Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parnell, Charles Stewart
PARNELL, CHARLES STEWART (1846–1891), political leader, was second son of John Henry Parnell (d. 1859) of Avondale, co. Wicklow, by his wife Delia Tudor, daughter of Commodore Charles Stewart of the United States navy. His grandfather, William Parnell, who first settled at Avondale, co. Wicklow; his great-grandfather, Sir John Parnell; and his grand-uncle, Henry Brook Parnell, first baron Congleton, are noticed separately. Thomas Parnell (1679-1718) [q. v.], the poet, was among his kinsmen. The family had come to Ireland from Cheshire during the reign of Charles II (Head, Congleton Past and Present, 1887). Parnell's father and grandfather shared the aspirations of the Irish nationalists of their time; while his American mother inherited a strong hatred of England, and acknowledged much sympathy with the fenian organisation which was formed about 1858 for the avowed objects of separating Ireland from England and of establishing an Irish republic [see O'Mahony, John].
Parnell was born at Avondale on 27 June 1846. He was educated chiefly in England at a private school at Yeovil, Somerset, and by two private tutors—the Rev. Mr. Barton at Kirk Langley, Derbyshire, and the Rev. Mr. Wishaw at Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. His vacations were spent mainly in Dublin in the old red-brick mansion, 14 Upper Temple Street, which had long been the town house of the family. On 1 July 1865 he matriculated, at the age of nineteen, as a pensioner from Magdalene College, Cambridge. While a lad he was distant and reserved, though warmly attached to the few whom he made his friends. One of his teachers writes that he was quick, 'and interesting to teach,' but not a great favourite with his companions.' His career at Cambridge, which lasted for nearly four years, was undistinguished. A diffident youth, giving no promise of a remarkable future, he left the university without a degree at the end of May 1869.
From 1869, when he left Cambridge, until 1872 Parnell remained at Avondale. He stood well in the estimation of his own class, and was regarded as a retiring country gentleman of conservative tendencies. He showed some liking for cricket, and was captain of a Wicklow 'eleven.' He also became an officer in the Wicklow militia. In 1872-3 he travelled in the United States. On returning home he was chosen a member of the synod of the disestablished church, and he was high sheriff of co. Wicklow in 1874.
During the same year he plunged into Irish politics. His attention had first been drawn to them by the fenian movement which had come to a head in 1865-7. That movement he had watched, he tells us, 'with interest and attention.' A sister writes: 'It was the occasion of the execution of the Manchester martyrs [three fenians hanged in Manchester in 1807 for killing a policeman while they were trying to rescue fenian prisoners] that first called forth an expression of aversion for England on my brother's part, and set him thinking and brooding over the wrongs of his country. This indignation was extreme, and from that time there was a marked change in him — he was then twenty-one years of age.' Isaac Butt [q. v.], who defended the fenian prisoners in 1865, and was impressed by their earnestness, had founded in 1870 the Home Rule Association for the restoration of an Irish parliament. At the same time he placed himself at the head of the Amnesty Association, formed for the purpose of obtaining the release of the fenian prisoners. Thus the fenian and home-rule organisations ran, during Butt's regime and in Parnell's youth, side by side.
In March 1874 Parnell introduced himself to Butt at his residence in Henrietta Street, Dublin, and offered him his services. 'I have got a great recruit,' Butt said at the time; 'young Parnell—a historic name—and, unless I am mistaken, the Saxon will find him an ugly customer, though he is a d—d goodlooking fellow.' Colonel Taylor, M.P. for co. Dublin, had just accepted the office of chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster in Disraeli's new ministry, and had therefore vacated his seat. Parnell came forward to oppose his reelection. The young candidate's first speech was a complete failure, and he was hopelessly beaten at the poll. But in April 1875 he was elected for co. Meath in place of John Martin [q. v.], the veteran Young Irelander, who had died on 29 March. On 22 April Parnell took his seat in the house. Four days later he made his first speech, opposing in committee a bill for the preservation of peace in Ireland. He maintained that 'in the neglect of the principles of self-government lay the root of all Irish trouble,' and 'that Ireland was not a geographical fragment, but a nation' (Hansard, ccxxiii. 1643-6). On fourteen other occasions Parnell spoke during the session; but he made no particular impression.
Parnell's sympathy with the fenian movement drew from him his first notable utterance in the House of Commons. On 30 June 1876 Sir Michael Hicks Beach, the chief secretary for Ireland, speaking on the subject of home rule, incidentally described the fenians arrested at Manchester as 'the Manchester murderers.' At the words 'Manchester murderers' there was a cry of 'No, no!' from the Irish benches. Sir Michael expressed 'regret that there is any hon. member in this house who will apologise for murder.' Thereupon Parnell said: 'I wish to say, as publicly and directly as I can, that I do not believe, and I never shall believe, that any murder was committed at Manchester.' So 'spirited and defiant' a 'defence of the Manchester men in the House of Commons'attracted the attention of the fenian organisations. The fenians had lost all confidence in Butt; l'arnell had shocked and defied the house— that in the eyes of the fenians was the true policy. In 1876 Parnell made another advance which commended him to the fenians. He joined the Amnesty Association.
By 1877 Butt had ceased, except in name, to lead. The Irish party lacked unity; there was no recognised scheme of operation, and no directing mind. The Irish member was an object of derision, and Parnell keenly felt the humiliation of the position. In 1877 he resolved to make the Irish party a power in parliament. The English parties in the House of Commons had reduced the representatives of his country to impotency. He would turn the tables on the British members of parliament. He would fight all English parties, would declare war on the English nation, and attack the House of Commons itself. He determined to systematise the plan of obstructing the business of the house, which had already been practised occasionally by J. G. Biggar, M.P. for Cavan, in alliance with Mr. F. H. O'Donnell and Mr. O'Conor Power. My 'policy,' he said, 'is not a policy of conciliation, but a policy of retaliation.' Accordingly from 1877 onwards his obstructive tactics were worked unceasingly, and rapidly fulfilled his object of bringing discredit on the House of Commons. His aims first became apparent in the discussion on the Prisons Bill of the home secretary, Mr. Cross, in June 1877; every clause was obstinately opposed, and motions for adjournment were crowded one upon the other. On 2 July 1877 Parnell contrived that the House of Commons should sit from 4 P.M. till 7.15 A.M. the next morning in a vain attempt to pass the vote for the army reserve. Seventeen divisions were taken. Similar debates were organised by Parnell in the same month, while the South Africa Bill was in committee. On 25 July the chancellor of the exchequer moved (but did not press the motion) that Parnell be suspended from the service of the house till the 27th, for having wilfully and persistently obstructed public business and for being 'guilty of contempt of this house.' On 27 July strong resolutions to meet the action of Parnell and his friends were adopted by large majorities. Nevertheless on 31 July the house, owing to Parnell's persistence in his policy, sat continuously from 4 P.M. till 6 P.M. on the following evening, in order to pass the South Africa Bill through committee. This was at the time the longest recorded sitting of the House of Commons. Butt described Parnell's tactics as 'simply revolutionary.' At a meeting of home-rule members on 6 Aug. they declared the policy 'reprehensible, and likely to prove disastrous to the Home Rule cause.' Butt soon, however, perceived that Parnell's conduct met with approval among the home-rulers in the Irish constituencies, and on 14 Jan. 1878, at a conference in Dublin, he gave it some countenance. In the ensuing session a committee was formed to revise the rules of the House of Commons, with a view to suppressing obstruction. Parnell served on it, and actively resisted any oppressive restrictions on debate. On 12 April 1878 he took part in a disorderly debate on the murder of the Earl of Leitrim, an Irish landlord, and for a second time—and now by some of his Irish colleagues—he was charged in the house with apologising for murder. On 5 May 1879 the death of Butt, and the election of Mr. Shaw as leader of the home-rulers, greatly increased his power. On 5 July he showed his strength by keeping the house, while discussing the Army Discipline Bill, in session from 1.40 P.M. on Saturday till 12.15 on Sunday morning. Six days later he moved to censure the speaker for having directed special notes to be taken of his and his friends' speeches. The motion was rejected by 421 votes to 29. One of the incidental effects of Parnell's treatment of the Army Discipline Bill was to abolish the use of the lash in the army.
But Parnell was not content with his efforts to 'block' the business of the House of Commons. English opinion, which he contemned, was to be further outraged. He had made up his mind to consolidate and to dominate all the scattered forces, whether inside or outside parliament, which aimed at securing for Ireland legislative independence. Every Irishman who favoured a forward and aggressive policy, whether in a revolutionary or a constitutional direction, was to be brought under the same banner, and the united army was to humiliate England, and was to wring home rule from her after she had been humiliated. Encouraged by the success with which Parnell pursued the war in parliament, the fenians, who aimed at the complete severance of Ireland from England, were bestirring themselves. Fenianism was then divided into two main bodies: the I.R.B., or Irish Republican Brotherhood (whose centre was in Ireland, with headquarters in Paris), and the Clan-na-Gael (whose centre was in America). The first body represented the party of 'open warfare,' or old fenians, and its funds were chiefly used for introducing arms into Ireland in anticipation of an insurrection; the second party the new fenians was prepared to strike England anywhere and anyhow. Parnell seized every opportunity that offered to manifest his admiration of the fenians. In December 1877 Mr. Davitt and other members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood were released from prison on ticket-of-leave. Parnell met them in Dublin, and took part in the public rejoicing. Mr. Davitt rejoined the fenian organisation, and spent the autumn of 1878 in America, in consultation with the leaders of the Clan-na-Gael. One of the latter, Mr. John Devoy, a fenian of 1867, proposed to him that the fenian bodies should back up Parnell, and support 'a. movement of open and constitutional agitation.' Hitherto the fenians had refused all association with merely parliamentary agitators. Addressing a meeting of extreme nationalists at New York on 13 Oct. 1878, Mr. Davitt, while expressing sympathy with the suspicions attaching to all members of parliament in the eyes of the fenians, suggested that the obstructionist party led by Parnell was of a different calibre from Butt and Butt's predecessors. 'They are,' he said, 'young and talented Irishmen, who are possessed of courage and persistency, and do what they can to assist Ireland.' Mr. Devoy followed, and explicitly recommended the revolutionists to join in constitutionial agitation for their own ends. They should enter into the public life of the country; they should seek to influence the parliamentary, municipal, and poor-law elections, and thus gain the confidence of the whole people.
This policy, known as 'the new departure,' was more fully defined in terms which were telegraphed to Dublin, and published in the nationalists' newspaper, the 'Freeman's Joumal,’ on 11 Dec. 1878. Parnell was promised the support of the Clan-na-Gael in America, and of its agents in Ireland, on five conditions: a general declaration in favour of self-government was to be substituted for 'the federal demand;' the land question was to be vigorously agitated on the 'basis of a peasant proprietary;' sectarian issues were to be excluded from the platform; Irish members of parliament were invariably to vote together, were to pursue an aggresive policy, and were to resist coercive legislation; finally, they were to advocate the cause of all struggling nationalities in the British Empire and elsewhere. Although Parnell had, on 27 Sept. 1879, announced himself as a federalist, he had little hesitation in accepting these terms as a basis of alliance between himself and the fenians in America. The alliance accorded with his ambition to unite Irishmen all over the world, and to mass all organisations, revolutionist and constitutional, in combination against 'the common enemy.' But a very small section of the Clan-na-Gael proved ready to ratify the compact, and he had to bring his personal powers of persuasion to bear on the fenian chiefs before the suggested union could be rendered effective.
Early in 1878 Mr. Devoy and Mr. Davitt arrived in Europe. The former, after making vain efforts to induce the directory of the Irish Republican Brotherhood at Paris to support his plans, joined Mr. Davitt in Ireland. There for the first time Mr. Devoy met Parnell, and discussed 'the new departure' in detail. At the moment a partial famine was causing acute distress among the farming population. The opportunity was presented of creating an agrarian imitation on a large scale, and of thereby furthering the cause of union between constitutionalists and revolutionists under Parnell's direct auspices.
In the early months of 1879 Mr, Davitt and Mr. Devoy visited Mayo, where the fenian organisations were strong in Ireland, and where there was much agrarian distress. They addressed meetings on the injustice of existing land laws. On 7 June 1879, at Westport, co. Mayo, Parnell for the first time publicly Joined Mr. Davitt in the work. A meeting had been convened with a view to recommending the new policy to the fenians; it had been denounced beforehand by the archbishop of Tuam in a published letter as likely to encourage secret societies whose object was outrage. Parnell attended and moved a resolution declaring the necessity of a sweeping readjustment of the land laws in the interest of the tenant. Although he had felt some scruples in grafting on the national movement any merely agrarian question, he had carefully considered the conditions of Irish land tenure, and had come to the conclusion that the best solution would be found in the purchase of the land by the tenants. In February 1877 he had vainly introduced the Irish Church Act Amendment Bill, with the object of facilitating the purchase of their holdings by the tenants of the disestablished Irish church. 'You must show the landlords,' he now told the Westport tenants, 'that you intend to hold a firm grip on your homesteads and lands.' 'A good land bill, the planting of the people in the soil,' would be followed, he foretold, by an Irish parliament. On the same platform Mr. Davitt congratulated Parnell on his success 'in blocking the machinery of the English House of Commons.' The meeting was deemed satisfactory by the section of the Clan-na-Gael leaders favourable to the new policy. On 16 Aug. 1879, after the ground had been thus cleared, a society called 'The National Land League for Mayo' was formed at a convention held at Castlebar; it was based on a declaration that 'the land of Ireland belonged to the people,' but the principle of compensation to the landlords was admitted.
Parnell seemed at first reluctant to extend the land movement to the whole of Ireland, but he was easily convinced of the necessity. In October 1879 the National Land League of Ireland was founded at a convention in Dublin, and Parnell was chosen president. The league announced the two-fold aim of bringing about a reduction of rackrents and of promoting the transference of the ownership of the land to the occupiers. A manifesto, addressed by the executive to the Irish race, appealed for support for the league on these terms. But the league had other than agrarian objects. Four of the original officers were, or had been, members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and all sympathised with the demand for legislative independence. The league was intended to advance that cause; but, in order to attract to it all men of nationalist opinions, in accordance with the principles of 'the new departure,' it was judged prudent not to define its political aims. The Irish Republican Brotherhood, however, remained inflexible, and as a body declined its aid, although the directory believed in the genuineness of Parnell's hatred of England, and received the advances he made to them in a friendly spirit. But, despite the action of the 'old fenian' leaders, many unofficial members of the fenian body joined the land league and worked under Parnell's command. Parnell devoted himself with infinite energy to consolidating the new association. At Navan, on 11 Oct., he advised the farmers to offer what they considered fair rent, and, if it was refused, to pay none until the landlords came to their senses. He told the Irish electoral league at Manchester on 10 Nov. that Ireland had struck against the payment of unjust rents. Fair rents, he thought, should be paid for thirty years, and the land should then become the property of the tenant.
At the first meeting of the league Parnell had been invited to proceed to America to obtain pecuniary assistance. Accordingly, on 21 Dec. 1879, he embarked at Queenstown for New York, and arrived off Sandy Hook on 1 Jan. 1880. On 4 Jan. he addressed some seven thousand persons at Gilmore's Garden, New York. He solicited contributions both for the home-rule organisation and for the famine-stricken peasantry; the two funds were to be kept separate (New York Nation, 8 Jan. 1880). Five hundred pounds was handed to Parnell, and was distributed in Mayo and Galway. But neither relief of distress nor the collection of funds for either the parliamentary party or the land league exhausted the objects of Parnell's mission. His leading object was to exert his personal influence on the Irish revolutionists in America so as to induce them to accept fully 'the new departure,' and to co-operate in the movement for legislative independence. In a conversation with a New York journalist on the outward voyage, while referring with satisfaction to the diminution in the value of land already effected by the land-league operations, he confessed his need of undivided fenian support if the system of Irish government was to be altered. Personally he would join no illegal body or secret society, but the fenian organisations and fenian sympathies he required to have at his back. In the opinion of a shrewd and experienced Irish nationalist member, Parnell's policy was impracticable. 'He will have to talk treason in America. How will he run the gauntlet of the House of Commons afterwards?' But Parnell's negotiations with the Clan-na-Gael succeeded. He soon won the confidence of its leaders, who formally adopted 'the new departure.' Parnell at the same time avoided making himself responsible for the violent acts of the clan, and cultivated no genuine intimacy with its organisers. He spared no effort to gain an ascendency over the rank and file, and to convince them that the policy of combining constitutional and revolutionary agitation was the only means of bringing England to her knees. But the inner machinery of the clan he neither studied nor sought to control.
After accepting Parnell as their ally, the clan organised his meetings in America, filled the halls where he spoke, and contributed to his fund for the distressed tenants. At the same time he was anxious to win all the sympathy and pecuniary aid possible, and therefore did not adhere solely to the mode of appeal which suited the revolutionists. He varied his tone so as to satisfy not only the fenian but the pacific land reformer and the home-ruler among Irish-Americans, and he often confined himself to purely philanthropic utterances so as to effectually reach the impartial American public. The leading citizens of the United States appeared with him on the platform. Henry Ward Beecher supported him at Brooklyn on 9 Jan., and Wendell Phillips at Boston three days later. After speaking to large audiences at Philadelphia, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Peoria (Illinois), Cambridge (Massachusetts), Albany, and other places, he was accorded, as in the case of Kossuth, Dr. John England [q. v.] in 1826, and some other visitors, the honour of an invitation to address the House of Representatives at Washington on the evening of 2 Feb. This distinction was secured mainly through the efforts of Captain O'Meagher Condon, a member of the Clan-na-Gael, and a fenian of 1867. The galleries were crowded, but the members present are said to have been few. Parnell spoke chiefly of the means by which he proposed to revolutionise the land tenure of Ireland by expropriating the landlords after they had been fairly compensated for their interests (Report, pp. 19-20). On 4 Feb. he was received by the president, and visited the members of the cabinet. Subsequently he addressed the legislatures of five states. At Cincinnati, on 20 Feb., he spoke out boldly in a revolutionary sense. ‘None of us,’ he said, ‘whether we are in America or Ireland, or wherever we may be, will be satisfied until we have destroyed the last link which keeps Ireland bound to England’ (Irish World, 6 March 1880). Visits to Iowa followed, and on 6 March he arrived in Toronto. On 8 March, while at Montreal, he learned that Lord Beaconsfield's ministry was about to dissolve parliament, and he thereupon brought his tour to a close. He at once travelled to New York, and hastily summoned a conference, at which the foundation of the American land league was laid and arrangements for forwarding to him pecuniary contributions completed. On 21 March he landed at Queenstown, and three days later parliament was dissolved. Lord Beaconsfield, in announcing the dissolution, declared that Parnell was organising a movement in Ireland which would menace the unity of the British empire.
Parnell was welcomed back by the fenians of Cork, who presented him with an address; and he straightway engaged in the parliamentary elections. Although the original laws of the land league forbade the application of any of its fund to parliamentary purposes, Parnell drew 2,000l. from its exchequer, in order to support the parliamentary struggle. The Irish Republican Brotherhood was still unconverted, and there were signs that it was bent on resisting his growing power. At meetings which he attended at Enniscorthy on 28 March 1880, and on 30 April at the Rotunda at Dublin, when a development of the constitution of the land league was under consideration, attempts at disturbance were made by the fenians. At the second meeting he told the story how a gentleman gave him thirty dollars on a platform in America, with the remark, ‘Here are five dollars for bread, and twenty-five dollars for lead.’ The story was repeated on at least one other platform. The rank and file of the Irish Republican Brotherhood showed no further opposition to Parnell, although the chiefs still withheld their sanction and support.
The result of the general election was the return of the liberals to office. Parnell, who was elected for three constituencies—Meath, Mayo, and Cork city, chose to sit for the last. The home-rule party consisted of sixty-eight members. A few were lukewarm in the cause, and proved inefficient workers. But the majority were new men, who had been selected by Parnell from various classes of society for their activity and habits of obedience, and on 17 May he was elected chairman of the home-rule party in the house. Over his parliamentary supporters he henceforth exerted an iron sway which is unparalleled in parliamentary annals. With very few of his followers did he encourage any social intimacy. In private life he held aloof from most of them. Their business in public affairs was to fear and obey him.
Outside the house, too, Parnell had become a foe whom the English government could no longer despise. He had the support not only of the Clan-na-Gael and many members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, but also of the land league and the tenant-farmers and peasantry of Ireland. Moreover, without any efforts on his part, the suspicions with which the catholic church in Ireland had at first viewed him were quieted, and the mass of the priests and many of the bishops had declared themselves his active allies. Such forces were not homogeneous; many of the component parts were divided from each other by strong antipathies. But Parnell's skilful hand and iron will—his personal power alone—held the great army together for nearly ten years.
The new parliament met on 29 April. There was much distress in Ireland, many evictions, and general discontent. William Edward Forster [q. v.], a statesman of high reputation, had been made chief secretary for Ireland. Earl Cowper was lord lieutenant. The government at once introduced a remedial measure, giving compensation to tenants on eviction. The bill was maimed in the commons and rejected by the lords on 3 Aug. Its rejection added fuel to the agrarian agitation which the land league was fomenting in Ireland. In April and May the league had greatly extended its operations; organisers had been despatched to form new branches in all directions, and Parnell had not relaxed the earnestness with which he first flung himself into this agitation. On 19 Sept. he made a speech at Ennis which marked an epoch in the struggle. ‘When a man,’ he told his peasant hearers, ‘takes a farm from which another had been evicted, you must shun him on the roadside when you meet him, you must shun him in the streets of the town, you must shun him at the shop-counter, you must shun him in the fair and in the market-place, and even in the house of worship, by leaving him severely alone, by putting him into a moral Coventry, by isolating him from the rest of his kind as if he was a leper of old—you must show him your detestation of the crime he has committed; and you may depend upon it, if the population of a county in Ireland carry out this doctrine, that there will be no man so full of avarice, so lost to shame, as to dare the public opinion of all right-thinking men within the county, and to transgress your unwritten code of laws.’
The method of intimidation thus recommended by Parnell was at once adopted in its full rigour by the peasant members of all branches of the league, and was soon known as ‘boycotting,’ after the name of its first important victim, Captain Boycott of Lough Mask, co. Galway. The immorality of the practice was long the theme of English politicians, and it was condemned in a papal rescript addressed to the catholic bishops in Ireland in 1887.
Throughout the autumn of 1880 the government in Ireland was paralysed. A state of utter lawlessness prevailed, and murderous outrages were of almost daily occurrence. The total number of agrarian crimes in Ireland rose from 301 in 1878 to 863 in 1879, to 2,590 in 1880, and to 4,439 in 1881. On 9 Oct. 1880 Dr. MacCabe, the catholic archbishop of Dublin, issued a pastoral reprobating the outrages and condemning the leaders of the agitation for failing to denounce crime. Parnell was undismayed. Speaking at a meeting of the land league at Galway on 24 Oct., he attacked the chief secretary, who was boldly trying to stem the tide of disorder, as ‘our hypocritical chief secretary,’ and derided him as ‘Buckshot Forster,’ because he had allowed the employment of buckshot by soldiers in suppressing riots.
The first blow which the government struck at Parnell proved ineffectual. In October his secretary, Mr. T. M. Healy, was arrested on a charge of justifying an attempt at murder. On 2 Nov. informations for seditious conspiracy were laid against himself and four of his parliamentary colleagues—John Dillon, J. G. Biggar, T. D. Sullivan, and T. Sexton. The defendants were brought to trial in January 1881, but the jury disagreed (on 24 Jan.), and Parnell and the land league were stronger than before.
Meanwhile, on 6 Jan., the ministers summoned parliament in order to deal with the disturbed condition of Ireland. On 24 Jan. Mr. Forster asked leave to introduce a rigorous bill for the protection of persons and property in that country. Its provisions practically suspended the Habeas Corpus Act. A second bill enabling the police to search for arms was at the same time announced. Next day Mr. Gladstone secured precedence for the debate on the two bills after a discussion which was protracted for twenty-two consecutive hours by Parnell's lieutenants. On 28 Jan. the discussion on leave to introduce the Coercion Bill was continued, and Mr. Gladstone, in a passionate speech, asserted that, ‘with fatal and painful precision, the steps of crime dogged the steps of the land league.’ Parnell defied every parliamentary convention in resisting the passage of this bill. Unlike most of his countrymen, he had little faith in parliamentary oratory. ‘Speeches are not business,’ he told his friends. ‘This fight cannot be fought out by speeches. We must stop the work of this house. We must show these gentlemen that if they don't do what we want, they shall do nothing else. That is the only way this fight can be fought out.’ Throughout the battle Parnell was indefatigable in maintaining the struggle at fever heat. He rarely left the house. No shirking on the part of his followers was possible under his rigid gaze. An English member favourable to his cause vainly appealed to him to relax his obstructive tactics, but he was inexorable. ‘The government want war,’ he said, ‘and they shall have it.’ The sitting which began on Monday, 31 Jan., at four o'clock, to continue the discussion on the introduction of the measure, he managed to prolong till half-past nine on Wednesday morning. It was then brought to a close, after a debate of forty-one hours, by the action of the speaker, who refused to hear further speeches. Parnell was not in the house when this decision was announced, and the bill was introduced.
On 2 Feb. Mr. Davitt's ticket of leave was cancelled, and he was re-arrested. On 3 Feb. Mr. Gladstone introduced resolutions once more reforming the procedure of the house, whereupon Parnell and his friends resorted to such disorderly protests that he himself and twenty-six of his followers were summarily suspended by the speaker for the rest of the day's sitting. The new rules of procedure enabled the house to pass the Coercion Bill, and on 2 March it received the royal assent. After dealing with the Coercion Bill the government took up the land question, and on 7 April 1881 Mr. Gladstone introduced a measure which gave full recognition to tenant right throughout Ireland, and established a new tribunal—a land court—to fix fair rents. Parnell received the bill with caution. He was not warm in its praise. He was critical. The bill was good as far as it went, but did not go far enough. He and the conservatives moved numberless amendments in committee, but the measure, which was under discussion in the House of Commons for four months to the exclusion of all other business, was read a third time on 29 July. On 16 Aug. it passed the lords, and received the royal assent a few days later. Parnell's position at the head of his heterogeneous army was rendered extremely critical by his partial acceptance of the Land Act. The revolutionary wing of his followers disliked the measure. They feared that it would satisfy the peasantry and draw them outside the revolutionary lines. Parnell, although he was resolved that the peasantry should not be deprived of such benefits as the act conferred, could not afford to offend the revolutionists. Accordingly he came to an understanding with them. With their assent, he determined to test the value of the act by sending, with the aid of the land league, some test cases into the newly established land court. The proposal satisfied the peasantry, who believed that the land court would be beneficial to them, and it satisfied the revolutionists, who believed that the worthlessness of the act would be summarily exposed.
At this juncture Parnell felt the necessity of strengthening the position of the land league, through whose agency the agitation in Ireland was kept alive. Since 1880 the league had distributed among the peasantry copies of a New York newspaper, called ‘The Irish World,’ which was edited by Patrick Ford, a fanatical nationalist. Ford openly recommended murder as an instrument of agitation. In 1881 Parnell deemed it expedient to supply the league with a journal that should be immediately under his control. In July of that year he accordingly formed ‘The Irish National Newspaper and Publishing Company.’ He and Mr. Patrick Egan, the treasurer of the league, were the chief shareholders, but the invested money was supplied by the league, and Parnell held the shares as trustee of that association. The company purchased the ‘Shamrock,’ the ‘Flag of Ireland,’ and the ‘Irishman,’ three weekly papers of small circulation, all of which were organs of extreme opinions. The ‘Shamrock’ was discontinued; the ‘Irishman’ proceeded on its old lines till its death in August 1885. The ‘Flag of Ireland’ was converted into ‘United Ireland,’ the first number of which appeared on 13 Aug. 1881. Mr. William O'Brien, an ardent nationalist, became editor of both the ‘Irishman’ and ‘United Ireland.’ The latter was thenceforth the accredited organ of the land league, and, while by its inflammatory language it sustained the agitation and encouraged sedition, it made no endeavour to condemn outrage. Though Parnell as chief proprietor was responsible for the tone of the paper, he rarely read it.
His immediate object was to maintain the supremacy of the league at all hazards. Soon after the Land Bill had been introduced Mr. Dillon had made a speech (1 May) urging the peasantry to depend solely on the land league in their struggle with their landlords, and not, he implied, on any remedial legislation supplied by the British parliament; he had been in consequence kept in gaol from 2 May till 7 Aug. On 15 Sept. Parnell held, at Dublin, a great land-league convention, and he repeated, with greater emphasis, Mr. Dillon's advice. The cry was taken up by agents of the land league, and the number and barbarity of outrages, in which mutilation of cattle played a large part, made another upward bound. On 7 Oct. Mr. Gladstone, speaking at Leeds, charged Parnell with deliberately seeking to defeat the objects of the Land Act, and, pointing to the ravages of crime in Ireland, warned Parnell that the resources of civilisation were not yet exhausted by the government. Parnell retorted at Wexford that Mr. Gladstone's attack was ‘unscrupulous and dishonest.’ On 12 Oct. Mr. Gladstone announced at the Guildhall, London, the intention of the government to put Parnell in prison. On the same day he was arrested at Morrison's Hotel, Dublin. The warrant authorising the arrest, and signed by Forster, charged Parnell with inciting persons to intimidate others from paying just rents, and with intimidating tenants from taking due advantage of the new Land Act. He was imprisoned in Kilmainham gaol. A day or two later Messrs. Dillon, Sexton, O'Kelly, Brennan, and other officers of the land league shared Parnell's fate. Mr. Patrick Egan, the treasurer, had escaped it by removing, with the account-books of the league, to Paris in February, and other leaders of the organisation now left the country. On 18 Oct. Parnell and his fellow prisoners and the chief officers of the league issued, in accordance with a suggestion sent to Mr. Egan by Patrick Ford from America, a manifesto calling on the tenants to pay no rent until their leaders were released. The government retaliated (18 Oct.) by declaring the land league an illegal association, and vigorous steps were taken to suppress its branches throughout Ireland.
During the imprisonment of Parnell and his friends the storm of outrage grew fiercer, and Parnell's personal popularity in Ireland reached its zenith. A subsidiary organisation of the land league, known as the ‘Ladies' Land League,’ had been founded by Mr. Davitt in February 1881, was still unsuppressed, and now carried on the work of the dissolved land league. At a meeting of the ladies' land league at Dublin on 2 Jan. 1882, the president, Miss Anna Parnell, Parnell's sister, spoke with vehemence against the government, and another speaker described Parnell as ‘the uncrowned king of Ireland.’ The title was generally adopted by Parnell's supporters. On 3 Jan. the Dublin Corporation, by a majority of 29 to 23 votes, resolved to confer the freedom of the city on Parnell and Mr. Dillon.
In all political circles in London it was admitted that the government was defeated and the cause of disorder was triumphant. Forster, the Irish secretary, although he was actively applying the exceptional legislation at his command, was producing no effect. Mr. Chamberlain, a member of the government, convinced himself that a more conciliatory attitude to Parnell might have a better result, and that an arrangement might be made whereby Parnell should be liberated and induced to aid the government in quieting the country. In April Captain O'Shea, an acquaintance of Parnell and M.P. for Clare since 1880, wrote to Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Chamberlain urging them to induce the government to stop by new legislation evictions for arrears of rent. Evictions, it was argued, were the chief causes of outrage. Mr. Gladstone sent a vague but conciliatory reply, and Mr. Chamberlain wrote in the same spirit, but warned his correspondent that if the liberal party showed greater consideration for Irish sentiment, the Irish leaders must pay equal consideration to English and Scottish opinion. On 10 April Parnell was released from Kilmainham gaol on parole, in order to enable him to attend the funeral of a nephew in Paris. On the journey, at Willesden he met several of his colleagues; but the terms of his parole precluded political discussion. On 26 April, however, with the concurrence of Parnell, Mr. John Redmond, M.P. for Wexford, introduced a bill into the House of Commons with the object of wiping out all arrears of rent in Ireland incurred before the Land Act, and of applying the Irish church fund to the discharge of the residue. Mr. Gladstone, without committing himself to the details of the proposal, welcomed it as an authentic expression of goodwill on the part of the Irish leader to the recent land legislation.
Forster viewed with undisguised concern the conciliatory disposition of his colleagues. But, despite his strenuous opposition, the negotiations went forward. Parnell informed Captain O'Shea that if the government settled the arrears question on the lines he proposed, he and his colleagues had every confidence that ‘the exertions which they would be able to make strenuously and unremittingly would be effective in stopping outrages and intimidation of all kinds.’ In a succeeding paragraph, which was not disclosed at the time, he told the cabinet that the arrangement would ‘enable him to co-operate cordially for the future with the liberal party in forwarding liberal principles.’ To promote the settlement of the west of Ireland, Parnell urged the release of Sheridan and Boyton, organisers of the league in the west, and their employment in the work of pacification. Parnell was aware that these men had made numberless inflammatory speeches, and possessed great influence with the peasantry. That they had organised crime was practically proved at a later date, but that Parnell was acquainted with this part of their work there is no evidence to show.
An accommodation with Parnell was soon come to through Captain O'Shea, and the compact was known as ‘the Kilmainham Treaty.’ Accordingly on 2 May Parnell, with Messrs. Dillon and O'Kelly, was released from Kilmainham. On the same day Mr. Gladstone informed the House of Commons of that fact, and also of the fact that Mr. Forster (with the lord lieutenant, Earl Cowper) had resigned office. Mr. Gladstone added that a new bill to strengthen the administration of justice was contemplated, and, if needed, further legislation against secret societies would be introduced. On other questions of Irish policy he was silent. The vacant offices of lord lieutenant and chief secretary were filled by the appointment of Earl Spencer and Lord Frederick Cavendish. Forster explained his distrust of Parnell's assurances, and the conservative leaders vehemently denounced the government's action.
On 6 May Mr. Davitt was released from Portland prison. Parnell met him at the prison gates, and travelled with him to London. On the afternoon of the same day Lord Frederick Cavendish [q. v.], the new chief secretary, and the permanent undersecretary, Thomas Henry Burke [q. v.], who had worked with Forster throughout his administration, were murdered in Dublin while walking together across Phœnix Park. The assassins made their escape.
Public feeling in England was very deeply stirred by this startling crime. Parnell at once disavowed all sympathy with its perpetrators, and wrote privately to Mr. Gladstone offering to accept the Chiltern Hundreds. In a manifesto dated next day (7 May) he, with Mr. Dillon and Mr. Davitt, told the people of Ireland that no act in the long struggle of the last fifty years had ‘so stained the name of hospitable Ireland as this cowardly and unprovoked assassination.’ On 8 May Mr. Gladstone moved the adjournment of the house, as a mark of respect to the memory of the murdered men; and added: ‘As to the future government of the country, all previous arrangements must be reconsidered and to some extent recast.’ Parnell, in an impressive speech, attributed the crime to the enemies of the cause with which he had associated himself. That Parnell was shocked and disheartened by these murders admits of no doubt. But such sentiments found no favour with the Clan-na-Gael. His denunciation of the crime was followed by threats from the clan, and he applied for protection to the London police. It was suspected—although no valid evidence was produced to support the suspicion—that he soon sought to regain the clan's confidence by privately assuring some of its members that he was insincere in his denunciations.
Parnell's public action a few days later was not calculated to disarm such a suspicion. The Phœnix Park murders rendered the Kilmainham treaty a dead letter; fresh coercive legislation was announced by the government, and Parnell immediately resumed his attitude of implacable hostility. On 11 May the home secretary (Sir William Harcourt) introduced a new Prevention of Crimes Bill, to last for three years, which created special tribunals without juries and gave the police unlimited powers of search and arrest on suspicion. Parnell passionately contended that the government had no warrant to trifle thus with the lives and liberties of the Irish people, and predicted that so coercive a measure would lead to hundredfold greater disasters than the former acts of the government. Until the bill passed its third reading, on 11 July, Parnell strenuously obstructed it by methods fully comparable to his earlier efforts in the same direction. To the Arrears Act, which was introduced on 15 May 1883, he gave a discriminating support; after much dispute between the two houses, in which the lower house triumphed, the bill received the royal assent on 18 Aug. The obstructive tactics of Parnell proved through the session so fatal to the conduct of parliamentary business that parliament was adjourned in August for little more than two months, in order once again in the late autumn to revise the procedure of the house. The session was not prorogued till 2 Dec., and during the debates on the procedure resolutions Parnell showed as much astuteness in converting the new rules into means of obstruction as he had shown in his treatment of the old. On 23 Nov., on a motion for adjournment, he pointed out what he held to be crucial defects in the working of the Arrears Act.
Nor was his action in Ireland less ominous. On 17 Oct. he attended a national conference in Dublin, at which the land league was avowedly revived as the ‘Irish National League.’ The objects of the new organisation were defined as national self-government, land-law reform, local self-government, extension of the parliamentary and municipal franchises, and the development and encouragement of the labour and industrial interest of Ireland. But the national league, although it inherited much of the prestige of the land league, exercised little of the old association's power. Money from America filled its coffers, but the new Crimes Act, which was vigorously administered by the lord lieutenant, Lord Spencer, and the chief secretary, Sir George Trevelyan, kept its organisers in check. Between 1883 and 1885, although intimidation was freely practised and agrarian crime was far from vanquished, Ireland enjoyed comparative repose.
In January 1883 the prolonged efforts of the Irish police to track out the murderers of Cavendish and Burke were rewarded with success. One of the accused persons, James Carey [q. v.], turned informer, and disclosed the whole working of the Invincible Society which had organised the crime. That body, it was proved, had repeatedly plotted the assassination of Forster. While Carey's revelations were exciting public opinion, practical effect was first given to the advice of Patrick Ford, of New York, in his ‘Irish World,’ to carry the war into England by exploding dynamite in public buildings and public places of resort. On 20 Jan. emissaries from the Clan-na-Gael contrived an explosion of dynamite at Glasgow, and for more than two years this system of terrorism was practised in all parts of England by Irish-American conspirators, a few of whom were captured and sent to penal servitude for life. The most sensational attempt was that to blow up the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London on 24 Jan. 1885.
While English feeling was thus subjected to barbarous outrage, Forster, the late Irish secretary, in speaking on the address at the opening of the session of 1883 (22 Feb.), defended in detail his conduct in office. Turning to face Parnell in the course of his speech, he charged him with encouraging crime. ‘It is not that he himself directly planned or perpetrated outrages or murders, but that he either connived at them or, warned by facts and statements, he determined to remain in ignorance.’ Beyond interpolating ‘It is a lie’ while Forster was pronouncing this sentence, Parnell showed no immediate anxiety to repel the charge. Next day he gave a general denial to the accusation, and declared that he sought solely the good opinion of the Irish people, and viewed with indifference the opinion of Englishmen respecting him. He entered into few details concerning his own action, but disavowed all sympathy with Patrick Ford's ‘aims and objects and programme.’ These involved the employment of dynamite, and the passage is notable as the only one in Parnell's reported speeches in which he directly expressed disapproval of the dynamite conspiracy (Report, p. 76). Forster's attack was hotly resented by the moderate party among Parnell's followers, and steps were at once taken to present him with a public testimonial. Thirty-seven thousand pounds were subscribed in Ireland and America before the end of the year; this sum was presented to him at a banquet in the Rotunda at Dublin on 11 Dec. ‘Thus,’ said Mr. Davitt, ‘had the Irish people replied to the calumnies of Mr. Forster.’
The following session of parliament (1884) was mainly devoted to the consideration of a measure for an extension of the franchise in Great Britain and Ireland. The certainty that his power would be largely increased by such legislation led Parnell to give it a general support. In December the House of Lords finally accepted the Franchise Bill on condition that a Redistribution of Seats Bill should accompany it. The number of members for Ireland remained at 103, but the electoral power was for the first time conferred on the masses of the people—the agricultural labourers and the artisans.
In January 1885 Parnell showed his power over his own followers by attending a convention of home-rulers at Thurles, when he forced the local leaders to withdraw their candidate, Mr. O'Ryan, and to accept his own nominee, Mr. John O'Connor, an extreme nationalist. In the next session of parliament Parnell awaited the decision of the government respecting their coercive legislation. The Crimes Act of 1882 was only passed for three years; but any hope that Parnell may have entertained of a change in the government's policy on the subject was dispelled on 15 May, when Mr. Gladstone announced that he proposed to renew the chief provisions of the expiring act. After this announcement Parnell nerved himself to drive the government from office. The opportunity soon came. On 8 June the tories forced an important division on the second reading of the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill, by which the beer and spirit duties were to be increased. Parnell voted with the tories, and the government were defeated by 264 votes to 252 (thirty-nine Irish members voting in the majority). Mr. Gladstone resigned immediately, and the conservative leader, Lord Salisbury, undertook to form a ministry on 13 June. Sir William Hart Dyke became chief secretary, and Lord Carnarvon, to whom the direction of Irish policy was mainly entrusted, was appointed lord lieutenant [see Herbert, Henry Molyneux, fourth Earl of Carnarvon].
Carnarvon announced that he went to Ireland to conciliate Irish sentiment as far as lay in his power, and the government took immediate steps to evince sympathy with some of Parnell's views. Ministers promptly declared their intention of allowing the Crimes Act to lapse, and the act accordingly expired on 14 Aug. An inquiry connected with the execution of men charged with murder in Ireland, which had been refused by the liberals, was now granted by the conservatives. A land purchase act, known as Lord Ashbourne's Act, was rapidly passed through all its stages, and was gratefully accepted by the Irish tenants. On 14 Aug. parliament was prorogued on the understanding that a general election was to take place in November.
During the recess the tory government continued to show an inclination to come to terms with Parnell. At the close of July Carnarvon had invited him to meet him in London. What happened at this confidential interview, which Parnell made known to the public in June 1886, was for many years a subject of controversy. According to Parnell's version, Carnarvon promised, in the event of the conservatives obtaining a majority in the House of Commons at the coming election, that they would give Ireland a statutory parliament, with the right to protect Irish industries, and that they would propose at the same time a liberal scheme of land purchase. According to Carnarvon's account, he told Parnell at the outset that he acted solely on his own responsibility, that he only sought information, and that no understanding, however shadowy, was to be deduced from the conversation. There is little doubt that Carnarvon, directly or indirectly, confided to Parnell his personal predilection for ‘some limited form of self-government, not in any way independent of imperial control, such as might satisfy real local requirements, and to some extent national aspirations.’
Events proved Carnarvon's action to have been, from a party point of view, singularly ill-advised; but it was a striking testimony to Parnell's commanding influence. The incident, combined with the kindly tone in which Carnarvon's colleagues approached Irish questions, produced at the same time a visible effect on Parnell's attitude to England. His defiant assertions of irreconcilable hostility were not repeated. He evinced a diplomatic readiness to come to terms with the enemy. Without disguise, he played one party against the other, and promised his favour to the higher bidder. He did not believe that the tories would grant home rule. But he did not object if others believed it, particularly if the liberals believed it. His intention was to draw the tories on to a point at which he felt convinced that Mr. Gladstone would take up the question in order to outstrip his opponents. He decided that the tories should make the running for the liberal leader.
Parnell devoted the autumn to the twofold purpose of strengthening his party in Ireland, and of baiting the hook for the English political leaders. At a banquet at Dublin on 24 Aug. he defined, for the first time, what he meant by home rule. He was resolved to extort from England an Irish parliament (to consist of one chamber) and an Irish executive in Dublin, managing Irish affairs, developing Irish industries, controlling Irish education, dealing with Irish land, and directing the national, religious, and commercial life of the people. ‘Our only work in the next parliament,’ he said, ‘will be the restoration of the legislative independence of Ireland.’ Three days earlier he had at Arklow declared himself in favour of the protection by high duties of Irish trade and manufactures against English competition, and on this point he thenceforth repeatedly insisted.
On 25 Aug. he presided at a meeting in Dublin, when resolutions were passed arranging for the selection of candidates all over the country by local conventions acting in conjunction with himself. All candidates pledged themselves in the event of their return to sit, vote, and act with the Irish parliamentary party on every question that should arise, and to resign when called upon to do so by a vote of the majority of their colleagues. Parnell attended many of the electoral conventions, and encouraged his followers by prophecies of the speedy triumph of his cause. In reply to hostile criticisms of his definition of home rule by Lord Hartington and other liberal politicians, he replied that there was no halfway house between governing Ireland as a crown colony and giving her legislative independence. Although many of his speeches during the campaign were as violent as of old, he showed ample signs of his diplomatic temper. It is true that at ‘rebel’ Cork (January 1885) he said, in accordance with his true sentiments, that, although under the British constitution he could not ask for more than the restitution of Grattan's parliament, ‘no man had a right to say to his country, Thus far shalt thou go, and no further; and we have never attempted to fix ne plus ultra to the progress of Ireland's nationhood, and we never shall.’ But on 3 Nov., at Castlebar, co. Mayo, he dissuaded an electoral convention from adopting the convicted fenian P. W. Nally as the parliamentary candidate, although he described Nally as the victim of a conspiracy wilfully contrived by Lord Spencer and his police agents. At Wicklow, on 5 Oct., he declined to accept any legislative chamber for Ireland which was not endowed with absolute control of Irish affairs, including the right to levy protective duties; but he added that, intensely disaffected and disloyal as Ireland was to England, no demand on the part of Irishmen for separation from the ruling country would be pressed if English statesmen granted home rule with a free and open hand.
Parnell's utterances were, as he anticipated, watched with attention by English statesmen. On the liberal side Mr. Chamberlain replied that he was in favour of a large scheme of local self-government. Mr. Morley went further, and declared for home rule ‘as in Canada.’ Mr. Childers, a member of Mr. Gladstone's government, while announcing himself a home-ruler, only claimed that the British parliament should exclusively deal with matters of trade and imperial questions. Parnell concluded that Mr. Childers's precise pronouncement would not have been made if Mr. Gladstone were wholly averse to home rule. When Mr. Gladstone set out on his Midlothian campaign in November, he asked to be returned to parliament with a majority independent of the Irish vote. But he declared at the same time that, subject to the supremacy of the crown and the unity of the empire, Ireland should be given a generous measure of local self-government. Parnell placed a favourable interpretation on this statement, and invited Mr. Gladstone to frame a constitution for Ireland ‘subject to the conditions and limitations he had stipulated.’ Mr. Gladstone replied that, until Ireland had chosen her members, there could be no authoritative representation of her views. Parnell's answer was a manifesto (21 Nov.) calling upon the Irish of Great Britain to vote against the liberals, and likening the liberal leaders to Russian autocrats who were bent on treating Ireland as a second Poland.
Meanwhile the tory leaders framed manifestos in a key calculated to attract Parnell's favour. It is true that on 8 Aug. both Lord Salisbury and Parnell publicly contradicted a rumour, circulated by Mr. Herbert Gladstone, that an understanding existed between the conservatives and Parnell in relation to Irish policy. But on 7 Oct. Lord Salisbury spoke at Newport on behalf of his party in a tone which created, whether justly or unjustly, the impression that Parnell might gain more from him than from his rival. Lord Salisbury expressed no opinion in favour of home rule, but he treated the scheme respectfully. Referring to the cases of the colonies and Austria-Hungary which had been mentioned by Parnell, he said he had never seen any suggestion which gave the slightest hope of any satisfactory solution of the question. The interpretation placed, in view of Lord Carnarvon's attitude, upon this speech by Irish nationalists and English liberals was that Lord Salisbury was no longer an uncompromising opponent of home rule.
In December the general election was over; 335 liberals, 249 tories, and 86 Parnellites were returned to parliament. The Irish leader was thus master of the situation. The position of the tories was hopeless. Even with the Irish vote they could not carry on the government. But with the Irish vote the liberals enjoyed a majority of 172. On 17 Dec. an ‘inspired’ paragraph appeared simultaneously in the ‘Standard’ and ‘Leeds Mercury,’ stating that Mr. Gladstone had formulated a scheme of home rule based on the establishment of an Irish parliament for the management of Irish affairs, and Parnell was to be invited to give adequate guarantees for the protection of the loyal minority and of the legitimate interests of the landlords. A few days later Mr. Gladstone guardedly denied the authenticity of the report. Although the matter rested there for the time, Lord Hartington and others of Mr. Gladstone's former supporters at once declared their resolve to oppose any endeavour to come to terms with Parnell on the condition of granting Ireland legislative independence.
The Irish parliamentary party met in Dublin on 11 Jan. 1886. Parnell, although absent, was unanimously elected chairman, and resolutions were adopted reaffirming the right of the Irish people to legislate for themselves, and the determination of the party never to relax its efforts until legislative independence was achieved.
The state of Ireland since the expiry of the Crimes Act had not been very satisfactory. Outrages had somewhat increased (Report, p. 86). The tories regarded Carnarvon's conciliatory policy as a failure, and on 12 Jan. he resigned. Nine days later the government met parliament. Parnell, speaking on the address on that day, defended in moderate language the national league from the charge of encouraging intimidation, which he traced to the pressure exerted by the landlords on their tenants. On the afternoon of 26 Jan. ministers announced their intention of introducing a bill for the suppression of the national league, for the prevention of intimidation, and for the protection of life and property; subsequently they would introduce a land bill. In the evening the government was defeated, by a combination of liberal and Irish members, on an amendment to the address proposed by Mr. Jesse Collings, by 329 to 250 votes. Mr. Gladstone thereupon returned to power, and the secret that he was a convert to Parnell's home-rule scheme soon leaked out. Parnell's strategy had triumphed.
In February Parnell travelled to Galway to repress what he regarded as an incipient sign of revolt against his personal rule. The local home-rulers had brought forward Mr. Lynch to fill a vacancy in the representation. Parnell directed him to withdraw in favour of Captain O'Shea, who had been defeated in his candidature for the Exchange division of Liverpool in the previous November. O'Shea's enthusiasm for home rule was doubted, and Messrs. Healy and Biggar, Parnell's most active lieutenants, defiantly urged the Galway committee to stand by Mr. Lynch and reject their leader's nominee. Parnell's arrival on the scene at once broke the opposition, and Captain O'Shea was elected (Times, 3–11 Feb. passim).
On 8 April 1886 Mr. Gladstone introduced a bill for the establishment of an Irish parliament and an Irish executive for the management and control of Irish affairs, reserving to the imperial parliament (from which Irish members were to be excluded) the management and control of imperial affairs. The new legislature was to be divided into two orders, the first to include representative peers and persons elected by voters possessing a high pecuniary qualification. The second order was to be based on the ordinary franchise. Customs and excise were excluded from the control of the Irish parliament, and Ireland was to contribute 3,244,000l. to the imperial exchequer. Parnell at first gave the bill a cautious support, condemning the ‘tribute’ as a ‘hard bargain.’ On 13 April Mr. Gladstone completed the exposition of his policy by introducing a land purchase bill, which was intended to enable landlords to sell their holdings to the tenants on easy terms, and provided for the advance of money to the purchasers by the imperial treasury on a large scale. During the debate on the second reading of the first bill, which began on 10 May, Parnell said that he believed the Irish people would accept the measure as a final settlement; he abandoned his claim to protect Irish industries; ‘Protestant Ulster’ was a fiction. Lord Hartington, Mr. Chamberlain, John Bright, and ninety other members of the liberal party, known thenceforth as liberal unionists, declined to be moved by these assurances. Breaking away from Mr. Gladstone, and combining with the tories, they defeated on 7 June the second reading of the bill by 341 to 311 votes. Mr. Gladstone immediately appealed to the country.
During the general election Parnell occasionally spoke in England, and did all he could to conciliate English opinion. But the general election ended in a triumph for the tories and liberal unionists. The final returns showed that Parnell's party consisted of 84, the liberal unionists numbered 74, the conservatives 317, and the Gladstonian liberals 191. Lord Salisbury, who in his speeches in the country had recalled attention to Parnell's earlier demand for separation and denounced home rule as utterly impracticable, became prime minister at the end of July.
Thereupon Parnell made a complete change of front in his treatment of English parties. Until 1885 his policy had been a policy of ‘retaliation,’ and he had been at war with tories and liberals alike. He now formed an alliance with the liberal party for all parliamentary purposes, and, under the influence of that alliance, sought rather ‘to win than to force his way’ by the ordinary rules of parliamentary warfare. The hostility which he had bestowed in equal measure on both parties he now reserved, in a comparatively mild form, for the tory government alone. When exasperated in 1891 by the efforts of the liberal party and of the majority of his own party to disown him on the plea of dishonouring revelations made respecting his private life, he declared that ‘the close alliance with the liberals was a mistake,’ and that it became a close alliance in spite of himself. His followers, he complained, associated thenceforth with the English members on even terms, and were practically fused with the English liberals. A fighting policy, which should lead their opponents to offer them terms to be accepted or rejected after the manner of belligerents, alone, he said, gave the Irish party any real power. But, whatever value may be set on Parnell's later views, he was personally responsible for the union of his supporters with one of the great English parties. That an inevitable effect of the new policy was to slacken the bonds of the rigid authority which he had exerted over his own parliamentary supporters may be true, but Parnell by his personal acts mainly contributed to the result. His health was bad. He attended parliament irregularly; between 1885 and 1890 he hardly spoke at all at public meetings in Ireland. Living in mysterious retirement at Brighton, Eltham, or Brockley, where he was known under an assumed name, he held rare and intermittent communication with his supporters.
Parnell, whenever he took his place in parliament, confined himself to reiterating his opinions respecting land reform and coercion. When the new tory government first met parliament, he introduced, on 10 Sept., an Irish Tenants' Relief Bill, by which, among other purposes, leaseholders were to be admitted to the benefits of the Land Act of 1881. The bill was negatived on a second reading on 27 Sept. by 297 votes to 202. Three days later Parnell addressed a strong appeal to Mr. Fitzgerald, the president of the national league in America, begging for pecuniary assistance. He represented that the tory government had declared war on the Irish farmers. Meanwhile Mr. Dillon advocated among the discontented peasantry a ‘plan of campaign’ which aimed at withholding rent from unpopular landlords unless they would accept substantial reductions. The ‘plan’ was worked with much vigour, but Parnell was in no way responsible for its adoption, and he publicly stated in London at the close of the year that he knew nothing about it, and suspended judgment respecting it. Agrarian disturbances in Ireland were renewed in the winter, and in the queen's speech of 27 Jan. 1887 a revision of the Irish criminal law was promised. On 7 Feb. Parnell moved an amendment to the address, warning the ministers that the existing crisis in Irish agrarian affairs could only be met by such a reform of Irish government as would secure the confidence of the Irish people. Sir Michael Hicks Beach, the Irish secretary, resigned in March, and his place was filled by Mr. A. J. Balfour, in whom Parnell and his allies met a very strong administrator. The Crimes Bill was introduced on 28 March by Mr. Balfour, and on 1 April Parnell moved as an amendment that the house resolve itself into a committee to consider the state of Ireland, but by the application of the closure the bill was read a first time on the same day. The liberal party joined with Parnell and his followers in obstructing the passage of the measure through its later stages. On 10 June William Henry Smith [q. v.], the leader of the house, proposed that the committee on the bill should report it to the house within a week. After Parnell had vainly opposed this proceeding in a resolute speech, he and his friends left the chamber. The bill was at length read a third time on 8 July, and differed from all its predecessors in the absence of any time-limit. On 12 July an Irish Land Bill was read a second time in the House of Commons; it extended the advantages of the act of 1881 to leaseholders, and dealt with insolvent tenants. Parnell criticised its details, and the government accepted some of his proposals. On 19 Aug. the national league, of which Parnell was still president, was proclaimed as ‘a dangerous association,’ and efforts were made to suppress it. In September Parnell, with Mr. Gladstone, took part in parliament in an attack on the government with respect to their coercive policy; but Parnell, while expressing a fear that outrage might increase in Ireland during the coming winter, appealed to his countrymen to abstain from violence.
In the earlier months of the year the ‘Times’ newspaper had published a series of articles entitled ‘Parnellism and Crime,’ in which Parnell and many of his parliamentary colleagues were charged with conniving at the commission of crime and outrage in the days of the land league. On 18 April 1887 the ‘Times’ issued the last article of the series, and there supplied in facsimile a letter purporting to have been written by Parnell on 15 May 1882 in extenuation of the Phœnix Park murders. It was a carefully worded apology addressed to an unnamed person for having denounced the crime—a course which was defended as ‘the best policy.’ ‘Though I regret,’ the writer proceeded, ‘the accident of Lord F. Cavendish's death, I cannot refuse to admit that Burke got no more than his deserts.’ The commanding position of the newspaper gave the publication of the letter the utmost weight. The second reading of the Crimes Bill was to be concluded the same evening as it appeared, and at the close of the debate Parnell denied with suppressed passion the authenticity of the letter.
Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues at once announced their belief in Parnell's innocence, and neither Parnell nor the government showed at first any intention of taking further action in the matter. But after Sir Charles Lewis, a private member of the house on the conservative side, had moved that the ‘Times’ references to Mr. Dillon, in the same series of articles, constituted a breach of privilege, the government offered to pay the expenses of a libel action against the ‘Times,’ to be brought by the Irish members implicated. This was declined on the ground that the Irish members had no faith either in the government or in English juries. Mr. Gladstone thereupon proposed that a select committee of the house should inquire into the matter, and on 6 May Parnell, who was not present during the debate, replied by telegraph to a question from the liberal benches that he was willing for the inquiry to be extended to the incriminating letter. The proposal was negatived, and for a year the question was allowed to rest.
Parnell's public speeches were now mainly devoted to emphasising his attachment to the liberal party. At the opening of the session of 1888 he was followed into the lobby by the whole liberal party when he moved an amendment censuring the government for their rigid application of the Crimes Act. His motion was rejected by 317 votes to 229. But at the same time he made it plain that the active agitation in Ireland was not proceeding under his auspices. When he was entertained by the Eighty Club—a Gladstonian association—on 8 May, he expressed himself strongly against the ‘plan of campaign.’ In June he entertained in London many parliamentary followers who, by their activity in Ireland, had incurred punishment under the Crimes Act, and, in accordance with nationalist sentiment, substituted ‘Ireland a Nation’ for the ordinary toast of ‘the Queen.’ In July he announced in the newspapers that Mr. Cecil Rhodes, prime minister of Cape Colony, had sent him 10,000l., to be applied to the Irish home rule funds, on the understanding that Parnell would agree to the retention of the Irish members in the British House of Commons, whenever a new bill for an Irish parliament was introduced into parliament. Late in the year he raised once more in the house the old question of arrears of rent, and joined with the liberals in obstructing a bill for the extension of Lord Ashbourne's Act.
But more personal issues were then occupying his attention. On 3 July 1888 an action for libel against the ‘Times,’ brought by a former member of the Irish parliamentary party, Mr. Frank Hugh O'Donnell, came into court. Some casual references had been made to Mr. O'Donnell in the course of the articles entitled ‘Parnellism and Crime.’ The plaintiff declined to enter the witness-box, but the counsel for the ‘Times,’ Sir Richard Webster, the attorney-general, proposed to justify the articles, and in a long opening speech offered to prove that Parnell had written not only the letter of 15 May, but others in a like sense, which he read in court. On 5 July a verdict for the defendant was returned. Next day Parnell asserted in the House of Commons that all the letters quoted at this trial were forgeries. The ‘Times’ replied that they were prepared with legal proof of their authenticity. On 9 July Parnell asked the government for a special committee of the house to inquire into the matter. This request was refused, but on the 16th the government introduced a Special Commission Bill by which three judges, Sir James Hannen (afterwards Lord Hannen), Mr. Justice A. L. Smith, and Mr. Justice Day, were ordered to inquire into and to report to the house on the truth or falsehood of all the charges brought by the ‘Times’ against Parnell and other Irish members of parliament. Parnell and the liberals expressed grave dissatisfaction with the determination of the government. It was argued that the incriminating letters alone merited investigation, and the choice of judges was adversely commented on. The bill, after lengthened debate in committee in the House of Commons, passed the House of Lords on 11 Aug. On the same day Parnell began an action for libel against the ‘Times,’ claiming damages of 100,000l.
On 17 Sept. 1888 the special commission sat for the first time to determine its procedure. The counsel for the ‘Times’ (the attorney-general, Sir Richard Webster) was directed to produce the evidence on which he relied to substantiate the charges. On 22 Oct. the trial actually began. Parnell and sixty-four Irish members of parliament, together with Mr. Michael Davitt, were specified by name as the respondents or accused persons. All appeared, and were represented by counsel, excepting Mr. Biggar and Mr. Davitt, who conducted their own cases. The main allegations were that the respondents were members of a conspiracy seeking the absolute independence of Ireland; that they had promoted an agrarian agitation against the payment of rent, with a view to expelling from Ireland the landlords, whom they styled ‘the English garrison;’ that by their speeches and by money payments they incited persons to sedition and the commission of crime, including murder; that their occasional denunciations of crime were known to be insincere, and that they accepted pecuniary and other assistance from avowed advocates in America of murder and outrage by means of dynamite. Until 14 Dec. witnesses testified to outrages and murder committed during the reign of the land league. On the reassembling of the court on 15 Jan. 1889 many speeches of the persons implicated were read, and on 5 Feb. Major Le Caron, the spy, who was a member of the Clan-na-Gael, related a conversation with Parnell in 1881, when Parnell was said to have discussed the feasibility of uniting more closely the land league with the fenian societies. On 21 Feb. Richard Pigott [q. v.], who had sold the incriminating letters to the ‘Times,’ broke down under the cross-examination of Sir Charles Russell; on the 23rd, during an adjournment of the court, he sought unsolicited an interview with Mr. Labouchere, M.P., and confessed that all the letters were forgeries. A few days later he fled the country, and committed suicide at Madrid. Parnell denied on oath the authenticity of the letters on 26 Feb., and the counsel for the ‘Times’ thereupon withdrew them from the case.
The liberal party treated this incident as a complete acquittal of Parnell, and inundated him with compliments and congratulations. On 8 March he and Lord Spencer, who then for the first time appeared with his former foe on the same platform, were jointly the guests of the Eighty Club. Parnell was received with enthusiasm. On 13 March he and Mr. Morley both addressed a meeting in London on the alleged persecution of Irish political prisoners by Mr. Balfour. On 23 April the Edinburgh town council, by 24 votes to 13, resolved to confer the freedom of the city upon Parnell. A strong opposition was organised, but on 20 July the ceremony took place, although the lord provost declined to take part in it. Parnell spoke with studied moderation.
Meanwhile Parnell had moved an amendment to the address in February 1889, condemning coercion, and his motion was rejected by a reduced government majority of 79. In July he proved the thoroughness of his alliance with Mr. Gladstone by voting with the official liberals in opposition to the radicals on the proposal to make an additional grant to the Prince of Wales. In December he accepted Mr. Gladstone's invitation to visit him at Hawarden, and there to all appearance they amicably discussed the lines of a future Home Rule Bill; but Parnell declared later that Mr. Gladstone's proposals ‘would not satisfy the aspirations of the Irish race,’ and it would be difficult for him to secure Irish support for them. According to Parnell's statement, the accuracy of which Mr. Gladstone denied, the number of Irish members at Westminster was to be reduced to thirty-two; the land question was to be settled by the British parliament; the constabulary was to remain under imperial control indefinitely; and the appointment of judges and magistrates for ten or twelve years. On leaving Hawarden Parnell addressed a sympathetic meeting at Liverpool, and accepted a sum of 3,000l. towards the expenses he incurred in defending himself before the special commission. He still avoided all active participation in the agitation against Mr. Balfour's rule which his followers were keeping alive in Ireland. But he allowed Mr. O'Brien to announce at Thurles on 28 Oct. that he approved the formation of a new association, the ‘tenants' defence league,’ which Mr. O'Brien sought to establish.
Throughout the year the commission was still sitting, and on 30 April 1889 Parnell was called as the first witness for the defence. He denied that his political action had gone at any period outside constitutional limits, and he held his own with much astuteness during a long cross-examination by the attorney-general on 1 and 2 May. But he cynically admitted that he had deliberately misled the House of Commons when he asserted on 7 Jan. 1881 that secret societies had ceased to exist in Ireland, and that the land league suppressed them. He explained next day that he was referring to secret societies outside the fenian conspiracy. On 12 July Parnell's counsel, Sir Charles Russell (afterwards Lord Russell of Killowen and lord chief justice), retired from the case on the refusal of the judges to order the production of the books of the Irish Loyal Patriotic Union, an association which, it was alleged, had subsidised Pigott. After the delivery of speeches by Mr. Biggar and Mr. Davitt, and a reply by Sir Henry James on behalf of the ‘Times,’ the proceedings closed on 22 Nov. On 3 Feb. 1890 Parnell's action against the ‘Times’ was compromised by the payment to him of 5,000l.
On 13 Feb. the report of the special commission was laid on the table of the House of Commons. The verdict fully acquitted Parnell of all sympathy with, or responsibility for, the Phœnix Park murders; or of having conspired, as chief of the land league, to secure the absolute independence of Ireland; or of having incited persons to the commission of crime other than intimidation. But the judges asserted that Parnell and his colleagues had incited to intimidation, and ‘did not denounce the system of intimidation which led to crime and outrage, but persisted in it with knowledge of its effect.’ It was held that he and his followers had defended persons charged with agrarian crimes; had supported their families and compensated persons who were injured in the commission of crime; and had finally, in order to obtain the pecuniary assistance of the physical force party in America, abstained from repudiating or condemning the action of that party. The evidence showed that Parnell and the other respondents received large sums of money from America for the purpose either of promoting agitation or of paying salaries to Irish members of parliament. They declined to account for the expenditure in detail; the accounts, it was obvious, were loosely kept, and the money was largely under Parnell's control.
Both parties professed satisfaction with the report. The exposure of Pigott's forgeries was all the liberals claimed to have desired; the land league's procedure was ‘ancient history’ of no practical interest. The unionists, on the other hand, while admitting that Parnell's direct complicity with the outrage-mongers was unproved, held that his failure to openly denounce them laid on him a heavy moral responsibility, and rendered it impolitic to endow him with greater political power. Mr. Gladstone vindicated Parnell with passionate energy all along the line. On 3 March William Henry Smith, the leader of the house, formally moved that the report should be entered in the journals. Mr. Gladstone proposed, in a speech of exceptional eloquence, that the house should express ‘its reprobation of the false charges of the gravest and most odious description, based upon calumny and forgery,’ which had been brought against Parnell, and should give some sign of regret for the wrong inflicted. He panegyrised Parnell as a man charged with ‘the leadership of a nation and with the daily care of a nation's interests,’ and described him as the victim of ‘a frightful outrage,’ to whom reparation was due in the name of Christian charity. The debate was protracted, amid much heat, until 10 March, when Mr. Gladstone's amendment was rejected by 339 to 268 votes.
Through the remainder of the session the liberals lost no opportunity of marking their resentment of the government's attitude to the special commission's report, and Parnell followed in their wake. When Mr. Balfour's Land Purchase Bill—largely extending the principles of Lord Ashbourne's Act—came on for second reading on 21 April, Parnell moved its rejection after consultation with Mr. Morley. Parnell and Mr. Morley each published, in November 1890, accounts of this negotiation, differing in details. The facts appear to have been that Parnell expressed a wish to amend the bill, but Mr. Gladstone inclined to a more extreme course, which Parnell ultimately adopted. The bill was afterwards dropped, and when reintroduced next year in a modified shape, together with a Congested Districts Bill for effectively relieving distress in the poorest parts of Ireland, it was carried with Parnell's assistance. Meanwhile, on 20 May 1890, he presided at a meeting in London of the National League of Great Britain, and urged the necessity of more efficient organisation of the Irish vote in England. He computed the number of Irish voters in English constituencies at more than a quarter of a million. On 28 June he was entertained at dinner in London by seventy of his parliamentary colleagues, in honour of his forty-fourth birthday. He congratulated the party on its ‘honourable and hopeful’ alliance with the liberals, and confidently announced that as soon as Mr. Gladstone, ‘the only man of distinguished genius before the public,’ returned to power, he would carry ‘a great measure of home rule,’ which would be accepted by the Irish people ‘as a sufficient solution.’
But in the autumn Parnell had to face a new trial on a purely personal issue, and these fair hopes were frustrated. As early as 28 Dec. 1889 Captain O'Shea had filed a petition for divorce from his wife (Katharine, youngest daughter of the Rev. Sir John Page Wood), on the ground of her adultery with Parnell. On 16 Nov. 1890 the case came into court. It was generally assumed by his political friends that Parnell would rebut the charge satisfactorily. But he offered no defence beyond a general denial, and was not represented by counsel. The respondent also pleaded a general denial, but introduced some recriminatory accusations of bad faith against her husband, which the latter's counsel, with the consent of the court, called witnesses to repel. Not only was the adultery legally proved, but discreditable details respecting Parnell's conduct of the intrigue were brought to public notice. On 17 Nov. a decree nisi was pronounced, with costs against Parnell.
Parliament was to meet on 25 Nov. At first it appeared that Parnell's political position was unaffected by the disclosures in the divorce court. On 20 Nov. there was a great meeting at the Leinster Hall, Dublin. The Irish members mustered in force and passed resolutions, amid enthusiastic applause, pledging unflinching fidelity to Parnell. A cablegram was sent from other Irish members who were in America, asserting their determination to ‘stand firmly’ by him, not only for his ‘imperishable services in the past, but on the profound conviction that’ his ‘statesmanship and matchless qualities as a leader are essential to the safety of our cause.’ On 25 Nov. the Irish parliamentary party met at the House of Commons, and by a unanimous and enthusiastic vote re-elected him leader. His Irish followers thus publicly condoned the offence of his private life.
But Parnell's friends had to reckon with their liberal allies, who had of late proclaimed their faith in his character. The nonconformists, who were the backbone of the English liberal party in the constituencies, were reported to show a disinclination to overlook the obliquities of Parnell's private life. Other sections of the liberal party manifested a strong revulsion of feeling towards him, and it became expedient for the liberal party to dissociate themselves from him. On 24 Nov. Mr. Gladstone accordingly asserted, in an open letter to Mr. Morley, that, ‘notwithstanding the splendid services rendered by Mr. Parnell to his country, his continuance at the present moment in the leadership would be productive of consequences disastrous in the highest degree to the cause of Ireland.’
Parnell indignantly defied this pronouncement. His private failings had in his mind no bearing on his position in public life, and he interpreted Mr. Gladstone's action as that of an Englishman who, for purposes of his own, had stepped in between him and the Irish people. All the hatred of England which had inspired his early political career blazed forth afresh. A minority of his parliamentary followers felt it to be a point of national honour to uphold their leader at all hazards; but the majority of them viewed the matter differently. Since 1885 he had taken no part in their extra-parliamentary agitation, and weeks and months had often elapsed without his assisting in their deliberations at Westminster. He had, in fact, exerted his authority so intermittently that it had lost something of its potency. Mr. Gladstone by his letter held out to the Irish party the threat that unless Parnell were deposed the liberals would cease to advocate home rule. Without the support of the liberals the home-rule cause seemed doomed. It was therefore natural, considering Parnell's recent inaction in the affairs of his party, that as soon as allegiance to him conflicted with what they held to be the prosperity of the home-rule cause, a majority of his followers should desert him.
But Parnell was prepared to fight desperately for his supremacy. He replied to Mr. Gladstone's letter in a ‘Manifesto to the Irish People.’ In it he set forth his version of the confidential discussions with Mr. Gladstone at Hawarden in 1889, of which the accuracy was at once disputed by Mr. Gladstone. He spoke slightingly of Mr. Morley; he appealed to Irishmen ‘to save me from the English wolves now howling for my destruction;’ and he finally warned his countrymen that a postponement of home rule was preferable to such a sacrifice of Irishmen's independence as was implied by their acceptance of Mr. Gladstone's dictation on the question of the leadership. In accordance with a requisition signed by a majority of his followers, he called a meeting of the party to consider the situation. The sittings began for practical work in committee-room No. 15 at the House of Commons on 1 Dec. Parnell took the chair, and adroitly ruled all motions for his deposition out of order. He diverted the discussion to a consideration of Mr. Gladstone's views on home rule, and his argumentative skill led some of the party to seek fuller assurances from the liberal chief on what they regarded as vital issues. Parnell declared that he would retire if these assurances proved satisfactory. But the liberal leaders declined to enter into the negotiation. On 6 Dec., after five days' hot debate, a majority of 45 members, failing to induce Parnell to put to the vote the question of his deposition, withdrew, and, holding another meeting, declared his leadership at an end. Twenty-six members remained faithful to him. Thenceforth Irish nationalists were long divided into two parties—the Parnellites and the anti-Parnellites.
Parnell's position in Ireland was fatally shaken by these events, and, although he fought until his death with superhuman energy, to reassert his power, the task proved beyond his strength. His health had long been failing, and it could not endure new strains. The ranks of his enemies at once received formidable reinforcements. On 4 Dec. he was formally repudiated by the catholic archbishops and bishops. On 10 Dec. he was in Dublin, and took forcible possession of the offices of ‘United Ireland.’ He was the chief proprietor of the newspaper, but its directors were anti-Parnellites. The nationalists of Dublin and the national league stood by him. He addressed next day a large meeting at the Rotunda, and appealed for aid in his battle with ‘English dictation.’ At Mallow he was menaced with personal violence, but Cork received him with open arms. Thence he proceeded to Kilkenny (13 Dec.)
A vacancy in the parliamentary representation had just occurred, and Parnell deemed the coming electoral contest a good battle-ground on which to engage his hostile countrymen. He nominated Mr. Vincent Scully, a gentleman of independent means, as his candidate. The anti-Parnellites put forward Sir John Pope-Hennessy [q. v.] Parnell flung himself into the fight with dauntless energy, despite rapidly declining physical powers. He vehemently denounced Mr. Gladstone, his own disaffected followers, and, with less heat, the catholic hierarchy. But the result was a decisive defeat for Parnell. His candidate only received 1,356 votes against 2,527 for Hennessy. Parnell was not dismayed. He attributed the anti-Parnellite's victory to the priests, but felt confident that his personal efforts would yet counteract their influence. He was gratified to find, in the course of the contest, that the fenians—the members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood—whose devotion to the cause of Irish nationality had won his lifelong admiration, were still true to him.
At the end of January 1891 he agreed to meet Messrs. Dillon and O'Brien, who had returned from America, at Boulogne, in order to discuss the possibility of reuniting the Irish party. Parnell again promised to retire if the liberal leaders would give a precise and satisfactory undertaking respecting the details of their contemplated Home Rule Bill. The negotiations dragged on till the middle of February, but nothing came of them, and the warfare was resumed. On Sunday, 22 Feb., Parnell addressed a meeting at Roscommon, passionately defending his position, and thenceforth he devoted nearly every Sunday to repeating the familiar arguments to large audiences in all parts of Ireland. He ridiculed the moderation of the anti-Parnellites' aspirations, and at Cork he declared for the complete independence of Ireland. But, although he was usually received with enthusiasm, his cause made no real advance. In March he appealed in vain to the National League of America for funds wherewith to reconstitute the National League of Ireland, which the majority of his old party had abandoned. At North Sligo during the same month he entered into a second electoral contest, but his candidate was defeated by a majority of 768. His intervention in a third electoral contest at Carlow in July met with a more decided rebuff, his candidate being defeated by a majority of 2,216. At Belfast on 22 May he devoted a speech to an attack on the catholic hierarchy, and both Archbishops Walsh and Croke replied to his criticisms. He further offended the priests, whom he had never in his earlier years made direct endeavours to conciliate, by marrying Mrs. O'Shea before the registrar at Steyning, near Brighton, on 25 June 1891. The bishop of Raphoe denounced the step as ‘the climax of brazened horrors.’ On 23 July he spoke with vigour and confidence at a convention of his supporters in Dublin. But at the same date a very effective blow was levelled at him by Mr. E. Dwyer Gray, the principal proprietor of the ‘Freeman's Journal,’ who, accepting the ecclesiastical view of Parnell's marriage, announced his defection from the Parnellite cause. Parnell's friends at once laid the foundation of a new journal, the ‘Independent,’ to champion his interests. Despite his activity in Ireland, Parnell did not neglect opportunities of obtaining a hearing from his countrymen in England, where there prevailed in many quarters a feeling that his past services were being unfairly underrated, and that he had been betrayed by his own friends. The Irish National League at Limehouse, on 13 May, treated his endeavours to explain his policy with decided hostility. On 17 June, however, he laid a full statement of his case before a public meeting at Bermondsey; he stoutly advocated the independence of the Irish party, and praised the Land Bill of the tory government, which the liberals had opposed. On 18 July he spoke at Newcastle on the details of home rule, and said that he was convinced that of the liberal party not one in three believed in the cause.
Parnell throughout this period was residing at Brighton, and the long and fatiguing journeys which he was repeatedly making between that place and Ireland, combined with the mental anxieties attending the struggle, soon shattered his broken health. He often expressed to his friends his unshaken confidence in his ultimate triumph, and hardly seemed to recognise the strength of the obstacles in his path. On 27 Sept. at Creggs, co. Galway, he spoke in public for the last time. He was suffering acutely from rheumatism, but he hurried back to his house, 9 Walsingham Terrace, Brighton, and there he died of inflammation of the lungs on 6 Oct. His last words are said to have been, ‘Let my love be conveyed to my colleagues and to the Irish people.’ He was buried in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin, on 11 Oct., amid every sign of public sorrow. Two hundred thousand persons attended the ceremony.
The division in the ranks of the Irish party continued after Parnell's death. Mr. John Redmond, M.P. for Waterford, was elected leader of the Parnellite section; but, although his supporters fought hard in Parnell's name at the general election of 1892, only nine Parnellites (out of a total of eighty-one nationalists) were returned to parliament. Mr. Gladstone and the liberals secured, with their Irish allies, a majority of forty in the House of Commons, and a Home Rule Bill, on lines for which Parnell was largely responsible, passed its third reading by a majority of 34 on 1 Sept. 1893. But the House of Lords rejected it a week later (41 for and 419 against). In face of the apathy on the question, which had been growing in Great Britain since Parnell's overthrow and the consequent dissensions in Ireland, the liberal government deemed it prudent to practically acquiesce for the present in the decision of the House of Lords, and the active agitation for home rule came for the time to a close in both England and Ireland.
Parnell will always hold a conspicuous place in Irish and in English history. By his personal efforts he dragged the question of Ireland's legislative independence from the field of academic discussion into that of practical politics. When he entered public life, home rule for Ireland was viewed by English politicians as a wild and impracticable dream. Within eleven years Parnell had coerced a majority of one of the two great English political parties into treating the scheme's adoption by parliament as an urgent necessity.
At heart he was a rebel. Could he have settled the Irish question by equipping an army of forty thousand men, he would have done it. His speech at Cork in 1885, when he declined to recognise any limits to Ireland's claim to ‘nationhood,’ indicated the goal of his ambition. But he combined with his revolutionary sympathies the astuteness of a practical statesman. With the weapons at his command he foresaw that home rule was attainable, and that an Irish republic was not. When his strategy had wrested from the liberal party assent to home rule, he was led by expediency to strictly adapt his conduct so as to secure that concession. Although he determined to make the best of Mr. Gladstone's measure, he believed that Ireland might at a later period, under another leader, enjoy something beyond it. His hatred of England sprang from his hatred of the English domination of Ireland, but he hoped for a friendly alliance with her after she should surrender the cause of quarrel. He recognised Ireland's commercial dependence on England, and perceived that Ireland's commercial interests recommended peace.
In his endeavours to extort home rule from England he was not scrupulous as to the means employed. He appealed for aid to every class of Irishmen, and retained the support of the revolutionary party by a tacit acquiescence in their methods of work. But he was careful to restrict his responsible control to the action of the constitutional wing of the army of Irish nationalists. Wholly impervious to criticism, he had a passion and a rare capacity for leadership, together with unbounded courage and splendid self-confidence. In manner reserved and distant, he cherished many aristocratic sentiments, and the aspirations of democracy drew from him no genuine response. Nevertheless he exerted a mysterious power of fascination over all who sympathised with his views. His speeches, though always incisive and earnest in tone, were rarely eloquent or even animated. His strong will habitually held in check his vehement passions, but they occasionally escaped control and found vent in utterances of startling vigour and effect. As a politician he was a man of few ideas, but those he held with dogged tenacity. Outside polities his interests were mainly confined to the mining experiments which he conducted on his estate at Avondale. He read little, and had no intimate friends.
Fanny Parnell (1854-1882), who gave some aid to her brother in the operations of the land league, was eighth child and fourth daughter of the family. Born at. Avondale on 3 Sept. 1854, she spent her youth there and at the town house of her family in Upper Temple Street, Dublin. Like her brother, she assimilated the patriotic and rebellious sympathies which her American mother grafted on a stock already well in touch with national traditions. During the period of fenian agitation in 1867 Fanny Parnell contributed poems to the 'Irish People' (the fenian organ) under the signature of 'Alena;' she also published poetry in the 'Nation' and the 'Irishman.' Shortly afterwards she emigrated with her mother to America, and settled at Bordentown, New York. On the foundation of the land league in 1879 and the consequent agrarian agitation, she set vigorously to making poetry. Between 1879 and 1882 she poured an incessant flood of fiery verse through the columns of the 'Boston Pilot' and the Dublin 'Nation.' Her poetry had a potent influence on the land league agitation in both Ireland and America, and it may be said to have been the sole poetical influence of those days. It was often mere fiery rhetoric, but at times had a passion and power which, a little chastened, would have made genuine poetry, and all her verse had the spirit of movement and animated passion. Her poems were collected in pamphlet form in America after her death. Many Irish anthologies include the sweetest and most dignified utterance of her later days, the poem called 'After Death,' which was written shortly before the end. In the land league agitation in America, Fanny Parnell also played a practical part. She appeared on many land league platforms; and in 1881, while her brother was imprisoned in Kilmainham, she organised the despatch to Ireland of Irish-American women to take the places of women who had helped to administer the ladies' land league in Ireland and had been imprisoned by Forster. Fanny Parnell died at Bordentown on 20 July 1882."
[Very slender biographies of Parnell, and those by pronounced partisans, have at present been published. The chief of these are by Mr. T. P. O'Connor, 1891; B. F. Walsh, New York, 1892; J. S. Mahoney, New York, 1886; T. Sherlocke, Dublin, 1887; J. Conellan, New York, 1888; Augustin Filon in his Profils Anglais, Paris, 1893; Nemours Godre in his La Bataille du Home-Rule, Paris, 1890; with the obituaries in the Times, Daily News, and Freeman's Journal of 8 Oct. 1891. The evidence and report of the special commission of 1888-9 (1890). with the speeches of Sir Charles Russell and of Michael Davut, which were also published separately, supply a full account of Parnell's relations with the land league and the Irish American organisations between 1379 and 1885. See also the American newspapers, the Nation, New York Tribune, and New York Herald, January-March 1880; Le Caron's Twenty-fire Years in the Secret Service, 1892; Daily News Diary of the Parnell Commission, 1890; Wemyss Reid's Life of Forster, 1888; T. P. O'Connor's Parnell Movement, 1886; P. H. Bagenal's Parnellism Unveiled, 1880; The Repeal of the Union Conspiracy, 1886; Parnellism and Crime, reprinted from the Times, 1887; George Moore's Parnell and his Island, 1887; Clayden's England under Beaconsfield and England under the Coalition; Cashman's Life of Davitt; T. P. O'Connor and E. MacWade's Gladstone, Parnell, and the Great Irish Struggle, with general introduction by Parnell, 1888. Hansard's Reports from 1875 to 1891 give Parnell's speeches in parliament, and his career there is also traced in Lucy's Diary of Two Parliaments, 1874-85 (2 vols. 1880-6), and his diary of the Salisbury parliament, 1892, as well as in T. P. O'Connor's Gladstone's House of Commons, 1885. Much use has been made of the accounts of Irish affairs in the Annual Registers, 1875-91. Private information has also been supplied for the purposes of this article.]