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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Wed 13 Feb 2013 - 10:54

Seventy-seventh Day of Proceedings - Thursday, May 9, 1889




Archbishop Walsh arrived today very early. He at once went into the witness-box, where he stood conversing with several clerical friends. Near the witness-box sat the Duchess of St. Albans, and close at hand was Mrs. Gladstone. Among others in the Court were Sir John Millais, Sir G. Trevelyan, the Bishop of Galway, Lady Liddersdale, Mrs. Stewart and Miss Stewart, and Mr. Jacob Bright, M.P.


Directly the Judges took their seats Sir Charles Russell rose and said: "I wish to be allowed to make a reference to the incident that occurred yesterday, and say that I feel that I improperly persisted in the expression of an opinion which I very strongly entertained, after you expressed your view about the matter, and I feel that I ought to make this acknowledgment."
The President - I accept the apology, and I do trust that the case will be conducted in the future in the spirit in which it has been for some considerable time past. I had reason to complain, and I am very glad Sir Charles Russell has thought fit to say this.


The examination of Archbishop Walsh by Mr. Reid was continued. The Archbishop asserted that in various parts of Ireland there was discontent, caused principally by and through evictions. So great did this become, that he felt it necessary to visit various parts. At one place the people presented him with an address, in which was this paragraph: -
"Your Grace's presence amongst us, while it will redouble our exertions on behalf of our country, will purify and elevate our efforts, and bring home to us the fact that

"Freedom comes from God's right hand,
And needs a godly train;
'Tis righteousness alone can make
Our nation once again."

That, observed the Archbishop, was a well-known quotation much in vogue in Ireland.
The President thought the extract could have no practical effect.
Mr. Reid replied that it showed that the people did not look to outrage as a means of redress for their wrongs.
Resuming his examination of the Archbishop, he asked - What has been the effect, in the districts you visited, of the action of the League? - It has, I find, tended to control the people, who regarded the League as a means of bringing about a better state of things.


Are you aware that the National League in any way or instance encouraged crime? - I know of one instance in which a local branch of the League acted in a way which I considered indiscreet and improper - not exactly criminal, but foolish and dangerous.
Where was that? - It was the action of a suburban branch, a few miles out of the city of Dublin. It came to my knowledge that this branch had passed a resolution that a list should be published of all persons who were not members of the branch of the League in the district. I considered that a very foolish and improper proceeding, and I communicated with Mr. Harrington, who inquired into the matter. The Archbishop went on to say that all through his diocese secret societies were sternly denounced.
Did you notice that secret societies existed in your diocese? - Speaking of the rural districts I have reason to believe they have practically disappeared.


In reply to further questions by Mr. Reid, the witness said he had for a considerable number of years past been familiar with the attitude of the people - their social and political feeling - in matters of public importance, such as in Parliamentary Elections.
The President remarked that that was a point upon which any man of education might give an opinion.
Mr. Reid - My object in putting it is to show the tendency of this agitation in different parts of the country, because the evidence has been mainly as to the condition of the people in three or four counties - whether, since the inception of this national movement, the people have been, so far as the Archbishop's information goes, withdrawn from secret action, and have taken the open, Parliamentary action.
The President - Put it.
Mr. Reid repeated the question, and Archbishop Walsh replied - Yes; there is a great amount of interest taken and popular enthusiasm manifested on those occasions - when candidates for the Parliamentary Party are returned. In the earlier period, of which I have spoken, there was a widespread indifferentism with reference to such matters. People then seemed to have lost all confidence in political and constitutional agitation.
In answer to Mr. Biggar, the witness said that "land-grabbing" was unpopular now. It was most unpopular before the inception of the Land League. The Magistrates were, as a rule, taken from a class opposed to any popular movement.


Mr. Atkinson then cross-examined the Archbishop, with a view to show that when the witness formed his opinion that the Land League was not connected with crime he was not aware of the teachings of the Irish Parliamentary Party. He disapproved (said Dr. Walsh) of a great deal he had seen in United Ireland, but he had not been a constant reader of that paper. He had never denounced its teachings. "It never came before me for denunciation," added the witness. He heard the extracts read from the Irishman when Mr. Parnell was in the box, and thought they were abominable. He (witness) had never seen a copy of it. He had never heard of land-grabbers being held up to execration in speeches made by Members of Parliament. He was, he proceeded, not aware that boycotting was one of the recognised by-laws of the League.


Mr. Atkinson immediately called the Archibishop's attention to a speech made by Mr. Davitt, in Virginia, in which he said that the by-laws of the Irish Land League declared that no person who had taken an evicted farm should be allowed to become a member of the League, and that no matter how many farms were evicted, the land should remain untenanted until the system was abolished. The Archbishop pointed out that that by-law referred to persons not being allowed to join the League who took evicted farms, and not that the League would prevent persons from taking an evicted farm.
Do you approve of a man being boycotted for taking an evicted farm? - I cannot see how you can prevent a man taking a farm if he wishes to take it. I knew of a man who was evicted under the most cruel circumstances, and his farm, I considered, was taken in an unjust way.


Do you know that it was one of the doctrines of the League that a man should not take an evicted farm?
I never heard of it. I always understood that the leaders of the League made a distinction between just and unjust evictions. I think the cases of boycotting in my diocese were extremely rare.
Do you know that men were boycotted in many parts of Ireland for taking evicted farms? - I do. That was with the countenance of the local branches, but was frequently disapproved of by the central organisation, when brought under consideration. It was, he added, one of the recognised punishments for a person taking a farm from which a tenant had been unjustly evicted.
Who, according to the practice of the League, was to be the judge of the injustice? - It was referred to the popular sentiment of the country, including the trusted leaders of the people, both ecclesiastical and political. The Archbishop admitted that he had read in the newspapers reports of persons going and making peace with the League, and of the ban of boycotting being taken off. He had also read reports of persons who were under the ban of boycotting being outraged. He had, however, no means of forming an opinion as to whether those statements were true or not. He thought such things must have occurred. He had, he repeated, taken no steps to inquire if those statements were true or not.


Do you approve of the practice commonly called boycotting in Ireland? - Many practices in Ireland go by that name.
I ask you to note my question - "Commonly called boycotting." - Many things are "commonly called boycotting" in Ireland. (Laughter.)
Will you explain the particular kind of boycotting you approve of, and what you do not approve of? - I do not approve of boycotting which is intimidation. I think the only sense in which boycotting could be tolerated is the one which goes under the name of exclusive dealing. That is, in certain cases, a tolerant proceeding, under certain limits, on the part of tenants, but nothing beyond that. But when pressure is put upon persons to join those combinations, that is a proceeding most reprehensible.


Mr. Atkinson then read the well-known extract from Mr. Parnell's Ennis speech - the "shun the man" ovation - as to boycotting.
Mr. Parnell, interrupting, reminded the Court that he had not been questioned concerning that speech, and urged that he should have been asked the meaning he attached to it before anybody else was asked.
Mr. Atkinson, nevertheless, proceeded to read the following extract from the speech: - "If a man has taken a farm from which another has been evicted -."
Mr. Parnell - I maintain I said "unjustly evicted."
Mr. Atkinson (continuing) - "You must shun him on the road when you meet him, shun him in the street of the town, shun him at the shop-counter, and even in the place of worship - leave him severely alone, and put him in a moral Coventry." Archbishop Walsh declined to state whether that was his definition of boycotting, or to express an opinion on that paragraph without first having had time to consider it.


Having read an extract from a speech by one of the Messrs. Redmond, in the course of which the landgrabber was referred to as a person who should be boycotted, Mr. Atkinson asked the Archbishop if he did not think that speech would lead to the perpetration of an outrage upon a landgrabber? - No, was the reply; the very essence of the Land League creed was that boycotting was the only effectual means of putting down outrages in the country. The Archbishop wished to add that if he was expected to give an opinion on all Mr. Redmond's speeches he thought he should be allowed an opportunity of reading them. It was scarcely fair that complicated extracts should be read, and that he should then be asked to express an opinion upon them.
The President replied that it was necessary, under such circumstances, that the Archbishop should be allowed to see certain paragraphs, as the same answer could not apply to each.
Mr. Atkinson did not persevere with Mr. Redmond's speeches, but again asked the witness's opinion on boycotting, which he repeated he could not give unless the word were properly defined.


Mr. Atkinson, in proceeding, put some questions to the witness respecting the drawing up of lists of those who had joined the Land League, for the purpose of intimidation, and the reply given was that at one branch meeting of the League there was some discussion as to drawing up black lists of persons who had not joined. One speaker suggested that "white" lists should be drawn up of those persons who had joined, as "that would do as well." That was condemned, said the witness, by Mr. Harrington and Mr. John O'Connor. Mr. Atkinson, however, at once called the Archbishop's attention to the fact that a suggestion appeared in United Ireland, advising the publication in that print of an article calling upon all persons who had not joined the League to do so, and intimating that unless they did so their names would be published in that paper. To this there was an editorial footnote, "We cannot do that, but we can publish the names of those who have joined, which will do as well."
Did the witness think that tended to intimidate, or to put pressure upon those who had joined the League? The Archbishop replied that he had already spoken of the "black" and "white" lists, of which he disapproved. Next he was questioned as to the issuing of a pastoral issued by the Bishops in 1882, which stated, "We assure you that the national movement, purged from all that is criminal, and guarding against what leads to crime, shall have the earnest support of our clergy." The witness did remember that pastoral, but explained that it was issued when Mr. Parnell and the other leaders were in prison, and was intended to counteract the effects of secret societies, which had sprung up in consequence, and had become a source of danger to the country. The Bishops actually issued the pastoral with the view of strengthening the national movement and encouraging Mr. Parnell. The report of the Besborough Commissioners in 1881 was the subject of Mr. Atkinson's questions. With regard to the statement in that report, that the tenants had been advised to withhold their rent, or pay no rent beyond a certain standard, until a measure had been passed, the outlines of which had never been accurately defined, the Archbishop said no doubt that referred to the Griffiths' valuation, but he did not know by whom that advice was given. It was probably given by the secret societies.


Mr. Reid then again rose to re-examine the witness. The Archbishop stated that he was entirely in favour of Mr. Parnell's policy in advising the tenants not to enter the Land Court in 1881, and in selecting certain cases to test the Land Act of that year. He was not aware, said the Archbishop, in reply to a final question, of any speech by any of the leaders of the Irish party inciting to outrage, nor had he heard of any cases of persons being starved by the process of boycotting.


This concluded the re-examination of the Archbishop, who, before leaving the box, said he wished to make an observation with regard to a case of harsh eviction to which he had referred early in his evidence. The landlord was the Duke of Leinster, and he wished to say that that nobleman, directly after the matter was brought before his notice, reversed the whole course of the action in a most praiseworthy manner.


Father O'Connell, the president of St. Jarlath's College, Tuam, described the condition of the tenantry in and around Letterfrack, Galway, during and after his curacy there. He said they were in a state of chronic distress and misery. Potatoes were the only food they had, and in some cases he had seen people eat boiled sea-wood. They never had any meat, which was quite a luxury.
"You must," interposed the President amidst laughter, "call medical evidence if you wish to convince me that it is absolutely necessary for a man to take meat if he has plenty of other good food."
Continuing his evidence, Father O'Connell said the tenants on the estate of Mrs. Blake, who was one of the Times witnesses, were in great misery at the time of which they spoke. Many of them were hampered by Mrs. Blake herself, who put an impost on their industry. For instance, after having gathered the kelp together and burned it in the pits, Mrs. Blake required a third of the value of it, and, in later years, when it became a less profitable industry, a fourth of the value. The people were generally clothed in home-made flannel. They had but little furniture in their houses. In October, 1880, the tenants took action to get their rents reduced. Many of them were, indeed, not able to pay their rents; they were, in fact, in 1880, almost entirely supported by the Relief Committee.


The first branch of the Land League was formed at Letterfrack in November, 1880. The Rev. Father McAndrew, the parish priest, was present at the formation, and witness was secretary. It was, the witness declared, untrue that the League met at Mrs. Welshe's, or that a man named Barally distributed the League cards.
Did you ever stand at the altar and make some remarks, of a secular character, referring to the Land League? - No.
There was a report to that effect, and an inquiry was made into it by the Archbishop? - Yes. My explanation was satisfactory to the Archbishop. He denied that the League in this parish countenanced outrage; on the contrary, it denounced it. On almost every occasion that an outrage occurred, he denounced it from the altar. Mrs. Blake, added witness, evicted about fifteen or sixteen persons at Letterfrack in July, 1881, he believed. "Could these people pay the rent, who were evicted?" asked Mr. Lockwood. "I believe some of them could not," replied the witness. "Some of the tenants were very poor, and had nothing but sacks on which to sleep."


Mr. Biggar questioned Father O'Connell as to the trial of a man named Patrick Walsh, of Letterfrack. The witness replied that he remembered that trial.
And was not the Jury carefully packed? - Yes. (Laughter.)
Mr. Biggar next asked witness whether he was of opinion that the evidence was not sufficiently strong for conviction. The President, however, pointed out to him that he could not be allowed to put such a question as that to the witness. "One of the charges brought against me," Mr. Biggar answered, "is that I tried to get a fair hearing for persons who were charged with crime. This is a very good test case of Jury-packing, as proved by the witness."
The President pointed out that the witness had no means of judging. Mr. Biggar might tell his own story on a future occasion.
"I cannot tell my own tale," replied Mr. Biggar, amid much laughter, "because I don't know anything about it. This gentleman knows something of the facts, and I don't." He then resumed his seat.


Sir Henry James at once proceeded in the cross-examination. He particularly interrogated the witness concerning the establishment of the Land League at Tully. Father O'Connell said no one came into the district to establish the League, but it sprang out of the spontaneous action of the people. Father McAndrew was president, and witness was the secretary.
"Self-elected?" asked Sir Henry. - "Yes, I may say so. I assumed that position owing to a conversation with Father McAndrew." The Committee of twelve was, he added, designated by Father McAndrew and himself. They did not ask those persons to become Committee men beforehand. No Committee meetings were ever held, but the Committeemen collected subscriptions. The money was paid in to the treasurer, but he (witness) never saw the account books. He himself kept a book giving an account of each tenant in the parish, the land he held, and his valuation. This witness also stated, in the course of his cross-examination, that if Mrs. Blake said there was good feeling between herself and her tenants up to 1878 he did not think it was true. Boycotting ceased when the great farms were given up by Mrs. Blake.
The Court adjourned for luncheon at 1:30.


Upon resuming, Sir Henry James continued the cross-examination of Father O'Connell, directing his questions especially to the facts connected with the establishment of the Tully branch of the Land League, the witness describing the duties of the Committee and the collectors. He said the branch was never brought into working order, and that the Committee was only formed for the purpose of getting the branch affiliated to the central body in Dublin. He did not know anything about the funds that were collected, but he believed there was no audit or investigation into the accounts. He always understood that half of the amount collected was forwarded to Dublin, and the other half was retained for any emergency, such as defending tenants. Of the portion retained by the local branch he was paid 6 pounds for expenses he incurred in going to Dublin and obtaining from the Central Branch grants in aid of several tenants evicted by Mrs. Blake. He knew of no meetings of men at Mrs. Walsh's house; but if those meetings were held at night he would not have known of them. He would, however, say that no Land League meetings were held there.


Sir Henry James next questioned Father O'Connell as to a meeting of tenants which was held in witness's chapel after mass. He said a number of tenants came to him in the sacristan, and asked his advice as to what they were to do, as they were expecting to be evicted. They stated that they were unable to pay their rent. Witness then agreed to support them, and decided to make representations to the head office of the League on their behalf. He, however, denied that on that occasion he told the tenants that it was wrong to give the League money to the landlords, and if they had the money then they would give it to the landlords for rent.


Sir Henry next questioned the witness concerning Peter Gannon, a tenant on Mrs. Blake's estate. "Was that man shot in 1881?" he asked.
"No," replied the witness, "he has been at the Commission." (Laughter.)
But he could have been shot without being killed. Do you always kill your bird when you shoot at it, Father O'Connell? (Laughter.)
Mr. Lockwood here objected to Sir Henry speaking of an outrage in this way. He thought that had counsel of his side done so, he would have met with a well-merited rebuke.
Mr. Lockwood then resumed his seat, and Sir Henry complained that Mr. Lockwood had, in open Court, told him to behave himself.
The President - I did not hear the remark.
Sir Henry James - But I did, my Lord.
Mr. Lockwood disclaimed any intention of offending Sir Henry.
The President remarked that the laughter had been caused by Father O'Connell supposing that a man could not be shot without being killed. Mr. Lockwood was, he thought, the last man who should object to a little joke. (Renewed laughter.)
Father O'Connell afterwards admitted that he had heard that Gannon was shot in the knee, but could give no reason for the outrage.
(The report will be continued.)


The Exchange Telegraph Company understands that it has been arranged that Sir Charles Russell will receive a fee of ten thousand guineas for his professional labours on behalf of the Irish Party in the Parnell Commission.

Sir Charles Russell carries with him several great qualities, but these qualities are modified by conspicuous infirmities. One of these infirmities is that he thinks a trifle too much of himself, and consequently when he does not get his own way he is inclined to lose his temper. He is a little too ambitious. He wants to be both advocate and judge at the same time. Yesterday he tried his hand at this game, and failed.

The ruling of a Judge in his own Court is, and should be, regarded like the ruling of the Speaker in the House of Commons - final. Not so thinks one man - Sir Charles Russell. Yesterday he came into sharp collision with the President of the Special Commission by evincing a spirit of insubordination, and by marked disrespect to the Court.

"I am bound to express my opinion, my Lord, and notwithstanding what you have said, I still hold my opinion on that point" - so said Sir Charles Russell. The President (emphatically), "I am not here to learn the private opinion of Sir Charles Russell. We have to conduct this inquiry in a manner which we regard as right and proper." Sir Charles's egotism was stronger than his wisdom. Instead of profiting by the rebuke, he aggravated his mistake by repeating it.

"I consider you are not justified in making that observation after what I have said. It is a most improper mode of continuing the discussion after the opinion I have expressed," said the President. Anyone but Sir Charles Russell, after the double rebuke, would have maintained his soul in silence. Not so Sir Charles, who emphasised his discourteous and disorderly conduct by again repeating the offence.

We venture to tell Sir Charles Russell that had he dared to so answer "Mr. Speaker," and thereby defied authority in the Commons, he would have called down a rebuke before which he would have cowered, and for which he would have been "named." He should, therefore, feel thankful today that he yesterday brought himself in conflict with "Mr. President" instead of with "Mr. Speaker."


The extraordinary attempt to make a mystery of the Suspects' Sustentation Fund cheques was, says the Freeman's Journal, characteristic of the counsel who tried to get the experts into the box before Pigott. But despite the extraordinary manifestation of the President, Mr. Parnell got out the explanation, and frustrated the Attorney-General's trick of postponing the cross-examination, in order to leave the matter unexplained. On account of the attitude of the President, and his haste to shut out the evidence of Archbishop Walsh, many members of the party asked their counsel to appear no more, and leave the Judges and Sir Richard to continue the case.

Source: The Echo, Thursday May 9, 1889, Pages 2-3

Karen Trenouth
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