Page images

Irish patriots abroad, who make war on England with dynamite and the knife, lavished money on, and were the declared allies of Irish patriots, at home, of the National League; and they invited Englishmen to draw the inference that Parnellism was an agitation disgraced by crime, which lent itself to crime and drew its strength from crime, which had criminals in its foremost ranks and which had foreign abettors of the Marat type, apostles of crime of the very worst character. The Times, however, when it made these charges, confined itself to what may be called the social side of this conspiracy, and scarcely referred to its political side; it brought out the murders, the villainies, and the deeds of blood which abounded where it made its presence felt; but it alluded but once or twice to the treasonable acts and language which marked its guilty course, for these, it thought, would not tell with effect on opinion as it exists in this age of “flabby tolerance.” The same line was necessarily taken by the Attorney-General, in the famous case of O’Domzell v. Walter, an action for the alleged libels in Parnellism and Crime; and, as the scope of the enquiry of the Special Commission was limited to the accusations then made by The Times, it followed that the judges had but little cognizance of charges against the Parnellites, which involved treason, or conduct of a treasonable kind. The investigation was thus restricted in this respect, and aseries of considerations was left out of sight, which assuredly should be borne in mind in a full survey of the acts, the relations, and, above all, the objects of the Parnellite leaders. At the instance of the Commissioners, The Times preferred an indictment against 65 Members, of the “ Irish Party,” who, of all the followers of Mr. Parnell, alone put in an appearance, and attempted a defence, with the single exception of Mr. Davitt. I shall say a word hereafter on this most pregnant fact ; the indictment consisted of nine counts,but of these one only savoured of treason, and that, too, was a charge of a rather vague description. iThe accused, it was alleged, “ were members of a conspiracy and “organization having for its ultimate object to establish “the absolute independence oflreland ” ; and as thejudges very properly, on a statement like this, refused to press the doctrines of constructive crime, or to apply the perilous law ofconspiracy, the respondents, as a body, received the benefit of the questionable verdict of“ not proven,”* which we shall assume to be an acquittal. Yet a most significant and scathing judgment has been placed on record, even on this charge. It was declared that eight of the impeached persons, including Mr. Davitt, Mr. Wm. O’Brien, and Mr. Dillon, of Land League renown, did seek “to bring about the absolute “ independence of Ireland as a separate nation”; and though Mr. Parnell was not convicted, the Commissioners have positively expressed their belief that he uttered the famous “last link ” speech, and have discredited his denial that he made use of these words: “we are working” (with the Fenians) “ lor a common purpose ” l

A partial and incomplete acquittal, accompanied by a most adverse finding, on a charge of trying to sever Ireland from these Realms, scarcely absolves Parnellism from the guilt of treason. But let us see how the case would stand, had it been open to The Times to formulate a larger and more comprehensive indictment. It is high treason to take part in a conspiracy to overthrow a Government by force ; and it is the conspiracy, it must be borne in mind, that constitutes the overt act of treason. Now, Mr. Parnell has been, for years, the chief of the Land League, and the National League, the same organisation under another name; all the incriminated Members have been his fellow workers ; and criminals, whom it is now convenient to

' The findings of the Report (compare pp. 494 and 544, Timrs edition) are, it would seem, not quite consistent on this point. It is not quite clear whether they amount to “ not proven ” or " not guilty.”

ignore, have been prominent agents of both Societies. But the Land League, and its alias, the National League, were the creations of men whose avowed purpose was violently to subvert our rule in Ireland; the paramount object of both was, “ to sweep away the British connexion,” and the “ destruction of landlordism " was but a means to the end ; and it follows from-this that each League was a treasonable conspiracy in its essential nature. Should it be urged, however, that this would be a straining of the theory of constructive crime, let us see whether we cannot gather from the lips of leaders of both Confederate Bodies plain evidence of a conspiracy to rebel against the State. I can select only two or three samples. But what meaning is to be attached to Mr. Biggar’s words that, in certain events, “ Ireland would produce another Hartmann ”; to Mr. Parnell’s clearly proved utterance that he had received “5 dollars for bread and 20 for lead"; to the candour of Mr. P. Sheridan, who “ would ask the people to ring out their voices from the muzzles of Minié rifles"; to the speech of Mr. Dillon, in the affair of the juno, expressing strong sympathy with a Fenian raid; and to the language of Mr. Parnell’s delegates at the Chicago Convention? It would be harsh, perhaps, to infer the treason of Parnellism from the infamous teaching of Patrick Ford and the Clan-na-Gael—incitement to rebellion of the most frightful kind—though Patrick Ford and the Clan-na-Gael have done yeoman service in the common cause; but what conclusions can we help drawing from articles in The Irishman, and in United Ireland, organs of the Land and the National Leagues, which have repeatedly declared that, were there a chance of success, an armed Irish rising would be a sacred duty? If the Commissioners, therefore, had had before them a charge of a conspiracy to destroy British power in Ireland, they would have had evidence for a finding of treason against most of the Parnellite leaders; and there can be little doubt what, on such an issue, would have been the verdict of a jury, in the great days of Chief justice Campbell and Chief justice Cockburn. The “Irish Party” too, we must not forget, might have been accused of another crime, of a treasonable complexion, though not high treason. It is treason-felony to attempt by violence to bring about a change of Government, or to overawe Parliament, and to try to effect this purpose by any overt act, including “printing, writing, or open and advised “ speaking; ” and really, when we recollect what has been the conduct of many of the Parnellites, during the last ten years, we cannot see how they could have escaped, had a charge of this kind been made against them.

I have dwelt, for a moment, on this topic, for though treason, in the sight of many, is political excitement, which excuses crime, and is not criminal in any true sense, the subject affects our most vital interests. Mr. Gladstone and his followers have committed themselves to a policy of Home Rule for Ireland; what that policy is they have refused to explain, except that it means an Irish Parliament, and an Irish Executive dependent on it. That this would make Parnellism supreme in Ireland, is an indisputable, nay, an admitted fact, and the Parnellites have been stumping the country proclaiming the “ Union of Hearts," and loud in their assertions that they are loyal subjects, and promising that Ireland is to be our firmest friend, should Parliament accept this plausible compromise. But these are the men some of whom the Report finds to have sought to make Ireland an independent State, and many of whom might have been involved in charges of conspiring to destroy our Government in Ireland by insurrectionary force; these are the men who are the paid allies of Patrick Ford, and of the Clan-na-Gael, a League of Anarchists, who openly avow that they look to Home Rule “to establish the plant” of Revolution in Ireland. And, in view of these facts, I ask Englishmen if Home Rule is not an insane policy; if the slightest credence is to be given to Parnellite talk of conciliation and peace; if the hideous features of treason and crime are not to be seen behind the Parnellite mask; if Mr. Gladstone did not speak truly when he said that “dismemberment " was the main object of the Land League movement; if Sir George Trevelyan did not correctly state that “ there was no half“ way house between Separation and Home Rule? "

I proceed to consider the other counts in the indictment of The Times, examined in the Report. The second charge is that “ one of the immediate objects of the conspiracy,” i.e., of the Land and National Leagues, “ was, by a system “ of coercion and intimidation, to promote an agrarian “ agitation against the payment of agricultural rents, for “the purpose of impoverishing and expelling from the “ country the Irish landlords who were styled the English “ garrison; ” and of this 43 of the Parnellite Members, and Mr. Michael Davitt, have been found guilty. Such have been the effects of lying clamour and factious cries for a purely selfish purpose, that Irish landlords have of late years been generally denounced as a kind of wolves, to be hunted down without law or pity; and in the opinion, doubtless, of many simple people, the finding of the Commission, so far from being a discrediting sentence, is a mark of honour. True it is that Irish landlords have, through troubled centuries, been the mainstay of English rule in Ireland; that they have given the .State more than a due proportion of eminent, nay, of illustrious names; that, when it suited his purpose, they have been singled out by Mr. Gladstone for special praise; that, whatever may be said, they are not “rack-renters, exterminators,” or anything of the kind; and that, as a body, they have stood the test of Parnellite obloquy, and have

« PreviousContinue »