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Liberal Unionists

Liberal Unionists The Liberal government's proposal for Irish Home Rule and land reform in 1886 caused substantial opposition within the party and the fall of the government in June 1886. The opponents of Gladstone's Irish settlement, known to themselves as Liberal Unionists, and to other Liberals as Dissentient Liberals, believed Home Rule would lead to separation. They were of three chief sorts: (a) Lord Hartington and other Whigs who were important numerically and because of the loss of their money and their numbers in the House of Lords; (b) many Liberals in Lowland Scotland and Ulster (those in Ulster forming their own organization) who had become Unionists; (c) Joseph Chamberlain and his group of Birmingham MPs. After the 1886 election, when about 55 Liberal Unionists were elected, and the failure of talks in 1887, several returned to the Liberal Party.

In the 1890s the Liberal Unionists became more closely linked with the Unionists, Chamberlain and Devonshire (as Hartington had become) entering Salisbury's government in 1895. They split over tariff reform in the 1900s, some following Chamberlain into protection, others forming, with some Tories, the Unionist Free Food League. The Chamberlain family maintained control of the Liberal Unionist Council. The Liberal Unionists fused with the Conservative Party in 1912 and their members were admitted to the Carlton Club.

H. C. G. Matthew

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