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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Tue 21 Aug 2012 - 19:50

Since it is quite possible that the Whitechapel murders were in some way related to the Phoenix Park murders in Dublin in 1882, I thought it would be a great idea to post the entire coverage of the Parnell Commission Inquiry that began in October 1888.

First Day of Proceedings - Monday, October 22, 1888





The great State Trial began today. The Commissioners - Mr. Justice Hannen, Mr. Justice Day, and Mr. Justice Smith - took their seats in the Probate Court at eleven o'clock. The little room was crowded. Considerable alterations had been made for the purpose of affording additional accommodation for the public; but even these did not afford space for a tithe of the demands which have been pouring in upon Mr. Cunynghame, the Secretary to the Commission, for seats. The whole body of the Court was appropriated to the Press and the counsel engaged in the case, about sixty journalists having been provided with seats.
Shortly before half-past ten, Members of Parliament, lawyers, journalists, and the limited few representing the "general public" began to arrive in the dingy apartment known as the Chief Probate Court. The first of the Irish Members to arrive was Mr. Justin M'Carthy, who is not only one of the Times' incriminated Members, but who has also the distinction of having been subpoenaed as a witness for that journal. Together with Mr. M'Carthy appeared his son and fellow-Member, who does not figure among the incriminated sixty-five. In good time Mr. T.D. Sullivan takes his seat in the corner box, to the left of the Bench. Mr. T.M. Harrington, M.P., who is the Secretary of the National League, and who appears as one of the counsel for the Parnellite Party, comes in his wig and gown. In the Irish Courts - where I have often seen him, Mr. Harrington dispenses with lawyer's uniform. He dons a cutaway coat and light tweed trousers. Now he looks quite professional and metropolitan. Mr. Kelly is another of the prominent Irish Members who have taken their seats. And here comes, looking hale and cool, in his rough jacket of grey Irish tweeds, Mr. Michael Davitt. A batch of Irish journalists - some of whom I recognise as having been sent over specially for this business - are filling the back benches in the body of the Court. But here comes, lugging in a vast tin box, Mr. Soames's clerk. Mr. Soames is the Times solicitor; and this big box of his holds a hundred and a half of documents. "A hundred and a half!" Yes; and I fancy there's a lot more to come."

What a dog-hole of a Court-room this is!
An emphatic Member of Parliament - Member for one of the Central Divisions of London - declares to me that the Courts of Justice in general, and this part of them in particular, are "a disgrace to the nation." The Probate Court is already crowded almost to its utmost capacity. It is very easy crowding the public portion of it - the gallery, which, with its improvisations, holds, I should think, not many more than sixty people. At three minutes to eleven o'clock Mr. Parnell comes into Court, and, having shaken hands with Mr. Davitt, takes his place right in front of Sir Charles Russell, Counsel-in-Chief for the accused sixty-five. He is followed by Mr. John C. Macdonald, manager of the Times, a most genial gentleman, as all who know him are aware, but looking at this moment, I rather think, a good deal bored - as if, having had enough of Irish Members during the last few years, he did not relish a fresh dose of them now.

Punctually at eleven o'clock, the three eminent Judges composing the Commission of Inquiry entered the Court from the back of the Bench. The members of the Bar, the spectators, and the rest, rise to their feet, and stand until the Judges - Sir J. Hannen (who is President), and Mr. Justice Day, and Mr. Justice Smith - have taken their seats. No sooner are they seated than Sir Charles Russell plunges into business. He proposes that an order should be issued for the temporary release of Mr. William Redmond, M.P., who is at present in Wexford Jail under the Crimes Act, and who, Sir Charles Russell says, will be required as a witness. The President consents, but with the remark that such temporary release must not be regarded as an immunity from punishments inflicted even upon M.P.'s by the law of the land.

Shortly before half-past eleven o'clock Sir Richard Webster began his opening speech with a statement of the scope of the investigation, which is defined in the Special Act as follows: - "To inquire into and report upon the charges and allegations made against certain Members of Parliament and other persons in the course of the proceedings in an action entitled "O'Donnell versus Walter and another." "We shall," says the Attorney-General, "lay before you everything we can - all the sources of information at our command." And so, although this is the second day of the trial, the trial may be said to have virtually begun now - the greatest political trial of the century, the greatest, perhaps, in the Parliamentary history of England. To say that the Attorney-General's statements contains "nothing new," as so many will say, is to say little or nothing. The interest of the trial lies in the facts which will be disclosed, or illustrated afresh, in the course of the Attorney-General's endeavour to prove, and Sir Charles Russell's endeavour to disprove, the general statement.
The charges made by the Times, says the Attorney-General, were not new charges; the Times articles entitled "Parnellism and Crime" said, he contends, nothing essentially which the Times had not alleged years before - in 1882 and 1883. As regards the "Parnellism and Crime" articles, argued the Attorney-General, the Times largely quoted its authorities even from Irish and Irish-American papers, among other sources. But at that stage, continued the Attorney-General, the Times accused no Irish Member in particular. But in June of 1887 - the "Parnellism and Crime" articles appeared in March and April of the same year - Mr. Parnell was accused directly by the Times as the writer of certain letters, especially a letter alleged to have been issued by him from Kilmainham Jail in May, 1882. The next stage in this curious history was, as Sir Richard Webster pointed out, the prosecution of the Times by Mr. O'Donnell, on the ground that he had been personally libelled in the "Parnellism and Crime" articles. This the Times denied, and, as it will be remembered, denied successfully. The next stage was the Times's direction indication of sixty-five of the Irish Members and the trial which has now begun.

The Attorney-General's speech would be properly and technically described as a statement of "particulars" - that is to say, of the specific charges which, in his subsequent address, he would try to prove against the Irish party. During the first half hour of his speech Sir Richard Webster spoke in a leisurely way, in a low voice, leaning on his elbow on the bench in front of him. But he became more animated as he progressed, and his voice rose when he came to describe the National Party and its predecessor, the Land League, as portions of a vast "conspiracy" and organisation, with ramifications in America, as in the case of the Clan-na-Gael Society. All this while Mr. Parnell, seated beside Mr. Justin M'Carthy, listened with an air of imperturbable self-possession; and the manager of the Times, seated within a couple of yards of him, gradually assumed a livelier look, and even smiled and nodded occasionally, as Sir Richard made his points - accusing the League of cruel tyranny, through boycotting and intimidation; and of payment of money to persons whom members of the League knew to be using it for the worst of purposes. But as Sir Richard proceeded with the historical part of his indictment, the spectators' interest in the proceedings gradually waned, and by twenty minutes past twelve o'clock the crowded passages and the galleries in the Court-room were becoming empty.

The Court rose for a short interval at half-past one, and several members - Mr. Parnell especially - were, as they emerged into the Strand, cheered by the crowds that were lounging about. It reassembled at two. The audience - if that be the name - was considerably smaller than during the morning sitting. The impression has evidently got abroad that until the witnesses come to be examined there will be nothing exciting. According to some guesses, Sir Richard's speech will last three days; according to others, a week. It certainly looks as if the Attorney-General meant to take his time; for he has plunged, and goes wading onwards slowly through long quotations of speeches delivered in the early years of the League, in Galway, Clare, and other counties, speeches in which landlords are compared to mad dogs, or even described as worse than mad dogs - the implication and suggestion being, in the Attorney-General's view, obvious to the meanest capacity. Such speeches, the Attorney-General declares, were regularly followed by crime, including murder. Sir Richard's extracts show that the Nationalist political oratory must have been rich in figures of speech. "Pills," for example - "pills" to be administered to bad landlords. What could these "pills" be?

In enumerating his dangerous speakers and speeches, Sir Richard quoted pretty frequently from Mr. Matt Harris. Matt, in fact, was always turning up. A ghost of a ripple of laughter spread over the audience when the Attorney-General alluded to the renowned saying attributed to Matt, namely, that he would like to shoot landlords like partridges. Now and again Sir Richard was pulled up by some learned person or other for his mispronunciation of Irish names. When Sir Richard came to the Erse expression "thiggin dhu," he nearly suffered oratorical shipwreck. But after a struggle or two, he backed safely into deep water. Thiggin dhu, said Sir Richard, is Irish for "Do you twig," and Matt and his colleagues said thiggin dhu in their speeches when - according to Sir Richard - they meant to suggest violence, as who should say "Don't nail his ears to the pump." According to Sir Richard's account, County Galway must have been a very hot-bed of fiery, criminal oratory in the early eighties. The Attorney-General's next statement was that moonlighters were members of the local branches of the Land League, and he quoted extracts to show how tenants were threatened if they should dare to take farms from which others were evicted. Here Sir Richard woke up, so to speak, enforcing his points with a good deal of gesture. He referred in detail to the murders of 1880 and 1881 in County Galway; murders, he said - here he struck his hand vigorously on the pile of documents in front of him - which were nothing else but punishments for non-compliance with the Land League laws. If, he said, Mr. Matt Harris did not intend that murders should follow his and other speeches, why, he asked, raising his voice, did Mr. Matt Harris not go to Galway, denounce these crimes, and tell his constituents that he would have nothing to do with them?


The Judges entered the Court and took their seats at five minutes past eleven o'clock. Counsel at the outset had some little difficulty in determining the amount of space set apart for each other. Eventually Sir Charles Russell and the Attorney-General having intervened and apportioned the disputed territory, the large groups of legal gentlemen and their formidable piles of documents, seemed to occupy the whole extent of three seats from one side of the Court to the other. The counsel for the Times are The Attorney-General (Sir Richard Webster), Sir Henry James, Q.C., Mr. W. Murphy, Q.C., and Mr. W. Graham, of the English Bar, with Mr. J. Atkinson, Q.C., and Mr. Ronan, of the Irish Bar. The counsel for the Irish Members are Sir Charles Russell, Q.C., Mr. Asquith, Mr. R.T. Reid, Q.C., Mr. F. Lockwood, Q.C., Mr. Lionel Hart, Mr. Arthur Russell, Mr. Arthur O'Connor, and Mr. Harrington.


The business of the Commission was at once proceeded with. It was opened by Sir Charles Russell, who applied formally for the release of Mr. William Redmond, M.P., who, he said, was one of the persons mentioned in the charges of his learned friend's clients.
The President having asked the date of Mr. Redmond's conviction, Sir Charles Russell replied that he believed it to have taken place about three weeks ago, and that Mr. Redmond was at present in Wexford Jail.
The President, after consulting with his colleagues, said they had already had a similar application, and they granted it in the case of Mr. Dillon upon conditions which they thought easy. He was anxious that those proceedings should be commenced in such a way that any irritation should be allayed. With the concurrence of his colleagues, he proposed to follow exactly the same course with regard to Mr. Redmond; but he thought it right to intimate that the powers given them were not intended to render convicted persons free from prison. He desired to point out that any future application of that sort would be made under totally different circumstances. He proposed to give an order for Mr. Redmond's immediate release. He would be required to enter into his recognisance of 1,000 pounds not to take part in any public proceedings during the Inquiry, and to surrender himself when required, and to undergo the remainder of his sentence.


Sir Charles Russell, having consulted with Mr. Lewis, showed that Parliament would meet shortly, and urged the possibility that Mr. Redmond might wish to take part in the proceedings there. He suggested that the order not to take part in public proceedings might be limited to Ireland.
This the President declined to accept, whereupon Sir Charles Russell observed, "Then I may say my application is unavailing, as I am informed Mr. Redmond will not comply with the condition. "Oh, very well then," remarked the President.
Upon the suggestion of the Attorney-General, stated for whom they appeared, Mr. Hammond, a solicitor, intimating that he appeared for Mr. P.A. Chance.


The question as to the days upon which the Commission would sit was next discussed, and there seemed to be a feeling that four days a week should be the limit. The President, however, said he had discussed the question with his colleagues, and they thought it best to sit five days a week, Saturday being excepted. However, he should be glad to hear any suggestions counsel had to make. This week, at all events, they would sit as he had suggested.


Sir Charles Russell then made an application with respect to certain particulars. He alluded particularly, he said, to the allegations made in the case of "O'Donnell vs. Walter," repeated in the present case, and in which the other side had privilege of access to certain documents. Upon the Attorney-General pointing out that they had no notice of the application, it was adjourned till tomorrow.
Sir Charles Russell, for the guidance of his friend, intimated that his application was with respect to the "other persons'" powers. He mentioned that in the list of names of those against whom the charges were laid the name of Mr. Michael Davitt was omitted. No doubt, he said, that was due to the fact that Mr. Davitt did not appear when the formal applications were made at the Court on the last occasion. One part of his application would be, then, as to who were the "other persons" against whom they made their allegations.


Sir R. Webster said it now became his duty to lay before their Lordships the outline of the case on behalf of the Times. Having regard to the matters of moment which he would have to bring before their attention, and to the extent to which he would have to generalise in dealing with some of the topics, he thought it would be convenient if he made a few preliminary observations with regard to the exact position in which his clients stood. Their Lordships were aware that the Commission had nothing to do with anything which had passed in another place, or with any arguments used before the passing of the Bill. Their duty was to inquire into and report upon the charges and allegations made against certain Members of Parliament and other persons in the course of the trial of "O'Donnell v. Walter and another." It would be his (the learned counsel's) duty to give the heads of the evidence his clients proposed to lay before the Court. Passing to the other sections of the Act, he begged to remind them of the position in which all parties were.


The position the Times was in was this - that they were here to give the fullest information in their power which might elicit the truth. His clients would lay before the Commission everything they possibly could, and would indicate the sources from which information had been obtained, though they might not at the present time be actually in a position to bring evidence - what he might call legal evidence; and if, in the course of the inquiry, information came into their possession which would enable them to give the Lordships the channels or sources from which information could be obtained, the Times would assume it to be their duty to do so.


Having alluded to other sections of the Act appointing the Commission, the Attorney-General and their Lordships would agree with him that the general scope of the inquiry must be confined to the "charges and allegations" made in the proceedings of "O'Donnell v. Walter." He (the learned counsel) had nothing to do in that Court with what might be ordinarily called political agitation or organisation, nor to inquire into the rights or wrongs of Home Rule, or the rights or wrongs of particular tenants, or any other topics which might be regarded as being questions of the day. The charges were originally made, in one sense, in articles which were known by the name of "Parnellism and Crime," which had been conveniently printed in the form of a Blue Book for their Lordships' use. He wished to make this distinct observation - that the charges contained in "Parnellism and Crime" were a repetition of charges made in 1882 and 1883 with reference to some of the same individuals.


When those articles were written, perhaps the writers of them had not what was called strict legal evidence - some of the articles were founded on extracts from such newspapers as the Irish World, United Ireland, and the Freeman's Journal - but if writers in newspapers always waited for strict legal evidence before they made statements, they might have to wait for months. At the time the articles were written the writers in the Times believed the statements to be true, and reference was particularly made as to the source from which the information had been obtained. They began in the month of March, 1887. Later on in the month of April 1887, certain other articles were written.


In these articles statements were made, and among these statements was one which had reference to Mr. Parnell - the publication of a letter purporting to be signed by him on the 15th of May, 1882; and undoubtedly - with reference to the case of Mr. Parnell himself - that letter must form, and would form, an important point, which their Lordships would carefully and thoroughly investigate. But it was most important with reference to the inquiry at the present time to observe that the writing of a particular letter by Mr. Parnell, important as the case was, would not enable their Lordships to judge of the main proof of the allegations which were directed, not against Mr. Parnell alone, but against him and his associates. It would be necessary for him (the Attorney-General) to point to individuals by name; but he wanted their Lordships to understand that it was in the first place essential that they should know and appreciate what the charges and allegations were, when they were made, against whom they were made, and who were the persons directly or by implication clearly indicated as being accused.


Whatever might be any failings of his in making his statement with regard to the matter he was going to lay before their Lordships, he could assure his learned friends on the other side they should have no reason to find fault with him for not making his allegations clear with regard to the details as to the part which each person played; but, inasmuch as they were not there solely for the purpose of inquiring into the question of Mr. Parnell's guilt - although his knowledge of these matters was one of the most important things - but inasmuch as they were inquiring into the part played by Messrs. Dillon, Matt Harris, Biggar, O'Brien, Harrington, and - passing from the Members of Parliament - Egan, Brennan, Boyton, Gordon, and a number of others, it was clear to their Lordships it was utterly impossible for him properly to discharge his duty, or for the proprietors of the Times to discharge their duty, to the Commission by limiting the inquiry to the implication of any one individual, or the allegations against any one particular individual.


They should allege that acts were done in furtherance of a conspiracy with definite objects, with definite aims, and that the only way in which the conspiracy could be carried out - the only way in which the conspiracy so organised could do the work which those who were mixed up in it intended it should do - was by the commission of crimes. He should, he said, endeavour to demonstrate that it was only by the commission of crime that the working of the conspiracy could be made effective: in fact, he contended that it was based wholly and solely upon crime. What was the object of that conspiracy? In order to make boycotting and intimidation a success, crimes of the worst character had to be resorted to. It was necessary to throw the people into a state of panic - ay, and to completely reduce them to the position of slaves to effect the purpose of the organisation. He should show that some of the parties mentioned in the particulars personally took part in the acts which indirectly led to crimes of the worst description, and that many of them must have known, and did know, the sole consequences of the conduct in which they were taking part would be the commission of those crimes. And yet, notwithstanding that these consequences were very apparent, he should show that these men repeated over and over again the same conduct, even down to a very recent date. Perhaps, what was more important still, he should show that men who were really revered by a vast number of people in Ireland had never spoken one word against one of the worst systems of tyranny that ever existed in any country in the history of the world.


He would not - owing to certain orders as to bank-books not being obeyed - be able to produce so many details as he had anticipated, as to the payment of certain persons for the commissions of those crimes. But he would be able to show that many of these men mentioned in the charge did know that some of those sums were being paid. He would prove the connection of these men with organisations in America, that there was being collected in America a very large amount of money by means of literature of the worst kind - literature which incited and invited people to participate in acts of the most reckless character, such as the use of dynamite and the dagger - that many of these men knew how the money was being collected, ay, and even took the trouble to thank those who collected it.


He then reminded the Court of the fact that the fac-simile letter had been styled a forgery, and said he should be able to make a statement, that would be substantiated subsequently, which would enable them to decide how far that description was correct. The letters only referred, perhaps, to Mr. Parnell and one other person, but he would show how far the allegation of forgery was true.


He (the Attorney-General) should not assume that their Lordships were intimate with "Parnellism and Crime." They would see that the charges there made had previously been made by the original authors of the charges. The libels were against the Land League, and no one else. There had been the same continuity of action between the National League and the Land League. The Land League was suppressed in 1881, and soon after the National League was started. The Times had endeavoured to point out the character of the organisation with which Mr. Parnell and his followers were intimately connected. In the presence of the leaders of the Home Rule movement, sometimes by the leaders themselves, speeches were made directly inciting to murder and arson. But this language, inciting to crime, received not the slightest condemnation.


Repeating the accusation he made in his speech in the case of "O'Donnell v. Walter," as to the reliance of the Land League upon a system of intimidation and boycotting for the enforcement of its decrees, Sir Richard declared that he had some remarkable facts, when the time came to disclose them, with reference to the amount of undiscovered crime and of the way in which the Land League and National League criminals enjoyed immunity from punishment. The organisation (he repeated - after reading extracts from his address, and several speeches from Parnellite M.P.'s) depended upon intimidation, carried out by most brutal means, and resting on the sanction of murder.


The Attorney-General then proceeded to refer to the formation of the Land League in 1879. He said that when he came to deal with the working of the League he would prove that the persons against whom the attack of that organisation were directed were the landlords, and so much power had the league over the occupiers of land in Ireland that they were led to believe that out of the agitation would come to them a direct benefit - either that the land would be let to them at a much lower rental than usual, or that in some cases it would be let at no rental at all. It would appear that, time after time, those who were addressed at the meetings of the League were told that the effect of the agitation would be to drive the landlords out of Ireland. That was the way (said the Attorney-General) in which the energies of those who occupied the land were turned in the same direction as those who contributed to the funds.


Then arose the question as to how the conspiracy - for he would call the League a conspiracy - could be made most effective. He could show their Lordships that one of the ways in which they thought the League could make itself felt was, in effect, by decreeing that any one who took land that had become vacated by eviction should be treated as being one of the worst of criminals, and should, if necessary, actually be removed from the face of the earth. Now, it was necessary that the organisation should be practically universal, and, accordingly, in the years 1880, 1881, and 1882, these gentlemen, whose names had been mentioned in the particulars, were parties to the starting of what was called the Land League branches by the hundred in every part of Ireland. The duty of those who conducted these Land League branches was that they were to carry out the decrees of the League in the way which had been stated - to make it impossible for any one to take an evicted farm, and to make it impossible for a landlord to obtain any return from a farm.


The result was that the American section were led to believe that the money they were subscribing was used for the purpose he had said - wholesale and terrible intimidation amongst those who occupied the land, and that a blow would be struck at the landlord "garrison" in Ireland. There could be no doubt that there had prevailed, and was prevailing, amongst the Irish tenants a land hunger. Everyone knew from history, and from these proceedings, that the Irish peasant was most eager to occupy the land, and nothing would prevent the Irish from occupying an evicted farm except the dire terror and absolute intimidation of his life. Not unfrequently persons, whom he could name, were murdered.


The actual date of the starting of the Land League was in the year 1879. Who were its founders? The president was Mr. Parnell; the secretaries Mr. Kettle, Mr. Davitt, and a man named Brennan. The treasurers were Mr. Biggar, Mr. O'Sullivan, and Mr. Patrick Egan. The particular individuals of the League - Brennan, Egan, and some others - had been practically out of this country since 1883. These leaders of the League employed and engaged organisers to go through the length and breadth of Ireland.


He (the Attorney-General) should ask their Lordships to come to the conclusion that some of these organisers of the Land League were men who had no other "visible means of subsistence," some of whom have even abandoned trades or occupations for the purpose of becoming Land League organisers. T.J. Sheridan was a public-house keeper in Tubercurry, M.J. Boyton was the son of a shopkeeper; P.J. Gordon was a shoemaker in Clanmorris, county Mayo; J.W. Nally had no fixed occupation; Matthew Harris, now a Member of Parliament, was a builder. None of them had any interest in the land.


About the beginning of 1880 Mr. Parnell visited America with Mr. Dillon, and he (the learned counsel) believed he would be able to prove that Mr. Parnell's expenses were paid on that occasion. From that date there was a harmonious connection between the American section and that section of the Land League at home. Mr. Parnell and Mr. Dillon had, it was well to remember, interviews with Devoy, the convicted Fenian. In the beginning of 1881 Mr. Parnell, Mr. Matthew Harris, and others of the leaders went to Paris. What did they go there for? He should be able to show that Matt Harris was drawing considerable sums of money from Egan - 20 pounds or 30 pounds at a time. He should ask their Lordships to come to the conclusion that Harris, Dillon, Egan, and Mr. Parnell also, with others, were in Paris upon the business of the same conspiracy of the same organisation, which had previously been carried on in Dublin.


During this time Egan continued to be the Treasurer of the Land League. Well, under date February 24, the following letter was written by Egan from Paris: -
"My Dear Friend, - Write under cover to Madame J. Roezer, 99, Avenue de Villiers. Mr. Parnell is here and will remain for about a week. I have spoken to him about a further advance for the "A" fund. He has no objection. You may count upon it. All goes well. We have Mr. O'Leary and other friends here. They are all agreed that prompt and decisive action is called for."

What (the Attorney-General continued) they should suggest in connection with the "prompt and decisive action called for" was the continuation of the agitation in those parts of Ireland where the power of the League was not already as powerful as they wished it to be, and also that the steps taken by Sheridan and other organisers were for the purpose of making the power of the conspiracy paramount whenever they possibly could. If the letter he had read, and others which he would have to read, were forgeries, then it would turn out that not one, but four or five persons' handwriting had been forged.


He should ask their Lordships to come to the conclusion that Egan was in Paris for the purpose of carrying on the business of the Land League, which it was not safe to carry on in England or Ireland; and, further, he should submit that the presence of these men in Paris at the time that certain events were going on in Ireland, and the receipt of moneys from Egan by Harris, showed that the position of Harris was that of organiser to the Land League, and of a person who was carrying out individually a particular line of conduct.
At this point the Court adjourned for luncheon.


Upon resuming the business of the Court at two o'clock, the Attorney-General continued his speech. He referred to the publication in 1881 of United Ireland, of which he said Mr. Parnell and Mr. Egan where the principal shareholders. From this he went on to speak of the doings of the Land League prior to the time of the imprisonment of Mr. Parnell. In connection with this, he would he said, show the condition of counties Clare, Galway, Mayo, and possibly Cork, before speeches organised by the League were delivered, and the condition of the counties after. He would show what was the strength of the police force before these speeches were delivered, and the amount to which its strength was augmented afterwards.


Dealing specifically with the counties, he first of all spoke of Galway, referring to speeches delivered in 1880-1881. He referred to a speech Mr. J.W. Nally, a well-known organiser of the Land League, delivered at Glennamaddy on the 16th of May, 1880. He was about to read this when
Sir Charles Russell objected, observing that in the speech he could see nothing that would be connected with the charges and allegations.
The President said he did not care to interfere with the Attorney-General in opening the case, and the latter gentleman again resumed his address, reading Mr. Nally's speech, which counselled the people of the locality to "put away landlordism and every other ism." Mr. Kelly also spoke at that time; as did Mr. Martin, who told them to hunt the landgrabber as they would a mad dog; and Mr. Fitzpatrick, who delivered himself of somewhat similar sentiments. The next speeches he referred to were those of Thomas Brennan and P.J. Gordon, delivered in the same county in July of the same year. These, he said, showed the same element as that running through all speeches, even those delivered in America, viz., a firm determination to secure the complete separation of Ireland from England.


In the course of one of the speeches the Attorney-General read various interpellations by the audience, some of whom observed that they would cut the hands and arms off the landgrabber, a threat which, he said, had been carried into effect to some extent, the ears of some persons, having, at all events, been cut off. The Attorney-General next referred to speeches of Mr. Matthew Harris and Mr. M. Sullivan, delivered on the 19th of September, 1880, at Riversdale, County Galway. At this meeting a man named Hynes, who had taken a farm, was denounced. Patrick Dempsey afterwards took this piece of land. With what result? That he was shot.
Sir Charles Russell - When was that?
The Attorney-General said it was a year after Hynes had the farm, but Dempsey was then murdered simply because he took this farm. Mr. Matthew Harris, who spoke, compared landlords to Bengal tigers, asked the people to


urging them to do as the persons did in Bengal and drive the "tigers" out. P.J. Gordon followed, and remarked, "If you are honest Irishmen you must be Fenians. If an Irishman must be free, he must be a Fenian." Then, on the 26th of September, a speaker said that if 30,000 men would join to strike one blow, they would be asked to do so. The Government were denounced as being guilty of robbery and bloodshed. Those present at the meeting were asked to join the secret societies. But for what and against whom were those societies directed? If these people imagined they were suffering from wrong, the greater the wickedness of those who endeavoured to stir them up to acts indicated in the speeches he had read. "I had the pleasure of hearing that a landlord was shot," was another expression at a meeting of these Land Leaguers. At Ahaseragh, county Galway, in 1880, a meeting was attended by, amongst others, Thomas Griffin and Matthew Harris. Griffin there said it was impossible for the landlords to get their rent, even with the British bayonets at their backs. Matthew Harris told them at the meeting that it might be in his power to get into the English House of Commons, but he considered he would be degraded if he entered that House. Now, circumstances were such that Matthew Harris did enter the House of Commons. (A laugh.)


The Attorney-General proceeded to quote from a speech made by Mr. Dillon on the 17th of March, 1881, at Loughrea, in which the following sentence occurred: - "The only way to break down the power of landlordism, and to reduce rack rents, was to maintain the rule by which a man who goes and takes land and treats with his landlord is looked upon as a traitor, and that he and his children should be considered such by the people whom he has betrayed." Another sentence referring to the taking of vacant farms was as follows: - "The dog which sees these farms occupied, or any one having any dealings with the wretch who occupies the evicted farm, will seal the yoke of landlordism on your necks." Their Lordships, said the Attorney-General, would be able to appreciate the effect of such speeches upon the ignorant and half-educated men who were the subject of these orations.


The learned counsel next read extracts from speeches delivered by Matt Harris in March, 1881, in which such sentences as the following occurred: - "When men scatter ejectments in all directions we are bound to denounce them. We should be morally wrong if we shut our eyes upon them"; "Beware of the land-grabber," and "That vile wretch Kennedy. Keep away from him, for his breath is contaminated. He is a disgrace to the locality and to all Ireland." The Land League was suppressed by the Government in October, 1881.


The work of the Land League was carried on by the Ladies' Land League during the autumn of 1881 and early part of 1882. At the meeting of the Ladies' Land League, the Rev. Mr. Higgins, Catholic curate, told the people to unite and organise among themselves, and they would soon get their national independence. What, the Attorney-General asked, was the condition of matters in regard to Galway? Prior to 1880 he believed it would be proved the place was quite peaceful and quiet. There was nothing more than the ordinary offences, and there was no organised agrarian crime. In the years 1880-81-82, prior to the suppression of the Land League, there were no less than eighteen agrarian murders. It was to be observed that in all these districts agrarian murders and outrages were immensely diminished under the Coercion Act passed in 1882. Proceeding to describe the character of


the Attorney-General mentioned the case of a landlord named McDermott, who, prior to the holding of these Land League meetings, was on perfectly good terms with his tenants. Some of the tenants were suspected of paying their rents, and forty men visited their houses, swore them all to pay no rent, and fired a shot outside the door, and a police hut had to be established for the purpose of protecting these men. The Attorney-General further showed the association of Mr. Matt Harris, M.P., with the denunciations of the Land League, mentioning the case of Merty Hynes, who was denounced by Harris, and the fact that Dempsey, who took the farm he held, was murdered a month after taking it, viz., on May 29, 1885. He also referred to the outrage upon Robinson, the officer, who, in 1881, was shot at while on an expedition to recover rent. He attributed this outrage to the utterances of Mr. Harris, who at that time was, he would prove, receiving money from Egan, the Treasurer of the Land League.


The Attorney-General then referred to another case. He said that Thomas Connaire and Michael Murphy paid their rents in November, 1881. A few day's after Connaire's house was set on fire and shots fired through his window. On the same night Murphy's house was also fired, his furniture destroyed by the flames, and shot sent through the man's window. On December 4, 1881, at Ballinskill, the following notice was posted on the chapel gate: - "The Irish Nationalist League offers 100 pounds reward to anyone who gives information of any person or persons who pay rent." He (Sir R. Webster) did not know whether any counter-effort, by way of circular, was made by the Land League to counteract the effect of that notice.
Sir Charles Russell - That was after the suppression of the Land League.
The Attorney-General asked if his learned friend did not know the Land League was not suppressed in a moment. In what he (Sir R. Webster) had said he was not attacking one individual, but the whole organisation. It was not his place to whitewash one individual at the expense of another. But perhaps his learned friend was forgetting that the Ladies' Land League was in continuous operation, linked in the organisation, and the Ladies' Land League had control of the League's money. He (Sir R. Webster) had not heard that the Ladies' Land League was more moderate than the Land League itself during its suppression. The learned speaker then referred to various outrages, including the murder of the Huddys, Lord Ardilaun's bailiffs, who were killed and then thrown into 28ft. of water, their bodies being recovered some time after.


He had given a sufficient number of outrages to show the connection by name, by circumstance, and by cause, to lead their Lordships to form the opinion that there was in Galway a most direct attempt by those whose names were given in the particulars, by their paid agents, by the Land League and its paid agents - for whom, practically speaking, all the leading members whose names were mentioned were responsible - to initiate and carry out a horrible and infamous system of tyranny, whereby no tenant was to be allowed to remain in possession of evicted land or vacated land - the landlord was to get no advantage out of such land. If any tenant was found rash enough to disobey the orders of the Land League the consequences were such as he had described. Further, simply taking note of what had passed at Land League meetings; giving evidence in respect of outrage was sufficient to bring down individuals who had been guilty of such conduct the vengeance of the character he had described. It would be proved before their Lordships by those who had personal experience in the maintenance of order in these counties that the organisation of the Land League meant the submission of everybody to the Land League behests, and it was a fact that when a sufficient number of houses had been burned down, a sufficient amount of cattle injured, or crops destroyed the number of people who had the courage to undergo these risks was very small. It was not to be supposed, because he had brought before their Lordships a very large number of horrible outrages in that district that that by any means was the sole measure or connection of the power of the organisation - or the Land League - in that district.
The Court then adjourned till tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m.


It is known that in all four hundred witnesses have been subpoenaed. These 400 include two of the Invincibles at present undergoing penal servitude, and the wife of Carey. Several R.M.'s will be examined. Captain Plunkett will appear in the witness-box; so, too, will Mr. George Bolton, the famous Irish Crown solicitor, and Superintendent Mcaclon, the discoverer of the Phoenix Park murders. Crowds of police officers, Members and ex-Members, journalists by the score, and hosts of all sorts and conditions of men and women will be called. Among the more interesting witnesses will be Miss Parnell, Mr. Davitt, Mr. Reginald Brett - to be examined as to his statement that an ex-M.P. offered to sell him several letters alleged to be in the handwriting of Mr. Parnell; and Mr. Parnell himself. The Irish leader's own direct evidence will (the Freeman's Journal London correspondent says) be of a most interesting character. It will be, in effect, an autobiography, beginning with his earliest connection with politics down to the present day. His examination is likely to be very protracted. Mr. Parnell has practically made the whole case a study, and he has shown an acquaintance with the technicalities of the law bearing upon it which has (the Correspondent says) rather surprised the eminent counsel who are engaged in it.

Source: The Echo, Monday October 22, 1888, pp. 2-3

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