Karl Marx in New York Tribune 1854

From The Blue Books — Parliamentary Debates of February 6... — The Irish Brigade


Source: Marx and Engels on Ireland, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971;
First Published: in The New-York Daily Tribune, February 21, 1854;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

Mr. I. Butt, in yesterday’s sitting of the Commons, gave notice

“that to-morrow he should move that there should be read by the clerk, at the table of the House, an article published in The Times of to-day, and the previous statements of The Dublin Freeman’s Journal, imputing to the (Irish) members of the House a trafficking in places for money. He should also move for a Select Committee to inquire into the allegations of such trafficking as contained in these publications.”

Why Mr. Butt is indignant only at the trafficking for money will be understood by those who remember that the legality of any other mode of trafficking was settled during last session. Since 1830 Downing-st. has been placed at the mercy of the Irish Brigade.[47] It is the Irish members who have created and kept in place the Ministers to their mind. In 1834 they drove from the Cabinet Sir J. Graham and Lord Stanley. In 1835 they compelled William IV to dismiss the Peel Ministry and to restore the Melbourne Administration. From the general election of 1837 down to that of 1841, while there was a British majority in the Lower House opposed to that Administration, the votes of the Irish Brigade were strong enough to turn the scale and keep it in office. It was the Irish Brigade again who installed the Coalition Cabinet. With all this power of Cabinet-making, the Brigade have never prevented any infamies against their own country nor any injustice to the English people. The period of their greatest power was at the time of O'Connell, from 1834-1841. To what account was it turned? The Irish agitation was never anything but a cry for the Whigs against the Tories, in order to extort places from the Whigs. Nobody who knows anything about the so-called Lichfield-House Contract,[48] will differ from this opinion — that contract by which O'Connell was to vote for, but licensed to spout against, the Whigs on condition that he should nominate his own Magistrates in Ireland. It is time for the Irish Brigade to put off their patriotic airs. It is time for the Irish people to put off their dumb hatred of the English and call their own representatives to an account for their wrongs.


47. The Irish Brigade — the name given by Marx to the faction of Irish deputies in the British Parliament. In the 1830s-1850s it was made up mainly of representatives of the Right wing in the national movement, who were reflecting the interests of the elite of the Irish bourgeoisie, the landlords and the Catholic clergy. Among them there were also Irish liberal functionaries who were relying on support from well-to-do tenants. Owing to the balance between the Tories and the Whigs in the House of Commons, the Irish Brigade, alongside with representatives of the free trader bourgeoisie, was able to tip the scale in the House of Commons and to influence the struggle in it, sometimes even to decide the fate of the government.

48. In February 1835, Daniel O'Connell, the leader of the Irish bourgeois nationalists, signed an agreement with representatives of the Whigs according to which he was to support them in the House of Commons in return for sonic concessions; in particular, Irish political leaders were promised posts in the administrative apparatus after the Whigs came to office. For his part, O'Connell under took to stop the Repeal of the Union campaign. The agreement was negotiated in Lord Lichfield’s London house and became known as the Lichfield-House Contract. It meant that the liberal circles of the Irish bourgeoisie and the medium landowners had reached a compromise with the English politicians and had renouncedconsistent struggle for Ireland s independence.