Butt, and Home Rule

Justin McCarthy
Chapter XII | Start of Chapter

The constitutional agitation, which had been interrupted by the Fenian projects, soon again became active. It found a leader in Mr. Isaac Butt, the eloquent advocate who had defended some of the prisoners at the Clonmel Special Commission, and had made himself prominent as a sympathizer with Ireland's claims for a national Parliament. Butt was a Protestant, and was a Conservative at first, but he had become thoroughly sympathetic with Ireland's cause. Under his leadership the name Home Rule was first given to the new constitutional claim. Butt's policy was much too slow and regular for the energy which was once again rising among Irishmen. His plan was to bring forward every Session a motion in favour of Home Rule for Ireland. The motion was introduced by him in an able and argumentative speech, was the subject of a formal debate, and, when the division was taken, was found to have only a very small minority of supporters. The question was then shelved until the next Session.

Some younger Irishmen were meanwhile coming into the House. One of these was a man qualified and destined to make for himself an enduring name in Ireland's history. This man was Charles Stewart Parnell, who soon put himself at the head of a new and original Parliamentary movement. Parnell was an Irishman by birth and residence, but he belonged to an old English family of long descent who had been settled in Cheshire for generations before any of them obtained property in Ireland and made a home there.