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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Thu 23 Aug 2012 - 23:19

Third Day of Proceedings - Wednesday, October 24, 1888






The attendance in Court this morning was no larger than yesterday's, the impression evidently having got abroad that as the Attorney-General's historical review has not yet proceeded beyond the end of 1882, the week is likely to be spent in the delivery of the remainder. This morning's proceedings opened with a long and tame, rather than lively or acrimonious, wrangle about the production of documents. See-sawing with his left had, as if he held a pinch of snuff between his finger and thumb, Sir Charles Russell began the mild fight with a request that the Attorney-General should produce certain letters purporting to be signed by Messrs. Biggar, Dillon, and other leading members of the Irish Party, but declared by the Times solicitor himself to be forgeries. Mr. Soames' declaration subsequently quoted by the Attorney-General was to this effect: -
"I put these particular documents on one side as worthless and immaterial, and I have always regarded them as such." In contending for their production, Sir Charles Russell reminded their Lordships that the special Act empowered them to order the discovery of all documents whatever. Mr. Reid, Q.C., followed his chief, Sir C. Russell, enforcing the request, and making reference to certain books, or a book, of the Land League Office, which he appeared to think the Attorney-General admitted to be in his possession. In refusing Sir Charles Russell's request, the Attorney-General denied that these particular documents were utterly immaterial to the case. We want, said the Attorney-General, to how how Mr. Lewis, the solicitor for the Irish Members, came to know of the existence of these worthless documents; let us know that before we produce them. The Attorney-General also denied the statement that the Times solicitor had League books in his possession. The wrangle ended with the President's decision that the Judges would in the first place examine the documents in dispute.

Resuming his attack, Sir Charles Russell next wanted to know definitely what the specific charges were against individual persons. "The Attorney-General," said Sir Charles, "makes only a general allegation against the Parnellite party in a body. I find," Sir Charles continued, "that there are only two definite charges in the Times particulars, namely, having made certain speeches and of having written certain letters. Is it," Sir Charles asked, "alleged that this, that, and the other individual Member incited to this or that illegal course of action?" Sir Charles sat down, and a sudden hush and expression of surprise and expectancy passed over the assemblage when Mr. Michael Davitt started up from his seat in front of Sir Charles Russell, and made a formal application for facilities to answer and inquire into certain charges made against him in the Attorney-General's speech. The President ruled that Mr. Davitt should be put in possession of the same facilities which would be enjoyed by those Irish Members who were Sir Charles Russell's clients.
Then Mr. Biggar jumped up to tender the same request. He spoke in a low, rapid, mumbling voice - the President leaning forward with his hand to his ear listening with all his powers of attention. Mr. Biggar received the same assurance, and received it most courteously, which Sir James Hannen had just given to Mr. Davitt. Then the Attorney-General replied. He maintained firmly that he had given all the particulars which could fairly be demanded at this stage of the inquiry. He contended that to give any more particulars of charges would subject him to the risk of divulging fresh proofs which the Times was arriving at day after day. "We are accusing these men," said the Attorney-General, "of conspiracy. Take," he continued, "the cases of Mr. Parnell, Mr. Biggar, Mr. Harris, Mr. Harrington. I do not say that each of these men said specifically, Go and shoot, or commit this or that crime; but that each did deliver speeches which we are prepared to prove, by subsequent evidence, did lead to crimes, and that not one of these men denounced these crimes." Ultimately the President ruled that the Times should not be called upon to furnish additional particulars at the present stage, but that any future decision on the same question would depend on the circumstances of the moment.

Mr. Parnell, carrying a black bag, and with the collar of his overcoat up to his ears, entered the Court at half-past twelve, just when the Attorney-General resumed the historical narrative that had been interrupted by the proceedings above sketched. As Mr. Parnell walked up to his seat he was just being described by the Attorney-General as having been in actual intercourse with the persons who were engaged in outrages. "Mr. Parnell," continued the Attorney-General, "could have used his great influence to suppress those outrages, yet he never did." Mr. Parnell and Mr. Davitt, who sat together, repeatedly smiled at each other, while the Attorney-General gave his version of their relationship in 1882 - Mr. Davitt being then, as he is now, an Irreconcilable, and Mr. Parnell the Opportunist. Mr. Parnell turned sharply round and watched Sir R. Webster very keenly while the latter detailed the circumstances of the Phoenix Park murders on the 6th May, 1882. He did not say that Mr. Parnell was cognisant of the intended crime. The crime was a great blow to Mr. Parnell's own policy. It made the Irish cause unpopular in England, and it compelled Mr. Parnell to sign the very awkward (for him) manifesto addressed to the Irish nation in denunciation of the crime. "Captain O'Shea," said the Attorney-General, "whom we shall examine as a witness, will prove that Mr. Parnell at first strongly objected to sign the manifesto, because the signature would possibly weaken if not destroy his influence with the extreme party in America. "Why," exclaimed the Attorney-General, "Mr. Parnell's party had for two and a half years been receiving thousands and thousands from America on the condition that the money should be used to bring about separation; but the spirit of the manifesto, which Mr. Parnell was obliged to sign, was against the spirit of separation."

The first real sensation of the trial now came, when the Attorney-General put in evidence the famous letter, or, rather, the most famous and important of the letters, which Mr. Parnell declares to be forgeries. The letter was handed up to the President, and from him to his brother Justices, Smith and Day, who examined it curiously. Mr. Macdonald, manager of the Times, watched this process with great interest, smiling good humouredly, as if he felt pretty sure of himself and his cause. Mr. Parnell, Mr. Davitt, and Mr. Biggar, who sat behind them, wore an air of amused indifference. In a minute or two the two other letters were handed up. There were certain differences between these signatures and the first one exhibited; but the Attorney-General hoped to be able to explain these differences conclusively. He added that the Times trusted in a very short time to get a perfectly "free hand" for the disclosure of the person from whom the letters were obtained, and the circumstances under which they came into the Times' possession.

After an adjournment of half-an-hour the Court reassembled at two, when the Attorney-General resumed his speech with a long statement about the character of the articles in United Ireland - alleging that, though Mr. Parnell was one of the proprietors of the paper, it never contained a word denouncing outrage. After a time Matt Harris turned up once more in the Attorney-General's speech, Sir Richard contending, by copious quotations from Land League Correspondence, that Mr. Harris was one of the organisers of that body, receiving League money for his services. And here the Attorney-General regretted the disappearance of the pass-books, cheque-books, &c., of the League, which would show that of more than 144,000 pounds received by the League in one or two years only forty-four thousand and some odd hundred pounds were accounted for. What, he asked, has become of the vast balance? If it was spent constitutionally why were the books carried off from Dublin? He did not mean to say that Mr. Biggar, Mr. Parnell, and the other leaders directed the expenditure of money for payment to the authors of outrages; but he would prove by witnesses money did pass from the Dublin treasurer for such purposes. Leaving the topic of the Land League, the Attorney-General addressed himself to the history of the National League, and to a description of the League offices in Palace-chambers, Westminster, where Byrne was regularly to be found, along with Irish Nationalist M.P.'s, and in which were kept for a time the very weapons employed in the Phoenix-park murders. Mr. Harrington and Sir Charles Russell whispered to and smiled at one another while Sir R. Webster went into the details of the alleged payment of 100 pounds by Mr. Parnell to Byrne on the latter's escape to America. All this time the Court was gradually filling up, and long before the Court adjourned the interest in the trial became greater than at any period since its commencement.

The remainder of the Attorney-General's statement was largely occupied with a detail of the various funds - Rossa Testimonial Fund, Spread the Light Fund, Land League Fund, O'Donnell Defence Fund - the existence of which Sir Richard Webster regarded as an illustration of the unity of purpose and organisation of the Irish bodies with the Separatist bodies in America.

There were only a very few persons other than those interested in the proceedings in the Court at half-past ten this morning, when Mr. Justice Hannen, Mr. Justice Smith, and Mr. Justice Day took their seats.

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. Mr. P.A. Chance is represented by Mr. Hammond, solicitor and Mr. Biggar, M.P., appears personally.


Sir Charles Russell at the outset explained that he was still in a difficulty about the matter of the "discovery." Although the notice had been given two days ago, the answering affidavit had not yet been received by his clients.
The Attorney-General replied that the affidavit was made last evening, and Mr. Soames would be in the Court shortly, and would deliver it.
Sir Charles Russell said he hardly knew how to deal with the matter in the absence of the affidavit. However, he would proceed with the application. In his affidavit Mr. Lewis set out that he had reason to believe the other side had in their possession letters which purported to be written by Mr. Parnell, and which he alleges to be a forgery, and also copies of letters alleged to have been written or signed by Mr. Biggar and other Members of Parliament, and Mr. Davitt, some of which have been discovered. That affidavit laid the foundation for the present application. Sir Charles then referred to an affidavit of Jno. Walter and George Wright in the action of "O'Donnell v. Walter," which related to the fact that they had in their possession documents consisting of certain letters, alleged to have been signed by Mr. Parnell, Egan, Campbell, and Byrne.
The Attorney-General having handed Sir Charles Russell a document, the latter said in this affidavit the Times


alluded to, on the grounds that they were documents obtained by their solicitors for the assistance of the barristers engaged in the case, and because they had come into their possession for the purpose of preparing briefs for the counsel engaged in the case, and formed part of such briefs already prepared for them. Sir Charles contended that in an ordinary action that would not answer at all. The Times admitted, said Sir Charles Russell, that they had a large number of documents. It would be material in the case that these, which purported to be the original letters of Mr. Dillon, Mr. Biggar, and others, should be produced. Mr. Soames has said in his affidavit that certain documents were handed to him by a person named Roberts, and he at once discovered that they were not genuine, and that the person who sent them to Mr. Soames also saw they were not genuine. "And," said Mr. Soames in his affidavit, "seeing they were in no way relevant to the case, I put them on one side as worthless, and I do not believe they were ever seen by my clients or either of them." That affidavit of Mr. Soames was a perfectly candid one. But the Times came into possession of documents which were acquired by some one, and which proved to be forged documents - worthless, not genuine - and Mr. Soames admitted that some of these were handed to him in America, others in England; but he did not say what became of the residue. It was alleged that they were documents acquired for the purpose of the trial of "O'Donnell v. Walter." Even if that were so it was


on the ground of privilege. Besides, even if privilege were set up, the Act of Parliament appointing the Commission gives their Lordships power to order the discovery of any documents whatever. In the earlier part of Section 2 the ordinary powers include the production of documents, and again in Sub-section 3 of Section 2 the Commissioners can order the production of documents for the inspection of "other parties." It could not be said that these documents were brought into existence for the purpose of either the defence in "O'Donnell v. Walter," or for the purpose of justification before this Commission, or whether they were brought into existence by some other person for some other purpose was an entirely different question. These were the grounds why they said they were entitled to have discovery and inspection of the documents.


Mr. Reid, Q.C., said he desired to fortify the argument by other means shortly stated. The Attorney-General himself, in the course of his speech, had furnished the most ample grounds for the application. He had referred to one letter which was in existence in 1881, and which was an application on behalf of Moonlighters who had been wounded for compensation from the Land League, and which, it was said, was initialled by "J.F." (John Ferguson, of Glasgow). That document was not set forth, and he submitted it as one of the most relevant documents that could be conceived. He respectfully claimed the right to have it disclosed.


Another was the books of the League and the bundle of documents which the Attorney-General referred to as having been handed to some person by the clerk of the Land League. These documents were not created in any sense for the purpose of this litigation, but, if genuine, they ought most certainly to be disclosed in order to give these gentleman an opportunity of stating their case, and if not genuine, were still more material as showing matters of importance from any point of view. Some of the speeches relied upon by the Attorney-General as affording evidence of complicity in crime had not been set forth in the affidavit of documents, and the same was to be said about the books of the Land League.


The Attorney-General said this application, with reference to certain other documents which were, as Mr. Soames's affidavit said, in his possession, not only could not possibly have been made in the course of an ordinary action, nor could any such an ordinary application have been made but in some communication made to the defendants, the particulars of which had not been disclosed. The affidavit of Mr. Lewis did not suggest that the documents were material to any issue raised in "Parnellism and Crime," all that stated was that there was a belief that they had in their possession certain documents, which were said not to be genuine. The affidavit of Mr. Soames showed that some person was attempting to play a trick upon the Times, and that somehow or other the information that that trick was attempted to be played had been communicated to Mr. Lewis. In all probability in the course of the case their Lordships would learn by whom the communication was made, and possibly from whom the original documents emanated. Whatever might be the purpose of that application it could not be for the purpose of assisting any issue that was raised in this case. With regard to the documents being seen, he (the Attorney-General) had no objection, but with reference to its being made as an application that his clients had not disclosed documents which were material, he emphatically protested that those who advised his learned friend that they had any such materiality, had not dared to put into their affidavit that the documents were material to the issue raised.


He feared (proceeded the Attorney-General) that the way in which Mr. Soames' affidavit had been sent was calculated to lead to a misconception being placed upon it. He read a portion of the affidavit in which Mr. Soames said he received from a person in America certain documents which he believed are documents referred to in the affidavit on the other side. He did not recollect having received any purporting to be signed by Mr. Biggar. Two documents were sent to him, and he at once discovered they were not genuine. Consequently he immediately placed them aside as worthless material. How (asked the Attorney-General) could documents which he had treated as not genuine be considered to have any relevancy to the case? He denied that they had in their possession the books of the Land League or that he had said they had. On the contrary, he expressed his regret that they had been so effectually removed out of sight. He submitted that his clients had fulfilled their duty in making the "discovery" intended by their Lordships' order.


Sir Charles Russell said the Court required that the documents should be in some way enumerated. It was said in the affidavit that these documents were forgeries. As it was said these documents were forgeries, it was only fair they should be inspected and particulars given about them. Mr. Soames had said in his affidavit that he had received a document from America. Who was that person from whom he received these documents? But it was made clear that this person was an agent of the Times in America, who was endeavouring to acquire documents there. It was a case of the representative of the Times in America, acting in good faith, getting these documents, and then discovering and honestly informing Mr. Soames that they were not genuine. Amongst this bundle of manufactured documents - forged documents produced defiance to the rules of supply and demand - ("Hear, hear," from Mr. Biggar, and laughter) - there might be other forged letters. Surely the Court ought to have them all. If Mr. Soames did not think these documents were material, why did they find a place in his affidavit. Therefore, because these were material, he referred to them mostly in his affidavit. Besides, the letters were in the box.


The Attorney-General - My learned friend is absolutely misinstructed. The letters were not in the box.
Sir Charles Russell - I beg your pardon.
The Attorney-General - I hope you will not interrupt me.
Sir Charles Russell repeated that they were in the box.
The Attorney-General - They were not.
Sir Charles Russell - I was certainly under the impression that they were in the box, and I think all those in the Court were under the same impression.
The President - I was not.
Mr. Justice Smith - Nor I.


Sir Charles Russell said he was under a contrary impression. He did not appreciate his learned friend's contention. There were grave reasons why these documents should be examined. He (Sir Charles) would suggest that their Lordships should examine them, and then, if justice required that particulars should not be given, then he would bow to their Lordships' ruling.
The President said he had anticipated the objection before, and he understood the Attorney-General would not object to such an inspection.
The Attorney-General - More than that, I am perfectly willing that the whole contents of the box should be seen by your Lordships.
Sir Charles Russell - We of course claim it as a right.


Sir James Hannen - Speaking for myself, I am obliged to you, Sir Charles, for having made the suggestion, as I think it will lead to the best solution; but it is an onerous duty. If we accept it we will first of all examine the documents for which privilege has been claimed. We will look at them. Then there arises the question of certain documents which are not in the box.
Well, I suppose your consent extends to them?
The Attorney-General - Certainly, my Lord.
The President - Then after looking at them we will inform you as to the result.
In reply to other questions, the learned President said he would not fix a time for their examination, but the box containing the documents was in the possession of Mr. Cunynghame, the secretary of the Commission.


Sir Charles Russell then said he had another application to make with reference to the specification of the charges and the dates, against the numerous persons mentioned; and, with the exception of the speeches attributed to individual members, and with the exception of the charge made against Mr. Parnell, he submitted he was justified in saying that there was nothing in these particulars which would tell anyone of these sixty-five persons whose names were set forth in the schedule what were the particular charges against him. Were they to take it that the Attorney-General, representing the defendants in the action of "O'Donnell v. Walter," did not allege that any one of these sixty-five persons himself incited to outrage, was a party directly to outrage, to the application of funds for the purpose of outrage; or was there case simply and solely based on the first general view he had suggested? If it was intended to be alleged against any one of these persons that he was a party by knowledge beforehand, or by complicity was accessory after the commission of any outrage, the simplest rules of justice required that that particular person should be told what the outrage was that was set against his name. It seemed obvious from the scheme of those particulars that the defendants in "O'Donnell v. Walter" had thought they were not bound to give any particulars as regards the acts of other persons. He submitted they were entitled to particulars of "other persons" against whom they were making allegations, and also the particulars of the acts they attributed to these "other persons." He understood that one of the "other persons" - possibly the most prominent person in the whole story - the founder and most active supporter of the Land League, appeared, and had an application to make to their Lordships.


Mr. Reid, on behalf of the "others" (not Mr. Parnell) quoted from the particulars to the effect that on certain occasions they (the Members of Parliament) considered it politic to denounce certain crimes in public, and that they always made communications to their associates and others with the intention of leading them to believe that such denunciation was not sincere. All he had to ask (said the learned counsel) was, that if they (the other Members) were said to have made communications of that character, they should have some information as to what these communications were.


Mr. Michael Davitt here rose from a seat in the well of the Court just in front of Sir Charles Russell, and said that his application was that he might be allowed to appear there and to ask their Lordships to investigate the serious charges made against him by the Attorney-General in the trial of "O'Donnell against Walter."
The Attorney-General - I don't wish -----
The President - You are perfectly entitled to it. I have nothing to do with the filing of the names; but you have a locus standi.
Mr. Davitt pointed out that his application was that he should be supplied with particulars of whatever charges were to be brought against him. If their Lordships would allow it, he would read a portion of the Attorney-General's speech referring to himself at the trial of "O'Donnell against Walter."
The President observed that it was not necessary for the purposes of the application, and that Mr. Davitt would receive particulars in due course.


Mr. Biggar then asked that, as a matter of personal convenience, he might be supplied with a copy of the particulars on which the Times relied in their charges against him. He was charged with influencing certain papers he had never heard of and never read; and of having been mixed up with certain persons - a great many of whom he did not know by name, and an enormous majority of whom he did not know personally.
The Attorney-General replied that Mr. Biggar forgot that on the first occasion he was represented by Sir Charles Russell, and he applied that an order as to particulars should be given.
Sir Charles Russell rejoined that he stated upon that occasion that he appeared only for the purposes of the occasion.


The Attorney-General, dealing with the charges made against Mr. Biggar, observed that they had already been supplied with the particulars. Addressing himself to the substance of the application, he contended that the charges upon which they proposed to give evidence were included in the particulars. They were charges of conspiracy, of being parties to conspiracy with wicked objects, and, when those objects had been partly carried out, of continuing to be participators in the conspiracy. To suggest that he was to give particulars of each overt act which he was going to prove in the course of the case would mean that he was to give particulars of what each witness was going to say. His case did not depend upon overt acts only. It depended upon the fact that these persons attended at certain meetings at which it was decided that something should be done, and that, as a result of those meetings, outrages were committed. To ask for such particulars was to ask for particulars of acts and deeds which could not now be entirely in his possession. His charge was, not that they winked and connived at one particular crime. He said, "You winked at, and connived at, a hundred crimes. I can prove that there was a system whereby the edicts of the Land League were enforced by the commission of crimes, and I can show that you connived at every one of these." Unless, therefore, he was to write down the whole of the evidence, or a summary of what his witnesses were going to say, another order ought not to be made against him.


Sir Charles Russell said that if any matter came to their knowledge which would be construed into a charge against those already charged, during the progress of the case, the particulars would, no doubt, be altered to include such matters. The pith of the whole application lay in a very few words. Either there were definite charges to be made against a number of individuals of acts of incitement to, or connivance at, crime, which led to the commission of that crime, or there was not. If the Attorney-General said there was no material for the specification of those acts, then his application fell to the ground. If there was, the very commonest notions of justice would suggest to the advocate of truth and justice that they should know what these allegations were.


He would give an illustration of his point. His learned friend yesterday connected murder, which occurred on the 20th of March, 1882, with a speech delivered a year before.
The President - Is that speech amongst the ones referred to in the schedule?
Sir Charles Russell replied that it was not. Why did not the other side give specific information as to the charges made, in order that the persons incriminated might have an opportunity of examining the witnesses, so as to know what the state of affairs in the neighbourhood at the time was, and in order to see if there had not been other causes than the speeches?


Sir James Hannen: The particulars which have been given are said generally to disclose persons charged with bringing about crime by certain means, and that is to be dealt with in the way that charges of conspiracy are usually. It is not necessary that all the details of the facts should be stated in the particulars. The object of the particulars is to inform the persons of the nature of the charge brought against them, in order that they may be prepared to meet it. We are of opinion that these particulars do fulfil the conditions required by the law in that respect. Undoubtedly, if there be any particular instances having regard to individuals of which information could be given other than their general connection with these organisations referred to, I must say that I think it would be desirable that information on these points should be given, in order that they may have the opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses. But in these matters it is impossible to search the mind of those conducting a case of this kind, and I and my colleagues have no reason to suppose that these particulars have not been drawn with a desire to give such information as is in the power of the Attorney-General's clients to give. If we see there are points upon which it would be right that there should be more details in order that Sir Charles Russell's clients may inform themselves further than they are informed, we can allow it.


The Attorney-General said he should like to mention one point - that the order on the back secretary to produce the bank books of the League had not been complied with, as he (the secretary) said he required an affidavit.
The President said the Court would be reluctant to adopt extreme measures. If the bank secretary did not comply with the order, the Attorney-General had better make another application.


The Attorney-General then resumed his opening statement. He remarked that there were two other letters which passed early in 1882, which were of importance apart from the handwriting, and which he would put in. The letters were believed to be in the handwriting of Egan. One was under date 8th of May, 1882, and was as follows: -
"Dear Sir, - Your presence in the West is urgently asked. The thing must be done prompt. Send reply to address already given. - Yours truly, PATRICK EGAN."
He was unable to say to whom the letter was addressed. The next letter was dated the 11th of March, 1882, and was as follows: -
"Dear Sir, - As I understand your letter, which reached me today, you cannot act as directed unless I forward you money by Monday next. Well, here is 50 pounds more if required. Under existing circumstances what you suggest would not be entertained. - Yours truly, PATRICK EGAN."


Now, continued the Attorney-General, a part of the case had been reached which required careful treatment, and which would, in their view, form a very important feature or incident in the matter. He approached an instance in the case in which he thought he would be able to prove that Mr. Parnell did know what had been done by Sheridan, Egan, and Boyton. He mentioned their names not for the purpose of suggesting that he did not know what had been done by the others, but because the instance to which he was about to refer showed specifically that he did know with reference to these. If what passed between Mr. Parnell and the witness he should call were proved, undoubtedly Mr. Parnell knew that Sheridan had been actively and intimately connected in the promotion of outrages in the West of Ireland; that Boyton had been actively engaged in the promotion of outrages in Leinster; and that Egan had been supplying funds with which outrages had been promoted, not only in these places, but elsewhere. Mr. Parnell knew these outrages were necessary, and were part of a system.


The learned counsel went on to refer to the negotiations carried on between Mr. O'Shea and Mr. Parnell in 1882, when the latter was in Kilmainham. In the early part of April Mr. Parnell was released on parole, and went to Paris in consequence of the death of a nephew. Subsequently Mr. O'Shea went to Kilmainham to have a special interview with Mr. Parnell; and on the night of the 6th, or the morning of the 7th, May there were further interviews between Mr. O'Shea and Mr. Parnell. With the ordinary political aspect of the discussion he (the Attorney-General) had nothing whatever to do. He had nothing to do with the question whether Mr. Parnell was right or wrong in entering into the bargain with whomsoever it was made, but it had the most direct bearing upon the position of Mr. Parnell with reference to the American section, and also with reference to what had been going on in Ireland.


The general outline of the discussion was with reference to a certain course which might be taken by Mr. Parnell with reference to the land question in Ireland, and while Mr. Parnell did not wish that the question of personal release should be at all prominently brought forward, the fact that his release and the release of some of the others was to be a condition was also the basis of the negotiations. The question was as to whether or not Mr. Parnell was able to control those who were with him in Kilmainham at the time, and those who were not with him, and with whom he was connected. The main interest on the part of those negotiating with Mr. Parnell was to put an end to these outrages; and the question directly arose between Mr. Parnell and Mr. O'Shea as to whether or not Mr. Parnell would and could assist in putting down outrages. It seemed to him (the Attorney-General) that if, as a public man, Mr. Parnell could do anything to reconcile the conflicting interest, it would be much to his credit. Mr. Parnell said certain of his comrades in Kilmainham must not be allowed out at present; and among these were Brennan (the Secretary of the Land League). The question then arose as to Michael Davitt, who was in Portland. Mr. Parnell asked his release to be postponed until Mr. Dillon and Mr. Parnell had an interview with Davitt, and that course was adopted. Davitt was not released until the 6th of May, the day of the Phoenix Park murders. Sir Richard remarked that if he proved that the documents he had alluded to were genuine - and he did not know how it could be said that the letters were not genuine, if the account to be given by Captain O'Shea were correct - there could be no doubt, he asserted, that Mr. Parnell was cognisant of the action of Sheridan, Egan, Boyton, and others.


If Mr. Parnell was at Kilmainham, in a position to do his utmost to put down outrages, why had he not done so before? And if it was alleged that he did his best to put them down, he should ask Mr. Parnell, when he got in the witness-box, what steps he took in that direction prior to the 6th of May, 1882. On that day occurred that terrible tragedy - the Phoenix Park Murders. It was not a part of his case to suggest, nor did he propose to give any evidence to suggest, that prior to those murders Mr. Parnell had any knowledge that the murders were contemplated. It would, however, be part of his case to suggest that he signed a letter respecting these murders, which would be put in in evidence. It would be his duty to put in in evidence what would prove that the necessities of the case were such that steps should be taken similar to the writing of a letter such as that which was written. The occurrence of those murders placed Mr. Parnell in a position of the greatest difficulty.


Upon the night of the 6th of May, or the morning of the 7th, Captain O'Shea saw Mr. Parnell, and the circumstances connected with the interview were such as were likely to bring back very clearly to the minds of those who were acquainted with them what actually occurred. The day after the murder a manifesto was issued, signed by Mr. Parnell, Mr. Dillon, and Mr. Michael Davitt. The manifesto is that in which the gentlemen named appealed to the people of Ireland to show the world that the assassinations, "such as have startled us almost to the abandonment of hope for our country's future," was deeply and religiously abhorrent to every feeling and instinct. "We feel (concluded the manifesto) that no act has ever been perpetrated in our country, during the exciting struggles for social and political rights of the past fifty years, that has so stained the name of hospitable Ireland as this cowardly and unprovoked assassination of a friendly stranger, and that until the murderers of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke are brought to justice, that stain will sully our country's name."


It would be proved, said the Attorney-General, by Captain O'Shea that Mr. Parnell objected to sign that document, which was drawn by Mr. Davitt, and only signed it under the necessities of the case, objecting to the terms. It would have been better for Mr. Parnell, in one respect, if no such document had been drawn. It undoubtedly put him in a position of great peril. It would be proved that the relations between Mr. Parnell and the extreme party in America were of the most intimate character; and that Mr. Parnell, after the issue of the manifesto, was in personal danger, that he applied for police protection, and was excessively anxious with regard to his personal safety.


The Attorney-General went on to say that when the question arose as to finding out the murderers of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke, Egan, from Paris, the Land League treasurer, threatened to resign if the Land League funds were given as a reward for the purpose of tracing the assassins. If that were true, it showed the stain which was being brought upon Mr. Parnell, and it explained his position in the course of events. Mr. Parnell was protesting in England that the stain would never be removed if the murderers were not discovered, while Egan, the Land League treasurer, was protesting against any funds being given for the detection of the crime, and declaring he would resign if they were. The learned counsel went on to allude to


for denouncing the murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke. On the 8th of May Mr. Parnell made his speech in Parliament, denouncing the murders, and if the letter (the fac-simile letter in the Times) was signed by Mr. Parnell, it was written in reply to the remonstrances of the extreme party. The difficulties in which Mr. Parnell was placed were very great. He and his organisation had been receiving for two and a half years tens of thousands of pounds from America with the distinct understanding that the joint organisation was working for the total separation of Ireland from England. No doubt Mr. Parnell deeply regretted and mourned the connection then which existed between him and his party.


The Attorney-General then read the fac-simile letter published in the Times, and produced the original, which was minutely examined by the Commissioners, by Sir Charles Russell, and the other counsel for the Irish Party. The letter was as follows: -

"15, 5, 82.
"Dear Sir, - I am not surprised at your friend's anger, but he and you should know that to denounce the murders was the only course open to us. To do that promptly was plainly our best policy. But you can tell him and all others concerned that, though I regret the accident of Lord F. Cavendish's death, I cannot refuse to admit that Burke got no more than his deserts. You are at liberty to show him this and others whom you can trust also, but let not my address be known. He can write to House of Commons. - Yours, very truly, CHARLES S. PARNELL."

The Attorney-General then referred to Mr. Parnell's denial of the letter in the House of Commons, and stated that evidence on that point - as to the genuineness of the signature - would be laid before the Commissioners.


Proceeding to dilate upon the letters alleged by Mr. Parnell to be forgeries, the Attorney-General said that at the time they were received the Times gave an assurance that the names of the persons from whom they were obtained would not be divulged, cost the Times what it might. Now, however, the pledges had been released - at any rate, in part - and their Lordships would probably have full information from the persons who obtained these letters and the source from whence they came. If those letters be genuine, it affects Mr. Parnell and Mr. Parnell alone. It does not affect in any way Mr. Biggar, Mr. Matt Harris, or the others. The charge had never been investigated before in a Court of law, and it was on account of the gravity of the charge that Parliament thought it was necessary to be investigated by a legal tribunal.


The Attorney-General went on to say that on the 30th July, 1881, Mr. O'Brien published in United Ireland a letter of his own and one from Mr. Parnell. Mr. Parnell's letter was dated from the House of Commons, and was to the effect that he had become aware that a company had been formed for the purpose of starting a penny weekly national newspaper which would aim at representing the "agrarian, industrial, and national self-reliance which was then abroad in Ireland." He recommended it to the people as a gain to their cause. What, asked the learned counsel, was the way United Ireland treated the action of the Land League?
At this point the Court adjourned for luncheon.

The Attorney-General, resuming his speech after luncheon, proceeded to deal with extracts from United Ireland, and its attitude towards the Land League, whose proceedings were called a "Campaign." In one case the tarring of a bailiff was referred to as a "bath," and there was nothing, he said, to show that the proprietors of the journal attempted in any way to denounce the outrages that were continually taking place. The fight against the British Government was called the "Holy War," and under the heading of "Captain Moonlight" were various notices dealing with cases of landgrabbing. The Attorney-General next discussed the


to Paris, stating that in the Autumn of 1881, Ford telegraphed to Egan, telling him that it was desirable that he should remain in Paris, and not return to Ireland. He said he would be able to prove that the Land League Council met in Paris about the month of February of 1881, and that amongst those who attended were Matt Harris, Lowden, Kebble, Brennan, Healy, Biggar, and, he thought, Mr. Parnell. He should also be able to show that during a very considerable portion of time, many of these persons were, according to the records of United Ireland, attending the councils of the Land League from time to time in different parts of the country, thus showing an absolute continuity of association with the League.


He should be able to produce documents that they would obtain from Mr. Matt Harris. At least, he had notice to produce them a subpoena, and, if he did not, they would be able to produce copies. It might be said that, though Matt Harris made speeches, he did not do so in connection with the League in any shape or form, nor in connection with Mr. Parnell, or Brennan, or Egan, or others. But he would ask them to consider what the documents would prove. He would be able to prove, when Mr. Harris was called, that certain documents passed between him and members of the Executive of the League, which put it beyond question that he was an organiser of the Land League, and not a mere speaker. There was one from T. Brennan to Matt Harris, under date of May 22, 1880. It was dated from the Land League offices, 62, Middle Abbey-street, Dublin. It explained that when Mr. Davitt left for America he authorised Brennan to open any letter addressed to him. Hence his knowledge of the contents of a letter Mr. Harris had written to Davitt. He expressed regret at Mr. Harris's "pecuniary state," and suggested that the League could do something out of its funds to compensate him for what he had lost in fighting the campaign. This, it represented, could be done unknown to any one else; and concluded by asking whether Harris thought he could assist John Walsh, who was "doing Connaught."


Having referred to another letter that passed between Harris and Brennan, the Attorney-General quoted from one that passed between Harris and Patrick Egan. In the latter letter Harris said: - "I intended to inquire from you in Dublin whether the disposition of the funds collected for League purposes reached such services as I have rendered; I have attended public meetings at my own expense, before the American money came over, and when the movement wanted a helping hand." Then, said the learned counsel (giving the dates) Mr. Matthew Harris received various sums of money from the Land League - sometimes 20 pounds at a time. He (the Attorney-General) would lay before their Lordships evidence to show how the outrages were carried out, that men obtained money from Mr. Biggar or some other official of the League, and then went down to the districts in order that the money might be distributed to the men who had carried out the outrages.


Reference was then made by the learned counsel to the fact (as recorded in the Freeman's Journal) that from October, 1879, to October, 1881, the amount received by the League was 144,890 pounds. Of that large sum 100,000 pounds had been unaccounted for. What had become of it? Did Mr. Parnell have an account of these moneys, or did he not? Did he have an account of the expenditure of these moneys, or did he not? If he did not have an account of the expenditure of these moneys, or if he or any of the other officials was not able to give them any information, then he (the learned counsel) suggested that it was because the purposes for which the money was used would not bear an account being got; and it would be of interest to know what was done with this money. If this was a constitutional organisation, again he asked, Why had the books to be removed from London? why had they disappeared from London? and there were men who must have known whether there were books and whence they had gone. Fifty-four affidavits had been made by gentlemen, all of whom were connected with the Land League, and in these affidavits there was not a solitary reference to the conduct of the Land League at all. The learned counsel then mentioned the


who wrote to the League asking for money, he having been shot in the eye, but whose name could not be mentioned, and whose name was not known except to the doctors. If there were many transactions of the kind of Timothy Horan, said the Attorney-General, one could well understand the disappearance of the books. He thought it would prove that their Lordships would have great difficulty in getting any original records of what was done with the money, how it was distributed, or to whom it was paid. Proceeding to deal with what happened after May, 1882, as the remaining topics upon which he would have to address their Lordships, the learned counsel said there was the very remarkable connection of


with the English Land League, the connection of Byrne with Mr. Parnell, and the circumstances under which Byrne fled from justice, and was assisted, as they alleged, in his flight by moneys received from Mr. Parnell. Having mentioned Byrne's implication in the Phoenix Park murders, the learned counsel said he should have to show that, during the time the Crimes Act was in force, the outrages which took place during the years 1880, 1881, and 1882 diminished to an enormous extent, and that after the Crimes Act expired, under the tyranny of the National League, as distinguished from the Land League, they had the same character of outrages carried on, the same kind of speeches made, and he should be able to show that it was distinctly brought to the notice of Mr. Parnell that the action of the Land League had resulted in certain consequences, and that, in the face of that notice and warning, he and his immediate supporters pursued exactly the same line of conduct, with practically the same results. After a statement had been made in Ireland following the Phoenix Park murders, Byrne fled to France. He dated his letters from Cannes, but the learned counsel's instructions were that he was never in Cannes, but that the letters were written in Paris.


One of the letters signed by Frank Byrne was addressed to the Executive of the League, and referred to Byrne's general state of health. "Mr. M'Sweeney will also inform you," it added, "that I received the promised cheque for 100 pounds from Mr. Parnell." He (the Attorney-General) hoped they would be able to see Mr. Parnell's pass-books in the course of the case, and then be able to show the truth of the statement. In this letter reference was also made to the sum of 35 pounds 17s. 7-1/2d. as having been paid away. In the second letter received, which was one from Byrne to Quinn, it was stated that 35 pounds 17s. 7-1/2d. had been paid over to Mr. Quinn. He submitted it was a singular coincidence the two items appeared in these two letters, and suggested that there was a connection between the two. Proceeding, the Attorney-General mentioned the fact that Byrne, Brennan, Boyton, and others eventually left England for America, and suggested there must have been some cause for this sudden departure.


Next, referring to the publication by the Times of a fac-simile page of the Irish World, giving the amounts of the various organisations of the Land League, the Attorney-General said that their Lordships would there find statements as to a series of funds collected by the instrumentality of the Irish World, including the "Martyrs' Fund" (subscribed for men who had been convicted of murder and other crimes), the "Skirmishing Fund," and the "Spread of Light Fund." Mr. Parnell expressed his great gratification at the good done to the League by the Irish World. For the defence of O'Donnell, the murderer of Carey, the informer, a sum of 10,000 pounds was subscribed. O'Donnell was tried at the Old Bailey, and he (the Attorney-General) believed his learned friend, Sir Charles Russell, had the honour of defending him. Having read a quotation from the Irish World, in which the writer remarked, "May God send more men with hearts like Joe Brady" (one of the Phoenix Park murderers), the learned counsel observed that Mr. Parnell and his immediate allies, whose names were mentioned in the particulars of the present trial, had since been Correspondents of the Irish World. Had there every been any repudiation by any single one of the gentlemen who were united together as the leaders of the National League of the doctrines Ford was preaching in the Irish World? The correspondents of the Irish World included Davitt, Brennan, Quinn, Byrne, and Sheridan.


Sir Richard Webster then asserted that two things would be proved beyond all question in the course of the case. One of these was, that concurrently with the existence of the Land League crime was found to have increased. The steps of the League were marked with blood. History showed that without the League there was no such crime as that referred to. From 1877 to 1879 in the whole of Ireland there were twenty murders. In the years 1880, 1881, and a portion of 1882, there were fifty murders. In 1883 and 1884 the Land League was, he would not say suppressed, but was unable to carry on its operations with so much success as before, because of the Crimes Act. Then there was only one murder. In 1885 and 1886 and a portion of 1887, before the Crimes Act was passed, they rose again to nineteen. His case would be that the existence and increase of murders were due to the action of the Land League; and in 1885, 1886, and 1887 to the action of the National League.


Sir Charles Russell - I suppose those figures are obtained from official sources?
The Attorney-General (warmly) - Official? They are obtained from Parliamentary returns, which are open to everybody as well as myself. Sir Richard then proceeded to deal with crime in various counties since the formation of the Land League, and still further contrasted it with that prevalent before the organisation was established. The system which crushed out the life of the small occupier was, he declared, intended to render the Government of Ireland impossible.
The Commission then adjourned.


The Irish Times learns that a number of subpoenas were served yesterday on a fresh batch of Irish officials to give evidence at the Commission. Sir W. Kay (Assistant Under-Secretary), and a number of Resident Magistrates, police officers, and Government clerks are summoned. The shorthand writers who took notes of the speeches referred to by Sir R. Webster are already in London with their original notes of transcripts.
The Freeman's Journal says it is calculated that the Times' charge will be finished in a fortnight, and it is conjectured that Mr. Parnell will be in the witness-box in three weeks. The London Correspondent of the Freeman's Journal says the line taken by the Attorney-General with regard to Mr. Davitt has caused general amazement. Mr. Davitt himself says that it looks as if the game of the Times was likely to develop in a way the Times little expects. The Freeman's Journal says the identity of the Land League clerk, through whom the letter, purporting to be endorsed by Mr. John Ferguson was procured is well known. It remains to be proved whether the letter and endorsement are genuine.


Norah Fitzmaurice, whose father was murdered at Lixnaw by a party of Moonlighters, arrived at Limerick today from her residence near Listowel, and left for London for the purpose of giving evidence on behalf of the Times in the Parnell Commission. She was accompanied by two policemen in plain clothes, and her arrival and departure caused quite a stir, the few who knew the young woman drawing a large crowd to have her pointed out to them.

Source: The Echo, Wednesday October 24, 1888, pp. 2-3

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