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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Tue 29 Jan 2013 - 10:05

Sixty-fourth Day of Proceedings - Tuesday, April 2, 1889







After a vacation of nearly three weeks the Special Commission settled down to business again this morning. In anticipation of Sir Charles Russell's opening speech a large number of people gathered together. But the Court was not so inconveniently crowded as during the latter part of the Times portion of the case. Mrs. Gladstone, in deep mourning, occupied a seat parallel with the Judges' bench, and conversed affably with Lady Cunynghame. On the opposite side of the Court, and amongst the artists, were Lady and Miss Russell, and Mrs. George Lewis. Sir Charles Russell arrived about ten minutes past ten, and spent a few moments in conversation with Mrs. Gladstone. Mr. Lockwood and Mr. Reid followed, and then several Nationalist M.P.'s, including Mr. Biggar, entered. Mr. Parnell, looking somewhat better than when last he appeared in Court, but still muffled up in his plum-coloured cloak, arrived shortly before half-past ten, with Mr. George Lewis. Doffing his silk hat, Mr. Parnell carefully adjusted a small dark blue skull-cap, which he wore until the arrival of the Judges - a very necessary proceeding, considering the draughty character of the Court. Meanwhile, the Times counsel had taken up their places. Mr. Graham was the first on that side to arrive, the Attorney-General following. Mr. Houston and Mr. Soames occupied their usual seats in front of the solicitors' table. The Judges arrived exactly at half-past ten.


In a very hushed Court, Sir Charles Russell rose. He had before him, resting on a pile of books, a portfolio, with several memoranda. These he carefully adjusted and then commenced his speech. "My Lords," he said, "the sittings of this Commission - this unique Commission - have up to today reached sixty-three. There have been called before your Lordships in the course of the inquiry some 340 odd witnesses. There have been called 16 district inspectors of the R.I.C. force; 98 members of a subordinate kind belonging to that force; a number of landlords and agents; 18 informers, including some convicts; one Irish priest - one of that class in the Irish community best acquainted with the circumstances and the feelings of the community, best able to inform your Lordships of its circumstances and its conditions. There have also been called five expert witnesses - experts upon the question of handwriting - Captain O'Shea and the informer Delaney, and, I am afraid I must add, Mr. Soames and Mr. Macdonald, and the fifth, Mr. Inglis, called and sworn; but, fortunately for Mr. Inglis's reputation, not examined.


My Lords, from these witnesses there has proceeded a very large amount of evidence, as to a great amount of which I shall have to submit to your Lordships - submit after arguments, I will hope - that it is wholly irrelevant to any real question in this case. This is not an inquiry into the existence of Irish crime, for crime is known, unhappily, to exist in every community in a greater or less degree, and in a greater degree in communities situated such as Ireland.


My Lords, I cannot but feel, in rising to address your Lordships, that the utter collapse of the forged letters has taken out of this inquiry its pith and its marrow. It would be idle to think that your Lordships do not know what the whole world knows - that without these letters there would have been no such Commission as that upon which your Lordships now sit. Those letters are the only foundations upon which rested the most reckless and the most calumniating of those charges and allegations. Even if your Lordships had desired otherwise, I presume you could not avoid discharging the duty which the statute has cast upon you, to inquire into the remaining charges.


I will tell you, continued Sir Charles. Ireland returns to the Imperial Parliament one hundred and two representatives. The statute gives her the right to return them. The statute says nothing of her representatives pleasing any section of men, to please any portion of the community. Of these Members two are returned by the distinguished University of Dublin - Trinity College. Of the remaining hundred representatives, eighty-five stand before your Lordships' bar, for although, upon a principle of selection which I do not understand, and do not think it worth while to try to understand, only sixty-five have been named in these proceedings the whole eighty-five stand arraigned before the public."
There was no county in Ireland from which there had not been summoned one or other of the parties for whom he appeared, and three provinces had had almost their entire representatives there. Even the province of Ulster - which some people spoke of as though it was not a part of Ireland, but a suburb of Glasgow - was represented in the charge. And it should not be forgotten a majority of the Irish Parliamentary Party was sitting for that province.


"Why do I dwell upon this?" Sir Charles asked. I dwell upon it to point out to your Lordships that there is, so far as I know, no parallel in history - no parallel certainly in the divisions of political parties in this country - which presents so complete a picture of a preponderating force of represented opinion, represented according to the forms of the Constitution, as is shown in the representation of Ireland today. But, my Lords, I have another purpose in mentioning this. I want to try and raise this issue out of the unmethodical heterogeneous mass of detail with which it is at present covered. I want to point out to your Lordships that an attempt is here being made - in which your Lordships are asked to assist - to do what Edmund Burke declared had never been successfully done - "to draw an indictment against a whole nation."


What (asked Sir Charles) does Edmund Burke mean by that? He means that when a movement becomes a movement of a whole people, that when there is a great national upheaval, that the ordinary rules of criminal adjudicature derived from the Old Bailey have no relation to such a question, and are inadequate. For the last ten years, from 1879 to 1889 (Sir Charles continued) - and this was no exaggeration; it was the literal truth - there had been going on in Ireland a great revolution - social partly, and political partly. It is but truth to say - even so early I venture to say it - that your Lordships are here to try that revolution, under the Queen's Commission.


Sir Charles pointed out that he had told them who were the accused. He now asked who were the accusers. They were a company, a co-partnership, or a syndicate - he knew not which - which was called by the public "The Times." If they had been consistent in nothing else, the Times had been consistent in their unrelenting, unvarying hostility to the Irish people and to the cause of the Irish people. When Lord Mulgrove was Lord-Lieutenant the Times wrote: - "It is true beyond doubt that Lord Mulgrove has actually invited to dinner that rancorous and vile-mouthed ruffian O'Connell." In that writing (said Sir Charles) they had the whole key of the misgovernment of Ireland. It was the fashion now-a-days to praise O'Connell; it was the fashion in his life to revile him. This conduct continued.


The Times said, in a later year, in alluding to the big famine, "The Irish are gone at last - gone with a vengeance." In this case the emigration of the Irish to America was likened to a number of rats leaving an empty vessel, and crossing to one with a full cargo. He did not know which had been the worst factor in the misgovernment of Ireland - the influence of the Times, which undoubtedly once was great, or the influence of the section of the Legislature whose action he should have to hereafter refer their Lordships to.


It was true to say of the Times that to its use of its influence and its abuse of its influence in times past and in recent days had been attributable - and fairly attributable - much of the estrangement of feeling, much of the soreness of feeling, which the Irish people exhibited towards England. He admitted there had been gleams - transient gleams - of statesmanship in the columns of the Times; but he said that these had been more than counterbalanced by its terms of insolence, and rendered now still more intolerable by its tone of condescending insolence. He had, perhaps, dwelt upon this point longer than might have seemed necessary, but he could not shut his eyes to the fact that the columns of the Times were the daily mental food upon which a large proportion of the governing classes, and possibly their Lordships, fed, and he did desire at the outset, for it would help to the understanding of the case, that their Lordships should know how the Times was in general regarded, and what had been its teaching in the past.


In this reference he had one consolation - the recollection of the fact that it had been the fate of the Times to help forward to success every cause it had opposed. Nor were these his words. They were the words of one of the greatest statesmen of our time, now dead - he meant Richard Cobden - who said of the Times that by its truculent, he had almost said its ruffianly, attacks on every movement in the popular favour, it had aroused the attention of a languid public, and attracted the sympathy of every fair-minded man.


The Times was the accuser. When, and under what circumstances, were the accusations made? He asked to be allowed to remind the Court that, always excepting the letters, which first saw the light in 1887, there was nothing which had been proved before their Lordships, except, of course, the proof of later crime, which was not known, which was not canvassed, and was not discussed in the columns of the Press and in the House of Commons previous to and in 1883. The election of 1885 came. In that election, influenced by what promises, real or supposed, he sought not to inquire, the Irish Party were helping one great political party in the state - he meant the Tory Party. The latter Party accepted, and were very grateful for their help; they sat upon the same platform with their candidates, made speeches in their interests, and thanked them for their efforts. Was it, he asked, supposed then that these men, whose hands they took, beside whom they sat on platforms throughout the land, were the direst accomplices in crime which it was now suggested? Well, that election passed. A distinguished and high-minded, and he would say broad-minded and sympathetic, statesman went in the character of the Queen's Lieutenant to Ireland - he meant Lord Carnarvon. Right-minded men had long been of opinion that there must be something "rotten in the state of Denmark." - that there must be, indeed, something grievously and radically wrong in the state of Ireland, which prevented a great mass of people having no sympathy with the law, and Government, and administration, and that mass of people, representing a real controlling power in the land - a power, however, not recognised by the State.


Surely it was at least time to try the experiment whether the masses could not be won upon the side of the law. It was no exaggeration to say that in Ireland there stood, and still stood, two powers - one, the power of the Queen - the Constitution - backed up by the resources of the Crown, and yet comparatively a weak power, because it was a power which had nothing behind to sustain it, nothing of the moral support which sprang from a sense of benefit received, assent given, and protection afforded, and without which, in the days of free discussion and free thought, no Government could very long or permanently stand. The other power was by the moral responsibility of men; he was not thinking of legal responsibility. Yet that was a real power in the land.


In the autumn of 1885 Lord Carnarvon sought counsel with Justin M'Carthy and Charles Stewart Parnell with reference to the Government of Ireland. Lord Carnarvon, representing the Queen's authority in Ireland, put himself in communication with the popular leaders in Ireland with a view to bringing into greater harmony with the people the Government in the administration of the law. Did Lord Carnarvon believe, did Lord Salisbury believe Parnell and Justin M'Carthy and his follower came red-handed from the commission of crime? Or did they believe they were in direct complicity with crime? No, they did not. It was after that that the libels were published. It was when the policy of conciliation had been gratefully - gladly - accepted by the Irish people. That policy of conciliation was rejected. The country was not ripe for it. Ireland pronounced for it, Scotland pronounced for it, but England did not.


He had mentioned who the accused and the accusers were; what were the accusations? At this stage he was not going to deal with them in detail. He would do that at a later time. For the present he would say that the charges briefly were that the movement in Ireland was carried on by its leaders by means of murder and outrage, which such leaders carefully calculated upon and coolly applied; that they aided with money and by other means the flight of criminals from justice; and that the public denunciation of crime, including the Phoenix-park murders, was lying, false, and hypocritical.


These were the charges of the gravest criminal significance. Why did not the Government prosecute? Why were they now here before the Commission? Why were they not standing at the bar of the Old Bailey years ago? The Government, it was true, did prosecute a certain number of the Irish Party in the autumn of 1879, or the beginning of 1880.
The President - I remember all about it.
Sir Charles Russell said that Mr. Davitt was prosecuted.
Mr. Parnell - We were all prosecuted in 1879.

Sir Charles Russell (continuing) said the only answer that could be given as to why the Government did not prosecute these gentlemen on the present charges was that the advisers of the Government did not believe that there was any tangible ground for doing so.


This was not a Government prosecution; but it was conducted in a way which gave to the prosecutors all the advantages of Government prosecutors, and giving to the accused none of the advantages which they would have been entitled to had it been in the form of a Government prosecution. What had been the state of things in Lincoln's-inn-fields? (Sir Charles asked in this connection). It had, at times, presented the appearance of a police camping-ground for that military force, the Royal Irish Constabulary. Mr. Soames's office had been the police register for the Irish people in London. They had had - thick as leaves in Vallombrosa - district-inspectors and Magistrates seated on those benches which were reserved for the Queen's Counsel, and suggesting and helping to conduct that case. They had had Magistrates assisting in getting evidence, policemen seeing witnesses personally, and personally conducting them, getting them their tickets, and paying them their conduct money. They had also seen secret documents produced, of which more would have to be said hereafter, and placed at the disposition of the prosecutors. They had secret spies enlisted in their service - aye, as they had had the jails of the country, the jails of the kingdom, scoured to see whether from the refuse there might not be produced witnesses who would do some little bit of work in trying to defame and to blacken the character of the Irish Parliamentary Party.


That was a serious matter (Sir Charles added, with great emphasis), more serious, in fact, than he thought it to be, until he learned recently that it was done, not merely by the Walters and the Thompsons and the Shannons, but done by police officers in considerably high authority - aye, and done even by that wretched man Pigott. All those, forseeth, going to the jails in the character of friends of the convicts, paying them a friendly visit, which the rules of the prison enabled to be paid to break the sad monotony of their convict life. That suggested a serious reflection. They had a man sentenced to twenty years' penal servitude, character lost, and severed from wife, children, and kinship. This visit is paid him, and he is told that he may have an opportunity to come and give evidence, and is asked whether he knows anything to incriminate Mr. Parnell or Mr. Parnell's colleagues. This might even suggest a possible ray of hope in the wretched convict's mind, and he might picture to himself that if he could give evidence the prison doors might earlier be opened for him, and the light of God's heaven shine upon him, and he would see once more his friends and kindred. With that temptation it was simply a marvel, not that the man Delaney had come and said what he had said, but that he had not been able to say more, and that none others had been found to add their quota to the tale of infamy and calumny.


That case, said Sir Charles, had been conducted with all the advantages to the accusers, as if it had been in the form of a Governmental prosecution; and on the other hand it had been conducted without any of the advantages to the accused which would have been theirs had it been in the form of a Government prosecution.


What had, he asked, been the case? It had been a game of surprises; he would repeat deliberately, a game of surprises. So far from giving the counsel for the Parnellites any particulars that would really be of assistance to them, the Times counsel had given them none. They had also abstained, in the face of repeated inquiries and demands to give them notice of the witness, or even the subject of the witnesses to be called. Sir Charles then instanced the case of the boy Walsh, who was called out of his turn, but who Mr. Lockwood succeeded in proving had at least three times been guilty of forgery and dishonesty. "Why," Sir Charles asked, "was that witness 'rushed in at that stage of the case?'" He was the witness who had the interview with District Inspector Allen, who, according to the witness Walsh, delicately insinuated to him that he was liable to be prosecuted for one of those offences he confessed he had been guilty of. Then there was the man Delaney, and the man Beach, whose evidence he regarded as most important from every point of the case. He had never heard of these men, never known of their existence until they were produced. It had, therefore, been a game of surprises in which deliberately, for reasons they perhaps thought adequate enough, his friend had kept them in the dark as to what witnesses they were going to call.


What were the reasons? He understood there were two - one was the dread of the witnesses being tampered with. So far as he recollected, there had been only two suggestions bearing upon that point - one, the suggestion that a witness was taken by an Irish friend of his to the office of Mr. George Lewis; and the other was the suggestion which the Attorney-General made, for which he had never apologised, and for which he would have to apologise in some way or another before that case was concluded - the suggestion, the imputation he threw upon his friend Mr. Harrington and his brother, that they had tampered with a witness while the Court was up for luncheon earlier in the case. The case had been pressed pertinaciously, not as if it were a criminal case, but as if it were the struggle for the flimsiest issue at Nisi Prius to give a verdict. No sense of generosity to a Member of Parliament, to a colleague in Parliament, of this of his learned friends had been exhibited, although, forsooth, their Lordships' constitution in that Commission was supposed to have been graciously granted by a gracious Government to give Mr. Parnell and his colleagues an opportunity of freeing themselves of grave charges; and although, forsooth, the position taken up at the beginning of the inquiry by Mr. Graham, and persisted in, not with less fervour, by the Attorney-General, that the Times were there, not in the character of a prosecutor asking to stamp indelibly the character of criminal upon the persons they accused, but that they were there in the capacity of impartial friends, to enable their Lordships to arrive at the truth of these charges.


This was in its essence, and in its nature, a criminal case, but he said that all the traditions of fair play which characterised the conduct of a criminal case in England had been forgotten, and reviled, and they had been fighting inch by inch pertinaciously, he would not say unscrupulously, as if it concerned merely the private affairs of certain persons, instead of the character of a great political party. Further, he charged that the case had been conducted with the purpose, unavowed, by the repetition of these sad incidents of crime, by calling witness after witness to prove facts of crime which they did not dispute, with the unavowed purpose, not of prejudicing their Lordship's minds (though it would indeed be a marvel if they were not almost prejudiced), but for the unavowed purpose of prejudicing the public mind, and with the intention of creating in the public mind a belief that the Irish nation were a nation of criminals. He asked their Lordships - if that was not the object unavowed - what was the object legitimate of calling before the Court, and exposing to the gaze of the British nation, the sad, sad stories told in their widows' weeds by such ladies as Lady Mountmorres, Mrs. Blake, Mrs. Curtin, and Mrs. Fitzmaurice? The case had been put before the Court by the Attorney-General a good deal as though it were in the nature of a criminal conspiracy - the criminal conspiracy being the Land League. He need not point out that by such means the doors of evidence had been opened very wide.


What was the argument that had been raised? A man in a remote part of Kerry or Cork, who was a member of the Land League, or later on, of the National League, was responsible for what Mr. Parnell, who was also a member of these organisations, had done, although he had never seen Mr. Parnell, and knew nothing about him, and nothing of what he had done! And equally the converse - Mr. Parnell would be responsible for what the man in the remote part of Kerry or Cork had done, although he had never seen that man, and knew nothing whatever about him! * (Except when and where the man from Kerry or Cork paid his rent!) But that was not the point upon which he would dwell. He wished to refer to the hardships under which he laboured. He could give many instances. He would give but one. In this view of conspiracy, opened up by such an argument, the man Le Caron had been allowed to state what Egan told him what Brennan had told Egan what Sexton had done. So that the statement had been disseminated about through the land that Mr. Sexton, who was an M.P., and Lord Mayor of Dublin, had assisted Brennan to escape from this country.


Lastly, he (Sir Charles) complained that no attempt had been made, certainly no successful one, to present the case with any method. There had been thrown down before their Lordships a heterogeneous, confused mass of evidence - a tangled scheme, without any attempt to assist their Lordships to unravel it; no order of time, no order of speeches, no order of place, no order of persons. He would say nothing of the burden of anxiety and expense which the Commission had cast upon the accused. He would, however, ask apart from the letters - was there any evidence of direct complicity with crime, either as, a priori, being a party to or authorised, or being a party to its condonation? If he were to sit down then he submitted to their Lordships that if they were sitting in a Criminal Court they would not allow the case to go to a Jury. But he rejoiced that the time had at last come when the accused could be heard in justification and explanation of their conduct and their policy. It would be necessary to trouble their Lordships with


and with the social history of Ireland. The Attorney-General had afforded no clue to the position of things in Ireland, without which the position of matters in that country could not be understood. So far as the Attorney-General was concerned, Ireland was a modern Arcadia, a Garden of Eden, before the intrusion of the Sabbath - (a laugh) - a country in which patriarchal relations existed between the Irish tenants and the landlords; the landlords looking down with parental regard upon the necessities - the condition - of the tenants, and the tenants looking up with eyes of reverential gratitude to their friends and protectors, the landlords. The condition of things as described by the Attorney-General was


The same things which existed in Ireland in 1879-83 has existed there before, only to a greater degree. He (Sir Charles Russell) should show that from the same causes the same results had arisen. The years 1877-78-79 were bad years for Ireland; and there was in the public mind there a hideous conjuring up again of the recollections of the state of things which desolated the population in 1846. The Attorney-General said the Land League was but a cover for a political movement; that the aim was not to relieve distress, not to keep famine from the peasants' doors, not to preserve the peasant in the enjoyment of his little home and holding; but that the object was to strike at Irish landlordism, as representing the English garrison in Ireland, with a view to secure the ultimate independence of Ireland, and the construction of an Irish Republic. He (Sir Charles) would have to trouble their Lordships at some length, in order that they might appreciate the political part of the charge which the Attorney-General had made.


Sir Charles then entered upon what he had characterised as a "political retrospect." He, in commencing, went back to the Irish Parliament of 1782. It was, he said, a Parliament which had its existence under conditions of great difficulty. No Catholic was eligible for membership, and no Catholic possessed the right to vote for a Member of that Parliament. Nevertheless, it was in the year of 1782 that for the first time since the introduction of the penal laws, that an Irish Catholic could hold the freehold of one inch of Irish land. It was a few years later - in 1793, that that Parliament of the Ascendancy Party - for it allowed themselves to be influenced by public opinion in Ireland. He would pass over the rebellion of 1798, fomented - as most historians admitted it to have been fomented - by external causes and agencies; he would pass by, too, the Act of Union, described by one of our most distinguished historians, Mr. Lecky, as an act for the union of the legislature but dividing the people. The root of the Irish difficulty sprung from the moment that Act was passed.


The governing classes - mainly the ascendancy class, mainly the landlord class - ceased to be thereafter under the influence of the impulse of the opinion of those amongst whom they lived, and from whom they derived the means of support for their stations of dignity and affluence. They looked to England, and in times of difficulty and trouble they cried from the housetops that they alone were the class to be depended upon, that they alone were loyal, that they alone were true to the British Constitution, and that they alone were the class to be depended upon to uphold and support that connection. Sir Charles then passed on - in is historical retrospect - to allude to the revolt of which Robert Emmett was the central figure, and to the Young Ireland movement of 1848, out of which, he said, the present successful movement carried on by Mr. Parnell had arisen.


Then (said Sir Charles) they came to the constitutional aspect of the case. Unconstitutional agitations succeeded one another, and after the country had made an effort in the constitutional direction, it had failed. It fell back again into the Slough of Despond. It was time secret societies and illegal combinations burrowed the country, and did their evil work.


The great American war was also an important factor in this question. A large number of Irishmen joined the North American Army, and it was immediately after the cessation of the war that the Fenian movement in America was formed. But what had no less a person than Mr. Henry Matthews said of this movement. Mr. Matthews declared that the Fenian movement was not, in the Sixties, a body of assassins. It was a body that believed in the employment of physical force for the attainment of their ends, but not in such acts as that of the assassin. It was a fact, as proved by statistics which were not refutable, that agrarian crime was at its lowest at the time when the Fenian movement was at its highest. The Catholic Emancipation Act, the Tithe Act, the Disestablishment Act, and the Land Act of 1870, every one of them either followed upon an unconstitutional movement or the dread of a physical force movement. Then followed the movement of Mr. Parnell.


Mr. Parnell had tried to act upon the advice which a distinguished Irish Judge - Baron Woolf - once gave, to create a public opinion in Ireland; and to make it "racy of the soil," he had tried to create it to sustain a party. He had succeeded - whatever criticisms might be made of it, whatever might be said of it - in making a party which had held itself independent of all political parties, had not shown itself to be capable of being attracted by personal gains of advantage from the strict and straight discharge of their duty, as they believed it, as Irish representatives. By that course Mr. Parnell has forced public attention upon the Irish question; he had awakened the conscience of England upon the Irish question; he had, in season and out of season, perhaps unreasonably in the minds of many, preached her claims, and he had the right to say that in ten years he and his party had accomplished more of solid gain and solid remedial advance in legislative measures to Ireland than had been obtained during many preceding years.


When I speak of solid gain to Ireland, said Sir Charles, let me not be misunderstood. I am not speaking of gain to Ireland as being a loss to England. My position is, my contention is, that everything which goes to give the people of Ireland a hold on their own land, which goes to win them to the side of law and order, is both for the good of Ireland and the good of that Empire which Ireland has, at least, according to her means, contributed some share in building up.


Now, he came to a statement, historically considered, of what he would call, for clearness and convenience, the predisposing cause of Irish crime. So far as he could make historical reference he should cite historical authorities not supposed to be in political accord with those for whom he appeared. Much of what he should mention would be found in Mr. Lecky's second volume, in Mr. Froude's "England and Ireland," and Mr. Goldwin Smith's book. He (Sir Charles) would mention the four causes which had led to the condition of things in Ireland: - (1) Restriction on Irish commerce and suppression of Irish manufactures; (2) The Penal Code, which, while the commercial legislation had thrown the people upon the land as their only means of livelihood, on the other hand, came in to prevent the bulk of them acquiring any permanent interest in the land; (3) The uncontrolled power of the landlords in the execution of oppressive rents; (4) The general misgovernment of the country, and the consequent distrust of the Government which was generated thereby in the Irish mind. Every historian - English, Irish, and foreign - concurred in this opinion, that, until a period within living memory, Irish misgovernment had been one of the blackest phases in the history of the world. Until within living memory, the Government of the country had been directed, not to the good of the many, but to the maintenance of the privileged few. He (the learned counsel) would show how, until within living memory, the Government had proceeded on the principle of keeping Ireland weak as the most convenient way of governing her. And he would support his argument by at once quoting from Froude and Lecky as his authorities. It might be said that this matter of Irish commerce was "ancient history." It was true that it was some years ago; but fifty or one hundred years in the life of a nation was little more than a day or week in the life of mortal man.


He had mentioned as the third cause of crime in Ireland the uncontrolled landlord party. He would deal further with that subject at another time, but for the present he would say that that system gave into the hands of the landlords the life and death of the tenants of Ireland. The only measure of protection the tenants had was the sense of the justice of the landlords; that failed them. Impossible rents were extracted from the people as far as they could be extracted until they were reduced to the condition in which Lord Palmerston described the Irish people, as being upon the whole "the worst clad, the worst housed, and the worst fed people upon the face of God's earth."


Mr. Froude had said, "Russia is spoken of as a political despotism, tampered with assassination. So may the Irish land system by described as a social despotism tampered by assassination." Such a state of things could not have existed (said Sir Charles) if there had been that living force of public opinion which was greater than the law, greater than the law, for it made the law stronger than the law, inasmuch as it controlled the exercise of the rights given by the law. Such a state of things could not have existed if it had not been that the political condition of Ireland was such that the Irish landlords had got into their hands the fruits and power of the country; and that this gave to them no motive to conciliate Irish local opinion. The fourth reason, or cause, which he suggested as predisposing to Irish crime was, of course, the general misgovernment. The government of Ireland had been conducted in the interest of the few, rather than for the benefit of the many.


To these and other general considerations Sir Charles added absenteeism on the part of the landlords; a restricted franchise, and consequently want of political power up to recent years; the fixed chasm betwixt class and class, and no attempt on the part of those responsible for law and order to bridge that chasm over. He asked, What would they expect to find in such cases, where there was nothing that could ever bring sunshine into the lives of the people? Would they expect to find a respect for law and order? No. When distress came they would expect to find that these people would band themselves together to withstand its oppression. The observers of Irish crime, to whom he should have to refer later on, had shown that that crime was more remarkable than any other in the world. The characteristics of that crime were not that it was committed directly and in hot blood, but it was, as Sir George Cornewall Lewis had said, a


committed by persons, and with the full sympathy of a great portion of the community. As a fact, although there was no Land League to be blamed, no popular leaders that could be branded as accomplices in crime, the state of things which existed in 1879 existed in former days, producing the same results.
The Court then adjourned for luncheon.


Upon the Court resuming, Sir Charles Russell alluded to what he termed the "detestable crime of maiming cattle" in the early part of 1700. He pointed out that abundance of testimony on that point showed that it took its rise from, and was the criminal expression of disapproval of the system of clearance of tenants from arable land with a view to turning that land into pasture land. In 1761 that formidable movement known as "Whiteboyism" was started, and their crime was more shocking, was more revolting, and of a greater intensity than anything that had been alleged in this case. It was an exact reproduction of the state of things claimed in this case, and that at a time when there was no Land League, and no constitutional agitation. It was, in fact, the outcome of the action of that secret-body, and of those who were in sympathy with that secret body. Their Lordships would, therefore, see how entirely and how grievously the Attorney-General was misinstructed when he had stated before their Lordships that the state of things in Ireland in 1879 and subsequent years was a new and previously unknown condition of affairs, disclosing a new and grievous state and class of crime.


Now, as to land-grabbing. Land-grabbing - which their Lordships would understand was the description given to the act of a tenant taking a farm from which another tenant had been evicted had always been regarded as a crime against the interest of the community in Ireland. The reason, he thought, was obvious, because if a landlord, after evicting one tenant could get another one to take his place, the tenants would lose that protection which they had in making evictions difficult.


Sir Charles then passed in review the statements of Mr. Lecky, who cited the assertion of the Knight of Kerry, who said at that time, "The lower orders are in a state of distress beyond anything known in the memory of man." And then came further disturbances, upon which Mr. Lecky remarks: - "The rebellion of slaves is always more bloody than an insurrection of free men." That was in 1763, 1764, and 1765. In 1771 a much more important and much more formidable movement arose in the North - that was the movement of the Steel Boys, who were the predecessors in title of the Orangemen of today. The cause, again, of their action was precisely the same. The chroniclers of the period showed that they were almost identical - high rents, wholesale confiscation of improvements, the landlord letting the farm to the highest bidder, without regard to the rights of the previous holder. The effects of this was that there was crime much more serious than in the time of the Oak boys. They marched in a body to release a man who had been taken into custody. Juries who tried them acquitted them over and over again. The venue was changed to Dublin, and the Juries did the same thing there. Of this period Mr. Lecky wrote: - "The improvements were confiscated, land was turned into pasture, and the whole population of a vast district were driven from their homes." The effect of the wholesale clearance was momentous. They formed a large proportion of the emigrants of the sturdy Presbyterians to the North of America, and when the War of Independence came amongst the stoutest men who opposed the British forces and in asserting American independence were those very expatriated Presbyterian farmers of the North of Ireland and their children. From 1780 to 1806 a number of political movements transpired. Social oppression and social grievances could be seen in the background. In the West, South, and Midland Counties there were illegal organisations - amongst them the Whiteboys; and at this period - 1806 to 1820 - there was remarkable depression in the agricultural interest in Ireland, and consequently severe pressure was felt.


* Taking the history of the present century, there had been at least five periods of what would be regarded in this country as destitution amongst the great masses of the people, and certainly at two of these five periods absolute famine. About 1814 one of the most remarkable pronouncements ever delivered on any bench of justice was delivered by Baron Fletcher in County Wexford, who spoke of the various deep and neglected causes which had produced similar effects throughout the country, "and have conspired to create evil which really and truly does exist." Baron Fletcher went on to speak, in his address to the Wexford Jury, in 1814, of the great and increasing demand for the necessaries of life, the high price of land and absentee landlordism as circumstances operating to produce cause and effect, and then went on to remark, "Can we be surprised that a peasant of unenlightened mind should rush upon the perpetration of crime, followed by the rope and the gibbet?"


Sir Charles, in emphasising this portion of his case, read copious extracts from Sir George Cornewall Lewis. He especially dwelt on those passages dealing with the causes of Irish disturbances, their character and objects, the means used for accomplishing those objects, and the effects produced by them. Sir George Cornewall Lewis dealt (he said) with a period ranging from 1824 through the following twelve years. He said that "The whole of Ireland was treated as a Province or a Colony whose interests were sacrificed to the interests of the mother country." In dealing with the question of landlord oppression, Sir Cornewall Lewis used the following philosophic language, which he (Sir Charles) commended to their Lordships' attention: - "To discover the liberty of a people we must live amongst them, and not look for it in the statistics of the realm." He also said - alluding to the state of slavery in which many of the poor of Ireland existed: - "Speaking a language that is despised, and professing a religion that is abhorred, many became slaves even in the bosom of liberty." Sir Charles added that he himself would contend that until the year 1881 there was no real or effective check by law upon landlord oppression.


In 1824 a Commission was appointed to inquire into the causes of crime in Ireland. A district Inspector from the North of Ireland - from Munster - was asked to what he ascribed the outrages, and he replied that he attributed them entirely to the fact that a number of people had been dispossessed of their farms, and these - the dispossessed tenants - had resented this treatment. All through he found the same key-note. "The immediate cause of these disturbances," said one witness, "are the attempts to enforce the unjust demands by recourse to the law." A Stipendiary Magistrate in the Queen's County was asked if the spirit of outrage had not been got under, and the answer was it had not, and that the people always found some cause for it in every one of the cases brought under his notice. Then again, Mr. Blackburne, who afterwards became the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was asked his opinion of the cause of these outrages, and he, too, ascribed it to the same causes - the miserable condition of the peasantry, and the circumstances under which they remained on the land as tenants.
(The report will be continued.)

Source: The Echo, Tuesday April 2, 1889, Pages 2-3

* In regards to the periods of famine mentioned above, and the various causes of them, Sir Charles Russell neglected to mention the worst case of famine imaginable, and that is the case of "famine as punishment." The more common term for this "famine as punishment" is through the use of "boycotting." Here is the proof of enforced famine - individuals were forced by duress or threats of violence by the Land League to "boycott" tenants who paid their rent or took farms from evicted tenants and to not allow them to buy food in their markets, and to not feed them. To do so would result in violence. Many individuals who had assisted these boycotted person by pitying them had their ears cut off and other acts of gross violence committed upon them.


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