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Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9

Chapter 10Chapter 11AppendicesBiographyBibliography

[TOP] [IIreland 1850-1920 Copyright © 2005 by Desmond Keenan. Book available from and]

Chapter Two

1859 to 1868


Summary of chapter. The years of prosperity in the post-Famine period continued. Trade unionism was beginning to emerge among primary school teachers largely to combat the tyranny of the clerical school managers. The opening of a girls school in Belfast on modern lines was a landmark in the education of girls. The American Civil War saw a shortage of cotton in Europe which increased the demand for Irish linen. The ending of the Civil War in 1865 saw a revival in America among former soldiers of a plot to foment an armed rising in Ireland. The failure of the American backers to get a supply of arms into Ireland resulted in a damp squib. Anti-Protestant feeling was growing among Catholics, and their demand for the disestablishment of the Protestant Church in Ireland got support among the Liberals.

The Ministry October 1865 to June 1866 (Liberal)

The Ministry June 1866 to February 1868 (Conservative)

The Ministry February 1868 to December 1868 (Conservative)


The Ministry June 1859 to October 1865 (Liberal) 

Prime Minister             Lord Palmerston (2nd Ministry)

Home Secretary           Sir George Cornewall Lewis; (July 1861) Sir George Grey

Lord Lieutenant          Earl of Carlisle (Nov 1864) Baron Wodehouse

Chief Secretary             Edward Cardwell; (July 1861) Sir Robert Peel

Under Secretary           (Sir) Thomas Larcom

          [June 1859] Sir George Lewis had considerable experience of Irish affairs. He had been on commissions of enquiry into the conditions of the poor and the state of education in Ireland. In 1836 he wrote a Report for Thomas Spring Rice and strongly disagreed with the Report of the other commissioners. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer in Palmerston’s first ministry. John Wodehouse, 3rd Baron Wodehouse, was a diplomat and had no previous experience of Ireland. Cardwell was a very competent administrator who always discharged his duties thoroughly. He had no particular interest in Ireland and in 1861 he exchanged it for the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster, in effect a minister without portfolio. Sir Robert Peel the 3rd baronet was the son of the 2nd baronet. He had none of the abilities of his father and was patently inadequate when the Fenian crisis arose in 1865. He was replaced and never held office again.

          Palmerston’s second ministry was marked by peace at home and abroad. He chose to be neutral during the American Civil War. His ministry continued to reduce taxes and tariffs. Gladstone reduced the tax on paper thus making newspapers cheap and available to the working classes. The first trams ran in London in 1861. The Holyhead Road (1861) Act marked an important stage in the ending of toll roads. It still remains, as the A5, the great route for cars and trucks between Ireland and England. The Post Office Savings Bank was opened in 1861. The General Register Office for Marriage was started in 1845 in Henrietta St; it remained there even after the extension of its business after the 1863 Act which introduced compulsory registration of births. About this time too there developed working class mutual benefit societies. Among these was one called The Ancient Order of Foresters, introduced into Ireland as the Irish National Foresters. In these members contributed small sums each week into a fund for their assistance in time of need or illness. They were also obliged to call on each other when a member was ill, and to assist at a funeral. By 1910 the Foresters had 569 branches in Ireland with a membership of 56,638. (I had an uncle in North Louth who was secretary of the local branch.) Less successful until transformed into a political organisation was the Ancient Order of Hibernians. In 1861 the Royal Dublin Society staged a major exhibition dealing with the fine arts, and the queen also attended. The Dog Regulation (Ireland) Act (1865), a very long-lasting Act, introduced licences for dogs. Less laudable was the Red Flag Act (1865) to give it its popular name, which enacted that three persons must be employed to drive a mechanically-propelled vehicle on a public road, that the maximum speed should be four miles an hours, and that the vehicle should be preceded by a man carrying a red flag.

          There was no such a thing as a Department of Education either in Britain or Ireland in charge of all aspects of education. In 1861 in England an Education Department of the Privy Council was set up. The monarch’s Privy Council had long since ceased to play a central role in government. Some members of it had to be assembled if the monarch was to issue Orders in Council. (Similarly, some members of the Irish Privy Council had to be summoned if the Lord Lieutenant issued a proclamation under any Act of Parliament.) The Office of the Privy Council was a useful place to put minor offices such as the one in charge of grants to education. The head of this Department, Robert Lowe, decided not to dispense grants unless the schools were inspected and found to be of a satisfactory standard. This system became known as ‘payment by results’. Though highly criticised later, the system was undoubtedly necessary. The system was adopted by the National Board in Ireland in 1872. Cardwell and Rickard Deasy passed the Landlord and Tenant Amendment (Ireland) Act (1860) in which they attempted to codify the great mass of laws pertaining to landlords and tenants and to base the relationship on contract. This might have been the Act that was needed but it was not the Act that the tenant farmers wanted. The first British trams had run in Birkenhead so a Tramways (Ireland) Act (1860) was passed to facilitate the use of trams on country roads in Ireland. Nothing was done for another twelve years, though British cities adopted them. A Railway (Ireland) Act (1860) dealt with procedures regarding the compulsory    acquisition of land, which were also to be followed in similar acquisitions, for example for arterial drainage. In 1867 the City of Dublin Tramways Company obtained under that Act an Order in Council authorising the construction of tramways in Dublin from Kingsbridge station,  along the  south  quays to Carlisle Bridge, and then by D'Olier St  to Stephen’s Green ending at the Exhibition buildings. No steps were taken and the omnibus services continued. In 1871 a new body was set up which got another Act passed.

          The year 1859 was famous in Irish history as the ‘Year of Grace’ when a wave of religious fervour swept over the Protestant population of Ulster and farm work was neglected for religious meetings. It was said that in some cases the Catholic farmers had to milk the cows of their Protestant neighbours who had gone off to a revival meeting. The religious craze ended as abruptly as it started. There was another religious revival in Dublin in 1862 during which a young man named Thomas John Barnardo saw the religious light.

          More important, in the same year 1859 Margaret Byers opened the first modern girls’ school in Ireland. This, later known as Victoria College, Belfast, was aimed at providing girls with the same education as boys and preparing them for universities when women were allowed into higher education. There were of course numerous girls’ schools in Ireland, many of them managed by nuns, which aimed to prepare the daughters of gentlemen for their traditional place in society. Queen's College, London, was founded in 1848, having grown out of the Governesses' Benevolent Institution. In 1869, a  women’s college was founded in Hitchin in Hertfordshire from which derived Girton College in 1872, quickly followed by Newnham College in 1875 in Cambridge. New schools were provided by people like Miss Buss to improve girls' education. The Alexandra College for Women in Dublin, corresponding to the Victoria College in Belfast, was opened in 1866 by Dr Hercules Henry Dickinson, dean of the Irish Chapel Royal.  In 1904 at the celebrations of its fortieth anniversary Mr James Bryce made a speech in which he recalled that when he was a young man in 1865 he sat on a Royal Commission of Enquiry into secondary education. The only schools for girls in England and Wales were private schools, and he had to write for and get permission to visit them. One headmistress, asked whether girls should be allowed into Oxford and Cambridge, said that she disapproved of all examinations for girls ‘for they would brush all the dew from the flowers'. He also observed that Alexandra College was older than either Newnham or Girton (Cambridge), and noted the great change that had come over opportunities for women since 1865. Bryce, who was to become Irish Secretary the following year (1905), had been an early supporter of Emily Davies who founded Girton College (Warder 9 June 1906). Somewhat later Sophie Bryant from Dublin, who was teacher of mathematics at the North London Collegiate School, went round Irish convent schools to persuade the nuns to prepare their girls for university. The opportunity first became available to women in the United Kingdom when the Royal University of Ireland was founded in 1880, and thereafter, the Alexandra College coached girls for its degrees. The Royal University was an examining board, and it examined the ladies from Girton and elsewhere. It should be noticed that the women who promoted girls’ education were usually also involved in the campaigns for women’s suffrage, and some of them, like Sophie Bryant pioneered outdoor activities for women like cycling, rowing and mountaineering. She had been specially chosen by Frances Buss to teach mathematics.


          [1860] In 1860 Pope Pius IX asked for volunteers to defend the Papal States against the army of Piedmont. After the defeat of Austria by the Franco-Piedmontese army in 1859 at Solferino the Piedmontese army entered the Papal States of Emilia, Umbria, and The Marches. Myles William Patrick O’Reilly, a captain in the Louth Militia, took service in the papal volunteer army with the rank of major, and commanding the Irish battalion defended Spoleto, but was forced to surrender the town (DNB O’Reilly). Most of the Papal States were incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy which was formed in 1861. (The bloodshed at Solferino inspired Henri Dunant to lead the movement to establish the International Red Cross.) During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) an Irish ambulance team was organised by an Irish surgeon, Thomas More Madden and the Irish journalist Patrick James Smyth. Dr William McCormack volunteered to serve as a surgeon in the French army. On the other side William George Nicholas Manley was in charge of the B division of the British Ambulance Corps attached to the 22nd division of the Prussian army. 

          The Drainage and Improvement of Lands (Ireland) Act (1863) was very important for arterial drainage in Ireland. In Ireland much of the land was very flat and the courses of the rivers slow and little below the surrounding surface. Drainage could not be improved until channels were cleared often many miles away, so a system of districts was devised. Under the Act the proprietors of a river basin were empowered to form themselves into a drainage district. The Board of Works, after enquiries and the examination of their plan could constitute them as a Drainage Board. The Drainage Board then appointed a secretary, an engineer, and a solicitor, and employed a contractor to carry out the works; funds could be borrowed from the Board of Works. When the works were completed the Board of Works made up an account of the expenditure and published an assessment award which assessed each proprietor with his acreage share of the expenditure, to be repaid by instalments spread over a number of years and representing both principal and interest. But later the Land Commission, in assessing the ‘judicial rent’ ignored the Drainage Acts and attributed any improvement in land further than forty feet from the river bank as being due to the tenant. The landlord got the expense and the tenant got the reward (New Irish Jurist 18 April 1902).

          Land could be reclaimed with the advance of public money under the Land Improvements Acts (1864) and (1869). Loans could advanced for the straightening, deepening and  widening of    existing drains; the embanking of land from rivers or seas, the enclosing of lands and  straightening of fences; making permanent farm roads and tramways or navigable canals for the improvement of the estate; the erection of  labourers cottages, farmhouses and other farm  buildings, or the improvement of existing dwellings and buildings; the planting of shelter; the  construction of engine houses [for steam engines], waterwheel sawmills, kilns, watercourse sluices which would increase the value of the agricultural land; the construction of permanent jetties or landing places on the sea coasts or the banks  of navigable rivers or lakes suitable for  the transport of  lime or cattle or otherwise beneficial to agriculture (Irish Law Times  28 April 1900). Under the Land Improvement Act (1864) and (1869) and the four Acts extending the 1864 Act, the money might be advanced by the landowner himself or another person on the security of a title to an absolute charge on the inheritance on the completion of the sanctioned improvements; repayment by a rent charge payable half-yearly for a period not exceeding 40 years. Some of the schemes undertaken in the second half of the nineteenth century were very large, for example the projects to drain the land around Lough Neagh and along the Erne. In general, the advancement of loans for specific development projects was the way the Government preferred for any improvement.

          The American Civil War (1861-1865) affected the Irish linen industry; the area under flax in Ireland was 128, 595 acres in1860 and rose to 301, 693 acres in 1864 as the supply of cotton was cut off; the increased acreage pulled down the great increases in prices in 1861 and 1862. In 1860 Ireland had about 600,000 spindles consuming roughly 32,000 tons of flax, of which 24,000 tons was home-grown. Increasingly, Ulster imported raw flax from the Continent which caused great difficulties when war broke out in 1914 cutting off supplies from Belgium and Russia.


          [1865] In the summer of 1865 the ‘Fenian Conspiracy’ came to a head. After the abortive attempt in 1848 several of the ringleaders fled abroad to France and America. There they formed groups of professional revolutionaries. Europe in the late nineteenth century was full of these plotters, exiles from their own countries, and always seeking ways to overthrow the Government in their own country. Paris was a great centre for these conspirators, but its importance for Ireland lay rather in the fact that it was a great source of revolutionary ideology, the rhetoric which would-be revolutionaries needed to motivate their followers. To get international support, especially financial support, it does not do merely to say ‘We want to control the rackets’. No, the rhetoric must be dressed up in fanciful theories of race or class, preferably both. It explains the close likeness between Irish nationalist rhetoric and that of the German National Socialists. The United States was far more important however, for there was a large number of Irishmen who were willing to assist financially, and the Government of the United States was willing to tolerate their activities provided no American interest was injured.

          One of the minor leaders of the attempted revolution in 1848 was James Stephens. He escaped to Paris and became a professional revolutionary. He was joined by John O’Mahony who then went to America to plot there. Stephens returned to Ireland in 1858, travelled around the country, and convinced himself that Ireland was ripe for revolution. He formed a secret organisation which he called the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) popularly called the Fenians, and O’Mahony formed a similar organisation in the United States. Though they claimed widespread support for their aims it is unlikely that many committed themselves deeply to people who had little money and no arms. (No doubt, had they ever scored a significant success and seemed likely to win there would have been a great surge of support for them.) But a general sympathy for their aims and methods seems to have been widespread among the Irish Catholics. Many of these were probably in or prepared to join the agrarian secret societies, as became manifest in the so-called ‘Land War’. O’Mahony tried to recruit soldiers in both the Federal and Confederate armies. When the war ended in 1865 some attempts were made to invade Canada, but these were blocked both by the American and British Governments.


          Before the century was out Ireland was polarised between two groups, the Catholic Nationalists and the Protestant Unionists. There was a belief which was to prove the strongest and most intractable, and most widespread, and eventually the most dominant. This was the deep-seated traditional anti-Protestant belief among middle and lower-class Catholics mostly from country areas. This was a secular belief, which had nothing to do with religion. It was derived from the defeats of the Catholic armies in the seventeenth century and the losses of lands through the various confiscations. Oddly, the heads of the old Catholic families, the actual landowners, had either conformed to the Protestant religion or accepted the situation. The resentment was extremely strong among the poorer Catholics as Dr James Doyle, the Catholic bishop noted. Edward Hay, the Secretary of the Catholic Committee noted the intensity of the opposition to the royal veto at the time of Catholic Emancipation before 1829 from farmers and shopkeepers in the country areas. The bitterly anti-Protestant Cardinal Cullen was their typical representative. It should be borne in mind that the members of this group had no particular heavy grievance to complain about, but rather that everything could be declared to be an insupportable grievance.

          In the first half of the century, even in the strongest Catholic areas, Protestant families were dominant and Catholics came to call this the ‘Protestant Ascendancy’. The situation in the 1860s was summarised by MacDowell (The Church of Ireland 1-5). The Census gave 50% of the landowners as being of the Established Church but this understated the extent of their holdings of land for they were the large landowners. The Protestant landowners were a powerful self-confident political class. As members of the grand jury they levied the local taxes, appointed the nephews of their old friends to collect them, and spent them when they were gathered in. They controlled the boards of guardians, appointed the dispensary doctors, regulated the diet of the paupers, inflicted fines and administered the law at petty sessions. Until the Ballot Act (1872) and the Representation of the People Act (1884) they usually returned the MPs. They controlled the county government, managed the local charities, officered the militia, ran the hunts and race meetings, formed the bulk of the professions and set the standards of behaviour over wide areas of Irish life. For a Catholic to get anything from the public purse he had to ask a Protestant neighbour, often a person of no greater rank or wealth then himself for his support. He did not necessarily have to bribe with cash but with ‘obligation’, a favour that could be called in at a future date.

          The professions were to a large extent recruited from the landed world and dependent on it. One third of all Irish Protestant clergy came from the landed class; 80% of the serving officers  and 60% of the retired officers from the army; 60% of barristers and 50% of solicitors; 50% of  civil engineers; under 50% of medical men and architects; of school masters, mistresses and  governesses 30% were C. of I.;  28% of actors and actresses, 38% of painters, sculptors and  engravers, and 38% of  photographers; in 1871 38% of civil servants were still Church of Ireland 25% of the police and over 60% of the rank and file of the army were also Church of Ireland; 54% of bankers were Church of Ireland, 39% of accountants and commercial travellers, 26% of merchants, 23% of commercial clerks, 21%  of brokers and auctioneers (MacDowell, op. cit.). The great aim of Catholic Home Rulers was to transfer all this to the Catholics.

          The term Ascendancy came to be used as the equivalent of WASPs in the United States, white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants from the point of view of minority groups like Catholics, Jews, and Blacks. It was the burning desire of the Fenians and later Home Rulers and Nationalists that this situation should be reversed. This was what the Protestants, with reason, called establishing Tammany Hall in Ireland.

          This was the simple picture in the 1860’s. Later the issue became obscured by the introduction of other factors. One of these was racism, the theory of individual races in Europe, Celtic, Teutonic, Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and so on, which was to become dominant in Ireland and Germany in the twentieth century. Another was socialism, in its violent and democratic forms. This was an attack on inherited wealth and privilege, and maintained that such wealth should be confiscated. In Ireland this took the form of demands that landed estates should be taken from the landlords, mostly Protestant, and given to tenants and landless people, mostly Catholics. In Ireland only James Larkin and James Connolly, both from Britain, applied this doctrine to attacks on businesses. The third factor was pure religious bigotry which was found on both sides.

                From 1900 onwards racist and revolutionary socialist ideas were engrafted onto the original Home Rule struggle to produce the exact equivalent of what was to be called ‘racist fascism’ in Germany.

          It should be noted too that in the upper classes of society, Catholics and Protestants freely mixed. The daughter of an impoverished Irish gentleman from Galway named Burke, married the equally impoverished Earl of Fingall, and was accepted by all the Protestant nobility, and by the various Lords Lieutenant and their wives, and by the kings and queens of the United Kingdom. Those upper class Catholics who mixed with Protestants were labelled ‘Castle Catholics’ because they went to Dublin Castle. The phrase had the same connotation of opprobrium as ‘nigger lover’ in the United States; it meant you were letting your own side down. It was ironic that Cardinal Cullen who only visited the Castle once in his life should be labelled a ‘Castle Catholic’ for opposing the Fenians (‘Paul Cullen’ Catholic Encyclopaedia).

          It became necessary for the Home Rule Party to insist that there should be no social intercourse with any people, especially Protestants, outside the Party, lest they start to stop believing their own propaganda. For similar reasons, at a lower level, the Gaelic Athletic Association excluded anyone who played ‘foreign games’ such as soccer or tennis, in case they would pick up wrong ideas. The Churches too played their own part in ensuring that young people from different religious backgrounds did not meet. Catholic nationalists constructed and enforced a Catholic ghetto in Ireland within which their ideas and propaganda would never be contradicted.

          The general election in 1865 confirmed the ministry in power but on 18th October 1865 Palmerston died at the age of 81. [TOP]              

The Ministry October 1865 to June 1866 (Liberal) 

Prime Minister             Earl Russell (Lord John Russell) (2nd Ministry)

Home Secretary           Sir George Grey

Lord Lieutenant          Baron Wodehouse

Chief Secretary              Sir Robert Peel (Dec. 1865) Chichester Fortescue

Under Secretary           (Sir) Thomas Larcom 

          [October 1865] Lord John Russell, now Earl Russell, again became Prime Minister, with Gladstone as Leader of the House of Commons. The Government was perfectly aware of what was going on in Ireland. The Habeas Corpus Act was amended to allow the arrest of suspicious Irish-Americans, and on 15 September 1865 the principal leaders were arrested. Stephens himself was arrested on 11 November but escaped out of the country (Campbell, Fenian Fire, 56-61; Warder 11 Jan 1902). He got to America where he was suspected within the movement of betraying the plot, and was deposed. He returned to Ireland in 1885.

          Russell disliked Sir Robert Peel, the son of his old adversary, and quickly replaced him with Chichester Fortescue MP for County Louth. Chichester Fortescue was, like Vere Foster, a member of one of the leading families in County Louth. Though the Fenian crisis was over when Fortescue arrived, it was felt necessary to do something about the grievance of the tenant farmers who could be evicted without compensation for improvements they had made. Fortescue introduced a Bill, but the attention of Parliament was taken up with Russell’s proposed Reform Bill. Another Act which was passed by this brief ministry was one to deal with the outbreak of rinderpest or cattle plague. The rinderpest or cattle plague entered England in 1862, spread in six months to 32 counties and lasted until 1866. (‘An acute infectious febrile disease of ruminant mammals (as cattle) that is caused by a virus and is marked by diarrhoea and inflammation of mucous membranes’- Webster.) Foot-and-mouth disease had appeared in England in 1839 and gave trouble until the Diseases of Animals Act (1890) gave powers to the English Board of Agriculture to deal with it (Briggs and Jordan Economic History 324). A veterinary department of the Privy Council was established, and the Government authorised the compulsory slaughtering of cattle with compensation paid by the Government. This established a principal which has endured to this day.

          The Irish College of Science was founded in 1865 to teach subjects that were not taught in a practical way in the University, and to teach lads who had neither the time nor the money for a university course. A Treasury minute converted the Museum of Irish Industry and the Government School of Science applied to Mining and the Arts into the Royal College of Science with Robert Kane as its first director. It remained under the Commissioners of Science and Art (Privy Council, Department  of Science and Art) until 1900 when it came under the newly  created Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction. (Encyclopaedia of Ireland; In 1926 it was absorbed into University College, Dublin.)


          In March 1866 Russell again introduced his Reform Bill aimed at extending the franchise, but a collection of objectors in Parliament led by Edward Horsman and Robert Lowe, nicknamed the Addullamites, defeated the Bill and brought down the Government. (John Bright depicted Horsman as retiring into ‘what may be called his political cave of Addullam, to which he invited everyone who was in distress and everyone who was discontented’; see 1 Samuel 22:2). Lord John Russell’s long parliamentary career came to an end. The first petition for suffrage for women was presented to Parliament. In 1866 the Pope created Cullen a cardinal. The queen sent again for Lord Derby. [TOP]

The Ministry June 1866 to February 1868 (Conservative) 

Prime Minister             Earl of Derby (3rd Ministry)

Home Secretary           Spencer Walpole; (May 1867) Gathorne Hardy

Lord Lieutenant          Duke of Abercorn

Chief Secretary             Lord Naas

Under Secretary           (Sir) Thomas Larcom

          [June 1866] The only newcomer was James Hamilton, the first Duke of Abercorn, whose family estates were mostly in County Donegal. An Irish Catholic barrister, Michael Morris, was elected to Parliament and sat with the Conservatives. In July 1866 he was appointed Irish Solicitor General, being the first Catholic Conservative to hold that office. In November 1866 he was advanced to be Attorney General. He was also made an Irish Privy Councillor. In 1867 he became a puisne [second rank] judge in the Court of Common Pleas, and became Lord Chief Justice in 1876. This was a period when the Irish bar and Irish judiciary was ornamented by men of outstanding ability. He was the senior judge in Ireland in the days of the Land League. In 1889 he was promoted to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and moved to London. This committee, then and now, heard appeals from other jurisdictions in the Empire. Gathorne Hardy was a Yorkshire barrister.


          A large number of the clergy of the Established Church accepted the rules of the National Board. When Archbishop Whately was the chief Commissioner for Education many of the clergy of the Established Church were totally opposed to him. The Church Education Society had been formed in 1839 to help schools which objected to the inter-denominational Board, and by 1867 was assisting about 1400 schools with 63,000 pupils of which 44,000 were Episcopalians. They were given a scriptural education based on the Authorized Version of the Bible; but the teachers were poorly paid and the schools were unable to compete with those of the National Board. It was realised by this time that the national schools themselves tended to be denominationally managed with the children from the minority protected by a conscience clause. In 1866 the primate, five bishops and 700 clergymen declared themselves in favour of the national system, and after 1870 the Church Education Society found itself deserted. By 1900 it was managing only 138 schools, by which time there were 1330 schools managed by Church of Ireland clergymen under the National Board (MacDowell The Church of Ireland, 22 ff.).

          The question of the endowments of the Established Church was coming to the fore again. In 1863 and 1865 Ralph Bernal Osborne, then the Whig MP for Liskeard in Cornwall, raised the question of religious endowments, and in 1865 Gladstone said the Government was not prepared to act on the matter. In 1864 the Irish bishops prepared a bill providing for limited reform but could not get Government backing. However, in the  general  election in 1865 John Ball, vicar general of Armagh  and an  expert on ecclesiastical law who supported moderate  reform, was rejected by the Trinity College constituency in favour of a strong  conservative (MacDowell, op. cit. 26ff.; DNB John Thomas Ball, Ralph Bernal Osborne). In 1867 Disraeli appointed John Thomas Ball as a member of the Royal Commission on the Irish Church. It recommended a considerable reduction in the number and emoluments of the bishoprics and dignitaries, the abolition of several cathedral chapters, and the application of the revenues saved to the augmentation of poorer incumbencies. It showed, as Primate Beresford pointed out at the time, that the Church was not excessively endowed, had no overgrown fortunes of individual ministers, and had few pluralities (Church of Ireland Gazette 1 Feb 1901).

          Lord Naas was in favour of a policy of ‘levelling up’ rather than ‘levelling down’, not to disestablish the Church of Ireland but to endow Catholic institutions. He also supported compensation for tenants’ improvements and for written contracts for leaseholders. Disraeli, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported him in these views. There was not in fact much difference between the two main political parties on the land question. By an Act, introduced by Colman O’Loghlen and passed in 1867, Catholics were allowed to become Irish Lord Chancellor, and in the following year Gladstone appointed Thomas O’Hagan to the post, the first Catholic since the reign of James II. O’Loghlen was made Judge Advocate General by Gladstone also in 1868 (DNB, Thomas O’Hagan, Colman Michael O’Loghlen).

          Ritualism and Anglicanism were scarcely to be found in Ireland; but three churches in Dublin, St Bride's, St Bartholomew's, and All Saints introduced changes which caused considerable excitement. There were grave disorders in All Saints in 1866 when the rector, Carroll, introduced a choral service; the congregation loudly repeated the responses while the choir was singing. During the recital of the creed Carroll turned east and he was hissed; finally the police had to clear the church. (In Catholic churches, regularly orientated, i.e. pointing towards the east, the celebrating priest faced towards the east with his back to the congregation. In Protestant churches the celebrating minister invariably faced the congregation.) A year earlier St Bartholomew’s was built in a prosperous suburb, the pews were free, the communion table was given a coloured cloth (antependium) at its front, flowers were placed on it, and a ledge was placed at the back: all evidence of the Tractarian or Oxford Movement. These slight innovations were to lead to the great debate on the revision of the Prayer Book.


          There was another outbreak of cholera in Dublin in 1866. Dublin Corporation established a Public Health Department. It was a start, but the Medical Officer worked only part-time.  The Report of the Medical Officer of Health in 1880 attributed the excessive mortality to the deplorable condition of the tenement houses, the improper construction of the house drains, the unsanitary condition of the dairy-yards and slaughter-houses, the want of convalescent hospitals, the concealment of infectious diseases, the absence of a disinfecting apparatus, and the intemperate and filthy habits of the people. The findings of a royal commission added to these criticisms of private failure the criticism of the inadequate scavenging of the streets, their imperfect paving, the absence of baths and washhouses, and the fact that the Medical Officer of Health was not a full time post (Warder 31 March 1900).

          Following an enquiry, an Act in 1867 constituted two bodies out of the old Ballast Board; one was the Dublin Port and Docks Board, and the other the Commissioners of Irish Lights, to whom was given the supervision of lights, docks, and beacons. In 1853 the city engineer urged the necessity of sewers to prevent the fouling of the Liffey. Sixteen years later the Corporation got round to adopting plans for the necessary works. Six years later still the Government offered to advance half a million to enable the work to be done.

          Belfast was built largely on a swamp, and piles had to be driven into the marshy soil before houses could be built. Drainage was difficult for most of the city centre was only five or six feet above sea-level. A drainage scheme was commenced in 1867 (Irish Presbyterian July, August 1920).


          [1867] From 1867 onwards Tenants’ Rights meetings which had lapsed for a while began to be held again and Walker sees the year 1868 as the beginning of distinctive Ulster politics (Walker, Ulster Politics The Formative Years, 5). Education was never far out of sight in Victorian times. The Powis Commission was established in 1867 and commenced work in 1868. It reported that the standards being achieved in many schools were very low and recommended the adoption of payment by results in 1871-2. Good teachers were pleased with the new system for they were given extra fees for successful children.

          The driving force in the Conservative Party was now Benjamin Disraeli, shortly to be Prime Minister. He succeeded in uniting the old Tories and Peelites and finally making the Conservative Party into what Sir Robert Peel had intended when he wrote the Tamworth Manifesto in 1834. Peel’s aim was to build a party which would not be swayed by passing fads of Liberalism from the Continent or ‘French ideas’ but one which would conserve the values of England and which would enact any reforms necessary in the changed circumstances of the times. This was often derided as ‘Tory paternalism’ but it embraced a care for the welfare of the common man. Disraeli made the Conservatives a reforming party. A very important Act was passed by this Parliament, the Master and Servant Act (1867). Despite its title this largely brought to an end the old feudal relation of master and servant. Under the old system, a man who left his place of work could be arrested and put in gaol (Briggs and Jordan, Economic History of England, 432-3). All future Acts concerning the workplace, and they were many, were based on an equality between employer and employee.

          Edward Stanley, the 14th Earl of Derby was nearing the end of his life. He found himself at the head of an administration composed mostly of Conservatives headed by Disraeli who were eager to get their own version of a Parliamentary Reform Bill passed. The original purpose of the House of Commons in the Middle Ages had been to vote money which the king needed for his own projects and which he could not get from his own lands or from the nobles or the Church. The common people, or Commons, were invited to choose representatives from the various shire and towns ‘knights’ and ‘burgesses’ to assemble in the ‘House of Commons’ and agree to raise the sums required by the king. For this reason all money Bills belonged solely to the Commons. Originally the franchise was limited to ‘Forty Shilling Freeholders’, those whose freehold tenancies were worth forty shillings a year. Over the centuries the franchise had been twisted and distorted, and a nominal freeholder was expected to vote as his landlord instructed. The first attempt at reform was made by the Whigs in the Great Reform Act (1832) which despite its name was a very limited measure as far as extending the franchise was concerned. The numbers qualified to vote rose in England from around 435,000 to 650,000. More important was the abolition of rotten boroughs, towns which once had been important but were now decayed (Richards and Hunt, Modern Britain, 112-3).

          Stanley was not in favour of extending the franchise, and described the proposal as ‘a leap in the dark’ which it probably was. But Disraeli got his way. Lord John Russell’s proposal would have added another 300,000 to the existing 1,000,000 voters. The Tory cabinet was not agreed what the proper basis of the franchise should be, but it was arrived at after months of discussion in the cabinet and in Parliament. The Second Reform Act (1867) gave the borough franchise to all householders and £10 lodgers (called household suffrage) and in the counties to £10 leaseholders, ignoring the kind of lease. The electorate was thus doubled. Disraeli claimed to have ‘dished the Whigs’, but he was mistaken, for at the next General Election the Liberals under Gladstone were returned with a large majority (Richards and Hunt, Modern Britain, 162). Nevertheless, Disraeli was soon proved right, and the ‘Conservative working man’ became a familiar part of the political scene.


          While these things were going on, the absurd episode or episodes of the proposed ‘Fenian Uprising’ (1867) took place. The would-be revolutionaries vastly overestimated their support. They claimed to have 50,000 volunteers in readiness but arms for only 6,000. The police had a great deal of knowledge of what was going on; they knew the whole organisational structure and the names of the officers appointed to command each district in Ireland. The plan was to tear up the rails at Limerick Junction and seize the telegraph. They were then to telegraph to America, where a ship, the Erin's Hope, filled with men and munitions was to sail immediately. It was to be the duty of Massey, the acting adjutant general of the revolutionary army to tear up the rails at Limerick Junction and seize the telegraph to disrupt the movement of the troops, but when he was arrested he disclosed the full plot.

          The Tallaght fiasco came about because the designated commander of the Dublin district, a man named Halpin, saw that the proposed rising was futile, and refused to act. Groups of men, some armed with pikes, but mostly unarmed, headed for the mountains; the plan was to draw the military and the police out into the mountains, and then seize the city behind their backs! The would-be rebels  were intercepted by District Inspector Dominick Burke and dispersed with a single volley; 100 men were arrested but later released; the Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Abercorn thought the matter too trivial to take notice off, and sent them home (Warder 11 January 1902). Most of the Fenian leaders were rounded up and given long terms in prison. Many of these were defended by a Protestant barrister named Isaac Butt. At Killmallock in Limerick where the only actual fighting took place they attacked a police barracks.

          There was a constant delusion in Ireland that it was possible for a group of untrained men to seize arms, declare themselves an army, and throw out the existing army. The American colonies were only successful because two European powers decided to grab the opportunity of attacking Britain themselves. The French mob in 1789 temporarily seized power, but was quickly dispersed by Napoleon ‘with a whiff of grapeshot’.

          Nor had the Government any difficulty about procuring information about the warlike preparations in the United States whose Government ignored what was going on. The London Metropolitan Police had no experts in dealing with plotters and so they had to get an expert from Dublin. They later developed their Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Special Branch. Not a single man in the Irish Constabulary proved unworthy of his trust and the title Royal was conferred on them. In England, where three Fenians were convicted of murder, Gathorne Hardy, now the Home Secretary, refused to commute the sentences, but they were sanctified in Irish republican mythology as the ‘Manchester Martyrs’.

          All the Catholic bishops except MacHale condemned the Fenians. It is difficult to see why MacHale objected except to act contrary to Cullen. The fact that MacHale refused to join with the other bishops might seem to indicate that he endorsed an armed uprising, but it is very doubtful if this was the case. As late as 1920 there were bishops who steadfastly preached the Catholic teaching that killing another human being in the name of doing it for Ireland was murder, and so an injustice requiring restitution before absolution could be given. The theological principles were clear.

          Down the centuries the concept of the ‘just war had been elaborated. To kill people in a just war there must exist an extraordinary evil or oppression; there must be no other way of achieving the end; there must be a reasonable chance of success; no more force must be used than is essential to achieve the end; no other selfish aim like acquiring an opponent’s land or goods are allowed; the decision can only be taken by the person or chief who exercises public authority in the state, and not by private individuals. As far as the situation in Ireland was concerned, there was no intolerable oppression; it was always possible by patience and argument to get a legislative remedy, though this might take time; the aim should only to be to remove the oppression and not to get the lands of the Protestants, or to run the political rackets. It was entirely unlawful for a private group of men to assemble, declare themselves the representatives of the ‘People of Ireland’ and announce that those they denounced as the enemies of Ireland could be lawfully killed. The Fenians were no better in these respects than the Nazis before Hitler was elected to power, or the gangsters of Chicago.

          There were of course at every time, and not only in Ireland, casuistic clergymen who would tell their chiefs that his cause was just. Even after the Fenians were excommunicated nominatim by the Holy See in 1870 there were those who maintained that the excommunication did not apply to Ireland because there was no lawful Government in Ireland. MacHale went further in defending against Cullen, who wished to discipline him, a priest in his diocese, Fr. Patrick Lavelle who openly preached the right to revolution (Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine, 131)

          But many Protestants with reason felt that the Catholic clergy as a whole did not exert themselves to preach against the murderers, or to root out the evil from their midst. At least when Cullen was alive he tried to ensure that the teaching of the Catholic Church was preached, and backed up his preaching with excommunication. There may be many complaints made against Cullen but failure to denounce terrorism by members of his own flock is not one of them. Though dating from 1910 the following example of clerical rhetoric may be regarded as typical.

           ‘But the new landlords were no better than the old. They raised rents, confiscated the tenant's improvements, worried him with vexatious estate rules, evicted him cruelly; and from 1850 to 1870 was the period of the great clearances. The necessary result was a constant and ever-increasing stream of emigration from Ireland, chiefly to America. Nor would British statesmen do anything to stem the tide, Lord John Russell would not interfere with the rights of property by passing a Land Act. Lord Derby was a landlord with a landlord's strong prejudices. Lord Palmerston declared that tenant right was landlord wrong. Nothing could be expected from the Irish members. Sadleir and Keogh broke up the Tenant Right party; Lucas was dead; Duffy in despair went to Australia; Moore was out of Parliament; and from 1855 to 1870 the Irish members were but place hunters and traitors’ (Rev. E.A. D'Alton, ‘Ireland’, Catholic Encyclopaedia, 1910).  This can scarcely be reconciled with a serious campaign to root out terrorism in the national cause. (Just try substituting ‘Jews’ for ‘landlords’ in the above passage.)

          It is worthwhile at this point considering at length the political motivations of various Catholic groups. After the Reformation, the Penal Laws had transferred most of the land, wealth, power and opportunities for patronage and opportunities for corruption to Protestants. There was nothing unusual about Penal Laws; they existed in every state in Europe and America. The Penal Laws in Ireland were directed chiefly towards the ownership and inheritance of land, and over the centuries the vast majority of the landowners found it convenient to conform to the Established Church. Often there were two branches of the same family, one Catholic and one Protestant such as the Plunketts, Barons of Dunsany, and Plunketts, Earls of Fingall. The positions of members of the Church of Ireland in the Government and the counties has been described earlier.

          Cullen and the great majority of the Catholic clergy wanted to see an independent Ireland with the Catholics in charge in the manner envisaged by Daniel O’Connell in the 1830s. We might call this ‘O’Connell’s Repeal Movement’. The Act of Union (1800) would be repealed and the constitution restored to what it had been in 1782, namely with an independent Irish Parliament under the same crown with some residual powers left to the monarch and the English Privy Council. An Act similar in scope to the Representation of the People Act (1884) would be passed, and power, including the power of taxation, and patronage would immediately pass to the Catholics. Catholic politicians would make the laws. Catholic bishops and priests would advise the Government. Protestant taxes could be used to fund Catholic schools and charities, and as the Protestants saw it, Popery would be re-established. There would be no revolution or bloodshed. Agrarian terrorism, if it still existed, and violent trade unionism would be suppressed. All would be conducted in terms of the strictest legality. Common Law, and the enactments of the Irish Parliament or the United Kingdom Parliament, if beneficial, would be retained, as would also the courts. Above all, control of the counties and all that it implied would be transferred from the Protestant gentry to the Catholic middle class.

          However in the 1840s Romantic Nationalism arrived in Ireland and was spread by the ‘Young Ireland’ movement from whom the Fenians were derived. These relied on woolly romantic ideas often derived from 18th century German philosophers (romantic: marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized, Merriam Webster.) Not only ideas pertaining to art and music like ‘sublime’, ‘truth’, ‘beauty’, but social and political ideas like ‘people’, ‘race’, ‘nation’, ‘country’ ‘fatherland’, ‘liberty’, ‘spirit’, and ‘freedom’. These are by their nature vague and undetermined and very prone to subjective interpretation (Keenan, Ireland 1800-1850, 355-6). As noted earlier, these are great words for orators, and Adolf Hitler as well as Irish Nationalists were to exploit them to the hilt. The result was that the ‘Romantic Nationalists’ could declare that they represented the people or the nation, that this people or nation had lost its liberty, that this was an extraordinary evil and oppression, and one that justified a war for freedom. A great weakness of this approach which prolonged terrorism in Ireland until the present day was how to include Irish Protestants in the vision of a shared nationality when the great object of independence was to strip the Protestants of their land, wealth and positions.

          Romantic nationalists wanted the same things as O’Connell’s Repealers, but drawing inspiration from ancient wars as they imagined them, they were prepared to use force to seize power and influence from the Protestants. They regarded themselves as fighting foreigners, of removing foreign oppression. Fighting in battle array against the British ‘redcoats’ was their preference, but many of them did not disdain to use the violent methods of the agrarian terrorists. Though the Irish Nationalist Party was often contrasted with Sinn Fein/IRA in reality there was little difference between them. Nor was there a great difference between them and Hitler’s National Socialists. (Clare Halloran in her book Partition and the Limits of Irish Nationalism illustrates what she describes as ‘the deep contradictions inherent in Irish nationalist ideology’, Halloran, op. cit.). Yet some in the Fenian tradition, a number of them Protestants, were closer to the Repeal Movement favoured by O’Connell and the Catholic bishops, and many Catholic bishops and priests felt they could work with these moderate Fenians. Michael Davitt was one of the Fenians totally opposed to physical violence. [TOP]         

The Ministry February 1868 to December 1868 (Conservative) 

Prime Minister             Benjamin Disraeli 

Home Secretary           Gathorne Hardy

Lord Lieutenant          Duke of Abercorn

Chief Secretary            Lord Naas; (Sept. 1868) John Wilson-Patten

Under Secretary           (Sir) Thomas Larcom

          [February 1868] The Reform Act (1867) came into force in August, and Lord Derby who was ailing, retired on 26 February 1868, and Disraeli became Prime Minister. He appointed Lord Naas as Governor General of India and replaced him as Irish secretary by John Wilson-Patten who held the office for a few months.

          Following the Second Reform Act (1867) a parallel Act was passed for Ireland, the Representation of the People (Ireland) Act (1868). The county franchise remained as it was in 1850 at a rateable valuation of £12. In the boroughs the rateable valuation was set at £4 even for lodgers. This had the effect of giving the vote to skilled tradesmen and the electorate in the boroughs more than doubled. The county valuation still restricted the vote to the strong farmers, and the ‘lodger franchise’ was not extended to the counties until 1884 (Walker, Ulster Politics, 39-40).

          The year 1868 saw the emergence of the Orange Order as a force in Irish politics. William Johnston, (known as Johnston the Orangeman) a barrister from County Down objected to the Party Processions Act (1850) which prohibited marches and processions and was still on the Statute Book. He felt that the Act was being enforced in the North and not in the South, so he led an Orange protest procession in 1867. He was sentenced to two months imprisonment in March 1868, and when he emerged from prison he was treated as an Orange hero. The Orange Order was a working-class affair, but many of its members in the skilled trades had recently been enfranchised. At the General Election in the same year he was returned for Belfast as an Independent Conservative and was re-elected in 1874. He was a strong supporter of Tenant Right (DNB).

          Marches and processions with banners and bands were part of the political culture of the British Isles. Though often associated with the Orange Order in Ireland and the Trade Union movement in Britain, processions could be organised by any group. There were temperance processions for example, and trade guild processions, though Catholic religious processions were technically illegal outside the precincts of churches. When organisations are divided into different branches or lodges each branch or lodge would carry its own banner. Processions were liable to be attacked and stoned by rival groups thus leading to rioting and reprisals. So for many years in mid-century they were banned altogether. Though heavy drinking was often associated with processions (except of course temperance processions) the Orange Order was noted for its abstemiousness).

          The Irish Industrial Schools Act (1868) was passed extending these schools to Ireland. They were to be on the same denominational principle as the reformatories. Lord Naas was not in favour, but a Bill was introduced by Charles Owen O’Conor, called O’Conor Don i.e. the chief of that branch of the O’Conors. (Chiefs of some clans were still recognised in Ireland but not to the same extent as in Scotland. The title was purely nominal.) He was assisted by Chichester Fortescue who noted that most of the objections to the Bill came from Presbyterians terrified that their children might be sent to schools run by Catholic religious orders (Barnes, Irish Industrial Schools, 39-40). By 1890 there were 70 industrial schools which received around £98,000 from the Treasury, £42,000 from Local Authorities, and £19,000 from other sources (op. cit. 75). In 1902 there were 68 schools with a total of 8,043 children. By far the largest was the Artane Industrial School in Dublin managed by the Irish Christian Brothers. But several had no more than 50 (pp. 153-160). The largest Protestant school was the Balmoral Industrial School, Belfast with 350.


          In 1831 when the National Schools were first established the pay scale ranged from £9 a year to £16. This had gradually been increased and by 1865 salaries started at £15 for a probationer (£14 for a woman) rising to a possible £52 with an average of just over £28. The teachers felt that by their education they were raised above the illiterate labourers, and tried as best they could to dress in accordance with their status. To get round the ban on the training college and model schools the National Board encouraged teachers to study privately for teachers’ examinations, and made success in these examinations the only way for teachers to increase their salaries. This was modified when ‘payment by results’ came in (Dowling, Irish Education, 125-6). Occasionally farmers would give gifts of potatoes or butter, and in places small sums were subscribed towards the salary. There were no residences for teachers, so they had to board with the local farmers where they dined with the servants. For any attempt to write to the newspapers about their grievances they were liable to lose their salary. The teachers tried to form a Redress Committee but were informed by the National Board that if anyone of them complained to the Committee he or she was liable to dismissal. They had no tenure and no pensions (Irish School Weekly 25 May 1929). Fortunately they found in Vere Foster a gentleman willing to assist them. Foster considered a journal for teachers would be useful. Just at this time a journalist in Dublin called Robert Chamney produced The Irish Teachers’ Journal on 1 January 1868. Local teachers’ associations were rapidly set up all over Ireland and Foster wrote to 100 of them with queries regarding points he wished to put to the Powis Commission. In August he presided over a small gathering of teachers’ representatives in order to prepare a national congress in December. Over a hundred teachers attended and formed the Irish National Teachers’ Association, later the Irish National Teachers Organisation, INTO. Foster wanted a large part of the financial support for education to come from local authorities who would be compelled to collect a rate for this purpose. He wanted residences for teachers, and their meagre salaries to be paid monthly not quarterly. He wanted more intermediate schools in each Poor Law Union district so that older children could easily walk to them each day.

          In 1868 the year the INTO was founded the Powis Commission on Education was sitting and the union sent three or four teachers to give evidence. One of the teachers giving evidence, Mr Daniel MacDonough of Naas National School, said he often got applications from old teachers for assistance to get to Dublin to get into one of the hospitals; he gave them each a sixpence or a shilling. When they left the teaching because of ill-health or age they were given a small gratuity which lasted but a short time (Irish School Weekly 22 March 1930).

          In 1869 Foster led a deputation of five teachers to the Lord Lieutenant, Earl Spencer. Incongruously enough, also in 1869, Archbishop MacHale got the whole hierarchy to agree to another condemnation of the National Schools even though there were now numerous Catholic Commissioners. He even got the Pope to ratify the condemnation at the Vatican Council. One feels that the bishops acted to placate MacHale and to put pressure on the Government to finance a fully denominational system, without having any intention themselves of withdrawing from the Board. This would be strange after the Established Church had just capitulated. Foster himself was scathing about the multiplying of schools in a parish, where there were three schools, but only enough pupils for one. There was a cost in this, for the same sum of money had to pay three teachers instead of one, build and maintain three buildings where one sufficed (MacNeill, Vere Foster 149-164).

          Teachers were not the only group organising themselves at this time. In the early part of the century trade unions and combinations were noted for the violence with which their strikes were enforced. But the law cracked down on them heavily. In Ireland, the Trades Political Union which had avowedly political objectives had faded away. After 1850 the many of the unions were craft unions composed of properly-qualified, apprentice-trained craftsmen. But there were also some unions of unskilled workers like the Limerick Dock Labourers Union in 1860. The Amalgamated Society of Engineers largely based in factories in Dublin and Belfast was founded in 1851. By 1868 it had branches in several towns with a total membership of 1300. There were various carpenters’ unions. Some unions were based in Britain and competed with Irish unions. Most were affiliated to the British Trade Union Congress. In 1894 the native Irish Unions formed the Irish Trade Union Congress.


          The year 1868 marked the beginning of what was to be the prime event in Dublin’s social calendar, the Horse Show. The Royal Irish Agricultural Society had been organising agricultural shows, usually called the Spring Show, in conjunction with the Royal Dublin Society since 1841. In 1868 they were able to welcome the Prince and Princess of Wales, the future Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. In 1849, after the queen’s visit to Ireland, he had been created Earl of Dublin. The queen’s father the Duke of Kent had had the same title, so Victoria always felt close to the people of Dublin. Edward was sent to Ireland to the military camp at the Curragh to join the second battalion of the Grenadier Guards. For the first time in his life he was free from strict parental supervision, and the other young officers introduced him to the pleasures of life. (His wife, the Princess Alexandra, felt it beneath her even to notice his infidelities.) Though there were threats of Fenian disturbances they came to nothing and the prince and princess were received with enthusiasm. The prince also attended the Punchestown races in County Kildare, another major social event. The Punchestown races, under National Hunt rules, i.e. over jumps, commenced in 1861. Irish flat-racing was based on the nearby Curragh racecourse and the Irish Derby, based on the English Epsom Derby, commenced in 1866. Every Irish county tried to have its own racecourse even if meets were held only once a year. Local meets were very popular with all classes, and servants, farm labourers, gardeners etc. were usually given the day off to attend. Only the Galway races matched the social cachet of Punchestown.

          The Royal Dublin Society had decided to hold a Show especially for horses. Horse breeding was becoming more and more important in Ireland, and every strong farmer, and many small farmers hoped to make money from breeding hunters. A hunter is usually a half-bred horse. Ireland, like other countries cultivated the Thoroughbred, but it was not until 1907 that an Irish horse won the Epsom Derby. Earlier in the century, Ireland had not produced any outstanding breed of horse, but there gradually emerged a useful general purpose horse which was neither a heavy draft horse nor a fast racer. It could be used for ploughing, riding, pulling light vans or pieces of artillery, hunting and racing. Later the breed was standardised as the Irish Draft Horse. Crossbred with a Thoroughbred stallion it produced excellent hunters, and formed the basis of the world-famous Irish horse-breeding industry of today. The first Horse Show was held in the last week in July 1868, though it is now held in the first week in August. The Royal Dublin Society had acquired Leinster House in the centre of Dublin with its extensive lawns from the Duke of Leinster in 1814. (Leinster House is now the seat of the Irish Parliament, and the lawns are occupied by the National Library and National Museum.) The purpose of the Show was to demonstrate the jumping ability of the horses exhibited, and this marked the beginning of show jumping in Ireland. The jumps were modelled on those of the Islington Show in London. Besides jumpers, there were classes for horses suitable for troopers, officers, and carriages. A trooper needed a big horse, an officer a flashy horse (de Vere White, The Royal Dublin Society, 157-159). Though later in the century the greatest demand from foreign armies was for the basic Irish Draft.

          There occurred another event in 1868 in connection with the Royal Dublin Society which was also to be of great importance for Dublin and Ireland. There were various proposals regarding how best to use Leinster House and its grounds and to unite on one site national museums, a national gallery, a national library and a school of art. A committee was established in 1868 under the Marquis of Kildare (later Duke of Leinster) and made sweeping proposals, but little was done about the matter for another ten years (de Vere White, op. cit. 121). A considerable proportion of what was proposed was eventually accomplished. The National Library, the National Museum, the National College of Art, the National Gallery, and the Natural History Museum were eventually built on the site. The Irish Parliament sits incongruously in their midst, preventing the unification of the site. It was taken over more or less forcibly by the IRA chief Michael Collins in 1922 on a temporary basis which became permanent in 1924 (de Vere White, 189-90).

          On the 19 March 1868 there was a debate on the state of Ireland on the initiative of John Francis Maguire a former Catholic member of the Independent Party. Disraeli maintained with reason that there was little actual disaffection in Ireland, and that the Fenian Conspiracy was hatched abroad. He also believed that if his successor Gladstone had done nothing there would have been no troubles in Ireland. In this he was probably correct, for once Gladstone was seen to be yielding to the pressure of what was quite a small faction the pressure on him would be immensely increased. Gladstone, in the course of the debate suddenly changed his mind and declared that he approved of both the disestablishment and disendowment of the Established Church in Ireland. Gladstone was not interested in the Report on the Irish Church of Disraeli’s Commission just issued. On 23 March 1868 Gladstone proposed three resolutions, that the Irish Church be disestablished, that it be disendowed, and that its patronage should be removed. His resolutions were accepted by the Commons. Disraeli offered his resignation to the queen, but she would only agree to a general election in the autumn. Gladstone’s proposed suspensory Bill was rejected by the House of Lords. Parliament was prorogued on 31 July 1868 and dissolved on 11 November. The great issue at the general election was the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and the Liberals were returned with a majority of 115 members. Disraeli resigned and on 4 December 1868 the queen asked Gladstone to form a ministry.



Copyright Desmond J. Keenan, B.S.Sc.; Ph.D. ;.London, U.K.