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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Tue 20 Nov 2012 - 20:46

Fifty-second Day of Proceedings - Tuesday, February 19, 1889







Long before the Court opened this morning its doors and barricades were thronged. The accommodation of the little Court was wholly inadequate, and scores who were the possessors of tickets had to be refused admission. Artists and pressmen were, in some instances, turned out of their seats, which had been secured by the eager spectators, in some cases, as early as ten o'clock. At about twenty past Sir Charles Russell entered the Court with Mr. John Morley, who accepted a seat by Sir Charles's side in the Q.C.'s bench; Mr. Labouchere, entering a few minutes later, engaged in conversation with him until the arrival of the Commissioners. Mr. Shaw-Lefevre sat immediately behind Mr. Morley, near Mr. Asquith. The Lord Advocate for Scotland sat and conversed with Mr. Macdonald, the Times manager, in the solicitors' benches; and in other parts of the Court there were a large number of gentlemen of social and political eminence.
As the day wore on the Parnellite Members assembled in force in the Court, hovering about in the gangways near their leader. Mr. Parnell, who was closely wrapped in an overcoat, and still appeared to be very ill, sat in his usual seat by the solicitors' table, between Mr. Davitt and Mr. Biggar. Amongst his confreres were Mr. Campbell, Mr. John O'Connor, Mr. W. Redmond, Mr. Quinn, and Mr. Cox. During the morning the Court gradually became more and more crowded. Sir Frederick Leighton pushed his way in, and found a seat on the solicitors' bench; Lady Butt, who was seated near Lord Denbigh, surveyed the animated scene from the elevated Jury-box, and Sir William Grove from the Judicial bench, where he sat with Mr. Justice Day.


Immediately upon the Commissioners taking their seats,
Sir Charles Russell made an application for the issue of an order to Mr. Finch-Hatton to attend the Court to explain a speech he made recently in his character of Unionist candidate for the Eastern Division of Nottingham. Sir Charles said the speech, which was published on the 14th of February, described Mr. Parnell as a man who had spent a lifetime in making a science of organised crime, and a man who had employed a lifetime in committing crimes by proxy, so as to clear himself.
The President informed Sir Charles that he must present an affidavit to the Court respecting the matter before they could consider it.


Mr. Macdonald was recalled, and Mr. Asquith resumed his cross-examination.
You told me on Friday, after your first interview with Mr. Houston, in October of 1886, that he showed you copies of two of the letters? - He read them to me; he did not show them to me.
He kept them himself? - Yes.
And took them away with him? - Yes.
If they are still in existence we should like to see them. Did you at any of these interviews with Mr. Houston ask him - I am speaking now of 1886 - whether he had any other letters, either of Parnell or Egan, than those he showed you? - No.
Did you ask him whether there were other letters in possession of the person or persons from whom these had been obtained? - No.
Did you ask him to discover for you whether there were other letters in existence and to obtain them for you? - No.


Did these five letters of Mr. Parnell, which he brought to you in October, appear to you to be of what Mr. Houston had styled "a compromising character"? - Certainly, all of them.
Including the three letters dated Tuesday? - Yes.
I will read one: -


"Dear Sir, - Send the other papers. What amount does he want? Other letters to hand. - Yours truly, "CHAS. S. PARNELL."

Do you think that a compromising letter? - Yes.
What is your reason? - I have one.
Will you give it to me? - No.
Why? - I am not bound to give a reason in evidence. Our counsel will do that.
I will read another: -


"Dear Sir, - Tell B. to write to me direct. Have not yet received the papers. - Yours truly, "CHAS. S. PARNELL."

Do you consider that a compromising letter? - Yes.

"Dear Sir, - I see no objection to your giving the amount asked for. There is not the slightest likelihood of what you are apprehensive of happening." Did you think that letter a compromising one? - I did.


If Mr. Houston had brought you those three letters only, would you have agreed to have accepted them, and to recoup him? - That is a matter of opinion.
Is that your opinion? - I would rather not state my opinion. If you wish to know, you had better not ask in cross-examination.
Did you not regard the letters of the 9th of January, 1882, and the 15th of May, 1882, as the only two important letters among the five that Mr. Houston brought you? - No, I did not.
You thought that there was some hidden meaning in the others? - You must not ask me such questions; you have no right to ask my opinion. You have a right to ask me questions which would be evidence, and nothing more.


I must repeat the question (continued Mr. Asquith). In your opinion were any of the five letters brought to you by Mr. Houston compromising or important?
"The question I had to deal with," began Mr. Macdonald; but Mr. Asquith interrupted him, and asked for a direct answer to his question. "I think it unfair to answer that question 'Yes' or 'No,' proceeded Mr. Macdonald.
Then answer it your own way. - My opinion about these documents is and was, that they had to be dealt with as a whole, and that as a whole they were compromising not only the three other letters but also the Egan letters.


Mr. Macdonald further went on to say that he submitted the Egan letters to an expert long before the publication of the first of the series of articles, "Parnellism and Crime." He could not recollect, however, whether he gave the expert specimens of Mr. Egan's handwriting. The expert, however, had Mr. Egan's signature attached to a photograph which he had given to another person. That photograph had been put in.
May I take it that you were satisfied as to the genuineness of Mr. Egan's letters at about the same time that you were satisfied concerning Mr. Parnell's letters? - Yes.
Now, I want to ask you an important question. You said, with regard to the letter of the 9th of January, 1882, that you did not believe it was written in Mr. Campbell's handwriting? - Yes.
Do you see any similarity between the writing in the body of the letter and that in any of the Egan letters? - No.
Do you know who Egan gave the photograph to? - No.


Were you stuck with any peculiarities of the orthography of that letter? - Yes, I was. After I was satisfied of the genuineness of the letters I did not make any communication to Mr. Houston. I paid 1,000 pounds to Mr. Houston in 1887. It was left to Mr. Soames to pay it. The cheque was drawn by Mr. Walter, of the Times. I gave no instructions when the cheque was paid beyond that it was to be paid to Mr. Houston.
Why was it to be 1,000 pounds? - To settle the immediate obligation under which Mr. Houston was to obtain the letters. Mr. Houston told me that the money he had paid for these letters was partly advanced by his friends.
Did Mr. Houston say he was in immediate need of 1,000 pounds? How was the figure fixed? - I do not know that he said he was in any particular need of it. I paid it because I thought it was enough then. As to the 200 pounds in July, payment was then made by cheque, drawn by Mr. Walter, and handed to Mr. Houston by Mr. Soames. I don't know whether any receipt was given by Mr. Houston. After this payment in July I did not make any communication to Mr. Houston as to getting any more letters. 530 pounds was paid for the two letters of the 16th of June, and 240 pounds for the three letters to Egan and Kelly. The total payment for the whole series of letters amounted to about 2,530 pounds.


As to the second batch of letters, did Mr. Houston call at the Times Office? - Yes, in the early part of 1888, without any previous intimation.
Was any pledge of secrecy given as to these letters? - It was understood.
Did Mr. Houston tell you where he got this second set of letters from? - No.
Did you ask? - No.
Did he bring any envelopes with him? - No.
That seemed very intelligible to you? - Very. (Laughter.)
You assumed that they had been written by a third person and destroyed? - I assumed that envelopes are inconvenient things, and therefore had been destroyed in this case.
Did you make no inquiries about it? - No, I had been told that it was the custom that the envelopes should be addressed in another hand.
In no way did Mr. Houston say where this second set came from? - No.
You told us the third set of letters came a few days later. Did Mr. Houston, when he brought the second batch, tell you of the existence of a third? - No.


And when the third batch was brought, did you still abstain from asking where he had got them from? - I did.
When did you first learn, and from whom, that Mr. Pigott was the person from whom Mr. Houston got them? - I think I must have known from Mr. Houston himself.
When? - I cannot tell. It was before the case of "O'Donnell v. Walter," and about the time the articles of "Parnellism and Crime" were appearing.
Nearly a year before the second batch was brought to you? - Yes.
What did Mr. Houston say about Mr. Pigott then? - He told me he had been editor of the Irishman.
Anything else? - And that he had been the medium through which he had acquired the first batch of letters.


Did he say how he had got them? - No. I never asked. I particularly avoided the subject. (Laughter.)
Why did you avoid it with such care? - I understood he didn't want to be asked. He said he was bound to secrecy, and asked me to respect that bond.
But he did not object to mention Pigott's name? - Well, it was always mentioned with a certain amount of reserve. (Laughter.) I understood he was under obligations to other people, and I respected them.
To other people besides Pigott? - I don't know.
Was it to other people? - You must ask him.
But you say he said he was under obligations to other people. Did he mention who they were? - Never.
When he brought the second batch did you understand from him that they came from the source of the first batch? - If you ask my impression, yes, but nothing was ever said, nor was it in the case of the third.
After he made this communication about Pigott did you make any inquiries as to who Pigott was? - No.
Nor what his antecedents were? - No, I had no means of doing so.
Nor what were his relations to the Parnellite Party? - No. I was aware of the fact that the Irishman had been purchased by Mr. Parnell and others, and merged in United Ireland. That was all I knew.
We were told the other day that the letter of Frank Byrne came to the Times in a registered envelope. Have you that envelope? - No.
What was the date of the letter? - I have no doubt that in good time that letter will be produced.
In whose possession is it now? - I do not know, but I believe in Mr. Houston's possession.
Then I call for that letter, as Mr. Houston is in Court.
Mr. Houston said he had given it to Mr. Soames; and the Attorney-General said he would send for it.
Was this a letter from Mr. Parnell to Mr. Pigott? - Yes - I believe I handed it to Mr. Soames.


Mr. Soames said you had some correspondence of Pigott's? - That is a mistake. I have none at present.
You mean you have had some? - I have had one letter.
Where is it? - Mr. Houston has it.
Was it addressed to you? - No.
To Mr. Houston? - No.
To whom? - You had better ask Mr. Houston.
But I want to know from you. How long had you had it in your possession? - From the latter part of 1887 to the latter part of 1888. It was given to me by Mr. Houston, when he told me Pigott was the person from whom he got the letters.
To whom was it addressed? - To Mr. Pigott.
I thought it was one by him? - I ought to have made that clear. It was one to Pigott.
Written by whom? - By Mr. Parnell.
Was the body of the letter purported to be in the handwriting of Mr. Parnell? - Now you have called for the letter I would rather let it speak for itself.
I understand that the letter was not given to you in the first or second batch of letters, but in a subsequent interview with Mr. Houston? - Yes.
Did he give to you any other letters belonging to Mr. Parnell or anyone else at that time? No.
Was that letter submitted to experts for comparison with the alleged letter of Mr. Parnell? - No. My recollection is that the letter could not have been shown to anybody by me with propriety because I understood that it was a strictly personal and confidential communication.
Between Mr. Parnell and Mr. Pigott? - No; between Mr. Houston and myself.


Did you ask Mr. Houston whether he got it from Mr. Pigott with his consent? - No.
What was Mr. Houston's object in giving you the letter? - You must ask Mr. Houston that question.
What did you understand was his object? - I cannot see what my understanding has to do with the matter. Mr. Macdonald, however, on being pressed for an answer, said he understood that the document was handed to him as a confirmation of the authenticity of the letters which were already in his possession.
Did you understand that it was handed to you for the purpose of comparing the handwriting? - I presume so.
Am I to understand that you kept this letter as a confidential communication for a year in your possession? - Yes.
Did you compare the handwriting with any of the other letters? - I did.
Did you get any experts to compare it? - My impression is that I did not, but I may be wrong.
Why did you return the letter to Mr. Houston? - Because it was not given to me to be held permanently, but simply for the time being.
Did you show the letter to Mr. Soames? - Not until about the time of the trial of the action of "O'Donnell v. Walter."
Mr. Soames has put in all the letters in your possession purporting to be from Mr. Parnell? - Yes. I did not at any time receive from Mr. Houston any letters purporting to come from Egan to Mr. Pigott.
Have you at any time had in your possession any letters from or to Maguire? - No, nor from or to Pigott, nor from or to Mr. Houston. Mr. Houston only wrote to me letters of appointment to see me at the Times office.


It is stated in one of the articles on "Parnellism and Crime" that knives and firearms were kept in London at the offices of the Irish Party in Palace-chambers? - Yes. That statement was made on information supplied by the writer of the articles.
Mr. Finerty? - Mr. Macdonald objected to the question.
Do you know who the writer of the articles was? - I do indirectly, but I do not think I am bound to tell you. The Editor of the Times assumes the responsibility as to what the paper contains, and I assume that counsel cannot ask for the names of the contributors.
Sir Charles Russell contended that the question as to the writer of the articles was relevant.
Mr. Justice A.L. Smith: Why do you say it is relevant?
Sir Charles Russell replied that a charge was made, and surely it should be known how the information was obtained.
The Attorney-General having replied,
The President said - I think that you are entitled to investigate this for the purpose of getting the foundation for this statement.


Mr. Asquith (to the witness) - I will call your attention to the particular article in which this statement occurred. It is the article in the Times of June 13th, 1887, headed, "Parnellism and Crime - Phoenix Park Murders."
Mr. Macdonald very carefully read the article, and replied - I can't say, without reference, who wrote the article.
That article was one of the series of "Parnellism and Crime." - I know that, but the series of articles included under that heading were not the contribution of one writer, but of several.
We understood from Mr. Soames that they were written by Mr. Flanagan? - Mr. Soames was misinformed.
Have you any means, by reference, by which you can ascertain who was the writer of this particular article? - If the inquiry had been made with reference to this six months ago I might; but I am doubtful whether I have the means of going back for so long a period. I will ascertain, if you like; as my Lords have ruled that I am bound to answer the question.


So far as you yourself were concerned had you any source of information from which that statement had been provided? - No.
Did you ever inquire of the writer of the article, or anybody else, where he got the information from? - No.
Have you ever heard either from him or anybody else? - No.


Now, I will call your attention to one passage in the article of June 13th, 1887. "Of Byrne's complicity there can be no shadow of doubt. It is, therefore, most remarkable that, according to information in our possession, it was the opportune remittance from Mr. Parnell, sent him on the 23rd of January, 1883, which enabled Byrne to escape to France before the warrant for his arrest reached Scotland-yard." Do you recognise that statement? - Yes.
What was the "information in your possession" on the strength of which that statement was made? - The information which you will find in the letter of Frank Byrne put in in evidence, and admitted by Sir Chas. Russell to be authentic.
Sir Chas. Russell (sotto voce) - Quite right.
And nothing else but that? - So far as I know, no.
Were you aware, Mr. Macdonald, of the existence of that letter from Frank Byrne at that time? - Personally, no.
Do you allege that the writer of this article, or anybody else, was aware of it? - I can't say, but I am confident that the writer of that article could not have known directly anything of that amount.


Don't you know this letter from Frank Byrne was only received on the first day of the course of the trial of "O'Donnell v. Walter"? - A thing may not be received, but that does not prevent it having been seen.
Well, had it been seen? - I don't know. I presume it had.
What was the information in the possession of the Times when this article was written, and in virtue of which that statement was made? - I really can't tell you.
Are you prepared to swear that at that date you or anybody connected with the Times had ever seen that letter? - I had not seen that letter at that date, but I don't know about other people.
So far as you know had the writer of this article seen the letter? - I don't know.


Who is the writer of this article? - I don't know.
Who were the persons employed by the Times to write "Parnellism and Crime"? - No persons were specifically employed; and at present I cannot tell you their names. In fact, I don't know whether I can give you their names at all.
Can you give me the names of any of the persons who wrote those articles, besides Mr. Flanagan? - I don't think that is a reasonable question, and I shall not answer it unless ordered to do so by the Court.


Mr. Asquith pointed out to their Lordships that the object of his question was to test the accuracy of the statement in the article.
Sir Charles Russell also contended that they were entitled to every means of gaining information concerning the letters and the charges which had been made. If not, it would not be a full and complete inquiry.
Mr. Macdonald asked whether he was bound to give the names of the writers of "Parnellism and Crime," except where certain points were raised.
Sir Charles Russell - That is our claim.
The Attorney-General strongly objected to all the names being given. "It was," said Sir Richard, "irrelevant and immaterial."
Sir Charles Russell said that, broadly, they were entitled to know who were the writers of these articles, and the names of everyone engaged in their revision. They were, he contended, entitled to investigate it from the beginning to the end as to the names of the writers.
The President said the question was whether they were entitled to ask the witness to make inquiries as to who were the writers. He (Sir James Hannen) was not satisfied that they were entitled to ask the witness that.
Sir Charles said they would then ask Mr. Macdonald to enumerate those whom he knew to be the writers in whole or part of "Parnellism and Crime."
The Attorney-General submitted that counsel were not entitled to ask such questions, as the issue to be tried was - Were the charges true?
The President - This gentleman did not write these articles. He is asked to make inquiry of other people what they know. We are of opinion, unless some authority is cited to the contrary, that he is not bound to make these inquiries.
Mr. Asquith - So far as you know now who is the writer of "Parnellism and Crime"?
The President - You may ask him as regards particular articles where specific statements are made.
Sir Charles Russell - I don't want to reargue the question, but -


Mr. Asquith (quoting from "Parnellism and Crime") - "Mr. Parnell sailed for America, and immediately communicated with Ford, the principal Fenian ex-convict." Upon what information was that statement made? - I cannot say.
Who was the gentleman who made the statement? - I presume, the name of the writer having been already mentioned, I am free to admit it was Mr. Flanagan. (Laughter.) As regards the source of his information, I have no doubt about that.
What was it? - United Ireland and the Irish World.
The next article is a "Retrospect of America." It says: - "Mr. Parnell had the inexpressible mortification of informing his friends in both cities that his parole bound him to refrain from politics." Upon what information was that written? - I don't know. I wasn't the writer.
Who was? - I believe Mr. Flanagan.
The next is from "A Study in conspiracy" - "The most interesting item in the programme was the presentation of a service or plate to Pat Egan, the treasurer of the League, the man was hinted to the Invincibles that talk would never open the gates of Kilmainham." Upon what information was that written? - I don't know. I wasn't the writer.
Who was? - I believe Mr. Flanagan.
The next is from "A study in conspiracy": - "The most interesting item in the programme was the presentation of a service of plate to Pat Egan, the treasurer of the League, the man who hinted to the Invincibles that talk would never open the gates of Kilmainham." Upon what information was that written? - I can't say.
Who wrote it? - I believe it was written by Mr. Flanagan.
Now, I take you to a leading article of April 18th, where the same statement is repeated - "Egan was the person who hinted to the Invincibles that talk would never get the suspects out of Kilmainham." Can you tell me who wrote that? - I cannot. If this had been asked six months ago I could possibly have answered the question.
The President (to Mr. Asquith) - Surely, Mr. Asquith, you have got this, for all practical purposes. What are you aiming at? I presume your object is not to bring something into publicity without the absolute necessity of it for the sake of the case.
Mr. Asquith - I hope your Lordship will assume so.
The President - Well, now we have the name of the writer of a great many of these articles. We see your point - to show a number of statements made, and what is the authority for them. That can well be taken without going through the articles and asking the same question.
Mr. Asquith - The necessity arose from the statement of the witness, Mr. Soames, who told us that Flanagan was the writer of the article, and he was misinformed upon it.
The President - No; now we have learnt that he was the writer of only part of them.
Mr. Asquith - Well, I won't press it any further.


Mr. Asquith next asked whether the letter said to have been written by Mr. Parnell to Pigott had arrived? It was at once handed to Mr. Macdonald, who identified it as the one he had alluded to.
The Attorney-General then rose to re-examine Mr. Macdonald. He first read the letter which had been handed in. It was a request to Mr. Pigott to meet Mr. Parnell at a certain hour that evening. The letter was undated.
Now, when you first began these communications with Mr. Houston (the Attorney-General asked), did he pledge you to secrecy? - He did.
And, rightly or wrongly, you respected that pledge? - I did.
When first did you consider - rightly or wrongly - that you were released from any pledge respecting secrecy? - When I knew that Mr. Houston had seen Mr. Soames, and made a statement to him, and also that Mr. Pigott had done likewise.


Now, my learned friend elicited from you last week that you had heard of those letters having been shown to a politician, and you mentioned the name of Lord Hartington. Had you any knowledge of the matter yourself? - None whatever.
Had Lord Hartington anything to do with the publication of the fac-simile letters? - Absolutely nothing.
Did you know a man who called himself O'Brien? - Yes. He called upon me just before Christmas, but I refused to see him. I referred him to Mr. Soames.


The Attorney-General here called for Mr. Inglis, the expert.
Sir Charles Russell then rose and asked their Lordships whether it would not be the proper course to hear the story of Mr. Houston and Mr. Pigott before the experts were called. Sir Charles declared that he could not cross-examine the experts and would not cross-examine them until the story of Mr. Houston and Mr. Pigott had been heard. He thought Mr. Pigott should be examined, and examined speedily.
The Attorney-General - in objecting to Sir Charles Russell's suggestions - contended that his learned friend had no right to say he would not cross-examine any witness until their Lordships had ruled upon the point.
The President said that so far as the Commissioners could form a judgment now - circumstances might arise to lead them to alter their opinion - the proper course was to continue the inquiry as to the source of the letters.
The Attorney-General, in intimating that, with all deference, he felt compelled to proceed according to the course adopted, said the Court must have heard, in the cross-examination of Mr. Soames, that they had more information as to the case than the Court could be aware of.
"Then I regret the decision you have arrived at," said the President.
Mr. Inglis, the expert, was then about to be called, when the Attorney-General asked leave to consult with Mr. Soames for a few minutes.
The President assented, and the Court adjourned for ten minutes.


When the Commissioners returned,
Sir Charles Russell said to Mr. Macdonald - One point I want to inquire about, with reference to the letter put in at the end of your evidence purporting to be written by Parnell to Pigott. Did you form any opinion as to whose handwriting the signature was in?
Mr. Macdonald - Yes; in Mr. Parnell's, and the body of the letter in Mr. Campbell's.
The Attorney-General said that, having consulted with Mr. Soames and Sir Henry James, he was of opinion that the course he had indicated would be the right one. He would, however, defer to the suggestion of the learned Judges, and call Mr. Houston and Mr. Pigott.


Edward Caulfield Houston was accordingly called. He was examined by the Attorney-General. He said he was a journalist, that he was the secretary of the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union, and had been so since its formation in the month of May, 1885.
What is the Union? - It is an anti-Land League; that is the best description of it.
Did you know of these matters which are recounted in "Parnellism and Crime" before its foundation? - I did, a great deal of it. I attended the murder trials in Dublin in 1882 and 1883, and wrote the descriptive account of them for the Times.
Had the publication of "Parnellism and Crime" or the fac-simile letters anything whatever to do with you as secretary of the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union? Nothing whatever.


In the year 1885 did you have a communication from Mr. Pigott? - I did, about the month of August.
Did you know him by name before? - Yes; as the former proprietor of the Irishman, and a Nationalist journalist.
In that year did he make a communication to you respecting John Devoy? - He did.
In consequence of that did you pursue inquiries with reference to this matter? - I did.
In the month of December, 1885, did you have another communication from Mr. Pigott? - I did.
Did you give Mr. Pigott instructions to do something? - Yes. I told him to endeavour to procure evidence to substantiate the statement he had made to me as to the connection between the Parnellites and crime.
Sir Charles Russell here observed that he was quite willing to accept any of Mr. Houston's statements as to what transpired at these interviews.
Examination resumed - When you had that communication with Pigott as to John Devoy, what shape did it take? - That of material for a pamphlet that I subsequently published under the title of "Parnellism Unmasked." I produce a copy of it. It is an original one. I should say that the first copies contained libellous matter, so I suppressed them, and published an amended copy. The material was all supplied by Mr. Pigott. Later on in the year 1885 I saw Mr. Pigott again, and, as I said, asked him to obtain evidence - documentary evidence, if possible - that would substantiate the statements as to the connection of the Parnellites with crime.


Did you say what it was for? - I told him it was for newspaper publication and pamphlets. I impressed upon him that I would not supply the material to the Government, and that I did not desire him to fill the role of an informer.
Did you undertake to give him expenses? - I undertook to give him 1 pound 1s. a day while engaged in the work, and his expenses.
Did he make any communication to you after that? - Yes. He told me that he had made inquiries in Dublin, and found it would be better if he were to go to Paris, which was a centre of extreme men.
Had you received information respecting the men of Paris before? - It was a matter of common newspaper report.
Where did Pigott go? - He communicated with me respecting a man called Eugene Davies.


Where did he go to? - To Lausanne.
Did he tell you anything with reference to the communication by Davies? - He said he had no doubt Davies could give him material which would help him in his investigation, and suggested that he should be allowed to go and see and interview him.
About what time was that? - In the month of January, 1886.
Did he say he had had any communication with Davies? - He said he had had two letters from him.
Did he go to Lausanne? - He did.
And did you have any communication with him afterwards? - I did. He informed me that he found Davies very bitter against the Parnellites, but still unwilling to help us.
Sir Charles Russell - Was this communication in writing? - It was.
Where is the letter? - I have not got it. I destroyed my letters from time to time, especially as I had given my word that I would never allow Mr. Pigott's name to be mentioned.
The Attorney-General - What did he say about Eugene Davies? - He said that he could tell sufficient to bring the case home to the Parnellites.
Did he give you any documents? - He gave me one that I gave to Mr. Soames. It was a note of a conversation he had with Davies on his second visit to Lausanne.
Whose handwriting was it in? - In Mr. Pigott's.
Was it handed to you personally by Mr. Pigott? - Yes, about February, 1886, and it remained in my possession for about two years.


Was there a reference in that document to certain letters? - To one letter.
Did you give any instructions to Mr. Pigott? - Yes; I told him to get possession of the letters if possible. He told me that Davies had said the letters were somewhere in Paris, and suggested that he should go to Paris for them.
Did he go to Paris? - He did several times, but he informed me that although the letters were in Paris, they could not be given up unless they got instructions from America. From what I remember of Davies's statement, according to Mr. Pigott, he said the letters were in a bag in a room in Paris, in which Frank Byrne was supposed to have resided, or that they were left in the possession of a man named Kelly, a schoolmaster, who was supposed to have purchased the Phoenix Park knife.


Did he bring back copies of some of those letters? - Yes.
Were the copies of five letters of Mr. Parnell and six of Egan? - Yes.


Mr. Houston then proceeded to say that he spent all his own money in this undertaking, and in 1886 he went to Mr. Buckle and spoke to him on the subject, but he refused to have anything to do with the matter. Mr. Houston then borrowed some money, and sent Pigott to America. That gentleman returned with a sealed packet, which he said came from J.S. Breslin, and was an instruction to certain persons in Paris to deliver up the documents upon certain conditions. Pigott then again went to Paris, and witness also went there with Dr. Macguire.


In Paris witness received the first batch of letters from Mr. Pigott. They were the five Parnell letters and the six Egan letters. Mr. Pigott also handed him some slips of paper, which he received with the letters, bearing the stamp of the House of Commons. Another piece of paper, bearing the handwriting of Patrick Egan, was addressed "Brighton Hotel."


Did you borrow money from Dr. Macguire? - Yes. I borrowed 850 pounds from him for the ostensible purpose of purchasing these letters.
The Attorney-General next examined the slips of paper alluded to by the witness.
Did you see Mr. Buckle again in October? - Yes.


Did you show him the eleven letters? - Yes. He asked me to call and see him again; but I took the letters away, as I was not certain as to his attitude. I called on him again, and he then asked me to see Mr. Macdonald, and told me to speak as freely to that gentleman as I had done to him.
The Court then adjourned for luncheon.


When the Court resumed Mr. Houston said that in addition to the money he borrowed from Dr. Macguire he had borrowed other sums - about 1,500 pounds. At the time he saw Mr. Macdonald he (witness) was out of pocket about 1,780 pounds. He told him that if the Times used them they would recoup him for the money he was out of pocket. I had nothing to do (he proceeded) with the selection of signatures procured to test the handwriting. I did not know who Mr. Macdonald had instructed. I was in complete ignorance. There had not, from 1886 to April, 1887, been anything promised or paid to me for the letters. The fac-simile letter appeared in April, and I received subsequently 1,780 pounds from Mr. Soames, and I paid that money to the persons from whom I had borrowed the money.
Was anything said to Mr. Macdonald as to not disclosing the names? - Mr. Houston replied that there was. As a journalist, he stipulated that the names should not be disclosed.
(Producing a letter of Mr. Parnell's) - When did you get that? - Some months after I saw Mr. Macdonald. It was about June, 1887.
Was that letter in any way used for the purpose of proving the authenticity of the letters? - No.
Questioned as to the fac-simile letter, Mr. Houston said that he gave it to Mr. Macdonald under the condition that he would not divulge its source without his permission.
Did you know at the time the letter was first handed to you in whose handwriting the body of it was in? - No, I did not. I believe I have seen Mr. Campbell's handwriting.


Did you subsequently get some other letters? - Witness replied in the affirmative - two letters of Mr. Parnell of June, 1882, and a letter dated October, 1881, from Patrick Egan to James Carey. In other batches were the one from Egan, known as the "Bakery" letter, and those of O'Kelly and Davitt. He got the second batch in February or March, 1888.
How did you come to get them? - I got them from Mr. Pigott. I learned from him that the letters came from people in Paris.


At the request of the learned counsel Mr. Houston then read the following epistle, written from Paris, from Pigott in which he enclosed some of the letters to Mr. Houston: - "Dear Sir, - I have received yours of yesterday. Here are three letters. The price is all right, only I shall have to be content with half the commission I expected to get. I would not mind much, only I have spent much money in entertaining "patriots" here, which I could not avoid, and did not anticipate. The two Parnell letters were addressed to "J.O'C. ["John O'Connor," or "James O'Connor, interpolated Mr. Houston] and the late Colvert. But, as you will notice, the names have been erased. As to their being genuine, I have not the slightest doubt. The Egan letter, as I told you, was obtained from Mrs. Mullett, but, I learned, without her knowledge. It was amongst some of her husband's papers, which she though were of no consequence. The letter escaped her notice, or she would have destroyed it. I have not yet learned anything more about the P letter. These letters are to remain with you for three days before you decide finally about purchase."
Mr. Houston (who was handed some photographs of letters) remarked, "Those letters were enclosed in Pigott's letter." I arranged that (continued Mr. Houston) Mr. Macdonald should give me the sum of 550 pounds.
And could the Times have returned the letters if they had not cared to use them? - Certainly; and I may say if they had not been used I should only have had to defray Pigott's expenses.


When did you receive the third batch? In the month of July of the same year, and from Mr. Pigott. My recollection is that I heard of the letter styled the "Bakery" letter before that time - perhaps about three months before.
What did you do when you received them? - I followed the same course as with the others. I submitted them to the usual test, and received from the Times what they had cost.
How much? - 300 pounds. I believe it was longer before I got that than in any of the other cases, because there were no original copies of Mr. O'Kelly's nor Mr. Davitt's. Mr. Macdonald told me they would take the three letters because they considered the "Bakery" letter an important one.


Did you ever hear anything from Pigott about returning letters to him? - Yes. He wrote to me saying that the people whom he had got them from were desirous of getting them back, and asking me to give them back. He promised that, if I would do so, he would refund the money. I refused to do so, as I considered that an evidence of the genuineness of the letters.


What sum did you pay for them? - I paid 500 pounds for the first batch, 550 pounds for the second, and 200 pounds for the third. That was apart altogether from Mr. Pigott's remuneration.
When did you release Mr. Macdonald from his promise not to publish the letter containing Mr. Pigott's name? - When this Commission was appointed. I went to Mr. Macdonald and told him that I was desirous that no barrier should be placed in the way of their Lordships, and told him that I was ready to come forward to say what I had done in the matter, and would use my influence with Mr. Pigott to do the same. Subsequently, he went to Mr. Soames's office with me.
Do you remember, some time last autumn, Mr. Pigott making a communication to you about an interview he had had with some people? - I do. He made a statement to me.
Were you aware at the time he made that statement of Mr. Pigott having a communication with Mr. Parnell, Mr. Lewis, and Mr. Labouchere? - At the time he made the statement to me he made a full confession to me of everything that had happened.


Cross-examined by Sir Charles Russell - The date of the statement made to me by Pigott was Nov. 7th last. I had no personal acquaintance with Pigott before I saw him in 1885.
Did you know that he was a vehement opponent of Mr. Parnell and the Land League? - I was aware of that. I was also aware that he had published a book called "Recollections of an Irish Journalist," which purported to be a history of his own experience in connection with Fenianism.
Did you regard him as a person whose statement you would accept uncorroborated? - I think I did. I first saw Mr. Pigott about these matters, and went down to his house and interviewed him.


I understand you enclosed letters from him from time to time during his visits to Lausanne? - Yes.
Will you produce those letters? - I can't; I have destroyed them.
You have produced some. Did you consider this was a serious matter? - Distinctly.
Did you contemplate the possibility of your having to justify your own conduct your own conduct in relation to it? - No, I did not. My understanding from the Times was that they were to take the responsibility.
That understanding you did not arrive at till somewhat late? - Until after the receipt of the first batch.
Do you tell the Court that you destroyed Pigott's letters at that period? - No, I do not.


Then, up to when did you preserve the documents? - Till the time Mr. Pigott swore an affidavit that the letters were genuine. If I thought a letter important I preserved it; if not, I destroyed it in the ordinary way.


Did you at that time anticipate that you would be called as a witness in this case? - Yes, because I had ben subpoenaed by Mr. Lewis.
Is it your statement to the Court that, having been subpoenaed by Mr. Lewis on the part of Mr. Parnell and his colleagues, you deliberately destroyed those letters? - Yes.
And Mr. Pigott destroyed your letters? - I only sent him meorandum, unsigned and undated.
And he destroyed yours? - Yes.
Were you not astonished to find that he had not preserved your letters? - I was not, because it was understood that I should destroy his letters if he acted in a straightforward manner, and I would do nothing to compromise him with the men who gave him the letters, and he should destroy my letters, so that I should not be known to the people with whom he came into contact. I did not destroy Pigott's letters, however, until after he had made a sworn declaration that the letters were genuine. I believe it was in December last when I destroyed them.


Two months after the Commission had been sittng? - Yes. I was in London at the time at my house in Cork-street. All the letters were there.
Did you consult anyone before destroying them? - I did not. I was my own master, and I was the only person who knew of the letters.
Was it about that time that Pigott told you that he had destroyed your letters to him? - I think you are right.
What did you say to him when he told you he had destroyed those letters. Did you give a sigh of relief? - No, I did not. I told him I thought he would destroy them, because there was really nothing in them. I think he told me that he destroyed them while he was moving from one house to another about a year ago.
(The report will be continued.)

Source: The Echo, Tuesday February 19, 1889, pp. 2-3

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