A History of Britain, 1885–1939 by John Davis (auth.)

By John Davis (auth.)

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The analogous proposal to provide optional state grants to reduce or eliminate elementary school fees, designed to save Anglican voluntary schools the opprobrium of collecting them, was his brainchild, promoted despite the doubts of much of his Cabinet and becoming law in 1891. Similarly, Salisbury insisted on pressing the Church Discipline Bill, empowering ecclesiastical courts to punish immoral or negligent clergymen, in 1892, using the guillotine procedure to ensure its passage. Beyond the Church measures, though, it is harder to discern an overall strategy.

Mter the change of government in july, the Tory Irish Secretary Carnarvon, architect of the self-governing Canadian federation in 1867, had embarked upon secret negotiations with Parnell, in the hope that a self-governing Ireland might be feasible within an imperial framework. Gladstone had convinced himself of the moral case for Home Rule by the spring of 1885. The upsurge of agrarian protest during that year indicated that neither the reform ofland tenure of 1881 nor the emergency powers adopted under the 1882 Crimes Act had subdued Irish unrest.

It was rendered more liberal than its creators had intended in 1869, when the requirement that voters pay local taxes in person was removed. The urban electorate more than doubled immediately after the Act, but rose by a further 40 per cent between 1868 and 1884, as the 1869 voters were included, and as local organisations became better at identifying eligible voters. This large group of novice voters provided problems and opportunities for political managers. In many borough seats, and particularly in towns where the major employer was the MP, the new enlarged electorate might behave as deferentially as the old one: in Hartlepool the local magnate Christopher Furness controlled the town for the Liberals, and challenging him there was said to be like fighting the Pope in Rome.

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