Colonel Edward Saunderson, the original leader of Irish Unionism, and the most prominent defender of Irish landlords in the late 19th century, has suffered undue neglect. This book, the first detailed account of his life to appear since the Edwardian era, explores the political traditions of the Saunderson family as well as the development and repercussions of the Colonel's career. The twin poles of Saunderson's life, landownership and the Union, represent the central themes of this study. Saunderson's Unionism was intimately bound with this status as a landed proprietor, and the party institutions and strategies which he helped to create owed much to the strengths and preoccupations of his caste. Equally, the retreat of the gentry within Irish society affected the structure and direction of the whole unionist movement.
Jackson offers a wide-ranging account of an Irish landed family concentrating on its most notable member, and on the last decades of its influence. This book is both an important political biography and a valuable case-study of the gentry's economic decline and political reorientation. Edward Saunderson's career, significant within its own terms, serves to illustrate the death throes of the class to which he belonged.