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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Tue 22 Jan 2013 - 0:59

Sixtieth Day of Proceedings - Wednesday, March 6, 1889



The proceedings opened very quietly today, with no signs of any excitement, such as have been recently evinced. When Sir Henry James - the first leading council on either side to take his seat - dropped into his accustomed place at five-and-twenty minutes after ten, the benches on either side of him were unoccupied, while the body of the Court itself showed by its vacant aspect that no evidence of a startling character was anticipated.
Sir James Hannen, Mr. Justice A.L. Smith, and Mr. Justice Day took their seats at ten minutes to eleven o'clock.


Mr. Atkinson handed in some extracts from the Irish World of the 10th of July, 1880.
Sir Charles Russell said that since yesterday he and his learned friends had gone through the Irish World from the periods mentioned - 1880 to 1881. He (Sir Charles Russell) had no objection to the extracts being read, but he would ask that their Lordships should look at the files of the Irish World for that time. There were some "wild letters," but no advocacy of crime.
The Attorney-General - That is your opinion, Sir Charles.
Mr. Atkinson then went on with his reading of extracts from the Irish World.


Among these extracts was one purporting to be a report of an address delivered to Mr. Davitt on his arrival in America in 1880 by the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The address pointed out that Mr. Davitt had a great claim upon the sympathy of his brethren in America because he had been persecuted by the English Government for Ireland. Mr. Davitt, in replying to that address, referred to the "noble order both in America and Ireland." It was, he said, the first organisation which had shown sympathy to the Irish people. Again alluding to the assistance which the Irish people had received from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Mr. Davitt is reported to have said "the hands which now dispense charity will, if necessary, dispense blows to the enemies of the people of Ireland."


Mr. Atkinson next proceeded to read extracts from a leading article in the Irish World of the 28th of August, 1880, referring to the Skirmishing Fund. The writer of the article does it with an interview between O'Donovan Rossa and two other men, in which Rossa asked for $5,000 with which to rescue a few Fenian prisoners from English jails. He simply wanted to take a feather out of the English cap. His companions, however, intimated that they did not want any of that theatrical business. O'Donovan Rossa suggested that they should burn some of the shipping at Liverpool, but one of his companions replied, "Why not burn down London, and some of the principal cities, in England." Then the question of loss of life was raised, when the man who had made the last proposal pointed out that they were at war with England, and in all wars life must be lost.


Some one (continued the article) then suggested that there were plenty of thieves and burglars in London who could be got to do this work. The writer of the article, however, asked why they should get other men to do what they did not care to do themselves. If they could not enter upon this scheme with a good conscience, they should not enter upon it at all. First of all he asked, was it feasible? He (the writer) thought it was perfectly feasible, and that London could be laid in ashes in twenty-four hours. Ten or a dozen men could be sent to London. Each of them could be sent about his allotted task, and within two hours from the word of command London would be in flames. The English might then play the same game, and blow up Dublin and the principal cities of Ireland. Then the Irish would reply by reducing the four greatest cities of England to ashes. The flag of revolution would then appear in England, and over the blackened ruins the Republicans of England, and the Republicans of Ireland - forgetting the past - would sign a treaty of peace.


From the Irish World of 4th September, 1880, Mr. Atkinson read another article on the Skirmishing Fund. The writer quoted a letter by Augustus Ford, in which he said the land movement had received some aid from the Fund. The writer, however, pointed out that some of the "Skirmishing" money was given to Mr. Michael Davitt to carry on his anti-rent mission at a time when the Land League did not exist. An appeal had also been made to the trustees of the fund on behalf of the League, and they had voted $5,000 to it. The money was sent over in instalments, but when the first $1,000 was sent over it leaked out on the other side of the Atlantic that the Skirmishing Fund was at the back of the land agitation.


Mr. Asquith interposed with an extract from a speech of Mr. Davitt, reported in the Irish World, in which the speaker asked, How should they abolish the landlords? There was a voice from the meeting, "Shoot them!" "No," replied Mr. Davitt; "we should shoot the system," adding that they had no right to resort to such means as was suggested.
In a speech of Mr. Davitt at Kansas, reported in the Irish World of September 11, 1880, and read by Mr. Atkinson, Mr. Davitt declared that in the war against Irish landlords, in bringing down their garrisons they were but doing a proper work, and preparing the way for independence. "At present we are engaged in a peaceful revolution."
Mr. Asquith (interposing, and reading the next passage) - "A war of ideas instead of blows; of reason and common sense in place of barbarism."
Mr. Atkinson then read a leading article from the same publication on the death of Lord Mountmorres, in which it said, "God willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live." (A laugh.)


Mr. Atkinson said he would read from a letter in the Irish World, signed "J. Baine."
Sir Charles Russell objected.
The President - Seditious matter may be disseminated by means of letters.
The writer of the letter read by Mr. Atkinson enclosed a subscription of $2 to buy powder to drive the red coats out of Ireland. "If it gets hotter my subscription will be larger." (Laughter.)
Mr. Atkinson proceeded to read letters inserted in the "Spread the Light" column of the Irish World from secretaries of various branches of the Land League in Ireland, asking for copies of that journal - termed by one Correspondent the "Universal Light Spreader" - for free distribution. Another writer asked - "If the 'Spread the Light' fund will enable you to send an eye-opener weekly - (a laugh) - benefit will be conferred on the 'cause.'"
Mr. Atkinson next turned to comments in the Irish World respecting the constitution of the Irish Land League, the officers of which were given as Charles Stuart Parnell, Michael Davitt, Kettle, Patrick Egan, and J. Biggar.
Mr. Davitt - This is not the constitution of the Land League as at first drawn up and distributed by me in America. Mr. Asquith has the official copy.
Sir James Hannen - That you will have an opportunity of dealing with. We are now only dealing with it as in the Irish World.


"Doom," was the heading of the next article which was read by Mr. Atkinson. It was signed "Transatlantic." The writer gave a copy of a placard which, he said, was posted up largely in Loughrea, co. Galway. This notice stated that the Government had arrested the wrong man for the murders which had been committed in the neighbourhood. The man who shot the men was still at large, and had more work to do in other parts of the country. Land-grabbers must be put down at any price. The placard concluded thus: - "Landlordism is doomed. It is on its last legs. The Government cannot keep it alive, and it must go." Mr. Atkinson then read several extracts, purporting to be a cablegram from Mr. J.P. Quinn, in which he urged that the Irish World should continue to be distributed to the Irish people. "From Ireland with the light," was the phrase said to have been used by Mr. Quinn. From the Irish World of the 1st of October, 1881, Mr. Atkinson read the following extract from a letter said to have been sent by Mr. Parnell to Patrick Egan: - "The tenants were instructed not to use the rent-fixing clause of the Land Act, but to keep out of Court and follow the old lines, and rely on old methods."


Sir Charles Russell at this point rose and reminded the President that they had not arrived at the point at which his Lordship had decided that the Irish World was no longer admissible as evidence.
The President said he was of opinion that a sufficient case had been made out that the Irish World had been circulated in Ireland to entitle the Times counsel to read further extracts from that paper.
Sir Charles Russell then pointed out that after October, 1881, the leaders of the movement were in prison, and the Land League was suppressed by the Government.
The President - Yes; but a movement of the same kind may have gone on.
Sir Charles Russell - I am not aware of any further request coming from anyone for the ____ of the Irish World. We submit that the time has arrived when the Irish World is no longer admissible as evidence.
The President, after a short consultation with his colleagues, said they were of opinion that the Times counsel had made out a prima facie case that the Irish World had been circulated in Ireland and consequently they were entitled to continue reading extracts from that paper.
Mr. Atkinson, therefore, continued his reading.


Mr. Atkinson gave an extract, dated the 26th of November, 1881, in which it was said that, however Dr. Croke might explain his conduct, it was looked upon as traitoring. "Neither he nor any other man can stop the onward march."
Sir Charles Russell - That refers to Dr. Croke's condemnation of the "No Rent Manifesto"?
The President - Yes.
An extract was given from remarks made by Mr. Henry George in the Irish World, who said that Mr. Parnell sent his warmest wishes to his friends in America, and especially thanked the Irish World, "a copy of which would no more be allowed in Kilmainham than a ton of dynamite." Extracts from a report of a meeting of Irish Americans in New York were next presented. The report stated, "The meeting was originally called to condemn the Phoenix-park assassinations, but the news of the introduction of Mr. Gladstone's 'measure of vengeance,' which was received in the morning, aroused a feeling of indignation so bitter that the former feeling was almost lost sight of."


Mr. Atkinson read extracts from several of the speeches made at that meeting, and then Sir Charles Russell rose. He read extracts from an article headed "The Assassination," which appeared in the Irish World on the 20th of May, 1882. The extract ran as follows: - "In the midst of rejoicing over a well-won victory, Ireland is suddenly startled by a deed of blood, which sends a thrill of horror through the civilised world. Friends of Ireland will express a feeling of deep resentment against the assassins who have done so much to snatch from Ireland the fruits of her heroic struggle against landlordism."


From the same paper Sir Charles also read a letter by Patrick Egan, in which he said - alluding to the Phoenix Park murders - "We are horrified at the crime. We condemn and deplore it in the strongest manner. It is the result of the brutal tyranny practised in Ireland during the past seven months."


In the same paper there was also the report of an interview with Mr. Parnell, Mr. Davitt, and other Irish members, who condemned the murders. "Mr. Parnell," said the interviewer, "seemed very depressed." He said, "I consider it the most abominable, atrocious, and wanton crime that ever disgraced the annals of Ireland."
Mr. Atkinson then commenced to read an extract from the Irish World of the 7th June, 1882.
Sir Charles Russell again rose, and contended that subsequent to this date no one connected with the Land League had asked for or had been a party to the circulation of the Irish World.
The President, however, pointed out that there was now abundance of evidence that frequent requests were made by those in authority in the Land League to send the Irish World to Ireland.
Sir Charles Russell - Mr. Quinn is the only authority we get.
The President - But we consider others also. We presume that that circulation continues, and until it is shown that in some way or other it was interrupted, the Irish World is admissible in evidence.
The Court then adjourned for luncheon.


When the Court assembled after luncheon,
Mr. Asquith pointed to a leader in the Irish World of October 14, 1882, headed, "Folly of Parliamentary Agitation." It indicated a policy of hostility on the part of Ford and his paper towards Mr. Parnell and his associates. The National League was founded in October, 1882, and since then the National League had not received a cent from the Irish World.
The Attorney-General said that might be so, but the money instead came from the American branch of the National League to the Irish branch, and the funds for the former were collected in the Irish World. The dispute with Patrick Ford was because he said some of the money was spent for Parliamentary purposes, which was contrary to the original understanding.
The President said that if the Irish World began to quarrel, and no more money was received by the organisation in Ireland from that paper, then he (Sir James Hannen) should cease to draw the inference from that date.


Police-constable Ough was then called to prove that arrest of Thomas Walsh, who was sentenced to penal servitude by Mr. Justice Stephen.
George Connor, a porter, at the Castlerea Station - the next witness - said that in 1881 a case, seized by the police, was addressed to "J.A.F. Farrell, Esq."; and Head-constable Bucker also formally proved the seizure of a case of Snider rifles, in September, 1881, at Tipperary. The case was addressed to the "Rev. Dr. Flannagan."
Detective-inspector William Peel, of the Metropolitan Police, deposed that he searched Walsh's premises in London when he was arrested. There were 277 rifles, 276 bayonets, 30 revolvers, and 9,000 rounds of ammunition.
Mr. Murphy: Were the rifles marked? - Yes, with a shamrock.
By Sir Charles Russell - I was examined at Walsh's trial.
Constable Newell, of the R.I.C., said he was stationed at Castlerea in 1881. He called at the station there for a box of arms. It contained five revolvers. It was addressed "J.A.F. Farrell." The only Farrell there was a miller, who denied that the arms were intended for him.


The Attorney-General next called Mr. Loftus, a farmer, living at Curry, Tipperary, who said he knew a person named P.J. Sheridan. Curry was three miles from Tubercurry. In the early part of February, 1882, a man came to his house dressed as a priest.
The Attorney-General - What name was brought in? - Father Murphy. I had known a person by that name; but when I went out I found it was not the Father Murphy I knew. It was P.J. Sheridan, who had before given me a dog.
Did the dog recognise him? - Yes. (Laughter.)
I had never before seen Sheridan as a priest. He had too much hair on his face. (Laughter.) He had spectacles when he came in, but took them off when he got into the parlour. He asked me if I knew him. I said "No," but my wife recognised the voice. He said he had some particular business on. Sheridan's wife lived at Tubercurry. He asked me the best way to see his wife without being detected by the authorities. He said he had been to the South of Ireland.
Did you know a man named Fitzpatrick? - Yes. He was deformed - slightly hunchback. I saw him at Curry in 1881 or 1882, as a commercial traveler; it was in 1879 or 1880, I think.
Now, did you see Sheridan again after the occasion of his coming to you that night? - No.
Had he ever spoken to you about the Irish Republican Brotherhood? - He asked me whether I was a member of it, and I told him I was.
Did he tell you he was a member of it? - I don't remember.
Did you know he was a member of it? - I don't think I did.
Did you know a man named Fitzpatrick, who went by the name of Fitzgerald? - Yes; he came to my house on several occasions. I once saw him at an open air Land League meeting in January, 1880.
Who spoke at that meeting? - The parish priest and a man named Malachi Sullivan, who was a member of the League. Sheridan was also there, but I do not know whether he spoke.


Did Sheridan ever tell you what he was doing traveling about? - He only told me he was organising the League.
Did he tell you how he was organising the League, or what he was doing? - No, he did not tell me anything particular. "I remember (said witness, in answer to further questions) a banquet being given after a meeting at Curry. The banquet was held at my house. Sheridan, Fitzpatrick, and several members of the Land League were present."


Did you know if Fitzpatrick, or a Fitzgerald, had anything to do with the organisation of the League? - All I heard was that he was a commercial traveler.
I should like to ask you another question. You say you were a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood; do you know whether Fitzpatrick was also a member? - I believe he was.
Have you any doubt about it? - Very little.
Sir Charles Russell then cross-examined the witness, who admitted that, on the occasion of Sheridan's visit - in disguise - he said he had come in reference to some disputed property. Witness knew that there had been some litigation about property. On that occasion no conversation took place concerning the organisation of the Land League. Witness knew that at the time a warrant had been issued against Sheridan.
Now, so far as you know, had he at that time anything to do with the organisation? - Not so far as I know.


Now, to your knowledge, was Fitzpatrick a member of the Land League? - Never.
Was he, to your knowledge, an opponent of the Land League? - Very much so.
And still is? - Yes.
Sir Charles Russell then questioned the witness concerning the trial of Fitzpatrick, and the evidence given against him by the informer Delaney.


"Did not the Jury," he asked, "state that Delaney's evidence was totally unreliable, and was not Fitzpatrick consequently acquitted?"
The Attorney-General submitted that that was not a proper question to put to the witness.
The President - What the Jury said on the occasion of that trial is not evidence now.
Sir Charles Russell - But I insist on making an observation regarding the notorious character of this man Delaney.
The President (hotly) - And I tell you that I am of opinion that it is not evidence. It seems to me you also insist on arguing continuously against the decision of the Judges.
Sir Charles - I admit I occasionally do, but only when I have a reason. Sir Charles then resumed his seat, and the witness disappeared from the box.


James Caulfield, sergeant in the R.I.C., stationed in county Sligo, next entered the box. He said that in 1880 he was in Tubercurry, where P.J. Sheridan kept a public-house. Witness knew a man there named Patrick Fitzgerald, who also passed as Matthews.
Sheridan was an hotel keeper? - Yes, I never knew him as a priest. At a Land League meeting in 1880, there I saw Sheridan as a speaker. Fitzgerald and a man named Malachi Sullivan were on the platform. In 1880 - some time in April - there were illuminations in Tubercurry. I pointed out Sheridan and Fitzgerald to Head Constable Bodly. Fitzgerald, or Matthews, passed as a commercial traveler, but I never knew him do any business as such. I knew men named Higgins, Casey, O'Donogh, and Gannon, but Gannon was the only one I knew as belonging to the Land League. There was a forge at Tubercurry belonging to a man named Bartley. I have seen Sheridan and the other men there at nights. On the 27th of April, 1880, I searched Bartley's forge and found a box under the floor, covered over with earth. There were ten rifles, ten bayonets, and 150 rounds of ammunition. The shamrock was on the rifles. I was not shown the rifle with which a man named Boyd was shot.
By Mr. Reid - I made inquiries respecting Fitzgerald. I did not know myself that he traveled with tea.
Some amusement was created when the witness, producing his pocket-book, was unable to decipher the notes, though he turned them over several times.
"He's a long-sighted man, and hasn't got his glasses," exclaimed Mr. Cunynghame, handing the note-book to Mr. Reid.
(The report will be continued.)


It is stated (says the Daily News) that the Lord-Lieutenant has granted a free pardon to Delaney, one of the men convicted of the Phoenix Park murder, who gave before the Judicial Commission evidence tending to incriminate certain persons against whom the Times made charges and allegations. Mr. Lalor will tomorrow ask the Chief Secretary whether the report is true.



"Pigott and I." Under this heading M. Labouchere tells his story in today's Truth. All the interest in the long narrative running into several pages - must centre in the interviews which the hon. Member for Northampton had with Pigott, and not in the many theories which Mr. Labouchere weaves into his tale.


"About the middle of October (says Mr. Labouchere), Mr. Egan sent over here a trusty emissary, with orders to report to me, and to see whether it would not be possible to buy of Pigott the originals of the Egan drafts, for he knew his man, and believed (rightly) that he would have no objection to see anything that he possessed for a consideration. I sent this emissary to Kingstown, where Pigott was residing. Pigott declined to deal with the emissary, and said that he must be put in communication with someone whom he could trust. On this I told the emissary that Pigott could see me at my house. After some dalliance, Pigott consented to come, and it was settled that he should turn up at my house on a certain evening. I went down to the Commission, which was sitting on that day, and informed Mr. Parnell and Mr. Lewis of what had been arranged. It was agreed that they should both be present. When Pigott came, he found me sitting with Mr. Parnell; and he proposed that our conversation, 'if it led to nothing,' should be deemed confidential."


"Pigott admitted to us that he had forged the letters, and suggested that he would give us a full confession, and write to the Attorney-General and to the Times that he was the forger, if Mr. Lewis would withdraw his subpoena and let him go to Australia. Although he did not then allude to any payment, he, of course, meant that we should provide him with funds for this departure, if we accepted his offer. We told him that we should prefer his remaining in England and appearing at the trial, and that, when there, he would do well to tell the truth, for we had ample evidence to convict him of the forgeries; and then, without telling him all our evidence, we gave him a few samples."


"About this time Mr. Lewis was announced. I went out into the passage, told him that Pigott had confessed, and brought him in. Mr. Lewis, as Pigott observed, was 'severe.' He said that there was no use beating about the bush, that Pigott had forged, and that if he supported his forgeries by perjury, he would go to prison. Pigott renewed his proposal about the confession and Australia. Mr. Lewis would not hear of this. Mr. Parnell and I - for it was close on nine o'clock - went into the next room, where there was dinner, leaving Mr. Lewis talking to Pigott. Soon Mr. Lewis came into the dining-room, and said to me, "Pigott wants to come to me tomorrow and give me a full statement. He is going away, and wants to speak to you"; adding, "Mind, whatever you do, don't give him any money; if you do, he will bolt." I left Mr. Lewis with Mr. Parnell assuaging the pangs of hunger, and went back to Pigott." It was then (so Mr. Labouchere says) that Pigott first asked him if he would give 5,000 pounds, and afterwards 1,000 pounds. "I said it would be more like one thousand than five, but that I must first see the documents. I then asked whether the signature of the Parnell letter which is at the top of a page was forged, or whether it was an autograph which had fallen into his hands, and he had written the letter on the other side?' 'Why do you want to know this?' he said. 'Mere curiosity,' I replied; on which he said that it was forged. He then left."


There was another interview. - "Again he explained (says Mr. Labouchere) that he had forged, and gave me a good many details about the way in which he had done it, telling me, amongst other things, that he had given Houston three names as the sources of the letters, two of which were efforts of his imagination, and the third a real person. He seemed rather proud of his skill, and by encouraging this weakness I got everything out of him. I asked him how Houston could have been so easily fooled, and whether he was an absolute idiot? He replied that he was clever up to a point, but thought himself twice as clever as he was, and that these sort of persons are easily trapped. In this I agree with him. And he told me that Houston had told him that he wanted letters, because it was intended to publish a pamphlet, and that the letters were to be held in reserve to be sprung upon the Court if there was an action for libel, adding that such an action would be certain not to be brought."


Again and again with weary iteration he came back in the interview to his plan to confess in writing, and then to go to Australia - a suggestion Mr. Labouchere did not view with satisfaction. Pigott at least said to him that "he saw no other course for him but to go into the box and swear that he had bought the letters, and that if they were forgeries he had been deceived. "You will be a fool if you do," I said; "but that is your affair, not mine. If I were in your place I should tell the truth, and ask for the indemnity." "That is all very well," he said, "but on what am I to live?" And so we parted."
There were other interviews - there was that memorable interview in the presence of Mr. Sala; but of that Mr. Sala has told. Mr. Labouchere, however, thinks that the confession to him is the plain, unvarnished truth.


The text is published, today, of a Bill to prevent the disclosure of official documents and information. The Bill, which is backed by Sir Richard Webster, Hon. E. Stanhope, and Lord George Hamilton, enacts that where a person acts as a spy, that is to say, enters or is in any place belonging to the Queen, being a fortress, arsenal, factory, dockyard, &c, with intent, without lawful authority, either to take plans or sketches as may be useful for the naval or military purposes of an enemy; to acquire any document, model, or information; or take sketches from outside other than for purely artistic purposes; or, being illegally in possession of any plan or document, communicates, or attempts to communicate the same, to any person to whom the same ought not, in the interests of the State, be communicated, shall, if the sketch or information was communicated, or intended to be communicated, to a foreign State, be guilty of felony, and be liable to penal servitude for life, or for any term not less than five years, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour, and shall in any other case by guilty of a misdemeanour, and, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding a year, with or without hard labour, or to a fine, or to both imprisonment and a fine.

Source: The Echo, Wednesday March 6, 1889, Pages 2-3

Karen Trenouth
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