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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Thu 21 Feb 2013 - 19:24

Eighty-fourth Day of Proceedings - Wednesday, May 22, 1889

PARNELL COMMISSION.
MR. O'BRIEN CROSS-EXAMINED.

HIS DEFINITION OF BOYCOTTING.
A DENUNCIATION OF OUTRAGE.

"FOR REVERENCE OF LAW AS LAW."
"ILLEGALITY IS BRED IN US."

Mr. W. O'Brien, looking fresh and trim, though rather pale, resumed the story of his journalistic and political career this morning. He had amongst his listeners the Duchess of St. Albans, the Duchess of Westminster, Mrs. Gladstone, Professor and Mrs. Stewart, and Mr. Endicott (the father of Mrs. Joseph Chamberlain.) Mr. O'Brien at once expressed his anxiety to explain any and every utterance of a violent character made in the columns of the journal under his control, and denied that either of these utterances could or would be contorted - especially by those who knew himself and colleagues - into an incitement to outrage. Had the National League encouraged outrage? - Certainly not. The statement was absolutely unfounded. Indeed, on the contrary, they had been so careful in their conduct of the organisation, that Mr. Harrington, who had devoted years to its welfare, had actually suppressed branches guilty of violent measures. Further than that, whenever there was an indication that a branch was, by being driven to desperation, drifting towards approval of outrages of any kind, every effort was made, by holding great public meetings, to remove the spur of excitement, and set the branch upon a higher standard of endurance.

MR. O'BRIEN'S AMERICAN RECEPTION.

On approaching that part of the case dealing with Mr. O'Brien's American tour, the hon. Member candidly expressed his opinion of London newspapers generally. Had he known anything of a certain Mr. Finnerty, one of his supporters in America, prior to his visit there? - He had not, except - in a parenthesis - what the London newspapers had said of him. "And I should be sorry," he added, "to credit anything the London newspapers said in their estimate of the character of Irishmen."
Mr. O'Brien's progress through the United States was surrounded with elements similar to those which marked Mr. Parnell's. He was welcomed by men in high official positions, men of eminence in America, the ex-Speaker of the United States Senate presided at one of the gatherings; and he received the Freedom of the City of Boston. The allegations that dynamite was the prevailing topic at the Chicago Convention was denied by Mr. O'Brien in toto. Indeed, the subject was never broached, and none of his colleagues or friends met in consultation upon it.

WHY HE WOULD NOT ATTEND A NEW YORK MEETING.

Then came a reference to Mr. O'Brien's visit to Canada and America in 1886-7. It was proposed on that occasion to hold a great reception in his honour at New York. He, however, learned that it was organised by the extreme section - from whom he had met with very great opposition, going in danger of his life in several places - and he refused to attend the meeting at all.

"UNITED IRELAND" - WITH ITS EDITOR IN JAIL.

This concluded Mr. O'Brien's examination, which had occupied about four hours and a-half. The Attorney-General rose to cross-examine a few minutes to eleven. His first questions had reference to United Ireland, in reply to which Mr. O'Brien revealed a very curious journalistic freak. Owing to the frequent attacks upon the journal, he gave orders that a blank column in mourning should be reserved in each issue, with the heading, "Freedom of the Press in Ireland." After its suppression, he certainly never saw anyone of the articles that appeared in its columns. Indeed, he was in jail; and the paper flitted restlessly hither and thither through the different towns of England, being printed here today and hundreds of miles off next week.

"ILLEGALITY IS BRED IN US."

Then Mr. O'Brien was lead on to his assertion that he never counselled violence, which he repeated, observing that he never even thought of such a thing. He had certainly advocated boycotting.
"Then you do not advocate committing" -
Mr. O'Brien intervened. "Excuse me," he said, "but I had better state my position once for all on that point. I draw a very distinct line between criminality and illegality. As to anything that is cruel or brutal you will always find a very healthy and honest repulsion against it among the Irish people. As to mere reverence for law as law, well (with a shrug) illegality is bred in us. For several years the very existence of our people was illegal."


A REMINISCENCE OF THE KINGSTON ESTATE.

Mr. O'Brien confessed he had on one occasion advised the people to resist the law. It occurred thus: - A landlord sought to deprive his tenants of the benefits of an Act that was within two days of being passed, by evicting them. He then advised them to fight for their homes. The result was there was no fight, there was no eviction, and nobody was a penny the worse.
Boycotting, and Mr. O'Brien's definition of it, was a bone of contention which was discussed for some time. Mr. O'Brien made his position very clear on the point, explaining what he considered illegal and what illegal. He considered it a legitimate action on the part of a body of people, having no other means of redress, to make it convenient for a man who oppressed them, and a legitimate action on the part of people who refused to hold intercourse with any man who, having drawn his wealth from them and the land, used it to oppress and persecute them. But he declared very positively against brutality, such as outrages on cattle, and refused to include it in the category of boycotting. He asserted most emphatically his repugnance for intimidation.

MR. O'BRIEN'S MOTTO.

Mr. O'Brien's justification of the action of the people was delivered in graphic language. His motto, put forth with the fiery eloquence which is Mr. O'Brien's characteristic, is, "La guerre comme la guerre."
"And you mean, then," essayed the Attorney-General, "that that applies to what you have been referring to for the last ten minutes, and is your idea of constitutional action?"
"No," protested Mr. O'Brien, "I am sure no one listening to me could say that, using the expression in a figurative sense, I should be regarded as meaning it to refer to actual warfare."
The President - No, certainly not. I did not take it as meaning that.
So the Attorney-General turned his attention to Mr. O'Brien's speeches for a moment, asking if he had ever defined boycotting in them. The hon. Member first of all observed that boycotting was regarded as a kind of social "blackballing" in Ireland. In fact, it was all Greek to the English people. It was understood amongst the Irish, and by them intimidation in every shape and form was regarded with disfavour.
Yes, said Mr. O'Brien in answer to another question; he had certainly heard of persons rightly or wrongly called landgrabbers having been shot at, and their houses fired into, and that they had been financially ruined. Those outrages, however, occurred in the few counties in which the League had the least power.

MR. O'BRIEN'S VIEW OF POLICE RETURNS.

At this stage crime statistics were produced. Mr. O'Brien said he placed no faith in the police returns. Murders could not be hidden; but with regard to other outrages, the returns could be made to increase or decrease according to the requirements of the Government. (Laughter.) More particularly with regard to the maiming of cattle and firing into houses, he was certainly of opinion that landgrabbers - who were not men of very high character - often "got up" outrages because they could make profit out of police protection.
The Attorney-General pointed out to Mr. O'Brien that in Munster, where, he thought, the League had most power, crime increased in 1880 to a much greater extent than in Ulster, where the League had least power.
"At such a crisis," replied Mr. O'Brien, "no human power could prevent crime. But I do say the League prevented crime which might have occurred. I, however (he repeated), attach no importance to police returns." What the police call crime," added Mr. O'Brien significantly "we look upon as the very best thing a citizen can do." For instance, the police included in their "crime" returns such charges as those of speech-making against the Messrs. Harrington and the Mayor of Woodford, for which they were sent to jail.
A speech of Mr. Dillon's, delivered in Kerry, was here read by the Attorney-General, to show that Kerry was held up as an example of what the tenants should do. On the contrary, Mr. O'Brien contended the speech intended to convey the idea that where there was quietness the people were contented. General Redvers Buller, he said, was sent down there to quell moonlighting. He was "sent to curse, and remained to pray." Could the members of that Court have the experience he had had, he was confident it would materially shorten the inquiry.

THE DESCRIPTION "ARMED RESISTANCE."

As Mr. O'Brien proceeded, he over and over again broke into fierce outbursts of indignation. In one instance the police described the resistance of the tenants of Woodford to the evictors as "armed resistance." "Armed resistance!" scornfully exclaimed Mr. O'Brien, "why the description is perfectly monstrous. The resistance was of the most trumpery character so far as these people are concerned. The chances were nine hundred and ninety-nine against them. Why, Sir, it was the spirit of Woodford that made England what it is." "Did he in any of his speeches or articles call upon the people to assist in detecting crime?" No, he did not, Mr. O'Brien answered. To do so would be to acknowledge a state of things which they absolutely denied existed. It would, in fact, be interpretated as an admission that the county was steeped in blood, whereas with regard to the vast area of the country that was absolutely and totally a falsehood. Besides, no means existed by which the people could cooperate with the police.
The Court here adjourned for luncheon.

"INCIDENTS OF THE CAMPAIGN."

The compilation of the papers, the Irishman and United Ireland, formed the topic of the questions, on the Court resuming. Mr. O'Brien again explained that Mr. J. O'Connor was responsible for the conduct of the latter paper during his imprisonment, the same gentleman being responsible for a number of paragraphs appearing there in 1881, describing outrages, and headed "Incidents of the Campaign"? - "Yes, some of those paragraphs were very objectionable," said Mr. O'Brien. One paragraph stated that the blowing-up of a police-barracks, which had been threatened, had not taken place - "perhaps it had been postponed." Mr. O'Brien was surprised that such a paragraph should have appeared. Might it, he suggested, have been a comment on some canard?
"Then you regard it as a joke?" came the prompt query. - "No; I should not joke on so serious a subject," was the reply.

"UNITED IRELAND" ON CONSTITUTIONAL LINES.

Mr. O'Brien here explained that he had always conducted the paper on constitutional lines. He objected to the use of words "loyal and constitutional." "Loyalty," he said, "has two sanctions - force and affection. Force I bowed to, both in my paper and elsewhere; of affection I had none, and never pretended I had, till 1885."
"Still more extracts from United Ireland," said the Attorney-General. "He should afterwards ask Mr. O'Brien whether he thought these paragraphs advocated Constitutional agitation, as distinct from illegal action." Said Mr. O'Brien - "No doubt he had written a great deal which would have been better unwritten, but he defied anyone to point to a single article which he had written in which he directly, or indirectly advocated unconstitutional action."
(The report will be continued.)

THE CONSULTATION YESTERDAY.

The Press Association says: The consultation yesterday morning, between the Judges of the Special Commission and Mr. Lewis, Mr. Parnell, and Mr. Reid, has resulted in an arrangement by which future proceedings will be considerably abridged. Only witnesses will be examined whose evidence is imperatively necessary, and several minor witnesses from Clare have already returned home. Some witnesses from Clare will, however, next be examined. Then will follow, among others, Mr. Matthew Harris, M.P., Archbishop Croke, Canon Keller, of Youghal, Father Sheehy, and Mr. Davitt, who will be the last witness examined.

EDINBURGH LIBERALS AND MR. PARNELL.

An Edinburgh Correspondent states that it is proposed that Mr. Parnell's visit to Edinburgh to receive the freedom of the city shall be on July 1, which is about a fortnight later than was originally contemplated. It is proposed to hold a great political demonstration the same day, and to ask Lord Rosebery, Sir William Harcourt, and Mr. John Morley to speak as well as Mr. Parnell.

Source: The Echo, Wednesday May 22, 1889, Pages 2-3

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