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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sun 11 Nov 2012 - 13:07

Forty-eighth Day of Proceedings - Tuesday, February 12, 1889





That the cross-examination of Major Le Caron has awakened a great amount of public interest is evidenced by the large number of persons who from day to day attempt to gain admission to the Court. Today, as on Friday, the Court was crowded before the proceedings commenced, the Jury-box, and even the Press seats, being appropriated by interested spectators. Amongst these were the Duchess of St. Albans, who had a seat in the public gallery; and Mr. Oscar Wilde, who sat in the well of the Court, by the side of Mr. Lewis.


Sir Charles Russell resumed the cross-examination of the Major.
After you joined the Fenian Brotherhood in America, about 1865, how many visits did you pay to this country? - From that day to this four. The first was in December, 1867; the next was in March, 1881; the next was in the month of June, 1887; and the next in November, 1887.
Your visit in March, 1867, was about the time of the excitement over the Fenian movement in Ireland coming to a head? - Yes.
March, 1881, was about the time that Mr. Forster was bringing in his Coercion Bill? - Possibly. The 1867 visit was not an official visit at all, but the others have been partially so until the last, when I came over on my own accord.
Did you report yourself to any official? - With the exception of 1867, on every other visit.
The 1881 visit - when did you leave? - At the latter end of April.
Did you report yourself on arriving? - I did.


Did you consider the interview which you said you had with Mr. Parnell important? - I deemed it very much so.
Did you take any memorandum of it? - None whatever, Sir.
Did you make any report in writing? - I did verbally, Sir.
Will you attend to my question? Did you make any report in writing? - Never.
To no one? - No. I considered the interview I had with Mr. O'Kelly important, but I took no memorandum of what passed, and never made a report about it to any one.
You spoke of Mr. O'Kelly's connection with some arrangements for the shipment of arms, as far back as 1879? - That was when I first knew of him in that respect.
You said you had conversation with him. Has he ever written to you, or you to him? - Never, Sir. Major Le Caron went on to say he had not had any conversation with Mr. Parnell since his interview in the House of Commons. Witness had heard that a newspaper called the Irishman was the reputed newspaper of the Irish Fenian section. Witness could not deny or affirm that the paper had denounced Mr. Parnell; it might have done. Personally, Mr. O'Leary was a fine old gentleman. Witness knew he opposed the Land League movement. He was an uncompromising opponent.
Do you know Stephens? - I have met him in Paris. He is old, now, and very poor. I think Mr. Stephens and Mr. O'Leary were in accord in their views.


You told us you came charged with two sealed packets? - Yes, from John Devoy; one packet for Mr. Egan and one for Mr. O'Leary.
Did you open them? - No - no opportunity. They were securely sealed. I arrived in Paris on the 14th day of April, 1881. I saw Mr. Egan on the day of my arrival. So far as Mr. Egan's conversation was concerned, he said he was a Land Leaguer then, and anything else if occasion arose.
Did it not occur to you that Egan was expelled from the Fenian Brotherhood as far back as 1878? - I subsequently learned that he had been expelled.
Perhaps you also heard the cause. Was it not for joining Mr. Isaac Butt's Home Rule Movement? - I heard that was one reason. I heard that he had either been expelled or resigned.
You spoke of Egan having knowledge of the Land League accounts as Treasurer of the Land League. Did he tell you who were the auditors? Were they Mr. John Dillon, Mr. Matthew Harris, and Mr. Sheehy? - I believe I remember him mentioning the last two names.
He told you the accounts had been audited? - Yes; but he did not state at what time.
When did you see Egan again after 1881? - In America, in March, 1883.


Now, I understand that you were in the inner lobby in April of 1881, and were standing at a refreshment-bar, when Mr. Egan introduced you to Mr. Parnell as "a friend from America"? - Yes.
And, as I understand, nothing passed at that interview? - Nothing.
You next had a conversation with Mr. O'Kelly, in which he referred to the denunciation of himself and his party by Mr. John O'Leary? - That was the next thing of importance that occurred.
How long was it after that interview with Mr. O'Kelly that you had the alleged conversation with Mr. Parnell? - The same night. Immediately following.
When you were introduced to Mr. Parnell as "a friend from America," was anything more said about you? - To whom?
Was anything more said about you in your hearing, either by Mr. Egan to Mr. Parnell, or by Mr. O'Kelly to Mr. Parnell? - Well, I was spoken of in complimentary terms, the substance of which was to the effect that I was "a friend from America." Nothing was said about my being connected with any secret organisation.


At that time you understood that the Fenian organisation was opposing the Parnellite movement? - In 1881 the home organisation, or I.R.B., was opposed to the movement.
And you say that Mr. Parnell complained of the opposition? - Yes.
As a matter of fact, were the sinews of war for the home movement coming largely from America? - Yes.
And the effectiveness of the home organisation could be crippled if the "sinews of war" were not sent from America? - Yes.
You say he requested Devoy to come to this side, and also that you would see Alexander Sullivan, Hynes, and Dr. Carrol. Did you see these four? - I did.
Did you ever write to Mr. Parnell and tell him as to what you had done with respect to the supposed mandate? - I did not. I was not so instructed.
You did not write to say that you had carried out the instructions? - No.
Because you had no instructions - is that the only reason? - No.
What is the other one? - Because I was told to write to someone else.
To whom? - To Mr. Patrick Egan.
Have you mentioned one word of that before? - No.
Why? - Because I have never been asked.
Did Mr. Egan tell you to write to himself? - He did.
And because of that you didn't write to Mr. Parnell? - Yes.


What did you think the most important part of the conversation you had with Mr. Parnell? - To my mind, the most important matter was his view as a revolutionist.
You mean his remarks with reference to his seeing no reason why they could not inaugurate a revolutionary movement? - Yes.
Didn't you regard that as the word of an insane man? - He appeared to be sane enough.
Yes; but didn't the sentiments appear to be those of an insane man? - I had heard them before from other and as good men.


Sir Charles Russell here read an extract from "The American Irish," a work published in 1882, and written by Mr. Bagnall, who, he said, was the author of one of the articles which, it was alleged, contained the libels. This passage described the state of affairs in America at the time, stating that there were three Irish parties in America. Besides this also there was another party, designated the dynamite faction; but even to name the leaders would be to confer a distinction which they did not deserve. They had no politics, were not recognised by the leaders of the real party, and so contented themselves by compelling their dupes to commit outrages which they would never otherwise have thought of.
Is that an accurate description of the state of affairs in 1881? - With this exception; the largest party, unknown to the world, was the V.C. at that time.
Sir Charles Russell next asked the witness with reference to a letter a portion of which he had cut off, and Major Le Caron said it would be found in the documents before the learned counsel. Sir Henry James (handing the witness the document) said that access had been given to all the material documents, but it was not desirable that the names of some of the persons mentioned therein should be revealed.


By Mr. Reid - John O'Reilly and General O'Leary were his friends when he joined the Fenian movement, to which he was introduced by Alexander Sullivan. During the first three years he received no payment from the English Government.
When did you first come into an arrangement with the Government as to regular correspondence? - In February, 1868.
And what were you to be paid? - I was told that I should be supplied with funds, but no amount was mentioned.
For a portion of that period - continued the Major - he was paid 50 pounds a month. He also received expenses from the Canadian Government. The amount he was paid was, he added, for expenses.
How much money did you receive during the three years from the Home and Colonial Governments? - About 2,000 pounds. That was for providing everything. My expenses were very heavy. To one man alone I gave 365 pounds. After 1870 I received very considerable sums of money in the aggregate. It was only during a very limited portion of the time that the money was for the subsistence of my family. Since 1872 my own support has not been derived from this money. I have spent more than I have received.


Now we come to another subject. With regard to the circulars which you have produced; were they supplied to a limited number of people only? - Yes, they were limited.
To how many? - To each of the senior guardians - to a number not exceeding 250 or 275 persons.
Do you think those circulars relating to dynamite and active violence and crime were distributed to so many persons? - Yes.
I suppose the Senior Guardians were persons in authority, and were communicated with with reference to the general policy to be adopted? - Yes.
There were, you say, about 23,000 persons connected with the organisation. Do you suggest that those people, as a bulk, were aware that in supporting that organisation they were supporting the use of dynamite? - Yes.
Then you suggest that these people were deliberately and knowingly supporting a policy of dynamite outrage? - Yes.


Am I to understand that you were present yourself at meetings at which a dynamite policy was discussed or arranged? - Yes. One discussion at the Secret Convention of 1881 lasted for a week. There were about 162 persons present.
What class of persons? - Delegates from the camps, who were old and tried members of the organisation. I have also been to Conventions in 1883, 1885, 1886, at which the dynamite policy has been discussed. I was present as a delegate.
And did you vote for the dynamite policy - at least - how did you vote? - I was always on the side of the majority - at least, I tried to be. (Laughter.)


Mr. Reid next questioned the Major with a view to proving the excellence of the reputation of Senator W. Jones. The Major, however, although he admitted that Mr. Jones was a United States Senator, said he was always looked upon as a "carpet-bag" senator. (Laughter.) The action he took as an ally and advocate, by being present at many meetings, and the language he used at those meetings, certainly stamped him as a man in favour of an insurrection, if not of something worse, on behalf of the Irish Nationality. He was an ardent friend of theirs, and he ultimately brought himself into serious disrepute.


Mr. Lockwood then cross-examined Le Caron as to the Chicago Convention of 1881, in the management of which Le Caron said there were secret caucuses. Members of those caucuses had secret signs by which they knew each other. Le Caron described the open Convention at which Mr. T.P. O'Connor and Mr. T. Healy were speakers. Witness did not know that Patrick Ford's presence was objected to by the Committee of Resolutions.
Do you know whether Ford was charged with doctoring the No Rent Manifesto? - I believe he took the credit as being the author of the No Rent Manifesto.
As a matter of fact, he wanted to extend the scope of it by eliminating some portion of it? - I don't know, but he was beaten.
Further questioned, the witness said he attended other meetings at which Mr. Healy was present.
Were you present at any of the meetings addressed by Mr. Arthur O'Connor and Sir T. Redmond? - Yes, at Chicago.
Mr. Lockwood said he had no further questions to ask, and Mr. Davitt then intimated that he did not wish to ask the witness anything.


Mr. Lockwood said there was one matter he might mention. Mr. Sexton denied that any interview took place between him and Egan, as previously alleged by the witness.
Sir James Hannen - If it is important it will have to be followed up by Mr. Sexton denying it in the witness-box.
Mr. Lockwood - Mr. Sexton is prepared to.


The Attorney-General handed the witness two portraits of Mr. Parnell. One Major Le Caron said he was given by Mr. Parnell himself, who signed his name at the bottom. The other portrait was sent to witness by Mr. Kettle. He also received a photograph of Egan. He saw Egan write on it his name, and "With T.M. Egan's best regards." There was also a photograph given him at the same time of the prominent members of the Land League.
You have been asked as to whether you communicated to the meetings at the camp what passed at the Convention of 1881. With reference to dynamite? - Yes. I made a report. That is the original document I sent home. I composed that report, and read it to the camp. There were about twenty-five persons present.


In answer to further questions by the Attorney-General, witness said that the I.R.B. first came into existence in 1865. That was the time when Stephens' influence waned with his party, after the failure of the insurrection of that year. There were two factions in the Fenian body in 1879. One was the Stephens' faction, and the other the Supreme Council of the I.R.B. The Supreme Council was by far the stronger of the two factions.


At this point Major Le Caron produced a letter, which he said he had received from Devoy in 1881, relating to his interview with Mr. Parnell. He had not that letter in his possession, he said, at the time of his examination.

The letter was handed to the Attorney-General, who read it. It was as follows: -

41, Orange-street, June 24, 1881. - Dear Friend, - I am sorry I was obliged to leave here for New York last Saturday. I did not return until last night, so did not get your letter till then. It would have been sent on to me, but they thought I should return sooner. Much obliged for the information you gave me, and the interest you have taken on a matter which affects us, and so closely. I have not heard from H. yet. Yesterday I received a short note from E., urging me strongly to go over, but I did not understand for what purpose, until I got your explanations. I should like to go very much if I could, and if I thought my voice would produce the effect anticipated. I have, however, no authority to speak for anybody, and I could not speak for the V.C. without its authority.....all I could do would be to tell E. and P. that I could go over on my own responsibility - which I believe would satisfy our friends here - and make propositions that I feel morally certain would be approved of; but I would not, on any consideration, have them to pay my expenses. That would place me in a false position at once. I have asked advice, and if my friends think it a right thing to do I will start next Wednesday. They misunderstand us on the other side. We do not oppose their action in Ireland, but we cannot tolerate the kind of thing they have taken up in Buffalo.

The letter was signed "John Devoy."
Witness pointed out that the letters H., E., and P. represented Hyne, Egan, and Parnell.


Do you know to whom Devoy refers when he says he does not think anyone could undertake to guarantee anything for the individual on the other side, who, he felt certain, did not represent the opinions of the home organisation? - Yes; I gave the names to Devoy.
"We cannot tolerate the kind of thing begun at Buffalo." What does that mean? - It meant, I understood, attempts made by the Home Rule leaders to disorganise and disrupt the secret organisation. After my return to America Alexander Sullivan did come over to England. So far as the world knew, the gentleman described by Sir Charles Russell were all he represented them to be; but, out of the observation of the world, they were the manipulators and organisers of the secret movement.
The Court at this point adjourned for luncheon.


On the Court resuming, the Attorney-General read a portion of a speech made on the 23rd February, 1880, at Cincinnati, in which Mr. Parnell was reported to have remarked, "When we have undermined English Government we shall have paved the way for Ireland to take her place with the nations of the earth, and let us not forget that that is the ultimate aim of Irishmen. We shall not be satisfied until we have destroyed the last link which keeps Ireland bound to England." That (said the learned counsel) was one of the speeches the witness identified. The whole speech should be printed and handed in.
Mr. Asquith said he did not admit the accuracy of the report.
The Attorney-General remarked that he should show it had not been denied.


Having been questioned by the Attorney-General as to the part taken by the witness in organising meetings in America, Major Le Caron was asked, "In your opinion did the secret organisation succeed in "running" the open organisation in America?" - "It did," was the answer.
The Attorney-General then asked the witness if he knew James O'Donnel, of Chicago. "James O'Donnel, of Chicago, was an intimate friend of mine," replied the witness. "He lived for twenty years in Chicago. He was a trusty member of the V.C. He was junior and senior guardian, I think." The Major said he also knew Morgan O'Brien, of Chicago.
The Attorney-General explained that he put these questions because he had not been able to obtain satisfactory proof yet of the sender and receiver of documents relating to the persons spoken to by the witness.


Mr. Reid asked the witness with reference to his evidence as to Alexander Sullivan. Was he not acquitted on a charge of murder?
"Not on his first trial," said the Major.
Mr. Reid - But he was ultimately acquitted? - On the second trial, and I know how. (A laugh.)
Mr. Reid - Well? - Frank Agnew, the district member of my society was sheriff of Cook's county, in whose charge the entire choice of the panel of jurors took place. (Laughter.) By Frank Agnew were chosen the jury, in which were men belonging to our organisation. (Laughter.) The defence raised by Sullivan was that he shot the man because of his conduct to his (Sullivan's) wife.


Mr. Reid - Do you know Devoy made a charge against him? (Sharply) - John Devoy was not in the county at the time of the trial. (Laughter.)
Mr. Reid - Did not John Devoy make an attack on him in the newspapers? - No; he was in jail. (Laughter.)
The witness then apologised to the learned counsel, and said he did not mean to be impertinent.
Mr. Reid said he did not complain.
This concluded Major Le Caron's examination, and as he stepped out of the witness-box he exclaimed, bowing to the Judges, "I thank you exceedingly for the courtesy you have shown me."
(The report will be continued.)


Our Dublin Correspondent telegraphs this afternoon: - Jno. Walker, an agent of the Times in Dublin, has issued a writ for libel against the Freeman's Journal for asserting that the witness O'Connor, who, as alleged, has confessed that his evidence before the Parnell Commission was false, had fabricated the evidence with the assistance of Mr. Walker and another gentleman.

Source: The Echo, Tuesday February 12, 1889, pp. 2-3

Karen Trenouth
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