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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Fri 26 Oct 2012 - 23:13

Thirty-eighth Day of Proceedings - Thursday, January 24, 1889



The public, as is usual at the latter part of the week, displayed a quickened interest in the proceedings today. One of the earliest arrivals this morning was General Copeland Crawford, who occupied a seat in the Jury-box. For the first time since the opening of the Commission, Mr. Michael Davitt was not in the Court when it opened.


Captain Slack, who was under examination when the Court adjourned last night, again ascended the witness-box. It will be remembered that Captain Slack described himself as a Divisional Commissioner or Magistrate. He spoke last night of the necessity of having additional police in the various counties under his care after the establishment of the League. He now said that it became necessary, not only to employ police, but military were also engaged, besides a number of auxiliary police, who were really civilians.
Do you think that crime was connected with any secret societies existing in the localities you have spoken of? I came to the conclusion that the only secret society that caused outrages was the National League.
How do you arrive at that conclusion? - Well, prior to the time of the League there were scarcely any outrages, and what there were did not appear to be connected with any secret or other organisation.
Have you any other reason? - At the meetings of the League language of a more or less inflammatory nature was used, and that was followed invariably by outrage. I may say I have kept a book, in which are recorded all the speeches delivered at meetings of the League in my counties since 1884, and there is also included in it summaries of the speeches.


Did you endeavour to acquaint yourself with the holding of the League Courts? - Yes. When started the branch of the League practically assumed the government of the country. They summoned persons who were objectionable to their organisation before them, and -
Mr. Asquith objected to such a statement unless the Captain could positively swear that it was a matter of his own personal knowledge.
Captain Slack replied that he had seen reports of the meetings of the League Courts, and had made inquiries substantiating the reports. In 1885 there were held 205 Courts, and in 1886, 221. Further, the Captain asserted that he had received private information concerning the working of the League, and found in most cases it was absolutely correct, the result being that he took steps successfully to prevent what might have been carried out had it not been for the private information.
In your opinion were outrages discountenanced by the Land League? - I think the League encouraged outrages of the kind.
Was there any abnormal distress that would account for these outrages? - Not in my division. In many of the cases of eviction I am decidedly of the opinion that had it not been for the League and the Members of Parliament who took part in the agitation, the people would have settled peaceably.


How did you arrive at that conclusion? - Several tenants had told me themselves that they would settle only they were not allowed; while many others said they had plenty of money in the bank to pay what was asked, but were afraid. Another reason why Captain Slack arrived at this conclusion was because Land League huts were erected on the evicted farms, avowedly for the purpose of encouraging the tenants to offer resistance.
Have you ever heard of instances in which a man was denounced and outraged afterwards? - I have, several.


Cross-examining Captain Slack as to his assertion that there was comparatively little crime prior to 1880, Sir Charles Russell asked, "Have you had any time, Captain Slack, to study the history of your country?" "Certainly, I have," promptly replied the gallant captain.
Is it not a fact, then, that of the eighty-nine Coercion Bills, as they are called, passed in the last 100 years, everyone of them was justified upon the ground of agrarian disturbances? - Yes.
Then had anything occurred to make any substantial degree of difference prior to the year 1881? - Certainly, the Act of 1870 removed a great many grievances.
I don't wish to take this as a specimen of your evidence, but how do you bear out that statement? - Well, the Act did away with ruthless evictions and other grievances.


Do you seriously wish the Court to believe that that Act did away with these grievances? - Yes, I certainly do. - Continuing his cross-examination, Sir Charles elicited from Captain Slack that he was a landlord himself. Sir Charles read several extracts from official returns, showing the rentals of some of the Captain's tenants who had gone into the League Court. In one case the poor-law valuation was 4 pounds; the rent was raised to 5 pounds, and subsequently reduced to 4 pounds; and in another the valuation was 4 pounds 15s., the rent was 7 pounds, and was reduced to 4 pounds 4s.
Having read those returns, may we not take it that you are not wholly free from landlord's feelings in these matters? - Well, I think I am unprejudiced.


Captain Slack went on to say that Ireland was as comparatively free from crime, other than agrarian, as any other countries. Without a reference to his books he refused to say definitely as to whether there were any agrarian murders prior to 1879. He, however, admitted hearing of a murder in Kilkenny prior to that period, and one in another county, in both of which there was a "strong agrarian element." Sir Charles further produced returns of outrages many years prior to 1880. In 1869 particularly, the house of Mr. Warburton, High Sheriff of the county, was fired into, a farmer was murdered, and the house of Dr. Blunders was fired into because the doctor had entered into proceedings against his tenants. In the same year several outrages were reported in Queen's County. A tenant named Cuddyley was fired at, and the house of another was fired into, while an armed party visited another house, fired five shots, and received notice warning the tenant against taking a certain farm.
Do you know that as far back as 1882, Captain Slack, writers over and over again - including Sir George Cornewall Lewis - observed that the characteristic of Irish crime was that it was not committed by individuals, but as a protection, by and with the sympathy of the community? - I have never read it.


Sir Charles Russell took Captain Slack through a long record of crime in different parts of the counties under his control, dating back some twenty years. Captain Slack said his experience was that in prosperous years there was less crime than in years when distress prevailed.
Now, Captain Slack, can you tell me of any one instance in which a man was compelled to join the League? - It came to me through private channels.
Who gave you the information? - Well, I must decline to give the names on public grounds.
Now, I'll ask you a perilous question, Captain Slack. Of your own knowledge state any ground that you have, apart from speeches, for saying that the Land League encouraged outrages? - Well, the actions of the League. For instance, people were denounced and outraged, and when outrages took place the League never attempted to denounce them.
Captain Slack having referred to his record of speeches and meetings of the League, Sir Charles asked him to produce some and read them. The Captain produced a report of a League meeting held at Newtown. A man named Lonnigan came before the League for the purpose of joining it, and, according to the report, the secretary of the League gave the members an outline of the facts connected with his case. The Captain proceeded to read the case. Having read the particulars rapidly, the Captain stopped very suddenly, and observed, "Oh, it goes on to say the League had denounced the outrage on Lonnigan's cattle." (The outrage, it may be mentioned, was that of cutting off some inches of the tails of Lonnigan's cattle.) The Captain now seemed in a dilemma. Sir Charles's next question was as to how he reconciled that statement with his assertion that the League never denounced outrage. Eventually he said it was a case in which the man had gone against the rules of the League. It was further stated, in the course of the report of the meeting, that Lonnigan had received compensation from the Sessions for the injury to the cattle, half of which he voluntarily gave to the funds of the League.


Sir Charles Russell having been handed the paper with the newspaper report attached, he read a note pencilled on the side of it. It was to this effect: - "I beg to draw your special attention to this notice, as you have clear evidence that Lonnigan was, I should say, compelled to hand back part of the money to the League."
That note, Captain Slack said, was written by his clerk. He thought, perhaps, it was written with a view of considering the advisability of instituting a proceeding. Ultimately he frankly admitted that he had been misled in bringing forward this case, which he had, looking at the memorandum, taken to be one in which a man had suffered through the actual denunciation of the League. He, however, asserted that he had other books and papers showing instances that would bear out what he had said, and it was decided by the Commissioners that the gallant captain should bring them to the Court, and go through them in the witness-box.


Mr. Lockwood, in cross-examination, questioned Captain Slack as to his declaration that the League encouraged crime. Although he was in the habit of reading the newspapers for the purpose of "informing his mind," the captain could not recall speeches delivered in 1880 by Mr. Parnell, Mr. J. Redmond, Mr. Dwyer Gray, Mr. John O'Connor, and other members of the Nationalist Party, in which outrages and violence were denounced very vigorously.


Samuel Rogers, a uniformed County Inspector of the R.I.C., replying to Mr. Atkinson, said that in April, 1883, he searched the house of Mrs. Mary O'Connor, at Athlone. Miss Mary O'Connor, one of her daughters, was secretary of the branch of the Ladies' Land League. He produced a book and several documents which he found in Mrs. O'Connor's house. One letter was signed by Miss Anna Parnell, and requested Miss O'Connor to establish a branch of the Ladies' Land League. Another document was headed, "Miss O'Connor's duties," and another was a list of sums of money paid to various persons for the defence of certain tenants charged with offences, and also for the maintenance of prisoners.
Replying to Sir Charles Russell, the witness said the documents which he found in Mrs. O'Connor's house passed out of his hands in May, 1883. He, however, obtained them from an official when he came to London for the purpose of proving that he found them.
Who was the official? - He was a district official in the Divisional Magistrate's office in Athlone.
Was he assisting in getting up this case? - I cannot say that.


Sir Henry James informed the Court that his colleagues had submitted copies of the portions of the speeches they had proposed to read to the solicitor who was acting on behalf of Sir Charles Russell's clients. They had received a reply stating that certain portions should be read, and he (Sir Henry) would accordingly read them.
Sir Charles Russell said he should require that all Mr. Parnell's speeches which had been mentioned should be read.


Sir Henry James proceeded to read a speech by Mr. Biggar, delivered at Ballieborough on the 21st of Oct., 1880. In that speech Mr. Biggar said the object of the Land League was to put down landlordism and compel the landlords to sell their lands to occupiers, whether they liked it or not. The League, he said, did not want them to use violence towards the landlords. One reason was that those persons who had undertaken to shoot the landlords missed them, and shot persons whom they did not intend to shoot. Then, again, acts of violence would bring the tenant-farmers into discredit.


A speech by Mr. Sexton was next read. In the course of this he declared that those who said the movement countenanced crime "told a lie." Mr. Biggar delivered a speech at Bawnboy, in the county Cavan, on October 30, 1880. Mr. Biggar declined to read it for the edification of the Court, and Mr. Lockwood took it in hand. Sir Henry James interrupted at a point he was desirous of specially emphasising. In the course of this Mr. Biggar reminded his hearers that any person who helped to remove grass from an evicted farm was "a curse to the country, and deserved all the reprobation that could be cast upon him."
At this point the Court adjourned for luncheon.


After luncheon, Mr. Lockwood proceeded to read a speech made by Mr. Biggar, at Tallow, in 1880. The speech simply dealt with the question of the policy of the Parnellite Members in the House of Commons. Mr. Lockwood, therefore, suggested to Mr. Biggar that only those portions of his speeches which were relevant to the inquiry should be read.
The President here interposed. He pointed out that it would take many days to get through all these speeches, and suggested that the speeches should be put in without being read.
Mr. Biggar was perfectly content, so far as his speeches were concerned.
Sir Henry James, however, dissented. He pointed out that that was a public inquiry, and he considered it necessary to refer to the relevant parts of those speeches. They had selected portions, which they proposed to read, but he (Sir Henry) would confer with the Attorney-General, and see whether it was desirable to take any further step.
The President - Of course, if you really do not see your way clear, I have nothing more to say.


Mr. Lockwood continued to read Mr. Biggar's speech, in which that gentleman denied that the Land League had ever advocated the shooting of landlords. In a portion of the same speech, which was read by Sir Henry James, Mr. Biggar advocated the boycotting of those tenants who took evicted farms.


Sir Henry James next read a speech made by Mr. Parnell at Ennis, in September, 1880. Mr. Parnell said: - "The measure of your determination must be not to pay unjust rents, and keep a firm hold on your homesteads. Your measure of determination must be not to bid for farms from which others have been evicted, and by strong public opinion deter unjust men among you - and there are many such - from bidding for such farms." Mr. Parnell, in that speech, also advocated the boycotting of a man who would take a farm from which another had been evicted.
(The report will be continued.)


The London Correspondent of the Dublin Express says, some fresh documents of the highest importance have been already received by the Times from America, to be produced before the Parnell Commission, or are expected in a day or two.

Source: The Echo, Thursday January 24, 1889, pp. 2-3

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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