Section 2 - History

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Fenianism and the Emergence of Home Rule

  • Most important areas of policy for Gladstone's 1st Ministry = dealing with Ireland
  • Made it clear he wished to take up the challenge, where other British politicians failed
  • Wanted to find a solution to Ireland's problems
  • Dissatisfaction revolved around the Church, the land and their national identity 
  • Any attempt to deal with problems made matters worse
  • They all lacked basic understanding of the problems and lacked sympathy for the Irish
  • 1840s = Irish politics became interwoven with the cataclsmic effects of the Irish famine 
  • 'Young Ireland' was formed with the aim of repealing the union with England
  • Sporadic outbreaks of violence, culminating in the abortive rising in 1848 
  • Deployment to Ireland of extra troops from Britain
  • Marked the start of a long period of troubles for the British government in Ireland 
  • Increasing demands from several sections of Irish society for political independence and Home Rule for Ireland 
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The Growth of Fenianism

  • Evolved gradually
  • A Fenian Society = never formally set up
  • Fenian movement arose from the remnants of the Young Ireland Group 
  • Political legacy of the famine 
  • Response to the increasing suffering of the Irish people
  • Fenians were militant but romantic nationalists
  • Aim was the achieve an independent Ireland by forcing the government to repeal the Act of Union
  • Prepared to use violence to achieve their aim
  • Separatist republicans - they wanted an Irish government separate from the British government, with their own president, rather than to be subjects of the British monarchy
  • Original inspiration = James Stephens and John O'Mahony 
  • Stephens set up a secret society to make Ireland and independent democratic republic 
  • Became known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood or IRB 
  • John O'Mahony set up a parallel organisation in North American which became known as the Fenian Brotherhood which also had the aim of achieving independence for Ireland 
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Support for Fenianism

  • 'The class above the masses' - the lower classes
  • 50% of the Fenians' supporters came from the aristan classes
  • Also attracted school teachers, small farmers and labourers
  • Ribbonmen became intergrated into the movement 
  • Irish soldiers serving in the British Army were always targeted for recruitment
  • Leadership came fro a mixture of backgrounds, a few from the landed families, but most from the commerical and shopkeeping classes 
  • Many thousands of supporters in lreland and American were drawn into it
  • America = largely from aong the Irish immigrant population who had been driven out of Ireland as a result of the famine
  • Significant Fenian support in England and Scotland among the Irish immigrant population of Liverpoor, Manchster and Glasgow 
  • Movement rapidly gathered momentum in 1860s
  • 80,000 supporters in GB and Ireland 
  • Insurgents were thin on the ground and largely ineffective
  • Outright hostility towards the Fenians from the Roman Catholic Church
  • Disliked the cult of secret socities that already existed in Ireland as it threatened Catholic Church's influence 
  • Denounced Fenianism as wicked 
  • Reduced vital support among peasantry who were in awe of the Catholic Church - feared excommunication 
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The Failure of the Fenian Rising

  • Little obvious success 
  • Dilemma = how and when to make an attempt to achieve their aim
  • Geographical divide between the Fenians in America and those in Britain and Ireland
  • Difficulty in mobilising and arming their forces 
  • Difficult to access neccessary funds, most of which came from Irish in America
  • Personality clashes between leaders = Stephens and O'Mahony 
  • Constant misunderstandings which led to bitter disputes as to what strategies to adopt to achieve their aims
  • Stephens = publicise the movement by setting up a newspaper, The Irish People, believing it would increase their support 
  • O'Mahony = it would antagonise the authorities and lead to trouble, and the whole idea of using public propaganda was inconsistent with a secret society 
  • 1865 = offices of the Irish People were raided and the leaders arrested on charges to overthrow the British government in Ireland 
  • Stephens escaped = expected he would take overall command and give the word for a rising 
  • He hesistated and the moment was lost, he fled to America and a decision was taken to invade Canada from America 
  • Objective = play on the tense relationship between Britain and America caused by the American Civil War 
  • Hope of provoking a dispute between the two countries 
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The Failure of the Fenian Rising

  • After 1865 = hundreds of Irish soldiers discharged from fighting at the end of the Civil War and trained in arms, and only too ready to join the Fenians to fight for the cause of Irish Nationalism 
  • Informers had been at work = rebel force was quickly rounded up over the Canadian border
  • Centre of activity moved back to Britain with the idea to attempt a further rising in Ireland
  • Forlorn plot from the outset
  • Britain = enjoying a period of peace and prosperity 
  • Tensions between Britain and America = never serious enough to end in conflict
  • Most of the Fenian leadership were in prison
  • Authorities = firmly in control with government spies infiltrating groups of Fenian sympathisers
  • Plenty of informers ready to betray their comrades
  • Young Fenian = Thomas Kelly
  • Taken over leadership and organised a simultaneous rising in England and Ireland in 1867
  • Attack was called off when Kelly realised that their plans had been leaked to government
  • New date = 5th March
  • Heavy weather and disorganised groups of poorly armed men were soon apprehended by police
  • Fenian plot = appeared to have failed

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The Failure of the Fenian Rising

  • Effect of arrests = more damaging for British establishment than the rising 
  • Long prison sentences rather than death sentences were imposed on those brought to trial
  • Harsh conditions = sympathy from many who opposed Fenians 
  • Calls for amnesty 
  • Attempted rescue of Thomas Kelly from a prison 'van' in Manchester in 1867 led to the fatal shooting of a police officer and the execution of three of the ringleaders 
  • No commutation of the death sentence
  • Public opinion in Ireland was stacking up against Gladstone's government
  • England = growing anxiety at threat of Fenians 
  • Reinforced by a bomb attack at Clerkenwell prison in London 
  • Another botched attempt to rescue one of their number 
  • Blast demolished a row of tenement dwellings in the street 
  • Several people were killed and injured
  • Caused considerable anti-Irish feeling on the British mainland 
  • Expectation that the Government would respond with harsh measures 
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The Fenian Legacy

  • Fenian rising proved to be a turning point in Anglo-Irish Politics 
  • Mixture of revulsion and anger led to a call from some quarters for tough government measures to be introduced in Ireland, to suppress the trouble makers
  • Others were concerned to identify the cause of the violence and introduce some measure of reform to bring peace to Ireland 
  • Gladstone also held this view 
  • Gladstone was shocked by the violence of the movement 
  • Brought to his attention the urgency of the Irish situation 
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Gladstone's Mission to Pacify Ireland

  • Situation in Ireland got worse after the famine
  • Gladstone became aware of the dire social and economic conditions
  • Most of the population lived off the land and there was little industry
  • Chronic sub-letting of land into small unviable plots earlier in the 19th century 
  • Any improvements made by tenants attracted a rent increase from the absentee landowners
  • There was an established Anglican Church that demanded taxes from a largely Catholic population
  • Fenian unrest stirred memories of earlier English interference in Ireland, and the lack of interest in real problems of the Irish people
  • Growing desire among to Irish to manage their own affairs
  • Gladstone became interested in trying to solve the 'Irish problem'
  • He took the view that the British government must shoulder some responsibility
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Disestablishment of the Irish Church

  • Gladstone wanted to achieve basic freedoms and fair treatment for the Irish Catholics
  • Catholics were forced to pay a tax of 10% of their annual income to the established Church in the current system, as well as support the Catholic Church = unfair
  • 5.8 population = 5.3 were Roman Catholic
  • Small number of nonconformists also caught by this existing tax burden 
  • Resulted in the Irish Church Bill of 1869 and other Church acts 
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Reasons for the Continuation of Unrest in Rural Ir

  • Gladstone believed that his Irish Church reform would be sufficient to settle Catholic grievences, to calm the unrest in Ireland and draw support away from the Fenians
  • Continuing unrest in Ireland in spite of the Irish Church Act
  • Bright believed that there would be no settlement of the land question until the population were placed in possession of their own land in their own country 
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The Land Problem

  • Most of the land was owned by Anglo-Irish landlords 
  • Many were absentee landlords who rented our their land to tenant farmers
  • Complicated situation 
  • Casual sub-letting agreements between tenants and little security of tenure
  • Left in the hands of ruthless bailiffs and land agents
  • Often turned off the land without just cause of reasonable notice
  • Majority of the population depended on making a living from the land 
  • Few vaiable industries except for in the Ulster province in the North
  • Population grew and good agricultural land became scarce 
  • Sub-letting became the norm
  • Small uneconomic land units = result
  • Few improvements were made on the smallholdings and farms, as the rents were raised 
  • Discouraged any significant improvements 
  • Land yield remained poor 
  • Impoverished land failed to provide adequate crops and the Irish peasant farers were unable to keep up with rent demands from the landlord
  • Many families ended in the workhouse
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The Land Problem

  • Actions led to deep and bitter resentment 
  • Often spilled over into violence with arson attacks and sometimes murder
  • Objects = bailiff or the land agent 
  • Carried out by secret organisation known as Ribbonmen 
  • The Irish Tenant League = fight for the rights of tenants 
  • Wanted fixity of tenure, fair rent and the freedom for tenant to sell their 'interest' in their holding to another tenant 
  • 'Three F's'
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The Emergence of Home Rule

  • Irish policy = limited success
  • Gladstone = First British politician to show any interest in the Irish problems
  • Tackled the problems of lack of equal and fair treatment in religion and land
  • Reforms were directed at suppressing Fenian demands for the repeal of the union by satisfying Irish grievances 
  • Demand for Home Rule could be considered the most important outcome of Gladstone's intervention in Ireland 
  • Won temporary friendships among the Catholic heirachy with the Irish Church Act
  • Not won over the vast Catholic population
  • Dissatisfaction grew with the failure of Gladstone's land reforms
  • Still poor, stress oppressed by their Protestant masters and they were easy prey for violent extremists 
  • Gladstone's reforms had disturbed the Protestant Ascendancy to the extent tha its hold on power and privilege would never be so secure again
  • Deep sense of unease among the Anglo-Irish hierarchy regarding Ireland's future
  • They lent their support to the Home Government Association (HGA)
  • Start of the Home Rule for Ireland movement
  • Had the backing of moderate nationalists, some Catholics and to some extent, Fenians
  • Support came from both Irish Conservative and Liberal MPs
  • Isaac Butt's growing involvement with the Fenians led directly to his campaign for the real of the Act of Union 
  • Known as 'Home Rule'
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The Emergence of Home Rule

  • Butt believed in achieving politicall independence for Ireland through peaceful means
  • He wanted to gain self-government for Ireland legitmately through the Westminster parliament 
  • Aimed for the Irish to have complete control over their domestic affairs
  • Ireland would enjoy the advantage of a separate parliament without breaking the union
  • 1873 = HGA transformed into the Home Rule League
  • Irish Protestant support began to drift away and was replaced by Catholic support backed by the Catholic Church in Ireland
  • Irish MPs = voice the grievances of the Catholic tenants against the Land Act 
  • 1874 General Election = 59 Irish Home Rule supporters won seats
  • Marked the end of Conservatism and Liberalism in Irish politics
  • Victory for constitutional nationalism 
  • Home Rulers lacked discipline and cohesiveness to bring pressure to bear on the government 
  • They lacked a strong leader 
  • 1874 election bought Disraeli and the Conservatives to power
  • Disraeli = more concerned with abroad and appeared indifferent to Irish matters 
  • Parnell took over the Home Rule Movement after Butt's death in 1879 
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Gladstone's Foreign Policy to 1873

  • By 1865 dynamics of major European powers were changing
  • Prussia defeated France in 1871 and a united Germany ws created in the centre of Europe
  • Altered the balance of power that had been established in 1815 by the Treaty of Vienna
  • New German Empire took on the mantle of the leading European power 
  • Centre of a system of alliances whose main objective was to isolate France
  • Britain held a strong position in European diplomacy 
  • Supported the maintenance of a balance of power between the key states
  • Britain differed because of its geographical position and its special committments to its vast overseas empire
  • Biggest threat = Russian expansion towards the northwest frontier of India
  • The Royal Navy = Britain's main military force for the defence of its shores and protection of empire
  • Britain's army = small compared to those of other powers
  • Political opponents and public opinion = dissatisfied by Gladstone's oreign policy on the grounds that it made Britain appear weaker and too ready to back down
  • Inaction and lack of initiative in foreign affairs = self-composed restraints of religion
  • Morally right 
  • Maintain peace and avoid war at all costs
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Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871

  • Neutrality = best policy in Prussia's war with France 
  • Otto Von Bismarck = manipulated war against Naopleon III of France in order to further his plans for the unification of Germany 
  • France declared war on Prussia and was regarded as the aggressor
  • Sympathies lay with Prussia to begin with as Britain mistrusted France
  • Fears of invading Belgium raised 
  • Vital to British security due to proximity to the Channel
  • Gladstone = obliged to intervene and secured agreement with both sides would respect Belgian neutrality in line with the Treaty of London that they had signed in 1839
  • Bismarck = happy to agree with this as he had secured British neutrality through displomacy and so could proceed with his plans to defeat France, annexe French Alsace and Lorraine and declare the creation of a united Germany, which he did in 1871
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Russia and the Black Sea Clauses

  • 1870 = Bismarck made himself an ally of Russia 
  • Encouraged the Tsar to pull out of the Black Sea Clauses of the Treaty of Paris 
  • Made with Britain at the end of the Crimean War in 1856 and which forbade them from maintaining a naval presence in the Black Sea
  • British Foreign Secretary called a conference of the Great Powers in London in 1871
  • Agreed hat no country had the right to unilaterally withdraw from part of a treaty
  • Face saving exercise on Britain's part 
  • Gladstone would not contemplate using even the threat of military force
  • There was little he could do
  • Public opinion went against Gladstone for his inaction 
  • The new Germany emerged as the strongest European power 
  • Impressive military machine to back the country up 
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The Settling of the Alabama Dispute, 1872

  • Alabama = Confederate warship fitted out in Britain
  • Centre of a dispute for years during the American Civil War
  • Used against the Northern States and damaged some of its ships
  • Britain = deemed to have broken neutrality promise to stay out of conflict
  • Gladstone submitted American claim to an international court of arbitration
  • Britain should pay £3.25 ilion to america
  • Fraction of the original US claim of £9m 
  • Gladstone agreed rather than an aggressive response 
  • Paid the damages
  • Detractors still thought it was too much 
  • Humilitating retreat
  • Cost Liberals electoral support
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