1813-79, Irish politician and nationalist leader. A member of both the Irish and the English bar, he was a noted conservative lawyer and scholar and an opponent of Daniel O'Connell
. After the Irish famine experience of the 1840s, however, he became increasingly liberal, defended participants in the abortive Young Ireland revolt (1848), and entered (1852) Parliament as a Liberal-Conservative. He continually urged land tenure reform, defended the Fenian leaders, and founded (1870) the Home Rule Society. By 1874 the parliamentary group, the Home Rule League, comprised 56 members under his leadership. He remained nominal leader of the Home Rule
movement until his death, although effective leadership gradually passed to Charles Stewart Parnell
See L. J. McCaffrey, Irish Federalism in the 1870's (1962); D. Thornley, Isaac Butt and Home Rule (1964).
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