This article contends that the Irish policy of both the Whig and Tory parties has received rather short shrift in the historiography surrounding Britain's decade of reform. In an attempt to rectify this gap, the article traces the emergence of the Whig policy of ‘justice to Ireland’ between 1835 and 1839; a policy championed by an emerging activist leadership within the party that promoted Catholics in Irish administration and attempted to pass substantial legislative reform. This ambitious Whig agenda upended a thirty-five-year consensus that relied on coercion to rule Ireland's recalcitrant population. Tories vehemently opposed this change, and used Irish agrarian violence – so-called ‘outrages’ – to undermine the success of the Whigs’ novel approach to governing Ireland through remedial legislation. This confrontation over Irish policy led to an 1839 House of Lords committee on Irish crime that passed a vote of censure on the Whigs’ Irish policy and nearly toppled Melbourne's government. However, the article demonstrates how the Whigs’ Irish policy was the one question that held together their big tent coalition of Whigs, English radicals, and O'Connellites, thus extending their administration for another two years.
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