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SIR CHARLES RUSSELL'S GREAT SPEECH., Issue 7928, 8 June 1889, Supplement
SIR CHARLES RUSSELL'S GREAT SPEECH.
At the request of a number of subscriber 3 we give a fuller report of Sir Charles Russell’s address before ‘ The Times ’ Parnell Commission :
Sir Charles Russell said he had, in view of the evidence which had been presented, to ask their Lordships to contrast with it, in its weakness, in its generality, the specific, weighty, and grievous charges which were contained in tho libels in question. He had endeavored to condense these charges and collate them under nine bonds. He would state these charges first in language of his own, and then he would read the passages in the libels which justified that general allegation of what the charges were The first charge was :—“ That the Land League leadeis deliberately based their movement on a scheme of assassination and outrage.” That this was a correct statement of one serious charge ho thou proceeded to justify. At page 197 of the Blue Book they would find this sentence: — “Murder still startles the casuist and doctrinaire, and wc charge that the Land League chiefs based their movement on a scheme of assassination carefully calculated and coolly applied. Be tho ultimate goal of these men what they will, they are content to march towards it in company with murderers. Murderers provide their chief funds, murderers share their inmost counsel; murderers have gone forth from tho League oliices, and after their bloody work they appeared to have returned to consult the constitutional leaders on the advancement of the cause.” That meant that Mr Parnell and Mr Uavitt and Mr Dillon, and the rest, were deliberate parties to setting on foot schemes of assassination. Therefore tho charge from the first, in its essence and its marrow, had not been a charge of constructive moral or legal responsibility in the acts of indiscreet or wicked agents. It had been a deliberate charge—namely, that the leaders deliberately used outrage and murder as a means by which their political aims were to be attained There bad been a miserable attempt made in these libels to eke out their charges by quotations from some words of an eminent man (Mr Gladstone), but there was every reason to believe that his later view of the Irish question was founded upon a truer basis and on better information than he previously possessed. Having quoted still further in support of his description of the first charge .Sir Charles asked the Court to consider this, FLOGGING A DEAD HORSE. Ho had dealt with the letters yesterday. He felt when he was doing so he was indeed flogging a dead horse; but, take away the letters, and where was the foundation on which tliis charge rested ? Where was the evidence, if their Lordships wore sitting in a criminal Court—and this was a criminal charge, and penal consequences of loss of life and deprivation of liberty would follow —which of their Lordships would think there was a case even fit to be submitted to the consideration of a jury ? As to Le Caron’s evidence, when these libels were penned he was persumably unknown to the agents of * The Times,’ as he ilul not suggest that at that time Mr Anderson was in confidential communication with Mr Macdonald or Mr Houston. Le Caron appeared as the dens ex muchind, or, it would he more correct to say, the dkdtolu s er; muchind : and, disgusted with the weak and impotent manner in which the case was being presented, came forward to save it from utter collapse. THE SECOND CHARGE. My Lords, continued Sir Charles, the second charge is this; “That leaders by their own speeches and those of their subordinates directly incited the people to outrage, and took no step, by speech or act, to prevent, to stop, or to condemn outrage. ” Sir Charles, having read the passages from the Attorney-General’s speeches in which this charge was formulated, continued : I will only remind your Lordships in passing that the evidence is the other way ; that beginning with the circular in December, 1880, which was followed by another circular, there were an immense number of speeches dealing with this very subject of condemnation. But beyond this there is the evidence of the reporter, Bernard O’Malley, who spoke of attending and reporting 200 Land League meetings, and who told your Lordships that with hardly an exception there was at these an appeal to the people to abstain from crime. Irwin gave evidence to a similar effect. THE THIRD CHARGE. What is the next charge 1 The third charge is this“ That if at any time any of the leaders have verbally condemned or discouraged outrage and crime theirlanguage was insincere and hypocritical.” Sir Charles read from the Attorney-General’s speech the passage in which Sir Richard said that Captain O’Shea would prove that Mr Parnell objected to sign the manifesto issued after the Phicuix Park murders, and only signed it under the necessities of the case. Captain O’Shea was called (continued counsel), and, as your Lordships will recollect, he said that was not true. On the contrary, he described the state of absolute prostration in which Mr Parnell and his leading colleagues were at the news of the dastardly blow. He, moreover, stated that the forged letters came upon him as a startling surprise. THE FOURTH CHARGE. The fourth charge is this; “ That no other cause has been or could be suggested for tho crime in Ireland from and after 1879 except tho agitation of tho Land League and the speeches of its leaders.” In view of tho historical argument, I need make no answer to that charge. How imperfectly tho Attorney-General must have been instructed when these statements were made ! I have shown how recurring distress and recurrent crime always spring from the same cause—the hapless condition of the actual tillers of the soil in Ireland in relation to those who had the proprietary rights of that soil. THE FIFTH CHARGE. The fifth charge is this : “ That the funds of the Land League were habitually used to pay for outrage, and were used to procure the escape from justice of criminals.” Sir Charles Russell read the statement of tho Attorney-General that Egan had funds to enable his fellow-criminals in the Phcenix Park murders to escape to America, I have already shown (he said) that there is not a single tittle of evidence sufficient to affect the character of the meanest of God’s creatures against him in reference to this. He next read the Attorney-General’s sweeping statement that money was received from some official of the League, carried down into the country, and there distributed in payment for outrage. Again I ask Where is there a tittle of evidence in support of that statement ? The justification they bad in their minds, I suppose, was the forged letters, I look with some curiosity for the time when the Attorney-General comes to grapple with these statements which 1 am now making, to see the course which ho will feel himself bound and compelled to take in relation to them. THE SIXTH CHARGE, The sixth charge is this: “ That at tho time of tho Kilmainham negotiations Mr Parnell kuew that Sheridan and Boyton bad been organising outrage, and therefore wished to use them to put down outrage.”
Where am I to find, in this heterogeneous mass of evidence, extending over sixty days, one scintilla of evidence of outrage organised in the West by Sheridan, or in Leinster by Boyton ? I say there is none. THU SEVENTH CHARGE. The seventh charge is this ; “ That the Invinciblus were a branch of the Land League, and were organised and paid by Egan, the treasurer of the Laud League.” After reading farther quotations, Sir Charles asked ‘if it was not clear that the letters were forged to fit in with the theory that the Land League leaders were partners to tliis atrocious conspiracy. There was one circumstance, he proceeded, in the Carey letter v, hit'll should have put ‘ITc Times’on it. guard if they had not been blinded by partizaaship and carried away by a reckless desire to injure political opponents. It was a matter of public knowledge that a search had been made in Carey’s house, and that two genuine letters of Egan to Carey were found. These have been produced before your Lordships, and they arc perfectly innocent, perfectly harmless ; and if for years after the search and the trial and conviction of the men engaged in that atrocious plot nothing was forthcoming from any quarter to implicate Egan, surely it ought Vo have led ‘The Times ’ to make inquiry as to how it came about that a letter addressed to Carey escaped the search of tho police and got into the hands from which it reached ‘The Times.’ But there was no inquiry: indeed, they proceeded with their eyes deliberately shut to inquiry as to these forgeries. In conclusion under this head, Sir diaries referred to the suggestion in a ‘ Times ’ article that the facsimile letter was addressed to Egan, and said ho supposed that it was on this foundation that the Attorney-General thought himself justified in insinuating that as these letters were addressed to and received by confederates of Mr Parnell that was a reason in these days of dynamite and assassination that he should not disclose the names of those from whom they were received. THE EIOHT CHARGE. The eighth charge was: “That Mr Parnell was intimate with the leading Inviucihlcs, that he probably learned from them what they were about when released on parole in April, 1882, that be recognised the Plncuix Park murders as their handiwork and knew it to be theirs, and partly in fear for his own safety be qualified and revoked the condemnation that lie thought it right publicly to pronounce,” The AltorneyGonerul had thought it prudent lo tone down the charge ‘ The Times ’ had made against Mr Parnell, Mr Justin M'Carthy, and some others. The Attorney-General said : “ It is not part of my case to suggest that prior to the Plucnix Park murders Mr Parnell had any knowledge of such murders being contemplated.” But Sir Charles preferred to take what ‘ The Times ’ said and wrote, and ask what was the meaning 1 The Times’ intended its readers to adopt. Having read the article, Sir Charles said : I reject the attempted gloss which the Attorney-General has sought to put upon that passage. No man who hears me—none of your Lordships—can doubt what it meant, that it meant to level at tho heads of the men there mentioned the charge that they had foreknowledge, that they were takiug act and part, had taken act and part, in this most atrocious crime. I agree with and adopt the description of the Attorney General : “There cannot be the slightest doubt that a more gross libel was never written of any public man than this which 1 am now reading with reference to Mr Purnell.”
The last charge was: “That Mr L’aruell, on the 23rd of January, 1883, by an opportune remittance enabled Byrne to escape from justice to Fraud 1 .” In support of that charge he read tin’s passage; “It was an opportune remittance from Mr Parnell himself, on the 23rd January, which had enabled Byrne to escape to France before the warrant for his arrest reached Scotland Yard.” This was repeated in a leading article, with this addition; “That he should have supplied Byrne with funds is quite in harmony with the tone and purport of his letter on the Phienix Park murders,” Again ; “ Tins question is not one of opinion hut fact. [‘ I agree,’ said Sir Charles.] If Mr Parnell supplied Byrne with money to leave the country in January, 1883, the signifioanceof tho action cannot be obscured by an casuistic subtleties or argumentative sleight-of-hand.” I agree again (added Sir Charles), and I am glad at last I have come to a delinite specific charge which can be definitely and specifically met. The letters formed one definite and npecific charge. This forma one definite and specific charge. Counsel then gave the history of the whole of the matter, reading from contemporaneous records and letters, and showing that the application for tho money had been under consideration for some time, and tiiat it bad been formally voted by tho League in Dublin, Minutes-, letters, and all were read, and also letters from Byrno showing that he had been ill and absent from duty for some time, and that he left for France by his doctor’s orders.
“ Now that the story has been told,” said Sir Charles, “ what docs it disclose?— a plain, straightforward, thoroughly innocent transaction, in which Mr Parnell is merely made in the first instance the medium of communication with the Dublin branch of the League, and in the next from the Dublin branch passes on a cheque to Mr Byrne. Tho rest of the transaction is easily told, Byrne handed the cheque to Mr Justin M'Carthy, and Mr Justin M'Carthy gave his own cheque in exchange. When Mr Justin M'Garthy’s attention was called to this matter in July, 18SS, some five years after the event, he said erroneously in the House of Commons that he had given his cheque for LI 00 to Mr Prank Byrne in exchange for a number of smaller cheques which Byrne gave to him. That was an error of no significance whatever. That is the whole story of that matter, and no words of mine can add to the simple, clear, unmistakeablc view which it gives of this transaction, which has formed the subject of so formidable an item in this indictment.” WHO I’UT THE I’EN IN HLS HAND ? I have now to ask, in view of this terrible indictment, continued Sir Charles, after a pauso, that your Lordships should look back to the evidence by which it has been supported. How insignificant, how utterly weak that evidence seems ! The indictment was broad, serious, and of the gravest kind, and it consisted of specific charges as to the letters and the LIOO cheque. We have met them and disproved these. Where they are general,lby what fragmentary proofs aro they sought to be supported ! We had been told that the writer of these libels was a young gentleman— I am sorry to say, an Irishman. 1 don’t wish to make harsh comments upon him ; I had thought he would have been called into tho box, and wc should have had an opportunity of lindiug the foundation of the various grave allegations of these libels. He has not been called. He seems to be possessed of considerable literary ability. I think he might hotter employ his talents than in using them to defame his countrymen and to discredit his country’s cause. Ho has shown ingenuity in patching together in a curious piece of literary mosaic, with scraps and patches, a grievous indict- : ment against tho Irish leaders. But it is due I to him to say that he was but a creature. The pen that was put into his hands by others was a pen dipped in political gall. The object of those who inspired him seems to have been to make charges broad enough, strong enough, blasting enough to the reputations of public men, with tho knowledge that if you only launch accusations strong enough and frequently enough you will succeed, however foundationless these charges may be, in injuring the men against whom they are directed—- . . . Call him tho blackest names; spread calumnies— All art can think and pregnant spite devise. Strike home, gash deep, no lies nor slanders spare; A wound though cured yet leaves behind a scar. A CLOSING REVIEW. Wo have endeavored to lay our case before you. to the best of our ability, in a methodical fashion. We have endeavored to show, and wo claim to have shown, as accounting for the crime which your Lordships are inquiring into, and its origin, that in former times there has been greater crime in greater volume of tho same class proceeding from the same sources, directed against the same classes of persons, and that with recurrent distress there has been a recurrent recrudescence of crime We have endeavored to show to your Lordships—and wo have shown by authentic contemporary official records—that there was iu 1879,
1880, and 1881 widespread dire distress in Ireland. We claim to have shown that then was the failure of Parliament to meet the needs of the time by offering to the class of tenants in Ireland who most needed it temporary protection from civil process of ejectment in their distress. We have shown that the landlord classes failed in the circumstances of the time to meet broadly, generously, and patriotically the necessities that were pressing at that time upon their unhappy countrymen. And wo have therefore shown that in the circumstances of the time it was nothing less than could bo expected that the people thus left without protection should resort to combination amougst themselves to prevent the recurrence of the nameless horrors of the famine years of 1846 and 1847. I have said before—l say again—that your Lordships are trying ten years of revolution in Ireland—a revolution partly social, partly political—and you are trying that revolution at a moment when by legal process of the Queen’s Courts the Irish people are gathering the fruits of that revolution. I would ask your Lordships, without any predilection—political or otherwise —I know your Lordships will try—l have never doubted, thought otherwise that your Lordships will try honestly this case upon the evidence, and that you will apply to the consideration of its broad outlines that same fair, that same generous, consideration which would bo extended to it by any body of intelligent men if they were considering a similar case, a similar history, in another country. THE SITUATION IN IRELAND. .Sir Charles went on to say there were two parties in Ireland, and two only. One party desired the Jaws, the government, the administration of Ireland should be in accordance with the wants and wishes and interests of the majority of the people of Ireland. The other party believed that they were very much better judges of what the interests of the people of Ireland are than the majority of its people. The first party may he called the Nationalist party. The latter has various names. Sometimes it is the party of the respectable classes, sometimes it is the party of the loyal minority, sometimes it is the party of law and order; but, strange phenomena, the latter party is one looking for its influence and support outside Ireland, and it possesses at this day all the positions of executive power and all the administrative authority in Ireland.
My lords (continued Sir Charles), I have spoken of this small but important section of the Irish community, which may be called the absolute governing classes in that community. Mr Parnell and Mr Parnell’s associates have earned the uncompromising hostility of that class. It is perhaps the highest tribute to the worth of his labors that he has done so. Wc are told that there arc signs of returning prosperity in Ireland —a gleam of returning health across the face of the country. If it be so, most fervently would I say “Deo Oration. l " But it cannot be a sound, it cannot be a healthy state of things where such scenes are enacted in relation to this very laud question as are being enacted in Donegal, and where there are no less than twenty-five representative members of the Irish people sent to prison. If they had committed crimes odious to man, I for one should say “By all means let thryn be sent there.” But the unhappy condition of things is this : They arc not, even in this land, regarded by a large section of the community as criminals ; while in their own country they arc regarded as heroes and martyrs in a sacred cause. 1 will not pursue the subject. But I would say this, my lor-Is, that the best guarantee for peace and order and the prevention of the recurrence of crime is in the belief and hope, strong in Irish breasts, that the time is coming when the state of things that has caused this must come to an end. lor their work in bringing this consummation devoutly to bo wished close at hand, the Irish party stand before your Lordships’ bar to-day. They can point to a marvellous work in ten years. Then, in the beginning of those years, it is no exaggeration to say that the Irish peasant farmer stood trembling, with bated breath and whispering humbleness, in the presence of landlord, agent, and bailiff, for the man’s fate was verily in the hollow of their hands. He bad no spur to industry, and no security that he should reap where he had sown. To day he may stand erect as becomes a free citizen in a free community, and although the charter of his liberty may not yet be complete, he has derived solid protection in the legislation of 1881 and subsequent legislation, which the agitation, as it has been called, of these men has helped to accomplish. A lII,ACE CAST : A FUTURE FILLED WITH ' HOI'E. Then, too, with a restricted, narrow franchise, Ireland spoke with an uncertain, with a stifled voice ; now, with a fuller franchise, Ireland speaks as a practically united people. Then secret organisation burrowed beneath the surface of society, and constituted a great social and political factor in tho land. To-day—thank God for it!—the great mass of the people have been won to bending their energies and to placing their hopes upon constitutional means of redress. Then, my lords, the great mass of the people were possessed with a feeling of despair for past efforts made and unrequited sacrifices. To-day hope is strong, is buoyant, in their breasts. Then they looked upon their countrymen in this island with distrust, if not with hate ; to-day they arc willing to hold out the hand of brotherly friendship, to let bygones be bygones, and to let for ever be buried the memories of persecution and bygone misery. Then, my lords—perhaps the most hopeful change of all—the people of this eountry, busied with their own concerns, knew little of Ireland; now they have taken this question to heart, and, recognising tho truth that misrule in Ireland means weakness to tho Empire, they have taken an interest in the solution of this question in recent years which was formerly unknown. A HISTORICAL PERORATION. My lords, I have come to an end, I cannot sit down without expressing the obligation I owe to your Lordships, not only for an attentive but an indulgent bearing. I have spoken not merely as an advocate; I have spoken of the land of my birth. But I feel—profoundly feel—that I have been speaking in tho best interests of England—of the country where my years of laborious life have been passed—and where I have received a kindness and consideration and a regard which I shall be glad to make an attempt to repay. My lords, my colleagues and myself have had a responsible duty. Wc have had to defend not merely tho loaders of a nation but the nation itself—to defend the leaders of a nation whom it was sought to crush ; to defend a nation whose hopes it was sought to dash to the ground. This inquiry, intended as a curse, has proved a blessing designed, prominently designed, to ruin one man, it has been his vindication. In opening this case I said we represented the accused, I now claim leave to say the positions are reversed. We are the accusers. But I hope this inquiry, in its present stage and future development, will serve even more than the vindication of individuals—that it will remove painful misconceptions as to tho character, actions, motives, and aims of the Irish people, and of the leaders of the Irish people—that it will set earnest minds—and thank God! there are many earnest and honest minds in this country—thinking for themselves upon this question; that it will remove grievous misconceptions, and hasten the day of true union and of real reconciliation between the people of Ireland and the people of Great Britain; and that with the advent of that true union and reconciliation there will be dispelled, and dispelled for over, tho cloud —the weighty cloud—that has rested on the history of a noble man and dimmed the glory of a mighty Empire. (Loud applause.)
SIR CHARLES RUSSELL'S GREAT SPEECH., Issue 7928, 8 June 1889, Supplement
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