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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Mon 21 Jan 2013 - 2:51

Fifty-ninth Day of Proceedings - Tuesday, March 5, 1889




Popular interest in the Commission seems as keen as it was a week ago. The painfully sudden termination of the principal, and by far the most sensational, chapter in the great drama last Friday has quickened the excitement. Pigott's flight was the all-absorbing topic last Tuesday morning. Today his terrible death, with all its gruesome horrors and momentous issues is the one theme of a discussion. There was an eager, expectant throng in the Court when the Judges took their seats this morning. For nearly an hour previously many of the spectators had sat in the gallery, stolidly awaiting their arrival. When the doors were first opened they had displayed the same vigour as that shown by the crowds that flocked to the Court last week - had surged with equal determination and persistency around the doors, and had fought with equal earnestness for seats. In the body of the Court there was not so much life as before. Until shortly half-past ten there were comparatively few persons in that portion of the Court, but the numbers gradually increased until nearly every available seat had been appropriated. Lady Diana Huddleston had a seat near the judicial bench, and Lord Lamington sat in the Jury-box. The Attorney-General and Sir Henry James were the first leaders to arrive. Mr. Lockwood, Mr. Reid, and Sir Charles Russell followed shortly afterwards. Mr. John Dillon, Mr. Biggar, and Mr. M. Davitt were the only representative members of the "accused party" present when the proceedings commenced, at five minutes to eleven - twenty-five minutes late.


The Commissioners having taken their seats,
The Attorney-General said - I think it right to state that yesterday morning Mr. Soames received a letter from Madrid in the handwriting of Richard Pigott. It was opened by Mr. Soames in the presence of Mr. Graham, the counsel. It is here, and I am prepared to hand it in. I don't know what the contents are, but I am informed they are not material for the Commission. This morning a letter was received from Madrid, addressed to Mr. Ponsonby, 58, Lincoln's-inn-fields, which Mr. Soames has not opened. If your Lordships think I should hand the other one in I am, of course prepared to do so.
The President - It had better be handed in.
Sir Charles Russell - And the telegrams too.


The President - I shall not deal with the matter now. I wish to refer to another matter. The question that was argued before us before the adjournment was whether or not the numbers of the Irish World were admissible in evidence in this inquiry against the persons charged. One ground upon which it was contended that they were admissible was that large sums of money were received from or through the Irish World by the Land League, and that therefore the arguments which might be used by the Irish World for the purpose of obtaining those subscriptions would be admissible in evidence. We are of the opinion that the mere receipt of money from or through a particular newspaper does not affect the recipients of the money so as to make them responsible for articles that may be contained in that paper; but we are very far from saying that the receipt of the money is not a very important fact which may become a link in the chain which would bind those persons.


But there remains (proceeded the President) another important question connected with this point. One of the charges made against these several gentlemen is that they disseminated certain newspapers inciting to outrage; and amongst these newspapers was the Irish World. That is a specific charge of fact which we have to deal with. There has been upon this point the evidence of a great number of constables, who spoke of having seized and seen large numbers of the Irish World in various counties of Ireland. Having cited numerous cases where police-constables seized parcels of the Irish World, marked "For free circulation," Sir James continued: In addition to this we have the evidence of Farragher, who became a clerk at the head office of the Land League in Dublin. He states that during the time he was employed there the Dublin Correspondent of the Irish World was a member of the Land League, and that, although not in the service of the Land League, he used the Land League offices for the purpose of his correspondence, and that the packets of the Irish World were received there continuously; that they were sent to various persons by the clerk of the League and at the cost of the League. The exact time during which this witness was in the service of the Land League is uncertain, but we have come to the conclusion that it is not important for the purpose now under consideration what was the exact date, but the period during which it extended was, at any rate, from February, 1881. This can be identified by reference to facts. It appears that copies of the Irish World were sent and received by the local secretary of the Ladies' Land League, which came into existence, I believe, when the Land League was suppressed. It is sufficient to say that this makes a chain of evidence established from a period which may be taken from the evidence of the first constable, extending from May, 1880 to somewhere about October, 1881. This newspaper was either being sent directly from the office of the League in Dublin, or was found to be in the possession of officers of the League in various parts of the country. Of course this is only prima facie evidence, and may be met hereafter; but we draw from it the inference - assuming it to be true - without hesitation, that the newspaper was, at any rate during that period, being disseminated by the Land League in Dublin or by the officers of the League in various places, and therefore it is admissible during that period; and we further draw the inference that the newspapers so disseminated were the continuous numbers of the Irish World. It will be sufficient for me to say that, the object being to establish that the Land League was disseminating newspapers inciting to the commission of outrage, it remains to be seen whether the Irish World during the period referred to will fulfil that description. We do not say that an isolated letter referred to would establish the charge; but we hold for the present purpose that, at any rate, during that period which I have indicated - from May, 1880, to October, 1881 - the Irish World is admissible in evidence.
The Attorney-General - We propose to confine the extracts to those dates.


Mr. Reid at this point rose, and addressing the President, said - I desire to say that one of the gentlemen whom I represent - Mr. John Dillon - has been ordered by his medical adviser to leave this country, and very shortly he will sail for Australia. I thought it respectful and right that I should state that to your Lordships.


The reading of the extracts, which had so long been delayed, was then proceeded with. The task was allotted to Mr. Atkinson, and he at once read an extract from a letter purporting to be written by Mr. Davitt, and published in the Irish World on the 15th of May, 1880. Mr. Davitt, in that letter, is alleged to have said, "Copies of the Irish World should be sent to all parts of Ireland." The next extract read was from a report in the Irish World, on the 5th June, 1880, of speeches made by Mr. Davitt and Mr. John Dillon. Mr. Davitt was reported to have said, "We must pay some deference to your views in America. Your sympathy has traveled back to the old land, and you have supplied us with the sinews of war to keep up this organisation. We will be successful (continued Mr. Davitt) so long as there is inter-communication and exchange of opinions between the Irish Land League and the auxiliary League in America."


Mr. Dillon was reported to have said, "We, as Irish representatives, have a duty to do that will make easier the works of the Irish National League in Ireland. It will be our duty, and we will set about it without delay, to break up the Irish constabulary, which, for the past thirty years, have stood at the back of the Irish landlords."
Mr. Reid pointed out that Mr. Dillon, in that speech, was referring to some industrial scheme which it was proposed to add to their programme.


The reading had proceeded for some time when Sir Charles Russell suggested that, to save time, the Times counsel should hand to his clients the extracts they proposed to read, so that what he wished to read might be considered and duly marked. He further suggested that evidence should be called, so that he might have till tomorrow to consider the extracts.
The Attorney-General assented to the proposal in the first instance, but pointed out that they had arranged for the production of evidence on the assumption that the extracts would be admitted.
The President - Well, if it places you to any inconvenience you need not adopt that course.
Mr. Atkinson accordingly rose to proceed with further extracts, when
Sir Charles Russell again impressed upon the Commissioners the fact that if his suggestions were adopted a lot of time would be saved.
The President - If you will be kind enough to verify the fact of the extract being there then you can reserve until tomorrow morning the reading of the passages which you wish.
Sir Charles Russell - It is obvious that that is what we propose to do. The difference between my suggestion and yours is this - that we shall take you over the same ground again.
The President - I am aware of that. The difference between what you, Sir Charles, think is obvious and what I mean is this - that it would not be necessary for you to search for the passages you rely upon.
Mr. Reid - I am afraid you will have to read it all again tomorrow morning, my Lord.
The President (warmly) - I despair of making any suggestion, except in the sense in which I have made it.
The Attorney-General proceeded with his task of reading. Producing a speech of Mr. Davitt, he asked Mr. Asquith to read it. Mr. Asquith declined to do so, and the Attorney-General read extracts from it only.


The Attorney-General (reading from his speech - as reported in the Blue Book - in the "O'Donnell v. Walter" (trial) - "Carey swore that he had been a Fenian, and that Thomas Brennan, secretary to Mr. Parnell's "constitutional organisation," had previously filled that same office in the ranks of the Fenian Brotherhood. He swore that in November, 1881, a Mr. Walsh, from the North of England, came over to establish "a society that would make history." This society was called the Irish Invincibles; its object was to 'remove' all tyrants from the country, and the Park murders, and the murderous attacks on Mr. Justice Lawson and Mr. Field, were its work. Carey swore that Walsh introduced him to P.J. Sheridan, then disguised as 'the Rev. Father Murphy," that Sheridan, the chief organiser of the 'constitutional' agitation in Connaught, stated that he had been in the country to extend the branches of the Invincibles, and that on another occasion the colleague and paid officer of Mr. Parnell undertook to see the despatch of arms to the murderers from London. He swore further that he knew Frank Byrne, secretary to the 'Constitutional' Organisation in Great Britain; that Frank Byrne was a Fenian, and that a woman whom he believed to be Mrs. Byrne brought the knives to Dublin with which the Park murders were done." I propose to prove, my Lords, that this is a correct statement of facts from Carey's statements.
Sir Charles Russell said the object of this was not to prove the truth of the statement, but to prove the sources from which the Times obtained its information.
The Attorney-General held that this sworn evidence of Carey was admissible.
The President (to Sir Charles Russell) - Let it be read; you can consider it afterwards.
Mr. Atkinson then read additional portions of Carey's evidence from United Ireland.


The Attorney-General next read extracts from the report of the trial at Antrim of some men belonging to the Patriotic Brotherhood. It was declared therein that not only were some of the chief organisers of the Land League at the head of this "murder league," but that rough books were kept, in which the names were written of those persons who had been denounced by the Land League. The Attorney-General said he would undertake to bring over a reporter to prove the accuracy of that report. Sir Richard next pointed out that in the allegations and charges extracts had been made from the report of the Cowper Commission. Sir Charles would not, he thought, dispute the accuracy of these extracts.


The Attorney-General next announced his intention of reading extracts from speeches made by Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Forster in the House of Commons in 1881-2-3, in the presence of Mr. Parnell, and in which they brought to his notice cases of outrage in Ireland and certain specific matters relating to the Land League.
Mr. Ronan, however, interceded with a bundle of papers in his hand, and read a number of extracts illustrating the nature of the orders sent from the central offices of the Land League to the branches of the League.
This concluded, the Attorney-General observed that he was about to read reports of speeches from "Hansard," which were delivered on Jan. 23, 1881. He would only read what he thought necessary.
Sir Charles Russell - I would really ask whether this serves a good purpose.
The President - Not the whole of the speech.
Sir Chas. Russell - But I would ask for the speech if one portion is read.
The President - But you won't inflict that upon us? (Laughter.)
Sir Chas. Russell - I really must ask your Lordships' opinion on the question.
The President - Well, I must deal with it on legal grounds, you know. If the speech was delivered in the presence of certain persons it must be taken.
Sir Charles Russell - Then I should ask the Attorney-General to prove that Mr. Parnell was present on every occasion when these speeches were delivered.
The Attorney-General was about to read the extracts, when Mr. Lockwood interposed by observing that he did not know what was the context of the speech, as he had no copy of Hansard. He really must -
The President - You surely will not ask us to listen to the whole of the speech.
Mr. Lockwood - Well, my Lords, I will be merciful. (Laughter.)


The speech in dispute proved to be one of Mr. Gladstone's, delivered in the House of Commons on January 28, 1881, in the course of which Mr. Gladstone read a speech of Mr. Parnell's, in which he told the people to shun "landgrabbers" as the lepers of old. The speech went on to assert that the proportion of the agrarian outrages rose according to the number of Land League meetings. In the third quarter of 1879 there were fifty meetings of the Land League and 155 agrarian outrages. In the fourth quarter the fifty meetings grew to 105, and the agrarian outrages rose from 155 to 452. Other statistics of the kind were given by Mr. Gladstone, who declared that "crime dogged the steps of the League." It was not possible, said the right hon. gentleman, to get rid of, by an ingenuity, the facts which he had stated.


Sir Henry James next read a speech made by Mr. Forster in the House of Commons. In this he said that, although he did not charge Mr. Parnell with absolutely conniving at murder or outrage, he alleged that he, at least, did not take any steps to put a stop to them. Mr. Forster also alluded to the Land League. Did Mr. Parnell, he asked, endeavour to find out how the money which came to him from America week to week was got? He further asked Mr. Parnell if he agreed with what was said in the Irish World, which he, Mr. Forster, alleged was the Land League organ. Mr. Parnell was reported to have replied that he did; and Mr. M'Carthy, was was asked a similar question, was reported to have replied that he agreed with all he had read in the Irish World. Mr. Forster then pointed out that in that newspaper a terrible murder was described as "the execution of a land thief," while murders, outrages, and attacks on women were described as "incidents of the campaign." "Was that," Mr. Forster asked, "the proper way to put those murders and outrages before the Irish people?"


Mr. Lockwood said he should read a speech by Mr. Parnell, in which those charges made by Mr. Forster were answered. Consequently Mr. Asquith rose. He said the debate, on the night on which Mr. Forster spoke, was adjourned, and on the following night Mr. Parnell resumed the debate. Mr. Asquith then proceeded to read Mr. Parnell's speech.
While Mr. Asquith was reading Mr. Parnell's reply, the Court adjourned for luncheon.


When the Court reassembled, Mr. Lockwood said he intended going back to the speech of Mr. Gladstone of the 28th of January, 1881, which had been read by the Attorney-General. That speech was made on a Friday. The debate was resumed on Monday, and on Monday night, in the course of that debate, the motion for adjournment was made, and the questions raised in the speeches were necessarily not answered.
The President said he supposed that the Members could not then answer the accusations made against them.
Mr. Lockwood replied that they could not complete their answers. He would now read from a speech of Mr. Parnell's.
The President - Be as merciful as you can. (Laughter.)
Mr. Lockwood then read extracts from a speech of Mr. Parnell of the 31st of January, in reply to Mr. Gladstone's, in which Mr. Parnell contended that he had a right to show that his utterances were as harmless as those of the right hon. gentleman.


The Attorney-General next rose, and said he wished to call their Lordships' attention to another specific allegation made in the presence of certain members. He would read a speech made by Mr. Gladstone on the 24th of May, 1882, in the House of Commons, Mr. Dillon and Mr. Healy being present. Mr. Dillon first made a speech, in which he said he had always endeavoured to be honest to the House. He would tell them that so long as the Government maintained a law which placed the lives of the tenants at the mercy of the landlords, he could not tell them that outrages in Ireland would cease. In the circumstance he did refuse to go over to Ireland and take the side of the landlords by denouncing outrage. He would, in fact, never denounce outrages until the Government denounced evictions. He had, however, tried to wean the people from outrages. He pointed out that they had a weapon in that combination which was called boycotting. He (Mr. Dillon) was not ashamed to say that he had openly advocated boycotting - which the Government called intimidation - in Ireland.


Then followed Mr. Gladstone's speech, in which he criticised the speech made by Mr. Dillon, and denounced boycotting. It was, he said, a system of intimidation, and intimidation made use of to destroy the liberty of private persons. Morally, it meant ruining those persons who made a claim to exercise their private judgment in a direction opposite to his (Mr. Dillon's.)


Mr. Reid then again rose, and told the President that if the Attorney-General was willing to assent to the statement that every one of the Irish Members who spoke in the House of Commons repudiated the charge that they had had any complicity with outrages, it would obviate the necessity of reading speeches.
The Attorney-General said he agreed that certain statements were made.
Mr. Reid, however, then read a few speeches made by Irish Members, in which he denied any complicity with outrages.


The Attorney-General said he would next read some categorical statements of fact contained in a speech made by Sir Wm. Harcourt in the House of Commons, in the presence of Irish Members, on the 3rd of March, 1881.
The President - I must ask you to restrict yourself to statements of fact, and let us be spared the oratory. (Laughter.)
The Attorney-General then read extracts from the speech of Sir William Harcourt. Sir William alluded to a speech made by Mr. Dillon, in which that gentleman was alleged to have said he advised the Irish people to arm themselves with rifles, and if any Irish farmer saw men coming on to his land for the purpose of turning him off the land, he should - whether they represented the law or not - shoot as many of them as he could. "Tomorrow," continued Sir William Harcourt, "the world will pronounce its judgment on what I may call this vile conspiracy. I knew that these were the objects of the Land League. I knew it as one responsible for the public peace in the dominions of the Queen. I knew of the language used by John Devoy, by Redpath, and of the Member for Tipperary. I call them confederates, for they are confederates in action, and their language is the same. It is the language of assassination and the language of treason." Sir William went on to say that of the money that was received by the Land League the pennies came from Ireland but the gold and the silver from Fenians in America. He further alleged that some of those men who had been engaged in organising the Land League were notorious Fenians, while others were well known to be connected with the Fenian conspiracy. He did not, however, accuse all the members of belonging to the organisation.
(The report will be continued.)


The Grand Jury this afternoon found a true bill against Patrick Molloy, for perjury.



The judicial inquiry at Madrid as to the death of Pigott still proceeds. The Judge yesterday again examined the landlord, servants, and interpreter of the Hotel de los Embajadores and the police-inspector who arrested Pigott. This officer explains that the quiet, composed demeanour of the prisoner, and the assurance of the interpreter that he was only going to get some visiting-cards, put him off his guard. The inspector says that he even asked the interpreter if the bedroom had any other door. Just when the latter replied negatively, they heard the report of the revolver, entered the room, and found that Pigott had fallen, staining the floor and walls of the room with blood. It was necessary to use force to unclasp the fingers holding the revolver, which was a five-barrelled one of large size. The body was not removed from the hotel for six hours after the tragic event. No bullet has been found.


The manager of the Hotel de los Embajadores, late yesterday afternoon, placed in the hands of the British Consul a letter received at the hotel by yesterday's post, directed to Ronald Ponsonby, the name assumed by Pigott. The letter was immediately taken to the Judge, opened in his presence, and translated by a gentleman from the British Embassy. The letter was (says the Standard Correspondent) from the person in London to whom Pigott telegraphed on Thursday. It acknowledged the receipt of his telegram, and stated that the writer would execute the request Pigott made, directly his friend returned from Ireland. The letter contains other matters concerning Pigott, upon which the Judge and the Embassy exhibit some reserve. The Correspondencia says this letter, like all the effects and papers of the deceased, has been claimed by the British Government, and will be delivered to the three Scotland-yard officers now on their way to Madrid. In political circles in the city it is rumoured that the letters received for Pigott after his death and his documents contain more than has eked out, so far, in the Madrid press, or has been communicated in official centres.


Since the receipt of the first news of the suicide a large number of telegraphic despatches have passed between the Foreign Office and the British Embassy at Madrid. By order of the Government the Home Office have been supplied with all the information received from the Embassy officials, as well as that obtained and telegraphed to London by the agents of Scotland-yard. As soon as Pigott's identity had been completely established urgent instructions were sent to Madrid for the preservation of all documents. These will be handed over to the care of the officer specially sent to Madrid by the Criminal Investigation Department. It is expected he will arrive in Madrid this morning, and the body remains unburied pending his formal identification of the remains. The officer will remain in Madrid only a few hours, and it is expected that he will reach London in time to give evidence before the Special Commission on Thursday afternoon. It is now understood that the Opposition in the House of Commons will move for the production of the correspondence relative to Pigott which has recently passed between the Foreign Office and the Madrid officials.


MADRID, March 5. - The police officers from Scotland-yard arrived here today, for the formal identification of the body of Richard Pigott, after which the Judge will issue an order for the interment of the remains.

Source: The Echo, Tuesday March 5, 1889, Pages 2-3

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
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