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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Fri 9 Nov 2012 - 0:50

Forty-seventh Day of Proceedings - Friday, February 8, 1889






In anticipation of the cross-examination of Major Le Caron, the public flocked to the Court this morning. Long before half-past ten the Court was crowded, amongst the spectators being several very distinguished gentlemen, including Sir Frederick Leighton, Mr. Clifford Lloyd, Mr. D. Onslow, and Captain Selwyn. Mr. Bridge, the Bow-street Magistrate, also occupied a seat in the body of the Court. This is the first occasion upon which a London Magistrate has attended.
Upon the Commissioners taking their seats, the Attorney-General intimated that all the documents handed to him by the witness would be given into his possession.


Major Le Caron again entered the witness-box. He was cross-examined by Sir Charles Russell.
Mr. Beach, you told us yesterday that you got these documents, numbering many thousands, from Anderson? - I intended to state that my correspondence numbered many thousands of letters. I, however, got a bundle from him.
Where did you get the bundle? - At his private residence, 39, Lindon-gardens. I then got in a cab, and took it at once to 3, Cork-street.
What caused you to go there? - I received a letter of introduction.
From whom? - There was no signature, but it was addressed to Mr. Houston, who is now in Court.
What were its contents? - Well, I can't say exactly, but its purport was that it introduced Mr. Beach, who could lay before Mr. Houston the matter in question.
Who did you get it from? - From Mr. R. Anderson.
The official of Scotland-yard? - I have ascertained that he is.


How came you to get this bundle of documents? - If you will allow me, I will explain. In the month of August I had read reports of this Commission. Feeling some interest in the matter, and feeling, in common with others around me, that the Government was prosecuting the case, and seeing what I considered the lame presentation of the case -
Sir Charles Russell - That is rather hard on the attorney. (Laughter.)
Major Le Caron (continuing) - I saw the moral effect it was having upon my then confreres, who in the public press and other places were claiming that it was a victory for Parnell and his colleagues -
Sir Charles Russell - Well, I am afraid I must interrupt.
The President - Yes; I have hesitated to do so, but I should like to say that we do not want him to make a speech. He must answer the questions "Yes" or "No."
Major Le Caron - Well, I'll cut the matter short. I wrote and said I was willing to run the risk, and give all the evidence that I could bearing upon the case.
Was it to the Government you wrote? - To Mr. Robert Anderson.


You said yesterday that you considered yourself a military spy? - Yes; but for the first three years I had no pay whatever. I first placed myself in communication with the Government in 1868.
Then for twenty years you have followed the occupation of patriotic spy? - I have not received as much as I have expended during the time I have been so engaged. When I arrived quite recently I visited Mr. Anderson. The documents were produced at Mr. Anderson's.
Did you understand, from the fact of his being able to produce the documents, that your employers, the Government, were assenting to your giving information? - I did not understand that.
And your impression is that Mr. Anderson did this on his own account? - At my earnest request.
Can you tell me in whose handwriting the letter of introduction was? - Yes, Sir, it was in Mr. Anderson's.
Yes, and the tenour was, "I beg to introduce Mr. Beach, who will explain the matter." Was that so? - "Who will present his case." That is the substance.
Anything more? - No, Sir. I think the initials "R.A." were at the bottom.
How was it that you did not tell us that before? - It just occurred to my mind. I did not tell Mr. Anderson what documents to select. He told me he had chosen what he thought were necessary.


Did Mr. Houston tell you who Mr. Anderson was? - That he was a gentleman in whom I could rely implicitly.
Did he explain to you why he had sent you a letter of introduction to Mr. Houston? - I think it said Mr. Houston had been mutually selected as a gentleman whom I might meet and lay before him my views of the case, so far as my contemplated evidence was concerned.
Who were the parties by whom Mr. Houston was mutually selected? - I inferred that he had been selected by those interested in the prosecution for me to meet in person and lay before him the synopsis of my evidence.
But you have not explained what you mean by the mutual selection? - "That the Times could trust and I could trust," replied the witness tersely.


Do you know that Mr. Houston is the Secretary of a body called the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union? - I do.
Was it your own suggestion that you should come here and give evidence? - It was.
Now, said Sir Charles, I should like to ask you some general questions concerning the V.C. Was any list, apart from those documents which you have produced, made of the entire bundle? - No; after I had made my selection I tied up the others again.
When you were in America had you any business besides your "patriotic" business? - Yes, I practised medicine soon after graduating in the spring season of 1872. At different times I was the proprietor of three chemist shops, and at present of a pharmacy association.
Did you earn sufficient to live on in these businesses, or was it only a pretence? - I earned more than sufficient to live on.


Was there any designation for the head of the secret organisation - such as the "head centre"? - No; there was only the executive body.
Do you know, of your own knowledge, who is at the head of the organisation at the present time? - Yes. Bradley, of Philadelphia. I voted for him myself, and saw him elected. Patrick Egan is also on the executive.


What was the number of this Brotherhood? - It averaged 11,000 and 13,000, and in 1882 it was 22,000. The news of the suppression of the Land League in 1881 gave an impetus to the membership.
It was higher than that at any other period? - No. It is higher today than it has ever been before. In fact, it is constantly increasing, which I could prove by reports that have been sent to Mr. Anderson from time to time.
In 1882 it was a secret society bound by oath? - It was, and the outside public would know nothing of the secret organisation, and would know the camp only by some public name - such, for instance, as the Emmett Club at Braden.
Is John Devoy still a member of the U.B., or whatever it is called? - He is, and I met him at Chicago only in June, last year. He is, professionally, a journalist, and was once the telegraph editor of the New York Herald, being subsequently, in company with others, the editor of the Irish Nation. Later on he made tours in America, and, I believe, lived on the proceeds from a series of lectures.


You mentioned yesterday something about the men Mackay Lomasney and Dr. Gallagher, and the work for which they were sent to London. Did you yourself take part in any of the deliberations at which these wicked plots were devised? - Yes.
And gave your advice? - I didn't think myself of sufficient importance to offer suggestions.
Did you assent to them? - I didn't make any objection.
Then you assented? - In conference - yes.
Did you know who these men were who were selected for this wicked work? - I have written many letters to England about them directly after the meetings.
Could you describe them? - Yes, for I know them personally.
I suppose you had other persons in your pay, helping you? - Not in my pay, Sir. I had friends.
(Handing witness a slip) - What is that?
The Attorney-General (interrupting) - That document, my lords, was not produced by the witness. It was handed in to assist the shorthand-writers.
Sir Charles Russell said that answer was quite satisfactory.


Referring to a document of April, 1880, Sir C. Russell asked Major Le Caron if that alluded to him as a "senior guardian," and the witness replied that it was a copy of a circular he received from the "U.B." as senior guardian. The passage, "Lest these organisations may at any time prove dangerous rather than assist us in our work we should so secure the control of their management as to disband them when it becomes necessary," referred to the Land League. There was a feeling amongst the extremists at that time that the Land League did not go far enough. There were not two secret organisations then, there was only a diversity of opinion. There were many who held different opinions as far as the open movement was concerned.


Were there two parties in this body as to the question of outrage? - No, Sir, they were unanimous.
From what date? - From the Convention of 1881 in Chicago.
But I am talking of 1880. From my own knowledge I cannot say that the organisation was unanimous at the time, but it was contemplated.
You mean to convey that you date the agreement upon this policy of outrage - if I may dignify it by that name - from the Secret Convention of 1881? - Yes, Sir.
Was there in 1880 any question of the organisation of any other revolutionary body? - I was aware that there was another organisation besides our own. It was the organisation of a body under the leadership of O'Donovan Rossa. Major Le Caron explained that immediately after the Convention at Ropesberry in 1879, O'Donovan Rossa became a "bone of contention." His influence in the party gradually waned, and in April, 1880, he was expelled from the body.
And do you suggest that he set up another organisation for himself? - I say that he did.
When do you say the policy of active outrage was adopted? - After the Convention of August, 1881. The organisation, ever since I became acquainted with it, has always had its circulars printed. Up to 1881 the land movement had not made great progress.
Did you think at that time it was likely to be dangerous to your own organisation? - Personally, I did not.
Were there others who did share that idea? - There were.


Now I will read a few passages from one of the circulars you have produced. It was issued just before the Convention of January, 1881. It says: "A serious danger menaces us, and calls for prompt, vigorous action. What we do will depend largely on the good sense, prudence, and tact shown by the members of the V.C. This danger comes from the Land League, and may, we think, be fairly attributable to the leaders of that prominent body. At the late Land League Convention a party was organised, and is now at work in that body with the object of gradually sapping the foundations of our organisation, and building up a power capable of crushing out the revolutionary spirit while studiously working for Ireland."
Do you agree with that statement? - Yes.
For the time being (continued the witness), the U.B. endeavoured to get hold of and control the money and movements of the Land League.


To try to capture the Land League? - Practically.
To "boss the show," I think, is the expression? (Laughter.) To run the movement yourselves? - Major Le Caron, nodding his head, replied in effect that that was so.
Referring to a document as to moneys of the Skirmishing Fund, witness said it was in his own handwriting, taken down at the time the Chairman of the Committee of the Skirmishing Fund read it out.
"That account was not 'circularised'?" asked Sir Charles, and Major Le Caron replied, "No; it was too secret."
Sir Charles afterwards questioned the witness concerning the alliance which he was asked by Mr. Parnell to bring about between the two bodies. - Major Le Caron said a better understanding existed between the open movement and the secret movement after the Secret Convention of 1881. From August, 1881, to the end of 1882, Alexander Sullivan, J.W. Hind, M. Bolan, and John Devoy were the four most influential men in the U.B.


You have mentioned that you were asked to see Sullivan and Devoy, with the object of bringing about a better understanding? - Yes. No evidence (he added) had come to my knowledge of an alliance having been come to, or a better understanding being arrived at.
Now is there any circular from the V.C. to the senior guardians that has come to your knowledge, in which there is, directly or indirectly, any reference made to this so-called alliance or understanding? - No.
Among the many thousands of documents confided to you by Mr. Anderson is there one stating the fact of the alliance? - Yes.
Was it among the documents from which you called those you have produced? - I think I may say, "Yes."


What is Mr. Sullivan? - A lawyer.
What is his position? - As a lawyer or socially?
As the world knows him? - As a lawyer he is the leading one in Chicago, but he does not associate with the aristocracy of the city.
He was worthy of your company? - Yes. He was very useful. (Laughter.)
What is Finerty? - He is an oil inspector, and, so far as America is concerned, they are both respectable citizens. Judge Moran is a Judge in the Illinois Appellant Court, and is very much respected; Judge Prendergast, as a lawyer and a Judge, is considered very good by one party; and, by the other, very bad. (Laughter.) Frank Agnew, mentioned yesterday, is a builder and contractor, and is considered a respectable man; Smythe is a large furniture merchant broker in Chicago; and Michael Bolan, who served in the American War, and is a practicing lawyer, has been expelled from the U.B. for appropriating the funds, and his position is not good. Le Caron went on to give further particulars about the men, who, he alleged were the principal leaders of the organisation, asserting that so far as a certain class in the American world was concerned, they were, with the exception of Bolan, men of respectability.
How do you draw your distinction? - Socially, respectability, and morally. Murder - a man who is pointed out as a murderer cannot be called a man of respectability.
I appreciate your distinction.


Major Le Caron, continuing, stated that with reference to the change of constitution in the U.B. about September, 1883, that was done by a vote in camp. Every member of "good standing" was open to vote that night. "On a given day the senior guardian would (he said) call all the members of the V.C., and the vote would be taken upon the change of constitution. The vote was carried only by one-fifth. Men of "good standing" did not attend - very few of them."
"What is the meaning of 'good standing'?" asked Sir Charles.
"Members who had paid up to date," answered the Major, amid laughter.
A money affair? - Yes.
Le Caron further said he had obtained five "bogus" sets of credentials to secret conventions through a letter Dr. O'Reilly gave him.
Don't you know that Dr. O'Reilly is a highly respectable man? - He is. He's a clergyman of the Catholic Church.
Do you suggest he is a member of this organisation? - No; but I could show you a letter Alexander Sullivan gave me for him.
(Handing him another document) - Why did you tear that piece off? - Do you want me to risk the lives of a number of men?
Don't ask me questions, Sir? I'll read nothing except what the Judge sees.
At this point the Court adjourned for luncheon.


On resuming, Sir Charles Russell complained of an article in a newspaper. Without mentioning its name, he handed up the paper to Mr. Cunynghame, the Secretary, and asked their Lordships to deal with it if they considered it necessary.


Resuming, Sir Charles Russell, speaking of Mr. Parnell's visit to America in 1880, asked Major Le Caron if that was not the only public political visit Mr. Parnell paid to America, and the witness said he believed it was. He did not know how many meetings Mr. Parnell attended there. Mr. Parnell went to three just before the conclusion of his visit - at Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. The arrangements of the meetings were almost exclusively in the hands of a revolutionary organisation. They controlled his movements. In 1880 there was only one member of Congress belonging to the U.B. When asked if he could name anyone who told him of the proceedings at the various meetings, Major Le Caron replied, "No particular individual." Witness had only personal knowledge of the meetings at the three places he had named. At each place Mr. Parnell attended the Mayor of the place presided. It was a fact that at each of the meetings the preponderance of the audiences belonged to the respectable classes. It was perfectly true that there were men of distinction at each of the gatherings. At Chicago the chairman of the reception committee was Mr. M.E. Stone. "Was he a respectable man?" was asked the witness, who replied, "Very respectable as a politician." At one of the meetings Mr. Parnell and Mr. Dillon were escorted by the Illinois National Guard, but they were composed of Irishmen. There was a preponderance of Irishmen in Illinois.
Sir Charles Russell asked: Should I be correct in saying that the reception given to Mr. Parnell was given by a considerable proportion of men of position and respectability in Chicago? - A very small percentage of the V.C. men took part in the demonstration.


There was a public reception committee, the chairman of which, you say, was not a member of the U.B.; there was an arrangement committee, the chairman of which, you also say, was not a member of the U.B. - where, then; was the dark conclave that controlled the whole thing?
"First of all," added Sir Charles, "were you a member of it?" - No, I was not. There were three men who controlled the whole of the arrangements.
Who were they? - They were J.W. Hind, J.F. Finerty, and Alexander Sullivan. Finerty often prided himself on being the chairman of the committee for arranging Mr. Parnell's Western tour. I had information as to how they were manipulating matters.
Now, have you anything further to say in support of your statement that invariably without exception in Mr. Parnell's and Mr. Dillon's Western tour the arrangements were exclusively in the hands of the revolutionary organisation?


Sir Charles Russell then passed on to Mr. Parnell's visit to Cincinnati. He pointed out that on his arrival Mr. Parnell received an ovation at the Chamber of Commerce. Major Le Caron admitted that the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce was not a member of the U.B.
So far as the external expression of the meeting at Mr. Parnell's reception was concerned, was it a fairly representative body of respectable men of eminent position? - It was.
Would it be correct to say that Mr. Parnell received, from your own observation, not only the sympathy of the Irish people in America, but also the sympathy of the American people themselves? - That was so, Sir.
In answer to further questions by Sir Charles Russell, Major Le Caron stated that the first Land League Convention was held in 1880.
Returning again to the Chicago Convention of 1881, Sir Charles Russell asked the Major if he would swear that there were more than a tenth of the delegates attending it members of the U.B. While not undertaking to swear this, Major Le Caron declared that to the best of his belief a half of the delegates were.
Are you aware of an underhand attempt - I don't think it ever came up at the Convention - to mould into one society or organisation all the societies, some of which had a half-political and half-benevolent nature, some of which were purely benevolent, into one society? - Yes, I had a perfect knowledge of the attempt.
And it was frustrated there? - It was.


The Convention at Philadelphia in 1883 was the next general gathering touched upon. Major Le Caron said the report of the gathering showed that 550 delegates of the U.B. presented their credentials, and possibly there were fifty more who did not report.
It was at this Convention that the constitution of the National League was first proclaimed, was it not? - I think it was.
My Lords, I will give you a copy of the constitution. It reads thus: - "The objects of the Irish National League are - (1) National reform, (2) Land Reform, (3) Local Self-Government, (4) the Extension of the Parliamentary and Municipal Franchises, (5) the Development of the Labour and Industrial Interests of Ireland."
Sir Charles Russell read the constitution in extenso.
You said yesterday that P.J. Sheridan was at that Convention. You wish to correct that? - Yes. He was not there.
You said that Byrne was there. - He was with his wife, as a spectator.
Not making a speech? - No; they were there on other business.


At that meeting, I think, O'Donovan Rossa tried to get in, and could not? - Major Le Caron replied that both O'Donovan Rossa and Finerty were hounded out. Of the thirty members at the Convention witness could speak positively of eight as members of the U.B. At the Boston Convention there were many hundred delegates. He was not certain whether he sent Mr. Anderson a report of the proceedings.


Sir Charles Russell asked, with reference to General Jones, Was he a member of the U.B.?
Major Le Caron - Not U.B., but -
Sir Charles - Was he a member of the U.B.? - Something worse. He took an important part in the organisation. I will tell you if you desire it.
Sir Charles Russell - Explain.
Major Le Caron - He was an active worker in connection with the U.B. or V.C., and the actual introducer between the Russian Minister at Washington and the revolutionary organisation which agreed to make war at that time on England.
The President (glancing at the clock at ten minutes to four) - You don't want to go into that now, Sir Charles.
Sir Charles - Well, I should like him to explain, and -
The President - I don't want to go to Russia now. (Laughter.)
(The report will be continued.)

Source: The Echo, Friday February 8, 1889, pp. 2-3

Karen Trenouth
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