Do you agree with the view that the Land League was successful in achieving its aims? The instance the Land League was established in 1879 by Michael Davitt, its determination and theories about what should happen in Ireland, had huge influence in British-Irish politics. Their aims, to begin with, were somewhat simple, redistribution of the land so that the Irish would once again be owners of ‘their own’ land along with their aim of what became known as the 3 F’s, free-sale, fixed tenancies and fair rents.
It was one of the most important mass movements in Irish history and there were many successes in this period, Gladstone introduced the Second Land Act and many put this down to the sheer perseverance of the Land League, it is said that the Land League changed many lives in Ireland. However, it is difficult to argue that the league achieved all its aims due to many factors, one being the fact that their aims in fact changed, therefore it’s hard to measure their success; accordingly the statement will be explored.
Successes of the league include the Kilmainham Treaty. This was a direct result of the actions of the Land League; Parnell was put in jail following his unwillingness to liaise with Gladstone after the Second Land Act. However after 6 months in jail, violence increased and the land question was not being successfully dealt with, so both Parnell and Gladstone were keen to break the stalemate. The Kilmainham Treaty was an agreement between the two, which meant Gladstone would look favourably upon the problems in Ireland.
This was a huge success for the Land League, and was solely as a result of Gladstone’s admiration and respect for Parnell’s intelligence and cause, hence implying the land league was successful. Another way the land league were able to achieve this aim, was the introduction of the Land Purchase Scheme. Gladstone felt pressures from the Land League, and didn’t underestimate their capabilities in achieving what they wanted.
It is for this reason, he decided to pacify them in this way, the scheme raised the states proportion of the purchase price from two thirds to three quarters, thus enabling the tenants to buy their land, and it is clear that without the imminent threat of Land League Gladstone wouldn’t have introduced this. The land leagues successes are further exemplified in Source Q, in terms of the fact that the landlords were driven out by members, consequently, achieving the aim of redistribution of the Irish land. The Land League aimed to have a society where the tenants could purchase their own land which many elt morally as theirs. One of the land leagues methods were outrages, this was an act against landlords which the league hoped would push the landlords out of Ireland, giving the tenants the opportunity to purchase the land. ‘The shopkeepers have been warned to stop all supplies’; Source Q clarifies this point as this would be an example of an outrage. A further example of this would be the Captain Boycott story, Boycott was a landlord in Ireland and 1880 he served notices on eleven tenants, who had failed to keep up with their rents.
In response, the local community, stimulated by the land league, encouraged all his workers to leave his estate, just as in Source Q. As a result, Boycott realised he had no future in Ireland and fled to England, this is the decision the landlord in Source Q is contemplating, when they say “unless I throw up everything and leave the country”. This reveals that the land league were partially successful in their aims of getting landlords to leave Ireland, helping in their fight for redistribution of the land. However, the origin of Source Q has to be explored; the source came from The Times Newspaper.
The Times was a classically English newspaper, traditionally reporting in a conservative manner. It is for this reason that the reliability of the source has to be questioned; the source is much more likely to be critical of the Irish depicting them in a much more negative light. In reality this landlord could have been leaving his land for many reasons, but the newspaper wants to make it seem like the Irish, especially members of the Land League appear much more violent, provoking sympathy for the landlords, which most definitely weren’t the aims of league.
Also this was only one instance, and although backed up by the story of Boycott, it can be said that this tactic was only successful a limited number of times for the Irish, consequently meaning that the Land League may not of been largely successful in achieving their aims. Gladstone also introduced an Arrears Bill, which helped the tenants to ‘wipe the slate clean’ in respect to their rents. Helping them keep their homes, adding to the success and meeting the aim of a fixed tenancy.
Finally the date this was published is significant; this was before the Second Land Act, meaning it is incapable of being used as a source to determine whether the Land League was successful in total, as society and legislation was only half way through the key changes. There is a lot of evidence which suggests that the Land League weren’t successful. Despite Gladstone’s efforts to tackle the issue of redistribution the land with the Land Purchase Scheme and the Land Leagues methods of outrages, it was still a huge problem. Many of the Irish were still farming some of the worst land and in overcrowded areas.
Additionally, more radical members weren’t satisfied by Gladstone’s schemes; they felt that not enough people in Ireland owned their own land and therefore the league had failed in achieving its aims. Likewise, in spite of the Second Land Act there were still unfair evictions all over Ireland, showing that their aim to attain fixed tenancies for all tenants had not succeeded. Moreover, the league was banned in 1882, for having ‘unlawful’ methods, along with the fact the coercion act was still in place. This conflicts with the view that Irish and British relationships had improved during instances like the Kilmainham Treaty.
It can be deducted that Gladstone’s improvements were just short term to stop the violence, and in this way it is obvious that the league had failed in this respect. Additionally, one of the most significant factors is that there was a division within the league itself, for some the ultimate goal and aim wasn’t to do with land, it was Home Rule. For them the land was merely a battering ram for further change. It can be concluded from this that the Irish would never have been satisfied and the focus of the ‘Irish Question’ was constantly changing, therefore so were the aims of the league.
In this way it can be seen that the league wasn’t successful in achieving its aims, as its aims changed. An example where it is shown that not everyone was satisfied would be the Phoenix Park murders this is where two British advocates were brutally stabbed to death by a group claiming to be the Irish Invincibles, they wanted home Rule. The land leagues achievements had not satisfied them. Another outlook which differs from the statement is one of which that the Land League didn’t make any progress at all, this outlook can be depicted from Source W, it says “the protracted struggle that began in 1879 was unnecessary”.
One view is that the tenants didn’t really have anything significant to show for their struggle, which is completely going against the aims of the league and providing evidence that the statement is invalid. Rents were reduced by up to 25%, however this meant the rents were still at extortionate prices, this point is echoed in Source W, it says that the league “failed to reduce rents”, as this was a key aim it majorly suggests the league were not successful. During this period, the Danes and Dutch were emerging as one of Britain’s suppliers for food.
Many argue that if the Irish, especially the League, weren’t so fixated with British-Irish politics then they could of easily had this position in supplying the whole of Britain thus providing more stability to many of the tenants lives. This is clarified in Source W, “the Danes and Dutch increased their hold on the British market for dairy and pork products”. Hence implying that not only did the Land League fail in achieving its aims, but suggesting they made the situation worse for their own people. The origin of this source is extremely credible, it’s written by a historian.
This historian must have had to do a lot on in depth research into this topic and therefore her findings are more trustworthy and indicate to me that the League wasn’t so much of a success. Moreover, it is published in a book that’s main focus is economics, meaning that it is in a good position to look at the financial factors in Ireland at the time and as the League’s main aims were to do with finance it makes this source more reliable and useful in evaluating the leagues, which seem to be, limited successes.
To conclude, using the evidence from the sources with support from my own knowledge, I feel it is clear that the League were not successful in achieving its aims, consequently not agreeing with the statement. Although there were some successes, I feel they were over shadowed by their failures, by the end of this period they didn’t have much to show for the violent and long battle with the government. Most clear is the fact that their aims had changed; it is true that their success can’t really be measured.