Gladstone pp 90-113 | Cite as


  • Eugenio F. Biagini
Part of the British History in Perspective book series (BHP)


In his first attempt to ‘pacify Ireland’ (1869–73; see Chapter 3) Gladstone’s thinking had followed a classical Whig blueprint:1 his aim was to achieve religious and social integration at the expense of the established Episcopal Church of Ireland. Even his ill-fated effort to improve Irish university education was not particularly innovative, and followed the Peelite and Whig strategy of trying to ‘neutralize’ the state in its dealings with various religious bodies, while encouraging cross-community integration in the training of a new professional middle class. This strategy was based on the assumption that at the root of the Irish Question there was a need for social justice and greater civil liberty, rather than a demand for national independence. In the mid-nineteenth century such a view had been widely shared by both British and European observers, including J. S. Mill, Tocqueville, Cavour and Mazzini.2 Even after 1868, and despite episodes of Fenian violence, there was little indication of a ‘national’ question in Ireland: there was no Home Rule party in Parliament — where the Irish MPs sat as either Liberal or Tory — and no nationalist movement in the country. After all, Fenianism was mainly an imported movement which lacked mass support in the country.


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