Striving for a world transformed by justice and peace - a TL from 1827

The Prime Minister, George Cowell, reshuffled his cabinet on 12 June 1878. The new cabinet was as follows:
Prime Minister: George Cowell
Lord Chancellor: Viscount Hughes
Lord President of the Council: Alexander MacDonald
Lord Privy Seal: Lord Stansfield
Chancellor of the Exchequer: Robert Applegarth
Foreign Secretary: George Potter
Home Secretary: Thomas Arthur Rankin
First Lord of the Admiralty: Anthony John Mundella
President of the Board of Agriculture: James Banks [1]
Colonial Secretary: George Howell
President of the Board of Education: William Chadwick
Secretary of State for India: George Shipton

[1] Fictional character

To be continued.
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Continuation of cabinet appointed 12 June 1878.

Secretary of State for Ireland: Joseph McLauglin [1]
President of the Local Government Board: Sarah Taylor [2]
Secretary of State for Scotland: Donald Mackenzie [3]
President of the Board of Trade: Thomas Halliday
Secretary of State for Wales: David Ellis [4]
Secretary of State for War: Thomas Connolly
First Commissioner of Works: Lady Margaret Roberts [5]

[1 - 4] Fictional characters.
[5] Fictional character. Roberts was a friend of Angharad Griffiths and a member of the House of Lords, elected by Glamorgan County Council.
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Also in the cabinet was Michael Davitt as President of the Board for Agriculture and Rural Development for Ireland. At thirty-two years old he was the youngest cabinet minister. He was elected Commonwealth MP for Limerick in the 1874 general election, and was a strong advocate of land nationalisation and of Irish Home Rule.

Among ministers outside the cabinet were the following:
Attorney-General: Sir George Jessel
Solicitor-General: Sir Rupert Kettle
Postmaster-General: Henry Broadhurst
Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office: Lady Kate Maclean [1] She spoke for the government on foreign policy in the House of Lords.

The cabinet appointments about which there was the most press comment were those of Davitt, and of the women ministers Roberts and Taylor.

[1] A fictional character. She was a member of the House of Lords elected by Glasgow City Council.
After the general election, Parliament met on 18 June 1878. The House of Commons unanimously re-elected John Mowbray [Oxford University, Conservative] as Speaker.

The number of women MPs elected in the general election were as follows [October 1874 general election]:
Commonwealth: 12 [17]
Conservative: 5 [3]
Irish Nationalist: 5 [2]
Liberal: 1 [-]
Total: 23 [22]
On 25 June 1878, Queen Victoria delivered the Queen's Speech which set out the legislative programme of her government for the new parliamentary session. Among the bills proposed were for an increase in the living wage from 13 shillings and nine pence a week to fourteen shillings and sixpence a week for workers aged 16 or over, and from 11 shillings and three pence a week to 12 shillings a week for workers aged 13 to 16; for funeral grants for basic funerals; for empowering local authorities to establish municipal pawnbrokers. There was also a bill to give Home Rule to Ireland, but everyone knew that the government were waiting until after the elections by borough and county councils to the House of Lords at the end of October/beginning of November later that year, to introduce such a bill.

In the general election the seats won by each party in Ireland were as follows:
Commonwealth: Belfast West, Cork City North, Cork City South, Dublin Harbour, Dublin St. Patricks, Limerick City, Londonderry/Derry City. Total =7.

Conservative: Antrim East, Antrim Mid, Antrim North, Antrim South, Armagh Mid, Armagh North, Belfast East, Belfast North, Belfast South, Down East, Down Mid, Down North, Down West, County Londonderry North, County Londonderry South, Tyrone North, Tyrone South. Total =17.

The Irish Nationalists won all the other 79 seats in Ireland.

The Conservatives now had no MPs from outside the north of Ireland, and in only five counties - Antrim, Armagh Down, Londonderry and Tyrone - had they won a majority of seats. The Irish Nationalist Party had a majority of MPs in the other twenty-seven counties.
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In late October/early November 1878 borough and county councils with a population of at least one hundred thousand elected members of the House of Lords. The gains for each party were as follows [number of seats]:
Borough councils:
Commonwealth gains from Conservative : Birmingham [3] Bristol [1] Camberwell [1] Liverpool [4] Plymouth [1]. Total =10
Commonwealth gain from Liberal: Hackney [1].

England county councils:
Commonwealth gains from Conservative: Leicestershire [2]
Commonwealth gain from Liberal: Northumberland [1]
Conservative gain from Liberal: Cumberland [1]
Liberal gains from Conservative: Somerset [3] Wiltshire [3]

Ireland counties:
Irish Nationalist gain from Commonwealth: County Dublin [1]
Irish Nationalist gain from Conservative: County Tyrone [1]

At the time of the 1872 election, Cumberland County Council was a Conservative/Liberal coalition, Northumberland County Council was a Commonwealth/Liberal coalition and Dublin County Council was an Irish Nationalist/Commonwealth coalition. By 1878 these councils had Conservative, Commonwealth and Liberal majorities respectively so the minority parties lost their seats in the House of Lords.
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Continuation of party gains.
Commonwealth gain from Conservative: Midlothian [1]
Liberal gain from Conservative: Aberdeenshire [1]

The number of peers of each party elected by Borough and County Councils were as follows [after 1872 election]:
Commonwealth: 107 [93]
Conservative: 88 [108]
Irish Nationalist: 21 [[19]
Liberal: 13 [9]
Total: 229 [229]

These number of hereditary peers of each party were as follows:
Conservative: 122 [122]
Liberal: 77 [77]
Commonwealth: 1 [1]
Total: 200 [200]

After the election the representation of each party in the House of Lords was as follows:
Conservative: 210 [230]
Commonwealth: 108 [94]
Liberal: 90 [86]
Irish Nationalist: 21 [19]
Independent Life Peers: 25 [25]
Archbishops and bishops: 26 [26]
Law Lords: 4 [4]
Total: 484 [484]
There was still not a majority in the House of Lords for Irish Home Rule.

In the House of Commons on 19 November 1878, the Prime Minister, George Cowell, proposed all party talks on the constitutional future of Ireland, as promised in the Commonwealth Party manifesto for the June 1878 general election. John Blake Dillon and Sir Charles Dilke, the Irish Nationalist and Liberal Party leaders respectively agreed to take part. To most people's surprise so did Sir Stafford Northcote, the Conservative Party leader, although before the general election he had said that his party would not participate in such talks. It was believed that he wanted a Conservative voice in them.

The talks opened on 3 December 1878. Dillon proposed a federal Ireland within the United Kingdom. It would comprise the provinces of Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster. There would be an all Ireland Parliament sitting in Dublin with a government responsible to it. Only the Crown and succession, foreign affairs, the armed forces and treason would be reserved to the Westminster Parliament. The Irish Parliament would be responsible for income tax, surtax, estate duty, excise duties, old age pensions, the living wage, mothers' allowance, navigation and overseas trade, lighthouses, coinage, weights and measures, posts and telegraphs, and the Royal Irish Constabulary. It would have the power to impose tariffs on imports. Each province would be responsible for all other matters, except those reserved to the Westminster Parliament. Fifty-three MPs from Irish constituencies would sit in the UK Parliament.
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The Commonwealth representatives at the talks supported the Nationalists proposal for an Irish Parliament, but with less powers than proposed. But they were opposed to dividing Ireland into provinces because it would mean an extra layer of government between the Irish government and the county councils. The Commonwealth Party believed in the devolution of power to the lowest possible level, and the government intended to introduce legislation to create parish councils when parliamentary time allowed. Also they were opposed to the proposed powers for the provinces, particularly over employment and health insurance, and trade union and employment law.
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There were twenty four MPs and Peers at the conference, made up of six from each party. There were MPs and Peers from the Conservative and Liberal parties, and only MPs from the Commonwealth and Irish Nationalist parties. The Secretary of State for Ireland, Joseph McLaughlin, led the Commonwealth Party representatives. The Conservative Party contingent was led by James Corry, the MP for Belfast East. [1]

The Tories strongly opposed the Irish Nationalist proposal because they objected to any form of Home Rule, in spite of Ulster having extensive powers. In the June 1878 general election of the 34 MPs elected for Ulster seats, 17 were Conservative, 15 were Irish Nationalist and two were Commonwealth. So a Conservative majority in an Ulster Parliament could not be guaranteed.

Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, the 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, was the leader of the Liberals at the conference.

[1] For Corry see,_1st_Baronet.
On behalf of the Liberal Party, the Marquess of Lansdowne proposed the following scheme at the conference for limited Irish Home Rule:
There would be an Irish Assembly of 141 members, of which 138 would be elected by territorial constituencies, two by the graduates of Dublin University, and one by the graduates of Queen's University, Belfast. They would have designation of Members of the Irish Assembly [MIA]. The Assembly would sit for a term of four years, unless dissolved during the term. The party or parties in the Assembly which have a majority would form a government, headed by a First Minister who would appoint ministers.

The responsibilities of the following Irish Boards would be transferred to the Irish Assembly and government: Agriculture and Rural Development, Education, Local Government, and Public Works. All other matters would be reserved to the Westminster Parliament.
More about Lansdowne's scheme.

The Westminster Parliament would be supreme and the House of Commons would have the right to veto legislation passed by the Irish Assembly, but a veto would be overridden by a vote of two-thirds of the total number of MIAs, that is by 94 votes out of 141.

The proposed Assembly would not be able to levy taxes. Instead it would be financed by an Irish Fund of £4,500,000. [1]

The number of MPs from Irish constituencies would be reduced from 103 to 68, together with two representing Dublin University.

[1] This is based on the Irish Council Bill 1907 in OTL which provided for an Irish Fund totalling £4,300,000. See The Irish Council Bill, by Dunraven, the Right Hon. Earl of, The Nineteenth Century and After, Vol. LXI, No, 364 June 1907, pp. 1033 -1046.
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The Irish Nationalist Party leader, John Blake Dillon, rejected Lansdowne scheme because the proposed Irish Assembly would not have tax raising powers. With such powers the scheme wouid be just about acceptable. After discussion with his Liberal colleagues , Lansdowne proposed that the Irish Assembly would have the power to levy the following taxes:
income tax up to a rate of sixpence in the pound, surtax, estate duty, stamp duty, and land tax. Also customs duties on beer and spirits.

As regards the Irish contribution to the UK Exchequer, Lansdowne proposed one-fifteenth, while Dillon suggested one twenty-. fifth. Under the Act of Union it had been settled at two-seventeenths.