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HOW FAR, FROM 1800 TO 1921, DID CONSTITUTIONAL NATIONALISM SUCCEED IN ACHIEVING REFORM WITHIN, AND OF, THE UNION?

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Introduction

HOW FAR, FROM 1800 TO 1921, DID CONSTITUTIONAL NATIONALISM SUCCEED IN ACHIEVING REFORM WITHIN, AND OF, THE UNION? Over the period from 1800 to 1921, Constitutional nationalism achieved some success insofar as it influenced some quite significant reforms within the Union, particularly in the areas of Politics, Economics and Religion. However, there was a notable failure to achieve reform of the Union, and towards the very end of the period, the constitutional movement all but fell apart, leading to the conclusion that although they had achieved some small successes, overall they were not very successful in achieving reform within, and of, the union. From the very outset of the Union, constitutional nationalism had little success. Despite considerable opposition to the union from Henry Grattan and the Patriots, the Act of Union was passed in 1880, setting the tone for the following years. Grattan made speeches in Parliament when he was an MP attempting to bring the Catholic question on to the political agenda; he wanted to address the fact that the Catholic emancipation clause that was originally included in the Act of Union, and was what had 'sold' the bill to the Irish, was removed from the final legislation. However, he was unsuccessful - the first failure to achieve reform within the union. O'Connell was somewhat successful in achieving reform within the Union, making him one of the most famous figures of the constitutional nationalist movement; Catholic emancipation in 1829 ...read more.

Middle

Therefore it is evident that the First Land Act of 1870 cannot be attributed as a success for Constitutional Nationalism. However, the second land act can be seen as an achievement of Constitutional Nationalism; The Irish National Land League, formed by Davitt in 1879 and of which Parnell was president had widespread campaigning for the '3 Fs' - Fair Rents, Fixed Tenure and Free Sale, via relatively constitutional methods such as boycotts and propaganda. Parnell also tried to disassociate the movement from the more violent activity that was taking place in Ireland. However, the extent to which the movement as whole can be called 'constitutional' nationalism is doubtful - the movement arose from the new departure, combining constitutional nationalism, revolutionary nationalism and agrarian radicalism, and throughout the campaign various violent outrages somewhat distanced the movement from the 'constitutional' label. Furthermore there is cause to doubt the extent to which The Second Land Act was a result of the movement or indeed constitutional nationalism as a whole. However, the second land act has been described as a political stroke by Gladstone - with the purpose of destroying the excuse for the Land League to exist and removing the necessity for violence by granting the tenants their major demands. In this light, the 2nd Land Act can be seen as a success, but given the limited part played by constitutional nationalist movement in achieving it, this small reform within the union cannot be hailed as a success for constitutional nationalism. ...read more.

Conclusion

This further illustrates the nature of constitutional nationalism over the period - although some small successes were achieved, they were overridden by failure and This final and damning failure of Irish Constitutional Nationalism was illustrated in the General election of 1918, when Sinn Fein won the overwhelming majority of Irish seats, almost totally destroying the IPP who remained with just 6. The final reform of the union in the form of the Anglo-Irish treaty was arguably not due to constitutional nationalism at all, rather more down to the revolutionary activities of Sinn Fein and the IRA. Therefore this ended Constitutional nationalism with failure. Throughout the period 1800-1921, Constitutional Nationalism proved to be largely unsuccessful in achieving reform within and of the union. Although there were some individual successes in various areas - with regard to religion, Catholic Emancipation and the eventual disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, Politically the introduction of home rule as a realistic goal and the opening up of offices to Catholics, and economically the significant land acts and the reform that this bought to Irish tenant farmers. However, much of this cannot be linked concretely to Constitutional nationalism and all of these reforms were within, rather than of the union. Therefore, although there were some individual successes, overall, Constitutional nationalism was largely unsuccessful in achieving reform within, and of, the union. ...read more.

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