Gladstone: Ireland – a broad and black blot upon the pages of English History

June 7: TODAY in Irish History:

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Gladstone home rule speech

Snippets of Irish History by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks 

Conor is a Chicago based Motivational Humorous Business Speaker, Author and History buff.

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1886: Gladstone: Ireland – a broad and black blot upon the pages of English History

Prime Minister William Gladstone in beseeching Parliament to pass the (first) Home Rule bill to grant Ireland its own parliament makes one of the finest (and honest) speeches by any British Prime Minister about Ireland.

Gladstone home rule speech


“It has been asked in this debate, why have we put aside all the other Business of Parliament, and why have we thrown the country into all this agitation for the sake of the Irish Question? (“Hear, hear!”) That cheer is the echo that I wanted. Well, Sir, the first reason is this — because in Ireland the primary purposes of Government are not attained. What said the honourable Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) in his eloquent speech? That in a considerable part of Ireland distress was chronic, disaffection was perpetual, and insurrection was smouldering………….

It is supposed that all the abuses of English power in Ireland relate to a remote period of history, and that from the year 1800 onwards from the time of the Union there has been a period of steady redress of grievances. Sir, I am sorry to say that there has been nothing of the kind. There has been a period when grievances have been redressed under compulsion, as in 1829, when Catholic Emancipation was granted to avoid civil war.

There have been grievances mixed up with the most terrible evidence of the general failure of Government, as was exhibited by the Devon Commission in the year 1843. ………………… What was the proportion of the population which more than 40 years after the Union was described by the Devon Report as being in a condition worse and more disgraceful than any population in Europe? Mr. O’Connell has estimated it in this House at 5,000,000 out of 7,000,000; ………………….


“My right honourable Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen) asks us to-night to abide by the traditions of which we are the heirs. What traditions? By the Irish traditions? Go into the length and breadth of the world, ransack the literature of all countries, find, if you can, a single voice, a single book, find, I would almost say, as much as a single newspaper article, unless the product of the day, in which the conduct of England towards Ireland is anywhere treated except with profound and bitter condemnation.

“Are these the traditions by which we are exhorted to stand? No; they are a sad exception to the glory of our country. They are a broad and black blot upon the pages of its history; and what we want to do is to stand by the traditions of which we are the heirs in all matters except our relations with Ireland, and to make our relations with Ireland to conform to the other traditions of our country. So we treat our traditions — so we hail the demand of Ireland for what I call a blessed oblivion of the past. She asks also a boon for the future; and that boon for the future, unless we are much mistaken, will be a boon to us in respect of honour, no less than a boon to her in respect of happiness, prosperity, and peace. Such, Sir, is her prayer. Think, I beseech you, think well, think wisely, think, not for the moment, but for the years that are to come, before you reject this Bill.”

Gladstone’s complete Home Rule Speech

The bill was introduced April 8th, but defeated June 8th.




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This history is written by Irish author, business keynote speaker and award winning humorist IrishmanSpeaks – Conor Cunneen. If you spot any inaccuracies or wish to make a comment, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the comment button.

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