Introduction. In theory, at least, the Irish vote in Britain had a decisive role to perform in the 1885 general election, influencing the result some believed of twenty–five to forty British constituencies. Whether it had such an impact is doubtful, but many informed politicians at the time thought that the Irish vote had a considerable value. Much depended on the result of the election. Polling began on 24 November 1885. When balloting ended on 9 December, Liberals had won 335 seats, Conservatives 249 and Home Rulers 86. Attempts by the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union to undermine the Home Rule movement in Ireland were in vain. It won 85 of 103 constituencies, including 17—a majority of one—in Ulster. T. P. O’Connor’s victory in the Scotland Division of Liverpool brought the total number of Homer Rule seats to 86. The effect of the Irish vote on British constituencies was less obvious. The estimates of 25–40 conservative seats being lost to Home Rulers came mostly from Liberals and supporters of Parnell. Few Conservatives shared this opinion and it is doubtful whether Liberals were defeated in more than a half dozen places because of the Irish vote. At the end of the balloting no party had an outright majority. Tory and Irish numbers equalled the Liberal. This combination could not hope to govern without Liberal party co-operation.
The election manifesto reproduced here, was not released until Saturday, 21 November 1885. It was a directive to Irish electors to vote against all but a handful of Liberal and Radical candidates. Parnell condemns the Liberal party for its false promises, its repressive laws, its interference in religion and schools, its attempts to crush the power of anti-radical members of in Parliament, and its general bad government. The Executive of Irish National League would draw up a list of election candidates whom they believed acceptable. Parnell advises Irish nationalists in Britain to vote against radical and Liberals candidates if they wish to prevent a repeat of the ‘crimes and follies’ of the previous government.
Source. Charles Stewart Parnell, Manifesto to the Irish in Britain, 21 November 1885.
To our countrymen in England and Scotland, the Liberal party are making an appeal to the confidences of the elect at the general election of 1885, as at the general election of 1880, false pretences. In 1880 the Liberal party promised peace, and it of wards made unjust war; economy, and its Budget reached the high point yet attained; justice to aspiring nationalities, and it mercilessly crushed the national movement of Egypt and Arabi Pasha [also known as Ahmed Urabi, Egyptian nationalist], and murdered thousands of Arabs rightly struggling to be free.
To Ireland, more than any other country, it bound itself by most solemn pledges, and these most flagrantly violated. It denounced coercion, and it practise system of coercion more brutal than that of any previous Administration Liberal or Tory. Under this system juries were packed with a shamelessness unprecedented even in a Liberal Administration, and innocent were hung or sent to the living death of penal servitude. Twelve hundred men were imprisoned without trial. Ladies were convicted under obsolete Acts directed against the degraded of their sex; and for a period every utterance of the popular press and of popular meeting was completely suppressed as if Ireland were Poland and the administration England a Russian autocracy. The representatives of Liberalism in Ireland were men like Mr Forster and Lord Spencer, who have left more hateful memories in Ireland than any statesmen of the century.
The last declaration of Mr Gladstone was that he intended to renew the very worst clauses of the Coercion Act of 1882; and if our long-delayed triumph had not turned the Liberal Government from office, Lord Spencer would at this hour be in Dublin Castle, coercion would be triumphant in Ireland, and the landlords, instead of making the reasonable abatements demanded by the depression of agriculture, and conceded by every landlord in England and Scotland, would be evicting wholesale, with the encouragement of Lord Spencer and the backing of police, soldiery, coercion magistrates, and filled jails.
The Liberals began by menacing the Established Church, and under the name of free schools made an insidious attempt to crush the religious education of the country, to establish a system of State tyranny and intolerance, and to fetter the right of conscience, which is as sacred in the selection of school as in the free selection of one’s church. The cry of Disestablishment has been dropped; the cry of free schools has been explained away; and the two last cries left to the Liberal party are the so-called Reform of Procedure and a demand to be independent of the Irish Party. Reform of procedure means a new gag, and the application to all enemies of Radicalism in the House of Commons of the despotic methods and the mean machinery of the Birmingham caucus.
The specious demand for a majority against the Irish party is an appeal for power to crush all anti-Radical members in Parliament first, and then to propose to Ireland some scheme doomed to failure because of its unsuitability to the wants of the Irish people, and finally to force down a halting measure of self-government upon Irish people by the same method of wholesale imprisonment by which durability was sought for the impracticable Land Act of 1881. Under such circumstances we feel bound to advise our countrymen to place no confidence in the Liberal or Radical party, and so far as in them lies to prevent the government of the empire falling into the hands of a party so perfidious, treacherous and incompetent.
In no case ought an Irish Nationalist to give a vote in our opinion to a member of that Liberal or Radical party, except in some few cases in which courageous fealty to the Irish cause in the last Parliament has given a guarantee that the candidate will not belong to the servile, and cowardly, and unprincipled herd that would break every pledge and violate every principle in obedience to the call of the whip and the mandate of the caucus.
The Executive of the Irish National League will communicate the names of the candidates whom they think would be excepted from the terms of this manifesto. In every other instance we earnestly advise our countrymen to vote against the men who coerced Ireland, deluged Egypt with blood, menaced religious liberty in the school, freedom of speech in Parliament, and promised to the country generally a repetition of the crimes and follies of the last Liberal Administration.