Ryan Blank and Paul Kerry, History Department
In the 1880s and 90s, the individual kingdoms and principalities that make up the United Kingdom experienced a revival of nationalistic sentiment. For the English, their national identity was tied to the Empire. The Celtic peoples re-invented nationalistic traditions, costume, and revived national languages. Building on the Romantic Movement, Celtic nationalists promoted strong national identities and legendary histories; however, the nationalism of the 1890s in Wales and Scotland was not anti-Empire even though it was anti-United Kingdom. This project will investigate Welsh and Scottish nationalism, particularly the Home Rule movements, through the lens of the writings and activities of a man who was connected to both Wales and Scotland, John Crichton Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute.
The British Empire was a composite system that comprised many different nations and cultures. While many have studied the British colonies and their independence movements in the nineteenth century, comparatively little work examined the nineteenth-century Welsh and Scottish Home Rule Movements. Of the two, Scottish Home Rule has been better examined but even students of Scottish Home Rule neglect the significant contributions of Conservative peers, like the 3rd Marquess of Bute.
Despite the small amount of academic work devoted to Conservative supporters of Scottish and Welsh Home Rule, these men were very influential because they provided funding, political legitimacy, and conducted cultural studies that helped to shape modern conceptions of ‘Scottish’ or ‘Welsh.’ These romantic nationalists often focused on the preservation of language, culture, and unique national identities. When Lord Bute presided over the National Eisteddfod of 1883, a singular honor for a non-Welshman, Bute urged the Welsh, “to cling to the language of your fathers, and to seek through it the development of literary power and intellectual culture.”1 Eisteddfods are a unique Welsh cultural event that celebrate Welsh poets and poetry. For Lord Bute, a Scotsman, British peer, and Welsh landowner, it was possible to hold multiple complimentary national identities that emphasized his overall Britishness. Because of the recent Scottish Referendum, in the fall of 2014, and the subsequent 2015 route of all non-Scottish Nationalist parties, I wanted to examine nineteenth-century Conservative Scottish and Welsh nationalism to better understand an alternative system that would not break-up the United Kingdom but still preserve the Scottish and Welsh culture and identity.
I first stumbled across the 3rd Marquess of Bute whilst I was on a study abroad in Cardiff in 2014. Lord Bute’s family made most of its money in Cardiff during the Second Industrial Revolution because of the Welsh steel, coal, and slate mines. The Bute’s were very involved in Cardiff both as philanthropists and as local landowners. Lord Bute served as the Mayor of Cardiff in 1890 and sponsored several eisteddfods, churches, schools, hospitals, and infrastructure developments. In modern Cardiff he is most famous for restoring Cardiff Castle and it was there that I first became acquainted with Lord Bute’s enthusiasm for the medieval and for Celtic cultures.
In order to properly examine Lord Bute’s contributions to Welsh nationalism, I corresponded briefly with Bute’s biographer, Rosemary Hannah, interviewed the curator of Cardiff Castle and began hunting through archives in Cardiff, Cambridge, Aberystwyth, London, and the Bute family seat at Mount Stuart. Luckily, there was a wealth of primary source documents preserving Bute’s statements and opinions on Scottish and Welsh nationalism. My research took a little over a year and involved support from some excellent mentors at BYU and at Cambridge University.
In 1886, the Liberal Party leader, William Gladstone, launched his campaign with a platform that emphasized Scottish, Welsh, and Irish nationalism. The Irish Question, whether or not Ireland should be granted Home Rule, dominated British politics in the late nineteenth century. Gladstone’s 1886 platform tried to raise the floundering Liberal Party’s popularity by tying them to nationalist appeals in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Until Gladstone’s campaign, many late-nineteenth-century Scottish and Welsh nationalists could find common ground with Conservatives, Liberals, and even radicals.2 Unfortunately, Gladstone’s divisive rhetoric polarized the Scottish and Welsh Home Rule Movements. However, diehard Conservative romantic nationalists, like Lord Bute, continued to contribute to organizations like the Scottish Home Rule Association, write pamphlets in support of Home Rule, and promote cultural events that celebrated Scottish and Welsh language and cultural identity. Romantic nationalism was useful because it could transcend party boundaries only by emphasizing cultural preservation and heritage.
Lord Bute’s papers provided a fascinating window into Scottish and Welsh Home Rule movements. Like many of his fellow Conservative nationalists, Lord Bute realized that the status quo was untenable and that some systemic changes might be able to preserve the Empire. Lord Bute proposed that England, Scotland, Wales, and the White Dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa) be granted Home Rule over local affairs. Bute then suggested that the British Parliament be turned into an Imperial Parliament that included delegates from the local Parliaments and the Peerage. The local governments would handle national affairs and have semi-autonomous status. The Imperial Parliament would coordinate foreign policy, trade, and other more globalized topics. Lord Bute believed that such a system would preserve the Empire and also benefit local populations and cultures.
Lord Bute’s proposals were not accepted by his own party nor were they seriously discussed by any official political organization. In 1922 the Statute of Westminster granted autonomy and political independence to the White Dominions. After the decolonization of the mid-twentieth century, the British Empire ceased to exist.
- NLW A6/19 “Address of Lord Bute.” Western Mail, August 7 1883.
- Lloyd-Jones, Naomi. “Liberalism, Scottish Nationalism and the Home Rule Crisis, c. 1886-93.” English Historical Review (2014) doj: 10.1093/her/ceu209. First published online: August 2014.