On this day on 8th April

On this day in 1886 William Ewart Gladstone introduces the first Irish Home Rule Bill. Gladstone and the Liberals won the 1885 General Election, with a majority of seventy-two over the Tories. However, the Irish Nationalists could cause problems because they won 86 seats. On 8th April 1886, Gladstone announced his plan for Irish Home Rule. Mary Gladstone Drew wrote: "The air tingled with excitement and emotion, and when he began his speech we wondered to see that it was really the same familiar face - familiar voice. For 3 hours and a half he spoke - the most quiet earnest pleading, explaining, analysing, showing a mastery of detail and a grip and grasp such as has never been surpassed. Not a sound was heard, not a cough even, only cheers breaking out here and there - a tremendous feat at his age... I think really the scheme goes further than people thought."

The Home Rule Bill said that there should be a separate parliament for Ireland in Dublin and that there would be no Irish MPs in the House of Commons. The Irish Parliament would manage affairs inside Ireland, such as education, transport and agriculture. However, it would not be allowed to have a separate army or navy, nor would it be able to make separate treaties or trade agreements with foreign countries.

The Conservative Party opposed the measure. So did some members of the Liberal Party, led by Joseph Chamberlain, also disagreed with Gladstone's plan. Chamberlain main objection to Gladstone's Home Rule Bill was that as there would be no Irish MPs at Westminster, Britain and Ireland would drift apart. He added that this would be amounting to the start of the break-up of the British Empire. When a vote was taken, there were 313 MPs in favour, but 343 against. Of those voting against, 93 were Liberals. They became known as Liberal Unionists.

Gladstone responded to the vote by dissolving parliament rather than resign. During the 1886 General Election he had great difficultly leading a divided party. According to Colin Matthew: "So dedicated was Gladstone to the campaign that he agreed to break the habit of the previous forty years and cease his attempts to convert prostitutes, for fear, for the first time, of causing a scandal (Liberal agents had heard that the Unionists were monitoring Gladstone's nocturnal movements in London with a view to a press exposé)".

In the election the number of Liberal MPs fell from 333 in 1885 to 196, though no party gained an overall majority. Gladstone resigned on 30th July. Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury, once again became prime minister. Queen Victoria wrote him a letter where she said she always thought that his Irish policy was bound to fail and "that a period of silence from him on this issue would now be most welcome, as well as his clear patriotic duty."

William Gladstone refused to retire and continued as leader of the opposition. He wrote several articles on the subject of Home Rule and questioned the idea that the House of Lords should be able to block government legislation. Although he remained active in politics, a decline in his hearing and eyesight made life difficult. "His memory, particularly for names but also for recent events, although not for more distant ones, showed signs of fading... On the other hand his physical stamina remained formidable. He felled his last tree a few weeks before his eighty-second birthday."

Drawing of Charles Bradlaugh beingevicted from the House of Commons in 1880
Illustrated London News (8th April 1886)

On this day in 1902 Joseph Stalin is arrested after coordinating a strike in Russia. The previous year Stalin joined the and whereas most of the leaders were living in exile, he stayed in Russia where he helped to organize industrial resistance to Tsarism. On 18th April, 1902, Stalin was arrested after coordinating a strike at the large Rothschild plant at Batum and after spending 18 months in prison, Stalin was deported to Siberia.

Grigol Uratadze, a fellow prisoner, later described Stalin's appearance and behaviour in prison: "He was scruffy and his pockmarked face made him not particularly neat in appearance.... He had a creeping way of walking, taking short steps.... when we were let outside for exercise and all of us in our particular groups made for this or that corner of the prison yard, Stalin stayed by himself and walked backwards and forwards with his short aces, and if anyone tried speaking to him, he would open his mouth into that cold smile of his and perhaps say a few words... we lived together in Kutaisi Prison for more than half a year and not once did I see him get agitated, lose control, get angry, shout, swear - or in short - reveal himself in any other aspect than complete calmness."

At the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Labour Party held in London in 1903, there was a dispute between and Julius Martov over the future of the SDLP. Lenin argued for a small party of professional revolutionaries with a large fringe of non-party sympathizers and supporters. Martov disagreed believing it was better to have a large party of activists. Leon Trotsky commented that "the split came unexpectedly for all the members of the congress. Lenin, the most active figure in the struggle, did not foresee it, nor had he ever desired it. Both sides were greatly upset by the course of events."

Although Martov won the vote 28-23 on the paragraph defining Party membership. With the support of George Plekhanov, Lenin won on almost every other important issue. His greatest victory was over the issue of the size of the Iskra editorial board to three, himself, Plekhanov and Martov. This meant the elimination of Pavel Axelrod, Alexander Potresov and Vera Zasulich - all of whom were "Martov supporters in the growing ideological war between Lenin and Martov".

Trotsky argued that "Lenin's behaviour seemed unpardonable to me, both horrible and outrageous. And yet, politically it was right and necessary, from the point of view of organization. The break with the older ones, who remained in the preparatory stages, was inevitable in any case. Lenin understood this before anyone else did. He made an attempt to keep Plekhanov by separating him from Zasulich and Axelrod. But this, too, was quite futile, as subsequent events soon proved."

As Lenin and Plekhanov won most of the votes, their group became known as the Bolsheviks (after bolshinstvo, the Russian word for majority), whereas Martov's group were dubbed Mensheviks (after menshinstvo, meaning minority). Stalin who was still in prison in Siberia, decided he favoured the Bolsheviks in this dispute. He escaped on 5th January 1904 and although suffering from frostbite he managed to get back to Tiflis six weeks later.

Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin (c. 1902)

On this day in 1935 the Works Progress Administration is established. When Franklin D. Roosevelt became president he put his friend, Harry Hopkins, in charge of the Works Projects Administration (WPA). The purpose of the WPA was to give wages to people currently unemployed. By 1936 over 3.5 million people were employed on various WPA programs. This included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the National Youth Administration (NYA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA) under Harold Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior.

Cliff Berryman, Washington Evening Star (1938)
Cliff Berryman, Washington Evening Star (1938)

On this day in 1943 Elise Hampel is executed in Berlin for her anti-Nazi activities. Elise Lemme was born in Bismark, Germany, on 27 October 1903. After finishing elementary school she worked as a domestic servant. She married Otto Hampel in 1935. Elise Hampel joined the National Socialist Frauenschaft (Women's League) in 1936, leading a group until 1940.

Elise Hampel changed her views on Adolf Hitler after her brother's death during the German assault on France. Opposed to what she now believed to be a war of aggression she began writing anti-Nazi postcards and leaflets and leaving them in mailboxes. They urged people to refuse to serve in the war and to overthrow Hitler.

The Hampels were arrested by the Gestapo on 20th October, 1942. Otto Hampel declared to the police that he was "happy with the idea" of protesting against Hitler and his regime. Otto and Elise Hampel were accused of "demoralizing the troops" and "preparation for high treason." They were found guilty and executed on 8th April, 1943.

Elise Hampel photographed by the Gestapo (October 1942)
Elise Hampel photographed by the Gestapo (October 1942)