necessity of the step which I was about to take. 2. That he should reconsider the regulation of business, either by giving more authority to the House, or by conferring authority on the Speaker.
He agreed to these conditions, and summoned a meeting of the cabinet, which assembled in my library at on Tuesday while the House was sitting, and I was in the chair. At the meeting the resolution as to business assumed the shape in which it finally appeared on the following Thursday, it having been previously considered at former meetings of the cabinet. I arranged with Playfair to take the chair on Tuesday night about , engaging to resume it on Wednesday morning at nine. Accordingly at nine I took the chair, Biggar being in possession of the House. I rose, and he resumed his seat. I proceeded with my address as concerted with May, and when I had concluded I put the question. The scene was most dramatic; but all passed off without disturbance, the Irish party on the second division retiring under protest.
I had communicated, with Mr. G.’s approval, my intention to close the debate to Northcote, but to no one else, except May, from whom I received much assistance. Northcote was started, but expressed no disapproval of the course proposed.
So ended the memorable sitting of
January 31. At , on February 2,
the House assembled in much excitement. The question was put challenging the
Speaker’s conduct. ‘I answered,’ he says, ‘on the spur of the moment that I had
acted on my own responsibility, and from a sense of duty to the House. I never
heard such loud and protracted cheering, none cheering more loudly than
After coercion came a land bill, and here Mr. Gladstone once more displayed his unequalled mastery of legislative skill and power. He had to explain and be ready to explain again and again, what he told Lord Selborne was ‘the most difficult measure he had ever known to come under the detailed consideration of a cabinet.’ It was no affair this time of speeches out of a railway carriage, or addressed to excited multitudes in vast halls. That might be, if you so pleased, ‘the empty verbosity of exuberant rhetoric’; but nobody could say that of the contest over the complexities of Irish tenure, against the clever and indomitable Irish experts who fought under the banner of Mr. Parnell. Northcote was not far wrong when he said that though the bill was carried by two to one, there was hardly a man in the House beyond the Irish ranks who cared a straw about it. Another critic said that if the prime minister had asked the House to pass the Koran or the Nautical Almanac as a land bill, he would have met no difficulty.
history of the session was described as the carriage of a single measure by a
single man. Few British members understood it, none mastered it. The whigs were
disaffected about it, the radicals doubted it., the tories thought that
property as a principle was ruined by it, the Irishmen, when the humour seized
them, bade him send the bill to line trunks. Mr. Gladstone, as one observer
truly says, ‘faced difficulties such as no other bill of this country has ever encountered, difficulties of
politics and difficulties of law, difficulties of principle and difficulties of
personnel, difficulties of race and difficulties of class, and he has never
once failed, or even seemed to fail, in his clear command of the question, in
his dignity and authority of demeanour, in his impartiality in accepting
amending suggestions, in his firmness in resisting destructive suggestions, in
his clear perception of his aim, and his strong grasp of the fitting means. And
yet it is hardly possible to appreciate adequately the embarrassments of this
Enough has already been said of the legislation of 1870, and its establishment of the principle that Irish land is not the subject of an undivided ownership, but a partnership. The act of 1870 failed because it had too many exceptions and limitations; because in administration the compensation to the tenant for disturbance was inadequate; and because it did not fix the cultivator in his holding. Things had now ripened. The Richmond Commission shortly before had pointed to a court for fixing rents; that is, for settling the terms of the partnership. A commission nominated by Mr. Gladstone and presided over by Lord Bessborough, had reported early in 1881 in favour not only of fair rents to be settled by a tribunal, but of fixity of tenure or the right of the tenant to remain in his holding if he paid his rent, and of free sale; that is, his right to part with his interest. These ‘three F’s’ were the substance of the legislation of 1881.
could not be paid, and landlords either would not or could not reduce them. In
the deepest interests of social order, and in confirmation of the tenant’s
equitable and customary ownership, the only course open to the imperial legislature
was to erect machinery for fixing fair rents. The alternative to what became
matter of much objurgation as dual ownership, was a single ownership that was
only a short name for allowing the landlord to deal as he liked with the
equitable interest of the tenant. Without the machinery set up by Mr.
Gladstone, there could be no security for the protection of the cultivator’s
interest. What is more, even in view of a wide and general extension of the
policy of buying out the landlord and turning the tenant into single owner,
still a process of valuation for purposes of fair price would have been just as
indispensable, as under the existing system was the tiresome and costly process
of valuation for purposes of fair rent. It is true that if the policy of purchase
had been adopted, this process would have been performed once for all. But
opinion was not nearly ready either in
The legislation of 1881 no doubt encountered angry criticism from the English conservative, and little more than frigid approval from the Irish nationalist. It offended the fundamental principle of the landlords; its administration and the construction of some of its leading provisions by the courts disappointed and irritated the tenant party. Nevertheless any attempt in later times to impair the authority of the Land Act of 1881 brought the fact instantly to light, that the tenant knew it to be the fundamental charter of his redemption from worse than Egyptian bondage. In measuring this great agrarian law, not only by parliamentary force and legislative skill and power, but by the vast and abiding depth of its social results, both direct and still more indirect, many will be disposed to give it the highest place among Mr. Gladstone’s achievements as lawmaker.
has sometimes been found with Mr. Gladstone for not introducing his bill in the
session of 1880. If this had been done, it is argued,
point of endurance the session was one of the most remarkable on record. The
House of Commons sat 154 days and for 1400 hours; some 240 of these hours were
after . Only three times since the Reform bill had the House
sat for more days; only once, in 1847, had the total number of hours been
exceeded and that only be seven, and never before had the House sat so many
hours after . On the Coercion bill the House sat continuously once
for 22 hours, and once for 41. The debates on the Land bill took up 58
sittings, and the Coercion bill 22. No such length of discussion, Mr. Gladstone
told the Queen, was recorded on any measure since the committee on the first
Reform bill. The Reform bill of 1867 was the only measure since 1843 that took
as many as 35 days of debate. The
soon appeared that no miracle had been wrought by either Coercion Act or Land
Act. Mr. Parnell drew up test cases for submission to the new land court. His
advice to the army of tenants would depend, he said, on the fate of these
cases. In September Mr. Forster visited Hawarden, and gave a bad account of the
real meaning of Mr. Parnell’s plausible propositions for sending test cases to
the newly established land commission, as well as of other ugly circumstances.
‘It is quite clear as you said,’ wrote Mr. Gladstone to Forster in
With respect to Parnellism, I should not propose to do more than a severe and strong denunciation of it by severing him altogether from the Irish people and the mass of the Irish members, and by saying that home rule has for one of its aims local government – an excellent thing to which I would affix no limits except the supremacy of the imperial parliament, and the right of all parts of the country to claim whatever might be accorded to Ireland. This is only a repetition of what I have often said before, and I have nothing to add or enlarge. But I have the fear that when the occasion for action comes, which will not be in my time, many liberals may perhaps hang back and may cause further trouble.
In view of what was to come four years later, one of his letters to Forster is interesting (April 12, 1882), among other reasons as illustrating the depth to which the essence of political liberalism had now penetrated Mr. Gladstone’s mind:-
1. About local government for Ireland, the ideas which more and more establish themselves in my mind are such as these.
(1) Until we have seriously responsible
bodies to deal with us in
(2) If your excellent plans for obtaining local aid towards the execution of the law break down, it will be on account of this miserable and almost total want of the sense of responsibility for the public good and public peace in Ireland; and this responsibility we cannot create except through local self-government.
(3) If we say we must postpone the question till the state of the country is more fit for it, I should answer that the least danger is in going forward at once. It is liberty alone which fits men for liberty. This proposition, like every other in politics, has its bounds; but it is far safer than the counter doctrine, wait till they are fit.
(4) In truth I would say (differing perhaps from many), that for the Ireland of to-day, the first question is the rectification of the relations between landlord and tenant, which happily is going on; the next is to relieve Great Britain from the enormous weight of the government of Ireland unaided by the people, and from the hopeless contradiction in which we stand while we give a parliamentary representation, hardly effective for anything but mischief without the local institutions of self-government which it presupposes, and on which alone it can have a sound and healthy basis.
We have before us in administration, he wrote to Forster in September –
a problem not less delicate and arduous than the problem of legislation with which we have lately had to deal in parliament. Of the leaders, the officials, the skeleton of the land league I have no hope whatever. The better the prospects of the Land Act with their adherents outside the circle of wire-pullers, and with the Irish people, the more bitter will be their hatred, and the more sure they will be to go as far as fear of the people will allow them in keeping up the agitation, which they cannot afford to part with on account of their ulterior ends. All we can do is to turn more and more the masses of their followers, to fine them down by good laws and good government, and it is in this view that the question of judicious releases from prison, should improving statistics of crime encourage it, may become one of early importance.
was in the autumn of 1881 that Mr. Gladstone visited
Vast torchlight processions, addresses from the corporation, four score addresses from political bodies, a giant banquet in the Cloth Hall Yard covered in for the purpose, on one day; on another, more addresses, a public luncheon followed by a mass meeting of over five-and-twenty thousand persons, then a long journey through dense throngs vociferous with an exultation that knew no limits, a large dinner party, and at the end of all a night train. The only concessions that the veteran asked to weakness of the flesh, were that at the banquet he should not appear until the eating and drinking were over, and that at the mass meeting some preliminary speakers should intervene to give him time to take breath after his long and serious exercises of the morning. When the time came his voice was heard like the note of a clear and deep-toned bell. So much had vital energy, hardly less rare than his mental power, to do with the varied exploits of this spacious career.
topics of his
was the pageant all excitement. The long speech, which by way of prelusion to
the great mass meeting he addressed to the chamber of commerce, was devoted to
the destruction of the economic sophisters who tried to persuade us that ‘the
vampire of free-trade was insidiously sucking the life-blood of the country.’
In large survey of broad social facts, exposition of diligently assorted
figures, power of scientific analysis, sustained chain of reasoning, he was
never better. The consummate mastery of this argumentative performance did not
slay a heresy that has nine lives, but it drove the thing out of sight in
On Wednesday October 12, the cabinet met, and after five hours of deliberation decided that Mr. Parnell should be sent to prison under the Coercion Act. The Irish leader was arrested at his hotel the next morning, and carried off to Kilmainham, where he remained for some six months. The same day Mr. Gladstone was presented with an address from the Common Council of London, and in his speech at the Guildhall gave them the news:-
Our determination has been that to the best of our power, our words should be carried into acts [referring to what he had said at Leeds], and even within these few moments I have been informed that towards the vindication of law and order, of the rights of property, of the freedom of the land, of the first elements of political life and civilisation, the first step has been taken in the arrest of the man who unhappily from motives which I do not challenge, which I cannot examine and with which I have nothing to do, has made himself beyond all others prominent in the attempt to destroy the authority of the law, and to substitute what would end in being nothing more or less than anarchical oppression exercised upon the people of Ireland.
The arrest of Mr. Parnell was no doubt a pretty considerable strain upon powers conferred by parliament to put down village ruffians; but times were revolutionary, and though the Act of parliament was not a wise one, but altogether the reverse of wise, it was no wonder that having got the instrument, ministers thought they might as well use it. Still executive violence did not seem to work, and Mr. Gladstone looked in a natural direction for help in the milder way of persuasion. He wrote (December 17th) to Cardinal Newman: -
I will begin with defining strictly the
limits of this appeal. I ask you to read the inclosed papers; and to consider
whether you will write anything to
Mr. Errington, who is at Rome, will I believe have seen these papers, and will I hope have brought the facts as far as he is able to the knowledge of his holiness. But I do now know how far he is able; nor how he may use his discretion. He is not our official servant, but an independent Roman catholic gentleman and a volunteer.
My wish is as regards
cardinal replied that he would gladly find himself able to be of service,
however slight it might be, in a political crisis, which must be felt as of
grave anxiety by all who understand the blessing of national unity and peace.
He thought Mr. Gladstone overrated the pope’s power in political and social
matters. Absolute in questions of theology, it was not so in political matters.
If the contest in
We have now arrived at April 1882. The reports brought to the cabinet by Mr. Forster were of the gloomiest. The Land Act had brought no improvement. In the south-west and many of the midland counties lawlessness and intimidation were worse than ever. Returns of agrarian crime were presented in every shape, and comparisons framed by weeks, by months, by quarters; do what the statisticians would, and in spite of fluctuations, murders and other serious outrages had increased. The policy of arbitrary arrest had completely failed, and the officials and crown lawyers at the Castle were at their wits’ end.
While the cabinet was face to face with this ugly prospect, Mr. Gladstone received a communication volunteered by an Irish member, as to the new attitude of Mr. Parnell and the possibility of turning it to good account. Mr. Gladstone sent this letter on to Forster, replying meanwhile ‘in the sense of not shutting the door.’ When the thing came before the cabinet, Mr. Chamberlain – who had previously told Mr. Gladstone that he thought the time opportune for something like a reconciliation with the Irish party – with characteristic courage took his life in his hands, as he put it, and set to work to ascertain through the emissary what use for the public good could be made of Mr. Parnell’s changed frame of mind. On April 25th, the cabinet heard what Mr. Chamberlain had to tell them, and it came to this, that Mr. Parnell was desirous to use his influence on behalf of peace, but his influence for good depended on the settlement of the question of arrears. Ministers decided that they could enter into no agreement and would give no pledge. They would act on their own responsibility in the light of the knowledge they had gained of Mr. Parnell’s views. Mr. Gladstone was always impatient of any reference to ‘reciprocal assurances’ or ‘tacit understanding’ in respect of the dealings with the prisoner in Kilmainham. Still the nature of the proceedings was plain enough. The object of the communications to which the government were invited by Mr. Parnell through his emissary, was, supposing him to be anxious to do what he could for law and order, to find out what action on the part of the government would enable him to adopt this line.
Events then moved rapidly. Rumours that something was going on got abroad, and questions began to be put in parliament. A stout tory gave notice of a motion aiming at the release of the suspects. As Mr. Gladstone informed the Queen, there was no doubt that the general opinion of the public was moving in a direction adverse to arbitrary imprisonment, though the question was a nice one for consideration whether the recent surrender by the no-rent party of its extreme and most subversive contentions, amounted to anything like a guarantee for their future conduct in respect of peace and order. The rising excitement was swelled by the retirement of Lord Cowper from the viceroyalty, and the appointment as his successor of Lord Spencer, who had filled that post in Mr. Gladstone’s first government. On May 2nd, Mr. Gladstone read a memorandum to the cabinet to which they agreed:-
The cabinet are of opinion that the time has now arrived when with a view to the interests of law and order in Ireland, the three members of parliament who have been imprisoned on suspicion since last October, should be immediately released; and that the list of suspects should be examined with a view to the release of all persons not believed to be associated with crimes. They propose at once to announce to parliament their intention to propose, as soon as necessary business will permit, a bill to strengthen the ordinary law in Ireland for the security of life and property, while reserving their discretion with regard to the Life and Property Protection Act [of 1881], which however they do not at present think it will be possible to renew, if a favourable state of affairs shall prevail in Ireland.
From this proceeding Mr. Forster dissented, and he resigned his office. His point seems to have been that no suspect should be released until the new Coercion Act had been fashioned, whereas the rest of the cabinet held that there was no excuse for the continued detention under arbitrary warrant of men as to whom the ground for the ‘reasonable suspicion’ required by the law has now disappeared. He probably felt that the appointment of a viceroy of cabinet rank and with successful Irish experience was in fact his own supersession. ‘I have received your letter,’ Mr. Gladstone wrote to him (May 2), ‘with much grief, but on this it would be selfish to expatiate. I have no choice; followed or not followed I must go on. There are portions of this subject which touch you personally, and which seem to me to deserve much attention. But I have such an interest in the main issue, that I could not be deemed impartial; so I had better not enter on them. One thing, however, I wish to say. You wish to minimise in any further statement the cause of your retreat. In my opinion – and I speak from experience – viewing the nature of that cause, you will find this hardly possible. For a justification you, I fear, will have to found upon the doctrine of “a new departure.” We must protest against it, and deny it with heart and soul.’
The way in which Mr. Gladstone chose to put things was stated in a letter to the Queen (May 3):- ‘In his judgment there had been two, and only two, vital powers of commanding efficacy in Ireland, the Land Act, and the land league; they had been locked in a combat of life and death; and the cardinal question was which of the two would win. From the serious effort to amend the Land Act by the Arrears bill of the nationalists, from the speeches made in support of it, and from information voluntarily tendered to the government as to the views of the leaders of the league, the cabinet believed that those who governed the land league were now conscious of having been defeated by the Land Act on the main question, that of paying rent.’
the office of Irish secretary Mr. Gladstone selected Lord Frederick Cavendish,
who was the husband of a niece of Mrs. Gladstone’s, and one of the most devoted
of his friends and adherents. The special reason for the choice of this capable
and high-minded man, was that Lord Frederick had framed a plan of finance at
the treasury for a new scheme of land purchase. The two freshly appointed Irish
ministers at once crossed over to a country seething in disorder. The afternoon
of the fatal sixth of May was passed by the new viceroy, and Lord Frederick in
that grim apartment in
official world of
effect of this blind and hideous crime was at once to arrest the spirit and the
policy of conciliation. While the Irish leaders were locked up, a secret murder
club had taken matters in hand in their own way, and ripened plots within a stone’s
throw of the Castle. No worse blow could have been struck at Mr. Parnell’s
policy. It has been said that the nineteenth century had seen the course of its
history twenty-five times diverted by actual or attempted crime. In that
sinister list the murders in the
voice of party was for the moment hushed. Sir Stafford Northcote wrote a letter
of admirable feeling, saying that if there was any way in which Mr. Gladstone
thought they could serve the government, he would of course let them know. The
Prince of Wales wrote of his own horror and indignation at the crime, and of
his sympathy with Mr. Gladstone in the loss of one who was not only a colleague
of many merits, but a near connection and devoted friend. With one or two
scandalous exceptions, the tone of the English press was sober, sensible, and
self-possessed. ‘If a nation,’ said a leading journal in
The scene in the House had all the air of tragedy, and Mr. Gladstone summoned courage enough to do his part with impressive composure. A colleague was doing some business with him in his room before the solemnity began. When it was over, they resumed it, Mr. Gladstone making no word of reference to the sombre interlude, before or after. ‘Went reluctantly to the House,’ he says in his diary, ‘and by the help of God forced out what was needful on the question of the adjournment.’ His words were not many, when after commemorating the marked qualities of Mr. Burke, he went on in laboured tones and slow speech and hardly repressed emotion:-
The hand of the assassin has come nearer home; and though I feel it difficult to say a word, yet I must say that one of the very noblest hearts in England has ceased to beat, and has ceased at the very moment when it was just devoted to the service of Ireland, full of love for that country, full of hope for her future, full of capacity to render her service.
Writing to Lady Frederick on a later day, he mentions a public reference to some pathetic words of hers (May 19):-
Sexton just now returned to the subject, with more approval from the House. You will find it near the middle of a long speech. Nothing could be better either in feeling or in grace (the man is little short of a master), and I think it will warm your heart. You have made mark deeper than any wound.
Lord Ripon in
The black act brought indeed a great
personal grief to my wife and me; but we are bound to merge our own sorrow in the
larger and deeper affliction of the widow and the father, in the sense of the
public loss of a life so valuable to the nation, and in the consideration of
the great and varied effects it may have on immediate and vital interests.
Since the death of this dearly loved son, we have heard much good of the Duke,
whom indeed we saw at Chatsworth after the funeral, and we have seen much of
Lady Frederick, who has been good even beyond what we could have hoped. I have
no doubt you have heard in India the echo of words spoken by Spencer from a
letter of hers, in which she said she could give up even him if his death were
to work good to his fellow men, which indeed was the whole object of his life.
These words have had a tender effect, as remarkable as the horror excited by the
slaughter. Spencer wrote to me that a priest in
did Dean Church say that no Roman or Florentine lady ever uttered a more heroic
thing than was said by this English lady when on first seeing Mr. Gladstone
that terrible she said, ‘you did right to send him to
the day after the murders Mr. Gladstone received a note through the same
channel by which Mr. Chamberlain had carried on his communications:- ‘I am
authorised by Mr. Parnell to state that if Mr. Gladstone considers it necessary
for the maintenance of his [Mr. G.’s] position and for carrying out his views,
that Mr. Parnell should resign his seat, Mr. Parnell is prepared to do so
immediately.’ To this Mr.
My duty does not permit me for a moment to entertain M. Parnell’s proposal, just conveyed to me by you, that he should if I think it needful resign his seat; but I am deeply sensible of the honourable motives by which it has been prompted.
opinion is,’ said Mr. Gladstone to Lord Granville, ‘that if Parnell goes, no
restraining influence will remain; the scale of outrages will be again
enlarged; and no repressive bill can avail to put it down.’ Those of the cabinet
who had the best chance of knowing, were convinced that Mr. Parnell was ‘sincerely
anxious for the pacification of
reaction produced by the murders in the Park made perseverance in a milder
policy impossible in face of English opinion, and parliament eagerly passed the
Coercion Act of 1882. I once asked an
Irishman of consummate experience and equitable mind, with no leanings that I
know of to political nationalism, whether the task of any later rule of
The new viceroy attacked the formidable task before him with resolution, minute assiduity, and an inexhaustible store of that steady-eyed patience which is the sovereign requisite of any man who, whether with coercion or without, takes in hand the government of Ireland. He was seconded with high ability and courage by Mr. Trevelyan, the new Irish secretary, whose fortitude was subjected to a far severer trial than has ever fallen to the lot of an Irish secretary before or since. The coercion that Lord Spencer had to administer was at least law. The coercion with which parliament entrusted Mr. Forster the year before was the negation of the spirit of law, and the substitution for it of naked and arbitrary control over the liberty of the subject by executive power – a system as unconstitutional in theory as it was infatuated in policy and calamitous in result. Even before the end of the parliament, Mr. Bright frankly told the House of Commons of his Coercion Act:- ‘I think that the legislation of 1881 was unfortunately a great mistake, though I was myself a member of the government concerned in it.’
 Works of T.H. Green, iii, 382
House of Commons,
Proceedings had been instituted in the
 Tried by Lord Spencer in Westmeath in 1871, it had been successful, but the area of disturbance was there comparatively insignificant.
 For a plain and precise description of the Coercion Act of 1881, see Dicey’s Law of the Constitution, pp. 243 – 8.
At the Cloth Hall banquet,
Speech to the
 Introduced by Mr. Redmond.
 It had been Mr. Burke’s practice to drive from the Castle to the Park gate, then to descend and walk home, followed by two detectives. On this occasion he found at the gate that the chief secretary had passed, and drove forward to overtake him. The detectives did not follow him as usual. If they had followed, he would have been saved.
 Life of Dean Church, p299.