The origins of Ulster Unionism : the formation of popular Protestant politics and ideology in nineteenth-century Ireland

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The origins of Ulster Unionism : the formation of popular Protestant politics and ideology in nineteenth-century Ireland

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The origins of Ulster Unionism

Peter Gibbon


Manchester University Press

© 1975 Peter Gibbon Published by Manchester University Press Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL ISBN 0 7190 0613 9

Theology Library


CLAREMO AO NT California

Printed in Great Britain by Unwin Brothers Limited The Gresham Press, Old Woking, Surrey A Member of the Sea Printing Group


List of tables Preface Introduction II Ill




page Vi vil 1

The origins of Orangeism, 1780-98


The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism


The politicisation of urban popular Protestantism


Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865—86


The emergence of an integrated party machine


Conclusion and epilogue






List of tables


Proportionate distribution of population by general occupational category, northern and southern Ireland, 1881 page 10


Employment in the parish of Ballintoy, Co. Antrim, April 1803


Distribution of farms into counties of Ulster, 1841-63





in sexual



and marriage

of size,


rate in the

15—25-year age group, Ulster, 1841-61 5


Social composition of Liberal and Conservative party leaderships, Belfast, 1885



Distribution of parliamentary seats in Ulster, 1852-85



Election results, Monaghan



Fluctuations in the price of Bank of Ireland stock and of the ordinary stocks of the three principal Irish railways, 1882—91


Social composition of identifiable Executive Council members, Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union, March 1886— April 1887




This work was stimulated by the desire to meet what appears to me to be a crucial weakness in Irish historiography: the treatment of the social and economic foundations of Ulster Unionism. It attempts to fulfil this function, with reference to the period of Unionism’s formation, by using some of the tools and concepts of social science. As such, it has to straddle many fences—those of political economy, political sociology, and political, social and economic history. The boundaries of these areas are perhaps more the consequence of professional jealousies and provincialisms than of distinct scientific objects, but nevertheless it is clear that the differences in their conventions of scholarship require acknowledgement. I should make clear, therefore, that my principal intentions have been interpretive and sociological. Professional historians will undoubtedly find this work deficient in the degree to which exact description and comprehensive study of primary sources have been sacrificed to this end. I can only hope any forbearance they muster will find some reward. Three most important sources of advice during the preparation of this study have been Roy Fitzhenry, L. M. Cullen and P. M. Worsley. In acknowledging their assistance I have no intention of identifying them either with any of my intentions or conclusions. I should also like to acknowledge the helpful comments and suggestions of Paul Bew, Henry Patterson and J. A. Jackson, each of whom read the manuscript in its original thesis form. Finally, this work could not have been completed without the material assistance provided to me at different stages by Anthony Barnett, Michael O’Kane, Vivian and Dierdre Gill, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, George Huxley, G. J. Slater (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland), and, of course, my wife.

Sheffield Polytechnic July 1974



Chapter II substantially reproduces an article which originally appeared in Economy and Society, whose editors granted me permission to use it here. The poem on p. 55 has now been published in John Hewitt’s book The Rhyming Weavers and appears by his kind permission and that of the Blackstaff Press, Belfast. Quotations from manuscript sources appear with the permission of the Earl of Roden, Messrs Falls & Hanna, solicitors, and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, who also gave permission for the photographs to be reproduced.



I By the spring of 1886 Irish Nationalism appeared to have the fruits of victory within its grasp. After facing seven years of increasingly organised opposition to British rule, Gladstone’s Liberal party had decided to cut Britain’s losses and establish an independent Irish legislature. In Ulster the decision was met with outrage and dismay. Together with the Irish Conservatives, Gladstone’s former supporters there launched an agitation in favour of preserving the Union. This opposition was to prove strong enough to frustrate Irish Nationalism’s claims not only in 1886 but in 1892 and 1912 also. In this resistance, Unionism progressively consolidated its base, developed a forceful rhetoric, founded a party machine and united almost the entire Protestant population of Ulster behind its banner. The Unionist party was to assume power in the new State of Northern Ireland in 1921, and to remain in control of the province until its hold was slowly broken between 1968 and 1974. Despite the immense material and symbolic importance of these movements for subsequent Irish history, there is no serious work clarifying the social and economic origins of either. This book aims to perform the task in relation to Unionism, and to employ concepts derived from social science to do so. Unionism will be analysed as a set of social, political and ideological relations between different social classes and groups, occupying determinate positions within a given social structure. The analysis will be concerned with the development of these structures, and the contribution of different processes in their formation to popular sources of the movement’s support. Such a task could best be begun with a word or two about what made these events so significant, and how far existing interpretations of them can provide a foundation for their explanation. Gladstone’s home rule proposal of 1886 was a response to the prolific spread of the influence of Nationalist politics in the overwhelmingly Catholic south of Ireland. Between 1879 and 1886 Nationalism successively won the support of the bulk of the peasantry, the clergy, the urban bourgeoisie and even a segment


The origins of Ulster Unionism

of resident Ascendency landlords. Ireland possessed a disproportionately large political representation at Westminster, and consequently when the Nationalists won around eighty per cent of Irish seats in 1886 they found themselves holding the balance of parliamentary power. Despite the noble pronouncements of Gladstone, it seems clear that the event brought to a head a train of very practical thought which had for some time been gaining momentum within the Liberal party. This saw a home rule legislature as a means of creating an independent financial basis to subvent the Irish peasantry’s purchase of its land. In this way the quenching of ‘irrational’ land hunger, perceived to be underlying the peasantry’s political opposition to the State, could be achieved without loss to either the British taxpayer or the landed elite (Bryce, 1887, pp. 239-40). Bourgeois and petty-bourgeois opposition in Ulster to home rule was evident from the moment it became Liberal policy. By June of 1886, when the Bill was debated, popular excitement had both spread to the Protestant working class and spilled over into rioting which lasted throughout the summer. Within Ireland a more serious confrontation was averted by the defection of Joseph Chamberlain and his supporters from the Liberal to the Conservative benches, the defeat of the Bill and the subsequent re-election of the Conservatives. The Tories remained in office until 1892, when renewed Liberal power once more raised Nationalist hopes and Unionist fears. On this occasion Unionism responded in a more organised fashion, through a convention of local clubs which had been set up all over Ulster. Their resistance was again left untested, however, as the second home rule Bill, having passed the Commons, was defeated in the House of Lords. By 1911, when the Liberals once again felt strong enough to introduce home rule legislation, things had changed. In Britain the Liberal party was now united on the issue, and the House of Lords was no longer in a position to veto Commons proposals. In Ireland, on the other hand, the Nationalist party had drifted into a period of stagnation and sterility, and the determination of its supporters appeared to have diminished. Adjusting to these circumstances, the Ulster Unionists determined to resist home rule by force. Under the leadership of Carson and Craig a provisional Ulster government was set up and a volunteer army was enrolled, drilled and armed. As the Liberal government and its Nationalist allies baulked before this challenge, a more



militant trend emerged within southern politics, in the form of a second volunteer army with the declared aim of enforcing home rule on the north. After a further period of deadlock and of growing suspicion of constitutionalism, a section of the southern volunteers was to split off and unite with the militia of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union to launch the 1916 Easter rising. After 1916, and its aftermath of executions and deportations, an even more vigorous nationalism was to emerge. By 1918 an identifiable republican party (Sinn Fein) had developed, winning seventy-three of 105 Irish parliamentary seats in the election of that year.! After this election the republican representatives set up their own Dublin assembly, the Dail, and on a wave of popular enthusiasm began to administer a system of institutions of dual power (civil and criminal, etc.). British regular and irregular forces dispatched to put down growing political and agrarian unrest proved unable to contain the popular forces represented by the Dail’s armed wing (the Irish Republican Army). On the other hand, republicanism conspicuously failed to weaken Unionism’s renewed opposition to home rule, either by political persuasion or by armed threat.-As the Anglo-Irish war was being concluded by a treaty recognising the jurisdiction of an independent Irish Free State over three-quarters of the country, popular northern Protestant opposition to a united independent Ireland once more overflowed into riots, pogroms and a counter-insurgency campaign. Even after 1921 it was necessary to maintain a curfew in Belfast for two and a half years. Shortly after the treaty the autonomous United Kingdom province of Northern Ireland came into being, freezing Ulster’s conflicts and contradictions into an apparently permanent framework. Forty years of political instability and intermittent, but often gruesome, violence. Forty years which saw in Ireland the division of the population into bearers of radically opposed ideologies and members of opposed political alliances and armed camps. Forty years in which almost the entire population underwent regular political mobilisation. However the two movements concerned are characterised, it is evident that they constituted the two most spectacular popular class alliances in the political history of the British Isles. As such, both—and particularly Unionism—demand to be analysed, not


The origins of Ulster Unionism

simply for their effects on Irish political development but for more general scientific reasons too. For while Europe witnessed other nationalist movements of comparable dimensions, nowhere else has such a movement encountered a rival of comparable effectiveness, popular support or staying power. While studies of the conditions for successful revolutionary movements abound, no such studies exist with respect to counter-revolutionary movements.” It is as a case of such a movement that Unionism acquires theoretical, as well as its already clear practical, importance. In these circumstances it is a disappointment to find that existing interpretations of the origins of this conflict, and the movements involved, have been characterised by both parochialism and a certain partisanship. The predominance of these characteristics has been such as to determine that even works claiming a pronounced neutrality have been bound by their effects. Until the 1960s histories of the conflict set out not so much to analyse its components as to argue on behalf of favourite heroes and causes. This resulted in a preoccupation with the assignment of ‘responsibility’ for the conflict, and in the emergence of certain interpretive stereotypes focused diagnostically on the ‘mentalities’ of the parties concerned. In the process the historiography of Unionism came to take on the character of the affirmation or ‘exposure’ of the pristinely pure or shamefully black ‘motivations’ underlying these mentalities. Out of this emerged two models of the Unionist movement: for Nationalist historians, a population bound together by bigotry, manipulation, blind deference and labour-aristocratic sectionalism; for Unionists, on the other hand, one united by a justified fear of clerical domination, by a courageous and self-sacrificing leadership exercising a ‘natural’ but rationally validated legitimacy, and by a common, healthy suspicion of Catholic particularism. Two examples of these not very coherent mirror images. The nationalist historian O’Hegarty may be found arguing simultaneously for a congenital Protestant bigotry—‘there is no bigot anywhere quite as bad as the narrow Protestant bigot’ (1951, p- 660)—and for manipulation: ‘the souls of the multitude had been harrowed up with tales of murder and outrage, of the Inquisition, of St Bartholemew, freedom and property and religion and the flag all in danger’ (zbid., p. 574). The Unionist



historians Stewart and Lord Ernest Hamilton oppose to this the propositions that bigotry was really enlightenment—‘the Ulster Protestant did not fear his fellow Ulsterman, but the powerful and world-wide organisation behind him’ (1967, p. 45)—and that manipulation was really primeval solidarity: There is a wonderful freemasonry amongst Ulstermen—stronger, I think, than that which binds together any other race on earth. It is perhaps because they are so few that they are bound together by such strong and sacred ties . . . [Here] in the Ulsterman is a man to be trusted; with such salient features as fidelity, courage, and that peculiar Ulster characteristic one may describe as staunchness . . . [Hamilton, in Logan (1923), pp. 13-14]

These represent a typical sample of the assumptions and inconsistencies of the two principal historiographical ideologies of Unionism; the problem is compounded by the fact that more neutral academic historians have sought to express their neutrality by drawing more or less indiscriminately from both points of view. While the works of Beckett (1966), Lyons (1971) and Buckland (1975) avoid the worst extremities of these ideologies, and occasionally introduce additional explanations of the motivations of certain groups,’ they are more concerned with ‘balancing’ pre-existing interpretations than in exploring new ones. In the process they rely upon exactly the same methodological devices with which the straightforwardly ideological contributions engage in their special pleading. All start off from the evidence presented by primary sources, in which participants or observers describe their own or others’ impressions, feelings and goals. These sources, no matter how sparse, are then taken as evidence of the motives of a particular social group, class, or sometimes even an entire population. It is not generally felt necessary to illustrate the representativeness of the motive concerned with respect to the population it is ascribed to. At best, the representivity of the individual who articulated it will be argued. It is in this way that the bases of the politics of the Unionist movement have been explained; moreover, when for particular constituent groups participation in the movement has clearly entailed a shift in political position, the motivational ‘career’ of a particular representative individual will again be taken as evidence of the group’s collective attitudes.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Beckett, for example, uses the device of describing the ideological career of Edward Saunderson (‘in many ways a typical Unionist of his time’; 1966, p. 411) to illustrate the motive behind Ulster Protestants’ transition from Liberalism to Orangeism. The problems of this method are multiple. First, even if it is accepted that social groups act on the basis of the meanings situations have for them (which is itself contestable), there is no reason at all to suggest that individuals whose ‘representativity’ for a social group has a number of objective measures will necessarily possess a corresponding subjective representivity. Second, this method appears to be inevitably tied up with regarding populations under study as ‘single-minded individuals’. Protestants as a bloc (or, in the best accounts, whole classes within the bloc) are postulated as acting in a completely hypostatised way. Without any evidence being adduced as to the unity or disunity, cohesiveness or incohesiveness of particular social groups of varying sizes, they are portrayed as the bearers of singular and consistent views and dispositions. Third, even where the notion of groups behaving in this way admits the existence of inconsistencies and conflicts within populations, definitions of the sub-populations involved tend to be arbitrary and impressionistic. Criteria for distinguishing the social composition of a population tend to be borrowed from the same sources as those which supply evidence of the population’s motives. On this basis the historian tends to proceed to ascribe motives to social forces whose relationships, and sometimes very existence, he has failed to establish empirically. Fourth, this in turn leads the historian to choose as the central units of his analysis only those forces identified most clearly in contemporary accounts, and acting with what appeared to contemporaries to be visibly high degrees of collective consciousness. The influence of other more silent or less readily identifiable groups (groups whose existence often poses a concep-

tual as well as empirical problem) simply disappears from view, their roles replaced by the agency of ‘fanatical preachers’ and secret societies (cf. Budge and O’Leary, 1973, pp. 26-7, 94-5). Fifth, since in this methodology there is no possibility of a scientific differentiation of the social forces involved in the movement, let alone the determinants of their action, their combination tends to be ascribed to a process involving the ‘spontaneous combustion’ or ‘fusion’ of disparate interests,



meanings and ideologies. While prior to the movement’s formation there is the activity of one or more ‘single-minded individuals’, the formation itself is depicted as a ‘meeting of minds’ and a ‘snowballing’ of recruitment. The typical ideological prop upon which this thesis rests with respect to Unionism is that of the collective ‘re-emergence’ of Protestant recollections of seventeenth-century political conflicts. Such a formulation seems to entail the extraordinary postulation of an almost Jungian pure folk memory of transhistorical and trans-societal dimensions. This fiction, like all such devices, is called into being by the impossibility of explaining the postulated ‘spontaneous combustion’ of the Unionist population in terms of a common material interest. Since it is nevertheless necessary to postulate an even distribution of commitment within the movement, it becomes imperative to suppose the existence of a common psychic screen upon which the authentic historical experience of the entire population has been distilled and projected, ready to be lit up at the first sign of Fenian aggression. In short, the historiography of Unionism is speculative. The entire foundation of its discussion of motivation is founded upon a series of imputations from the accounts of contemporaries, or at least those accounts that the ideology of the historian disposes him towards. The problem is, of course, that there are as many such accounts as there are speeches, memoirs or reports on the subject. Even if these are divided into ‘representations’ of the position of different given social groups, the consequence is still a number of contradictory Unionist—Nationalist conflicts, together with no means of choosing between them. Rather than proceed ‘neutrally’, 1.e. eclectically, by accepting one account from here and another from there, it is intended in this study to analyse the forms of social organisation out of which the movement developed, together with the material constraints emerging from them to shape the politics and ideologies of the movement’s constituent groups. Instead of a neutrality of attitude, the neutrality of concepts. This goal involves fulfilling two basic tasks. First of all; to reconstruct from the empirical evidence available an account of the social arrangements which provided Unionism’s structural foundation. Second, to identify the principal ways in which these social arrangements produced the political and ideological


The origins of Ulster Unionism

elements out of which Unionism was constructed. The repertory of concepts to be employed in these tasks derives from political economy and sociology. Since it is not proposed to insert long discussions of them where they are used in later chapters, they may be briefly illustrated here. The central concept of political economy which will be used to identify and compare the different social structures to be described is that of mode of production. Following Marx, this term will be used to refer to a given system of economic social relations between raw materials, means of labour, labourers and nonlabourers. It will be used to describe the development of the Irish system of relations between classes during the period covered by this study, and thereby to provide a framework within which the principal social forces and their relations may be understood. The concepts of sociology which will be applied are directed to describing and explaining the various layers of institutional and superstructural relations resting upon these foundations. On the one hand, a group of concepts of fairly high generality will be used to describe certain broad trends within the process of the development and transmutation of these layers (rural modernisation, industrialisation and urbanisation); on the other, a group of concepts describing more specific relations and processes will be used to describe their particular effects (ethnogenesis, patronage and brokerage, etc). Rural modernisation refers to a number of processes characterised by the rationalisation of relations between the owners and occupiers of land, between occupiers and the market, and between occupiers and central cultural, political and administrative structures. Jndustrialisation refers to the processes of increasing division of labour, increasing social differentiation, and increasing organised class conflict following the introduction of large-scale factory production. Urbanisation refers to the processes of communal social reorganisation associated with industrialisation, and particularly to the independent influences exercised by new ecological arrangements.

The aim of the application of these perspectives is to constitute Ulster Unionism as an objective field of study. It is not anticipated

that the approach advocated will deliver immediately a compre-

hensive explanation of every aspect of Unionism. Nevertheless it will certainly have the effect of forcing a revision of some of



the formulations which have come to be traditionally accepted as historical truths by one or more camps. One such ‘truth’ is that of the ‘monolithic’ character of Unionism as a movement embracing with equal effectiveness all the different segments of Irish Protestant society. Another is its traditional mirror image—that it involved only the ‘inner councils of the English Tory plutocracy’ and the Belfast lumpenproletariat (Connolly, 1948; Clarkson, 1925; Jackson, 1947, and Greaves, 1961). Another, shared by almost all the literature, is that the organisation of Unionism relied effectively upon the Orange Order, with which its party machine was almost synonymous. This view owes its widespread acceptance to a remark by Ronald McNeill in the first official history of the party. This thesis too bears little correspondence to reality. It was not until the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1912 that the Order came to play a really significant part in the development of Unionism, some twenty years after the creation of the party machine. Each of these formulations reflects not historical reality but the preoccupation, mentioned already, with ‘responsibility’. Not only has this led to all interpretation centring around the problem of identifying ‘mentalities’ and motives; it has meant that such explanations are usually then incorporated into an attack on Unionism as a ‘conspiracy’, or into its defence as a product of ‘spontaneity’. The product, predictably, has been not knowledge but the rendering of Unionism according to one’s opinions) as a badge of glory or a mark of shame, as—in a word— incomprehensible. II

Ulster Unionism did not spring perfect and complete, as Athena from the head of Zeus, from the home rule crises of 1886, 1892 and 1912. On the contrary, like all substantial social movements, it had been ‘prepared for’ historically by the development— albeit by divergent paths—of all the elements it was to combine. The most significant empirical characteristics of Ulster Unionism were its regional status, the uniformly sectarian character of its following,® and its integration of all the major classes in Protestant Ulster. Each of these characteristics points to a comprehensive dualism in Irish society: a regional dualism


The origins of Ulster Unionism

(Ulster/the rest of Ireland), a religious dualism (Protestants/ Catholics) and a political dualism (Unionism/Nationalism). Socially these dualisms corresponded more or less directly. Any attempt to reconstruct an account of the social arrangements providing Unionism’s structural foundation must necessarily take this dualism as its starting point. In the first instance this involves a description of its dimensions. It is well known that whereas Protestants formed only 10 per cent of the population of Ireland’s three southern provinces at the close of the nineteenth century, they formed 57 per cent in Ulster. In eastern Ulster they formed a much higher proportion: 79-5 per cent in County Antrim and 68-4 per cent in County Down. It is also well known how Protestants came to be in the north-east of Ireland in such numbers. What is less well known is that this division corresponded to a division in the country’s social structure. Ireland’s two social structures in 1900 were organised around two divergent modes of production: in the north, machine industry; in the south, extensive commercial farming. These modes of production distributed the population of the two areas according to different principles; they produced different kinds of cities, and different relations between town and countryside. They also produced an extremely unevenly developed infrastructure, represented graphically by lIreland’s two almost completely separate rail networks. Lastly, for both north and south, commercial relations with Britain were more significant Table 1

Proportionate distributicn of population by general category, northern and southern Ireland, 1881 (%)



Twenty-six counties

Siz counties

9 19 5

5 1S 4.









Professional Domestic Commercial

Source: adapted from the 1881 census.



than internal economic connections. These divisions are reflected clearly in the Registrar General’s occupational tabulations (see table 1). The north mainly industrial; the south mainly agricultural. The north with barely a fifth of its employed population outside production; the south with almost a third. Additionally, important divergences may be noted in the internal composition of these categories, north and south. The Registrar General’s ‘Industrial’ category embodies the distinction between employees in specific industrial occupations (without necessarily being skilled) and general labourers, without regular employment. In the labour force of the six northern counties 19-2 per cent of industrial employees were general labourers; in the south the figure was 54-5 per cent. Accordingly it must be reckoned that the lumpenproletariat occupied a more central place in the southern than in the northern social structure, and that this in turn reflected the existence in the north (and the absence from the south) of the type of machine industry requiring a large and stable work force. As might be anticipated, differences in the agrarian social structure were well less marked. Taking Ireland as a whole, the greater proportion of large farms were concentrated in Munster and Leinster, while the largest proportion of small and mediumsized farms were to be found in Ulster and Connacht.§ Farm labourers constituted a slightly larger proportion of the agricultural labour force in the south (54 per cent, compared with 52 per cent in the north), while correspondingly members of the farmer’s own family contributed a greater proportion of this labour force in the north. In both areas, however, family labour was the single most important source of agrarian labour. The weakness of the productive as against the unproductive sector in the southern economy is illustrated again with respect to the professions and to domestic service. Leaving aside State employees, the ‘free’ professions in the south were still proportionately almost twice as well represented in the social structure as were their northern counterparts. In Dublin in 1881 12-3 per cent of the employed population were free professionals, in Belfast 6-3 per.cent. Likewise, while 19-1 per cent of the Dublin work force were in domestic service, the Belfast figure was only 13-3 per cent.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

In comparison with that of the north, there is little doubt that the southern social structure of the turn of the century was a classically ‘underdeveloped’ one. The mass of the population still lived in rural communities, the working class was almost entirely concentrated in a single city and had a large lumpen content, while the middle classes appeared inflated and parasitical. In the north, on the other hand, each of these characteristics was reversed, and, over and above this, the countryside was subordinated to the town. The development of the city of Belfast structured the entire evolution of social relations in rural areas after 1830, slowly reducing the importance of the collective political expressions of rural inhabitants. In the south, town was subordinate to countryside. Even the largest centres—Dublin, Cork and Limerick—were essentially commercial and financial, dependent for their prosperity on the state of Irish agriculture. Politically, too, development in the towns waited on development in the countryside, while the ideological effects of rural preponderance can be glimpsed in the unique role occupied by the Catholic Church. Structural dualism was directly reflected in the social composition and programmes of the areas’ major political movements. Nationalism was a movement of agrarian and commercial social groups, Unionism of industrial ones. The Nationalist programme centred for years on agrarian and commercial reform, the Unionist one on questions involving the link between Ulster and British manufacture.

Given these parallel divisions of Irish society, how was it that they provided the foundation of the division between Nationalism and Unionism rather than something else? And how precisely did they lend Unionism the particular form it was to take—a form which both sealed its success for over half a century and guaranteed it could then last not a moment longer?

There are two sets of questions which need to be settled. On the one hand there are the questions of how dualism came about, how the Protestant population of the north, and almost only this population, became associated with industrialisation, and

how this industrialisation tied it to Britain. On the other hand there are questions of the movement’s form—of the origins of its pronouncedly Conservative leadership and outlook, of its use

of Protestantism as its major symbol, of its integration of the



lower orders. The remainder of this chapter will deal solely with the first question, although it will also point to the kinds of material necessary to answer the others. _ The question of the origin of dualism is by its nature a double one: how was it possible for machine industry to develop in the north-east of Ireland, and why did this same process not occur in the rest of the country? The Protestant colons who first began arriving in Ireland in large numbers between 1603 and 1608 found their destination politically ‘Balkanised’ but economically fairly homogeneous. A pastoral economy prevailed over most of the countryside, sometimes characterised by the patriarchal features of hereditary occupations and castes, little internal trade and little individual possession of land. Side by side with it there existed both a stratum of primitive commercial farming and residues of the purely feudal economy established by the Normans in the Pale during the twelfth century. Ireland’s economic backwardness and lack of exploitable raw materials point to the fact that since 1485 England’s Irish policy had been governed by the expedient of political and military neutralisation rather than economic subordination. For this reason struggle had been principally directed against the particularly resistant war lords of Ulster, a region then more or less cut off from the rest of the country by mountains, lakes and bogs. Four years after defeat in 1603 the war lords and their retainers fled, and their subjects took to the hills. The English government felt it necessary to ensure that the pacification of the north should be of the most thorough character possible. The lands of the northern war lords were confiscated and for the most part entrusted to ‘undertakers’. The undertaker landlords were required to bring over English and Scots settlers and establish them in villages and towns. The intention was that similar provision would eventually be made for the rest of the island, but this was never realised. Most of the land which changed hands in the south during the first half of the seventeenth century was acquired by wealthy English adventurers and Crown creditors. This first generation of southern colonial landlords tended to acquire large tracts of land unconditionally, and to use their not inconsiderable resources to stock them with livestock. So great were these estates that most of their owners also found it profitable or convenient to sub-let to lesser tenants.


The origins of Ulster Unionism.

It is at this point that the beginnings of two divergent routes of economic development can be perceived. In the north-east a society of colons of British origin farmed holdings of a more or less uniformly small size. In the south a few scattered colons grazed or sub-let large estates. Neither form of agriculture was a particularly progressive one, although both were predominantly commercial in character. In the Jong run southern agriculture turned out to be superior. When he made his tour of Ireland in 1776 Arthur Young already noted this tendency. But, while agriculturally inferior, Ulster was becoming industrially strong, a charaeteristic the south was not to acquire. The colons whe came to Ulster both before, during and after official efforts at plantation originated from areas dominated by small-scale independent. commodity-farming and weaving. Many colons probably came with the expectation of being able to extend their farming operations. Most, it is certain, sponsored themselves amd brought with them modest supplies of capital. Large-scale farming was to prove inaccessible to all but a few, however. The relatively high numbers and steady flow of colons meant that land tended to be divided into small farms, while the limits of imported capital ensured that even should a colon gain access to a large holding he would not be able to sustain the level of investment necessary to make it profitable. It was in these circumstances that northern colons sought to diversify their farming operations and—probably precipitated by a relative depression in prices after 16507—to combine them with textile production. Local agriculture in itself made little contribution to the latter’s growth either by providing ready-made stocks of free labour or by allowing the accumulation of capital through any purportedly advantageous tenurial system (the ‘Ulster custom’, so called*). The crucial input in the process was the relation between the low level and high generality of colon capitalisation, which followed specifically from the character of the petty commodity-producing agriculture which the immigrants brought with them. These conditions prevented the latter adopting either of the most profitable contemporary alternatives—stock farming or sub-letting—and forced them instead to grasp every opportunity of supplementing their income.? Once domestic textile production began, it rapidly found both markets and fresh supplies of labour and capital. Soon it was reproducing itself both by its own process of differentiation and by



diverting resources from both farming and ancillary occupations,

Ex-undertaking landlords encouraged its growth, and farming activity contracted in consequence (Young, 1898.01, pe 122;

Andrews, 1958).

The domestic linen industry provided sources of both skilled

labour and (to a lesser extent) capital for the transition to machine

textile production. As early as the 1760s there is evidence of the existence of transitional forms of economic organisation, e.g. manufacture based on simple capitalist co-operation and societies of small capitalists aimed at keeping down wages. The industry developed particularly rapidly in Antrim and Down, where flax could not be grown for agronomic reasons. Consequently the scope there for drapers and itinerant peasant ‘buyers-up’ of finished goods was extended. From the class of merchant drapers

there emerged most of Belfast’s largest merchants and some of its later industrial tycoons (e.g. the Ewart family: Beck papers). By the 1780s the credit resources of the northern drapers were sufficiently large for them to break away completely from dependence on Dublin merchant capital for marketing purposes, a development which received concrete expression in 1784 when the foundation stone was laid for the Belfast White Linen Hall. While drapers were emerging as an important intermediary group in the trade, so too were bleachers. Prior to around 1760 bleachers had occupied an artisan status, but with the development of larger markets they began to seek opportunities to buy up cloth and dispose of it direct. Because of their strategic position at the finishing stage of the industry, increases in production tended to strengthen their position at the expense of merchant forces. By 1820 division of labour and the use of machinery in bleaching enterprises was complemented by the employment of agents to usurp the functions of independent drapers. As many drapers as could subsequently raised capital and made the transition to bleacher status.!° In addition to providing sources of labour and capital for the development of machine production, domestic manufacture also established the industry’s British market. The expansion of the latter was accelerated by the emergence of British industrial classes, by improvements in the British economic infrastructure (particularly canal transport) which assisted distribution, and by the growth of banking in the north of Ireland, which for the


The origins of Ulster Unionism

first time provided the resource of credit to enterprises engaged in the export trade (Gill, op. cit., pp. 192-8, 252-6). Nevertheless, until the 1830s the industry still lacked sufficient capitalisation to make the transition to machine production. The basis for this proved to be capital accumulation in the Irish cotton industry, which developed rapidly during the period of the Napoleonic wars. The cotton industry combined a high level of technological development (although probably obsolete by English standards) with large profit margins, extracted through the use of highly exploitative forms of employment. While spinning was carried out on a factory basis, weaving was generally based on outworkers ‘renting’ their looms from mill owners (Monaghan, 1936, pp. 124 ff; ‘H’, 1872). When the Trish home market, which had been protected, was captured by English and Scots undertakings in the 1820s and ’30s the biggest manufacturers (e.g. Mulholland and Grimshaw) took the opportunity to convert their premises into linen-thread spinning mills. In 1846 there were 1,000 factory hands in the city (Monaghan, op. cit., p. 339). In 1859 techniques of factory weaving became widespread, decimating the extensive remains of rural domestic production, and by 1875 incorporating 60,000 factory hands into the trade (Armstrong, 1951). The fortunes of the linen barons were made in the American Civil War, when world cotton production slumped. By the 1890s one Belfast enterprise, J. D. Barbour’s Ulster Spinning Company, had achieved a world monopoly in thread spinning; with branches in New Jersey and Germany, its total labour force was 70,000. In fact concentration and centralisation of capital became a dominant economic trend in Ulster by the last years of the nineteenth century. Linen firms branched into the production of machinery (Barbour, for example, bought the Falls Foundry in the 1870s) and into shipping and general manufacture. With this tendency came monopolisation. An instance was provided in 1870 with the formation of the Belfast Ropeworks Company by Mulholland and the shipyard owners. The new firm employed 600 men, and rapidly drove the twelve existing rope-making firms out of business (Black, 1954). The effect of these developments was the incorporation of the Ulster economy into Britain’s on an equal footing. Once this had taken place a large-scale general industrial development drawing capital and labour from other parts of the United Kingdom could



be anticipated. The most spectacular case of such an industrial ‘transposition’ was the development of the shipbuilding industry, and particularly of the Harland & Wolff enterprise. By 1886 shipbuilding accounted for 5,000 of the male labour force; by 1915 a quarter of it had been absorbed by this industry. At the turn of the century Belfast industry had in fact outgrown dependence for marketing purposes on the UK. Harland & Wolff built ships for owners of a dozen nationalities, and according to E. P. Cowan, president of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce in 1885, foreign exports (including those transhipped through Britain) were worth more to the linen trade than those consumed in Britain (Belfast Chamber of Commerce papers). In other respects local industry remained dependent: conspicuously, for large-scale credit and for its technological base. A local engineering industry existed, employing 3,000 men

by 1900 (Coe, 1969, pp. 62 ff), but certainly did not meet the full requirements of Belfast’s heavy industry. Even more important, it became clearer and clearer as Belfast’s industry developed that the city’s prosperity relied heavily upon the maintainance of British pre-eminence in the world market. By British standards Belfast was a very export-oriented city; it was hence extremely sensitive to any general change in Britain’s terms of trade. For Ulster, then, economic development could be identified with three stages of industrialisation, each corresponding with the export from the mainland of different elements of the currently dominant mode of production. The first of these stages was that in which domestic industry took root, as a consequence of the transposition of an entire population from lowland | Scotland, together with its way of life. The second was that in which machine industry emerged, as a consequence of the export of industrial capital and technology to Ulster. The third was that in which machine production in linen and in the more highly capitalised sectors, such as shipbuilding, ‘took off’. This last stage also corresponded te a further export of capital, technology and, to a lesser extent, labour from Britain. For a good part of this period successive governments attempted, through the agency of the Linen Board, to develop a textile industry of corresponding progressiveness in the south of Ireland. Its efforts met with little success. Although a few industries took root, this part of the country was to remain in


The origins of Ulster Unionism

possession of a predominantly agrarian economy down to the twentieth century. The basis of this uneven development is far from clear, and few interpretive statements about it can be advanced with any degree of certainty. The most that can be done is to suggest a number of areas and questions which would repay further investigation. | The first of these—the consequences of divergent forms of colonisation—has already been examined from the point of view of its effects on Ulster. In discussing the origins of northern textile production it was mentioned that southern colonisation took the form not of a large-scale independent colon immigration but of the transfer of land—generally in large quantities—to wealthy colonists. The lack of integration of the economy of the southern settlers with that of the natives may have been an influence in the relatively high level of agricultural specialisation which emerged from the outset and continued through most of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This proved to be a characteristic of the farm economy of the increasingly evolving substantial tenantry as much as that of landlords themselves. While domestic textile production clearly existed almost throughout the south during this period, agricultural specialisation may have had the consequence that the merchant capital which would have developed it further was instead invested in the principal ports in marketing—and in some cases processing— agricultural produce. The second question which would repay further investigation is therefore the extent to which the important role occupied by the marketing and processing industries within the southern economy rendered it generally industrially vulnerable during the nineteenth century. While it increased in extent until the beginning of that century, southern domestic industry rarely developed locally into factory production. Like comparable production in the north, it was to sink under the weight of the competition of mechanised industry. The processing industries themselves, such as milling and secondary processes within the dairying and livestock trades, were inherently among the most directly vulnerable to the consequences of competition, which threatened them increasingly as international steam transport developed. This competition worked against them not only in the markets at home and elsewhere where their products were

sold but, as local agriculture became increasingly responsive to



British market demands, also in the market where their raw materials were acquired. The predominantly agrarian character of the southern economy became more pronounced as time passed. It was, as much as anything, a product of the increasing integration of the British and Irish economies during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As Ireland entered the world market through this process, so it found itself industrially ill prepared for the competition this entailed. A third area which would repay enquiry is the extent to which Irish agriculture was itself prepared for such competition. The greatest single obstacle to its progress in the nineteenth century was the increasing subdivision of agricultural land, which took place between 1783 and around 1840 as a consequence of the coincidence of rapid population growth and a strong tendency towards a transition from stock farming to tillage. Both these were international phenomena, yet both took a relatively pronounced form in Ireland. It may be speculated that there was a connection with the relatively undercapitalised nature of the emergent substantial tenantry, which found in tillage production a means both of avoiding the exactions of merchant capital in the existing marketing and _ processing industries (cf. Dutton, 1808, pp. 156-7) and—by way of the cottar system—of increasing the farmer’s rate of profit by bringing impoverished small cultivators into the process of commodity production. Without doubt, though, high rates of subdivision led eventually to a highly unproductive use of resources and to massive rural underemployment. While the tragic famine of 1845-47 eliminated a high proportion of cottars and intermittently employed rural labourers, it failed to transform substantially the established structure of Irish agricultural production. Ireland remained a small-farm economy. Irish political divisions were underpinned by a deep structural division in Irish society, which was itself underpinned by two distinct experiences of colonialism. These gave birth, on the one hand, to a vigorous industrial development and, on the other, to a form of agriculture relatively backward in international terms. Both economies were partially dependent on Britain; prior to the turn of the century, at least, nobody anticipated either becoming severed. With or without the threat of separatism,


The origins of Ulster Unionism

there were reasons enough for two quasi-nationalist movements standing in opposition, however. The contradiction between

north and south was essentially that between town and country, industry and agriculture. This conflict determined the form of the battle and ensured that it would be fought. It did not

determine its content, though. It did not determine the disposition of political forces and ideologies within




identify these it is necessary to trace the precise effects of the different colonial experiences in some

detail. In particular it is

important to see how Ulster’s differentia specifica—industrialisation—created a specific set of popular political and ideological

dispositions. It is intended in what follows to trace this process by studying particular events which reflect its impact at particular strategic junctures. The first stage of interest to us is that in which domestic industry became fully established, and it is proposed to analyse its effects through examining the origins and consequences of the conflict between the United Irishmen and the Orange Order in the north at the close of the eighteenth century.


1 2 3.




7 8



Unionists were returned to twenty-six and constitutional Nationa 1 ists to only six seats. With the exception of Tilly’s remarkable The Vendée (1964). The major sources of Nationalist interpretation have been the contributions of Curtis (1936), Macardle (1937), Mansergh (1940, 1965), O’Hegarty (1951), O’Brien (1957), Edwards (1969) and de Paor (1970); and of Unionist interpretation Moneypenny (1913), Woodburn (1914), Frankfurt-Moore (1914), McNeill (1922), Ervine (1949) and Stewart (1967). Lyons and Beckett argue that Protestant workers’ allegiance to Unionism was motivated by a belief that home rule would lead to economic depression; Lyons also argues that the Protestant middle class’s attachment to the integrity of the empire was an important motivating force. Ie. the exclusively Protestant basis of its support. By international standards, of course, almost all Irish farms were small. In the present context the terms denote: large—fifty acres

and over; medium—thirty to fifty acres; small—up The correlation throughout Europe of agricultural rise of home industry has been noted by Van Bath The ‘Ulster custom’ argument derived from George found its most coherent spokesman in Gill (1925,

to thirty acres. slump and the (1963, p. 124). O’Brien (1918) pp. 23-30) and




exercised dominant influence until the work of Solow (1971) pointed out its principal weaknesses. The argument presented here about the relation between divergent forms of colonisation and industrialisation was suggested to me by L. M. Cullen. For a discussion of the raising of capital for Belfast enterprises see

McCall (1865), p. 292.


The origins of Orangeism, 1780-98

While the most striking nineteenth-century contrasts between Ulster and the rest of Ireland were to be found in Belfast, this fact had both its origins and, later, its effects in the Ulster countryside. In the century preceding the home rule struggle the countryside witnessed such important processes as the decline of independent radicalism, the birth of Orangeism and the rise of an ‘enthusiastic’ Protestantism. In each case these developments were imported into the towns. This was not the result of contagion, or even of migration, as has usually been suggested, but simply of the existence in the towns of specific conditions making their populations receptive to such changes. Equally, their origin in the countryside was not at all a consequence of the renewed expression of a timeless contradiction between colons and natives, but the product of definite sets of social conditions. This chapter examines the relation of some of them to the emergence of Orangeism as a movement of the Protestant rural poor. I Orangeism gained national notice as a counter-revolutionary movement of the Episcopalian tenantry, which, having emerged through sectarian strife, became incorporated by a beleaguered landed class to put down an insurrection of urban and agrarian radicals in 1798. While to a large extent its development can justifiably be studied separately from that of those radicals— the United Irishmen—more will be learned of consequence for

understanding later developments if the emergence and clash of the two forces is described jointly. Despite the frequent claims made for the significance of these incidents, claims which represent the defeat of Protestant radicalism and the triumph of Protestant reaction as the cornerstone of Irish history, little concrete attention has been paid to the investigation of their origins. Most accounts of the

The origins of Orangeism


development of the United Irishmen and the Orange Order attribute their opposition to two factors. First, a basic confessional antagonism within the Protestant population: the United Irishmen wholly Presbyterian, the Orangemen wholly Episcopalian; intrinsically ‘democratic’ Presbyterians, intrinsically ‘deferential’ Episcopalians. This position was part of the rhethoric of the Ulster Liberals, and became enshrined in historiography by Thomas McKnight (1896). Secondly, and more commonly, explanations have turned on the peculiar demographic circumstances in Armagh, where the Order was born in the last decade of the eighteenth century. The United Irishmen were dominant in areas demographically ‘uncomplicated’, where the national norm of landlord—tenant conflict was said to prevail. In Armagh, on the other hand, population density was very high, and Protestants and Catholics were present in equal numbers. This exacerbated competition for land and enabled landed notables to ‘divide and rule’, encouraging the formation of sectarian agencies amongst their tenantries (cf. Connolly, 1967; Curtis, 1936; Macardle, 1937; Jackson, 1947, et al). The standard argument is represented well by Senior: Nearly everywhere in Ireland the population was greater than the existing system of agriculture could support. This chronic landhunger was aggravated by a form of land-holding that discouraged improvement. The land was often rented by a middle-man from an absentee landlord, then sublet periodically in small holdings to the highest bidder, without consideration for the former occupants. The

only means the peasantry had of fighting this system was the oathbound secret society .... The earlier secret societies were usually regional or non-political in character. In Ulster the Protestant Oakboys and their successors, the Hearts of Steel, although primarily directed against landlords, were potential agencies of denominational strife, as a landlord might turn out Protestant tenants in favour of Catholics, who agreed to pay higher rents .. . [1966, pp. 4-5]

The argument that Orangeism arose as a consequence of increasing demographic pressure on the land rests heavily upon an interpretation of the contemporary land system which has recently been seriously challenged by Irish economic historians. The earlier interpretation was based on an unconditional acceptance of the representativeness and accuracy of eighteenthcentury printed sources. As Cullen has pointed out (1964, 1967,


‘The origins of Ulster Unionism

1969), these sources were largely written as political interventions, centrally concerned with the publicisation of contemporary famines, agricultural depressions and agrarian Class struggles. Famines and depressions (which by contemporary European standards were by no means severe in Ireland) were publicised by reference to their impact on the cottier labourers. These were the most vulnerable section of the population, possessing neither security of tenure nor capital resources. Consequently subsequent historians tended to assume that the class was as numerous in the eighteenth as in the nineteenth century, that eighteenth-century Ireland’s social formation differed little from that of the years before the famine, and that contemporary class conflict also had a more or less nineteenth-century form. A representative survey of contemporary rent rolls and leases indicates that, on the contrary, the occupiers of the bulk of the land were tenant farmers protected by leases of twenty-one or thirty-one years. Most rented direct from landlords, for middlemen were of significance only in the more remote regions.

The commonest source of impoverishment was in fact not rack renting but the obligation of tenant farmers to maintain contractual payments of rent in periods when prices for their produce were falling. Finally, although population was rising with great rapidity, this did not necessarily have an impact on the market for rentable land. In Ulster the rise of the linen industry had in tact made the average inhabitant less dependent upon farming, and therefore upon maintaining his own farm. In short, there is considerable difficulty in maintaining that Armagh’s demographic conditions had any significant influence in producing Orangeism, or, conversely, that the existence of

the United Irishmen can be ascribed to the presence in Antrim and Down of a norm against which Armagh’s demography can be measured as a deviation. In


it is possible






between economic and political developments in the province if its society is described with greater accuracy. The Statistical Survey of Ireland, carried out in the first years of the nineteenth century by the Royal Dublin Society, provides the tools for such a task. The Survey shows that while the economy of the mediumscale tenant farm might constitute nationally an ‘average’ unit of production, any given area (like Ulster) would be characterised by a number of coexisting peasant economies.

The origins of Orangeism


The dominant peasant economy in north Armagh, east Tyrone, south Antrim and west Down was the linen industry, organised on a basis of manufacture (i.e. capitalist production and handicraft system, plus division of labour). The linen industry was also developing, but not yet dominant, in northern Down and mid-Antrim. It represented the only significant branch of manufacture which had been separated out from agriculture in the whole of Ireland. Its dominance had generally coincided with a social homogenisation of the population, which through successive rationalisations of the division of labour had become chiefly composed of journeymen and proletarian weaver—cottiers, holding less than six acres per household, letting either direct from large landowners or indirectly from master weavers, and being employed by the latter (directly or indirectly) in small groups (Young, 1898, 1, pp. 119-20). The south-west of the province, and the area of Connaught immediately adjacent to it, while in some places no more advanced


the far south

and west


a commodity

economy hardly existed) was predominantly the site of the development of small-scall commodity farming serving the manufacturing population of the linen areas. This area was the chief source not only of the grain of the weaving areas but also of its vegetables; the amount of potatoes, oats and barley produced there was described as ‘immense’ (McParlan, 1802, ch. I). The north and north-west of the province was evenly divided between subsistence farming, chiefly in Donegal, and very small-scale commodity farming throughout County Derry. In Derry farms were on average less than twelve English acres and were devoted almost entirely to the production of flax, the raw material of the linen trade. Wheat was also produced, but it was imported into the county in larger quantities than it was exported (Sampson, 1814, p. 236; Johnson, 1964). Finally, large tracts of the province’s north-eastern corner (north and mid-Antrim, north Down) were dominated by the medium-scale commercial farming of tenants renting from twenty to fifty—and in some instances up to 100—acres. These farmers were the flower of Irish rural society, ‘respectable .. . sharp. and clever’ (Dubourdieu, 1802, pp. 43-4). They rented their land on long leases, provided employment for ‘farm— servants’ and were in the habit of sub-letting a few acres to


The origins of Ulster Unionism

cottiers or weavers, whose rent they usually collected in the form of seasonal labour. In the second half of the eighteenth century, then, Ulster was composed of three main economic regions. First, the west, where great backwardness existed side by side with the smallscale commodity production of cash crops; second, southern and mid-Ulster, where linen manufacture was more or less universal; and third, the north-east, where medium-scale commercial farming was dominant, accompanied by a less highly developed linen trade.

From the above survey two tendencies of particular interest may be distinguished. First, the decline of purely agricultural small-scale commodity production, accompanied by the concentration of commercial agriculture and a slight decline in the overall numbers of those engaged purely in agriculture. Second, the expansion of manufacture in the linen trade, the increasing proletarianisation of former small-scale commodity producers, and an overall increase in those engaged in the trade. These tendencies operated simultaneously at the provincial level, but in any given area need not have coincided. In some areas the decline of small-scale commodity production was never, or only gradually, accompanied by the development of manufacture. It happened that areas of rural support for the United Irishmen were those in which small-scale commodity farming was in decline while manufacture showed no particularly rapid development. In pro-Orange areas, on the other hand, manufacture’s advance had eliminated small-scale agrarian commodity production some twenty years before. The Ulster strongholds of the United Irishmen were the town of Belfast and the counties of Antrim and Down. In rural areas the movement was predominantly composed of tenant farmers and independent artisans (Lecky, 1915, m1, pp. 382-4; Froude,

1887, 1, pp. 12-25). Independent evidence supporting this is supplied by a sample of the United Irishmen’s political addresses of rural origin. These characteristically attacked the privileged position of the landlord and the Episcopal State Church and the taxes of the central government. They advocated the end of landowners’ domination of local government, the abolition of tithes, Church tax and hearth money, and also of excise taxes, State pensions and sinecures. Special objection was made to taxes on the sale of animals at fairs and to the county

The origins of Orangeism


cess, a local tax raised for the repair of roads and bridges. Most significantly of all, they demanded a purely contractual relation between landlord and tenant, and that ‘the honest farmer might be protected in the enjoyment of his appurtenancies against the

intrusions of moss-bailiffs and bog-trotters’ (Roden Mss, 1795). The United Irishmen’s ‘honest farmers’ appear on this evidence to have been fairly substantial tenants in the main.

The Orange Order was initially based almost exclusively on north Armagh. Until the rising of the United Irishmen and the turmoil which followed, popular Orangeism was in fact confined to this district—an area where the linen trade was well advanced and where commercial agriculture had no substantial basis. The peasants composing the Order were as unlike the peasants of the United Irishmen, as they were their own landlords. Orangeism’s social composition in these early years is amply testified by contemporary sources. In 1792, three years prior to the Order’s formation proper, an Armagh Catholic wrote that the perpetrators of a series of characteristically Orange outrages ‘could not subsist, for being mostly journeymen weavers, they could not work in the daytime after wanting their rest at night...’ (Byrne, 1792). Addressing the 1835 parliamentary select committee on Orangeism, Stewart Blacker, an Armagh Orangeman, reluctantly observed that the movement was and had been composed of ‘the lower orders, farmers and cottiers, and after them labourers and servants. I should say the great majority are mostly small weavers living on low wages, or servants in husbandry, or persons of that description’ (Report, 1835, paras. 2012-17).1 In fact, then, the index of the main difference in social relations between United Irishmen and Orange areas was a differential balance of tenant farmers and journeymen cottiers. Where the economy of the former remained dominant the United Irishmen were strong. Where the economy of the latter reigned supreme Orangeism was dominant. Taking Ireland as a whole, there is little doubt that the tendency towards the decline of an economy based on the medium-scale, family-run tenant farm was a dominant one. Where it was not being replaced by linen production it was giving way to extensive cereal production, using large numbers of cottier labourers. But as this point has rarely been appreciated, its political effects have never been discussed.


‘The origins of Ulster Unionism

Most political historians have perceived a continuity between the United Irishmen and the Ulster agrarian secret societies of the 1760s and ’70s. In fact they have often included Orangeism within this continuity also. In doing so they have tended to regard each as in its own way vigorously striving to prevent landlords stripping peasants of their ‘tenant right’.? If the mechanics of the situation are to be understood, this assumption too must be abandoned. Little if any continuity existed between these secret societies and Orangeism; on the other hand, there was a good deal of resemblance between the conditions giving birth to them and those from which the United Irishmen emerged thirty years later. Since the origins of these societies are well documented, it is worth while developing the parallel. It has very little to do with the question of ‘tenant right’. Oakboy disturbances arose principally in Tyrone, Armagh and Derry, and were aimed at securing the abolition of tithes and the county cess tax. The levying of these taxes was a novel development, for within the recent past tithes had been collected irregularly, while county cess succeeded a system of annual labour service. Moreover the levy was unevenly implemented within the community: clergy and gentry avoided contribution, and poorer tenants were generally exempt. (With respect to tithes, for example, their chief crop—potatoes—was exempt from payment.) The introduction of these measures constituted a breach of ‘contractual’ landlord—tenant relations. Even so, the response they invoked seemed out of all proportion to the occasion. The societies withheld rents, murdered landlords and their agents, and fought the imported troops sent to disarm them (cf. Abercorn Mss, 1772). This can be partly accounted for by the coincidence of fiscal impositions and bad harvests, falling prices and so on. It was also, however, connected with increasing general pressure upon the more substantial tenantry. While in the vicinity of Belfast the Steelboy disturbances were ignited by evictions, in the remote rural areas there appeared to be no obvious spark. Even in some areas where tithes and cess were not issues, ‘headed by farmers and connived at by many more who privately assisted with money and arms’ (Knox Mss, 1772), the movement appeared to develop spontaneously and to be principally concerned with the regulation of rents and prices. The


of the response


the dimensions


The origins of Orangeism


the source. The farmers represented by the movement were in the process of defending their existence as a class. Before 1770 the tenantry of Armagh was fairly numerous. Thirty years later Sir Charles Coote was to write, ‘in Armagh we cannot speak of such a person as the farmer’ (1804, p. 139). The rapid separation of the linen trade from agriculture led to competition between the two departments of industry for land—for linen a condition of labour, for agriculture a condition of production. In this competition linen, by virtue of producing more wealth for each acre occupied, held the advantage. Weaker farmers sank in consequence to the ranks of weavers. Those in a better position to resist attempted to achieve a maximum elasticisation of their cash obligations by paralysing the authorities to whom those obligations were owed. Ultimately they too were defeated; their remnants migrated, and soon became forgotten—‘idle rascals all, that went to America’ (Young, 1898, 1, p. 124). If a census is examined for a representative parish in Antrim or Down thirty years later, a number of parallels may be noted. Although the table overleaf is distorted by the fact that the parish in question was a fishing as well as a farming and weaving community, it still allows the main relations between classes to be illustrated. Of those holding land, less than a third were yeomen; more exactly, if yeomen are assigned on average thirty acres each and weavers seven acres, then weavers would have held around 56 per cent of the parish’s cultivated land, a situation threatening to make yeoman farming uneconomic. Because linen production had the advantage over agriculture in the competition between different industries, landlords regarded tenant weavers with increasing favour. In any case, the rentable value of smaller plots, whatever their use, always tended to be greater per acre than that of larger ones. Yeomen found themselves in a situation where they had to find extra rent when leases were renewed, and this in a situation where opportunities for increasing productive capacity and rates of return on capital were poor. The United Irishmen gained ground amongst this class, particularly where its crisis coincided with renewed landlord and rectorial attempts to collect cess and tithes.? Significantly, the struggle the Yeomen engaged in was not with their immediate weaver competitors but with landlords, and against these taxes. In order to understand this it is necessary


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Table 2 Employment in the parish of Ballintoy, Co. Antrim, April 1803 a

Insane 9 Letters of blood 3 Licensed for spirits 3 Mantria makers 2 Masons 13 Midwives 2

Bastards 49 Blasters of stone 5 Blind 10 Boat carpenters 2 Breech-makers 2 Butchers 6

Schoolmasters 8 Servants, female 60 Servants, male 32 Shoemakers 25 Slater 1 Smiths 17

Carpenters 11

Mill carpenters 1

Tailors 20

Coopers 5

Millers 5

Truggers 8

Fiddlers and pipers Fish carriers 10 Fishers 82


Mowers 7

Thatchers 5

Poor 33 Rabbit hunters 5

Weavers 288 Wheelwrights 7

Flax dressers 3

Reed-makers 2

Yarn buyers 3

Flax scutchers 7 Glazier 1 Huxters 16

Sailors 8 Sealers of linen 1 Salmon-fishers 21



Source: Dubourdieu (1812).

to understand the nature of the weavers concerned, and the place they seem to have occupied within rural communities in Antrim and Down.

Scholarly research has established (cf. Gill, 1925, endpiece)— and factors like the continued existence of yarn buyers in the census above support the view—that the vast majority of weavers in mid- and north Antrim and mid- and north Down were independent rather than proletarian. Their economic independence was coupled with a vigorous ideological independence. As a group they constituted the core of the oral and literary cultures of the communities in which they lived. In most areas independent weavers had formed reading societies which bought and distributed books, often supported by subscription a local vernacular ‘bard’, and acted as centres of political, economic and theological debate (Hewitt, 1951). Reading societies were the centres of the spread and development of the most advanced views of the age, views which singled out for particular hostility hereditary peers and gentry. Just as the urban radicalism of English artisans was born of a disjuncture between their high level of literacy and education and their exclusion by the guilds from the formal political life of the towns, so that of the rhyming weavers stemmed from their exclusion by landlords from respectable and responsible politics.

The origins of Orangeism


The centrality of their cultural and political position within rural areas was responsible for the fact that their antagonism towards farmers remained a secondary consideration. This centrality was in turn guaranteed by the contemporary pattern of local settlement. Unlike Armagh, where the existence of concentrated weaving communities. encouraged the formation of equally exclusive segmental ties, settlement in Antrim and Down remained predominantly based upon the solitary farm and the unincorporated hamlet. Farmers and weavers were equally dispersed: as no ties of economic dependence or formal social distinctions existed between them, it was natural that they should have traditionally shared common centres of recreation and communal life. This enabled weavers, whose sedentary existence was conducive to reading and self-instruction, to become culturally dominant. Consequently relations between the two groups reflected a foundation of mutual ‘independence’ and equality. The political movement which arose from these centres was consequently able to combine the dynamic of the farmers’ economic crisis with the weavers’ radicalism. In Armagh different economic conditions had a different set of consequences. In contrast with Antrim, Armagh was the site of the linen industry’s greatest progress (until 1800, at least). Here the separation of the linen trade from agriculture had occurred well before 1760, and by that date independent weavers, together with other independent groups in the trade, were already disappearing. By 1784 one in three Irish weavers was an employee, and many of them were concentrated in

Armagh (Gill, 1925, pp. 38 f, 156). Transition to proletarian status meant legal alienation from property, downward social mobility, and submission to class subordination. The weaver now found he could be ordered at will between his employers’ looms and the fields of some gentleman farmer, to whom he might be contracted out (Dubourdieu, 1812, pp. 147-8). In undergoing the transition the weaver received no material compensation. In terms of living standards he fell below the labourer employed spasmodically in purely agrarian tasks (Coote, 1804, pp. 245-94). Reports of his wages in 1779 and 1802 show that, despite increases in trade and rising prices, he received no rise in wages at all

(Young, 1898, 1, p. 117; Coote, 1804, p. 240). These factors did not make for class conflict, however. The


The origins of Ulster Unionism

pace of local industrial and peasant differentiation was sufficiently rapid to succeed in removing most sources of social and political independence from the countryside, while at the same time it was sufficiently slow to prevent the new class of employers’ assuming strategic positions. As linen production became universal, independent tradesmen and artisans employed in ancillary agricultural services disappeared. The new employing class, however, was weak. The biggest employers, bleachers, were not in fact part of the rural milieu at all. Master weavers, who were, generally tended to employ only one or two men who, if not relatives, were neighbours. It is significant that even though the records of the Linen Board show that an appreciable amount of cloth sold at Armagh markets was manufactured by employees, experienced travellers like Arthur Young hardly noticed peasant differentiation in the county. To all intents and purposes the homogeneity of Protestant Armagh remained unchanged. The effect of this homogeneity was to promote the survival in new forms of traditionalistic relations between weavers and their landlords. Negatively, the absence of significant social groups independent of landlords meant that no support for independent political and ideological focuses of opposition to the maintenance of such relations was likely to develop. Positively, it ensured that landlords, who stood largely outside the linen trade, would find themselves cast in the role of tribune, of potential champions and courts of appeal to a population suffering for the first time the vicissitudes of submission to free market relations. This tendency was supported by the structural difficulties standing in the way of new proletarians developing their own leadership constituted by the fragmentation of centres of production. The weaker the purely economic base of landlordism grew, the stronger became the political influence of those who maintained patrimonial relations with their peasantry. Liberal landlords like Lord Gosford, who scorned to maintain such ties, patronise Orange clerics or let land on favourable terms to ‘loyalists’, suffered popular obloquy. Others, such as the Brownlows and the Blackers, who were more disposed to consider local feeling, were to become the tenants’ heroes. In compensation for his proletarianisation the weaver could become once more a ‘citizen’, that is, partake in the rights and obligations of

The origins of Orangeism

the honest settler of the plantation.


The chief of the rights

involved in this bargain (through which landlord political power gained a new lease of life) was the confirmation and

maintenance of the differential status of Catholic and Protestant tenants. With the displacement of Protestant weavers to the bottom of society, this took on a special significance. The 1691 settlement (i.e. Protestant ascendancy) was not institutionalised evenly throughout Ulster. While in the province as a whole Catholics and Protestants existed in equal numbers, only parts of Tyrone, Fermanagh and Armagh reflected this. In Antrim, by contrast, Catholics were confined to the glens of the north of the county. In such circumstances a revived Jacobitism represented a negligible threat, and Protestant ascendancy was in fact identified with the State’s support for a none too popular land system. In Armagh, however, it referred to the maintenance of forms of structured social inequality, enforced by landlords and their bands of private retainers. These forms were represented by definite ‘limits’ or barriers to Catholic social mobility which determined that Protestants occupied positions of relative advantage, either within the same social class or across classes located in different modes of production. This ‘limit’ had first been constituted by the effect of various events in the seventeenth century which forced Catholics to cede the most productive farming land to Protestants and take to the hills. For a long period the Catholic population of Ulster remained outside the market and continued to practise preconquest forms of subsistence economy. Even where their society was penetrated by the market, the Protestant monopoly of fertile land and the technical knowledge necessary to maximise returns from it constituted a barrier between the relative opportunities for social advance open to the two groups. This limit was later reproduced in the period of the development of handicrafts by the scarcity of capital required to free prospective independent craftsmen from their dependence on the land and to establish them in their trade. The general tendency in the linen trade’s recruitment patterns until the 1770s was to conscript labour almost solely from the Protestant population. As far as the weavers of Armagh were concerned, this constituted a recognition by the new industry of the traditional obligations to loyalists which many landlords had recognised before.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Neither landlords nor weavers were in a position to obstruct the linen trade’s development towards capitalist economic relations, though. In Armagh, as elsewhere, these were eventually to require a free and unrestricted labour market. ‘The subsequent effort of Protestant weavers to restrict the labour market was not indicative of a shortage of employment. In fact the decade in which the Peep o’ Day boys and then the Orange Order were founded in Armagh was one of rapid expansion for the linen trade. Rather, an unrestricted labour market was the occasion of the breaking of the economic barrier between Protestants and Catholics which appeared to underlie the entire system of social inequality. Faced with a threat to the principle of homogeneity which determined the character of the social relations of the community, and its relations with the world as a whole, the weavers appropriated to themselves the powers of enforcing what they understood to be an integral part of the 1691 settlement. In doing so they were reported to be acting under the belief that they were enforcing the penal laws (Report,

1835, para. 561). II

While these were the social and economic circumstances underlying the rise of peasant radicalism on the one hand, and proletarian exclusiveness on the other, the political and ideological shapes taken by the consequent movements drew on the prior party alignments and traditional forms of political activity dominant amongst the populations in question. Into the upheavals of the countryside in Antrim and Down were fed the traditions of agrarian secret societies, popular radicalism and the Irish Volunteers. The significance of the first of these traditions was its disposition towards anti-landlord armed insurrection. This disposition originated in the absence during the eighteenth century of any legal remedy for their grievances of small agrarian commodity producers. It was one particularly strong amongst Presbyterian farmers, whose relations to Episcopalians had traditionally been ambiguous. Its success was established through the difficulties landlords found in either enforcing the law as it stood or recruiting armed retainers in many Presbyterian areas. On the more formally ideological level, popular radicalism is

The origins of Orangeism


identifiable as the greatest single influence on the United Irishmen. The importance of its effects can be seen in both the form and the content of the organisation’s pronouncements. The secret societies had traditionally publicised their grievances and aims by issuing public addresses peppered with profuse declarations of loyalty to the principles of landlordism, the Hanoverian succession and often the Protestant ascendency itself. These petitions frequently requested this or that authority to cease its recent excesses and confine its activities to the traditional bounds of its rights and responsibilities. The United Irishmen, in contrast, directed their manifestos and programmes not to the ears of the landlords and their agents but to those of the population they were striving to arouse. The further conflict progressed, the more were traits of traditionalistic opposition displaced in the organisation’s propaganda by appeals to the characteristic objects of radical rationalism: justice, liberty and the rights of man. In this, as in so many things, the United Irishmen borrowed from British and American radicalism, imported into the countryside via the reading societies by the urban intelligentsia, emigrants’ communications home, and the seasonal migration of independent weavers to centres of Scots disaffection (Hewitt, 1951). With radical ideas about politics came radical ideas about organisation. United Irishmen committees and cells, like those of the Jacobins and British radicals, were long-standing, more or less formal organisations, co-ordinated centrally and democratically. This was in some contrast to the organisation of the secret societies, which had been nebulous, temporary and often perhaps more imaginary than real. The Irish Volunteers also played a part in influencing the United Irishmen’s organisation. The Volunteers were a popular force established. by the Ascendency in 1778 to ensure the coordination of Protestant opposition to a possible French invasion once Ireland had been deprived of her garrison by the war against the American colonists. They were recruited from the substantial and medium tenantry, who played a considerable part in their command, often electing their own officers. As the Volunteers increasingly became the vehicle of democratic politics the organisation fragmented, in some areas allowing the United Irishmen to appropriate and maintain its structure, together with its command and communication systems.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Orangeism was of an entirely different formation. Despite its flavour of violence and resistance to authority, its conflicts with local and national authority were never radical in inspiration. On the contrary, they were generally the result of attempts to interfere with Orange political autonomy by administrations fearful of the wrath in others that Orangeism tended to provoke. Orange politics, in fact, bore an utterly unpolitical form. The places at which Armagh weavers’ collective identities, rights of ‘citizenship’ and so on were demonstrated and implemented were not contests with landlords, debating societies or political clubs. They were situated outside the traditional locations of economic, political and ideological dispute altogether. The contemporary commentator J. Byrne referred to the characteristic activities at these locations with despair: ‘. . . were it not for them, the lawyers and others would not laugh at the folly of such a set of madmen and fools, and the country would have

enjoyed a happy state of quiet to this day . . .” (1792). ‘Them’ were the historic scenes of Irish peasant recreation—cock fights, horse races, boxing matches, fairs, markets, dances and wakes. Each provided the site of the constitution, development and prosecution of the feud. The feud denoted a more or less continuous state of hostilities engendered by vengeance groups constituted to exact redress for grievances against persons with whom the members of such groups shared close social ties. Political life in Armagh, outside the work of the grand jury, but often including electoral contests. (Report, 1835, para. 6618; Sibbett, 1939, m1, p. 151), was in fact organised round the combination of such groups with bands of patrimonial retainers: Both were effectively vestiges of the seventeenth century; the survival of vengeance groups was perhaps the consequence of the absence of socially heterogenising forces. Substantively, a ‘frontier’ culture survived as their support—a culture which continued to stress encirclement by a strange people in a strange land, and in which mechanical solidarity against a common enemy coexisted with primitive and often barbaric rituals. Within this culture the main sources of accomplishment and enthusiasm among the populace were not ideological in any political








‘death’, face-to-face confrontations of an aggressive kind: skill in the martial arts, and so on. According to contemporary sources,

The origins of Orangeism


the most popular pastimes were horsemanship and hunting hares on foot. Not even the most accomplished proletarian rider actually owned a horse, however. Like the battle weapons of later Orangemen, these were brazenly appropriated by riders and supporters on their way to the contest. Their return was infrequent, as such contests often ended with the mount of one of the contestants having its progress interrupted by buckshot. The cultural icons of this scenario were those of the carnival and the battlefield, not the hunt. In its own fashion this social order was highly organised, and definite protocols governed the progress of such encounters. Yet serious conflict along parochial lines was undoubtedly one of its emergent properties. Such forms of collective encounter were more or less the only occasions of large-scale interaction within the milieu. Because of the cultural predisposition to aggressive individual and collective assertion, they tended to provide the occasion for the development and publicisation of private grievances, and the formation of vengeance groups along the lines of personal and local ties to redress them. At markets and fairs such encounters typically developed from some real, attempted or imagined commercial wrong, while at sporting occasions betting provided the source of such conflicts. Mortimer O’Sullivan, Episcopal clergyman of Kinnigo, Armagh, described the genesis of one such encounter from personal dispute to feud: Ata fair at Portnorris, there was a pugilistic encounter between two individuals, both of them Presbyterian; a Roman Catholic was the

second of one of them, and it was said that by some unfair assistance he had gave to the person he seconded, the antagonist was overcome and severely beaten. In consequence there was a challenge given by the vanquished party to have a second encounter

. . . [Report (1835),

para. 561] It appears that by the late 1770s almost every parish in Armagh had some representative vengeance group or other, and that these were involved in a fairly regular series of feuding fixtures. Such fully-fledged encounters tended to have a genuinely recreational tone. They were accompanied by much marching about the countryside, the following of bands, and positional mock battles—‘the combatants, after taking the field, select posts on two hills, in view of each other, but at such prudent distance that little danger was apprehended from the irregular


The origins of Ulster Unionism

fire which they [sometimes] exchanged for two days and nights. .. . (Sibbett, 1939, 1, p. 245). The feud was generally sustained without entire areas being embroiled in permanent fighting by the observation of certain tacit conventions, and in the last instance by the intervention of a local notable.




to break



parochial conflict occurred between groups representing segregated confessional areas. Here few or no cross-cutting ties upon which such conventions could have been founded existed among members of such communities. There were few independent figures to arbitrate between opposing forces, and no common currency of redress had emerged in which blood debts could be settled. As segregation increased with the gradual homogenisation of the local Protestant communities around manufacturing centres, and as the status of those communities’ homogeneity became correspondingly called into question by the growth of the labour market, the disposition for conflicts to be purely sectarian increased: After various encounters and outrages, associations were formed of a parochial nature, parish against parish, and were called ‘Fleets’; the

naval war was then in its prime. As yet there was no visible religious distinction; the associations formed were Presbyterian and Roman Catholic conjointly, but gradually one of these parties became subject to a great deal of Roman Catholic influence, and religious or sectarian acrimony gave a new character to the factions. What I have stated is a matter of history; I am about to add a circumstance which assisted much in the creation of division amongst the disturbers, and which I believe is simply traditional. The associations . . . were called Fleets. At first they were distinguished by local denomination: one was the Baun Fleet, another the Nappa Fleet, and so on; one, in which two

districts were united and which was certainly not exclusively Catholic, called its members the Defenders. Some alarm and suspicion seems to have been caused by the title given to one of these fleets, which consisted entirely of Roman Catholics. It was the Brass Fleet. In the north of Ireland . . . I have no doubt that the name was regarded as a corruption of the ‘Brest Fleet’ and as indicating the agency of the French influence . . . [Report (1835), loc. cit.] In conjuncture with the emerging breach of the 1691 settlement, as it was locally interpreted, the feud ceased to be located within ‘recreation’ and detached itself from traditionally

The origins of Orangeism


extra-political locations. Where patrimonial retinues existed as coherent groups, their ranks were swelled. Where they did not, Protestant peasants adopted to a ‘retainer’ role, offered Aiein services to loyalist landlords and appealed to teen for their blessing. In the process Protestant vengeance groups became institutionally transformed. Their rules of recruitment became formalised (along the lines of Freemason lodges®); specialised roles crystallised within them, the symbolisation of their aims became intensely complex and acquired a formal ritual, and the limits on the expression of overt hostility towards the objects of vengeance were lifted completely. In the process the entire Catholic population became defined as the enemy.

While before 1795 Armagh had witnessed a considerable amount of more or less spontaneous intimidation by Protestant vengeance groups, these acted with apparently little co-ordination or organisation. Attacks were directed almost entirely at Catholic weavers, with the object of removing them from the area, but most sectarian disturbances were still located within the sphere of formal inter-parochial confrontation. After the battle of the Diamond in September 1795 such confrontations almost ceased, while intimidation increased to enormous proportions. Greatly superior in force of arms, the Protestants met with little resistance. Events were described forrs years later by the Quaker magistrate James Christie, who in 1795 had lived on the boundaries of Armagh and Der: I first heard of the disturbances as ‘wrecking’, that is, as loomsmashing. It commenced at Church Dungannon, and then it extended

Hill, between Portadown and over nearly all the northern

counties. After the Catholics were driven many of them from their homes . . . I understood they went to Connaught. Some years later, when peace and quietness was in some measure restored again, some returned .. . weavers and others . . . but the property which they left was transferred in most instances to Protestants . . . [Report (1835),

paras. 5587-600] Christie estimated that ‘several hundred’ Catholic families were driven out of Armagh in 1795; the Orange historian Sibbett put the figure—presumably conservatively—at seven hundred

families (1939, 1, p. 302).® After the pogrom had subsided weaver violence was by no


The origins of Ulster Unionism

means at an end. In fact it began to spread to attacks upon the property of mill owners and linen manufacturers who continued to employ Catholics.’ In this situation two important tendencies emerged. In the first instance the local leadership of Protestant vengeance groups sought to consolidate their position and achieve landlord sanction for it by constituting it as the basis for a new compact of citizenship. In the second instance the section of the landlords who had been in the habit of maintaining a patron—retainer relationship with some of their weaver tenants sought to restore their former control over them, both to prevent their violence taking an anti-landlord turn and to resist the spread of the United Irishmen’s influence into neighbouring areas. Here the leadership of the urban United Irishmen had formed an alliance with some of the Catholic vengeance groups collectively denoted the ‘Defenders’. In these circumstances the gentry took formal control of the leadership of the main body of Protestant vengeance groups, now known as the Orange Order, and began to admit its members into a paid militia. It was in this capacity that the Orangemen were to assist in first disarming, then putting down the United Irishmen, and through this medium that the Order was to establish itself as a counter-revolutionary force of provincial and ultimately national importance. Il

The popular rural forces of ‘revolution’ and ‘counter-revolution’ in eighteenth-century Ulster thus arose from two entirely different situations. Far from representing responses to a set of grievances differentiated only by their degree of demographic ‘complication’, their meeting in conflict was determined after their emergence by the complex interplay of forces whose moving principles lay outside those immediate situations. The ‘disloyalty’ of the United Irishmen and ‘loyalty’ of the Orangemen were acquired situationally. Neither rallied to the flag of revolution or of counter-revolution as such, nor even in the first instance to a flag which necessitated their collision. Their practical ‘incompatibility’ was not founded in the difference between the two sets of structural conditions which produced them. The ‘unequivocality’ of 1798 in Ireland was actually the

The origins of Orangeism


product of historiography produced in later circumstances of unequivocality, particularly of historiography which has begun by reading in the past the ideological incompatibilities which were to occasion conflict in later periods. Two examples: there is almost no evidence of Orangemen paying significantly more attention than the rest of the population to the ‘motives’ traditionally ascribed to them of unswerving attachment to the throne before the State temporarily confirmed the position of a restricted labour market in Armagh and began to employ them against the United Irishmen. Likewise, there is no evidence at all that the advanced republican separatism of the exiled leader of the United Irishmen, Wolfe Tone, penetrated rural Ulster. The loyalty of the Orangemen seems to have emerged in the heat of battle, while the ideology of Wolfe Tone was

confined to the urban insurgents. Here itis possible to draw some broader conclusions about the balance of social forces in the countryside which was to become stabilised during the following half-century. In one respect the clash between the United Irishmen and the Orange Order/Yeomanry of 1798 was the result of political modernisation. The struggle developed through the intervention of the State apparatus to secure the services of one party against the other. This point is of some importance, for it indicates the relatively autonomous political developments possible in areas of the Ulster countryside. Although mid-Antrim and north Armagh were only a matter of thirty miles apart, popular activity in one area had little effect on the other without the intervention of the State. It was quite possible for completely different sets of political relations to exist in adjacent areas with only minimal interaction. After 1798 it became less so.

After 1800 Orangeism steadily grew in importance, while rural radicalism declined. Orangeism’s success was based on the sanction of the State, and protection from judicial action by local notables, of popular Protestant attempts to restrict the labour market. Its survival was partly based on the continuing popular urgency of this question. Little information is available on the confessional composition of the Armagh labour market after 1800, but it is possible to speculate that as the development of manufacture there evidenced a relative stagnation for a very considerable period the labour market continued to be restricted.


‘Lhe origins of Ulster Unionism

Orange success was also based on the lack of disruptive pressure on the class alliance involved. Landlords and rural manufacturing

workers did not occupy economically antagonistic positions, and their traditional relations were good. No such favourable conditions existed to sustain rural radicalism and the class alliance it represented. The fact is that the alliance was extremely unstable. Each of its aspects—the alliances between weavers and large farmers, between weavers and smaller farmers, and between larger and smaller farmers—was susceptible to exacerbation at the economic level. Increasing economic differentiation, leading to the formation of agrarian cottar and journeymen weaver classes, bore the stamp of potential conflict. These divisions indicated serious political weaknesses which were to prove faults along which Orangeism might develop. Although political modernisation was insubstantial and political communication between rural areas weak, interaction was still a fact. With the conflict between the United Irishmen and Orange Yeomanry came a first brutal exposure to ‘loyalist’ ideas for the rural masses of Antrim and Down. With the gradual collapse of the independent weavers as a class (which was to stretch over sixty years), with growing antagonisms within the old United Irishmen areas, and with the effective institutionalisation of Orange ideology and social practices (despite formal administrative suppression of the Order in 1835), Orangeism became an ever more readily available and appealing set of symbols, rhetoric and institutions for opponents of both free labour markets and substantial farmers throughout the north. Its spread focuses attention on the problem of the evolution of social and political arrangements in what had been United Irishmen areas; while things tended to remain stable elsewhere, these were the scene of substantial changes.


1 2 3



For confirmation of this statement cf. the evidence of J. Sinclair (Report, 1835, paras. 4953-4). Following Biggar (1910). The first attempts to collect tithes in four north Down parishes on the Londonderry estate in 1792 appear to have been the stimulus for United Irishmen development in this area, for example. Cf. Crawford and Trainor (1969), pp. 29-30.

The origins of Orangeism


‘Perhaps in no other county of Ireland is jockeyship practised with more extraordinary enterprise, shameless fraud or greater success . . .’ (Coote, 1804, p. 140); ‘They take excercise by keeping packs of hounds, eyery man one, and joining. They hunt hares: a pack of hounds is never heard but all the weavers leave their houses and away they go after them by hundreds. This much amazed me, but assured it was very common. They are in general apt to be licentious and disorderly . . .’ (Young, 1898, I, p. 127). Freemasonry’s basis in eighteenth-century Ulster seems to have been largely amongst the artisanate. While in areas where this group survived it appears to have cleared the way for reading societies and debating clubs, in others where it did not its legacy seems to have been certain organisational forms and symbolic rituals adopted by Orangeism. Insufficient data mean that this interpretation is speculative, however. For a review of the different estimates see Tohall (1958). ND As indicated above, the increasing pressure upon the land (particularly intense in Armagh, which in 1802 had a density of 439 persons per square mile) has traditionally been cited as the principal cause of the explosion of sectarian warfare in the area at this time (e.g. by Strauss, 1951—Strauss’s work has excercised substantial influence over most subsequent histories of the period). Following G. de Beaumont, the argument runs as follows: ‘Land in Ireland is the common refuge; it is not enough to say [it] is desired . . .; it is envied and coveted, it is torn to pieces and the pieces are fiercely contested; when it cannot be occupied by fair means, it is seized by crime .. .’ (1839). The seizure of land was indeed the most common form the work of vengeance groups took after 1795. However, the rapid development of capitalism in Armagh in this period, with its accompanying trend towards the proletarianisation of the masses, was actually making land of less material consequence. Livelihood and land—in Armagh, at least—had only the appearance of being irrevocably tied; even considerable proportions of the vegetables consumed by employees in linen were grown outside the manufacturing areas and purchased by workers for cash. Armagh weavers’ connection with larid was accidental, and its seizure was primarily undertaken to drive off the occupant and remove him from the labour market. Even in counties where the confessional balance of the population was heavily Catholic, sectarian struggle tended to be concentrated in linen-producing areas. See Kerrane (1971).


‘The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism

Unlike the towns, with their notorious riots, their more or less articulate political disputes and the exaggerated claims of their entrepreneurs, the countryside of the north of Ireland passed the nineteenth century almost in silence. Despite the most immense social changes its voice was practically mute—apart from an outburst of clamour so hysterical and so concentrated that it has since remained for all purposes as incomprehensible as that silence itself. The Ulster religious revival of 1859 involved larger numbers of people in sustained common activity than any movement in rural Ulster between 1798 and 1913. Despite this, little attention has been paid to it, at least by historians. The revival has gained the attention only of those ‘indifferent’ to history: its literature, contemporary and modern, was written not only by the faithful but for the faithful as well. In conventional terms the revival has little to do with politics or political development. Yet, just as much as any strictly political event, it demonstrated with both clarity and comprehensiveness the relations of particular social groups to particular institutions and to each other; as a series of incidents and events it revealed certain basic but recondite tendencies towards opposition and combination between such groups, towards the emergence and acceptance of certain ideologies, towards the common use of and susceptibility to certain symbols and rhetorics. The revival has the property of allowing an overview of social, political and ideological relations in the Ulster countryside, because it constituted a constraint upon the entire population of certain areas to define and declare their relations to a specific set of questions. These questions ranged from relatively obtuse theological ones concerning ‘enthusiasm’ to vaguer but more fundamental ones about acceptance of certain kinds of alliance

and certain kinds of leadership. The revival’s significance is underwritten by the fact that it

The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism


immediately followed the second great mutation of the structural determinates of social relations in the countryside between 1780 and 1880. It coincided with a very heavy blow to domestic industry and small manufacture, and heralded the strict separation of town and country, the rise after a long period of stagnation of the commodity-producing farmers, the decline and social crisis of rural weavers, and the recruitment of a mass urban proletariat. Because of the widespread character of domestic industry, and its status as an integral part of local peasant economy, its destruction by the advent of power weaving had a bigger impact in some areas than had the famine. This socioeconomic eruption found an expression in the revival. I

Accounts of the revival differ on a number of significant scores, the first being how and where it began. According to the official historian of the revival appointed by the Presbyterian General Assembly, it began in the parish of Connor, near Antrim town, during 1858 (Gibson, 1860). Historians following Gibson (Carson, 1958; Paisley, 1958) claim that Connor had long been the seat of fundamentalist Calvinism and energetic religious enthusiasm. From the mid-’50s its minister had been promoting prayer meetings among his flock, and during 1858 the stimulus of a number of conversions led to the development of popular interest. By January 1859 large numbers of prayer meetings were occupying the neighbourhood, and from this point the revival began to gather impetus. In March it reached the near-by parish of Ahoghill, where its impact was ‘profound’. Some dozens of conversions took place, and news of them spread throughout the county. By May the movement had reached Ballywatt, Cloughmills, Ballymoney, Ballycastle, Bushmills, Portrush, Coleraine and most of east County Derry, north County Down and Belfast. By the end of June it extended to most of Ulster, with the exception of Fermanagh, south Tyrone, and the mainly

Catholic areas of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal (Gibson, 1860). While Gibson and those who follow him largely ascribe the spread of the revival to a rather primitive notion of spontaneous contagion, they also indicate that it had some roots at least in the efforts of a revitalising element within the Presbyterian Church itself. In 1858 a revival had occurred on the eastern seaboard of


The origins of Ulster Unionism

the United States. Gibson is at pains to point out that, unlike earlier American revivals, this one had involved considerable numbers of the ‘respectable’ classes, and took the form of a movement of prayer meetings rather than outbursts of frontier camp-site hysteria. After what appears to have been some conflict the Presbyterian General Assembly dispatched Gibson and the Rey. William McClure across the Atlantic to investigate its character. When they returned they presented a favourable report of it and the General Assembly proceeded to encourage the ministry to promote a similar campaign in Ireland. According to Gibson and Carson, this was in response to the ‘low moral state’ of the Church and of the countryside in general. Hence, while ‘spontaneous’, the revival is officially acknowledged to have received assistance from the ministry. Gibson’s version of the origins and the course of the revival were almost immediately disputed by Isaac Nelson (1860-62). According to Nelson the revival proper did not originate in Connor at all. Although individual conversions may have taken place there, the first signs of mass revivalist excitation did not occur until March 1859 in Ahoghill. Nelson ascribed its beginnings in this area to the hysterical preaching of the local minister, one Adams, who, he claimed, was allied to an organised antiintellectualist and pro-Tory tendency within the ministry.! So far the dispute is more or less predictable: the main disagreement is over the motives for the ministry’s promotion of the revival. What is more interesting is that there should be a disagreement over its geographical starting point. The first mention of the revival in the Ulster press occurred in the Ballymena Observer late in March 1859. This described the prayer meetings in the Connor area and the beginnings of the revival in Ahoghill. It provides no support for the orthodox view that the meetings in Connor had been the focus of popular participation for over a year, and mentions instead that they were preceded by an outbreak of ‘physical prostration’ which became characteristic of the revival everywhere (BO, 26 March 1859). Yet according to Gibson no such ‘outbreaks’ had accompanied the progress of the revival until it reached Ahoghill. How can the accounts be reconciled? The facts appear to be that prior to March 1859 both cases of hysteria and a number of prayer meetings had occurred in Connor, but that the first report of their coincidence does not

The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism


appear until their simultaneous occurrence in Ahoghill. In other words, the ‘hysteria’ and the religion were generated separately, only later becoming combined. This hypothesis receives support from Richey (1870), who, describing the origins of the revival, mentions that the news of the American ‘awakening’ appeared in Connor in March 1859, having been brought by two Scots visitors. Prior to this, local inhabitants appear to have had no conception of what a revival was, and only afterwards did they understand that an association could be possible between prayer and hysteria. Previously hysteria had been locally understood as a form of madness. According to Richey the visitors communicated ‘what they had seen in Connor’ to Coleraine and elsewhere. It seems reasonable to suggest that the empirical origins of the revival therefore reside in the acceptance by the population of Connor of an outside suggestion that the disturbing events which had been going on there were attributable to a revival of which their prayer meetings were an expression. On the question of the social composition of the revivalists there is a similarly strong disagreement between supporters and opponents of the phenomenon. Gibson emphasises the participation of ‘respectable’ elements, while Nelson is concerned to point out that without exception the revivalists were drawn from the lowest class of weavers and peasants. Gibson, Carson and Paisley in fact only identify the revivalists when they can report—as in Connor—that they were ‘shopkeepers, shoemakers and day labourers’, or where—as in Ahoghill—they were led by a ‘respectable farmer’. The other sources indicate that the involvement of these groups was at best rare, and generally support Nelson’s contention. In Ballymena and Coleraine weavers led the revival (Richey), in Down it was concentrated in the weaving centres of Comber and Newtonards (Reid, 1860). In rural Down the participants were ‘ploughmen and washerwomen’ (Gibson), while in Armagh it was again families of weavers who were identified as the predominant element. According to the minister of Dundrod, County Down (quoted in Nelson), the revival was spread by the daughters of weavers and small farmers, and for MacIlwaine (1860) also the young daughters of the ‘proverbially apathetic Presbyterian peasants and mechanics of Ulster’ were again the ‘awakening’s’ most


The origins of Ulster Unionism

frequent source of recruits. Finally, all the sources report mass conversions in rural spinning mills in Counties Antrim and Down. In Belfast too the largest number of conversions occurred amongst the mill-working population, specifically in Sandy Row and Ewart’s Row, off Crumlin Road. Even Gibson remarks that ‘the ordinary Belfast convert was a female textile hand’ (cbid., p- 17) and this is confirmed by Nelson and Thomas Toye, a friend of Hanna’s

(in Reid, 1860). One or two commentators

observe that the shipyard workers unanimously resisted the revival, despite heavy evangelisation, while all are agreed that only a minimal number of converts were made in Tyrone, and none at all in Fermanagh. The character of the revival preachers forms another area of dispute. According to Gibson some part was played by itinerant preachers recruited from the original Connor converts and familiarised with the scriptures. Orr (1949) indicates the revival’s promotion by ‘gentleman preachers’ like Brownlow North, while Paisley approvingly reports that in Carnmoney it was promoted by a substantial ‘Christian merchant’, in Whitehouse by the ‘proprietor of a great linen mill’ and in Belfast received the wholehearted co-operation of the mill owners. Nelson claims that as well as all these sources of enthusiasm the countryside was flooded by large numbers of nomadic illiterate preachers, unacquainted with scripture and supporting themselves through prophecy and the performance of ‘miracles’. This is confirmed by Thomas Witherow, a leading evangelical Presbyterian in Derry, who warned other ministers against the preaching of ‘persons not well instructed in religion’ and the passage of the revival through ‘country-looking’ men (quoted in Gibson). There is little inconsistency in accepting all these observations. Only one or two points seem problematical, and these may readily be cleared up. The confinement to Connor of shopkeeper and artisan participation in events may be accounted for if it is recalled that there is evidence to suggest that prayer meetings there were not part of the revival proper, and attendence at them did not indicate revivalist support. It is the fact of the resistance to the revival by larger tenant farmers as a group—and the population of the north-west of Ulster as a whole—that

is more



of the reasons

why the revival


to have


The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism


neglected even as a curiosity by historians may have been the fact that the ‘respectable’ works on the subject (e.g. Carson) more or less suppress the most interesting of its characteristics —a characteristic whose extent, but not whose existence, was the subject of considerable contemporary dispute. From its beginnings in Ahoghill the revival was accompanied by the spread of certain psycho-physiological manifestations contemporarily known as its ‘physical affections’. The centrality of these manifestations to the progress of the revival is indicated in a description by Thomas Toye of one of his meetings. Toye had been holding meetings since April 1858. In May 1859 he brought some Ahoghill converts to Belfast. At first there were no ~ ‘prostrations’ amongst his audiences, but two occurred during the first mass service in Botanic Gardens, Belfast, on 29 June, when A girl who had found peace on the previous Sabbath evening stood up, declared she was happy in the Lord and simply added the words ‘Come to Jesus’. The effect was electrifying and many sinners came that evening, weary and heavy laden, to Jesus, and found rest for

their souls. But this scene was soon to be eclipsed by another. gathered in such numbers

The people

on the following evening, June 30, that

there was not accommodation for them; and there was one congregation in the church and two more in the street. After the service in the church began, there were piercing cries of mercy from every part of the house. There is a garden behind the church and several persons were removed there, while others were taken into my own dwellinghouse. The season was very favourable for those taken into the garden. There were several groups of individuals. Some were exhorting those who were seeking salvation; some were weeping and praying aloud for mercy; and some, with joyful lips, were praising God and singing... . The usual time for dismissal came, but they were heedless about the hour of the night. They did not leave the spot until five o’clock in the morning. . . . [Quoted in Reid, (1860), pp. 115-6]

Here some of the revival’s initial symptoms are described: weeping, quaking and prostration. Their common situational origin was the all-night prayer meeting. In other areas there was ‘speaking with tongues’, while in the areas where the revival penetrated deepest there were episodes of choreomania and leaping:


‘The origins of Ulster Unionism

On the following Saturday [in a parish in Armagh] when crowds met in church, groups came literally jumping and as they rushed into each other’s arms, straining and pressing each other to their breasts,

in front of the pulpit and up the alleys, the people were filled with wonder at what had happened to them. . . . [Nelson, op. cit., p. 61]

Elsewhere other symptoms of ‘grand hysteria’ were described. In Coleraine the revivalists commonly fell into epileptoid comas and took days to recover consciousness (Gibson); in Belfast, they suffered loss of speech, hearing and sight. In the main, though, exaggerated motor movements and prostration were the commonest accompaniments of the revival. These manifestations were entirely confined to the lower orders. At the time the revival’s supporters claimed that these psycho-physiological states corresponded either to some form of mortification, to the working of the ‘natural conscience’ or to a personal struggle with Satan. According to its opponents they were directly induced by the rhetoric of the revival. This was not merely evangelical but often millennial in character. Nelson reports a second coming being preached in Dundrod, while in Belfast I was myself present in a Presbyterian meeting-house at a prayer offered with the most frenzied excitement and gestures that God would there and then descend and strike all the unconverted to the earth. That prayer was accompanied by a storm of cries and groans and exclamations and amens, all hailing the true hysteric sound. This was the most frightful scene I ever witnessed in my life; at the moment of command to the almighty it was truly terrific. [ibid., pp. 171-2]

Other preachers pronounced Armageddon too, with particular effect in remoter areas where primitive superstitions were still prevalent. Where it was not preached, and sometimes also where it was, the dominant rhetoric of the revivalists spoke not of moral regeneration but of personal intercourse with God. Everywhere appeals to ‘come to Jesus’, to ‘find Jesus’ and especially ‘find Jesus in yourself? evoked a great emotional response. Like the physical manifestations, these slogans were in the main communicated through young females. They indicated that the speaker had passed through the phase of exaggerated motor movements and had ‘found rest’,

The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism



The area to which the revival was primarily confined was none other than that where sixty years before the radicalism of the United Irishmen had flourished. Its effects were to displace this ideology and to prepare its bearers for one that allowed their incorporation into an ethnocentric Conservative regionalism. Behind this change lay a series of structural and institutional transformations. The most significant of these were economic. Since 1800 the development of the linen trade had been uneven and erratic. For some years it appeared that the trade in Antrim was slowly developing towards the Armagh model of organisation; until the 1830s the old, scattered, heterogeneous communities along the lower Bann were giving way to settlements around bleach greens. In 1817 the first small weaving factory appeared in Antrim (at Ballymoney). Spinning mills already existed there and at Cushendall and Ballymena (Gill,

op. cit., p. 268). Such developments did not become dominant, however. In the heart of the revival area, side by side with them, the old open markets of Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ahoghill remained intact, just as the majority of the weavers remained independent. In Down the pattern in Armagh was followed closer, largely as a result of the impact of the cotton trade, which accelerated the decline of ‘pure’ domestic production. The west and north of Down were areas of bleaching and of the finest branches of the trade: commercial organisation was strongest and the open linen markets fell into decline. Indeed, the trade developed faster in Down in this period than in Armagh itself. The effect of these changes was that while the form of social organisation survived which had supported the communities imbued with the radicalism of the United Irishmen, developments within the linen trade indicated the progressive isolation of those areas from the dominant form of economy. As will become evident, this isolation was not concomitant with a growing solidarity of the manufacturing and agrarian population of the isolated area. Industrial concentration underlay this isolation. Already marked in the first quarter of the century, it accelerated after the introduction of steam spinning in 1828, making it profitable for merchants engaged in cotton manufacture and the import of


The origins of Ulster Unionism

yarn to build linen mills and begin to employ labour on a large scale. These developments were assisted by innovations in jointstock banking, the use of steam power and the beginnings of comprehensive transport systems. The number of mills in Ireland doubled between 1838 and 1853. Almost all were built within a fifteen-mile radiusof Belfast. Under these conditions changes took place in the settlement pattern. First, there was a general migratory movement to Belfast; second, there was a movement to the growing number of industrial villages which began developing in south Antrim.

In these villages capitalists

offered employment first to female spinners and later to male weavers. By 1850 combined spinning and weaving enterprises had become fairly common, although with weaving still based on hand techniques. The close of the period shows the new mill owners replacing bleachers as the chief employers in the trade (Gill, op. cit., p. 322). In the areas where industrial development was slow the position of the independent weaver became increasingly precarious. With the arrival of the famine many began to migrate. The open markets rapidly declined, and those at Ballymoney and Ballymena disappeared altogether between 1855 and 1862. The death blow came for the remaining independent areas with the development of mechanical weaving in the late ’40s and early ’50s. In 1853 only 218 power looms were working in Ulster; by 1859 there were 3,633, in 1861 4,973, and so on. The countryside began to empty at an ever-increasing rate. Changes in agriculture in this period were also substantial, reflecting in a muted way changes in Irish agriculture nationally. In 1800 the dominant agrarian economy in eastern Ulster had been small- (and some medium-) scale commodity production. In Antrim and Down there were few properly capitalist farmers,

however, and in Armagh none at all. The decades following the Union saw the ‘substantial’ tenantry of the late eighteenth century undergo differentiation. A number were able to make the transition to capitalist farming by turning to tillage production, sub-letting small plots of land in exchange for labour, and encouraging their sub-tenants to provide them with free fertilisation for the wheat and corn by planting potatoes. The cottar system enabled a small number of farmers—principally by operating with the lowest possible organic composition of capital—to reach the status of dominant members of the community.

The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism


Although substantial farmers of this kind and with this history were rarer creatures in Ulster than in Leinster or Munster, they were still evident in Antrim and Down. Indeed, theiriimportance was great enough for the control of the agrarian property structure on marriage and procreation to become as slack as in any part of the country. Since under the cottar system the ability to undertake agricultural production (albeit on a plot no larger than an allotment) no longer depended upon capital acquisition

by the head of the peasant household, the period between 1800 and the famine showeda steady rise in both early marriage and population density generally (Crotty, 1966). In this period most Irish farming was devoted to the production of cereals; indeed, it was the drastically over-priced cereal market in war-time England which sustained the whole development. A population like Ireland’s could be maintained on the land only if prices remained high. Once they fell, and once ‘substantial’ farmers had made their ‘primitive accumulation’, the cottar system would no longer work to its advantage. The more advanced and highly capitalised would make the transition to livestock farming, with its equally low labour costs and higher rate of return on capital. In Ulster, where such farmers formed a tiny minority, another alternative was open, but one just as impossible to adopt for rural producers without capital. This was continued tillage production for the growing local urban market. Supplying this market might have enabled

the middle-sized farmer to survive, but the plight of the smallholder or cottar was unaffected. In Ulster, as elsewhere, subsistence farming was increasingly difficult, and consolidation an increasingly marked trend, accelerated by the famine. The significance of this differentiation was to draw new lines of social division within the countryside. Whereas in the rural communities of Antrim in 1800 the mass of weavers and farmers shared similar economic relations and possessed proximate status positions, by 1860 the relation between rural manufacturing and agrarian populations was both more complex and more distant. Weavers, of course, had themselves suffered downward social mobility, and so had a large number of farmers, some of whom had been forced to emigrate. Additionally, the substantial commodity farmers had latterly lost anything they once had in common with the weavers. Larger farmers now looked to professional and entrepreneurial elements in Belfast for the


The origins of Ulster Unionism

development of their social relations and the, expression of their class interests. Social differences in the countryside ceased to be articulated along lines of political rank and came to be expressed more in terms of income and relation to property. Social distance increased, both between farmers and weavers, and within the farming population itself. Table 3 Distribution of farms into categories of size, six counties of Ulster,

1841-63 (%) Acres:


G4 iG


14-0 10-9 10-7

44-0 Dj1-2 29 -6

52-2 30-1

28-0 26-3 24-4.

49-0 49 -3 47 - 4

18-0 19-4

99-5 18-2 17-9

42-5 42-5 38-7

21-0 9-3 8-0

54-0 35-3 31-0

32-4 33-0

18417 1851 1863

19-0 10-7 10:8

36-0 40-1 SY/IOS

29-2 29-2

Tyrone 18417 1851 1863

21-0 1% 11-0

51-0 36-8 35-0

Antrim 18417 1851 1863


42-0 25-7 29-6

Armagh 1841° 1851 1863 Down 18417 1851 1863 Fermanagh 1841° 1851 1863

23-0 6-4 8-8

—_______45 -0_—_____— 24-6 14-7 24-7 18-7 25-0 23-0 28-0

Londonderry 45-0 20-0 22-8

——______ 28 - 0 —____—_ 29-5 21-2 30-0 24-0

a Figures for 1841 are estimates. As has been pointed out by Bourke (1965), the 1841 census tended systematically to underestimate farm size. Bourke has estimated that only 58 per cent of the farms recorded in the category 1—5 acres in the census were really in that category; correspondingly there were in reality (respectively) 23 per cent and 117 per cent more farms than recorded in the categories 5-15 and 15+ acres. The present figures have been arrived at by applying these revised calculations to the 1841 figures for each of the counties tabulated. la census of Ireland, 1841, 1851; Agricultural Statistics, Ireland, 1863.

The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism


III An’ when I was rade an’ hale an’ young My thread cam’ level an’ fine as a hair An’ the kitten purred, an’ the cricket sang An’ the care 0’ my heart was a lightsome care. Now men hae erected a new ingine; An’ left but little for us to earn,

An’ little for me but to pinch an’ pine. I wish I had died when I was a bairn,

For my guid auld man he has breathed his last An’ I on the cauld rife world am cast [Thomas Beggs of Ballyclare, quoted in Hewitt (1951)]

Thomas Beggs was amongst the last of the rhyming weavers of Antrim and Down, and the demise of these poets in the period between the famine and the revival indicated the disappearance of a considerable sector of the area’s institutional life. The rhyming weavers had been indigenous parish or townland bards whose publications were supported collectively by the population of their area, who studied rhyme and metre under the Scots vernacular poets, and who tended to have a wide range of social ties with distant English and Scots radicals. In the period before the rise of the United Irishmen their poetic themes had been liberty, equality and fraternity, and their milieu the parish reading societies. In the fifty years which followed, their poetry reflected less political themes. By the revival it had acquired a tone of bitterness and despair. As the status of the weaving population declined and its economic independence became eroded, so the culture which had supported the bards also suffered decline. Reading societies and the publications of the bards became insupportable both financially and socially. The communities upon which they were based







menfolk emigrated, collective routines like the collection of woven webbs for market were disrupted, and so on. The 1841 Ordnance Survey Memoir for Antrim reported the morale of the weavers to be on the decline, signalled by increases in whiskeydrinking and the ‘exposure of young children’. As their position worsened, the weavers were forced not only to accept less for their work but also to work longer hours. Not just rhyming but cock-fighting and other peasant recreations were said to have vanished. Where reading societies survived they were taken over


‘The origins of Ulster Unionism

by the middle classes of the market towns, who replaced their libraries of Paine, Sterne and Smollett with ‘useful and religious books’. In 1800 subscriptions to Antrim reading societies had been around four shillings per year; by 1841 they had risen to two guineas (cf. Hewitt, 1951; 1841 Antrim Ordnance Survey Memoir, 1969). The decline in the independent culture of the weavers was accompanied by a change in the status of the Presbyterian Church in rural areas. In 1800 it had coexisted with the reading societies as an agent and embodiment of democratic sentiment and social and political ‘independence’. Defined by its distinctness from the Church of the landlords, Presbyterianism knitted together the two largest groups in the population in a radical and cosmopolitan unity. As the years passed and structural differentiation increased, a wider social distance grew between these groups. The stability and equilibrium of economic statuses and cultural values upon which the Church’s popular role had been founded dissolved, and it began to lose its efficacy. As it began to experience the effect of contradictory demands upon it the Church lost its ability to provide cultural and political leadership. On the farmers’ part these demands were that the Church should continue in the old way, and reflect their radicalism and rationalism. The weaving population, on the other hand, adopted an instrumental attitude towards it. Attendances fell, while demands that the ministry provide references and recommendations which weavers could present to prospective urban employers increased. As rural migration developed, ministers appear to have become increasingly resentful of this phenomenon, triggering considerable conflict between the different sections of the rural contmunity. The 1835 Select Committee on Orangeism examined several witnesses who remarked on the frequency with which ministers were intimi-

dated to provide references, and the positive role played by the

Orange Order in the matter (Report, 1835, paras. 6730-930).

Throughout this period the dominant theological tendency within all varieties of Presbyterianism was ‘intellectualism’, 1.e. the position that man’s relationship to God is essentially one of personal responsibility in which grace is expressed by personal discipline, denial of extreme impulses, and so on. The doctrine embodied a rational attitude towards experience and the famous idea that the rational pursuit of duty constituted sacred perfor-

The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism


mance in the service of God. Again, while the Bible and not the Church represented the main intermediary between man and God, the ministry had a definite role in the systematic and balanced instruction of the scriptures. Although the doctrine was itself hardly homogeneous, these elements proved identifiable enough for a rival tendency to congeal around opposition to them: one which was fundamentalist, anti-humanist and anti-intellectual. This tendency held the Bible to represent literal truth and to be the only guide to salvation. Its test of admission to Christ’s fellowship was the experience of conversion and the acceptance of Christ as a personal saviour redeeming the convert’s individual guilt. The role of the minister was not instruction but assistance in this conversion. Above all, the fundamentalists came to consolidate support around the argument that common speech was an adequate instrument of exegesis. This provided a populist appeal for their campaign by identifying intellectualism with the deliberate preservation of the social distance that had emerged between ministry and flock. The decline in the efficacy of the Church was thus accompanied by an increase in ministerial and popular support for fundamentalism. Perhaps the most important contemporary rural social change, however, was that in the relation between kinship, marriage and the agrarian property structure. Prior to the famine, early marriage was both easy and desirable for those on or near subsistence, since it guaranteed access to the right of sub-let land. Many landlords, particularly smaller ones welcomed sub-letting, since it assured a fixed supply of reserve labour for them. Peasants accepted it as a means of maintaining the extended structure of their kinship unit without loss of productive resources and with certain safeguards against the development of familial tension. As the organisation of farming changed, so too did this relationship. With the influx of larger sums of constant capital into agriculture after the ‘substantial’ tenantry had made its transition, commercial landholders began to express an active dislike of the ‘wastage’ constituted by sub-let land. As agriculture became capitalist in character, capital itself became once more a condition of access to land. Since access to land remained a condition of marriage, and since it was blocked to young people of poor peasant origins, marriage tended to become a possibility


The origins of Ulster Unionism

only for those with prospects of inherited access. In this context the dispersal of the family became an enormous problem for the rural population. Among the ‘solutions’ which were to become institutionalised were high emigration, late marriage and large dowries (Arensberg and Kimball, 1968). Similar problems affected the remaining weavers too. Opportunities both for their sons to become independent craftsmen and for their daughters to supplement the family income by home spinning declined, threatening the reproduction of both marriage practices and traditional kinship arrangements. The last important political change which accompanied the structural developments of this period was the emergence of a political movement among a section of the tenantry. The composition

of this movement

(the Tenant

Right League)


indicated by the title of the body it evolved from, the Independent Freeholders’ Club (Kennedy, 1943). The movement served to demarcate the interests of the substantial tenantry not only from those of the landlords, to whom their demands were addressed, but also from the mass of the peasantry, whose resistance to consolidation was intermittently expressed in episodic insurrection.? For the future of Irish politics it was significant that they were to chose urban entrepreneurs as their political allies. The institutional changes in northern Ulster in this period can therefore be summarised as, first, a breakdown of the indigenous cultural institutions of the weavers; second, a weakening of institutions which had previously expressed the social proximity of various classes in the countryside; and third, a tendency amongst the group benefiting most from structural change to increase the institutional distance between itself and other groups. As things turned out, the combination of these changes meant that the downwardly mobile sections of agrarian and industrial society could offer no resistance to a phenomenon like the revival. IV

Outlined thus, these tendencies simply indicate that certain necessary conditions existed for an ideological upheaval amongst the population. As it was, the revival primarily affected one very distinct group, and affected it in an extraordinary way. In this context the content of the revival must be examined afresh.

The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism


Despite the oddity of the way it was communicated—a kind of hysterical contagion—there was nothing ‘exceptional’ about its bearers except that they tended to be drawn from a particular sex and age group. In what way was this group especially predisposed to hysteria? Of all the expectations about socially governed cultural patterns which were frustrated by the development of new structural and institutional conditions in Antrim and Down in the decade and a half after the famine, those about marriage were perhaps the most important. For the established adult Table 4 Changes in sexual balance and marriage

rate in the 15—25-year


group, Ulster, 1841-61 Ratio, m: Belfast 1841 1851 1861 Antrim 1841 1851 1861 Armagh 1841 1851 1861 Down 1841 1851 1861 Fermanagh 1841 1851 1861 | Londonderry 1841 1851 1861 Tyrone 1841 1851 1861


% married, m

% married,f

eeieSS ‘Nate Lee 24: steel ()

17-0 13-0 9-9

24-0 20-1 14-7

cael! nit, i co as Avert.

10-5 8-4 7-9

17-0 13-5 12-8

tee) fe aiotAL jleae sha

aoe 6-3 6-7

18-0 13-4 42-7

ites ea) {POS bateys linen tea 4:

10-0 7-8 7-7

16-9 155 11-7

teenie 0) 1: 1-06 Dedicettl

7-3 3-4 4-6

16-5 10-8 11-8

Agel AZ eS, dlscua kaskes

8-3 5:7 6-2

14-9 11-0 11-3

fei. 09 f At-04 Amepsteeti()

7-8 4-2 5-2

16-0 10-6 11-9

i e a e 6. Source: census of Ireland, 1841, 1851, 1861.




The origins of Ulster Unionism

populations, both agrarian and weaving, the existing means of dispersing children and maintaining a functional family unit of production were breaking down. Among a high proportion of the children of marriageable age of such families (around twenty years for men and seventeen for women: 1841 Antrim


gratification had to be postponed indefinitely. The blow

fell hardest upon young girls, since it was easier for men to emigrate, and the proportion of females to males within this age group was increasing continuously. The tendency is illustrated in table 4. The combination of diminishing marriage prospects (especially in Antrim, Down, Belfast and Armagh) with the institutional

consequences can be postulated to have had the effect of creating conditions of substantial conflict within the peasant family. A surplus of young undisposable females would increase tension between mothers and daughters and make both receptive to ‘artificial’ means of escape from the situation. It appears that in the area which suffered most from these vicissitudes tensions first became expressed in ‘contagious’ forms of personal despair and manic behaviour. Exact reports of the content of this behaviour do not exist, but it was evidently unusual enough to merit note in the local press. As it happened, the dispute within the Presbyterian Church was intense enough to inspire some local ministers to legitimate such behaviour, representing it as evidence of possession by the hand of God. This legitimation, and the rhetoric of personal salvation and the imminent ‘solution’ of worldly problems which accompanied it, made participation by the socially marginalised an attractive proposition. Fundamentalist ‘enthusiasm’ provided a means by which personal and collective fears, frustrations and expectations could be handled. In the course of these events local social norms tended to break down, providing new opportunities for the resolution, or at least displacement, of the effects of their original causes. Marginalised men could become travelling evangelists on the basis of a ‘personal experience’. As such they could find a fairly regular source of income (often subvented by ‘enthusiastic’ mill owners in industrial villages seeking to promote the spiritual welfare of their employees) and obtain access to illicit sexual relations with undisposed marriageable females. As they became established, so the revival was identified as a potential popular means of

The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism


restructuring norms for such relations. ‘Enthusiasm’ proved an extremely flexible way of temporarily resolving a variety of socially based personal problems. In its progress it attracted increasing investments of emotion, and came to be articulated in a particularly suggestive rhetoric (that of ‘coming to Jesus’). In psychoanalytic terms the meaning of this rhetoric is not hard to discover. According to Freud, hysteria generally represents a phenomenon of identification and transference by the subject. Identification: with a desire which for ‘moral’, ie. cultural,






of this

unacceptable desire into a fixation with a particular object associated with it, but not bearing the same negative moral or cultural connotations. With respect to the revival it may be argued that the culturally unacceptable desire was marriage and its concomitant gratifications. At the initiative of travelling evangelists the ‘acceptable’ desire which this became transferred to, and upon which the population became fixated, was that of “grace’—of: religious matrimony with Christ. The rhetoric through which the transference was realised itself discloses something of the subjective meaning of the experience of the symptoms (prostration, ‘piercing cries’ and exaggerated motor movements). The symptoms suggest stages of the sexual act and, according to Macllwaine and Nelson, were frequently its real prologue. Whether this explanation of the meaning of the content of the event is accepted or not, it is nevertheless clear that the revival served as an ad hoc means of meeting the needs of a population faced with a crisis in the reproduction of the basic unit of its social order—the family. In Dundoon, for example: The cry on all sides was “The Lord is at hand, go out to meet him’— “The day of the Lord is come’. When I visited the district I found that

all labour was completely suspended and that all the people were runningin groups from house to house . . . In some houses I counted more than a score old and young, more or less affected. The people here seem to take to it with a marvellous rapidity. The graveyard is filled with groups, singing and praying around the prostrate bodies of men and women. Some are as in a trance, others crying for mercy. Some are falling into the arms of friends and sinking as into a swoon. Some stagger a distance and drop to their knees to pray over the graves of the dead; and a few rush to the gates and fly in terror from the scene . . . Up to this evening, the work had gone on chiefly among the females; soon, however, the men were impressed; and I


‘The origins of Ulster Unionism

shall never forget the look and shout of joy with which one of these females proclaimed the triumph of the Lord, when strong men were writhing in agony, or stretched out still and calm but with clasped hands and heaving hearts on the graves around. I think I see her now,

with her bonnet hanging behind her head, her Bible in her hand— and I still hear her shout “The men are coming now! The men are coming now!’

One girl was highly cat in this district. She was all alive, all on fire, and went through the country from house to house exhorting the careless. She soon found a fellow labourer. She is resolved on his conquest. She lays a gentle hand on his shoulder and, fixing her eye on him, says, ‘Archy, won’t you come? I know you’ll come. Come to Jesus. I see it in your eye that you are coming. Pray, Archy, pray for the spirit’. And now they are on their knees together . . . Nor did they pray in vain. The young man struggles, feels a chilling sensation in the throat, and a pressure on his heart, his bosom heaves with strange emotions . . . [Report of the Rev. W. Magill, Dundrod, to the Presbyterian General Assembly, in Nelson, op. cit., pp. 59-60]

In so far as this proposition is testable it receives confirmation from a comparison between decline in the marriage rate, rise in the proportion of unattached females and the incidence of revival hysteria. Where the marriage rate continued to fall throughout the period 1841—61 the revival was strongest. Where it recovered the revival was weak. Where it recovered most, the revival hardly penetrated at all. Again, while the ratio of females to males in the population increased generally, two of the three areas where it increased greatest were revival centres. Apart from the countryside of northern Ulster the other great areas of revival penetration were the mill villages and towns. Here too the overwhelming majority of hysterics were young female millhands. With respect to frustration of expectations, the mill girls who had migrated to urban areas were in the same position as those who remained in the countryside. For the latter, institutions providing for the reproduction of traditional kin structures had become unworkable; in the urban areas they had neither come into being nor appeared likely to. These factors were exacerbated by further pressure on the marriage rate and by certain situational catalysts, such as the segregation of large numbers of young women for long periods in mills with dormitory accommodation, and so on. Mill owners promoted the revival amongst their employees in any case; but in a sense their efforts were hardly necessary.

The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism



The revival had certain specific effects. Its importance, however, resides not merely in these effects but also in the clues it offers to more general developments within Protestant Ulster society. Examination of the sequelae of the revival may best begin with its own direct effects. At the ideological level the most obvious was the severe weakening of the grip of intellectualism upon the Presbyterian ministry. The theological battles fought over the revival ended with effective defeat for its opponents. It is in the period immediately after 1859 that figures like Hugh Hanna emerge as leader of the Church in Belfast, and that fundamentalism gains a substantial foothold in peasant and’ working-class congregations. This ideological change had in turn a number of further consequences. The most important were the new and renewed bases which were generated for Orangeism amongst the populations concerned. The principal revival areas had never been Orange until this time; and even adjacent traditionally Orange areas had seen the movement decline considerably in efficacy as landlord ‘protection’ for weavers came to mean less and less. The revival did not immediately inspire a parallel revival in Orangeism, but it created a popular following for ethnocentrism and ‘enthusiasm’ upon which Orangeism in rural areas was to build.

Ethnocentrism. Unlike orthodox Presbyterianism, revivalism no longer demanded that its bearers live their Protestantism as a ‘submission’ to daily moral lacerations in the service of God. Instead, to live fundamentalism was simply to live the bearing of an outward sign, by virtue of which he who was saved might clutch at heaven. Holiness was lived as an ezternal state, accessible to perception and standing in opposition to profanity. Instead of the orthodox Presbyterian continuum between grace and profanity there was now a simple either/or: salvation or damnation. Enthusiasm. The intellectualism of the orthodox ministry prior to the revival was identified not merely with theological deviations by those who opposed it but also with remote impersonality and bureaucratic coldness. The intellectualists were regarded not as men whose life had been devoted to rational exegesis but as keing without vision and warmth, products of the college ‘machine’, taught to reflect and argue logically but not


The origins of Ulster Unionism

to ‘feel’, In the situation described, of increasing social distance between ministry and flock,® the appeal against remoteness struck a chord. The urbanising Protestant population appreciated

the call for greater expression of popular feeling, the provision of an exciting religion and of ‘enthusiastic’ leaders who could break down the barriers separating them from organised religion.

Such leaders also gave a sense of identity and strength, and the population became

responsive to ‘enthusiastic’

leadership in all

fields, prone to form personalistic attachments to ‘enthusiastic’ leaders

and ‘men




polarity was


of the people’ like Sir Edward

of the enthusiast—bureaucrat

later to become one of the most significant motifs of factional struggle within the Unionist party.® Lastly, developments in the structure of the Orange movement



by the changing

role of the


minister as it emerged through the revival. Whereas before 1830 he might be understood as a bearer of cosmopolitanism,

learning and Jogos in the rural community, after 1860 the minister is unequivocally a messenger from doxa. Here is to be found one of the most interesting paradoxes of the revival. Precisely at the moment when the rural community disappears in its traditional form the Church emerges as a particularistic and localistic instrument of social control. This is perhaps less paradoxical if the outcome of social structural changes is born in mind. ‘The ’60s and ’70s are the decades of the growth of industrial towns. The Church fell under entrepreneurial influence and pressure increased upon it to act as a means of keeping the new urban environment ‘free’ of outside influence and_ ideas.

Enthusiastic ministers were clearly better agents than any other for this operation, and revivalism legitimated their authority. Ministers increasingly came to play the role of ‘chaplains’ in relation to given communities, just as they were later to do in relation to particular Orange lodges. Of the clues offered by the revival to more general contemporary developments the most significant were those to the increasing political and ideological effects of social differentiation. The revival was an issue on which each of the main social groups

in the Protestant population was forced to take a position. That of the tenant farmers


one of silence and contempt.


refused to be ‘affected’ by its manifestations, and the newspapers which served them—particularly the Northern Whig—treated

The rural popularisation of enthusiastic Protestantism


the whole business with disdain. The Whig did not report the

revival at all until 26 May 1859, and after that effectually ignored it, except to carry ‘exposures’ of its sexual undertones (e.g. in the issue of 13 June 59). The official Presbyterian paper Banner of Ulster, read mostly by tenant farmers, found itself less free to comment than the Whig. It resolved the difficulty by remaining silent. The Whig was not simply acting as a voice of the farmers in this, however. In fact its readership was mainly an urban one of Presbyterian entrepreneurs and merchants. By occurring where it did the revival in fact illustrated the existence of a political alliance between particular groups. The Whig looked upon the tenant farmers not only as an island of moderation in a sea of madness but also as a potential Liberal vanguard. In this overture to a potential vanguard can be glimpsed another disclosure—the lack of any real working-class support for the Liberal leadership. The event also indicates the structure of the Tory alliance. In it, weavers and mill girls were allied with mill owners, and were patronised by the latter for their ‘loyalty’. In fact the revival reveals a definite system of alliance and opposition among the different components of the Protestant population, and provides an index of how far Unionism had been ‘prepared for’ in the countryside by the 1860s. The most important aspect in which it had was that the facility of an inter-class alliance, observed emerging in the last chapter, was now lent a new ideological relevance amongst a new population through the popular identification of service to God with confessional insularity and purity. NOTES

1 2




Allegedly led by Hugh Hanna. Prior to Freud’s dissolution of the category, ‘grand hysteria’ was understood as the syndrome identified by Charcot (Richer, 1885) and the young Freud (‘Preliminary communication’ in Breuer and Freud, 1955), viz. (i) epileptic state, (ii) exaggerated motor movements, (iii) hallucinations, (iv) terminal delusions. This resistance took a semi-organised form in the ‘Tommy Downshire’ movement, which appears to have embraced Catholic and Orange peasants in parts of Down, Armagh and Tyrone between 1829 and 1842. Tommy Downshire was described by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland as a ‘kind of Irish Captain Swing’ (Kennedy, 1943).


The origins of Ulster Unionism

For a full discussion of the theory of hysteria in its earlier and later forms see Freud and Breuer (1955) and Freud (1922, especially pp. 64 ff). It should be recalled that precisely at this time—through the foundation of Maynooth College—the same trend was being reversed in the Catholic Church. Cf. K. H. Connell, “Catholicism and marriage in the century after the famine’ in Connell (1966). For an elaboration of the concept of this polarity see J. Roche and S. Sachs, ‘The bureaucrat and the enthusiast: an exploration in leadership of social movements’, in McLaughlin (1969).


The politicisation of urban popular Protestantism

So far the consequences of two phases of Ulster’s rural modernisation and industrialisation have been examined: those of the establishment of domestic industry on a petty-capitalist basis, and those of the replacement of ‘independent’ domestic industry by machine production. The second of these phenomena was responsible for another of lasting significance: urbanisation. This chapter and the next will examine its consequences with respect to the changes it induced in the beliefs and social and political organisation of the two principal classes of the towns, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This chapter is specifically concerned with transitions in the social organisation and ideology of the Protestant working class. The origins of Unionism among the Protestant working class of nineteenth-century Belfast have traditionally been regarded by historians as one of the most problematic aspects of the Irish question. In view of this it is astonishing that there should exist only a handful of serious works on the conditions of life of this class.1 Neither separately nor jointly do they constitute a sufficient range of sources for the present purpose. These must be sought in primary materials. Direct reportage on the society of proletarian Belfast is just as sparse, however. The only genuine works of this nature, the Rev. W. M. O’Hanlon’s Walks amongst the Poor of Belfast

(1853) and Dr C. D. Purdon’s The Sanitary State of the Belfast Factory District (1877),2 suffer from serious limitations in consequence of their ‘professional’ narrowness and, in O’ Hanlon’s case, a tendency to concentrate attention on the small ‘chronic’ slum area of the centre of the city. Yet while bourgeois philanthropists and intellectuals provided the curious with few accounts of proletarian life in Belfast, the State—and indirectly, through it, the proletariat itself—did. Nineteenth-century Belfast saw at least four major sectarian working-class eruptions in which lives were lost—in 1857, 1864, 1872 and 1886. Two of these disturbances became the subject of


The origins of Ulster Unionism

exhaustive public enquiries (1857 and 1886), while a third was also investigated thoroughly in the course of an enquiry into police and magisterial jurisdiction in Belfast. Although it was not the direct intention of any of them, they provide a significant body of information about Catholic and Protestant working-class life. Working-class witnesses were questioned about the character of their social transactions, while in their statements and silences, together with the roles in the riots they describe themselves adopting, their ideology can be read. The objection might be made that a reconstruction of the social organisation of the Belfast proletariat based upon these sources would suffer from the distortions attendant on studying a stable phenomenon through its breakdown. Yet riots in Belfast—until the late 1870s, at least—were literally endemic, seeming to occur at the slightest pretext. In fifteen years there were three riots which continued for over a week. Smaller-scale riots lasting a day or two were a regular event, usually occurring annually around the same time, and possessing the same predictability as a carnival or a fair. For this reason the riot cannot be regarded as embodying a completely irregular set of social relations. On the contrary, it was integrated into the local social order, and represented an articulation of it. In the riot the social orders of given segregated localities did not disappear but were mobilised along lines whose regularity can serve heuristically to indicate those social orders’ structures. Roles embodied in riots were not allocated arbitrarily, but indicate the disposition of different social groups within a locality and the relations between them. In these riots can be discovered what Gerard Suttles (1968) has called the ‘ordered segmentation’ of Belfast’s proletarian quarters, and, through this, certain significant differences in their organisation and ideology. The present chapter aims to uncover the structural bases of politics and ideology in Protestant areas and to record significant changes in them. In particular it will analyse these changes by comparing what rioting indicated about social organisation in areas typifying, on the other hand, Belfast’s first phase of (machine) industrialisation and mass urbanisation (1830-60) and, on the other, its second (1860-80).

The politicisation of urban popular Protestantism



Sandy Row was one of Primarily a centre of linen lian, it was built in the Catholic area of the Pound

Belfast’s first proletarian quarters. production, and primarily Episcopa1840s, together with the adjacent (lower Falls) and the Presbyterian

York Street area (Jones, 1960). The point of comparison that will

be made with it is the Shankill area, distinctly Protestant but neither wholly Episcopalian nor Presbyterian. Shankill, which had no local industrial focus, was built in the 1870s, along with


(east Belfast, and mainly Protestant) and New

Lodge Road (then a mixed area). _ Sandy Row was the centre of rioting in 1857 and 1864, Shankill in 1886. As the centre of rioting shifted, so too did the types of locality in the city where it occurred, the types of persons participating in it and the ways in which they participated. First, types of locale. When rioting centred in Sandy Row, properly speaking it centred on what urban ecologists would call the ‘shatter zones’ of contested territory between confessional boundaries. Most of the rioting in 1857 and 1864 was in such areas, at the boundaries of Sandy Row and the Pound (specifically, in the contested Durham Street and the waste no-man’s-land around Cullingtree Road). In 1886 such rioting recurred, although more marginally, both here “and in newer shatter zones. Throughout the period rioting within Sandy Row was also characterised by attacks by local inhabitants on ‘strangers’ from other areas, and (more occasionally) by attacks on the police when the latter attempted to restrain the populace. When rioting centred on the Shankill, in contrast, it tended to be less at the boundaries of the area (although such rioting took place) and more at the centre of the district, directed against the police. Again in contrast, it was accompanied as a secondary form of rioting not so much by the intimidation and expulsion

of strangers (though this occurred also) as by faction fighting in confessionally



(e.g. the



areas). The first riot at such a place was reported at the Custom

House during an open-air evangelical rally in 1857, some time before the Shankill was built; but during its construction in 1864 and 1872, and after it in 1886, such rioting was tied to Shankill in direct ways. In the first place, its participants tended to be identified as residents of Shankill (e.g. shipyard workers);


The origins of Ulster Unionism

in the second, such riots tended either to precipitate or to be precipitated by disturbances in Shankill itself. This is not an exhaustive typology of riot types (for instance, it leaves out of consideration rioting at confessionally identified public institutions outside the town’s boundaries, such as that in 1857 at the Bankmore Female Penitentiary) but it illustrates that as the focus of rioting shifted from the older to the newer areas, changes occurred in the riot’s ecological zoning. Applying ecological criteria, the transition represented a progressive decline in the localisation of the riot. Rioting ceased to be confined to parochial confessional boundaries; these boundaries became generalised, almost secularised, as riots found more ‘neutral’ targets and sites. A corresponding transition appears to have taken place in the sex, age and social composition of the rioters. Describing problems of riot control in the Sandy Row—Pound shatter zone in 1857, Resident Magistrate William Tracy commented, ‘that was the greatest difficulty of the magistrates. One half of each crowd was women and children—I might safely say two-thirds; and though we were anxious to save the women, a great many of them were the most turbulent of the mob. . .’ (Report, 1858, para. 231). Sandy Row rioters were described in similar terms seven years later by Colonel Frazer, commander of a battalion stationed in the city. They were ‘principally composed of women and girls and boys. The mob here was different from any that I have seen, and was easily managed. When the police came they ran off like rabbits . . .’ (Report, 1865, para. 15298). Women and children seem to have also been prominent in expulsion and intimidation in these areas. A Catholic mill girl described an attack upon her in Sandy Row in 1857 as follows: ‘a crowd of young men and women gathered [at the corner of Tea Lane, where her mill was] and threw water on us, and called us ‘‘yellow bitches’’ and shouted out our names and told us that was holy water and we heard them shouting they would burn Dan O’Connell and the Pope . the stone throwers were all young girls and old women’ (Report, 1858, paras. 6511, 6532). In 1864 identical incidents were reported (Report, 1865, paras. 1597 ff, 1761-85). In 1886 Sandy Row saw the pattern repeated again: They attacked me as I came forward and beat me up against the railing. I got away from that crowd and they came within three _ doors of the barber’s shop and they beat me up against the wall and

The politicisation of urban popular Protestantism


took the shawls off me . . . I saw the barber’s door open and I ran into it for safety. Then they stood outside and shouted that if they did not put me out they would wreck the house. Then they ran in and upstairs and downstairs and I was in the kitched and they burst in the door and about ten big women came in and dragged me out... [Report (1887), para. 14321]

Although proletarian males were involved in Sandy Row riots, their participation was circumscribed to marginal roles: ritualised gun battles (Report, 1858, paras. 62, 90; 1865, paras. 1010-12) or accidental involvement (Report, 1865, para. 8155). As the years passed and riots became focused more on Shankill and ecologically less ‘parochial’ areas, the age and sex composition of rioters changed markedly. Already in 1857 the one riot at an ethnically indifferent location bore witness to this. Male adults, the ‘ships’ carpenters’, led the Protestant crowd during the street-preaching disturbances of that year. In 1864 and 1872 they were to become more and more central participants. By 1886 there was little doubt that they were the main ones. As male participation increased, female participation decreased, and became marginalised. Ever intimidation and expulsion in the Shankill Road were reportedly the work of men. Here it took the form not merely of ejecting ‘outsiders’ but also of organising the area’s ‘defence’: Five men, whose names I know, and with whose persons I am familiar,

travelled about from house to house to exact what blackmail. They went to the house of a tenant of laying down their pistols, demanded that money them . . . They said, ‘Give us firearms and we

I called at the time my own, and after should be given to will protect you.’

[Report (1865), paras. 10853-56] In 1886 intimidation was practised again by male adults demanding subscriptions from local residents for tar barrels, effigies of Gladstone, and so on (Report, 1887, para. 14043). By now, when askedby a Commissioner of Enquiry whether mobs could still be dispersed by ‘a few policemen, acting firmly and with determination’, Belfast’s RIC District Inspector replied, “They do not obey us at all, sir, unless by main force’ (Report, 1887, para. 1553). The most noticeable aspect of the changing social composition of the rioters—the increasing participation of shipyard workers largely resident in Shankill Road—corresponded to the increasingly important place occupied by shipbuilding within the town’s economy. Even before Edward Harland transformed


‘Lhe origins of Ulster Unionism

Belfast’s marine engineering into a capitalist machine industry, local shipwrights had been held in some awe by the local populace. By 1887 they became recognised as the ‘strongest, healthiest and most highly intelligent and highly-paid body of men in the whole of Belfast . . .” (Report, 1887, para. 1813). Besides Harland & .Wolff’s, Belfast possessed two other large yards, one of which (Workman—Clark’s) was also amongst Britain’s six largest. Just as the yards came to represent the symbol of the town’s industrial success, so the shipyard men became symbols of the flower of its Protestant manhood, its ‘labour aristocracy’. Their good housing, health,* appearance, high wages, and above all their numbers served as living notice of their importance. Sandy Row’s rioters, on the other hand, were ‘people of the humbler order—none of the superior classes. Tradesmen, operatives, and people connected with the mills . . ’ (Report, 1858, paras. 73-6). Or again ‘generally people working in the mills. There are several in that locality. Those persons are in the habit of locating themselves convenient to their employment . . .’ (Report, 1858, para. 2391). Although the industry was easily Belfast’s largest employer (fluctuating between twenty and fifty thousand during the period) its average wages were only between a quarter and a third of those in shipbuilding (Armstrong, 1951). Mill workers started their working lives earlier (at eight years: Purdon, 1877, p. 8) and died earlier (on average, at forty-eight years, as opposed to fifty-seven years for other industries: Purdon, 1877, p. 5).


Far from being ‘a repetition of the same story with variations’ (Boyd, 1969, p. 203), riots, on the contrary, were highly differentiated. Those in older and newer areas had different kinds of locations, activity and participants, and with the passage of time rioting in newer areas became more frequent and more intense than in the older ones. The tendency reflected the increasing representativeness of certain forms of social organisation in Protestant working-class communities, and the decreasing representativeness of others. Closer examination of the sequential order by which riot crowds developed and combined in older and

The politicisation of urban popular Protestantism


newer areas is a means by which the identity of these forms of organisation may be discovered. In Sandy Row a local landlord reported, ‘The riot starts as boys and girls of each party collect, party feeling [becomes] so excitable that older people come out, and the mélée begins’ (Report, 1858, para. 5576). In Sandy Row and the Pound shatter zone sites became established as focuses of ‘action’ only through a long process by which they acquired a tradition of conflict between rival gangs of youths. In 1857 one of the major areas of hostility was a spot where ‘the two parties [had] met; they were lumps of little boys from fourteen to sixteen and from that to ten. . . they fought there for eight weeks after the Twelfth [of July]’ (Report, 1858, paras. 3214-6). Once groups of youths had formed they tended to combine with other such groups, and then with older, recognisably delinquent youths® or, more frequently, with female mill workers. These women were members of fairly long-standing groups with strongly developed confessional solidarity and institutional means of identifying interlopers (collections for Orange Day bunting, etc). They were frequently drawn into riots directly by their own children. WITNESS. There was always excitement among the mill-people in the period of July. COMMISSIONER. Can you say from your experience from which district the provocation came first? WITNESS. I think it generally arose from those mill-people meeting each other at that time. Their children used to ask each other where they were from...’ [Report (1858), paras. 7141-2]

Once themselves recruited, adult female mill workers seem to have taken over the role of initiating participation in evictions and shatter-zone confrontations by recruiting across their confessional—occupational stratum. Only when the riot had reached considerable levels of violence did male adults become involved, and even then this was a more or less contingent process: COUNSEL. You said that on the 14 July you saw a crowd standing near, while they [i.e. women and youths] were cheering? WITNESS. Yes.. COUNSEL. At about 2 p.m.? WITNESS. You are wrong, not at 2 p.m. COUNSEL. I wasn’t there, you know.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

witness. Well, I was there. COUNSEL. At about what time on Tuesday? WITNEss. COUNSEL. WITNESS. COUNSEL. witness. COUNSEL. WITNESS. COUNSEL. WITNESS. COUNSEL. WITNESS.

I said about nine o’clock. Where were you standing when you saw them? Standing at the side of a house. Where? A bit before the crowd. Where are you? Standing on the side-path. What doing? Standing, looking on. Had you been home before? I had just come out of the house.

COUNSEL. What for? WITNESS. To see what they were going to do.

[Report (1858), paras. 5281-91] The witness was in fact a resident of the Pound, but less piquant evidence indicates a similar situation in Sandy Row. Men were not recruited into the riot in pre-existing groups in these areas but invariably as individuals: Shatter-zone riots were thus characterised by a sequential order of group development as follows: (1) older children and youths, (2) female mill hands, (2a) local reputed toughs, (3) individual adult males. As observed, riots in the Shankill were distinguished from those in Sandy Row by commencing with adult male shipyard workers. The economic prowess of this group was reflected in its prowess at rioting. This was the only age/sex/residential/ occupational unit in Belfast to be ‘named’ (the ‘Islandmen’) and whose name was a source of respect and fear in popular local mythology. Even their principal riot weapon—the three-inch rivet, thrown or projected with a catapult—became the subject of mythicisation (as ‘shipyard confetti’). Evidence of their activity was measured by counting how many rivets were found at the scene of a riot. The Islandmen constituted a group with highly developed and rigidly observed norms. Both their solidarity and their facility for setting riots in motion were well known to perceptive members of the Royal Irish Constabulary: COMMISSIONER.

But would it not be an advantage in confining the

disturbance to the Islandmen themselves, instead of allowing them

to bring these missiles out to disturb peacefully-disposed persons?

The politicisation of urban popular Protestantism


WITNESS. If it could be accomplished it would be most useful, and it

would prevent many persons’ heads from being broken, but I know one thing, however, that these men belong to one class, that they always went home to breakfast and dinner, and that meddling with them was likely to create a riot. [Report (1887), paras. 1134-5]

The difference between the nature of social organisation in the two areas under discussion is illustrated best by noting whom the Islandmen recruited as fellow rioters. It was not their kin but their occupational relatives—local apprentice youth. In fact apprentices were often most active in carrying on the riot inside the shipyard, after the Islandmen had been involved in trouble elsewhere (Report, 1887, paras. 13898 ff). Again, this group was observed to extend the riot within the Shankill itself to attacks on Catholic private property, and to form the core of combatants as the struggle wore on (Shankill, 1886). Once recruited, it mobilised the generally undeveloped and fragmented unit represented by older male children of the area. In doing so, however, it served to illustrate how bonds of sequential combination weakened as they were extended outside occupational categories. Local boys were primarily recruited by the physical extension of the riot to their side-street haunts, while women were hardly involved in rioting at all. As with men in Sandy Row, when the process of sequential combination did mobilise and recruit them to the riot they were absorbed in it not as a pre-existing developed group but as marginal individuals. The sequential order of group development and combination in Shankill and confessionally indifferent zones can therefore be summarised as follows: (1) adult males; (2) youth: (a) predeveloped occupational groupings, (b) older boys; (3) adult women (not properly a group). As Suttles has pointed out, such sequential orders reveal the existence of different types of social integration in the localities concerned. In Sandy Row it is clear that the highest level of corporate integration existed amongst boys and women, and the lowest amongst adult males; in Shankill the indications were that the highest level existed amongst adult males and the lowest amongst women. In Sandy Row corporate unity appeared, in other words, to emanate from personalistic ties, in Shankill from occupational ones. Riots in the two areas showed ‘localist’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ focuses respectively.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

In fact the sequential order and development of peer groups in Sandy Row is comprehensible only as a result of the progressive extension of personalistic ties. The strength of these ties amongst youth is indicated by the way in which its ‘political’ sensitivity took a spatial form (definition of street locations, differentiation of spatial settings as the focus of riot-initiating circumstances, etc). Relations


on such

a basis are


of the

simple extension of intimate parochial relations radiating from family residence locations, and stand in contrast to those formed on the basis of mutual recognition of impersonal ‘societal’ criteria of worthiness. Amongst women of the area, pre-developed peer groups mobilised in the riot also appear to have been formed through the multiplication of the personalistic ties developed by women to handle their dual family and work roles (which for married women, for example, involved establishing the

reliability of a large number of significant allies such as baby minders, parochially recruiting supervisory workers, credittrading merchants, and so on—people who in such an area could not be relied upon to conform to impersonal rational and contractual criteria of ‘proper behaviour’).

Adult males in Sandy Row had less occasion and less necessity than women and youth to develop such ties. As males they did not need to negotiate complex tasks of combining work and home roles, while as adults they did not have to establish their right to presence in street locations. Where they did exist, male peer groups were less cemented by the ties which in such localities tended to be fundamental. As a unit they were not all employed in a single industry—as were women—and even those employed in the linen trade tended to be segregated both from other (female and child) mill workers and by trade from each

other. Their degree of leeway remaining restricted by the removed from its roots. Where groups tended to be constituted

from home meant that while dominant localism they were they existed, male adult peer on the basis of institutionalised

formalisation of relations (e.g. in the Orange Order). In many respects, therefore, Sandy Row resembled the classic

urban ethnic slum. The same description cannot be applied to Shankill, where the structure of ordered segmentation appears to have been inverted. Here the anonymous segment of the population was not the men but the women, while the strongest peer groups appear to have existed not among boys and their

The politicisation of urban popular Protestantism


female relatives but amongst male adults. Riots in Shankill were not inspired by spatial transgressions and developed through the mobilisation of layers of personalistic ties, but by what were conceived of as confessional—economic and political threats, and were developed through the mobilisation of layers of stratificational ties. The corporate integration of the shipyard workers was so high that when the RIC town inspector of Belfast was asked by the 1887 commissioners how frequently police visited the yard to investigate common-law offences he replied, ‘We never had such a case. Such a case [of theft] has never arisen . . . such a case never occurs amongst themselves—amongst these people’ (Report, 1887, paras. 5191-2).This strength of integration appears to have derived from a collective occupational insulation— from the general level of local economic development, from other occupations, from the spatial arrangements of the territory of their residence, from personalistic ties radiating from the home, and so on. The Islandmen were segregated from other residential, age and sex units in a manner which inevitably led to the development of a corporate moral order. Although this had its own personalistic characteristics, and although other localistic and personalistic territorial orders existed in some form in the Shankill, the ordered segmentation of the area was structured by the Islandmen’s insulation. In the situation structured by their dominance the degree to which other segments of the population formed peer groups seemed to depend upon their proximity to the Islandmen. In the most intensive phase of the 1886 rioting the Islandmen on the one hand mobilised apprentices and, on the other, those immediately above them in status—‘respectable people’ (Report, 1887, para. 1011), ‘shop-assistants or a better class than that even’ (para.

4118), ‘respectable, well-dressed people, not by any means corner-boys or rowdies’ (para. 12252). Age/sex units least proximate to the Islandmen were mobilised last—especially women. Ill

On the one hand a ‘personalistic’ principle of social organisation; on the other a ‘stratificational’ one. These principles, which can be read off from comparative riot behaviour, are not


The origins of Ulster Unionism

exhaustive. Nevertheless they illustrate heuristically a division in the Protestant working class which should make us hesitant to generalise about the politics of the class as a whole. Riot behaviour can be similarly analysed to deduce information about the main divisions in the ideology of this class, if ideologies are thought of as being embedded as sets of zdentztves in the different kinds of behaviour noted. Just as the child absorbs the ideologies of the family (paternity, fraternity, maternity, conjugality) through assuming the identities and living out the roles to which these ideologies correspond (‘son’/‘daughter’-ship, ‘brother’ /‘sister’-ship), so rioters lived out the different forms of Orange ideology by being interpolated into riots as subjects of given identities. The dominant form of riot behaviour in Sandy Row was localised confrontation, in Shankill generalised exemplary belligerence. These were the prevalent institutional forms in areas distinguished by the predominance of shatter-zone riots on the one hand, and the assumption by shipyard workers of a role of permanent aggressive vigilance on behalf of the entire Protestant population on the other. In addition certain elements of rioting were common to Sandy Row, Shankill Road and other areas: expulsion and intimidation. It is from these last that common elemeits of the ‘Protestant workers’ ideology may be deduced. Expulsion and intimidation amounted to the violent or covert, occasionally ceremonial and ritual, ejection of Catholics from segregated Protestant areas. (It may be noted in passing that the more highly ritualised forms of ejection undoubtedly took place in Sandy Row: Report, 1858, paras. 6289-311.) The logically primary identity which individuals had to assume in acting out the roles of evictor and intimidator was one which allowed them to identify interpolators as outsiders who had infiltrated the locality. These kinds of behaviour implied that evictors and intimidators were not simply the ‘insiders’ of a given community, i.e. persons living within its boundaries, but insiders of a special, unequivocal status. Their unequivocality consisted in a recognition of the liability of confessional boundaries to porousness and contraction and the resultant need to maintain constant vigilance over, and where possible extend, them. The unequivocal (colloquially, ‘sound’) Protestant was one who engaged in the activity of extending the

The politicisation of urban popular Protestantism


sphere of the Protestant—Catholic division (e.g. the ‘sound’ Protestant employer was one who extended it to his recruitment



He was also, however, one who could distinguish ‘true’ from ‘false’ insidership: who worked with the assumption, in short, that ‘false’ insiders (interlopers) were purposive agents of an external threat. The identity assumed by the evictor and intimidator, in fact, was that of subjection to encirclement and subversion—in a word, to embattlement. Subjection to embattlement implied the assumption of another role, too: that of striving to ‘deliver’ the embattled community from the internal effects of its embattlement. The evictor and intimidator was the purifier of the community, returning it to a lost unsullied state—like Derry after the expulsion of Lundy, perhaps still besieged but at least unanimous. In the process the role assumed by the agent was that of enacting a form of restoration. So much for what was ideologically held in common by the Protestant proletariat. At this point ideologies seem to have diverged. In Sandy Row the key to the dominant ideology lay in the fact that the riot behaviour of localised confrontation involved the rioter’s taking up a definite identity in relation not to outsiders but to his own collectivity. In facing an outsider across encircling battle lines individuals are obliged to live out roles embodying the qualities appropriate to defensive struggle. In this struggle the enemy is represented as a murderous rabble awaiting the first chance to destroy its opponents. The central role into which the rioter in such a situation is cast, and which he must live out, is that of loyal comradeship. The few sociologists who have troubled to examine Orange ideology have always looked for the meaning of ‘loyalty’ in the relation of Orange representatives to the State, and have understood the ‘wild loyal’ Orangemen of Sandy Row as pledging loyalty (with certain conditions) to certain traditional policies of state. In so doing they have been closer to identifying the meaning of the ‘loyalism’ of the nineteenth-century Protestant minor gentry (nationally the politically dominant social group within the Order) than the meaning of the loyalism of Sandy

Row. In the last century, at least, this indicated the appropriate means of living out the obligations attached to the personalistic bonds within the community.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

In living out the situation posed by the existence of the enemy ‘at the gates’, and the inevitability of repeated clashes with him, the agent added a moral unequivocality to his ethnic unequivocality. Fidelity was the primary element of ‘loyalty’. The trueblue Sandy Row Orangeman’s ‘blueness’ (i.e. ‘royalist’ ethnicity) was true because he lived.out its truth in faithfulness to his immediate comrades, and through them to the community as a whole. Further, since the threat posed by the enemy at the gates was a military one in some sense (invasion, annihilation, etc), the subjects of fidelity and reliability lived their roles as martial

ones, embodied in the identities of stoutness—sturdyness, readiness, openness, boldness and redoubtabilityindomitability. The origins of these identities lay in the social practice of patriachal retainership familiar to pre-urban Orangemen almost a century before, but their novel content was attested in contemporary practices of riot behaviour. Each of these represented a different modality of acting out the trust upon which ‘loyalty’ was locally founded. In turn each of the modalities was commemorated with the name of the site of some such local confrontation. Every incident acquired particles of myth, and together went to make up a pattern of references through which the community committed its solidarity to history: And if they ever come back again We’ll give them ten times more. We'll christen this ‘King William’s Bridge’ And cry, ‘Dolly’s Brae no more.’

In this way the ideological boundaries of the community became embedded in its physical boundaries. In commemorating the agent named to possess. The elements of ideology dominant in Sandy Row were, then, unequivocality, embattlement, restoration, personalistic loyalty, commemoration. By taking them as a set, and without presuming any definite structure in which they were located, certain conclusions can be drawn about their general character. What is most striking about them is again parochialism and localism. This seems to have been true of Sandy Row ideology from the area’s inception as a proletarian quarter in the 1840s to the birth of Ulster Unionism. Societal moral order, and conflicts at a societal and external level, were all refracted through it. In the 1902 election in Belfast South, for example, an independent

The politicisation of urban popular Protestantism


Orange working-class candidate is to be found contesting the seat

against the Conservative nominee

(a large English landowner)

in the following terms:

The workingmen, Orangemen and Protestants of Belfast had now to put their hands to the plough . . . there was to be no turning back: it was going to be a fight to the finish. It would be a bad day for Ireland when Belfast had to go across the Channel to get a man to voice their sentiments and carry their flag in Westminster . . . . . . If he were asked, ‘How do you know you are the man?’ he would say, ‘Because Belfast has already said it, and if I can serve my fellows better on the floor of the House of Commons than I can in the city of Belfast, I am theirs to work, to live, to die...’ __... The Conservative Association were trembling in their shoes. God. help Sandy Row if they had to go across the water to get a candidate. He believed in home industry, and the man for Sandy Row was Thomas H. Sloan. When he went into the Imperial parliament

with the other three members [for Belfast], they would be frightened to do anything, for they would know Thomas H. Sloan was there, and

It would keep them in their place When they knew they had to face The loyal little lad from Sandy Row’... [Anon., The Iron Heel (1902)]

In Shankill, and elsewhere where its residents spread their influence, generalised exemplary belligerence prevailed over localised confrontation. This type of riot behaviour embodied roles of ‘representative’ intervention. Unlike the identities associated with rioting in Sandy Row, it proceeded from the separation of a group of ‘insiders’ from the whole inside—outside scenario, and the stressing of their solidarity and special qualities over and above their confessional unequivocality. The shipyard workers acquired the role of overseers of the general conflict between regional insiders and outsiders. As such they acted out a role of special obligation to the totality of insiders. They lived this special obligation as an expeditionary vanguard, making periodic pre-emptive interventions to regulate the ‘balance’ of embattlement. In other words, what secured their corporate resolution ideologically was not a personalistically generated loyalty established by ‘their common isolation (though this existed too) but the ‘responsibility’ of their relation, as subjects of a supplementary special status, to the Protestant population at large.


‘The origins of Ulster Unionism

This involved the individual’s necessary additional insertion into a role expressing his relation to the bearers of ‘public’ responsibility, namely the role of super-vigilant auxiliary. Public authority was consigned a series of vague and shadowy obligations, while those practising belligerence lived out a straightforwardly ‘democratic’


to the rest of the Protestant


In return for the service of protecting it, they acted out an entitlement to requisition instruments of repression. Through insertion into these identities the shipyard worker developed his own specific lived relations of ‘popular rights’, the ‘legitimate sphere of constituted authority’, and so on. For this group, then, the identities of special obligation, responsibility, vigilance and representation may be added to the common core of unequivocality, embattlement and restoration. In contrast to the parochial and personalistic colouring of Sandy Row’s ideology, a supra-localist and quasi-contractual emphasis is to be found in Shankill. This too was a screen through which the societal moral order and conflicts of a societal level were refracted. Here class opposition to the Belfast Conservative Association was expressed in the form of a claim to ‘independent’ representational rights on the basis of a corporate class identity. By the 1890s many shipyard workers resided in Ballymacarret rather than Shankill. Until 1891 this area, part of the Belfast East constituency, was represented at Westminster by E. S. W. de Cobain, a local slum landlord (Report, 1887, para. 9208). That year de Cobain became involved in a scandal and had to vacate his seat. Led by William McCormick (president of the Protestant Working Men’s Association and a member of the trades council) and Murray Davis (assistant secretary of the trades council), a group of workers supported an independent candidate standing in opposition to the official nominee (Gustavus Wolff of Harland & Wolff). Support was urged in the following

terms: He had the greatest pleasure in supporting the canditature of William Charley in connection with the present vacancy in the East division . . . he believed a gentleman who was not an employer of labour could advance the interests of the working man better than a capitalist . . . In his opinion the working men of Belfast had crawled too long at the heels of those that had the most bullion and he earnestly asked them in this election to strike a blow for independence

[Northern Whig, 5 March 1892]

. . .

The politicisation of urban popular Protestantism


In entering Parliament he [Charley] had no interest to serve but

that of the working classes, and there were many questions, such as the Truck Act, the Employers’ Liability Bill, the Education Bill and

questions affecting capital and labour, in regard to which they could implicitly trust him reflecting their views and opinions. [Jbid., 27 March 1892]

The Shankill itself was part of the constituency of Belfast North, scene of the many campaigns of the ‘Protestant socialist’ [LP-er William Walker (see Boyle, 1962, and ICO, 1969). IV

In conclusion some provisional suggestions will be made about corollaries in the variations noted, and about the significance of their effects for general political developments in the north of Ireland. Before 1864: riots in Belfast were chiefly confined to localised confrontations and appear to have been more or less endemic. They occurred with greater or lesser severity annually, apparently without any specific political precipitation. More often than not their occasions were real or imagined ‘encroachments’ by one confessional collectivity upon the territory of another. They were essentially parochial in nature, and the bonds they mobilised were those most closely related to personalistic ties. After that date riots take on a less ‘endemic’ character and decrease in frequency, but when they occur they are longer and more intense. They are occasioned more or less directly at periods of high political excitement. They are supra-parochial in character and the ties and bonds they mobilise are far from being purely personalistic. The change in character of the riot follows from the shift to Shankill as a centre of riot activity and the growing involvement of shipyard workers. The shipyard men, as already noted, were Belfast’s ‘labour aristocracy’. They were practically all either fully fledged tradesmen or apprentices. Possessing trade qualifications as they did, they were generally free from reliance upon conditions of purely local prosperity to find work. The most skilled sections, in fact, had a tradition of regularly moving from one shipbuilding centre to another (Harland, 1884; Handley, 1947, p. 114). The shipyardmen thus acquired a certain cosmopolitanism, bound up with an intense craft identity which


The origins of Ulster Unionism

tended to override localistic ties. /7s-d-vis other workers they had an extremely high degree of material independence. Another condition serving to differentiate them from the remainder of the Protestant working class was their high degree of independence vis-d-vis their employers. ‘They were not tied to mechanical, indefinite repetition of the same tasks but had a fair discretion of job selection, freedom of movement, and could work more or less in their own time. Supervision was neither as widespread, authoritarian or close as in other areas of machine industry. This factor also tended to crystallise identities stemming from class solidarity around an ideology of independence. Thirdly, the shipyard’s physical isolation and scale lent it the status of a culture-building world of its own. Within it were railways, roads and waterways; surrounding it were docks, waste land and water. The paths leading to the yard were trodden exclusively by the shipyard men, who were immediately recognisable by their tools, their appearance and their numbers. Just as the shipyard stood projécted as the concrete representative of a mechanised future, so the shipyardman within Belfast took on the status of an industrial pioneer. This unique collective isolation and independence also corresponded with a singular relation to national economic and political development. The shipyard was a bulwark of British imperialist might and a barometer of its strength. The demand for ships corresponded proportionately to the extent of British domination of the world economy. Fluctuations in imperial prosperity were registered more clearly and directly in shipbuilding than in almost any other industry. Consequently the livelihood of shipyard workers was tied not simply to the more or less autonomous fluctuations of particular trades but to the state of British capitalism internationally. Economic ‘risk’ thus communicated itself to the shipyard men unmediated by any local influence. In this fashion the shipyard men became attuned to questions of national politics—became, in fact, the representatuves of national politics and economy within the provincial world of the Protestant working class. These real material forms of independence and ‘representivity’ stood in direct contrast to the material conditions of economic life peculiar to Sandy Row. Employment there for both men and women was confined to the local textile industry, plus casual labour for the men. Very few of the occupations within the

The politicisation of urban popular Protestantism


textile industry were skilled. Workers in the linen trade were interchangeable, lacked any choice of work techniques, were subject to constant work pressure and were forbidden free physical movement. For employment opportunities they were entirely dependent upon local conditions. Moreover the localised siting of the mills tended to ensure a high degree of integration between the local social and economic orders. The social order of the mills tended to be organised around close personalistic and protective ties between employers and employees.6 One Sandy Row mill owner, John Hughes, drew his work force entirely from local Orangemen and their families: his mill became known as the ‘Orange Cage’ (Report, 1858, paras. 6970, 8447). In addition most owners

built houses for their workers


1877), with the inevitable effect of increasing ties of dependence between them. Sandy Row was not merely a confessional ghetto but a mill ghetto too. Its working population was effectually separated in all its roles from the population at large. As a labour force it was not employed in establishments which facilitated the development of class forms of solidarity. The mills of Sandy Row employed workers in blocks of from three to six hundred, rigidly segregating them according to age, sex and skill. Unlike the huge nearmonopoly of Harland & Wolff, the mills were small, intensely competitive enterprises. Both politics and trade unionism were slow to impinge upon their world (Bleakley, 1951). These variations in material forms of existence and the social orders generated from them appear to provide the basis for an explanation of the different practices of rioting and the ideologies associated with them. To some extent they can be generalised to indicate the parameters of working-class life in the Catholic areas of Belfast, too. For many years these were similar to those of Sandy Row, until they became subject to a new kind of urbanisation not vastly different from the rise of the Islandmen. The development of ethnic from purely localistic hostilities was to prove one of the decisive conditions of the success of Conservatism and Nationalism among the Belfast working class, and the inability of Ulster Liberalism to penetrate it. There was no homogenous Protestant proletariat over which Unionist leaders established ‘mastery’. Instead there were two quite distinct segments of the Protestant working class, each with its own social organisation, politics and ideology. The


The origins of Ulster Unionism

specific form taken by Unionism, and consequently the form and dimensions of the subsequent national conflict in Ireland, were determined by the nature of this raw material. Together with the ideologies and the organisational facilities whose emergence has already been described, they were to close certain avenues of political development and to open others. NOTES




The scholarly works referred to are Boyle (1962), Armstrong (1951) and Baker (n.d.). For several reasons a change in this position may be anticipated shortly. Just as the period 1886-1923 was one in which the Protestant working class’s appearance as a practical problem for Nationalism was to become reflected ideologically in treatises presenting the matter as an historical problem (Connolly, Macardle, Mansergh, etc), so the present crisis may be expected to provoke a similar, and possibly more scholarly, response amongst contemporary nationalist historians. In addition a number of anecdotal histories of Belfast provide some supplementary information: Gaffiken (1875), Moore (1951), Millen (1932, 1938), O’Byrne (1946). Report (1858), Report (1865), Report (1887). Shankill was reported by Purden (1877) to be the town’s healthiest working-class area. A description of this form of combination was provided to the 1865 enquiry by a Sandy Row policeman: “The whole affair originated with the boys, or rather, the boys acting with grown-up lumps of [i-e. delinquent] men...’ (Report, 1865, para. 12548). Liason with reputed local toughs granted groups of boys a high level of immunity from police action, but as the ‘lumps’ were not themselves a coherent group the pattern was not a frequent one. During the 1886 riots, for example, the manager of Ewart’s Mill (the largest in Belfast) refused to allow police into his premises to interview miscreant workers (Report, 1887, paras. 13828—38).


Organised party politics m Belfast, 1865-86

This chapter examines the development of popular and bourgeois politics in urban Ulster upon the foundations which have been described this far. The prism it uses is the decline and fall of Ulster Liberalism. Ireland, like England, had witnessed a Tory-versus- Whig political conflict in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. After 1868, in the north of Ireland at least, this conflict was displaced by that between Conservatives and Liberals. Until 1885 the Liberals gained some support from all sections of the northern community. In some respects they were a genuinely representative party. But here the corollary between Ireland and Britain ends. The Liberals never achieved a firm enough popular base to count as a significant political force. Unlike the British Liberals, they existed only at the margins of the society’s main conflicts. If, as is clear from Miller’s comprehensive work (1973), the

later shape of Unionism was partly determined by the particular social forces represented by Nationalism, so too many of its characteristics depended on the defeat of Liberalism within Ulster before 1880. Far from failing, as is often suggested, because of the absence of a ‘middle ground’ between Unionism and Nationalism, Liberalism in fact collapsed before Nationalism emerged as a highly organised political force. This eventuality was largely a consequence of local determinants. As a result, politics in the Protestant community came to be dominated by a party with interests neither in accommodating sections of the Catholic population nor even in compromising with them. What makes this failure interesting, and allows it to be used as a prism for examining the development of popular politics, is that it turned upon the failure of urban Liberalism. The failure is problematical because elsewhere the cities were strongholds of Liberalism, and in metropolitan and ‘British’ Belfast one might have expected developments to follow the same course.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

I British urban Liberalism achieved its success on the basis of creating a class alliance between definite and identifiable social groups. Ulster Liberalism failed because it could create no such alliance. Instead of being: absorbed into a Liberal bloc, Irish equivalents of these social groups were successively absorbed into a Conservative alliance. ‘In what follows, these groups will be identified and the sources of their allegiances established. Prior to the reform Act of 1868 there was little organised popular politics in Britain or Ireland (apart from the Chartist and









involved in politics at the local level tended to be few, principally the middle class and the respectable artisanate. Popular political pressures tended to be expressed indirectly through these groups, rather than directly through independent organisations. For example, non-electors could and regularly did exert pressure upon tradesmen electors by threatening to withdraw clientage from them. With the extension of the franchise, and four years later the introduction of the secret ballot, the structure of local-level politics became transformed. The old explicit forms of patronage and brokerage, and the money and mobs underlying their sway, began to yield slowly to the efforts of party leaders to unite and integrate various focuses of potential formal political organisation. Many of the old lines of allegiance held true, but political mobilisation moved along new channels. In the new period British Liberals typically mobilised support from three sources: the employees of Liberal entrepreneurs, whose support was maintained through traditional brokerage by lower managers and foremen; the independent middle class and artisanate, who came to be mobilised through the agency of alliances between organisations







temperance) interests and local political organisation; and coherent ethnic minorities, whose support was achieved at a national and local level by bargaining between party and local community organisations and leaders who retained their own identity. During the ’80s the popular bases of both Liberal and Conservative parties became solidified by the creation of broader agencies aimed at uniting these disparate sources of support and rationalising their capacity for mobilisation.

Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865-86


During this same period urban Liberalism was able to maintain, though not to increase, its support amongst capitalists and other local elites. With the exception of the Manchester cotton barons, these were drawn from no distinct category of the De cea: Liberal supporters existed in large numbers in every major area of British industry, commerce and finance, and in most British cities (Vincent, 1966). In Belfast by comparison, Liberal support in all aed categories was weak. In the first instance Liberals conspicuously failed to gain the support of the local Catholic minority. In the large industrial cities of Scotland and the north of England such minorities constituted an important—and in Liverpool and Glasgow an essential—element of Liberal support. The fact is that in Belfast Catholics were Nationalist for the same reason that in Liverpool and Glasgow Catholics were Liberal: namely that a local community leadership had emerged commanding universal support for the party of their suggestion. The only difference between the cities lay in the different tactics these leaders considered appropriate for promoting communal aims. The basis of this communal solidarity was the common emergence of ethnicity as a major factor in local politics. An ethnic group is one recognising itself (and being popularly recognised as) sharing a common visible, or establishable, inherited trait—religion, race, language, etc—marking them off from other groups. Ethnic collectivities arise through the process of “ethnogenesis’; the process is socially determined, and collectivities arising through it can do so on the slenderest cultural affinities (cf. Lemarchand, 1964; Wallerstein, 1961; Balandier, 1955). Catholic ethnic politics emerged pace late in

Belfast, dnoeeh: a process which can be tied fairly directly to the transitions in industrialisation and urbanisation already described. In the first phase of the rise of machine production and urbanisation the social organisation of the Pound (the principal Catholic proletarian quarter) appears to have mirrored that of

Sandy Row. Like Sandy Row, its population was urbanised largely before the great expansion and diversification of factory production which brought marine engineering to Belfast. Like Sandy Row, it was the site of a large group of linen mills, and like Sandy Row the Pound’s social relations tended to be determined by the same constraints and influences. Politically,


The origins of Ulster Unionism

however, its consequent parochialism.,and localism had a different outcome.

While in Sandy Row the consequence was a rigid and reactionary Toryism (however localistically ‘independent’), in the Pound it was an equally rigid anti-Toryism (however conservative its expression). Both outcomes derived from a tendency towards politics in which parochialism informed particularistic goals and values. In both cases social organisation generated politics in which delivery of the ‘goods’ parochialism esteemed most was the dominant concern (vague advancement of local interests and welfare, and protection of local autonomy). The Toryism and anti-Toryism in question crystallised round the possibility of each area being assisted to achieve its goals, and identities took the form they did because the vague advancement of local interests in Protestant areas was a traditional source of connection between potential patrons and potential clients, Tory urban squires and urban Orange peasants. It was not a connection between these same squires and urban Catholics, if only because sustaining the localism and hence the support of Sandy Row meant that the local political elite could bring no other area under its wing. On this basis localism in the Pound produced politics focusing on the area’s exclusion from both advancement of its interests and protection of its autonomy. In this period neither Sandy Row nor the Pound had an indigenous political leadership; nor in either were there any potential leaders who could rely on occupational status within the principal employment (linen) to gain a privileged hearing. Of the two areas, Sandy Row had a larger commercial element and a more prominent clergy.! In the situation of underdevelopment of the Catholic middle classes and relative disorganisation of working-class life, the Pound’s political representation tended to pass to various maverick carpetbagging outsiders who gained support by threatening to remove the ‘Tory clique’ with a few sharp and well timed blows. Conditions favoured so-called ‘charismatic’ leadership, personified in figures like John Rea, a local barrister, and B. Holland, editor of the short-lived Catholic newspaper The Ulsterman (c. 1856-57). Without ever achieving any definite political position or regular basis of working-class support, Rea presented himself as a champion of the Catholic cause during almost every political dispute in Belfast prior to 1870. At the height of his power (1863) he was credited with

Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865-86


dispersing single-handed a mob rioting against the failure of a balloonist to make an advertised ascent in the Botanic Gardens

(Moore, 1951). In comparison, Holland’s reign was short. He

appeared with his paper in Belfast in 1856 and by 1857 was sponsoring a gun club for the defence of the Pound (Report, 1858, paras. 1799-1801). Two hundred and _ sixty-three persons attended its first meeting and paid 6d each towards the purchase of weapons. The meetings continued for six weeks until both Holland and the money disappeared (cbid., paras. 6219-38). It was not until the 1860s that Catholic politics ceased their preoccupation with localistic opposition to Sandy Row and the clique, and became concerned with ethnic issues concerning the relations of Catholics and Protestants in general. The basis of this transition was an emerging disjuncture between Catholic demographic expansion and local means of assimilating migrants. Demographic expansion. Although Catholics did not increase proportionately during the period, the absolute rise in their numbers was still substantial: A disproportionately large number of Catholic migrants appear to have been male, drawn to Belfast by the growth of the urban construction industry. It was Catholic shovels that dug Belfast’s docks and created the artificial island upon which the shipyards were built. Catholic spades, hods and trowels built most of Belfast’s mills, and Catholic picks chipped and levelled the paths of the railways that came to serve the city. Assimilation. The migrants tended to be insulated from the forces of acculturation which would have affected them as members of nuclear families moving into the Pound. The major construction projects on which they worked entailed a camp-like existence which reinforced solidarities of common geographical origin and social values, militating against assimilation. Just as the emergence of the Islandmen had a similar effect on the character of Protestant politics, so the demographic restructuring of the Catholic population broadened, and in some respects secularised, existing conflicts. In particular the navvies’ claim to proprietory rights over recruitment policies in certain trades gave Catholic particularism a clearer sectarian colouring. Among the most significant of the disruptive effects this transition had on existing political relations was the way it hindered the cultivation of a brokerage relation between Liberal patrons and the Catholic working class through members of the emergent Catholic middle class. As early as the mid-1850s the


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Liberals had recruited Catholic entrepreneurs such as the Bernard Hughes and the property owner William Watson. figures were rapidly integrated within the local party but to rally popular support to it; the upheavals which followed intervention

baker These failed navvy

(e.g. 1864 and 1872) involved the community


kinds of political action which tended to throw up leaders and requirements unmanageable by prospective brokers. Although the Catholic artisanate were instructed to vote Liberal from this period by the local clergy and prospective brokers (e.g. by the appeal to electors, BMI, 29 March 1880), they did not respond enthusiastically. Even in 1868, at the height of Liberal success in Belfast, there were few signs of popular Catholic appreciation. Localism was being dissipated not by regular but by ethnic secularisation. Ethnic formal politics did not appear until the early 1880s, however. It stemmed from the combined emergence of an indigenous middle class, increasing clerical influence and increasing ethnic differentiation within the proletariat. The aspirations of the emergent Catholic middle class to social and political status within the city were blocked by Conservative exclusiveness. The emergent class was headed by licensees, the most widespread Catholic entrepreneurial category. Freed from political tutelage in 1868 by the end of the system of awarding drink licences on a political basis, vintners had been accruing local power rapidly. Like shopkeepers (in whose role they often doubled), they could establish the dependence of large numbers of clients by pawnbrokerage and the dispensation of credit. They also encouraged custom and promoted their influence through encouraging, political circles (often personally directed)

to meet in their premises. Professionally hostile to Liberalism in any case, they promoted ethnic politics, mobilised their dependants and secured a prominent place within the lay representation of the local Irish National League branch. B. Flanigan, proprietor of the Crown Liquor Saloon and chairman of the Licensed Vintners’ Association, was, together with the branch’s solicitor, the most prominent figure in Belfast Catholic politics in the 1880s. In order to gain political control of the community the vintners had to rely upon the ideological intercession of the local clergy. Nationally this intercession had begun in 1882 when Parnell invited Archbishop McHale to send representatives to the

Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865-86


Wexford convention of the Irish National League. After that date clerical representation in local branches became uniformly strong. In Ulster it was especially so: in Belfast the clergy provided twenty-nine members in a local executive of eighty, in Armagh thirty-two out of ninety-eight, and in Antrim twenty-five out of sixty-six (BMN, 10, 16 and 18 November 1885). Seen as proportions, these figures grossly underestimate the strength of the clergy, since the latter represented the largest and sometimes the only organised and cohesive force in a branch. In Ulster, in fact, Catholicism and Nationalism became effectually synonymous. The weakness of the local middle class meant that clerical influence, elsewhere subordinate to the central control of the party’s directorate, became dominant, while local clerical sensitivity to what was taken as the threat of Protestant encroachments influenced the northern segment of the League to follow clerical policies. The influence of clericalism on local political ethnogenesis was to become increasingly pronounced, finding its clearest expression in the years after 1896, when local branches of the party were dissolved and replaced by a Catholic Association run by Bishop Henry. The 1880s saw the emergence not only of these forces but also of clearer pan-Catholic popular identities, through the issue of ‘discrimination’. In earlier phases of industrialisation and urbanisation occupational inequalities between confessions were marked, but not greatly so. The textile industry, which dominated the city, required relatively few skilled workers; there was little opportunity for class and status identities to amplify religious ones. With the diversification of industrial production from the mid-’60s, existing inequalities of recruitment became intensified by the advent of industrial techniques characteristic of more capital-intensive manufacture, requiring skilled labour and labour training. The introduction on a large scale of apprenticeships, premiums and closed trades relatively disadvantaged those sections of the working class (including Catholics) least able to afford the expense of training their children, thus translating

relatively small income differences into substantial status differences over a generation. The consequent deprivation became even more acutely felt as unskilled employment opportunities contracted in the 1880s. The Liberals’ strategy towards Catholics was consistently one of simply projecting a general but rather vague ‘sympathy’ for


The origins of Ulster Unionism

their case. It embodied no programme for solving the population’s practical problems, preferring to rely upon a condemnatory striking of attitudes against the extreme partisanship of the local Tories. Although the Liberals did their best to woo and sustain the larger Catholic entrepreneurs with promises of a voice in local government, they were never able to attain political or ideolological hegemony over the Catholic population of the city as a whole. II

The second major weakness of the Belfast Liberals was their failure to gain support from the Protestant petty bourgeoisie, artisanate, and employees of local Liberal entrepreneurs.

According to E. P. Thompson (1966, pp. 289 ff), the British artisanate sought in Liberalism incorporation and recognition of the rights of ‘citizenship’ and standards of ‘responsibility’ with which they demarcated themselves from the rising and volatile tide of unskilled labour. Their Liberalism was an instrumental expression of the same pressures which had led them earlier to found unions, associations and friendly societies. The petty bourgeoisie—particularly the ‘shopocracy’—appear, on the other hand, to have supported Liberalism out of a desire to maintain the goodwill of working-class non-electors by behaving in publicly anti-Tory ways (Vincent, 1966, pp. 151-53). The allegiance of employees of Liberal entrepreneurs was more brittle: the brokerage which sustained it appeared to be effective only during periods in which peace reigned in general local class relations. Each of these allegiances depended, then, on the state of the broader social relations in which the working class was placed: for artisans, on the relative size of the unskilled work force; for shopocrats, on popular proletarian anti-Toryism; and for the employees of Liberal capitalists, on the general state of local class relations. And so to Ulster. Here—with notable exceptions’—the politics of the artisanate, Liberal capitalists’ employees and the shopocracy tended to be Conservative, Orange and frequently ‘independent’ Orange. Orangeism was particularly strong in the Belfast trades. In 1858 Orange lodges existed in many areas of industry as trade associations (Report, 1858, para. 9084). In 1864 William Kirkpatrick, master printer with the Northern Whig, denied that

Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865-86


they existed in the print trade, but could name fewer than a dozen others ‘free’ of Orangeism (Report, 1864, para. 12548). Even in Belfast, lodges composed largely of general labourers tended to have masters drawn from foreman status (Report, 1858, para. 8862). In country towns, too, tradesmen were prominent Orangemen. A list of the occupations of the Enniskillen RBP chapter in 1867 reveals fourteen of thirty-six regular attenders to have been tradesmen (Enniskillen RBP minute books). The dues of the Order (6d or 1s per meeting, depending on the member’s status) were themselves a barrier against lumpen participation.* When

independent Orangeism emerged (c. 1868) it was led

by a combination of artisans and shopocrats. The committee of the first effective independent Orange organisation (the Ulster Protestant Working Mens’ Association) was composed of two

printers, a shipwright, a grocer, a carpenter, a master painter and a dining-room proprietor (VW, 5 March 1868). Later an undertaker was added (BNL, 14 November 1868). Elsewhere when independent Orangeism emerged it was led from the same strata. In Ballymoney the Independent Orange Association of east Antrim, expelled from the Order in 1869, was led by a saddler, an egg dealer and a copying clerk (Sibbett, 1939, 1, pp. 533-4). Although there is no sure way of ascertaining the degree of support for Orangeism amongst the employees of Liberal capitalists, most seem certain to have supported Orange politics. The workers of Liberal linen barons like Grimshaw, Ross and Barbour, and shipbuilders like McClure were among the most prominent representatives of the Orange cause in riots. Even though Orangeism may not have existed in an organised form among them, ideologically it was still extremely powerful. The operation of a number of local peculiarities was responsible for the displacement of Liberalism by Orangeism for these groups. In the first instance, the Belfast artisan faced the same kinds of problems as his English counterpart (e.g. recurrent threats to the exclusiveness of particular crafts) and required similar kinds of protection. In the first phase of urbanisation it was the important role occupied by small trades in the male labour market which encouraged artisans to use the available vehicle

of Orangeism

to promote

these interests.



character was one which offered broad protection by a few of the very powerful, through a multiplicity of lesser patrons, to a host


The origins of Ulster Unionism

of segmented groups of workers seeking to establish restricted labour markets. The economic organisation of the small trades in Belfast mirrored the geo-economic structure of the Orange areas of Armagh described earlier. The Order provided a means whereby the aspirations of almost any semi-organised form of occupational particularism could be incorporated. Its intricate system of induction and grading rendered it structurally competent to handle the fine distinctions of status and the strict mechanisms of recruitment characteristic of the organisation of skilled crafts. Over and above the structural homology which Orangeism shared with the small trades lay a primitive set of friendly society provisions which, though fairly arbitrary in administration, still provided a minimal fall-back for supporters in case of unemployment, injury or death. By the time the first phase of Belfast’s urbanisation (and machine industrialisation) had passed, the Order had secured a strong position in the trades. At this moment, when members of

the crafts might have been expected to seek more orthodox sources of insurance and protection, the unskilled Catholic population of the city began to expand. Orangeism’s organisational life became further prolonged by the increasingly green colouring of the ‘rising tide’ threatening it. As the years passed, and ethnogenesis took place, it was on to the ethnic aspect of this threat that all the residues of craft exclusiveness were to become displaced. Before any statement can be made about the determinates of the politics of the Protestant shopocracy and employees of Liberal capitalists it is necessary to trace the political development of the Protestant working class as a whole during the period. To a great extent this ran parallel with Catholic changes. The initial phase saw the dominance of political brokerage. As has been pointed out, the conditions of social organisation prevailing in Sandy Row (the main Protestant proletarian quarter

before the second phase of machine production) favoured politics characterised by localism and the prevalence of patron—client ties. Most men in Sandy Row relied upon nepotistic sources of employment, though to a lesser extent in the small trades mentioned above than in labouring or other unskilled work. An admittedly extreme example of patronage in this period, claimed at the time, however, to be representative, was police recruitment. Prior to 1865 Belfast had its own private constabulary, outside

Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865-86


the control of the State. Effectively it was in the ‘gift’ of the local Tory elite. Recruitment was carried out from rural areas on the basis of personal canvassing of Conservative representatives by potential candidates. In order to be accepted the candidate had to be an Orangeman and the bearer of a good character reference from a prominent local Orangeman. In return for employment and its benefits he had not only to carry out police duties proper but also to supervise municipal elections. In fact so transparent was the nature of the principal duties of the police that they were recruited by ward agents according to the latter’s needs (Reports, 1858, paras. 2285, 2429, 7002, 11290; 1864, paras. 5044: ff). The strength of nepotism may perhaps be most readily judged by the fact that by 1868 its existence had permeated local humour to the extent that simply to hint at it was to invoke a whole world of meaning. During the election campaign of that year— examined more closely in a moment—an independent Orange candidate and a Liberal opposed two Conservatives. Throughout, the Liberals attempted to secure Orange support, and to this end called a number of public meetings, which proved extremely disorderly. On one occasion the chairman managed to call the meeting to order after bringing the house down with a threat to withdraw the audience’s ‘certificate of character’ (VW, 8 August





of good references


attaining local employment was also testified by their frequent mention in letters and speeches complaining of local nepotism (e.g. letters in the Northern Whig of 20 March 1868). Good references and the opportunities they created were not the only source of patronage and brokerage tying the Protestant working class to Tory and Orange notables in this period. Orange members of the proletariat were frequently the recipients of unsolicited gifts in time of misfortune, bereavement or hardship, the result of their nomination by masters of proletarian Orange lodges to the institution’s leading lights. ‘Orangemen have been grateful for services conferred,’ wrote one of the 1868 rebels, ‘and nu men have been more lavish in giving purses of sovereigns to the sundry individuals who deemed it wise to be in earnest in the cause of Protestantism...’ (WW, 28 March 1868). Orangeism gradually became the main medium for the maintenance of political control through nepotism. In Belfast the Order came to be run by men ‘who knew their price and secured the full value of their labours’ (VW, 28 March 1868),


The origins of Ulster Unionism

by political brokers working more or less directly in the service of the local Tories, often in full-time corporation sinecures. Their position was maintained by prominent urban patrons, who slowly developed lodges of their own. From around 1825 lodge No. 7 in Belfast admitted only businessmen, while three others (Nos. 1890, 455 and 1895) were by 1868 officially ‘commercial’ lodges (VW, 10 March 1868; BNL, 12 March 1869). Representatives of these lodges, together with their brokers (the most prominent

of whom


C. Noah

Davis), maintained


over the county lodge by calling meetings only during the proletariat’s working hours, and packing them with members of the Episcopal clergy. Few occasions for revolt occurred, as the Tories for the most part unashamedly kept their side of the bargain; indeed, they proclaimed their partisanship for all they were worth. Samuel Black, chairman of the town council’s police committee, was cross-examined in this connection by a lawyer on the 1865 Riot Commission. Q. Suppose the force were unobjectionable, you say you endeavour to reverse A. Because I would certainly

SSS aad


composed of Roman Catholics and were you would not object. Why then would the state of things? endeavour, as far as my sympathies go, to

[Report (1865), para. 5138]

While this went on the Liberals failed either to develop a consistent popular rhetoric against brokerage or to build up such a system of their own. Although presenting themselves as the embodiment of opposition to corruption, partisanship and patronage, they frequently acted with venality. A long list of Liberal transgressions of declared principle could be recited, but one of the more symptomatic occurred in the Lisburn election of 1863. Lisburn was a mill town seven miles from Belfast which until 1885 returned its own MP to Parliament. In 1863 the local Liberal capitalist, J. D. Barbour, determined to capture the seat. Reviewing a petition of protest against the conduct of the election, a Commons committee subsequently found him guilty not only of the usual venalities of treating and corruption but also of kidnapping and imprisoning about thirty of the borough’s voters for the duration of the election (Report, 1863). The example is symptomatic with respect not merely to the fact of venality but also to its form. The Liberals attempted to short-cut their way past the intricate Tory system of patronage

Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865-86


by direct bribery and intimidation. Indeed, the Liberals seemed curiously reluctant to construct a patronage system. They preferred to make neither financial nor ideological long-term investments, but instead to alternate between half-hearted stabs at both. The ‘principles’ of the Ulster Liberals, far from being a moral code guiding their interventions, were in fact a result of Liberal ambition and Liberal parsimony cancelling each other out. They reveal an important aspect of the party’s nature— its essentially resedual status. Ambition and parsimony could only cancel each other out because the party was no more than a collection of individuals united by their exclusion from Tory _ politics. Individually they were highly ambitious, but collectively they were prepared to invest in the party only in so far as this promoted themselves. Resources, in short, were rarely converted into working capital. When it came, the collapse of the Tory patronage system was no consequence of Liberal intervention. During the summer of 1867 between 120 and 150 persons were charged under Disraeli’s Party Processions Act with breaches of the peace likely to incite sectarian feeling. The following February their trials began at Antrim and Downpatrick. All but three pleaded guilty and were discharged with fines. But on 29 February 1868 William Johnston

(a bankrupt Down landlord) and two otkers pleaded not guilty. The court took this as a sign of unrepentence and sentenced each to a month’s imprisonment (VW, 1 March 1868). With Johnston in jail, advertisements appeared for an ‘indignation’ meeting against the local Conservatives for their failure to intervene with Disraeli. The Conservative Newsletter both ignored Johnston’s imprisonment and refused to print the advertisements. The meeting was one of ‘Protestant operatives’ protesting against the jailing of Johnston, who by now had become ‘the working man’s friend’. Speakers addressed the audience as ‘working men’ and ‘fellow workers’ and abused landed property. Without having uttered a word interpretable as indicating solidarity with the proletariat, Johnston found himself created zn abstentia its champion. At the mass meeting of 4 March a Protestant Working Men’s Association was founded with the object of returning him to Parliament as the working man’s candidate. Not only in the city but as far away as Ballymoney demonstrations took place under red banners inscribed ‘Johnston, the working man’s friend’.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Johnston was released in April and by May was supervising the organisation of his forthcoming parliamentary campaign. At a meeting in the Ulster Hall during that month he described himself as ‘unhesitatingly independent . . . free from aristocratic, democratic or any other shackles . . . ’; yet still his promotion, if not as a socialist then at least as a democrat, continued unabated. Throughout the period he was courted by the Liberals, who saw the detachment of the Orange Order from the Tory machine as an opportunity to return a candidate of their own together with Johnston. In October, when the Conservatives completely lost control over the local Orange Order, the Liberals made him a gift of £500 in return for a promise to instruct his supporters privately to give their second vote to McClure, the Liberal

candidate (VW, 22 October 1868, 27 January 1874). On election day McClure concluded his side of the bargain by advising his supporters to ‘sustain in one case the great Liberal cause and in the other the equally great cause of independence’. Johnston was returned at the head of the poll, McClure second.® The basis of Johnston’s victory was widely recognised as the emergence of a ‘free-floating’ Orange political organisation and the destruction of the power of Davis and other Tory political brokers. At the root of this development was the emancipation of the Protestant working class from need of the kinds of patronage which had tied it to the bourgeoisie. The year 1863 had been declared the ‘best ever’ for Belfast capitalism by the local chamber of commerce. For the first time there was constant full employment. The situation lasted for the duration of the American Civil War, during which linen was widely substituted for cotton as the staple cheap clothing in the United Kingdom (Belfast Chamber of Commerce minute book). No longer was employment a problem for the working class. On the contrary, finding workers became a matter of concern to the city’s capitalists. As production expanded, entrepreneurs sought to outbid each other in offering secondary perquisites, notably mill-built housing, to attract labour. Concomitantly the working class was to claim independence from its employers. The 1860s saw the development of the co-operative movement, of non-profitmaking burial societies and of trade unions (VW, 7 February 1868; 9 January 1868). These developments continued even after the decline of the linen boom. By 1867 short-time working was again common (Belfast Chamber of Commerce minute book).

Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865-86


As it ceased to be essential to the reproduction of the Protestant proletariat’s culturally expected requirements in 1863-65 the patronage system lost significance, becoming replaced by organisations embodying the class’s new-found ‘independence’. When conditions worsened, these institutions developed new functions to meet the crisis. Instead of the bond between proletariat and elite there was resentment by the former at past humiliations, resentment which became crystallised in the Party Processions Act affair. While the Act ostensibly outlawed all Irish political demonstrations, it was applied only to those likely to create sectarian disorder, that is, those in the north. The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland acquiesced in the ban, and instead of organising opposition to it created a Protestant Defence Association whose

sole aim was

to resist Irish disestablishment:


plan, it was believed, included dissolving the Order into the Defence Association (anon., 1904). Consequently a populist opposition developed within the Order, articulated wholly round the question of the independence of the institution, its principles and its rank and file, but absorbing and expressing other issues too. The principal ones were nascent industrial class antagonism and increasing uncertainty among artisans about their class status. The PWMA’s populism, with its astonishing combination of class hatred, sectarianism and deference, expressed diverse and inconsistent intentions. As a result it became possible for Johnston, with his declassed and eccentric background, both to be all things to all his supporters and in the process to accumulate extensive personal power. Washed to the shore of political fame by a wave of confused and incoherent enthusiasm, Johnston behaved with considerable intelligence and initiative in recovering the situation for the Conservatives once he had settled his personal account with them. On leaving prison his first act was to direct the PWMA’s agitation away from the expression of class conflict and towards the reform of the Conservative party. While the other Association leaders stressed the distance between Tories and Orangemen, Johnston stressed the essential unity of their principles. After his election the party was ‘forced to accommodate both Johnston and his suggested reforms. The chief of these (expressed in a letter published in the Belfast Newsletter of 19 February 1869) was that the Protestant


of the city should


of right, nominate



The origins of Ulster Unionism

Conservative electoral candidate. Another advocate of this position was Edward de Cobain, initially an opponent but later an ally of Johnston. De Cobain was responsible for founding a Conservative Working Men’s Association in Belfast in the winter of 1869. By 1874 he and Johnston had jointly ensured that the local party had a formally democratic structure, with a central committee said to be two-thirds composed of workers (BMN, 17 July 1884). The incorporation of the Protestant working class as partners into the Tory fold was completed with the party’s adoption of a democratic rhetoric. In 1874 its two candidates were Johnston and James Corry, a ship owner. Johnston repeated his speeches of 1868. He ‘represented neither capital nor labour’, but stood above their conflict, ensuring that no injustice was done to either. Although Corry was an employer of labour, he was referred to throughout the campaign as a ‘merchant’ (BNL, 50 January 1874), as a neutral representative of commerce and a necessary counterweight to Johnston’s proletarian selection. Nepotistic Conservative hegemony was displaced by ideological hegemony. The transition assured a crushing defeat for the Liberals.® The Whig commented, ‘Five years ago the Liberal party was thoroughly organised. Yesterday there seemed no organisation at all. Nobody seemed to know what to do. It was painfully evident there was no directing mind’ (6 February 1874). Assistance of the cause of independent Orangeism had rebounded upon them: Johnston and his organisation had been promoted as a substitute

for developing working-class Liberalism. When Johnston deserted, all that remained of ‘popular’ Liberalism was the coincidence of a part of its rhetoric with that of working class Orangeism. In the process of internal democratisation the Conservatives had adopted this too, thereby dislodging the props which supported Liberal claims to a popular political identity. When the position became clear the Liberals turned first to the countryside, then desperately sought a fresh identity for the urban party. They found it in amplifying what was now a vestigial irrelevence—their Presbyterianism. Although this tactic had some _ success with Catholics—-for whom Presbyterians represented a kinder tiger than Episcopalians— it had little or no influence amongst the Presbyterian community itself.

Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865-86


The period of Conservatism’s ‘democratic’ popularity was short-lived. It was displaced not by a return to nepotistic control, however, but by a strengthening of Tory ideological hegemony. This took the form of an autocratic popularity. The roots of the change can be traced to a further transition in Belfast’s pattern of industrialisation and urbanisation. The phase of industrialisation inaugurated in the ’60s marked not just the expansion of the linen trade but also the beginning of heavy engineering. The effects have already been mentioned: the emergence a labour aristocracy, the ethnic differentiation of the Catholic and Protestant labour forces, and increased industrial dependency on British imperialism. Although accompanied for over a decade by boom conditions, this phase of industrialisation rendered Belfast ultimately more vulnerabie to international slumps. In the late ’70s and ’80s external conditions became unfavourable for the new industries: After its glorious advance [in the middle years of the century], the economy stagnated. Though the British boom of the early 1870s did not crash into ruins quite so dramatically as in the USA and central Europe . . . it drifted inexorably downwards. Prices, profits and rates of

interest fell or stayed puzzingly low . . . [Hobsbawm (1969), p. 127] Just as Belfast was absorbing the technological developments which had been so prominent an index of British industrial superiority twenty years before, so these were now being matched, applied and surpassed elsewhere. Relatively speaking, industrial diversification failed to stabilise the prosperity of the working class. And just as ethnicisation and increasing proletarian ‘cosmopolitanness’ emerged as properties of this situation, so too did the partial integration of skilled workers and entrepreneurs on the basis of a commonly felt set of risks centring on the position of Belfast industry in the world market. In 1874 Corry had been presented as a kind of umpire, adjudicating the conflicting claims of capital and labour, and standing above them to achieve an impartial consideration of their merits. Johnston, on the other hand, indisputably represented the proletariat. In 1878 he had temporarily to retire. The candidate chosen as his replacement was the city’s most famous linen baron, William Ewart. In 1880 Ewart and Corry ran together. Corry was no longer a ‘merchant’ but an employer of labour; Ewart had no pretensions to be anything else.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Conservative rhetoric now took the line that despite the city’s progress in recent years, and despite the gulf this created between the city and the rest of Ireland, prosperity depended essentially upon the effective representation of local business in the inner councils of British imperialism. Without, Belfast would be left by the wayside. Mr Corry said he had in every possible way tried to induce the owners of ships to send their work here . . . and he hoped . . . to continue to do so. He had endeavoured to interest the Admiralty as far as possible, so that Admiralty work should be sent to Belfast. He though that those who employed labour were best capable of knowing the wants of the working-men .. . [BNL, 20 March 1880] Mr Ewart said he came to them with a desire to serve them. Their interests and his were identical . . . They tried to provide the world with ships . . . His occupation was to clothe the naked. The attempt to make a separation . . . was a disgrace . . . He would like to know who would take a greater interest in the trade of this port and the advancement of commerce than Mr Corry and himself—who were more competent to deal with the questions that arose in Parliament . . . with

regard to foreign tariffs’ . . .? [Ibid., 27 March 1880] In appealing to the old mainstay of independent Orangeism, the Protestant labour aristocracy, Corry and Ewart won the overwhelming support of the County Grand Orange Lodge (BNL, 26 March

1880). Their ward committees were organised by the

Order, as Johnston’s had been in 1868 (zdid., 22 March 1880). Even their supporters in the party executive had been John-

stonites (zbid., 21 March 1880). Enough of the ‘independent’ proletariat of a dozen years before were prepared to desert the cause for independent candidates in 1878 and 1880 to be comfortably defeated.” Although continue to constitute the main opposition to Conservatism, it was able to challenge it convincingly. completely excluded from serious

independent Orangeism would source of popular Protestant not for many years to be again Liberalism meanwhile became consideration.


Popular Liberalism’s failure was aslo partly determined by and partly reflected in a failure ever to win the support of a majority of the urban bourgeoisie after 1850. The structure of this failure is of some interest, for while Liberalism was stronger amongst

Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865-86










period, there were striking occupational lacunae in its middleclass following (see table 5). Table 5 Social composition of Liberal and Conservative Belfast, 1885 (principal occupations named only) Se Se he Liberals






Textile manufacturers


Clergy (Presbyterian) 3 Distillers 2 Doctors 2 Landowners 2 Shipbuilders 2 Engineers 2 Auctioneer 1 Barrister 1 Newspaper proprietor 1 Worker 1

Textile manufacturers


Clergy (all Protestant denominations) 6 Distiller 1 Doctor 1 Landowners 3 Shipbuilders 2 Engineers 5 Tobacco manufacturer 1 Estate agent 1 Newspaper proprietor 1 Solicitor 1 Armament manufacturer 1 Architect 1 Private gentlemen 3

Ship owners 11 Source: attendance at party functions, 1885: BNL, NW, BMN; occupations: Industries of Ireland (1891, part I), Belfast and Ulster Trades Directory (1895), Ulster Business and Agricultural Directory (1886), Young and Pike (1909), Who’s Who, Dictionary of National Biography.

Traditional industries like the linen trade did not represent such lacunae. In fact political allegiance amongst linen manufacturers was on the whole both weighted towards Liberalism and derived from traditions dating back to 1798. During the first forty years

of the century, when the Whigs were the locally dominant party, most of their supporters tended to be recruited either from the survivors and descendants of the Belfast United Irishmen or from descendants of certain British textile manufacturers who had moved to Ireland in the last three decades of the eighteenth

century (e.g. the Grimshaws, papers).


and Barbours:


Rather, a lacuna existed with respect to Liberal support in two fields—ship owning on the one hand, and the new industries of the post-1860 phase on the other. This fact was reflected not


The origins of Ulster Unionism

simply in the social composition of the parties’ leaderships but also in their relative degree of familial continuity in the period as a whole. While the same nexus of interrelated Whig families (the Grimshaws, Dunvilles, Duffins, Barbours, Sinclairs, Herdmens, Andrews, Browns, Richardsons and so on) continued to dominate the Liberal party from 1832 to 1886, the Tory leadership was continually rejuvenated by the new blood of Belfast’s rising entrepreneurs—in part because the Tories tended to be less remote and inaccessible as a group than the Liberals, but more particularly because of changing constraints on the new blood that was being recruited.


first group

of Belfast


to become


identified en bloc with the Conservatives were the ship owners. Prior to 1852 this group, like the linen merchants, had been evenly and traditionally divided in their loyalties. With the heightening of the free trade controversy, however, almost all pledged their support to the Tories. They were later to be confirmed as Tories by Liberal policies such as the Plimsoll agitation (4 Brief Sketch, 1865, p. 34; BNL, 26 January 1874). The recruitment of this group was of decisive importance in deciding the loyalties of new entrepreneurs and their dependants. Unlike textile manufacturers, whose prosperity relied upon bargaining in the open market and the amortisation of capital, the industries characteristic of Belfast’s ‘second industrialisation’ depended for their prosperity first and foremost upon the winning of contracts. This essentially turned upon the achievement and maintenance of goodwill with ship owners locally and the British capitalist class in general. Like Belfast’s ship owners, the latter was exhibiting a definite trend towards supporting Conservatism (Vincent, 1966; Feuchtwanger, 1968; Beer, 1965; Hanham, 1959). Such trends proved powerful stimuli for Belfast’s new capitalists to adopt Conservatism as a means of increasing goodwill, through establishing participation in common areas of political allegiance with these significant groups. Once the trend of growing capitalist support was established, recruitment of the so-called ‘free professions’ followed—solicitors, doctors, architects and so on. The ‘free professions’ of Belfast, as elsewhere, were even more vulnerable to dependence upon goodwill than capitalists. By 1874 fourteen Belfast solicitors were devoting their voluntary services to the Conservative cause, while the Liberals had only two at their disposal (VW, 6 February 1874).

Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865-86


The growing strength of Conservatism found a corollary in the growing weakness of the Liberals. As the latter became weaker they grew wary of staking their assets on any single electoral contest. Gradually the old linen barons became reluctant to finance the party. McClure, who had devoted almost £5,000 to being returned in 1868, spent less than half that amount in his subsequent defeats. By 1878 the Whig had returned to calling Belfast ‘hopeless’. IV

Despite the abysmal state of the party’s urban prospects in the 1880s, Liberal spokesmen in Ulster continued to make confident pronouncements about its ultimate success. The grounds of their optimism were the party’s performance in the countryside, for by this time it was holding over a third of the province’s rural parliamentary seats. Its standing here, however, was largely due to the uneven development of Irish Nationalism. The Liberals’ successes were achieved mainly on a limited franchise in seats that the Conservatives had previously held on an even more restricted basis. After the franchise was further broadened in 1885 the constituencies in question passed to home-rulers. Table 6 illustrates the process. Table 6 Distribution of parliamentary seats in Ulster, 1852-85 Year

1852 1865 1868 1874 1880 4885:



242 26 246 19 18 162

5e 3¢ 5¢ 8¢ 9 -

Home rule

— — — 2 2 17


29 29 29 29 29 52

a Includes two Protectionists.

b Includes one ‘independent Conservatives’. c Includes one ‘Liberal Conservatives’.

Source: McCalmont (1971). Ulster Liberalism was a transitional phenomenon in the rural areas. Its successes occurred at times and places when neither

Conservatives nor Nationalists were independently in a position


The origins of Ulster Unionism

to defeat each other. The extent of the Liberals’ real success may be gathered by glancing at a cameo of their rise and fall: Monaghan between 1874 and 1883. In the ’70s and ’80s Monaghan’s electorate was around 5,500, evenly divided between Protestants and Catholics. In the early ’70s this traditionally Conservative constituency was twice contested by home rule candidates, who on each occasion polled around 2,100 votes. In 1880 the Liberal stood with Nationalist support. They won both the 2,100 Catholic votes and additionally those of 100-200 Protestants. Their intervention, moreover, led to the abstention of a further 600 former Protestant voters. In 1883 the Nationalist ‘invasion of Ulster’ occurred, and the National League put forward a candidate at the by-election of that year. Their candidate both recovered the old Nationalist vote and increased it. The Conservatives won back about half their old defectors. The Liberals, defending the seat, received fewer than 300 votes. (See table 7.) Table 7 Election results, Monaghan

1874 Leslie (C) 2,487 Shirley (C) 2,4172 Madden (N) 2,105 aElected. Source: McCalmont



Givan (L) 2,239¢ Findlater (L) 2,0082 Leslie (C) 1,734 Shirley (C) 1,664

Healey (N) 2,3764 Monroe (C) 2,011 Pringle (L) 274


Rural Liberalism was overwhelmingly dependent upon Catholic votes. Despite all boasts to the contrary, it was identified with Presbyterianism only in Down and Antrim. Elsewhere Liberals were a minority of Presbyterians.§ Although during its period of success rural Liberalism created an alliance between large Protestant tenant farmers, Protestant ‘free professionals’ and the Catholic rural middle class, the alliance proved fragile and temporary. Underlying it there was a crystallising mon-complementarity between these groups. In the period under consideration the communities where the Liberals temporarily triumphed were to see a developing replication of middle-class social structure. For example, in 1891

Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865-86


Monaghan and Cavan had a higher proportion of professionals and shopkeepers amongst the employed population than anywhere else in Ulster (5-6 and 7-4: per cent respectively: Census of Ireland, 1891). Two-thirds of the members of these categories were Protestants. Once the local Catholic middle class began to grow rapidly, its principal aim appears to have been that of forcing Protestants from the overcrowded market for professional and commercial services. Increasing the pressure upon Catholic clents of the Protestant middle class by promoting the ethnicisation of politics provided a convenient vehicle for doing so. Such evidence as there is suggests that in the periods of the Land League (1879-81) and Plan of Campaign (1886-89) the practices of boycotting and exclusive dealing were as often employed by this stratum as by impoverished farmers. Far from pursuing lines appropriate to the formation of viable non-sectarian politics, the Liberals’ rural strategy was an essentially pragmatic one. It took this course because it could find no anchorage in a substantial urban base. Having started out to avoid the consequences of its weakness in the towns by attempting to secure the unity of disparate social forces in the countryside, and having seen this policy itself begin to give way, the Liberals were caught in the declining spiral of a disintegrating base. When they lost their Belfast seat in 1874 they could no longer campaign in the countryside as the representatives of a successful indigenously Irish party. The only alternative was to appeal to the diverse forces they were attempting to unite as ‘ambassadors’ of metropolitan Gladstonism. Liberal rhetoric presented the party as the Irish ears and eyes of the great man. In competition with the appeals

of the


(who in the late ’70s

generally ceased to nominate landlord candidates and began to associate themselves

with tenant right) the Liberals presented

themselves as constituting a direct channel of appeal to the most powerful







government. The adoption of this rhetoric was a significant benchmark in the spiral. In order for it to appear a credible rhetoric it was necessary for the Liberals to be confirmed in their ambassadorial status by Gladstone himself. But for Gladstone to grant such status by enacting the legislation his Liberal supporters demanded of him he had to be convinced that Ulster Liberalism was a representative political force. Hence there arose a_ strong


The origins of Ulster Unionism

disincentive against the Liberals’ following any long-term rural strategy which would temporarily weaken their retention of parliamentary seats. Having adopted the tactic of forming expedient electoral blocs, they could not escape it. As they failed to hold their seats, so their ambassadorial status was withdrawn, and so their limited appeal diminished further. In 1885, shortly before the general election, Gladstone’s Irish emissary, Bright, publicly snubbed the Liberals. Their credibility in the eyes of the rural populace dissolved. In 1886 they were decimated.






Belfast was served by only one presbytery at this time (Report, 1858, para. 5048). The use of the terms ‘patron’, ‘client’ and ‘broker’ follows that indicated by (among others) Eidhem (1963), Boissevain (1965) and Paine (1971). That is, ‘patron’ denotes the ostensible source of decisions and favours (e.g., in Belfast, political parties and the municipality) and ‘broker’ the go-between manipulating or otherwise processing decisions, favours, requests, instructions, etc,

between patrons and the collectivity of their clients. Brokers generally aim to improve their own political and economic status by restricting the full range of messages, instructions, etc, passing from patrons to clients and vice versa, and by disseminating their own values in the process. The object of both patron and broker is to secure the dependence of clients upon them in order to direct the nature and content of the reciprocal prestations which occur between them. E.g. the largely Liberal employees of Sir R. Davidson, owner of the Sirocco Engineering Works. There is no single comprehensive source for the social composition of Orangeism. The Order’s own archives are open to inspection but contain records only for meetings of the organisation’s executive body (the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland). In these archives, statistics for membership appear only in an aggregated form, and political discussion appears to revolve round only the most general issues. More useful are the records of individual lodges deposited in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Most of the material on Orangeism in this work is derived from these and press sources. Johnston (10), 7,267; McClure (L), 5,199; Lanyon (C), 4,249; Mulholland (C), 1,966 (BNL, 21 November 1868). Corry (C), 8,412; Johnston (C), 8,176; McClure (L), 4,096; Rea (Ind.), 506 (BNL 6 February 1874). 1878: Ewart (C) 8,241; Seeds (IO), 4,895. 1880: Ewart (C), 8,133; Corry (C), 7,633; Seeds (IO), 6 119; Brown (L), 5,122 (McCalmont, 1971).

Organised party politics in Belfast, 1865-86



This proposition is illustrated by the results of the Newry election of 1868 and the Derry City elections of 1868 and 1870. These elections preceded the introduction of the secret ballot, and the religion of voters was recorded by contemporaries in election poll books.


1868 (source: BNL, 4 December 1868) Liberal Conservative Episcopalian 9 Episcopalian Presbyterian 30 Presbyterian Methodist Independent

Quaker Catholic

1 1

4 341

Methodist Independent Quaker Catholic


Derry City, 1868 (source: Londonderry Liberal Episcopalian 13 Presbyterian 166 Nonconformist 26 Catholic 499


Derry City, 1870 (source: Londonderry Liberal Episcopalian 15 Presbyterian 143 Nonconformist 14 Catholic 508


174 171 16 al ~ ‘hah


election poll book, 1868) Conservative

Episcopalian 274 Presbyterian 260 Nonconformist 42 Catholic 23 599 election poll book, 1874) Conservative

Episcopalian Presbyterian Nonconformist Catholic

301 245 31 aS



The emergence of an integrated party machine

It has been argued that, prior to the home rule crisis, Ulster possessed a structured popular politics, a structured system of political class alliances and a structured set of political and

crypto-political ideologies. These comprised the raw material upon which the crisis acted and out of which a new quasinationalist political party eventually emerged. Ulster Unionism, when it appeared, represented a modification of existing class alliances and ideologies. This chapter seeks to trace the process, to look at the political and organisational problems it posed for the Unionist leadership, and to examine the way in which they coped with them. In tracing the emergence of the party the proper place to begin is Ulster’s political structure on the eve of home rule. This survey will proceed by region and party, starting with the countryside. I Rural Conservatism in Ulster—and in Ireland generally—was dominated up to 1886 by the large resident landowners (i.e. those holding 5,000 acres or more) and the smaller untitled gentry (those holding between 500 and 5,000 acres). Land ownership had remained fairly stable in the north since 1850, and the landed interest still enjoyed considerable strength. Major Ulster landed families were firmly identified with local political life. In Cavan, for example, Lord Annesley served as MP from 1857 to 1874. He owned 24,000 acres in the county and another 24,000 in Down. Together with the Maxwells, the Annesleys were branches of the Farnham family, which controlled the representation of the county from 1729 to 1841. In County Derry the Bateson family, owners of 8,000 acres, monopolised the representation from 1832 to 1857, as did the Hamiltons in Tyrone (1835-74). Perhaps the most impressive record of all, though, was that of the Archdale family in Fermanagh. From 1750 to 1885 it monopolised at least one of

The emergence of an integrated party machine


the county seats without a break? (McCalmont, 1971; Belmore, 1885; Bateman, 1879, O’Hart, 1884; Lenman, 1965). By 1885 landlords themselves had largely ceased to stand for Parliament, but they remained an important factor. Until that year, seats in five Ulster rural constituencies were still under the control of patrons, including two in the important constituencies of Antrim (patron before 1870, Lord Hertford; after, Sir R. Wallace) and Down (patron, the Marquis of Downshire and Londonderry:* Some idea of the organisation of rural Conservatism may be obtained from examining the way the Parliamentary patronage system worked. The patron was represented in Parliament by someone of his own choice—before 1874 usually someone of his own social background, but afterwards often by a member of the free professions. The patron provided an uncontested seat and met some of his client’s expenses in return for the protection of his interests at Westminster. Prior to the enfranchisement of the middle and smaller farmers and the rise of Liberalism and later Nationalism, the return of the client was a wholly unproblematical matter. Clients were selected, public meetings were held to confirm and acclaim their candidature, and the client went off to Westminster. This was the situation throughout rural Ulster until 1874, and even afterwards in Fermanagh, Armagh, Antrim and Down. In the face of the challenge of the subsequent period, patrons attempted to develop local machinery ensuring their clients’ return. In doing so they borrowed from the organisational models of some of the province’s urban boroughs. The form such models took was of appointed parliamentary clients establishing a relation of brokerage with a large and indirect political clientele. One group of patrons who tried to borrow this model was that of Fermanagh. In 1885 Fermanagh was divided into two constituencies, and its franchise was extended. To their astonishment, the county’s patrons discovered that Protestants were a minority in both divisions. One patron, Archdale, contacted his family solicitor, J. Whiteside Dane, and instructed him to begin work on the register in north Fermanagh, where the Catholic majority was only fifty-three. Dane began by appealing to the local gentry to supervise the organisation of each of the county’s polling districts. He then


The origins of Ulster Unionism

began to mobilise the existing stock of local-level brokers, apparently writing to every Protestant postmaster and -mistress in the constituency for information on the recent movements of local residents. Postal officials were promised generous expenses for their services, and became the principal witnesses in the Revision courts. In response to the opportunity of increasing their local power? by accretion of the status of local representative of the county’s patron this group appears to have involved itself in the cause with some enthusiasm. Dane was to have considerably greater difficulty in mobilising other sections of the Protestant population, however. Landowners (through whom he attempted to organise dependent tenants) proved especially unresponsive. He set up a Constitutional Club in order to give them some semblance of participation in local politics, but it attracted a membership of only forty of the gentry and their wives. Even among this group enthusiasm was low, for in order to finance

his client (J. C. Bloomfield)



personally to provide him with £400. Local postal officials seem to have had some success in getting out the vote of poorer tenants, who were frequently their debtors, but had little influence over the more substantial ones. Since these held the balance between safe Protestant and Catholic voters, they were a decisive group. Yet none would share a platform with Bloomfield, who had to rely upon disguised Episcopal clergy instead. In some difficulty, Dane turned to the local Orange Order with the objects of increasing popular electoral excitement and recruiting polling and personating agents. But despite appeals to attend Bloomfield’s meetings in force and ‘lead applause from

different parts of the house’ (Falls—Hanna papers) the Orangemen had little effect. Neither Bloomfield nor his agent ascribed particular importance to their contribution to the campaign, and it seems they supplied only a small portion of his election workers. The rest appear to have largely comprised less than altruistic actual and prospective minor government officials. In the end Bloomfield was decisively defeated. Where it survived, then, the rule of landlords was precarious. In areas where religious denominations were mixed it did not even have the full support of landowners as a group, presumably because many were anxious to retain the goodwill of Catholic tenants for fear of suffering a no-rent campagin. Nor does the

The emergence of an integrated party machine


Orange Order appear to have been well suited to compensate for this. Despite the enormous powers of mobilisation often ascribed to it, the rural Order seems to have been socially marginal in composition and traditionalistic and apolitical in orientation. Even in revival areas the Order appears to have faded into introversion after the decline of Johnstonism and the migration of the weavers in the 1860s. The point is illustrated in the available records of rural lodges. Of the 66 per cent of non-tradesmen members of the Enniskillen RBP chapter already mentioned, 18 per cent were soldiers (mostly NCOs) from Enniskillen barracks, 16 per cent farmers, 11 per cent labourers, 6 per cent clerks, 6 per cent pensioners and the remainder postmasters and merchants. _ Only a handful of members occupied positions of real or potential brokerage between the rural community and the wider society, while a high proportion were outside the mainstream of rural and market-town social relations completely. As far as can be established from their minutes, rural lodges spent almost all their time after 1868 awarding members progressively higher ranks of distinction, hearing addresses on the differences between ranks, and demoting non-attenders (minute books of Enniskillen RBP, Aughnacloy RBP, Annahoe LOL and Waringstown LOL). After the Johnston interlude rural Orangeism appears to have been preoccupied with the provision of ritual and compensatory statuses for downwardly mobile sections of society, to have been exceedingly badly organised® and to have been less than significant as a vehicle of political organisation.® At the national level, too, the Order was far from well organised, having almost no structure apart from _half-yearly grand lodge meetings. At the executive level downwardly mobile sections

of the




(the minor

gentry and Episcopal clergy.’ For each of these sectors, as among the urban poor of Sandy Row, Orangeism was principally a localistic ideology in which popery was attacked not as a species of medievalism but as an instance of cosmopolitan internationality. (See, for example, William Johnston’s own Orange novelette of 1857.) Rural Conservatism after the 1860s was vigorous only in areas where industrial villages had developed, and where Tory entrepreneurs established comprehensive control over industrial populations. Amongst such figures were Robert McBride of


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Dromore and:John S. Brown of Edenderry (Industries of Ireland, 1891).8


of the


of such



provided by the transformation wrought in the politics of ultra-Orange Armagh by the Liberal J. Richardson after he built his mill at Bessbrook. By establishing control and social credit over a large population Richardson was able to ensure that the seat became a Liberal one. (For details of the organisation of

social control in Bessbrook see Smith, 1914.) The position of mill owners in smaller villages was not essentially different, except that here the entrepreneur would tend to consolidate his political position by a greater use of personal patronage, less use of brokerage, and a more or less discreet extraction of ‘consent’ through fraternisation of various kinds. Harry Clark, a mill proprietor who effectively owned the village of Upperlands, County Derry, was ‘widely lked and respected, for he had the happy knack of treating every man the same, from the youngest worker to the Lord Lieutenant. . .’ (Clark, 1967, p. 31). When the B Specials were eventually created in the area they were led by Clark, staffed by his workers, and spent most of their time guarding his mill. A condition of the popular political and ideological status of such a type of leadership was the currency of the positive evaluation of ‘enthusiasm’, a legacy of the revival which succeeded in assisting the preparation of rural recruits to the industrial villages for political and economic servitude. It was the development of industrial settlements in rural Ulster that provided the basis for the rise of an alternative local Tory leadership and a characteristically urban political structure in the countryside. Not until the process was complete could the Orange Order be rejuvenated as an effective agency of rural political mobilisation. Rural Liberalism has already been discussed, but with little reference to its principal supporters, the substantial tenant farmers. Until 1865 rural Liberalism, like rural Conservatism, was largely a landlord phenomenon.® As tenant-right agitation grew in seriousness in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and as the Ulster Liberal Association began to support it, landlord backing dropped off sharply. The most spectacular Liberal successes came, in fact, not in areas where the party relied upon substantial Catholic support but rather in those where it made inroads into

The emergence of an integrated party machine


the independent tenantry. Having re-emerged to significance from the mid-’70s to the mid-’80s, the class position and consciousness of this group strengthened, especially in north Antrim and Down. The same kinds of pressure on profits as affected southern farmers and stimulated their involvement in the Land League came to affect this group too. Moreover the struggle to force down rents described by Mcllroy (1879) was also a struggle to maintain a new-found status, institutionally enshrined in such trimmings as farmers’ subscription balls and honeymoon trips (Morrisson, 1920, p. 47). If the Liberalism of the Belfast entrepreneurs was venal, that of the tenant farmers was even more so. Unwilling to engage in any politics which did not appear to promise a direct advance of their immediate interests, they had no positive or negative interest in the great ideological issues of Ulster society. Liberalism simply expressed this group’s opposition to landed society and its political representatives. It certainly did not imply support for even the mildest of broader social reforms: Tt is well known that farmers were hostile to the labourers getting the franchise; again and again I heard them say, ‘Gladstone was a grand man, he set the farmers free, but he made one huge mistake

giving labour a vote . . .’ It was another offence to grant Old Age Pensions, and the act of crowning injustice when the National Insurance Acts became law . . . [Morrisson (1920), p. 50]

By the time of the home rule crisis this class was clearly becoming dominant in the countryside, displacing the landlords first from economic and then from political dominance. In the

process it trampled not merely on landlords but on agricultural labour—whose position was becoming daily more precarious— too. Again, it incurred the wrath of smaller farmers, forced off the land by larger ones being ‘made free’. In consequence it earned the lasting bitterness of these groups, and its party succumbed to their joint votes in 1885 amid scenes of tremendous rancour and bitterness. It could later be written by an impartial observer, the average labourer looks on the farmer as his enemy, a man who claimed fair rent and fixity of tenure for his farm and in the end land purchase for himself, and refused to share any benefits or allow equal privileges to his employee, paying him the minimum wage, giving


The origins of Ulster Unionism

him the poorest. food and charging the full market price and more for anything he sells the labourer at home, or for any horsework that he does for him . . . [Morrisson (1920), p. 51]

Already the new and major rural conflict which was to characterise the entire thirty-five-year period between the first home rule Bill and the foundation of the Northern Ireland State can be perceived. Free professionals, the only other important component of Protestant rural Liberalism, tended to support the party wherever tenant farmers were an important social class. In areas where they were weak (e.g. the border counties) they were attracted to the Tories. In the countryside, as in the towns, the professions generally chose their politics according to the opportunities for picking up the spoils of direct and indirect patronage through cultivation of the goodwill of potential patrons. Rural Nationalism in Ulster bore many of the hallmarks of its urban counterpart: the heavy involvement of a ‘replicate’ group of professionals and shopkeepers, the importance of the liquor interest, and the extensive participation of the clergy. In addition it was characterised by the dominance of those traditional figures of popular Irish obloquy, the ‘gombeenmen’. The occupational category denoted by this term changed frequently during the nineteenth century, but in this period ‘gombeens’ were usually rural storekeepers who had managed to ensnare small farmers in indissoluble bonds of debt through a credit system survives to this day.1° Donegal Nationalism, for example, was dominated by two gombeens, Keown and Sweezy. Sweezy appears to have controlled the Dungloe area through his ownership of a large general store and his acquisition of a postmastership in the early 1880s, while Keown managed to amass a fortune by progressing from small trading to the operation of the granaries and warehouses Lord George Hill had built at

Bunbeg harbour (Lenman, 1965, pp. 431-3). The Catholic areas of Ulster where Nationalism was particularly strong tended to be those where landlords still retained political power, where there was little differentiation of the peasantry and little industrialisation. In these areas (again, largely the border counties) Nationalism benefited from Conservative disorganisation and won majorities wherever Catholics outnumbered Protestants. In other areas it made little

The emergence of an integrated party machine


impression. While the old lines of the landlord—tenant (Tory— Liberal) conflict had provided opportunities for the intersection of Liberal and Nationalist rhetorics, the emergent tenant— labourer (Liberal-Tory) conflict provided no such chance. In areas where the latter was significant the growth of Nationalism was more or less dependent on the ethnogenesis of the Catholic population of the larger country towns (e.g. Lurgan, cf. Kirk, 1963). In metropolitan Ulster an outline of the political structure has already been spelt out. While only Conservatism existed as a political force, it was itself divided into the Conservatism of the older proletariat (particularistic Orangeism), that of the newer (labour-aristocratic Orangeism) and that of the bourgeoisie. Over time the relationship between the last two groups became

both more significant and more based on appeal to the necessity of Belfast business representation at the heart of the imperialist State. While this tendency reflected the process of ethnogenesis amongst Protestants, the development of an aggressive Nationalism reflected it amongst Catholics. The Liberals, having failed to establish any conventional form of mobilisation with any section of the proletariat, was effectively eliminated from urban politics in 1874. The political structure of Ulster was in effect composed of three regional sub-structures: the western rural one, the eastern rural one, and Belfast. In the west the principal contradiction was between a fading aristocratic Conservatism and arising popular Nationalism. In the eastern rural areas it was between a similarly fading Conservatism and a vigorous class of Liberal tenant farmers. Here, in addition, secondary contradictions existed between tenant farmers and labourers, and between tenant farmers and Tory industrial entrepreneurs and their employees. In Belfast the principal contradiction was between Catholic Nationalism and all other forces, while secondary contradictions existed between the Conservative and Liberal middle classes, and between the classes within the Tory ranks. In rural Ulster the structure of political antagonisms was doomed to produce deadlock. Hostility to tenant farmers tended to push together landlords, entrepreneurs and labour; but, equally, rural Conservatism was forced to accommodate the farmers if it was to survive the advance of Catholic Nationalism.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

In urban Ulster, on the other hand, the tendency towards ethnogenesis acted to make secondary contradictions more subordinate as time passed. II

In May 1885 Gladstone’s Liberals depended upon the votes of Parnell’s party for their parliamentary majority. When Gladstone attempted to reintroduce the Coercion Act that month, Parnell was able to bring them down. The Liberals were succeeded without an election by a Conservative minority administration, who initially attempted to appease the Nationalists by allowing coercion to lapse. Later in the autumn they introduced legislation to establish a peasant proprietorship (the Ashbourne Act) and began toying with the idea of home rule. At the ensuing November election Parnell committed his supporters to back Conservatism wherever there was a straight Liberal—Conservative contest. The election left the state of the parties unchanged, except that it made the possession of the balance between Liberals and Conservatives by Parnell even more pronounced. The Conservatives maintained their minority government on Parnell’s goodwill. By mid-December, however, it became clear that they would not introduce home rule legislation. Just at this juncture the Liberals began to give the first intimations that they would. By January 1886 the Conservatives were themselves proposing coercion. The Parnellites voted against them at the first opportunity, and defeated Salisbury, who resigned. In February 1886, again without an election, Gladstone was back with a firm commitment to home rule. In April he introduced the first home rule Bill. It proposed the constitution of an Irish legislature with two houses—a Commons and a Senate of Irish peers, with mutual powers of veto. Irish representation at Westminster was to cease. There was to be an executive, but its parliament was to be forbidden to pass laws concerning the establishment of customs, tariffs and religion. Tt was forbidden to raise an army, conduct wars or its own foreign relations, or to legislate on titles, currency, the postal service and treason. In June 1886 the Bill was lost on its second reading by the defection of large numbers of Gladstone’s party. At the ensuing election in July the Unionists won a parliamentary majority of

The emergence of an integrated party machine

118. The official version


of the first response to these events is

chronicled by Ronald McNeill. As 1886 progressed all the previously diverse social and political elements in Ulster were unified into a single compact mass, tempered to the maximum power of resistance. There was room for no other thought in the minds of men who felt as if they were living in a beleaguered citadel... The loyalist tradition acquired fresh meaning and strength. . . Propaganda amongst the loyalists in Ulster was . . . unnecessary, for nobody required conversion except those known to be inconvertible. The chief work done was to send speakers to British constituencies . . . The Loyal Orange Institution . . . had fallen into not unmerited disrepute prior to 1886. Few men of education or standing belonged to it and the lodge meetings and anniversary celebrations had become little more than occasions for conviviality. But its system of local lodges, affiliated to a Grand Lodge in each county, supplied the ready-made framework for an effective organization. Immediately after the introduction of Gladstone’s first Bill in 1886, it received an

immense accession of strength. Large numbers of country gentlemen, clergymen . . . business and professional men, farmers and the better class of artisans joined the local lodges, the management of which passed into capable hands. The character of the society was thereby completely and rapidly transformed, and instead of being a somewhat disreputable and dissolute survival, it became a highly respectable as well as an exceedingly powerful political organization . . . [1922, pp. 13, 30, 31]

While this version has largely passed more or less undigested into academic historiography, the recorded evidence shows that popular responses to the threat of home rule were neither spontaneously unanimous, nor—as Nationalist historians have maintained—manipulated. Unionists, or some of them, in fact needed considerable subjection to propaganda. But the movement’s main problems were the divisions which reached right to the very heart of its supporters. A coherent political organisation eventually emerged, but only after a protracted political struggle had seen ‘the evolution of a recognised local leadership. Because it is often suggested that it was landed society which provided the core of Unionist opposition, north and south, it seems appropriate to describe first its reception of the news. For some time prior to 1886 a substantial proportion of landed society had resigned itself both to peasant proprietorship and to home rule. While few went over to the Nationalists, many


The origins of Ulster Unionism

began to disengage themselves from Toryism, as the material from Fermanagh indicates. But there remained a core of powerful landowners dedicated to retaining intact their property, status and principles. In May 1885 a group of great midland landowners (Lords Castletown, de Vesci and Meath) founded a secret organisation, the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union, pledged to defend the rights of property. In the north, three months later, representatives of the Londonderry, O’Neill and Hamilton families founded the Loyal Irish Union, pledged to the destruction of ‘objects and ideas, injurious to the imperial interests, subversive ef our constitutional policy and menacing the rights of property and social order . . .. (WW

10 August

1885). In constituting these exclusive and conspiratorial bodies a section of the landed class appears to have been reacting with panic. Many others were acting with resignation, however: certainly, few were attracted to the ILPU or LIU. To some extent this may have been due to the circulation of rumours, probably initiated by militant landlords themselves, that landed elements identified with opposition to Nationalism would have their estates confiscated and divided immediately upon home rule. It was indicative of militant landed stereotypes of Nationalism that redistribution was rumoured as to be organised through peasant raffles which even at that very moment were supposedly being held in the fastnesses of Nationalist territory. As the months passed, militant landlords became more isolated. Some, like Lord Rossmore, fell by the wayside, eventually denying that they were ever seriously involved in politics (Rossmore, 1912). Perhaps the removal of their moderating influence made others, like Edward Saunderson and Somerset Maxwell, less reluctant to disguise their militancy, for the hard core of both organisations adopted a progressively more provocative tone. Others tried to persuade their friends to drop their exclusiveness and attempt to recruit other potential allies among the Protestant population to their cause (Rentoul, 1921). The twin responses of panic and resignation were illustrated in the general phenomenon of landlord estate disposal and reduction which commenced at this time. Ranfurly (a leading exponent of bravado), Charlemont, Gosford and Lurgan all severely reduced their establishments in the ’80s, Ranfurly disposing of his property completely by 1911. The great

The emergence of an integrated party machine


Conservative Hill family did so earlier, selling off the remains of its vast Donegal and Down holdings in 1892. As these tendencies became apparent the LIU was compelled to moderate its programme. In January 1886 both it and the ILPU announced support for policies of the ‘killing by kindness’

variety (BNL, 23 December 1885). A month later they fused. The event was not the signal for increased involvement amongst their class, however. 1886 in fact saw the end of large-scale landed participation in Irish politics, although their head-start in organisation gave landlords something of an advantage in the competition to lead Unionist resistance. For the rest, the countryside remained quiet. Incidents between Catholic and Protestant rural labourers were reported in the press, but without any suggestion of large-scale disorder amongst these groups. In Belfast, on the other hand, responses were more farreaching. For the Liberals in particular the news came as a shock and induced confusion and paralysis. Despite presages of the obvious, local Liberals refused to believe that Gladstone would introduce home rule until he wrote to them saying it was his intention. The editor of the Liberal Whig, who received the letter, took it to Sir Edward Cowan, formerly Liberal major of Belfast I somewhat startled my host with my abrupt declaration: ‘Edward, politics are a vile trade.’ ‘What is the matter?’ ‘Gladstone has gone over to the Home Rulers.’ ‘Impossible! Absurd! I have received a letter from my friend Campbell-Bannerman assuring me there is no truth in these rumours.’ ‘But I wrote to Mr Gladstone himself and here is his reply.’ I put Mr Gladstone’s letter in Sir Edward’s hand. He read it slowly and then hesitated to speak. ‘What do you think of it?’ I asked. ‘T must candidly say that I do not like it.’ ‘Nor I. It means to us utter ruin...’

[McKnight (1896), u, pp. 114-15]

‘Us’ referred both to the Liberal party and to the Protestant bourgeoisie. For the party it meant a split with the faction which believed that its future lay in an alliance with Nationalism (most of the party in west Ulster). Conflict between this group and the party’s Unionist Belfast-based majority had been growing


The origins of Ulster Unionism

more intense for some time, reaching a head in April 1885 when representatives of both (Dickson for the pro-Nationalists, Montgomery for the pro-Unionists) stood as Liberal candidates in Tyrone South.11 As the Liberals tried to delay the impending split by claiming that Gladstone’s intentions were still unclear (NW, 1 January 1886), the party slowly collapsed. The Ulster Liberal Society eventually met on 19 March 1886, when it split for good (BNL, 20 March 1886). As








Gladstone’s decision were probably felt more violently and palpably by this group than any other. They were felt through an immediate and perceptible loss of confidence in their fortunes on the part of British capitalists. The stocks of Irish public companies provided what appeared to be an accurate barometer of their economic fate under home rule. The Times published the figures in table 8 during the next home rule crisis of 1892. Probably because of this directness of communication, and because of the group’s high degree of organisation, a cohesive collective response emerged rapidly. From December onward the chamber of commerce and manufacturers’ associations held frequent meetings, ‘respectable’ public protests were organised, and when the Bill became public (on 8 April) large numbers of ‘the members of the clubs’ waited for news of its provisions as they were telegraphed to the Whig office in Belfast—‘it was certainly one of the most exciting nights that has ever been experienced here’ (VW, 9 April 1886). Leaving Ireland was not a credible alternative for the Protestant bourgeoisie, as it was for landed society. Nor was resignation to home rule. Moreover, unlike other sections of Protestant society, this class retained a working political organisation. It was within this context that early in 1886 it seized the initiative in opposing home rule, secured recognition of that leadership in Britain, and began to take command over the organisation of rural opposition. Success depended not merely on the disarray of its rivals in the field but on a substantial degree of compliance from its old uneasy allies, the Protestant working class. Contemporary conditions militated against further dangerous assertions of independence from that source. The years up to 1886 were in fact ones in which the organs of working-class independence were under attack.

The emergence of an integrated party machine


Table 8 Fluctuations in the price of Bank of Ireland stock and of the ordinary

stocks of the three principal Irish railways, 1882-91. 1882


Bank of Ireland Extent of fluctuations






























Great Southern & Western Railway



Extentof fluctuations














Great Northern Railway



Extent of fluctuations











944 104

Midland Great Western




Extent of fluctuations



















Bank of Ireland





Extent of fluctuations






e510" 1 280)





Great Southern & Western Railway



Extent of fluctuations








L "5044"


8527a 554












Great Northern Railway


Extent of fluctuations



Midland Great Western Railway Extent of fluctuations





















be 1094


. 94

Source: The Times, 28 May 1892.



H Highest point.


LL Lowest point.



The origins of Ulster Unionism

From the end of 1885 Belfast began to experience heavy unemployment. In January 1886 workers in the shipyards and mills were forced to accept wage cuts (BNL, 2 January 1886); strikes opposing them were rapidly defeated (zbid., 4 January 1886). By February unemployment was so severe that a Town Meeting appointed a committee to seek ways of relieving it. On 12 February the corporation announced that it would hire 600

labourers to improve the situation (zbrd., 12 February 1886); by this time 6,000 persons were applying for relief (zbid.,

10 February 1886). By 15 March the figure had reached 16,000. The day before the home rule Bill received its first reading the entire staff at the York Street terminus of the Northern Counties railway were sacked for refusing a wage cut (zbid., 8 April 1886).

At the few anti-home rule meetings held in the city in these grim days Conservative leaders forcibly stressed the benefits of Protestant control over the labour market in such periods. In January, at the Ulster Hall, Hugh Hanna made a characteristic speech in which he applied to the industrial scene the ‘lottery’ scare which was frightening landlords: The same thing is going on in Belfast . . . it is this: there is a ragged little urchin selling newspapers, and crying every morning the Morning News. That ragged urchin under the new code is to be Marquis of Donegal. There is a Nationalist rivetter on Queen’s Island, and he is to be successor to W. J. Pirrie, and Mr Pirrie, for some service he has shown to the Nationalists, is to be relegated to the superintendence of a little smithy in Connemara; and Paddy O’Rafferty, a ragman, resident in the slums of Smithfield, is to succeed Sir Edward Harland as the next mayor of Belfast . . .12 [BNL,

19 January 1886] In a situation of rising unemployment and economic uncertainty Hanna and the Conservative entrepreneurs were once more renewing the image of the roles of patron and client, protector and protected. The way in which these ‘revelations’ were timed aroused the sensitivities of working class Protestants to the faintest suggestion of the usurpation by Catholics of their traditional prerogatives. In Sandy Row this appears to have encouraged renewed expresstons of working-class dependence;?% in Shankill, on the other hand, it renewed proletarian determination to be’ watchful for the interest of the Protestant working class as a whole. The riots of 1886 were triggered off by the news that a Protestant

The emergence of an integrated party machine


had been expelled from the harbour site by Catholic navvies threatening that Protestants would not be employed after home rule (Report, 1887, paras. 10179-242). Far from resembling the univocal emergence of a common ‘popular will’, reactions to home rule in fact had the unevenness of the pre-existing political structure of the population. All in all, this favoured the emergence of Conservative Belfast entrepreneurs as a potential provincial leadership, and assured its recognition by the working class at least. The emergence was not accompanied by a take-over of Orangeism. The urban Order had anyway been largely under Tory control since before 1874, while in the rural areas the Order was largely useless as a political weapon.

Ill The conflict for leadership of Unionism was therefore between landed society (landlords, minor gentry, Episcopal clergy) and urban entrepreneurs. The former were united on all-Ireland opposition to home rule but divided on compromise with Nationalism should home rule turn out to be ‘inevitable’. The latter stood for non-negotiable opposition to home rule in Ulster, and were prepared to recognise that the south of Ireland must inevitably have some form of autonomy. This basic conflict can be discerned in the interplay of the various front organisations promoted by different groups in the period 1885-93. The conflict, and the manner of its resolution, were of great importance, since they effectively decided the fate of Unionism down to 1921. Although the leadership of the Unionist party, when it finally emerged in 1905, were largely landed, the party’s programme was no longer so. Although attempts were made to broaden the base of the [LPU in January 1886, it still remained a distinctly landlord organisation. (See table 9.) The ILPU never gained the support of Belfast entrepreneurs, although some co-operation took place with them during the Union’s formation. This class also maintained friendly relations with the northern LIU and publicised its activities. But the insistence of Belfast Conservatives on having an organisation separate from both became clear by the end of January 1886. The main problem was its relations with Orangeism. At the local level Orange support was clearly


The origins of Ulster Unionism

crucial, while at the national level opposition to the position of the minor landed groups was imperative. Early in 1885 a new generation of energetic minor gentry had taken over the institution’s leadership and had attempted to seize the initiative in organising militant opposition to home rule. This soon brought them into conflict with the Belfast Conservatives. With the co-operation of dissidertt elements in the local county grand lodge, the national leadership sponsored candidates for Conservative nomination in Belfast prior to the Conservative Association, and in one ensuing conflict dislodged the sitting member for East Belfast, replacing him with an Orangeman. The Conservatives did not seek revenge for this attack on them, choosing instead to reply to it by independently sponsoring anti-home rule agitation and persuading the local County Grand Lodge to co-operate. Their first joint public projects were two meetings in the Ulster Hall, one addressed by Randolph Churchill. Non-Orange ‘Tories retained control of the organising committee (BNL, 9 January 1886) and later sponsored a series of thirty-one meetings throughout Ulster. These were generally addressed by one or two Conservatives and several Orangemen, and were invariably held under Orange auspices. Table 9 Social composition of identifiable Executive Council members, Loyal and Patriotic Union, March 1886—April 1887 (%) Landowners


Industrial capitalists


Professions Bankers Public servants Other


9 5 3 2 100 (N = 492)

aAccording to the Executive Council minutes for this period (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland D989/1/4 and B) some fifty-three persons are recorded as attending different meetings. Of these, the occupations or traditional family businesses of forty-nine were traced. Source: ILPU minutes, Dictionary of National Biography, Who’s Who, Young and Pike (1909), Bateman (1878), O’Hart (1884).

On 16 February, the Newsletter reported that the organising committee

had decided to make

all Protestant clergy in Ulster

The emergence of an integrated party machine


honorary members. Presumably this move was aimed at establishing effective central control over local organisation, as a similar move had done for the Irish National League. The organising committee’s next step was to appoint four secretaries to arrange English speaking tours in a bid to achieve British recognition of their distinct opposition. So far representation of the cause in Britain had been organised jointly by the ILPU-—LIU and the Orange Order. At least three Ulster MPs were on the Irish Grand Lodge, and these constituted the core of

the parliamentary group. On 7 March 1886 (twelve days before

the Loyalist Committee in Belfast decided on an English campaign) the latter had affiliated to the ILPU (Savage, 1961). At this time the ILPU had also taken to sponsoring groups of its own. in the north. Loyal Registration Associations (i.e. northern LIU branches) were subvented to the tune of £500 during May 1886 (ILPU minutes). Although individual Belfast Conservatives had spoken in England before under ILPU aegis, the northern ‘Loyalist Committee’ had not prior to March sponsored its own speakers. Under great but unpublicised difficulties!4 the tour managed to

differentiate its cause in the British public eyes (largely through violent appeals to Victorian popular Protestantism). After the tour the committee announced its intention to create a new

organisation (BIVL, 17 April 1886). This proposal appears to have led to the supporters of Johnston and de Cobain attempting a pre-emptive take-over of the association, but after ‘heated discussion’ and ‘great conflict’ the Orangemen seem to have

been defeated (NW, 17 April 1886). On 15 May the formation was announced of the Ulster Loyal anti-Repeal Union under the chairmanship of James Henderson, editor of the Newsletter. Its programme combined sectarian

popular appeal with calls for ‘moderation’ with respect to the home rule question:

There has been too much rash speechifying and wild talk from platforms of armed resistance . . . We must abandon bluster and avoid being laughed at again as we were . . . for the ludicrous collapse of tall talk when the Irish Church Bill was going through parliament. We want a policy, we want leaders. We want the calm deliberation which is always associated with true courage, and to satisfy these wants, a convention of Ulster Loyalists might be summoned to meet in

Belfast. [BNL, 21 May 1886]


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Local response to this call was weak. Invitations to a meeting preparing a convention uniting Conservative and Liberal parties were ignored by the Liberals and met with little interest among others (BNL, 22, 29 May, 5 June 1886). On 12 June the Newsletter announced that the convention idea had been dropped. A final turn was given to the events of the year by a further attempt national bidding Somerset

(later in June) on the part of the Orange Order’s leadership to defeat the Belfast Conservatives. At the of Edward Saunderson (titular head of the Order), Maxwell announced his candidacy for Belfast North. After a series of unpleasant incidents, however, he was forced to step down in favour of Ewart (BNL, 29 June 1886; NY, 29 June 1886). If the home rule Bill had been passed at its second reading on 8 June it is unlikely that popular Irish resistance would have been unified or serious. It is evident that Liberal parliamentary defections, not coherent local opposition, defeated it. The question of the Unionist leadership was still far from settled. In the long term the success of the industrialists was probable, but the landed interest and the Orange Order were still prestigious bodies whose opposition or indifference was a serious matter. In order to achieve command in the north, and thus establish the conditions for the development of a serious opposition based on the ‘Ulster case’ alone, the Belfast Tories had both to restore Orange subordination and recruit the remnants of the Ulster Liberals. These goals required the creation of a new organisation. The late spring and early summer of 1886 saw its foundation, indicating that the urban capitalists were at least holding their own ground. It was not until 1892 that the process was completed, with the active creation of a new means of political representation: the Unionist Convention. The idea of the convention was originally sponsored in 1886; in 1892, as a Liberal election victory and the threat of a further home rule Bill loomed large, it was revived by Joseph Chamberlain (McKnight, 1896, 11, p. 288). It was taken up again by the ULaRU in March, and in April an organising committee was founded, upon which Conservatives and Liberals were equally represented. ‘Such a committee,’ observed the Whig, ‘had not met since the days of the Volunteers’ (VW, 9 April 1892). The

understanding upon which it met was the common recognition of a distinct northern ‘cause’.

The emergence of an integrated party machine


The first action of the convention committee was to issue an appeal for unity to Ulster Conservatives and Liberals. To cover itself from accusations of particularism from the south, it encouraged southern Unionists to organise a parallel convention. Given the balance of forces, rural Tories in both north and south

had little alternative but to comply (VW, 21 May 1892). From

the start it became clear that the convention’s organisation was on urban terms, and was designed to give institutional expression to Belfast control over the movement. Protocols for representation at the convention ensured healthy urban majorities, as too did the committee’s refusal to subvent the travelling expenses of

rural delegates (VW, 11 May 1892). The committee also set itself the task of creating local associations throughout Ulster with the purpose of sponsoring delegates. It suggested to existing party organisations in local constituencies that it would be proper for their officers to be chosen from local professional people, in order to.avoid the new organisation’s identification with either ‘neanderthal’ landlords or ‘grasping’ farmers.1° While the selection of such persons gave local committees a neutral air, in the long run it served the broader purpose of creating a new, homogeneous stratum in the countryside of persons actively representing urban interests. The formation of this group was in some respects to mark a sharp break in the articulation of local-level political and economic interests. Local professional people were able to acquire the status of a specialist group of intermediaries between the provincial political leadership and the localities. As will be seen, this policy was not implemented uniformly, and in many areas old local patrons and their brokers retained their power. For the most part it threatened this group considerably, though. In particularly it rendered irrelevent the

(national) Orange Order, which represented their organised rural expression.16 To correspond to its reorganisation of provincial politics the convention committee was anxious to generate a new political and ideological rhetoric hegemonising the disparate sections of the population it was attempting to unify in subordination to its political goals. The convention was deliberately planned to embody the main constituents of this rhetoric, which would purposefully embrace and supersede existing sectional ideologies. Its title would be that which the political movement promoting


The origins of Ulster Unionism

it was

now ‘adopting—Ulster


of the qualities

Unionism. purportedly

Its purpose distinguishing




from the rest of Ireland. The planned convention was held in Belfast on 17 June 1892 in a wooden pavilion specially erected for the purpose in the Botanic Gardens. It was to be attended by over 12,000 delegates. According to McKnight a further 120,000 were mobilised to wait outside, where they were addressed from additional platforms. It was intended that the efficient majesty of Unionist organisation should be communicated in the event’s physical setting, social organisation and style of leadership. Physical setting. The construction of the pavilion, housing delegates and a large choir, was begun on 21 May and completed the day before the convention took place. The building’s exterior was decorated with flags, shields and emblems, while inside tapestries depicting famous moments in Protestant history were hung from walls and ceilings. The names of Unionist leaders were painted round the rim of the balcony. The pavilion symbolised operational monumentalism—the capacity of the party to create a monument to the qualities of Ulster and its Protestant inhabitants. Commemorated in this monument were the achievements and potentialities of the imperial experience in general, and its modernising mission in particular. The pavilion also embodied the potential power-to-be-reckoned-with of the Ulster people: immensity, substantiality, safety, attention to the smallest detail, ‘breathtakingly swift execution...’ (VW, 16 June 1892), etc. It commemorated the qualities of rational imperative co-ordination in their most advanced form, and the components of the ‘Ulster tradition’ from which it was purportedly realised (industry, endeavour, boldness, intelligence). It was a monument, moreover to the coexistence in Ulster (without loss to each other) of ‘tradition’ and ‘progress’, the favourite twin theme of Unionist demagogues. A monument, finally, which made a silent comment on the lack of such qualities in the remainder of the Irish population. Social organisation. The convention’s motifs were scale, discipline and order. Its social organisation was the product of several weeks of the ‘utmost activity’. This assembly (of the ‘greatest magnitude’) embodied scale, discipline and order as indices of formidableness and breadth of political representation. Individually, too, each delegate contributed to the communication

The Ulster convention, 17 June 1892. Overleaf The pavilion


The emergence of an integrated party machine


of these motifs. The pride in wearing convention badges and medals and the glory of the delegates’ Sunday clothes were mere additions to the military precision and rigour with which events inside the pavilion were organised. Solemnity and ‘quiet determination’ marked the latter. To dampen any suggestion of frivolity women were excluded altogether from the proceedings, while to increase the super-terrestial character of the whole event the floor of the pavilion was sanded in order to make the movement of delegates absolutely silent. The order of entry into the building was a pageant of the range of Protestant Ulster’s respectable social classes and religious denominations. Each was distinguished by an emblem, a leader ~ and a speech. Their demarcation was stressed simply as a symbolic counterpoint to their unity. Over and above all this the social organisation of the convention embodied through its intricate complexity and masterly planning a purported expression of something beyond the honest Ulsterman’s earthly comprehension: the destiny of the Ulster people. From a hundred ‘walks of life’, from a thousand villages and towns, by their different paths, to their common fate. Each Ulsterman was a concentrated essence of the qualities of the province and bore them with inexorable compulsion. The social organisation of the convention symbolised not merely the formal unity and unanimity of the different sections of the Protestant population but a necessity binding and compelling that unanimity. Style of leadership. The convention’s leadership was neither elected nor even did it ‘emerge’ during the proceedings. It appeared as an instrument of vigilance, decision and direction on behalf of the masses from the convention’s first moment: a leadership by acclaim, maintaining a plebiscitary relation with its supporters. Its style—unveiled at the convention and to be elaborated in the years to come!’—was to provide a combination of the situational drama and ‘civilisation’ of the mass Ulster psyche. It communicated to its supporters a sense of participation in world-shaping events by injecting through symbolism and ritual an electric significance into what in reality was a series of political mobilisations of by no means exceptional size (even by Irish standards). Further, the leadership presented the convention’s purpose as a means of raising to a civilised expression what it rhetoricised as the elemental fears and drives of the Ulsterman; the proceedings served, it was said, to suppress the masses’


The origins of Ulster Unionism

primordial proclivities to ethnic vengeance and rapine and to direct them along constructive lines. Leadership was accomplished, in the last instance, through the spectacle of the party’s pretensions to statification. In the process of organising the convention the party became the bearer of some of the most visible attributes and functions of the State: omnipresence, optimal mobilisation of technical resources, and so on. Through this function it presented its own existence as the answer to the Hobbesian problem of order that it always strove to pose (both in terms of the relation between itself and its followers, and in terms of the relation between loyalty and chaos, the ‘two Irish nations’). The rhetoric of Unionism was thus organised around the key symbols and ideas of modernity—tradition and diversity—unity. This binary opposition combined to produce the image of an irresistible formidability and a style of leadership stressing tribunacy. In the years which followed, Unionism became elaborated as an ideology around this binary opposition. The star of ‘Unionism’, which rose with the convention, proved to be the signal for the birth of a new being, the ‘Ulsterman’. His birth was greeted with the provision for him, by an array of publicists, of a unique ‘character’, ‘heritage’ and destiny (Woodburn, 1914; Logan,

1923; Hamilton, 1917; Pim, 1919, and others). In so far as their emergence created a new set of political structures, and in so far as they laid claim to an identity which was territorially based, the Unionists were creating a form of nationalism. Like all other nationalisms, however, the ideology justifying their claim to self-determination was necessarily based on a set of principles going beyond those of self-determination alone. In the case of Ulster Protestants the ideology which ‘filled out’ their nationalism was in large measure an anticipation of social imperialism. In 1892, as against 1886, opposition to home rule became increasingly articulated in terms of the threat it represented to collective economic security. Whereas the appeals of 1886 had often been staggeringly direct in character (the threat of extermination of Protestants in their beds being a common theme), those of 1892 were rather more sophisticated. Even though the danger to workers’ livelihoods rather than their lives had often been mentioned in 1886, it had generally been in

The emergence of an integrated party machine


terms of Protestant exclusion from local labour markets. Now when it was mentioned it was in terms of the ‘insecurity’ which capital would suffer as a consequence of the dismemberment of the empire. Often the argument was taken further to illustrate the consequences for the working class: If Home Rule were granted, the machinery in the mills and factories would be idle and the ship-building would have to leave the country . . . Mr Gladstone, after shilly-shallying with the London Trades Council, had, in effect, told them that British workers would

not get a legal eight-hours day because Home Rule stood in the way...’ [Thomas Johnston, Proceedings (1892)]

If the logic was not clear, the message was. Home rule signalled not only economic disaster but also the interruption of the extension of social reforms to the working class, reforms ‘guaranteed’ by the participation of Ireland in the empire. As the agitation proceeded, attempts were increasingly made to demonstrate the interdependence of these two elements. The Ulsterman, by virtue of his imperial citizenship, shared the most advanced privileges and liberties in the world; the threat of home rule was a threat to them, just as in classical social—imperialist ideology the threat of socialism occupied a similar position (Semmel, 1960, pp. 13-26). The social imperialism of the Ulster Unionists was concerned with the integration of two classes: bourgeoisie and proletariat. Like the convention, although formally concerned with the defence of the ‘Ulsterman’ in general, it was heavily weighted towards the urban Ulsterman. The Ulster it glorified was Belfast, and the modernity it used as a symbol was confined to that city. Politically the convention launched the Ulster Unionist Clubs and their council (UUCC), founded in March 1893 on the basis of successful local unity committees. Their object was to create a popular political organisation independent of old party labels and

integrating both urban and rural inhabitants. The organisation tended to preserve the pattern of political centralisation initiated by the convention, particularly with respect to urban dominance.!8 By and large, the clubs were led at the local level by the new stratum of activists created in the convention campaign; in some places, however, traditional elements retained their position. In north Derry, for example, the Alexander, Heygate, Gage and Bruce families retained substantial control over the apparatus.!®


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Nevertheless ‘the UUCC leadership unambiguously illustrated the consolidation of the power of the urban industrialists. In contrast to the ILPU-—IUA leadership the UUCC executive of 1892 was composed of six capitalists, two landowners, a clergyman, a solicitor and a ‘private gentleman’ (UUCC minute books; Who's Who; Dictionary of National Biography; Young and Pike, 1909). The politics of the new Unionism was largely the politics of a vigorous class of entrepreneurs. The convention was the index of their triumph, and the clubs, which by the end of 1893 claimed 170,000 members, appeared to be its confirmation.

Ill Finally, the longer-term sequelae of the first attempt to found a popular Unionist party. Officially the UUCC was wound up as redundant in 1896. In reality the club movement had collapsed a year earlier. Z The threat of home rule had vanished for the forseeable future with the return of a Conservative government with an absolute majority in 1893, but for two years the council had tried to preserve the clubs’ existence (even going so far as to encourage them to abandon politics and continue as athletic clubs). In 1895, however, the chairman of its executive, Templetown, was forced to observe that ‘the country is worn out with politics’ (UUCC minute book). The social classes sponsoring Unionism found themselves unable to sustain it. Once crises passed, so did enthusiasm for popular activity, and political unity. This was not so much a consequence of Unionism’s fundamental structural weakness as the result of certain events overtaking the basis upon which its unity had been secured. With respect to the Protestant proletariat, for example, their support had been secured during the most recent crisis by the promise of the social benefits accruing from social imperialism. Securing popular support on this basis made the Protestant bourgeoisie doubly vulnerable, though. It both involved the suggestion that the latter were able to dispense rewards which were really beyond their capabilities, and—by publicly abandoning Orangeism—it left to potential opponents the most potent local proletarian idiom. Prior to the formation of the Northern Ireland State a disjuncture existed between Unionism’s scale as a_ political

The emergence of an integrated party machine


organisation and the scope of the power open to it. Because of its negative character as a counter-revolutionary movement aimed at preserving a status quo in which no local State power existed, the Unionists after 1893 were unable to deliver any of the positive rewards normally associated with social—imperialist integration. In concrete terms, all that Unionism controlled in 1895 was Belfast corporation. Suffocated by its own premises, enthusiastic Unionism became displaced by Protestant proletarian apathy. By 1895-96 this apathy was also to envelop the countryside. The dominance of town over country had been accomplished in two ways, namely a general penalising of rural Unionism in the new means of political representation, and the sponsored development of the professional stratum as political intermediary between town and country. The combined effect of these factors was to suppress the articulation within the movement of the landlord-tenant farmer conflict. The suppression was an active one. In October 1894 two prominent Unionists, M’Calmont and Tennent, attacked a champion of the farmers (T. W. Russell) at a Bindolaist club meeting at Whiteabbey, County Antrim. Although it caused little local controversy (NW, 31 October,

1 November

1894), the attack was seized upon by the urban 1eaderehi as an occasion to formalise a ban upon all such discussion within the movement (UUCC minute book). The ban had the effect of reducing all further interest by both farmers and landlords in the movement. The principal purpose of tenant-farmer participation all along appears to have been to thrash the land question out, since the group had no real interest in the question of Union. Rural Ulstermen did not become ‘worn out’ with the landlord—tenant farmer conflict until the 1920s; but they rapidly became worn out with a movement which refused to allow it to be expressed. With the waning of the movement’s popular support, and with the failure to increase its access to the spoils of power, the stratum of professional intermediaries whose incorporation had at first been so important now themselves became redundant as brokers. In the end the ‘modernising’ characteristics of Unionism proved temporary. From this point on, Unionist stress was altogether less on modernity and diversity and altogether more on tradition and unity. In 1904—5, when a situation again arose in which the conflicting interests of southern ‘compromisers’ and northern


The origins of Ulster Unionism

‘non-compromisers’ were expressed (the: ‘devolution crisis’), and when a new provincial organisation was required, Orangeism had recovered much of its power, and urban entrepreneurs were perforce more cautious and less aggressive. At the formation of the Ulster Unionist Council and the party proper in 1905 the Orange Order was given 25 per cent formal representation on all

party committees (Lyons, 1948). While there was little doubt as to who was leading the movement, its mode of leadership, rhetoric and means of political representation were all less radical. As proletarian allegiance to entrepreneurs became increasingly tenuous the party re-invested heavily in Orange rhetoric and organisation. In reality it was in the period around 1904 that the Order witnessed its rural ‘rejuvenation’. The most prominent of the old-guard leadership and their Belfast allies

(e.g. R. R. Kane) were by now dead. Saunderson, their former leader, had become so ‘responsible’ he was the chief butt of independent loyalist critics of the Order (Lucas, 1908; anon., 1904). Both Orangeism and Unionism were pleased with the alliance. By 1911, when the third home rule crisis began, opposition to Nationalism was organised almost entirely through the Order. Attempts were made to revive Unionist clubs but with little response. ‘hey were by now redundant, and their introduction in some places was received with animosity.2° The new Ulster Unionism was rather different from the old. The main survival was in fact the spectacle, presaged by the convention. Its politics seem to have led to the existence of different kinds of conflict in the north of Ireland from those which might have followed had the 1892-95 venture been a success. But that is another matter, requiring a different explanation.





In Antrim, a county of 710,000 acres, forty-seven persons between them owned 426,000. Nine owned over 10,000 each. In Down 46 per cent of the county was owned by eleven proprietors, between them possessing 280,000 acres. In Tyrone a quarter of the county was owned by seven men, each possessing over 15,000 acres. Here four landlords owned 150,000 acres between them. In Donegal the Marquis of Conyngham and the Marquis of Donegal owned a fifth of the county between them. And so on. (Bateman, 1879; O’Hart, 1884; Lenman, 1965).

‘The emergence of an integrated party machine


After 1830 usually with a member of the Cole family, while the Crichton family represented the county’s pocket borough—Enniskillen—from 1832 to 1885. The other patron-controlled seats were in Tyrone (patron before 1874, the Duke of Abercorn; after, the Earl of Belmore), Donegal (also the Duke of Abercorn) and Fermanagh. Usually initially established by usurious forms of credit trading. When William Johnston became Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland in 1876 he found the organisation in total disarray. Lodge numbers—by which branches were distinguished—were widely duplicated even within the same county, and no list of local lodge masters either existed or could be drafted (Johnston papers, cited by Lenman, 1965, p. 179). Little or no active interest appears to have been taken in lodges by their local patrons after 1868. While both Annahoe and Waringstown Loyal Orange Lodges had notable patrons (both MPs), on no - occasion did either appear at a meeting or assist in making up the lodge’s cash deficits after that date. To take a representative year: of thirty-nine District Grand Masters (the strategic organisational post in the Order) in 1855, twenty-four lived on small country estates, eight had ‘gentlemen’s’ addresses in Dublin, two lived on larger estates, four had lower middle-class addresses (three in the north, one in the south) and two had addresses in England and Wales (GOLI Report, December 1856). Some of Belfast’s leading entrepreneurs who built mills in rural areas often bought land and installed themselves as squires. Richardson paid out £95,000 for land around Bessbrook in order to establish himself in this way, and even took up the habit of giving annual banquets to his tenants at his mansion (WW, 3 January 1868). Liberalism emerged as the ideology of ‘responsible’ landlords. in the first half of the century. By 1885, though, only Liberal entrepreneurs who had bought their way into rural society were Gladstonian landlords. 10 For an extended discussion of gombeenism and its literature see Gibbon (1973) and Gibbon and Higgins (1974). alii Both eventually withdrew, but the split in the party’s ranks prevented another candidate being proposed. Montgomery ended up supporting the Conservative, Dickson the Nationalist (Savage, 961). 12 Morning News: Belfast’s Catholic paper; W. J. Pirrie: manager of Harland & Wolff. 13 ‘I remember as I made my way home on the morning the Bill was thrown out, although it was only 4 o’clock, I was met by groups of working men who had risen two or three hours before their usual

times to learn the result . . . When I told them the Bill had been defeated, the cheers that filled the air . . . surprised the policemen at the corners. I met scores of the same class [from] Sandy Row . .



The origins of Ulster Unionism

fwho] put to me in their own idiom and staccato pronunciation the burning question: “‘Is them ’uns bate?”” And when I assured them that the unspeakable Nationalists had been beaten by a good majority, once more the cheers were raised. I was slapped on the back by half-dressed men with shouts of ‘Bully wee fella”, as though the defeat of the measure was due to my own exertions .. .’ (Frankfurt-Moore, 1914, pp. 58-9). Presumably under pressure from their Irish colleagues, the British Conservatives advised their local organisations, through the medium of the Primrose League, to have nothing to do with the

1 16

17 18 19

tour or any events organised by the Loyalist Committee and its successor the Ulster Loyal anti-Repeal Union (Robb, 1942, pp. 142-7). See Morrisson (1920, p. 92) for how this was organised in practice in south Derry. In fact the Order was categorically denied an allocation of convention delegates (Proceedings, 1892). So threatened did it feel at this time that the Order issued a statement to the effect that it had every intention of continuing to exist as an independent body and of resisting attempts to dissolve it (Sibbett, 1939, 11, p. 598). See Stewart’s graphic descriptions (1967) of later spectacles. Of the first fifty-three clubs, thirty-six were within twenty miles of Belfast (UUCC minute book). Sir F. W. Heygate, a landowner, was chairman of Bellarena polling

district delegation at the convention. His wife was the daughter of Connoly Gage another landowner and chairman of the Ballykelly polling district. His daughter married S. A. Alexander whose son was the City of Derry chairman. Similar ties (of the Bruce family) operated in the Coleraine area. (Proceedings, 1892; Russell, 1885).


At Portaferry, Co. Down, a visiting dignitary whose task it was to set up a local Unionist Club had to resort to the following appeal: ‘Referring to existing Unionist organisation in Portaferry, which

included . . . a strong and influential Orange lodge, and in addition the lately opened social club in connection with the new Orange Hall, he said that it might be objected that there was no room for further organisations, and this would no doubt be true unless those in existence already worked in perfect harmony and cooperation with the new clubs. But in that case, the new clubs would be of decisive importance in bringing in the younger men...”

(BNL, 6 February 1911).


Conclusion and epilogue

In conclusion, a recapitulation of the main argument of this study. Ulster Unionism arose not out of the ‘convergence’ of the political and ideological expressions of a number of disparate social groups, welded together by the rise of Nationalism. Rather, it grew from a process whose origins preceded organised Nationalism, whereby Belfast’s Conservatives were able to establish authority over both the urban working class and rural tenant farmers by outflanking the traditional landed elite, destroying the rural Liberals and forcing the urban ones into a position of subordinated integration. The conditions for the elimination of the forms of political relationship which preceded the domination of Ulster’s business.

interest arose out of the articulated effects of changes in the Irish social structure. In particular, transitions in the combination of Irish modes of economic production determined a unique pattern of industrialisation, urbanisation and rural modernisation. The peculiarities of Ulster’s industrialisation had the following results: the effective concentration of factory production in Belfast throughout the period meant that, prior to the mechanisation of weaving, the linen industry maintained a substantial proportion of the industrial work force on the land. One of the consequences was a very slow growth in the home market for consumption goods. This in turn encouraged factory production to be largely oriented towards export markets, rendering the economic prosperity of the second half of the nineteenth century extremely precarious. This in turn made for an extremely dependent relationship between Belfast and Britain despite industrialisation, while at the same time it lent a strategic position to certain sections of the local bourgeoisie, notably the mercantile faction, with its control over marine transport. Significantly, too, Ulster’s pattern of industrialisation determined that urbanisation would take a unique form. Prior to 1860 migration to Belfast proceeded at a fairly steady rate, increasing substantially after the famine of 1845-47. In this first phase of urbanisation the city’s population was largely employed in the mechanised sections of the linen trade. The *


The origins of Ulster Unionism

dominance of this kind of employment, together with the small trades, led to the emergence, maintenance and manipulation of nepotistic relations as a popular means of obtaining the necessities of life among the urban proletariat. It also led to the prevalence of a particular form of localistic ideology. After 1860, with Belfast’s expanded and differentiated ‘second industrialisation’, the newly urbanised tended to be less dependent upon personalistic bonds, more cosmopolitan in outlook and more reliant for their life chances on the maintenance of favourable conditions for international imperialism. Although during’ the second phase of urbanisation the associated pattern of community organisation was, broadly speaking, displaced from dominance, it did not disappear, and continued in many respects to characterise older proletarian districts, notably Sandy Row. The form of community organisation characteristic of ‘earlier’ forms of urbanisation and industrialisation tended to mediate religious differences into a kind of competitive localism. That which characterised the second phase of industrialisation and urbanisation stripped away the localistic aspects of religious differentiation and lent them definite ethnic dimensions. The combination of physical segregation and a new organising principle of segregation combined to amplify group consciousness of increasingly marked differential employment opportunities, ‘and served to provide them with a political meaning. The peculiarities of rural modernisation in Ulster had the following results. Throughout the century the gradual rise of a capitalist tenant farming class had the effect of slowly diminishing the political power of the landed elite. The tendency was contained, however, by the continued rural existence of domestic industry, which reduced the amount of land for capitalist farming available for rent on the market. Further, it slowed and retarded the differentiation of agrarian producers. Once domestic industry began to disappear after 1859, differentiation accelerated, a strong tenant farmer class reappeared, and landlord power diminished more rapidly. The only areas in which it retained influence after that date were those where it was bolstered by rural entrepreneurs, who introduced industry into a number of country areas (especially south Antrim and north Down), allowing a proportion of impoverished weavers to remain. Landlords were enabled to take advantage of hostility to larger farmers ae

Conclusion and epilogue


amongst this group, and partially to isolate the latter from popular local support. This combination ensuring:

of circumstances





1. That, of the propertied classes in Ulster society, the urban bourgeoisie alone could enjoy an uninterrupted run of economic and political development throughout the period. to That neither landlords nor tenant farmers, locked as they were in a more or less self-contained conflict, could emerge as unequivocal challengers to their power. 5. The progressive internal integration of the Belfast bourgeoisie and middle classes around the mercantile elite, thus slowly eradicating the existence of any independent social base within the bourgeoisie as a whole from which opposition to the dominant propertied group could arise. 4. The continued possibility of the maintenance of Conservative political hegemony over the Protestant working class, despite transitions in industrialisation and urbanisation, and of ensuring that there could be little in common between occasional Protestant proletarian excursions into ‘independence’ and popular Catholic politics. It was not the absence of the ‘unity of the working class’ which was problematical in Belfast but, given its internal differentiation and differential forms of integration, the existence of even temporary unities (e.g. 1907). These



the urban


to emerge

as Ulster’s

major political force, hegemonising both landed elements (who could assert themselves independently as a powerful group only

by an alliance with southern landlords), the Ulster Liberals, whose fragility ensured a rapid demise, and urban Orangemen. The rise of Nationalism was the occasion, not the cause, of the manifestation of this process. Ulster Unionism emerged as the product neither of a conspiracy of landed notables and industrialists to ‘dupe the people’ nor from the spontaneous convergence of a set of forces without prior political relations. The decisive moment in its development was the emergence of the Belfast

bourgeoisie at the centre of the historical stage, a development which dated from 1860 and which for a considerable period was surrounded by uncertainty.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Later the balance of forces was to change considerably. Gradually, for example, it became more difficult for the urban bourgeoisie to incorporate the Protestant proletariat within a modernising, social—imperialistic rhetoric, and Orangeism became an important force once more as occupational pressures on Protestant workers increased. Later still, the seeds of the present crisis were sown as the Northern Ireland State was founded in the situation of the co-presence of the creation of local control over State power, economic collapse, and an effective declaration of war from the new Catholic republic in the south. In these circumstances the parochial aspects of Ulster Conservatism were given a renewed lease of life as a regime was created which was heavily dependent upon confessional particularism, discrimination, and often oppression.

References (i) NEWSPAPERS AND PERIODICALS Ballymena Observer (BO) Belfast Newsletter (BNL) The Northern Whig, Belfast (NW)

Belfast Morning News (BMN) The Times, London The Banner of Ulster, Belfast (ii) PAPERS AND MANUSCRIPT SOURCES Abercorn papers, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, T.2541/1a.

Beck papers, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland D.1286 (uncatalogued). Belfast Chamber of Commerce papers, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, D.1857/1/6, 2/3, 2/4. Byrne, J. (1792), ‘An impartial account of the late disturbances in the County of Armagh’, typescript in Paterson papers, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 7.1722. Falls-Hanna election papers, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, p.1390 (partly catalogued). Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland biannual reports, 1850-1900 (incomplete) lodged in Linenhall Library, Belfast. Knox papers, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, p.1125/2. Londonderry election poll book (1868), Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, p.1935/6. Londonderry election poll book (1870), Magee University College collection. Minute book, Annahoe Loyal Orange Lodge, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, p.2108/4. Minute book, Aughnacloy Royal Black Preceptory, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, p.2108/3. Minute book, Enniskillen Royal Black Preceptory, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, D.1360/2a, b,.c. Minute book, Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union executive committee, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland p.989/1/a, b. Minute book, Ulster Unionist Clubs Council provisional executive (UUCC), Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, p.1327/1/2.

Minute book, Waringstown Loyal Orange Lodge, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, microfilm 202. Proceedings of the Ulster Unionist Convention, together with a list of delegates (Belfast, 1892), Linenhall Library. Roden papers, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, microfilm 147/9.


The origins of Ulster Unionism


Agricultural Statistics, Ireland (annual, 1847-95). Antrim Ordnance Survey Memoir (1841) (Antrim OSM), reprinted Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (Belfast, 1969). Census of Ireland (decennial, 1851-1911). Report (1835) from the Select Committee of the House of Commons appointed

to enquire

into the nature,





Orangeism in Britain and Ireland. Report (1858) of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the origin and character of the riots in Belfast in July and September (House of Commons). Report (1863) and evidence taken before the Select Committee on the Lisburn Election Petition (House of Commons). Report (1865) of the Commissioners of Inquiry respecting the magisterial and police jurisdiction arrangements and establishment of the borough of Belfast (House of Commons). Report (1887) of the Commissioners of Inquiry respecting the origins and circumstances of the riots in Belfast in June, July, August and September 1886 (House of Commons).

(iv) BOOKS, PAMPHLETS, ARTICLES, THESES A Brief Sketch of the History of Parliamentary Elections in Belfast (1865) (Belfast). Anon. (1902), The Iron Heel, or, Fight for Freedom (Belfast). — (1904), Orangeism: its History and Progress (Dublin). Andrews, S. (1958), Nine Generations: a History of the Andrews Family of Comber (Belfast). Arensberg, C. M. and Kimball, S. T. (1968), Family and Community in Ireland (Cambridge, Mass.). : Armstrong, D. L. (1951), ‘Social and economic conditions in the Belfast Linen industry’, Irish Historical Studies, vol. vu, No. 28. Baker, S. (n.d.) ‘Society in Edwardian Belfast’ (unpublished typescript). Balandier, G. (1955), Sociologie des Brazzaville noires (Paris). Bateman, J. (1879), Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland (London). de Beaumont, G. (1839), Ireland: Social, Political and Religious, ed. Taylor, W. C. (Dublin). Beckett, J. C. (1966), The Making of Modern Ireland (London). Beer, S. H. (1965), Modern British Politics (London). Belfast and Ulster Trades Directory (1893) (Edinburgh). Belmore, Earl of (1885), Parliamentary Memoirs of Fermanagh County and Borough, 1613-1885 (Dublin). Biggar, F. J. (1910), The Land War in Ulster of 1770 (Dublin). Black, R. D. C. (1954), ‘Industry in Ulster since the Union’, in Moody,

T. W., and Beckett, J. C. (ed.), Ulster since 1800 (first series) (London). Bleakley, D. (1951), ‘Trade union beginnings in Belfast’ (unpublished M.Sc. thesis, Queen’s University of Belfast).



Boissevain, J. (1965), Saints and Fireworks: Religion and Politics in Malta (London). ) Bourke, P. M. A. (1965), ‘The agricultural statistics of the 1841 census of Ireland’, Economic History Review, vol. 18, No. 2. Boyd, A. (1969), Holy War in Belfast (Tralee). Boyle, J. W. (1962), ‘Belfast Protestant Association and the Independent Orange Order, 1901-10’, Irish Historical Studies, vol. xut. Breuer, J., and Freud, S. (1955), ‘Studies in hysteria’, in Strachey, J. (ed.) Collected Writings of Sigmund Freud, vol. 1 (London). Bryce, J. (1887), ‘The past and future of the Irish question’, in Bryce, J. (ed.), The Handbook of Home Rule (London). Buckland, P. S. (1973), Irish Unionism (Dublin). Budge, I., and O'Leary, C. (1973), Belfast: Approach to Crisis (London). Carson, J. (1958), God’s River in Spate: the Religious Revival of 1859 (Belfast). _ Clark, W. (1967), Guns in Ulster (Belfast). Clarkson, J. D. (1925), Labour and Irish Nationalism (New York). Coe, W. E. (1969), The Engineering Industry of the North of Ireland (Newton Abbot). Connell, K. H. (1966), Irish Peasant Society (Oxford). Connolly, J. (1948), Socialism and Nationalism, ed. Ryan, D. (Dublin). Coote, Sir Charles (1804), Statistical Survey of County Armagh (Dublin). Crawford, W. H., and Trainor, B. (eds.) (1969), Aspects of Irish Social History, 1750-1800. (Belfast). Crotty, R. (1966), Irish Agricultural Production: its Volume and Structure (Cork). Cullen, L. M. (1964), ‘The value of contemporary printed sources for Irish economic history in the eighteenth century’, Irish Historical Studies, vol. xiv. — (1967), Problems in the interpretation and revision of eighteenthcentury Irish economic history’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, fifth series, vol. xvi). — (ed.) (1969), The Formation of the Irish Economy (Cork). Curtis, E. (1936), 4 History of Ireland (London). Dictionary of National Biography (1900 edition) (London). Dubourdieu, J. (1802), Statistical Survey of County Down (Dublin). — (1812), Statistical Survey of County Antrim (Dublin). Dutton, H. (1808), Statistical Survey of County Clare (Dublin). Edwards, O. D. (1969), The Sins of our Fathers (London). Eidhem, H. (1963), ‘Entrepreneurship in politics’, in Barth, F. (ed.), The Role of the Entrepreneur in Social Change in Northern Norway (Bergen). Ervine, St J. (1949), Craigavon: Ulsterman (London). Feuchtwanger E. J. (1968), Disraeli, Democracy and the Tory Party (Oxford). Frankfurt-Moore, E. (1914), The Truth about Ulster (London). : Freud, S. (1922), Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (London).


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Froude, J. A. (1887), The English In Ireland (London). Gaffikin, T. (1875), Belfast Fifty Years Ago (Belfast). Gibbon, P. (1973), ‘Arensberg and Kimball revisited’, Economy and Society, vol. 2, No. 4. Gibbon, P., and Higgins, M. D. (1974), ‘Patronage, tradition and modernity: the case of the Irish ‘‘gombeenman’’, Economic and Social Review, vol. 6, No. 1. Gibson, W. (1860), The Year of Grace (Belfast). Gill, C. (1925), The Rise of the Irish Linen Industry (Oxford). Greaves, C. D. (1961), The Life and Times ofJames Connolly (London). ‘H’ (1872), The Cotton Famine of 1862-63 (Belfast). Hamilton, Lord Ernest (1917), The Soul of Ulster (London). Hanham, H. J. (1959), Elections and Party Management: Politics in the Time of Disraeli and Gladstone (London). Hewitt, J. (1951), ‘Ulster poets, 1800-70’ (unpublished M.A. thesis, Queen’s University, Belfast). Hobsbawm, E. (1969), Industry and Empire (London). Industries of Ireland (1891), 1, Belfast and the Towns of the North (London). Irish Communist Organisation (ed.) (1969), The Connolly—Walker Controversy (Belfast). Jackson, T. (1947), Ireland her own (London). Johnson, J. H. (1964), ‘Agriculture in County Londonderry at the beginning of the nineteenth century’, in Studia Hibernica, No. 4. Johnston, W. (1857), Nightshade: a Novel (London). Jones, E. (1960), The Social Geography of Belfast (London). Kennedy, B. A. (1943), “The struggle for tenant-right in Ulster, 1829-50’ (unpublished M.A. thesis, Queen’s University, Belfast). Kerrane, J. G. O. (1971), “The background to the 1798 rebellion in Meath’ (unpublished M.A. thesis, University College, Dublin). Kirk, T. (1963), ‘The religious distribution of Lurgan, with special reference to segregational ecology’ (unpublished M.A. thesis, Queen’s University, Belfast). Lecky, W. H. E. (1915), History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century (London). Lemarchand, R. (1964), Political Awakening in the Congo (Berkeley, Cal.). Lenman, B. (1965), “The Ulster issue against its social and economic background, 1880-93’ (unpublished M.Phil. thesis, Cambridge University). Logan, J. (1923), Ulster in the X-rays (London). Lucas, R. (1908), Colonel Sauderson, M.P. (London). Lyons, F. S. L. (1948), “The Irish Unionist Party and the devolution crisis of 1904-5’, Irish Historical Studies, vol. v1. — (1971), Ireland since the Famine (London). Macardle, D. (1957), The Irish Republic (London). MacCall, H. (1865), Iveland und her Staple Manufactures (Dublin). McCalmont, H. (1971), Parliamentary Poll Book of Elections, 1832-1918, second edition (Brighton).



McElroy, S. (1879), The Route Land Campaign (Goleraine). McIlwaine,









Revivalism (Belfast). McKnight, T. (1896), Ulster as it is (London). MacLaughlin, B. (ed.) (1969) Studies in Social Movements (New York). MacNeill, R. (1922), Ulster’s Stand for Union (London). MacParlan, J. (1802), Statistical Survey of County Sligo (Dublin). Mansergh, N. (1940), Ireland in the Age of Reform and Revolution (London). — (1965), The Irish Question (London). Millen, S. (1932), Sidelights on Belfast History (Belfast). — (1938), Additional Sidelights on Belfast History (Belfast). Miller, D. W. (19735), Church, State and Nation in Ireland, 1898-1921 (Dublin). Monaghan, J. J. (1936), ‘Social and economic history of Belfast, 1800-25’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Queen’s University, Belfast). Moneypenny, W. F. (1913), The Two Irish Nations (London). Moore, A. S. (1951), Old Belfast (Belfast). Morrisson, H. (1920), Modern Ulster (Edinburgh). Nelson, I. (1860-62), The Year of Delusion (published in instalments) (Belfast). O’Brien, C. C, (1957), Parnell and his Party (Oxford). O’Brien, G. (1918), Economic History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century (Dublin). O’Byrne,C. (1946), As I roved out (Belfast). O’Hanlon, W. M. (1853), Walks amongst the Poor of Belfast (Belfast). O’Hart, J. (1884), The Irish Landed Gentry (Dublin). O’Hegarty, P. S. (1951), History of Ireland under the Union (London). Orr, J. E. (1949), The Second Evangelical Awakening in Britain (London). Paine, R. (1971), ‘A theory of patronage and brokerage’, in Paine, R. (ed.), Patrons and Brokers in the East Arctic (St John’s, Newfoundland). ue I. R. K. (1958), The Fifty-nine Revival (Belfast). de Paor, L. (1970), Divided Ulster (London). Pim, H. (1919), Unconquerable Ulster (Belfast). Purdon, C. (1877), The Sanitary State of the Belfast Factory District (Belfast). Reid, W. (1860), Authentic Records of the Revival (London). Rentoul, J. A. (1921), Stray Thoughts and Memories (London). Richer, P. (1885), Etudes cliniques sur la grande hystérie ou hystérie epilepsie .. . Précédé de J. M. Charcot (Paris). Richey, W. (1870), Connor and Coleraine: Scenes and Sketches of the last Ulster Awakening (Belfast). Robb, J. A. (1942), The Primrose League (New York). Rossmore, Lord (1912), Things I can tell (London). Russell, J. M. (1885), Notable Men in Derry and Antrim (Coleraine). Sampson, G. (1814), Statistical Survey of County Londonderry (Dublin). Savage, D. C. (1961), ‘The origins of the Ulster Unionist Party, 1885-86’, Irish Historical Studies, vol. xt.


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Semmel, B. (1960), Imperialism and Social Reform (London). Senior, H. (1966), Orangeism in Britain and Ireland, 1795-1836 (London). Shankill, W. (pseud.) (1886), The Belfast Riots: Shankill Road and the Islandmen Defended (Belfast). Sibbett, R. M. (1939). Orangeism in Ireland and throughout the Empire, second edition (London). Smith, C. F. (1914), James N. Richardson of Bessbrook (London). Solow, B. (1971), The Irish Land Question after 1870 (Cambridge, Mass.). Stewart, A. T. Q. (1967), The Ulster Question (London). Strauss, E. (1951), Irish Nationalism and British Democracy (London). Suttles, G. (1968), The Social Order of the Slum (Chicago). Thompson, E. P. (1966), The Making of the English Working Class (London). ‘ Tilly, C. (1964), The Vendée (London). Tohall, P. (1958), ‘The Diamond fight of 1795 and the resulting expulsions’, Seanchas Ardmhacha, vol. 11. Ulster Business and Agricultural Directory (1886) (Belfast). Van Bath, S. (1963), Agrarian History of Western Europe (London). Vincent, J. (1966), The Formation of the Liberal Party, 1856-68 (London). Wallerstein, I. (1961), ‘Ethnicity and national integration in West Africa’, Cahiers d’ études africaines, vol. 1. Who’s Who (1886-1900) (London). Woodburn, J. B. (1914), The Ulster Scot (London). Young, A. (1898), A Tour in Ireland, 1776-79, ed. Hutton, A. W. (London). Young, R. M. and Pyke, W. (1909), Belfast and the Province of Ulster: Contemporary Biographies (Brighton).

Index Abercorn, Duke of, 141n. _acculturation, 91 Adams, Rev., 46 adventurers, English, sixteenth-century, 13 agriculture, 10, 13-15, 16, 18-19,

20n., 24-9, 33, 34,37, 45n., 45, 52-8, 80, 116-19, 123, 144 in seventeenth century, 13-15, 18-19 in eighteenth century, 15, 24-7, 42

arms manufacturers, 105 Army British, 3, 70, 115 Trish Republican, 3 artisans, 15, 32, 47, 48, 72, 88, 92, 95-6, 107; see also Petty bourgeoisie ascendancy, see Protestant ascendancy

Ashbourne Act (1885), 120 auctioneers, 105

Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone, 115

in nineteenth century, 52-8, 117-19 see. also Estates; Labour Landlords; Production,

force; modes

of; Tenantry Ahoghill, Co. Antrim, 45, 46, 47, 49, 51 Alexander family, 137 Alexander, S. A., 142n. alliances class, 3, 44, 65, 112 political, 3, 34-42, 51-8, 87-8, 106, 110, 112 see also Conservative party; Liberal party; Orangeism; Nationalism; Unionism allotments, 53 Andrews family, 106 Annahoe, Co. Down, 115, 141n. Annesley, Lord, 112 Antrim, Co., 13, 24, 25-6, 30-9, 42, 45-8, 51, 53, 54-6, 59, 60, 93, 108, 115,117, 1400;, 144 . linen industry in, 13, 25-6, 30-1, 51 culture of, 30—5, 54-6 religious revival in, 45-8, 59 land ownership in, 140n Antrim town, 45, 99

apathy, political, 139-40 apprentices, 75, 77, 83

apprenticeships, 93 Archdale family, 112-14 architects, 105, 106

Armagh, Co., 23-4, 25-6, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33-9, 43n., 51, 60, 65, 93, 195, 0:46 linen industry in, 31-9 Orangeism in, 23-39 population growth in, 23-4, 43n.

B Specials, 116 baby minders, 76 Ballintoy, Co. Antrim, 30 Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, 45

Ballyclare, Co. Antrim, 55 Ballykelly, Co. Derry, 142n. Ballymacarret, Belfast, 69, 82 Ballymena, Co. Antrim, 47, 51, 52 Ballymena Observer, 46

Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, 45, 51, 52, 95709 Ballywatt, Co. Antrim, 45 bands, 38 Bank of Ireland, 125 banking, 15, 52 bankers, 128 Bankmore Female Penitentiary, Belfast, 70 Bann, river, 51 Banner of Ulster, 65 Barbour family, 105-6 Barbour, J. D., 16, 95, 98

bards, 50, 35, 55 barristers, 90-1, 105

Bateson family, 112 de Beaumont, G., 44n. Beckett, J. C., 5, 20n.

Beggs, T., 55 Belfast industry in, 16, 17, 48, 51-4, 58,

69, 71, 72, 73, 83, 84-5, 89, 90, 91, 93, 95-6, 100, 101, 103, 124, 143, 144 migration to, 22, 52, 56, 62, 91, TAS FAAS

police in, 96-7


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Belfast—contd. ' politics in, 78-85, 87, 89-104, 109, 119, 124-31, 136-7, 138, 140, 143-6 riots in, 67-86, 95, 126-7 religion in, 48-9, 52, 60, 62, 69 Belfast Catholic Association, 93 Belfast Chamber of Commerce, 17, 100, 124 . Belfast Corporation, 98, 126, 139 Belfast docks and harbour 91, 127 Belfast Morning News, 126, 141n. Belfast Newsletter, 99, 101, 128, 129 Belfast Ropeworks Co., 16 Belfast Trades Council, 82 Bellarena, Co. Derry, 142n. belligerence, exemplary, 78, 81-3 Belmore, Earl of, 141n. Bessbrook, Co. Armagh, 116, 141n. betting, 37 Bible, 57 Black, S., 98 Blacker, S., 27 bleachers, 15, 30, 31-2, 51, 52 Bloomfield, J. C., 114 bourgeoisie, 1, 2, 11-12, 20n., 56, 87, 88, 89, 91, 92-3, 98, 100, 104-9, 119, 123-7, 130-7, 138, 144, 146 Catholic, 91, 92-3, 108-9 politics and, 104-9, 123-7, 130-7 Botanic Gardens, Belfast, 49, 91,

132 Bourke, P. M. A., 54n. boxing, 36 boycotting, 109

boys, 72, 75, 763; see also Youths bribery, 98 Bright, J., 110 Britain, 1-2, 13, 15, 16, 17, 19-20, 35, 55, 84, 88-9, 94, 103-4, 119, 124, 129 relation to Ulster economy, 16, 17, 19, 84, 103-4, 119, 143, 144 relation to economy in south of Ireland, 19-20 see also State, British brokerage, 88, 92, 96, 97, 98, 100,


dae Ae iad A 59

Brown family, 106 Brown, J. S., 116

Brownlow, W., 32 Bruce family, 137, 142n. Buckland, P. J., 5 Bunbeg, Co. Donegal, 118

burial societies, 100 bureaucrats, 63, 64, 65n. Bushmills, Co. Antrim, 45 businessmen, see Capitalists Byrne, J., 36

Calvinism, 45

capital, 15=14, 15-16, 17, 18, 19% Min, St, 52,753, 52,289 eos 143, 144 capitalists, 15, 44, 51-3, 58, 64, 65, 79,885.89, ,92,, 94; 98, LO leas 1405, 105; 106... 126. 117 eine 124, 127, 128, 130, 138, 140; 141n., 143, 144 British, 15-16, 17, 105, 106, 124 Catholic, 19, 34, 92, 94 and home rule, 123-7, 130 Carnmoney, Co. Antrim, 48 Carson, Sir E., 2, 64 Carson, J., 46, 47, 49 castes, 13 Castletown, Lord, 122 casual labour, see Labour force, unskilled Catholic Church and clergy, 4, 5, 12,

65n., 92-3, 110n., 115, 118 33, 34, 38-40, 65n., 68, 69, 70, 75, 78, 85, 87, 89-96, 115-14, 116, 118-19, 123, 127, 145


in Armagh, 33

in Belfast, 68, 69, 75, 85, 89-96 in Fermanagh, 113-14 in Monaghan, 108-9 Cavan, Co., 45, 109, 112 Chamberlain, J., 2, 130 Charcot, J. M., 65n. charisma, 90 Charlemont, Lord, 122 Charley, Sir W., 82-3 Chartism, 88 children, 55, 60, 70, 73, 74, 75, 76; see also Boys; Girls choreomania, see Religious revival

Christie, J., 39 Church Hill, Co. Armagh, 39 Churchill, R., 128 ‘citizenship’ British, 94 Orange, 32, 36, 40 Clark, H., 116 classes, social, see Artisans; Bourgeoi-

sie; Capitalists; Landlords; Petty


classes, social—contd.

bourgeoisie; Tenantry; Working class class struggle

co-operative movement, 100 Coote, Sir C., 29 Cork city, 12 corruption, 98 cosmopolitanism, 64, 75, 83, 103, 115, 144 cotton production, 16, 5t, 88, 106 county cess (tax), 26, 28, 29

rural, 24, 30, 34-5, 56, 58, 117-19, 139, 143-5 urban, 94, 101, 126, 145 clerks, 115 Cloughmills, Co. Antrim, 45 de Cobain, E. S. W., 82, 102, 129

Cowan, Sir E., 17, 123 craft identity, 83

cock fights, 36, 55


Coercian Act (1885), 120 Cole family, 141n. Coleraine, 142n.







workers, see Artisans; Labour force, small trades Craig, J., 2 credit, 76, 92, 118, 141n. of northern capitalists, 15, 16

Crichton family, 1441n.

colonisation, 13, 18 ‘colons, 13-14 Comber, Co. Down, 47

cross-cutting ties, 38 Crown creditors, 13 Crown Liquor Saloon, Belfast, 92 Cullen, L. M., 2in., 23-4

Commissions of Enquiry 1858, 67-8 1863, 98 1865, 67-8, 98 1887, 67-8, 71, 76

Cullingtree Road, Belfast, 69 Cushendall, Co. Antrim, 51 Custom House, Belfast, 69

communities, 32-8, 55, 72-7, 78, 80,

88, 89, 144 international, 103 concentration industrial, 51 of capital, 16 conjugality, 78 Connacht, 11, 25, 39 competition,


Connor, Co. Antrim, 45, 46, 47, 48

Conservative party British, 2, 87, 106, 120n., 138, 142n. Irish, 1, 12, 46, 64, 65, 81, 82, 85, 87, 88, 90, 92, 94, 96-104, 106— IOP IS dost7 dd9, 127=52, 143-6 in Belfast, 82, 85, 87, 88, 90, 92, 94, 127-33, 143-6 in rural areas, 65, 107, 109-10, 113-16, 117 and bourgeoisie, 106—09 and





143 and home rule, 127-32 Conservative Working Men’s Association, 102 constitutionalism, 3, 41 construction industry, 91 contracts, 27, 28, 78, 82, 106 contradictions, political, 119-20 Conyngham, Marquis of, 140

Déil Eireann, 3 dairying, 18 dances, 36 Dane, J. W., 113-14 Davidson, Sir R., 110n. Davis, C. N., 98, 100 Davis, M., 82 debts, 118; blood, 38 Defenders, 40 deference, 4, 23, 101 democracy, 23, 35, 82, 100, 101, 103 Derry city, 79, 111n., 142n. county, 25, 28, 45, 48, 112, 137,

142n. devolution crisis (1904-5), 139-40

Diamond, battle of the (1795), 39 Dickson, T., 124, 141n. differentiation, social, 14,

32, 42, 52-35, 56, 64, 119, 141n., 144, 145

discrimination, 93, 146 Disraeli, B., 99 distance, social, 33, 53, 56-7, 58, 63 distillers, 105

doctors, 105, 106 domestic industry, see Industry, domestic; Cotton; Linen; Production, modes of domestic service, 11


The origins of Ulster Unionism

Donegal, Co.,.25, 45, 118, 123, 140n, 141n.; land ownership in, 140n. Donegal, Marquis of 126, 140n. Down, Co., 10, 13, 24,.25—-6, 30-35, 42, 42n., 45, 51-8, 59, 60, 65, AOS, Aho 15, U7 2S etOn., 144 linen industry in, 13, 25-6, 51 culture of, 30-5, 54-6 ; religious revival in, 45—8, 59 land ownership in, 140n. Downshire, Marquis of, 113 Downpatrick, Co. Down, 99 dowries, 58 drapers, 15 Dromore, Co. Down, 116 dualism, in Irish society economic, 10-12, 14-20 origins of 12-17, 18-20 religious, 10

141n. ‘enthusiasm’,

22, 44, 45, 57, 60, 61, 63, 64, 66n, 116, 139 entrepreneurs, see Capitalists Episcopal Church and clergy, 26, 28, 90,.98, 101, 105,114, AES ae 128, 138 Episcopalianism, 22, 25, 34, 69, 101, 102 estate agents, 105 estates, landed, 13, 14, 122-3, 141n.; disposal of, 122-3 ethnicity, 79, 80, 85, 88, 91-6, 103; definition, 89 ethnocentrism, 51, 63 ethnogenesis, 89, 93, 96, 109, 119,

Dublin city, 11, 12, 15 Duffin family, 106 Dundrod, Co. Down, 47, 50, 61-2 Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, 59 Dungloe, Co. Donegal, 118 Dunville family, 106 Durham Street, Belfast, 69

120 evangelical rallies, 69, 71 evangelists, 48—9, 60, 61 Ewart family, 15

Easter rising (1916), 3 ecology, 69, 70 economy, see Agriculture; Duaiism; Industry; Labour force; Markets; Production, modes of; Tenantry,

Ewart, W. Q., 103, 104, 150 Ewart’s Mill, Belfast, 86n. Ewart’s Row, Belfast, 48 exclusive dealing, 108—9 exegesis, biblical, 57, 63 expulsion, 69, 70, 71, 73, 78-9 faction-fighting, 69

factionalism, political, 64, 88


Edenderry, Co. Down, 116 elections general: 1852-85, 102-3,

fairs, 36, 37, 68 107;

1886, 2; 1918, 3, 20n. (1868), 97; East (1892), 82-3; South (1902), 80-2


Derry city (1868, 1870), 111n Fermanagh North (1885), 112—14 Lisburn (1863), 98 Monaghan (1874, 1880, 1885),

108-9 Newry (1868), 111n. Tyrone, South (1885), 124 poll books for, 1141n. employees, see Labour force employers, see Capitalists employment, see Labour force engineering industry, 16, 17,


Oye HO

Falls Foundry, Belfast, 16 Falls, lower, Belfast, 69

family, in Irish society, 57, 58, 60, G1) 76273 5.915 £06 famine, great (1845-7), 19, 23, 45, 52955, 00 Poa famines, in eighteenth century, 24 farmers, see Landlords; Tenantry farming, see Agriculture; Estates; Labour force; Production, modes of; Tenantry Farnham family, 112 Fermanagh, Co., 33,

embattlement, 36, 78, 81 emigration, 34, 54-5, 58, 60

L257 00-4)

143, 147; see also Industry, shipbuilding and engineering; Labour force, shipbuilding and engineering Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, 95, 115,

19, Sylg),

46, 48, 412) 113-14, 141n. Fermanagh Constitutional Club, 114 feudalism, see Production, modes of feuds, 36—9 Flanigan, B., 92 flax, 15,125 ‘folk memories’, 7


foremen, 88 France, 35 freemasonry, 43n. free trade, 106 Frazer, Col., 70 friendly societies, 94, 96 Freud, S., 61, 65n. fundamentalism, 57, 63


of Unionism, 4—9, 121 of United Irishmen, 23, 40-2 Hobbes, Thomas, 136 Holland, B. 90-1

home rule Bill (Government of Ireland Act): 1886, 1-2, 120, 124, 126, 130, 141n.; 1892, 2, 130 crisis: 1886, 1-2, 9, 120-30; 1892,

Gage, C., 137, 142n. gangs, 73 gentlemen, ‘private’, 128, 138

Bentty oO, 795 112 a14 128, 141n

445: 197.

Germany, 16 Gibson, W., 45-6, 47

girls, 47-9, 59, 60, 70, 72 Gladstone, W. E., 1, 70, 109, 110, 123, 124; views on-Ireland, 2 Glasgow, 89 God, 56, 57, 60, 63 gombeenism, 118, 141n. ‘goodwill’, 106 Gosford family, 32, 122 grand juries, 26, 36 Great Northern Railway, 125 Great Southern & Western Railway, 125 Grimshaw family, 103 Grimshaw, N., 16, 95 gun battles, 38, 71 gun clubs, 90 Hamilton family, 112 Hamilton, Lord E., 5

Handcock family, 105 handicrafts, see Industry, domestic Hanna, Rev. H., 48, 63, 65n, 126 Hanover, House of, 35 Harland, Sir E., 71, 126

Harland & Wolff, 141n. Henderson, J., 129

17, 72, 82, 85,

Henry, Bishop, 93

Herdman family, 106

Hertford, Lord, 113 heterogeneity, social, 31-2, 51 Heygate, Sir J., 137, 142n.

Hill family, 122—3 Mill, Lord G., 118 historiography, and interpretation: of eighteenth-century land system, 23-4 of Orangeism, 23, 40-2, 86 of ‘Ulster custom’, 14, 20—1n.

2, 124, 130-7; 1911-12; 9, 140 parliament, 120 homogeneity, social, 25, 32—4, 38 honeymoons, 117 horse racing, 36, 37, 43n.

housing, 85, 100 Hughes, B., 92 Hughes, J., 85 hunting, 57, 43n.

hysteria, concept of, 50, 61, 65n.; see also Religious revival

ideology, 5, 7, 23, 32, 35, 36, 40, 42,

44, 45, 56, 57, 60, 61-3, 64, 65,

67, 68, 78-83, 86, 94, 102, 103,

£19, 496; 417,° 131=6)44Gn:, 144, 146; concept of, 78 impersonalism, 76 , Income, 31, 53, 60, 93 ‘independence’, 56, 90, 100,


124, 145 Independent Freeholders’ Club, 58

Independent Labour Party, 83 Independent Orange Association East Antrim, 95


independent Orangeism, see Orangeism industry textiles, domestic, 14-18, 20, 20n.,

25-34, 38-40, 44, 45, 51-4, 58, 143, 144; origins, 14-15, 20n.; in eighteenth century, 15-16, 24, 25-34; in nineteenth centary, 16, 45, 51=4, 58, 143, 144; see also Cotton; Linen textiles, machine, 15-16, 17, 19,

45, 51-2, 62, 68, 69, 72, 84-6, GON 955 96, LOOS 107 105, =1sho143, 144; see also Cotton; Linen; Mills shipbuilding and engineering, 16, 17, 48, 69, 72, 83-4, 89, 95, 96, 103, 119, 143; see also Engineering; Ships construction, 91

processing, 18-19


The origins of Ulster Unionism

industrial villages, 52, 60, 62, 115-16, 141n., 144 industrialisation, 8, 12-16, 17-20, 51-2, 64, 67, 68, 89, 93, 96, 103, 106, 143-5; concept of, 8, 17 inequality, social, see Distance, social; Mobility, social insulation, occupational, 77 insurrections, 22, 34, 58 integration, social, 75, 77, 85 intellectualism, 56, 63 interlopers, 69, 73, 74, 78, 79 39-40,




78-9, 98 Treland south of, 10-12, 13-14, 18-20, 25, 59R5S AG R12 Oto A 27. social structure of (1881), 10-12 Trish Free State, 3, 146





74, 76, 143; shipbuilding and engineering, 17, 48, 69, 93, 103; small trades, 95-6, 144; construction, 91, 127; general un-

skilled, 71, 73, 84,5 93, 94, 9G 115 labour rent, 26 labour training, 93 Land League, 109, 117 land system, 2, 13, 14, 18, 19, 23-4,

‘invasion of Ulster’ (1883), 108 intimidation,

54-41, 91, 95-6; cotton, 16, 51-2; linen, 15, 16, 25, 28-9, 50=4, 59, 42, 51—2,°53, 54555" 56, 58, 60; 62, 65, 69,-72, 73;


122-3, 127-9, 138 Trish National League, see Nationalism Irish Volunteers, (1780) 34, 130;

OTS) ero Islandmen, see Shipyard workers Jacobinism, 33 Jacobitism, 35 Jesus Christ, 49, 50, 57, 61

job selection, 84 Johnston, T., 137

Johnston, W., 99-102, 103, 104, 115, 129, 141n. Kane, R. R., 140 Keown, J., 118

Kinnigo, Co. Armagh, 37 kinship, 57-8, 62, 75 Kirkpatrick, W., 94 ‘labour aristocracy’, 4, 72, 83, 103, 119 labour force agricultural 11, 19; 24, 25, 26, 28-9, 42, 47 52-3, 57, 116-18, 119, 123; see also Tenantry industrial, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 24, 25-34, 34-41, 42, 44, 47, 51-2, 65,054,055, 565958560; 635, 69, 71,-72,°75, 76,84, 90-1, 93—4, 9b SO rel OO eee Oe medlelor 125-7, 137, 143; restriction of,

29, 55, 52, 57, 58; \05n 114, 120, 121


and rentable land market, 24, 144 ownership, 15, 18, 112 and marriage and kinship, 57 see also Agriculture; Estates; Landlords; Tenantry

landlords, 2, 13, 18, 22, 23, 26, 28, 50, 52-3, 34-5, 39-42, 56, 57, 58, 63, 73, 81;°82,-99; 105, 209% 112-14, 116, 117, 118}449, 4975 130, 134,° 139). 140m 44d 143-4

and linen industry, 29 and Orangeism, 22, 23, 32-4, 39-42, 63, 114 ; and Unionism, 121-3, 127-30, 158, 145 Leinster, 53 Liberal Conservatives, 107

Liberal party British, 1, 2, 87-9, 120, 130 Trishy ods. 252 65255 65,8 Son sere 89-110, 116-18, 119, 195=4 130, 131, 143, 145 and bourgeoisie, 105-7 and working class, 96-104 in rural areas, 65, 85, 107-10,

116-18 and home rule, 123—4, 130, 134 libraries, 30, 35, 56 licensees, 92, 118

Licensed Vintners’ Association fast), 92 life expectancy, 72


Limerick city, 12 Linen Board, 17, 32 linen production origins of, 14, 15, 20n. in eighteenth century, 15-16, 24,



linen production—contd. in nineteenth century, 56, 58, 60, 62, 63, 100, 101, 103, 115, drapers in, 15 buyers-up in, 15 bleachers in, 15, 31-2,

47-52, 55, 68, 69, 90, 143 51, 52

master weavers In, 28, 32, 40

hand-loom weavers in, 25, 28-9, 530-4, 39, 42, 51-2, 53, 54, 55, 56, 58, 60, 63, 115 mill girls in, 62, 70, 72, 73, 74, 76 in south, 17 see also Industry; Textile manufacturers Lisburn, Co. Antrim, 98 ‘Liverpool, 89 livestock, 13, 14, 18, 19, 53; see also ‘Agriculture localism, 64, 75, 76, 77, 80, 82, 84, 85, 90, 92, 96 localisation, 70, 83 Londonderry, family, 122 Londonderry, Marquis of, 113


Loyalists, see Orange Order Loyalist Committee, 128-9, 142n.; see also Ulster Loyalist antiRepeal Union lumpenproletariat, 9, 11, 95 Lundy, R., 79 Lurgan, Co. Armagh, 119 Lurgan, Lord, 122 Lyons, F. S. L., 5, 20n.

McBride, R., 115 M’Calmont, H., 139 McClure, T., 95, 100, 107 McClure, W., 46 McCormick, W., 82 McHale, Archbishop J., 92 Mcllwaine, W., 47, 61 McKnight, T., 23, 132 McNeill, R., 9, 121 machine


markets, 25, 33, 36, 37, 51-2, 55 labour, see Labour force goods: Irish (textiles) 14-16, (agricultural products) 53; British (textiles) 14-16, 17,100, (agricultural products) 19, 53; world (textiles) 17, 84, 103, (agricultural products) 19, (ships) 17, 84, 103 marketing dustry, 15, 18-19 marriage, 53, 57, 58, 59, 61; rates of, 62 martial arts, 36

martial loyalties, 80 Marx, K., 8 maternity, 78 Maxwell family, 112 Maxwell, Somerset, 122, 130

Maynooth, 66n. Meath, Lord, 122 men, 71, 73, 74, 76 merchants, 15, 48, 65, 76, 102, 115;

see also Ship owners middle classes, see Bourgeoisie

Midland Great Western Railway, 125

Londonderry, Lord, 42

lotteries, 122, 126 Loyal Irish Union, 129-3, 138 Loyalism, see Orangeism


see Industry; Pro-

duction, modes of managers, 88 Manchester, 89 manipulation, political, 4, 5, 121 marginality, social, 60, 115

migration of colons, see Colons

to towns, 22, 52, 56, 62, 91, 115, 143 seasonal, 35 milling, corn, 18 mills cotton, 16, 40 linen, 48, 51-2, 62, 70, 84-5 mill workers, see Labour force millenarianism, see Religious revival Miller, D. W., 87 miracles, 48 mobility, social, 31-4, 53, 58, 115 modernisation political, 41, 42, 139 rural, 8, 67, 143-5 Monaghan, Co., 45, 108—9 Montgomery, H. de F., 124, 141n. ‘motives’, 5—9 Mulholland, J., 16 Munster, 11, 53 nationalism European, 4

Irish) 1-2, 12, 20n., 85, 86n., $7, 92-3, 93-6, 107-9, 113, 118-19, AOA 122° OG Aon 2958 lO 141n., 142n., 143, 144-5 in Ulster, rural, 107—9, 113, 118-19


The origins of Ulster Unionism

nationalism—contd. in Belfast, 85, 92-3, 93-6 and Irish National League, 93, 129, 141n., 142n.

and parliamentary party, 108, 120 navvies, 91, 92, 127 Nelson, I., 46, 47, 61 nepotism, 96-7, 102, 141 New Jersey, 16

Newry, Co. Down, 111n. newspaper proprietors, 23, 90-1, 105, 129, 132 Newtonards, Co. Down, 47 Normans, 13

North, B., 48 Northern Counties Railway, 126 Northern Ireland, 1, 3, 118, 138, 146

Parnell, C. S., 92, 120 parochialism, 37, 70, 71, 76, 80, 82, 83, 90, 146 particularism, 4, 64, 70, 90, 91, 96, 119 1545 146 partisanship, 94, 98 Party Processions Act (1867), 99, 101 paternity, 78 patrons, 90, 91, 95, 118, 126, 131, 141; parliamentary, 115, 114 patronage, 88, 96, 97, 98, 99, 107, 110n., 118, 126; concept of, 110n. pawnbrokers, 92 peasant proprietorship, 2, 120, 121 peasantry, see Tenantry Peep O’Day Boys, 34

Northern Whig, 64-5, 94, 97, 102, 107, 123, 124, 130 notables, 38, 97; see also Landlords; Gentry

peer groups, 76, 77 penal laws, 34 pensioners, 115

O’Connell, D., 70 O’Hanlon, W. M:, 67 O’Hegarty, P. S., 4 O’Neill family, 122 O’Sullivan, Rev. M., 37 Oakhboys, 28 oppression, 146 ‘Orange cage’, 85 Orange day, 73 Orangeism, 6, 22—43, 63, 70-85, 94, SO; 104S id Onr116, 1195127. 138, 140, 146 ideology of, 70-83 Independent, 82-3, 94, 95, 97, 99-102, 104, 140 Orange Order, 9, 20, 23-43, 56, 63-4, 65n., 76, 79, 85, 94-6, 98, 100; 1015 120n., 11415, 1146, 127; 128, 129, 150) 151, 140, 141n., 142, 145 in rural areas, 23-43, 56, 63—4, 114-15 in Belfast, 85, 94-7, 104, 128 Grand Lodge of Ireland, 65n., 79, 101, 110n., 115, 129, 144n. order, social, 67-8, 72-7, 80-2, 85; see also Communities ordered segmentation, 68, 72—7

petty bourgeoisie, 2, 47, 945 see also Artisans; Shopkeepers philanthropists, 67

Paine, T., 56 Paisley, I. R. K., 47, 48 Pale, the, 13 Parliament, British, see Westminster

personalism, 75, 76, 77, 79, 81, 82, 83, 85, 144

Pirie, W. J., 126, 141n. Plan of Campaign, 109 Plimsoll, S., 106

pogroms, 39 police, 68, 69, 741; 745 ZG6ss86n. recruitment of, 96—7 population growth, 19, 23-4, 40-2, 53-4, 91 sex imbalances in, 59, 60, 62 and migration, 17 populism, 101 Portadown, Co. Armagh, 59

Portaferry, Co. Down, 142n. Portnorris, Co. Armagh, 37 Portrush, Co. Antrim, 45 postal officials, 114-15, 118, 128 Pound, Belfast, 69, 73, 74, 89-93

prayer meetings, 45-6, 47, 48, 49 preachers, 6, 48—9 premiums, 93 Presbyterian Church and clergy, 23,

34, 45-6, 49, 56-7, 60, 65, 64, 105, 128 Presbyterianism, 23, 34, 56-7, 63, 69, 102, 105, 108, 128 prices, 14, 24, 28, 29, 30-1, 53 primitive accumulation, 53 Primrose League, 142n. print trade, 94

processing industry, 18-19


production, modes of concept of, 8 agrarian: patriachal, 13; feudal, 13; pastoral, 13; petty-commodity farming, 14; 19, 24-6, 51-3; subsistence farming, 25, 33, 53, 57; extensive commercial farming, 10, 13, 14, 52, 57; capitalist, 52-3, 57, 117-18

industrial: domestic manufacture, Mitre cede/ aS, a2 te O49 40" 47, O41, 58, 62, 14353 machine manufacture, 10, 11, 15, 16, 47, 18; 61-25 67, 68, 72, 84, 89, 96, 143 professions, free, 11, 53, 106, 108-9, DSR ES ed Oriole lS9 profitability, 13, 16, 19, 29 proletariat, see Working class Protectionists, 107 Protestant ascendancy, 2, 33, 35 Protestant Defence Association, 101 Protestant Working Men’s Association, 82, 95, 99, 101 Protestantism, ‘enthusiastic’, see Enthusiasm Protestantism religion, see Episcopalian Church and clergy; Episcopalianism; Presbyterian Church and clergy;

Presbyterianism and politics, see Conservative party, Irish; Orange Order; Orangeism; Unionism Purdon, C. D., 67

psychoanalysis, 61 Queen’s



see also Ship-

yard rack renting, 24 radicalism, 22, 34, 35, 51, 53 railways, 10, 91, 125, 126 Ranfurly, Lord, 122 rationality, 35, 55, 76 raw materials, 13, 19

Rea, J., 90-1 reading societies, 30 ,55, 55 references, character, 56, 97 Reform Act (1868), 88 reforrns, social, 117, 137 religious revival (1859), 44-66, 116 millenarianism and, 50






45-6, 56-7, 60, 63-5 psychophysical aspects (hysteria), 46-50, 59 social origin, 47—9, 59 and sexuality, 60-2, 64 rent, labour, 25 rents, 24, 28, 29 rent rolls, 24 retainers/retinues,

landed, 13, 34, 56, 59, 40, 80 revision courts, 114 Richardson family, 106 Richardson, J., 106, 116 RBachey, W., 47 riots, 2, 3, 44, 67-86, 95, 126-7


locales, 69

social composition, 70—2 social organisation, 72—7

rituals, 36, 39, 71, 78, 115, 132-3 rivets, 74 roles, 68, 76, 78-83 rope making, 16 Ross, J., 95 Rossmore, Lord, 122 Royal Black Preceptory, 95, 115 Royal Dublin Society, 24 Royal Irish Constabulary, see Police royalism, 80 Russell, T. W., 139 Salisbury, Lord, 120 Sandy Row, Belfast, 48, 69, 70, 71,

2S EAS 7, Os LOO OU 64=55 86ne, S9=9Ie9I6re AlS; 126, 141n., 144 Saunderson, E., 6, 122, 130, 140 Scotland, 13-14, 17, 35, 47, 55, 89 scriptures, 48, 57 secret ballot (1872), 88, t11n. secret societies, 6, 28, 34, 35 sectarianism, 9, 22, 23, 38, 67, 107, 129 secularisation, 70, 91, 92 segmentation, social, 31; see also Homogeneity, social segregation, 38, 62, 144 sequential orders, 72-7; see also Order, social; Communities Senior, H., 23 settlement patterns, 30-2, 51-2 sexuality, 60-2, 64 Shankill Road, Belfast, 69, 71, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 81, 82, 83, 86n., 126 shatter zones, 69, 70, 73, 74, 78


The origins of Ulster Unionism

shipbuilding dustry,

17, 72, 74-5, 81-5, 91 owners, 16, 71, 72, 105 workers, 17,48, 69, 70, 71, 72, 77, 718%. S82 SO Stn OO, OL ship owners, 102, 105, 106, 143, 144; see also Merchants

shipyard, 84, 91 ‘shipyard confetti’, 74 shoemakers, 47 shop assistants, 77 shopkeepers, 47, 48, 92, 94, 96, 109,

118 Sibbet, R. M., 39 Sinclair family, 106

Sirrocco Engineering Works, Belfast, 110n. skilled workers, see Labour force Sloan, T., 81 slums, 67, 76 slumps, 107 Smollett, T., 56 social imperialism, 136-9, 146 socialism, 83, 100, 137 solicitors, 92, 105, 106, 113, 138 solidarity, social, 70, 74, 80, 81, 85, 91 spatial relations, 76, 77 spectacles, 140 spinning, 16, 51-2; see also Mills State British, 33 ,42, 67, 79, 96, 97, 103, 119 Trish, 3, 146 Northern Irish, 118, 138, 146 functions of, 136 power, 139, 146 ‘statification’, 77, 136 steam power, 51-2 Steelboys, 28

Sterne, L., 56 Stewart, A. T. Q., 5 stocks, company, 124—5 Strauss, E., 43n. strikes, 126 subscription balls, 117 Suttles, G., 68, 75 Sweezy, J., 118 symbolism, 133; see also Rituals taxes, 26, 28, 29 Tea Lane, Belfast, 70

technology, 13-17, 33, 103 temperance, 88 Templetown, Lord, 138

tenant right, 14, 20, 21n., 28, 109, 116 Tenant Right League, 58, 116 tenantry

capitalist (southern) 18-19 substantial / commercial / yeoman (northern), 26, 28-9, 31, 34, 35, AQ, 44, 48, 52555, 565 97s 64, 65, 108, 113-14, 116-18, LTS SES ISAS OT TAS ie small cultivators, 42, 47, 52, 53, 57, 68, 65m, 109115, 1 ie eS labouring tenantry: cottars, 19, 24, 25, 28, 42, 52-3; farm servants, 25; ploughmen, 47 Tennent, R., 139 textiles, see Industry; Cotton; Linen textile manufacturers, 40, 48, 51-2,

60, 62, 85, 105, 106, 107, 116; associations of, 15, 124

theology, 63 Thompson, E. P., 94 tillage, 19, 27, 52-3 Tilly, C., 20n.

Times (London), 124—5 tithes, 26, 28, 29, 42n. tobacco manufacturers,


Tommy Downshire, 65n. Tone, W., 41



87, 105,


see also

Conservative party towns, 55, 62, 64, 113, 1195 see also Belfast

town—country 22, 44




Town meetings, 126 Toye, E35 49 Tracy, W., 70 trade, see Markets trades, small, 91-3 tradesmen, see Artisans

trade unions, 85, 94, 100 traditionalistic relations, 32, 35, 115 transference, 61 transport, 10, 15, 18, 52 Transport and General Workers’ Union (Ireland), 3 Tyrone, Co., 25, 28, 33, 45, 48, 65n., 124, 141n.; land ownership in, 140n. ‘Ulster custom’, 14, 20, 21n., 28, 109 Ulster Hall, Belfast, 100, 126, 128

Ulster Loyal anti-Repeal Union, 12930, 142n.


_ Ulsterman, 90 ‘Ulsterman’, stereotype, 5, 133-6 Ulster provisional government, 2 Ulster Unionism, 2, 4-9, 10, 20n., Gor NG nt SOME Sh—6, 18 112, 121, 132-40, 143-6 interpretation, 4-9, 121 ideology of, 7, 67, 134-7 politics: bourgeoisie and, 123-5, 127-56; landlords and, 121-3, 127-9; and British politics, 124, 127, 129; struggle for leadership,

127-36 Ulster Unionist Clubs’ Council, 137-8 Ulster Unionist Convention, 130-7 Ulster Unionist Council, 140 ‘Ulster Volunteer Force, 2, 9 Ulster Spinning Co., Belfast, 16 ‘undertakers’, 13 unemployment, 96, 126

Unionism, southern, 121-3, 127-9, AS 1595 145 United Irishmen, 20, 22—43, 51, 55, 105; social composition, 26, 30-1, 35, 42 United States of America, 16, 35, 46, 47, 100 unskilled workers, see Labour force Upperlands, Co. Derry, 116 urbanisation, 8, 67, 68, 85, 89, 93, 96, 103, 143-5; concept of, 8


Waringstown, Co. Down, 115, 141n. war lords, 13 washerwomen, 47 Watson, W., 92

weavers, 25, 28-9, 30-4, 39, 42, 51-2; 53, 54, 55,-56, 58, 60); 63, 115; see also Linen Weestimmster, =1502, 799" 113, 120: see also Elections; Conservative party; Liberal party Wexford, Co., 93 Whigs, 87, 105; see also



whisky drinking, 55 Whiteabbey, Co. Antrim, 139 Whitehouse, Co., Antrim, 48 White Linen Hall, Belfast, 15 Witherow, Rev. T., 48

Wolff, G., 82 women, 70, 71, 75, 76, 133 working class, 1, 11-12, 20n.,

26, 31-2, 44, 47-8, 63, 67-8, 72-7, 78-85, 89-96, 97-104, 119, 124-7, 136-7, 138, 140 Protestant: structure, 72-7; ideology, 47-8, 63, 78-85; politics,

124-7, 136-7, 138, 140 Catholic, 89-96 working day, 31, 55, 98

Workman—Clark, shipbuilders, 72

vengeance groups, 36—40 de Vesci, Lord, 122 villages, see Industrial villages

yarn, 51 yarn buyers, 30 yeomanry (farmers), see Tenantry Yeomanry (militia), 41

wages, 31, 53, 55, 72, 126 wakes, 36 Walker, W., 83

York Street, Belfast, 69, 126 Young, A., 14, 32

Wallace, Sir R., 113

youths, 73, 75, 76; see also Apprentices

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