Disraeli’s words in the House of Commons on 16 February 1844 beautifully sum up both the state of nineteenth-century Ireland and England’s responsibilities to improve it:

I want to see a public man come forward and say what the Irish question is. One says it is a physical question, another a spiritual. Now it is the absence of the Aristocracy. Now it is the absence of railways. It is the Pope one day and potatoes the next. A dense population inhabit an island where there is an established church which is not their church, and a territorial aristocracy, the richest of whom live in a distant capital. Thus they have a starving population, an alien church, and in addition the weakest executive in the world.

Well, what then would gentlemen say if they were reading of a country in that position? They would say at once, ‘The remedy is a revolution.’ But the Irish could not have a revolution and why? Because Ireland is connected with another a more powerful country. Then what is the consequence? The connection with England became the cause of the present state of Ireland. If the connection with England prevented a revolution and a revolution was the only remedy, England logically is in the odious position of being the cause of all the misery of Ireland. What then is the duty of an English minister? To effect by his policy all those changes which a revolution would effect by force. That is the Irish question its integrity. [Quoted in Jenkins 279n.]


Jenkins, Roy. Gladstone: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1997.

Last modified 30 April 2018