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How Sir Charles Russell begun his Speech., Issue 7912, 21 May 1889
How Sir Charles Russell begun his Speech.
Brightly the sun shone down through the windows of the Court, making silver bars athwart the dirty interior, in which a fashionable and crowded assembly waited Satiently the reopening of the great trial, Irs Gladstone sat on the left of the judges, Lady Russell with Mrs Lewis on the right, Mr John Morley occupied a front seat in the gallery. Punctually at half-past ten the judges entered, and a minute after Sir Charles Russell was on his feet. Mr Parnell eat immediately below Sir Charles, He looked much better, but having got cold, wore a small blue skull cap, much to thedelightof the artists present, who at once began to sketch the Irish leader in a new guise. Mr Lewis sat next to Mr Parnell and Mr Davitt. ‘ The Times’ people were slow in appearing. Mr Soames was first to appear, then came Mr Houston, then Mr Walter, jun,, and last of all came Mr Macdonald, Sir Richard Webster was alone on the seat of the counsel. After came in Sir Henry James. Mr Murphy did not appear until close upon eleven o’clock. “How long do you think it will be?” asked the Attorney-General. “Can’tsay,” said Sir Charles Russell; “ ask me after 1 have been on two days and I may be able to tell you,” Then Sir Charles Russell began to speak. He had not been on his legs five minutes before it was evident that he was in great form, and intended to deal with the whole subject on the broadest scale, and with a force and vigor and eloquence which will make his speech the most effective weapon in the Home Rule armory that has yet been furnished, sharpened, and made ready for the slaughter of the enemy. Sir Charles spoke with measured gravity and deep feeling from copious notes on blue foolscap fastened at the corner. He used his glasses occasionally when he read extracts, but for the most part he dispensed with them, and addressed himself to the judges, standing at ease, as his wont, fumbling from time to time with his handkerchief, now and then leaning against the back of his seat, and then again pressing forward with vehemence as he urged his points home. He began by an interesting little statistical detail showing how far we had gone Commission lasted already ~ 63 days. Witnesses called ~ .. ..340 Namely Didrict inspectors .. 16 Experts in handliish constables _ 08 writing .. ..5 Informers and eon- Irish priest - .. 1
vich .. ..18 This beggarly allowance of priests to so enormous an allowance of constables was brought into clear and effective relief. A scathing reference to the utter and absolute collapse of the forged letters, which had been the warp to the woof of the charges and allegations without which their lordships would never have been constituted as a Special Commission, led up to a vigorous description of the accused and their accusers.
Who were the accused? They were the representatives of a whole nation. Eightyfive of them stood solid, side by side, although only sixty-five of them were accused by name. Then came in an eloquent reference to Edmund Burke’s declaration as to the impossibility of drawing an indictment against a nation. Then followed a very effective impeachment of the accuser, ‘The Times.’ ‘The Times’ supplied the daily mental pabulum of the governing classes, perhaps even of your lordships ; therefore it was necessary to say ■what ‘ The Times ’ was. What was ‘ The Times ’? Then we had a brilliant historical retrospect of what ‘ The Times ’ had done to Ireland, It had denounced Lord Mulgrave for inviting that rancorous and foulmouthed ruffian O’Connell to dinner, and that sentence was the keynote to the misgovernment of Ireland. In fact, except the House of Lords, ‘The Times’ had done more mischief than any other institution in the country ; and with a Parthian dart from Cobden as to the three essentials for success—a good cause, persevering advocates, and the opposition of ‘ The Times ’— Sir Charles Russell then went on to develop his case with Lord Carnarvon’s negotia tions with Mr Parnell, bringing the story down to the present time, when all the nations but England alone agreed to begin a new policy of conciliation and of peace. Sir Charles, when describing the Tory-Par-nellite alliance, turned round and addressed the Attorney-General and Sir Henry James with great effect, “Now,” said Sir Charles, “I have told you who are the accused, and who is the accuser. Now what are the accusations ? ” He went through them with deep solemnity, and then pointing out that they were all criminal charges of the deepest dye, he asked with magnificent effect why, if these charges were true, they had never been made the subject of criminal prosecution by the Government, by any Government, although prosecutions were plentiful enough in all conscience.
Then Sir Charles went on to impeach in fine style the way in which the inquiry had been conducted. It had been so conducted as to give ‘ The Times ’ all the advantage of a Government prosecution, and to deprive the accused of all the advantages of a Government prosecution. There were some splendid bits of sarcastic irony in the description of the way in which ‘The Times ’ had scoured the gaols to sift out the refuse of humanity to damn the characters of the Irish leaders. Lincoln’s Inn Fields had been converted into a camping ground for the Royal Irish Constabulary, and Mr Soames’s office converted into a police register. Waxing warmer in his denunciation, Sir Charles roundly charged the Attorney-General with having so conducted the case as to make it a game of surprises from first to last. Witnesses had sprung upon the accused without notice, and without warning. All the great and noble traditions of the English bar had been trampled under foot. Every effort had been made to confuse the issue and create prejudice. The doctrine of conspiracy had been strained in order to drag in every fragment of third or fourth-hand evidence that might incriminate any one of the accused. As, for instance, Lo Caron was allowed to state in the witness-box what Egan told Le Caron, what Brennan told him —that Sexton bad helped him (Brennan) to escape. Not only so, but no effort bad been made to make things plain. A confused,
ndigested, heterogeneous mass of evidence had been thumped, down upon the floor of the Court—the most part it relevant, a few things relevant but unreliable,, and a small part new. The net result, however, was broadly this—that so far as the chief criminal charges were concerned, there had been no evidence adduced which would have justified the judges in a criminal case in allowing the case to go to a jury. \Ve had now got down to ten minutes to twelve. Sir Charles had got through his opening, and then embarked upon a great historical discourse. Summarising the Attorney-General’s grotesque version of history, he declared that it was utterly, absolutely, and historically false, and promised to tell the Court the true truth of Irish agrarian woe. Irish history, therefore, will keep us going until to-morrow. Sir Charles has ten volumes in front of him, with passages marked. He invoked from the judges tho same sympathetic hearing which the English-speaking populations bad always extended to national movements everywhere, and then plunged boldly into his political retrospect —beginning, much to our surprise, with 2782. He might have begun in the twelfth century. The Parliament of 1782 was eulogised chiefly because it breathed the breath of local public opinion, and then Sir Charles ? lanced in passing at the Revolution of 798, quoted Lecky about the Union which wrecked the Legislatures and divided the peoples. The real cause of the difficulty in Ireland was that the ascendancy class after the Union ceased to be under the control of tho local public opinion of their people. They looked to England, and to England alone. Even to this day Lord Hartington can only urge the Irish landlords not to shock the conscienfce of the English people. Down we came past Emmett’s execution, past Catholic emancipation, past the Young Ireland movements which sowed the seeds of the Parnellite agitation, and at this point Sir Charles threw jn a fervid eulogy of Sir Charles Cavan Duffy with great effect. Sir Charles’s object was to show how in Ireland secret sedition and conspiracy followed like a wave the suppression of constitutional agitation. Sir Charles got us down to 1352, eulogised Frederick Lucas and the Tenant Leagues of the North and South, and went on laboring heavily, He had now been speaking two hours, and another hour still to go till luncheon time. Mr Justice Day shut his eyes, and there was a alight movement in the Court.
Then came the American Civil War, with Fenianism in its train, which brought us oddly enough a passing eulogy of Mr Matthews as a ci-devant of Fenians. Fenianism was not an assassination movement. It reduced agrarian crime to a minimum by affording hope of relief by physical force. Then came 1869, with the Disestablishment of the church ; 1870, with the Land Act; and 1873, with Mr Butt and Homo Rule, Then in 1876-77 enters Mr Parnell—with rhetorical and forensic fireworks in honor to the man who has awakened the conscience of England, and who has done more in ten years tor Ireland than all other men have achieved for a hundred years. The close of this passage brought us up to ten minutes to one o’clock. Sir Charles here refreshed himself with a glass of cocoa, and resumed with a survey of the predisposing causes of Irish crime drawn from Leeky, Froude (which Sir Charles pronounced Frowd), Goldwin Smith, etc. They were four, namely—(l) Restrictions on Irish commerce and suppression of Irish manufactures ; (2) The Penal Code, which forbade them acquiring an interest in the land ; (3) The uncontrolled power of landlords to exact excessive rent; (4) The general misgovernment of the country and the distrust generated thereby. All this made one of the blackest pictures in the history of the world. Talk about not drawing an indictment against a nation! Sir Charles indicted the whole English nation for the last century and a-half for throttling the life out of Ireland, We were now having England arraigned before the tribunal of history, accused and condemned by our own Unionist historians. A long and eloquent passage from Lord Dufferin brought the first head to a close. Then Sir Charles described the long agony of the Penal Code, while the president’s brow wrinkled with impatience, and Mr Justice Smith ceased to take notes. Mr Froude summed up the Penal Code section, and then Sir Charles let himself go upon the right of the landlord to rackrcnt bis tenants.
Sir Charles relied upon his own thunder, and wound up by a very effective contrast between the depopulated fat land and the overcrowded congested districts. Then, at five minutes past one, he got to his general picture of Irish misgovernment, a kind of topsy-turvoydom supreme, a hideous inversion of every principle accepted among civilised men, a perfect nightmare of a Government that no government, but a kind of vampire administration—that was the picture which Sir Charles painted with masterly brush. Now, said he, I would ask any calmly-minded man What could be expect would bo the fruit of such a system ? An abiding distrust of the law, secret societies, crime of a protective kind committed with the sympathy of the population, etc., etc. These were the deadly fruits which spring from the deadly seed. Sir Charles led_ up with considerable skill and force to his demonstration that Irish crime was the direct product of Irish misgovernment and oppression, and then led up to the luncheon hour by a quotation from Lecky, which formed an appropriate preface to his sketch of the history of Irish crime.— * Pall Mall Gazette.’
How Sir Charles Russell begun his Speech., Issue 7912, 21 May 1889
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