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MR. MICHAEL DAVITT ON THE SITUATION., New Zealand Tablet, Volume X, Issue 482, 7 July 1882
MR. MICHAEL DAVITT ON THE SITUATION.
The following are extracts from tbe principal portions of a letter addressed by Mr. Michael Davitt to the Standard :—: —
I came out of Portland Prison at three o'clock on Saturday afternoon, but I had been confined in solitude for 15 months wihout having, from the hour of my reception to that of my release, a newspaper, or even received a communication that did not pass through the hands of the governor. Yet, in the face of these facts, which cannot be unknown to those who understand the vigorous discipline of a convict prison, you ask me to come forward and make a clean breast of information that would throw light on the atrocity of last Saturday. You must have overlooked the situation in which I had been placed from February 3rd 1881, to the afternoon of the day of Lord Cavendish's murder, when you implied that I, in common with Messrs. Painell and Dillon, must possess information that would enable the assassins to be tracked. lam assured by these gentlemen, though no such assurance is needed by those who know them, that they have no such information. They could not, therefore, lend any more assistance in bringing the assassins to jus'ice than that given, in the manifesto issued in our names and placarded through the length and breadth of Ireland, so that our people should see that we placed the murderers of Lord Cavendish in their true position as assassins of the people's cause, who had forfeited all claims to shelter or sympathy ; whose capture aloue could remove the stain which their crime has let on tbe character of Ireland.
You next call upon my f rieudsand myself, on our recovered liberty, 1o give the world solid and unanswerable guarantees of the loathing with which we regard all forms of outrage, by making a fresh pilgrimage through the country, and to never desist from denouncing until these hideous crimes are exorcised from the land. I agree with you, Mr. Editor, that such a pilgrimage 6hould be made, even now had it not been made before. Why have there not been such pilgrimages? Let the facts answer as far at least as lam concerned. From the first inception of the Land League I warned the Irish people against outrages, as the greatest danger of the movement. When I went to America in May, 1880, wherever I spoke from New York to San Francisco, I did my best to allay the demon of revenge which bitter memories of eviction woke in the heart 9of exiled millions. On the day of my arrival in Ireland from my last lecturing tour in America, in November, 1880, in an interview published in all the liish newspapers I denounced violence and outrage in the strongest terms I could command. On the following day I did the same thing from the platform, and, pushing on the very pilgrimage you now propose to rae, I spokts the same way in all the four provinces ot Ireland. Iv addition to this, I issued instructions of similar tenour to the organisers of tbe Land League, aud I drew up, printed, and distributed circulars pointing out to the people the inevitable consequences of revenge being allowed to supplant moral force, which alone could win their social rights, and in the name of the Land League called upon its blanches throughout the country to deal with the outrage frenzy as the one paramount danger which threatened the existence of the movement with destruction, the hope of our peasantry with annihilation, and the character of our people with the stigma of assassination. These are the facts. In verification I appeal to the reports of the Irish papers, of the American press, and of the Government shorthand writers. There is another fact. Ere I had completed the sixteenth day of my pilgrimage I was arrested, and since then, until three o'clock on Saturday afternoon, a period of fifteen months, I have been buried in Portland prison.
Now, Mr. Editor, I have answered your questions. Let me put a question to you. Supposing that lor anj one else were to start on (he pilgrimage you propose, and that after 'we had gone so far, news were to come to 30a that we were beat. a. iuto silence with the bhidgeon. or stricken down with the bullet, or cut to pieces with tlic kniv.'s of the assassins, what would you t-a,> 1 Would you not say thit we had been silenced by those who wir'he.l outiapesto ■ ontinuo? What then, wouM you siy of the uo lc^ eft-clue rummer in wl.ich I whs siienced ? Was it not alto ibal mit-a-jiß night continue 1 Was it not in furtherance of an atrocious pohry that murder and outrage should follow in the wake of the Land League, that Irish landlordism might be r< presented to the British people as battling not with justifiable reform but with social savagery ? What are the facts of Irish history ? Are they not that over and over again seditious conspiracies have been allowed to grow, nay even have been stimulated, in order that a ceitain stage of crimil nality should be reached by those whose actions and plans were known to the police, so that the blow should be struck at their movements with the greatest eclat, and the chastisement given be all the more effectual from the numbers involved in the revolutionary designs ? I challenge Mr. Forster, or whoever ia responsible for my arrest, to come forward now and declare upon what ground I was deprived of liberty during the past fifteen months, or allow Dublin Castle to be under the imputation of baring removed me from its path, because of my stand'against the policy of conniving at murder and outrage. lam constrained to make this demand nuw from a conscientious belief that had I been permitted to continue my crusade against outrage, to have levelled all the influence of the Land League against the commission of murder and the mutilation of cattle, I c uld have prevented numbers of crimes that now stain the name of Ireland, and have averted the horrible deed of Saturday last. This is no vain boast.
Mr. Forster, in reply to my speech at Kilbrin, county Cork, a fortnight previous to my arrest, at which I predicted the accumulation of crime that would result from his policy, and held him answerable before God for the consequences that would inevitably follow from police teirorism and coercion, said that I was a convicted Fenian. Very well, I am. It is true that I was convicted on a false charge, sworn to by a salaried peijurer whom I had nevrr seen ere he confronted me in the dock of Newgate, but I do not wish to plead that. I would only ask any fair-minded Englishman to read a few chapters of Irish history, to put himself in imagination in the place of a son of an evicted Irish peasant, and to answer whether it is any stigma to an Irishman th*t he has been a Fenian. The people of Ireland do not think so. Nothing so shows the false relations into which the two countries have been brought by misunderstanding and misrule than that a man may be a criminal on one side of the Irish Sea and a patriot on the other. And if it be said, as many unthinking Englishmen would say, that a Fenian is a man who wishes <o burn, to blow up, to murder, I will not reply even to that, though I know it to be untrue. I will only ask if it is just to hold that a man of mature years must be held to the opinions of youth. And this, at least, let me say for myself. If in the hot blood of early manhood, smarting under the cruelties and indignities perpetrated on my country, I saw in an appeal to force, the only means of succouring her, tberehas dawned upon my graver thought, in the bitter solitude of a felon's cell, a noble vision, a dream of the fraternisation and enfranchisement of peoples, of the conquering of hate by justice. I have suffered by their power, and, as I believe, by their ignorance and prejudice, but, there is in my heart to-day no sentiment of bitterness towards the English people. The gospel of the land for the people 13 a universal gospel, and in its triumph is involved the social regeneration of England as clearly and as fully as the social regeneration of Ireland. In the heart of whoever receives it, race bitterness and ancient hatred die away.
MR. MICHAEL DAVITT ON THE SITUATION., New Zealand Tablet, Volume X, Issue 482, 7 July 1882
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