By John Kendle
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Extra resources for Ireland and the Federal Solution: The Debate over the United Kingdom Constitution, 1870-1921
The election of late 1885 had given neither Salisbury's government nor the Liberals a clear-cut victory. The Liberals did have a majority of eighty-six over the government but since the Parnellites had won exactly eight-six seats they held the balance of power. Although Salisbury stayed in office, Gladstone realized that the Conservatives had no incentive to continue their relationship with Parnell, certainly not now that Gladstone's own adoption of home rule had become public. By the end of the year he recognized that he and his party would soon be dependent upon the Parnellites and obliged to introduce a home rule bill.
During 1885 there had been a number of speculative articles about constitutional change in the United Kingdom. Lord Castletown had argued in the Fortnightly Review that only local government reforms were palatable because they would avoid the transfer of too much power and would preserve the integrity of the empire. He believed both federalism and home rule would lead to either civil war or the disintegration of the United Kingdom. A federation of the United Kingdom would suggest "a partnership of national groups" as in the United States but in fact would provide Ireland with an opportunity to break the link.
He went on to argue that the concession to Ireland of the right to raise its own revenues would no more "conflict with the integrity of the Empire than the exercise of it does in the case of our great self-governing Colonies. It no doubt would be inconvenient to have different tariffs in Ireland and Great Britain, but there are no Imperial interests involved in the matter ... as England will always be the great market for Irish produce, the Irish are not likely to take any step which would destroy the market.