“Home Rule for Ireland”


Hearers are urged to join the Home Rule Movement. Mr Butt and other leaders are named. Gladstone thought that the church bill would suffice, "but Paddy wants to rule himself." America and France support Home Rule. Butt leads "his little band" of MPs


Zimmermann p. 61: "Constitutional agitation had been revived in 1869 through meetings demanding an amnesty for the Fenian prisoners. A 'Home Government Association for Ireland', created in 1870 [founded by Isaac Butt], became the 'Irish Home Rule League' in 1872 and soon met with great success as the Irish Parliamentary Party. Broadside ballads praised its leaders, and looked once more for encouragement from overseas." [see also "The Glorious Meeting of Dublin" and references there].

The leaders of the movement named in the broadside are, besides Butt, are John Martin and Shea, Dr Cummins and Galbraith; the "little band" of Home Rule MPs are not named.

The reference to Gladstone and the church refers to his 1869 move disestablishing the Church of Ireland in 1869 so that Catholic farmers did not have to pay tithes to that church. In 1885 Gladstone announced his support for Irish Home Rule. (sources: "Gladstone and Home Rule 1886" in _Northern Ireland Timeline_ at the BBC site; "Gladstone and Ireland" at the History Learning site)

Zimmermann p. 61 is a fragment; broadside NLScotland L.C.1270(009) is the basis for the description. The NLS probable period of publication as 1840-1850 is obviously incorrect when the broadside refers to events after 1870. - BS

The initial organization of the Home Government Alliance was rather ironic, as it included Protestants upset about the disestablishment of the Protestant Church (see Robert Kee, _The Bold Fenian Men_, being Volume II of _The Green Flag_, p. 61; also the notes to "The Downfall of Heresy").

If Kee is to be believed, the Home Rulers were right about Gladstone: "Gladstone seems at first to have imagined that he could solve the problem of Ireland forever by two measures: first, By disestablishing the Irish Protestant Church and, second, legislating to compensate a tenant financially on conviction" (p. 58). The first measure came into force in 1869, and was universally welcomed. The second took the form of the first Land Bill, passed in 1870. But it corrected only a few minor abuses: Evicted tenants had to be paid for improvements they had made, but they could still be evicted. Something stronger was needed.

The mention of the Church Bill dates the song after 1869. The lack of reference to the second Land Bill, and of Gladstone's Home Rule proposal surely dates it before 1886 -- and the lack of reference to Parnell probably dates it very early in that period. Isaac Butt had been a moderately important figure since 1848, when he defended Smith O'Brien and some of his confederates. But it wasn't until 1869 that he became a major political force, urging a program of constitutional reform.

Part of Butt's problem was that he didn't really have a program, except a parliament for Ireland. On that basis he managed to recruit a number of Irish MPs -- but he couldn't hold them together in Westminster (Kee, pp. 64-66. This was epecially so since he had to work part-time, and wasn't really in position to head a party). From 1875, when Charles Stewart Parnell made his maiden speech declaring Ireland to be "not a geographical fragment but a nation," Butt was a spent force.

Home Rule nearly took care of Gladstone, too. He introduced the bill in 1886 -- and it split the Liberal party; a block of about fifty M.P.s, headed by Joseph Chamberlain, bolted. (See Robert K. Massie, _Dreadnought_, pp. 235-238). For about twenty years, Britain had what amounted to four political parties: Orthodox liberals (committed to social reform and home rule), Conservatives (opposed to social reform and home rule), the Irish delegation (which often split many ways; the most important faction, led by John Redmond, believed in home rule, though many were liberal on other issues), and the Chamberlainites (the "Liberal Unionists," who were liberal on social issues but adamantly opposed to Home Rule). It made Britain nearly ungovernable, except when the Chamberlainites managed to extract liberal concessions from the Conservatives. The Conservatives developed a policy of "killing Home Rule with kindness" (Kee, p. 111), but kindness wasn't really their specialty.

A few years later, Parnell died (October 10, 1891), and Kee (p. 115) writes that "The chances of Home Rule for the next twenty years were buried with him"; see also the notes to "We Won't Let Our Leader Run Down." For the future course of the Home Rule movement, see the notes to ?A Loyal Song Against Home Rule.?

Chamberlain, in addition to splitting the liberal party and postponing home rule, had one more dubious gift to give to Britain: His younger son, Neville Chamberlian. - RBW

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 13(340), "Home Rule for Ireland" ("Come all you sons of Erin"), unknown, n.d.; also 2806 b.10(224), Firth c.16(407)[first nine lines illegible], "Home Rule for Ireland"
  • NLScotland, L.C.1270(009), "Home Rule for Ireland," unknown, n.d.


  1. Zimmermann, p. 61, "Home Rule" (1 fragment)
  2. Healy-OISBv2, pp. 145-146, "Home Rule" (1 text)
  3. BI, BrdHoRuI


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1966 (Zimmermann)
Found in: Ireland