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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Tue 5 Feb 2013 - 11:20

Seventieth Day of Proceedings - Friday, April 12, 1889






There was an unusually large attendance at the Court today. In fact, the Press seats - which have hitherto been strictly reserved by the Secretary - were filled by spectators, and several Pressmen were compelled to discharge their functions under circumstances of great difficulty. Mrs. and Miss Gladstone, Lady Day, Lady Russell, Lady Mathews, Miss Mathews, Sir Arthur and Lady Hayter, Miss Hill, Mrs. Lewis, Miss Russell, and Mr. Childers were amongst those who had seats in the body of the Court.


Sir Charles Russell resumed his speech shortly after half-past ten. They had, he said, endeavoured to lay before the Court, in a methodical manner, the evidence produced by the prosecution. He had now, in view of the evidence, to ask to be allowed to consider the specific and weighty nature of the charges made by the Times. He had collected the charges under nine heads, which he proposed to detail and read in the light of extracts from "Parnellism and Crime." The first charge was: -

"That the Land League leaders deliberately based their movement upon schemes of assassination and outrage."

It was a deliberate charge that the leaders used outrage and murder as a means by which their political aims were to be attained. That view was endorsed by the Attorney-General in opening the case of "O'Donnell v. Walter," because, after reading an extract from "Parnellism and Crime," he observed that that was "a true statement, and one that he would prove." In another portion of the libelous articles it was asserted that Mr. Gladstone and his party had allied themselves with a party whose ultimate object was plunder and murder. As the name of that great man had been defamed, he wished to make a passing reference to him. Their Lordships would see that a deliberate attempt was made in these libels to eke out their charges by quoting some of the words of that eminent man and some of his former colleagues. It was enough for his purpose to know that their Lordships would consider not such declarations as that, but, rather, the evidence that was produced. But he wished to note that these former utterances were cited by the libelers at the very time that they were denouncing the policy of conciliation introduced by Mr. Gladstone, the introduction of which policy was the best proof, the strongest proof, that could be given, that his later views of the Irish Question, and of the duty and conduct of the Irish leaders, was founded upon a truer, and juster, and more reliable source of information than any he had previously possessed.


He felt yesterday, when he was dealing with the letters, that he was flogging a dead horse. But take away the letters, and they found that there was not a tittle of evidence against the persons charged; indeed, he asked which of their Lordships would, were this a criminal case in which the lives or freedom of person were at stake, think there was sufficient evidence to go to a Jury.


This brought him to the second charge. It was this: -

"That the leaders, by their own efforts and those of their subordinates, directly incited the people to outrage, and took no steps, by speech or act, to prevent or to condemn outrage."

What evidence had they produced to bear out this assertion? They had simply produced the man, Bernard O'Malley, the police reporter, who had deposed to having reported as many as 200 speeches in the course of his duties.


The third charge was: -

"That if, at any time, any of the leaders have verbally condemned or discouraged outrage and crime, their language was insincere and hypocritical."

Extracts from "Parnellism and Crime" were also produced in illustration of this contention. The statement that Mr. Parnell did not condemn crime, or if he did, was insincere, was untrue, and anyone who knew Mr. Parnell and his colleagues, how prostrated they were when news of the dastardly murder in the Phoenix Park reached them, knew it to be untrue. The fourth charge was -

"That no other cause has been or could be suggested for crime in Ireland from or in 1879 except the agitation of the Land League and the speeches of its leaders."

In view of the arguments - the historical arguments - with which he had been obliged to trouble their Lordships at very considerable length, he need not make any further answer to that charge. But how imperfectly must the Attorney-General have been instructed when he made that statement!


The fifth charge was: -

"That the funds of the Land League were habitually used to pay for outrage, and to procure the escape from justice of criminals."

"Not a tittle of evidence," said Sir Charles, "had been given in support of that charge. The sixth charge was: -

"That at the time of the Kilmainham negotiations Mr. Parnell knew that Sheridan and Boyton had been organising outrage, and, therefore, wished to use them to put down outrage."

"Where," asked Sir Charles, with raised voice, "in all the heterogeneous mass which had been placed before your Lordships, is there one scintilla of evidence of outrage or organisation by Sheridan in the West, or of outrage organised by Boyton in the East?" "There is none," the learned counsel replied.


The seventh charge was: -

"That the Invincibles were a branch of the Land League, and were organised and paid by Egan, the Treasurer of the Land League."

That statement had been made on a rotten ground, that had crumbled away beneath the feet of the Attorney-General himself, namely on the ground of the forged Egan and Carey letters. Their Lordships would see (said Sir Charles) that those letters - which were contained in the second batch - were forged to fit in with the theory that the Land League and the leaders of the Land League were parties to that atrocious conspiracy. He repealed that he charged the Times, in accepting those letters so injudiciously, with being carried away by partisanship and by a desire to injure political opponents.


The eighth charge was: -

"That Mr. Parnell was intimate with the leading Invincibles, that he learned from them what they were about when he was released on parole in April, 1882, that he recognised the Phoenix-park murders as their handiwork, and that, knowing it, under threats, and partly in fear of his life, he secretly qualified and revoked the condemnation which he had thought it policy publicly to pronounce."

He cared not, said Sir Charles, that the Attorney-General had said the Times did not charge that Mr. Parnell had knowledge of such crimes as that of the Phoenix Park. The articles showed - and no one who heard him read from them, or had read them could doubt it, that the Times had attempted to level at the heads of Mr. Parnell and certain of his colleagues the charge that they had fore-knowledge, and were taking, and had taken, active part in this most atrocious crime.


The ninth and last charge was: -

"That Mr. Parnell, on the 23rd of January, 1883, by an opportune remittance, enabled Byrne to escape from justice to France."

This charge was formulated in two or three places in the series of articles, said Sir Charles, and it was one of the most definite and specific of the series. They would remember, from the evidence of Mulqueeny, that the English Branch of the Land League, of which Byrne was secretary, frequently received remittances from the Dublin or Central Branch. The story began in 1881, when Byrne, who was ill, wrote to Mr. Parnell asking for 100 pounds for the funds of the League, as they were at that time at a very low ebb. No answer was received, and again Byrne wrote, asking for money to carry on the League in England, and discharging liabilities to the office staff, and pay the rent. This letter, the learned counsel wished it to be particularly understood, was addressed by the secretary of the English Branch to Mr. Parnell, as head of the Irish Branch of the League. On the 9th of January, 1882, Mr. Parnell forwarded to the Irish Branch as sum of 260 pounds he had received from America for the funds of the League. On the 17th of that month, at a meeting of the Committee of the League, in Dublin, this resolution was passed: - "That the application of Mr. Parnell for a grant of 100 pounds in aid of the Land and Labour League of Great Britain should be acceded to, and that the treasurer be empowered to forward that amount." In the books of the League was the entry to the effect that the money had been forwarded. Then came Byrne's letter, in which the fact is mentioned that he had received the money on the day he left London, and in which also was enclosed a balance-sheet showing how the money had been expended, and the balance that was handed over to Mr. Quinn.


What right had the Times to make the assertion that Mr. Parnell had paid the money to aid Byrne to escape? They had no knowledge of the letter of Quinn, the treasurer, until the eve of the trial of "O'Donnell v. Walter"; they had no knowledge of the letter of the Executive until during the case of "O'Donnell v. Walter." And it came, said Mr. Macdonald, to him from what quarter he knew not, in an envelope without a name, or anything to identify its sender. If they had neither of those letters, where was the information on which these grave, these terrible charges were based? Were representatives of the Times receiving information from traitors in the employment of the Land League, and were they, upon such tainted information, launching such accusations against the characters of public men? Now that the story had been told, what did it disclose? A plain, straightforward, thoroughly innocent transaction, in which Mr. Parnell was made the medium of the League, through whom the cheque was passed on to Mr. Byrne for the work of the branch in England. He went further, and declared that not only did this give no foundation for the foul charge, but it ought to have conveyed to them, if their minds and judgments were not wholly blurred, and if their sense of right feeling and discernment were not wholly gone, that this was a perfectly honest and above-board transaction, and far from any guilty connivance to procure the escape of a guilty criminal. No words of his could add to the simple, clear, and unmistakable business character of the transaction.


He, however, asked the Court to consider the evidence - the utterly insignificant and weak evidence the Times had produced in support of this serious charge. The writer of "Parnellism and Crime" was not called as a witness. He was a young man, and, was supposed to be possessed of great literary ability. He could better have employed those abilities than in using them to defame his countrymen and to discredit his country's cause. He had certainly shown great ingenuity in putting together into a curious mosaic - literally a mosaic - politics of the gravest indictment against the Irish leaders. It was, however, but due to him to say that he was only the machine - only the creature of others, and that the pen which was put into his hands was a pen dipped in political gall.


The object of those who had induced him to write those articles seemed to have been to make charges broad enough, strong enough, and blasting enough to blacken the character of their political opponents, their belief apparently being that if accusations strong enough and frequently enough were lodged, they would - however foundationless - injure the men against whom they were directed.

Call him black names,
Spread calumnies all art can think and pregnant spite devise,
Strike him - gash deep - no lies, no slander spare,
A wound, though cured, yet leaves behind a scar.


Sir Charles then went on to claim that he had shown that there had been a failure on the part of Parliament to protect the tenants against evictions in times of distress, and that the landlord class failed in the circumstances of the times to broadly, generously, patriotically meet the necessities of that unhappy country. He had shown that, with the circumstances of the times, nothing more could be expected than that the tenants, being left entirely unprotected, would enter into a combination amongst themselves to guard against, and, if possible, prevent a recurrence of those nameless horrors of the famine years of 1846 and 1847. He would again remind their Lordships that they were trying the history of a ten years' revolution in Ireland - a revolution partly social and partly political; and they were trying it at a moment when, by the legal process of the Queen's Courts, the Irish people were gathering the fruits of that revolution. He would take the opportunity to express his belief - and he had never thought otherwise - that their Lordships would try that case honestly upon the evidence, and without predilection or political feeling.


There were (said Sir Charles) two parties in Ireland. First, there was the National Party, which was composed of the majority of the people, which looked for support from the people of Ireland; and then there was the other and smaller party, which looked for support to influences coming not from the people amongst whom they lived and derived their support, but influences external to Ireland. The first party was a great political party in Ireland, but the other had ceased to be a political party in Ireland.


"We are now told," continued Sir Charles, "that there are signs of returning prosperity to Ireland, gleams of returning health and happiness. If that be so, I say, sincerely, Dei gratia to it. It is also said that crime is diminishing in Ireland. If that is so, I again say, Dei gratia. But it cannot be a healthy, a stable state of things, with such events in relation to the land question - as we hear of today being enacted in co. Donegal. The real preventive to crime in Ireland is the belief that is strong in Irish breasts today, that the time is coming when such painful and lamentable occurrences will at last be put an end to.


My Lords, for the work in bringing this consummation - this consummation devoutly to be wished - so close at hand the Irish Party stand before your Lordships' Bar today. They have done marvelous work in ten years - marvelous in the face of the difficulties they have had to contend against. In the beginning of those years - it is no exaggeration to say - the peasant farmer stood tremblingly, with bated breath and whispering humbleness, in the presence of the landlord, agent, and bailiff. He had no spur to industry, and no security that he could reap what he had sown. But today he can stand erect, as becomes a free citizen in a free country. Although the charter of his liberty is not yet complete, he has derived some protection in the legislation of 1881 and subsequent years which men such as these, who are styled agitators, have helped to accomplish.


My Lords, with a restricted, narrow franchise, Ireland spoke with an uncertain voice. Now, with a fuller franchise, Ireland speaks as a practically united people. Then, secret organisations burrowed beneath the surface of society, and constituted a great political and social factor in the community; today, thank God for it, a great majority of the people have been won to placing their faith in constitutional means of redress; then, a great many of the people were possessed with a feeling of despair for past efforts made and unrequited sacrifices; today, hope has come in, and is buoyant in their breast; then, they looked upon their countrymen on this island with distrust, if not with hate; today, they are willing to hold out the hand of brotherly friendship, to let bygones be bygones, and let for ever be buried the memories of persecution and bygone miscries; then, perhaps most hopeful change of all, the people of this country, busied with their own concerns, knew little, or thought little, or cared little for Ireland; today, they have taken their question to heart, and, recognising the truth of the fact that misrule in Ireland means weakness to the Empire, they have taken an interest in the solution of this question in recent years formerly unknown.


I have come, my Lords, to the end. I cannot sit down without expressing the obligation I owe to your Lordships in according me so attentive a hearing. I have spoken not merely as an advocate. I have spoken for the land of my birth; but I feel, profoundly feel, that I have been speaking to, and in, the best interests of England - the country where my years of laborious life have been passed, and where I have received kindness, consideration, and regard, which I shall be glad in making an attempt to repay. My colleagues and myself have had a responsible duty. We have had to defend, not merely the leaders of the nation, but the nation itself; to defend the leaders of a nation whom it was sought to scourge; to defend a nation whose hopes it was to sought to cast and dash to the ground. This inquiry, intended as a curse, has proved a blessing. Designed - pre-eminently designed - to ruin one man, it has been his vindication.


In opening this case, I said that we represented the accused. My Lords, I claim leave to say that today the position is the reverse. We are the accusers, the accused are here (pointing to the Times counsel and representatives of that journal). I hope that this inquiry, in its future development, will serve more than a vindication of individuals; that it will remove the baneful misconceptions as to the character, the motives, and the aims of the Irish people and the leaders of the Irish people; that it will set earnest minds - and, thank God, there are many earnest, thoughtful minds in this country - thinking for themselves upon this question; that it will remove gross misconceptions; that it will hasten the day of true union and true reconciliation between the people of Ireland and the people of Great Britain; and that with the advent of that true union and reconciliation there will be dispelled, and for ever dispelled, the cloud, the weighty cloud, that has rested on the history of a noble race, and dimmed the glory of a mighty Empire.
Sir Charles, who was very visibly affected, resumed his seat amidst general signs of kindred feeling on the part of the spectators. There was an attempt at applause, which was immediately suppressed, and the Court rose immediately for the Easter vacation. It will sit again on April 30.

Source: The Echo, Friday April 12, 1889, Page 2

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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