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Home rule notes by Gladstone

Gladstone was a champion of home rule for Ireland, which he thought could help end the centuries of violence and tension between it and Britain. After his first bill failed in 1886, he secretly drafted another bill in 1893, using notes such as these

Home rule notes by Gladstone

Gladstone's notes on Home Rule for Ireland, 1893
Add.39927, f.68
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Who was Gladstone?

William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) was Prime Minister of Britain four times (1868-74, 1880-85, 1886 and 1892-94). He tried to establish self-government in Ireland with two Home Rule Bills, one in 1886 and another in 1893. Neither was successful.

What was England's involvement in Ireland?

The history of English involvement in Ireland is long and complex. In 1317, Irish chiefs sent a long letter (the 'Irish Remonstrance') to the Pope at Avignon, telling him in no uncertain terms what they thought of the English presence there ( "Lest the sharp-toothed and viperous calumny of the English and their untrue representations should to any degree excite your mind against us.").

The Statutes of Kilkenny were issued in 1366 to ensure that the English remained distinct from the Irish. They forbade marriage between the English and the native Irish as well as trade. They also forbade the English to speak Irish, take Irish names, or use the local Law. The main effect was to foster even more hatred of the English. To all intents the 'Old English' in Ireland allied themselves with the native Irish whilst those who remained pure to their Anglo-Norman heritage found themselves increasingly isolated in the area around Dublin, which became known as the Pale.

Although the so-called Irish Parliament nominally had authority over all Ireland, it was in practice limited to the Pale, and its authority was increasingly diminished by the powerful Anglo-Irish lords. ventually, in 1494, Sir Edward Poynting, Henry VII's Viceroy in Ireland, passed an Act which placed the Irish Parliament directly under the authority of the English Parliament. In 1542 the Crown of Ireland Act made Henry VIII King of Ireland as well as King of England. The Act remains in force in Northern Ireland to this day.

In the mid-1600s British purges in Ireland, some under Oliver Cromwell's leadership, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Irish.

When was Ireland first officially governed from London?

The Treaty of Union which came into force on 1 May 1707 united England, Wales and Scotland as the Kingdom of Great Britain under one parliament at Westminster. Ireland retained its parliament, though it was subordinate to Westminster.

The Irish rebellion of 1798, so soon after the French revolution, galvanised the British government into securing their "back door". A further Act of Union came into effect on 1 January 1801, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. From that date the entire island was controlled from Westminster.

Throughout the following century many Irish strongly opposed the Union, occasionally erupting in violent insurrection. In the 1830s and 1840s failed attempts had been made under the leadership of Daniel O'Connell to repeal the Act of Union and restore the Kingdom of Ireland, without breaking the connection with Great Britain.

Until the 1870s, most Irish people elected MPs from the British mainstream parties of Liberal and Conservative. The Ulster Unionist Party was formed in 1885 by those loyal to the Union, to oppose the threat of home rule that might result from Gladstone's first bill. Returning to power after the 1892 general election Gladstone, undaunted, secretly drafted his 1893 bill.

What were the Home Rule bills about?

The Irish Home Rule bills intended to grant self-government and national autonomy to the whole of Ireland, reversing the Act of Union 1800. There were four such bills. Gladstone's first bill, of 1886, fell in the Commons. His second, in 1893, passed in the Commons but fell in the Lords. The third bill, the Home Rule Act 1914, passed but was never implemented because of the Great War and the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin. The fourth bill, the Government of Ireland Act 1920, effectively partitioned Ireland. The North implemented the bill, but not the rest of the country.

A new act in 1927 changed the name of the Union to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, its current official name. Southern Ireland had declared its independence in 1919, and in 1922 became the Irish Free State (renamed Eire in 1937 and formally the Republic of Ireland in 1949). Northern Ireland had its own parliament from 1922 to 1972, and the Northern Ireland Assembly was restored in May 2007.

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