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1893 - Second Home Rule Bill

For six years the question of home rule was in abeyance; but when the Parliament of 1886 came to an end in 1892, it was recognized that the general election must be fought largely, if not primarily, on this issue. Great difficulties surrounded the question. The Liberals were not in agreement as to the terms of a home-rule bill. Parnell's downfall and death had weakened the Nationalists and alienated many Liberals from the Irish cause. The Conservative government, moreover, spurred by its close association with the Liberal Unionists, had stolen much Liberal ammunition; it had reformed Irish county government in 1888, and it had attempted to settle the Irish land question by the acts of 1887 and 1891, which provided for the purchase by tenants of their holdings with the aid of government credit. The elections again placed the balance of power in the hands of the Irish Nationalists: Conservatives and Liberal Unionists, 315; Liberals, 274; Nationalists, 81. The support of the Nationalists was essential to a Liberal government, and the price of this support was Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill of 1893.

Irish representation in the British Parliament was the greatest difficulty that Gladstone encountered in drawing up his Home Rule Bills of 1886 and 1893. According to the provisions of the earlier bill, Irish representation was to cease entirely, except in case there should be alterations or amendments proposed in the British Parliament to the Home Rule Act. This plan was approved by Parnell, who did not wish the ablest of his followers to be drawn out of the Irish into the imperial Parliament, and who also feared that the presence of Irishmen at Westminster, voting on English and Scotch affairs, would encourage interference by the British Parliament in Irish affairs. It was opposed by the Roman Catholics in England, who saw in the disappearance of the Irish members from the British Parliament a weakening of Catholic influence in Great Britain. It was also opposed by the Scotch members, who feared that exclusion of Irish members would be a precedent for excluding them also from a share in the imperial government if home rule should be established for Scotland. It was opposed, finally, by English Conservatives and Unionists, who saw in it a menace to the integrity of the British empire. The bill of 1893 provided that Ireland should have 80 members in the British Parliament, instead of the 103 to which she is entitled while the Union lasts; and, in the form in which it was first introduced, it contained also what was known as the "in and out" clause, by which the Irish representatives were not to have the right to vote on any motions or bills expressly confined to England or Scotland. As soon as this clause began to be debated, it was found to be encompassed by so many difficulties that it was dropped.

Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill of 1893 was introduced in the House of Commons on February 13, 1893. Its passage through the House of Commons occupied eighty-five sittings. Through all its stages it was piloted by the prime minister, who at eighty-three years of age showed marvelous energy and mental power in his management of the parliamentary proceedings, Second reading was carried on April 21, by a vote of 347 to 304, and the bill passed its final stage in the House of Commons on September 1 by a majority of thirty-four. Its career in the House of Lords was brief. Its second reading was moved by Earl Spencer on September 5, and, after three days of debate, it was rejected by a vote of 419 to 41.

In 1893, when Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill passed the House of Commons and was rejected by the House of Lords, the Liberal government did not consider the measure of such paramount importance as to induce them to go to the country after one year of office; and the election of 1895, which put the Conservatives again in power, was fought on other issues besides that of home rule. The Liberal government continued in office until June, 1895, Lord Rosebery taking Gladstone's place as prime minister in March, 1894. On the downfall of the Rosebery ministry, Lord Salisbury again took office, and the elections of 1895 put the Liberals in a minority which lasted until 1906.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:00:32 ZULU