A Question of Definition, 1868–1908: GLADSTONIAN Reform, Home Rule and the Unionist Response

  • D. G. Boyce
Part of the British History in Perspective book series (BHP)


In March 1868 an Irish MP put forward a motion on the state of Ireland; and Gladstone took advantage of the occasion to declare that the Irish Church ‘as a State Church, must cease to exist’. His political timing and choice of subject were both acute. In December Gladstone had confessed that the cause of Irish disestablishment ‘may again lead the Liberal Party to Martyrdom’; but after Gladstone moved that the House go into committee on his disestablishment resolutions, and a governmental amendment acknowledging the necessity for considerable modifications in the temporalities of the Irish Church was defeated, Gladstone’s motion was carried by a majority of 56. His resolutions setting out the heads of his proposed legislation were carried by even larger majorities. Disraeli resigned, and a general election held in November 1868 gave Gladstone a majority of 116 and a political slogan that was to dominate the rest of his political career: ‘My mission is to pacify Ireland’.1


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© D. G. Boyce 1996

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  • D. G. Boyce

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