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Parnell Commission Inquiry

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Parnell Commission Inquiry

Post by Karen on Sat 23 Feb 2013 - 16:38

Eighty-eighth Day of Proceedings - Wednesday, May 29, 1889




Mr. Maurice Healy, the junior Member for Cork, was further cross-examined by Mr. Atkinson today. Nothing of importance was elicited. Mr. Healy, explaining that he was Secretary of the local branch of the League for one year, denied that pressure was put upon the public to join. He was taken through several cases of land-grabbing which the League had considered, and he asserted very frankly that the object of the League was to boycott all such offenders against the organisation wherever its power extended. But - and on this Mr. Healy was very clear. There must not be, and there never was, an intimidation.


Now we come to another important witness - Mr. Joseph Biggar, the Member for Cavan. Mr. Biggar, who was examined by Mr. Reid, related the story of his political career since 1871, when he was identified with the movement captained by the late Mr. Butt. He prefaced this by the information that he was a Belfast man. Then he went on to say that he joined the Fenian organisation - which he wished to say never countenanced outrage, but resolutely favoured physical force - in 1876, and was advanced to a position on the Supreme Council. But Mr. Biggar's association with this party of force was short-lived. A controversy arose about Parliamentary representation. Upon that Mr. Biggar disagreed with his confreres. When the motion about it came on for discussion at the Council meeting he broke out into open rebellion against his quondam friends, with the result that he was asked to resign. With characteristic determination, Mr. Biggar refused, and was expelled. And so he has never had anything to do with, or known of, the doings of the organisation since.


Mr. Biggar made a most important denial as he proceeded with his story. It will be remembered that the American witness Leary stated that Mr. Biggar offered him 100 pounds if he (Leary) would, when the motion for the hon. Member's expulsion from the Fenian body came on, vote against it. "There was not a word of truth in the statement," said Mr. Biggar. Several of the speeches already put in by the Times were briefly referred to, and then Mr. Biggar informed us that at the time they were delivered it was, in his opinion, absolutely indispensable that such a combination as the Land League should be formed to carry on the war against the landlords. When the League was suppressed Mr. Biggar went to Paris, and there, with Mr. Egan, he remained for three months, carrying on the work which had been so suddenly stopped in Ireland.


The Invincible Conspiracy was only briefly touched upon. Mr. Biggar declared he knew nothing of the existence of such a body of conspirators; that he knew nothing of the existence of such a man as Carey; and that he did not know of the Phoenix Park murders until they occurred.
"Is there any ground," asked Mr. Reid, "for saying that persons came to you and got 20 pounds or 30 pounds, and then went down into the country to commit outrages?"
"No," emphatically replied Mr. Biggar.
The hon. Member's examination-in-chief last only half an hour. Sir Henry James rose to cross-examine him at a quarter-past eleven. He first of all obtained from him the names of the members of the Supreme Council with whom he acted. Mr. Biggar didn't know how the organisation obtained its funds. He never gave anything towards them.
"How was it you were exempt?" queried Sir Henry. "Because of merit?" - Mr. Biggar, with a modest smile, confessed he couldn't say.


Sir Henry James dwelt for some time upon the I.R.B., and Mr. Biggar's connection with it. Sir Henry read the oath of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and asked the witness if he had taken it.
Mr. Biggar - These are not the terms of the oath, but I cannot say in what particulars they are different.
In what respect is the oath you took different? I cannot tell you that. Of course this is a great many years ago, and I cannot say. The oath was only read over once, and I have had no means of refreshing my memory. The two witnesses who have spoken to the oath have given different versions.
You swore to obey the constitution of the Irish Republican Brotherhood? - Yes.
But you cannot tell me the different particulars of the oath I read to you? - No; I cannot.
Was it one of the objects of the Brotherhood that members should contribute according to their means for the purpose of war materials? I really do not know that. I do not know anything with regard to the purchase of arms.
But you took the oath to obey the constitution of the Brotherhood, and were a member of the governing body? I did not believe in their theory.
Did you not believe that it was established to support the principals of physical force? Yes; but that was many years ago.
Do you mean you went into this organisation to checkmate some of these men? - I went in to induce a large number of earnest men to be in favour of Parliamentary action. The organisation was originally in favour of physical force, but that broke down. I went in to checkmate the men who were in favour of physical force. I voted against a change of policy in the organisation, and I was expelled in 1877.
Did the oath pledge the members in favour of Irish independence? - The oath I took was not so high-flown a document as that you have read.
Did the oath say the council should have the power of awarding capital punishment only in cases of treason, and the crime of treason was defined as any wilful act or word, on the part of any member of the Brotherhood, calculated to betray Irish independence and subserve the interests of the British or any other foreign Government in Ireland? - I do not remember that.
Witness, in further cross-examination, as to who were likely to give information respecting any change in the oath, replied that the secretary would be the most likely person.


Then came a series of questions dealing with the Land League and its officials. Mr. Biggar described one gentleman as "honorary and paid secretary." The description raised a laugh. Asked to explain, Mr. Biggar said that, although he was supposed to be the hon. secretary, he received a salary. The cross-examination next referred to the business done at the meetings of the Executive Committee of the League, of which Mr. Biggar could remember nothing. He declared he could not even remember having signed a cheque. Asked about the Land League books, Mr. Biggar affirmed that he could not remember what had become of them, and, glancing at the pile handed in by Mr. Reid yesterday, he expressed his candid belief that there were more books than that. For instance, some books were conveyed to Liverpool, but where they were he could not say - in fact, he hadn't the slightest idea.


When the Court resumed after luncheon, Mr. Biggar was very emphatic in his declaration that he knew nothing about "No. 1." He had certainly, he confessed, attended meetings of the League in London, and had met Frank Byrne at them. Mr. Biggar informed Sir Henry that he had never known of any American representatives attending the meetings of the Supreme Council of the I.R.B. in Dublin. Turning to the appointment of the organisers of the Land League, Mr. Biggar denied that he had anything to do with it, and was not aware of the instructions given to them.


Mr. Biggar's speech at the Parnell banquet at Cork, when he extolled the doings of Hardtmann, who had made some explosive attempt at that time, was dwelt upon for some time. Mr. Biggar, in this speech, declared that if the present constitutional means failed Ireland could produce another Hardtmann, probably with better success. This, he explained, meant that if the men whom it was desirous to return to Parliament were not returned the people would be driven to discontent and outrage.
(The report will be continued.)



The Cronin mystery is having a further sensational development. The confession of P. Sullivan, the ice dealer, is said to supply the police with very valuable clues. Originally Sullivan stated that he had only became acquainted with Detective Coughlin since the commission of the murder. He now admits that he has known him for years. The result apparently of this confession is that McGeehan and King have been released. King is the man who was arrested on suspicion of having hired a man to steal the vehicle in which the trunk containing Dr. Cronin's body was removed from the scene of the murder.


The most sensational statements are current respecting the confession. It is reported for instance by the New York Herald that at an interview between Sullivan, Captain Schaack, the head of the Chicago Police, and Lieutenant Schutler, Sullivan revealed the whole plot. It is said many prominent and supposedly respectable citizens of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, and Philadelphia are implicated. He revealed to the police the names of all those connected with the great crime. Mayor Boldenweck said that the statement was of the most startling nature. That, however, there are (says the Herald) men in the Chicago Police who do not care to have the dark mystery cleared away is shown by the fact that somebody burst into Captain Schaack's room shortly after the body of the late Dr. Cronin was found, and stole all of the police valuable memoranda bearing on the case.


By the way, the Standard New York Correspondent telegraphs that it is stated there that Le Caron's son has left Chicago for London, in response, it is believed, to a telegram from his father.


CHICAGO, May 29. - Daniel Coughlin (the detective), P.O. Sullivan (the ice dealer), and another man named Black, alias Woodruff, have been indicted for the murder of Dr. Cronin. Woodruff has made a confession to the authorities with regard to the part which he has taken in the crime. He states that he drove the waggon to and from the cottage where the murder was committed, arriving there twenty minutes before Dr. Cronin was driven up to the house. From the point where Woodruff stood he could see the front porch, and after an hour had elapsed a man came out of the house, appeared at the porch, and gave a signal, at which the trunk containing the body was placed by two men in Woodruff's waggon. He was then directed to drive to the lake, in order that the body might be thrown into the water. The appearance of the police, however, prevented this plan from being carried out. A suggestion was then made to conceal the body in a catch-basin, and the trunk being broken open the remains were deposited in the sewer. The trunk was thrown from the waggon on the return journey. Woodruff has mentioned the names of several persons who directed his movements, but the authorities decline to divulge them.

Source: The Echo, Wednesday May 29, 1889, Page 3

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

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