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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Fri 8 Feb 2013 - 2:27

Seventy-third Day of Proceedings - Thursday, May 2, 1889






For the first time since the recess, Mrs. Gladstone occupied her old seat in the Jury-box when the Court reassembled this morning. She was accompanied by her daughter, Mrs. Drew, the wife of the Rector of Hawarden. In the same box was Archbishop Walsh, and very near Mrs. Gladstone were Mr. and Mrs. Childers. Earl Compton stood on the Parnellite side of the Court during the earlier part of the day, subsequently taking a seat on the Bench, near Mr. Justice Day. Lady Phillimore, Lady Morrison, and Mrs. Asquith were also among those present.
What the Attorney-General calls "the celebrated last-link speech" was the first topic reverted to this morning. Was Mr. Parnell aware (asked the learned counsel) that the speech was reported verbatim in the Cincinnati Gazette, the same as in the Irish World, the day after it was delivered? - No; he had never heard that it was - he had never read it, and had never even seen it.


Mr. Joseph Nolan and his antecedents came next. Mr. Parnell had stated that he did not know Mr. Nolan was connected with the extreme party until 1885. Was he quite sure of that? - Yes. He was confident he knew nothing of him before that time. He certainly never knew of his associations with the Physical Force Party, but when the Special Committee appointed to inquire into the admission of strangers to the Houses of Parliament was sitting Mr. Nolan was much talked about amongst the Nationalist Members, as it was suggested that he had introduced somebody connected with the extreme party to the House.
To test the credibility of the statement, the Attorney-General read an extract from one of Mr. Parnell's speeches, delivered shortly after 1885, in which Mr. Parnell referred to Mr. Nolan as a person who, years ago, had, whenever life and liberty were in danger, gladly entered into the contest.
In the face of that speech could Mr. Parnell say that he did not know Mr. Nolan was a Fenian before 1885? - Mr. Parnell's reply was to the effect that it appeared from that speech he must have been told of the fact.
Again, in the course of a speech in his American tour of 1879, Mr. Parnell spoke of Mr. Nolan as one of the strongest supporters of the cause in days gone by. Pressed as the meaning of that term, Mr. Parnell declared that, while it was an "electioneering exaggeration," it was also true in every respect.


From this point the Attorney-General at once directed attention to the American tour.
"Nobody arranged our tour but ourselves," said the Irish leader. He added - in reply to a question - that he knew Alexander Sullivan arranged some of the meetings in the north-west part of the States, but he did not accompany him to the meetings.
When did he learn that Alexander Sullivan was a member of the Fenian Brotherhood? queried the Attorney-General. Mr. Parnell replied that it was when Le Caron mentioned it.
"Are you drawing any distinction between the Fenian Brotherhood and the Clan-Na-Gael?" asked the learned counsel; and Mr. Parnell said he was speaking of the Clan-Na-Gael. He never heard that it was alleged Alexander Sullivan was connected with it.
When asked if Dr. Carroll arranged for the witness's meetings in Philadelphia, Mr. Parnell answered, "In the coal and iron districts."
"I am not sufficiently acquainted with America to know which are the coal and iron districts," remarked the Attorney-General amid laughter. Mr. Parnell further explained that his meetings at Philadelphia were arranged by a large committee. He knew, he added - in further replying to his learned interrogator - O'Meagher Condon, who was connected with the Brett murder.
"Was he chairman of your Reception Committee at Washington?"
"Very possibly he was," answered the witness. "I know nothing of O'Meagher Condon, except that he was chairman of the Reception Committee. I know nothing of his alleged connection with the Clan-Na-Gael."
When asked if any other but the Clan-Na-Gael section proclaimed his success in his American tour, Mr. Parnell replied that the Conservative section in America referred to his tour as a success. He could not, he added, refer to any newspaper reports to support that statement. He brought over newspaper reports when he returned, but, added he, amid an outburst of laughter, "the mice got into my portmanteau and devoured them."


James Reynold was the next notability referred to by Sir Richard. - He was, said Mr. Parnell, chairman of his committee at Connecticut, but until the list was read by the Attorney-General, he (Mr. Parnell) did not know that James Reynolds had subscribed to the "Skirmishing Fund."
Next the Attorney-General alluded to John F. Finnerty, of Chicago. "I believe," said the learned counsel, "he is called an honourable for some reason" - and asked Mr. Parnell if he did not arrange for meetings for him and Mr. Dillon. Mr. Parnell replied that he was a member of the committee. He did not (he proceeded) know that Finnerty was a member of the Clan-Na-Gael; but he had heard he was a foolish man, and advocated the use of dynamite about the time that Ford started the Emergency Fund. He acted the part of disruptionist at one of the conventions. "I have," said Mr. Parnell, "never had occasion to repudiate Mr. Finnerty. I considered that in the House of Commons, when I repudiated Mr. Patrick Ford in 1883, I had repudiated every dynamiter in America."


"On the 12th of December, 1882, did you write a letter to Mr. Finnerty? asked the Attorney-General, at once proceeding to read the letter; but Sir Charles Russell immediately interfered, and urged that he had no right to read the letter.
The Attorney-General contended that he was entitled to read it, and then to ask Mr. Parnell whether he ever wrote such a letter. He added that the letter was published in the Nation of the 20th of January, 1883. He further thought that Sir Charles had interrupted him without due cause.
The President admitted that was so, but at the same time he thought Sir Richard might as well have mentioned where the letter came from at once. He was of opinion that the Attorney-General was entitled to read the letter.
Mr. Parnell said he was quite willing to admit that he wrote the letter.
Sir Richard Webster, however, read the letter, which was written to Mr. Finnerty by Mr. Parnell. In the epistle Mr. Parnell congratulated him on his election to the House of Representatives at Washington. He alluded to Mr. Finnerty as a personal friend at whose hands he had experienced much kindness and attention. "It was," the letter added, "a great boon to their cause that an Irishman of distinction in their movement should be elected to the House of Representatives at Washington." Sir Richard then asked Mr. Parnell whether he had heard of Mr. Finnerty's dynamite speeches before 1883; but Mr. Parnell averred that he had not. He also again declared that he condemned Mr. Finnerty's action in advocating a foolish and unlawful policy at the time he denounced the action of Patrick Ford in the House of Commons.
Now, can you tell me one chairman of your Reception Committee who was not a member of the Clan-Na-Gael? - I did not know who were members of the Clan-Na-Gael. Owing to their high positions my impression was that they did not belong to any secret society.


Do you not know that the question was discussed in the Nationalist papers as to the combining of physical force with the Land League? - Certainly not.
Are you aware now that a long correspondence appeared in the Nation in the year 1878, signed by John Devoy, in relation to the proposed "new departure" - namely, the combination of the Land League with the party who advocated physical force. Did you hear of that correspondence at the time? I don't think I heard of it at the time; neither do I now admit that that correspondence was the subject of repeated discussion among the leaders of the agitation in 1879.
Sir Richard then at once directed attention to the term "new departure." He understood (proceeded Mr. Parnell) that the term "new departure" meant the combination of the political with the agrarian movement.


Mr. Parnell admitted that he knew John Devoy was interested in the success of the National League in America, but he had no specific knowledge that he had been in direct communication with Mr. Davitt about the constitution of the League in Ireland.
Have you ever severed the connection between the Land League and John Devoy? - Certainly not.
The Attorney-General at this stage read from a speech of John Devoy, quoted by Sir William Harcourt, in the House of Commons, in 1881, in which it was stated, "For every Irishman murdered we will take the life of a British Minister." It went on to say that for every hundred Irishmen sacrificed they would take the lives of the British Ministers. Then Sir William Harcourt went on in his speech to declare that the hon. Member for Cork referred to a dynamite explosion at Salford as a practical joke.
Mr. Parnell explained that he had not full information at the time he made the allusion. He regretted he treated it so lightly. He could not say that he read the speech of Sir William Harcourt. He thought he was in Paris at the time.
The Attorney-General asked if people were killed at that explosion, and the witness said he believed there were. "Did you," asked the Attorney-General, "ever correct the statement that the Salford explosion was a practical joke?"
"I did subsequently," said Mr. Parnell. He added that he had expressed regret that he had treated the matter so lightly, but he could not say when it was delivered.
"Will you be good enough," said the Attorney-General, "to allow some of your numerous friends to search for that passage, and I will put it in?"
Mr. Parnell said he could not say positively that he had made such a speech, but it was his impression he had done so.
"This was a very terrible circumstance," repeated the Attorney-General, "and you treated it as a joke." - "No," said Mr. Parnell, with emphasis. "I did not treat it as a joke. I said I understood it was a practical joke. We know persons have been injured by deplorable practical jokes."


He had, said Mr. Parnell, recurring to Devoy, remonstrated with him.
"Have you ever," at once asked Sir Richard Webster, "addressed a remonstrance to Devoy in your life?" - "The remonstrance that I addressed to Devoy was in 1881, by cable, from the House of Commons," replied Mr. Parnell. "I have never had any communication with Devoy from that day to this."
Sir Charles Russell, here rising, wished that the cable should be read; he had it in Court.
The Attorney-General said the cablegram was not proved or suggested in the evidence-in-chief.
Sir C. Russell - Why should it have been?
Sir J. Hannen pointed out that Mr. Parnell communicated with Devoy in consequence of the speech of Sir W. Harcourt.
Sir C. Russell - I have the cablegram here.
The cable message was then read. It was dated from the House of Commons, and was as follows: - "February 21, 1881, to John Devoy: You are reported to have sent a threatening telegram to the Home Secretary. If true, action most censurable. If untrue, cable contradiction."
The Attorney-General (warmly) said he would reserve his action as to that cable.


The Attorney-General (to Mr. Parnell) - Have you denounced the use of dynamite advocated in speeches? - I was ignorant of those speeches.
Will you pledge your word that you have condemned the use of dynamite, except in a speech in the House of Commons? - I do not remember.
Have you said one word against dynamite except on the one occasion in the House of Commons? - I think it very possible I have.
I call upon you to produce any speech or single utterance, from 1879 to 1888, in which you have denounced dynamite? - I do not carry all my speeches in my head, or any great portion of them, but I will be glad to look and see what references I have made on the subject.


The Attorney-General next read a speech delivered in the House of Commons by Sir William Harcourt, in which he said he charged that John Devoy, who was a convicted Fenian, was an organiser of the Land League. That same Land League was organised by convicted Fenians and by men who were well known to be connected with the Fenian conspiracy? - Mr. Parnell admitted that he might have been present when that speech was made, but that he did not recollect it.
Now you say that the only communication you made to Devoy was when you sent a telegram to him concerning the allegation that he had threatened Sir William Harcourt. On the following day, in the House of Commons, you stated that you had received a message from Devoy stating that he had not threatened Sir William Harcourt. Sir William Harcourt had said he would stamp on the Fenians; and the Fenians were, therefore, justified in saying they would stamp, not upon Sir William Harcourt, but upon his Government? - That was the only communication I had with him, and it was the only time I mentioned his name.


The Attorney-General next questioned Mr. Parnell with regard to the conduct of the Land League during the year 1880. - Mr. Parnell said he returned from America in March, 1880, but knew nothing about the management of the League in 1880 until he went over to Ireland in September. The management of the League during that time was left in the hands of Mr. Egan. He admitted that men like Mr. Matthew Harris, and Brennan, and John Walsh, of Ballagh, might have been making speeches in the North-west of Ireland.


Do you know Father Eugene Sheehy? - Yes.
Was he a Fenian? - Not so far as I know.
When did you last see him? - I have not seen him for some years.
Are you acquainted with his speeches? - In a general way. I should say he made advanced speeches.
Do you think they are constitutional? - Yes.
They are not capable of any interpretation as encouraging outrage or physical force? - They may be capable of suggesting that if constitutional agitation had failed that physical force might be resorted to. Father Sheehy is now a parish priest in Ireland.
Now, do you know John Fergusson? - Yes, I was introduced to him by Mr. Butt.
Did you know he was a Fenian? - I did not, and I don't believe it now. He was an eloquent speaker.
Oh, no doubt; all Irishmen are.
Mr. Parnell - I am sorry to say I am a prominent exception. (Laughter.) He did not, he assured the Attorney-General, inquire into the personnel of those persons who were nominated as organisers by Mr. Davitt, but he invariably inquired as to their fitness for the duties. He did not seek to inquire whether they had been, in a bygone period, connected with the Fenian movement.


Did you know the Fenian oath, Mr. Parnell? - Oh! dear no. I do not know it now, although I have heard various versions.
And, notwithstanding your connection with the persons who you were brought into contact with, you did not seek to inquire? - (Smiling) Never. I had no occasion.
Did you know how the Fenians treated traitors to their cause? - Well, I have heard that they invariably assassinated them.
Cross-examined as to the breaking up of the Land League meeting in the Rotunda at Dublin, Mr. Parnell very emphatically declared that from information he had received, he was satisfied the party that attacked the meeting was not the Stephenite Party, but a directly organised party under the control of the Council of the I.R.B. in Dublin.


Asked whether he had on any occasion rebuked, publicly or privately, any of his colleagues for their speeches, Mr. Parnell replied that he had especially called Mr. W. Redmond to account for certain speeches he had delivered, and he had found fault with the conduct of some of his colleagues, in this respect, in the House of Commons. As to Mr. R.W. Redmond, Mr. Parnell continued: - "I looked upon Mr. Redmond as being a very enthusiastic, sincere young man - perhaps rash (looking towards Mr. Redmond, who was sitting in the Court). It is hard to put old heads upon young shoulders, but it is a fault which time usually remedies if people live long enough." (Laughter.)


"You have stated," said the Attorney-General, "that you are opposed to outrage. Did you ever in Ireland denounce outrage?" - "Yes, certainly," replied Mr. Parnell, referring to a book of his printed speeches, "on the 2nd of November, 1879, at Bala, I said, "Let us act within the law and within the constitution." At Swinford about the same time I expressed a hope that the people would abstain from being tempted to follow the violent and illegal conduct of the Government, or be excited to acts of violence in retaliation for the arrest of their leaders." Mr. Parnell also referred to speeches at Castlereagh, on the 7th of September, 1879, and New Ross, and other places. At New Ross, on the 26th of September, 1880, he denounced the attempted shooting of a land agent, and said, "I wish to point out that a recourse to such methods of procedure is entirely unnecessary and absolutely prejudicial where there is a suitable organisation amongst the tenants themselves." The assassination of the land agent had then been attempted at a place near where that speech was delivered.


The Attorney-General (reading) - "Entirely unnecessary and absolutely prejudicial where there is a suitable organisation amongst the tenants themselves." Did the witness regard that as denunciation of outrage?
Mr. Parnell replied that he did. It was likely to influence persons against the commission of outrage.
Mr. Parnell again repeated - in reply to further questions on the topic from the Attorney-General - that at this time he did denounce crime, but he admitted that he did not do so as strongly as he now thought it was necessary that he should at that time have denounced crime. The reason of that was that he was not then sufficiently well informed as to the rapid increase of crime in Ireland. Otherwise he would have followed Mr. Davitt's example, and would have more strongly denounced outrages. Mr. Parnell then proceeded to read other speeches which he made in various parts of Ireland at the latter end of 1880, in which he denounced outrages. In one of those speeches, he urged that the Land League had saved the tenants from eviction, and had also saved the lives of the landlords.


Mr. Parnell also put in a Manifesto which was issued by the Irish Members, and published in the Freeman's Journal in February, 1881. It ran as follows: - "Fellow-countrymen, we abjure you to maintain the noble attitude that has already assured your ultimate victory. Reject every attempt to lead you to conflict, disorder, or crime."
In reference to a question by the Attorney-General, relating to agrarian crime in Ireland, Mr. Parnell said that the number of outrages accompanying the earlier agrarian and social movements was very much in excess of those which accompanied the Land League movement. He could not, however, now produce statistics in support of that statement.
Sir Richard Webster then dealt with the Government returns for the period between 1849 and 1879, and asked Mr. Parnell whether he could refer to any official report in those returns of a man being punished for paying his rent, or for taking an evicted farm. Mr. Parnell said he had no doubt there were such cases, but he had not come prepared with returns.
Then are you prepared to say that during those years, and prior to 1879, any organisation existed to prevent persons taking an evicted farm. - I have no doubt they have existed from time to time. For instance, at the time of the Westmeath troubles in 1869.
The Court then adjourned for luncheon.


Upon resuming, the Attorney-General handed to Mr. Parnell an official outrage return. He explained that it was a summary of the returns ranging between 1846 and 1886. He especially called attention to the fact that the returns showed that by far the largest number of families evicted was between the years 1849 and 1856. For instance, in 1849 the evictions amounted to 16,686; in 1850 to 19,949; and in 1851 to 13,197, gradually diminishing in later years.
At this point the President observed that he did not see the object of the introduction of the figures at that moment.
The Attorney-General replied that he wished to show what the outrages really were.
The President thought that was an inconvenient moment for putting the statistics in, and consequently the Attorney-General altered his course.
"Did you suggest," he asked, "that the No-rent Manifesto was an act of retaliation for your arrest?" - "It was undoubtedly an act of retaliation."
Do you suggest that it was in consequence of your arrest? - It would not have been issued had I not been arrested.
Had it not been suggested or advocated by prominent members of the Land League long before your arrest? - It had been suggested by Mr. Brennan and Mr. Egan in the country during the Parliamentary Session, and I wrote to Mr. Egan remonstrating with him for his advocacy of such a measure. I may say that the measure was drawn up in Kilmainham Jail by Mr. William O'Brien.
Did Mr. Davitt put his name to it? - No.
How was his name appended? - Mr. Brennan told me that he had the authority to append the name.
Will you undertake to say that long before your arrest the measure was not in contemplation? - To the best of my recollection, it was not.
I will read a statement by Mr. Patrick Ford. In this statement Mr. Ford asserted that some months before Mr. Parnell's arrest, the No-rent Manifesto was prepared; but Mr. Parnell again most emphatically said he had no recollection that it was, and, being pressed, declared that Ford's statement was untrue.


"Your views, I understand, Mr. Parnell, distinctly are that so far as you could get benefits by constitutional agitation," said the Attorney-General, "you were to work for them, and the only methods would be constitutional agitation."
"Certainly," replied Mr. Parnell, "I never contemplated any other method"; the witness adding, when the Attorney-General referred to Egan's No-rent Manifesto, "I think Mr. Egan took up the same attitude as Mr. Davitt and other men who had been connected with the Physical Force Party.
Do you allege that Egan agreed with you that, so far as you could get benefits by constitutional means, they would be adopted? - Egan always agreed with me that the means used should be constitutional means.


The Attorney-General read a manifesto, issued in September, 1881, by Patrick Egan, which commenced, "The Government of England has urged war against the Irish people." It went on to say, "It remains for the people to prove themselves dastards or men. Pay no rent. Persons who do should be visited with the severest sentence of social ostracism." He asked the witness if it was what he considered adopting a constitutional line of agitation.
Mr. Parnell - I think it is a very condemnable manifesto.
The Attorney-General - Have you ever until this day condemned Patrick Egan's Manifesto? - That was issued after my arrest. It was circulated throughout Ireland, as a placard, by Mr. Egan's directions. We, in Kilmainham, saw, through the newspapers, that this placard had been circulated. I at once told Mr. Brennan, who was in prison at Kilmainham, that I strongly objected to the terms of the placard, and requested him to write to Mr. Egan to withdraw it from circulation, which he promised to do, and which, I believe, was done.
The Attorney-General said that he presumed any letter which went out of Kilmainham publicly would be inspected by the Governor; and Mr. Parnell replied that he did not think the letter went out of the prison publicly.


Now I want to call your attention to an article in United Ireland in September, 1882, concerning the Land Act of 1881. The article was headed "Perish Landlordism." It declared that it was an endeavour to perpetuate landlordism, to fix rents for fifteen years, and to prolong that system which has been the cause of evil and confiscation, and the cause of Irish poverty, crime, and murder.
Mr. Parnell admitted that that was rather a strong expression of opinion.
Mr. Davitt here interposed, and stated that that paragraph happened to be an extract from one of his speeches.
The Attorney-General asked Mr. Parnell whether he agreed with that expression of opinion, and Mr. Parnell replied that he thought there was a great deal of truth in it. When the Land Act of 1881 was passed the Irish Party were willing to give it a trial, although they believed it would be found impossible to reconcile the joint interest of the landlord and the tenant with the soil, and that ultimately proved to be the case.
The Attorney-General called Mr. Parnell's attention to another article in United Ireland, in which it was stated that landlordism was to be destroyed, and asked him whether he agreed with that statement? - Undoubtedly, replied Mr. Parnell.


"I thoroughly approve (he proceeded) of the destruction of landlordism. We proposed to destroy landlordism by purchasing the soil and making tenants the owners of their homes." Mr. Parnell further admitted that Mr. W. O'Brien was the editor of United Ireland. He was a trusted member of the Land League, but his salary was paid - not out of the funds of the League, but out of the profits of the paper. United Ireland was certainly purchased by Land League money, some of which was undoubtedly sent from America, but Mr. Parnell denied that a special fund was started in America for the purpose of buying that paper.
Had any other journal a more official connection with the League? - I think you might fairly assume that United Ireland was the chief organ of the League, but there were other organs throughout the country connected with the League.
The Irishman for instance? - The Irishman ceased to exist about a year after the League bought United Ireland.
But during that year it was under the control of the Land League? - It was under the control of Mr. W. O'Brien.
(The report will be continued.)


At Tipperary today, Judge Anderson affirmed the sentence of four months' imprisonment passed on Messrs. John O'Connor and Condon, Members of Parliament; three months on Dr. Tanner, and two months on Mr. Manning, M.P. for Waterford, for offences under the Crimes Act.

Source: The Echo, Thursday May 2, 1889, Pages 2-3

Karen Trenouth
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