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CHARLES STEWART PARNELL (1846-1891)
THE “UNCROWNED KING” OF IRELAND
HE part which the great O'Connell took in the first half of the
nineteenth century as the “ Liberator” of Ireland, was taken
by Charles Parnell in the last half. During the decade from 1880 to 1890, when the questions of Irish rights and Home Rule led in British politics, Parnell, as leader of the Home Rule party, was little short of a dictator in parliamentary affairs. Entering Parliament in 1875, for several years he pursued the policy of obstruction with an audacity that caused great annoyance, and made him highly popular at home. In 1880 the method of “boycotting” landlords and agents was put into effect by him. He was sent to jail in 1881 for his forcible opposition to Gladstone's methods of dealing with Ireland, yet in 1886, when Gladstone began to work earnestly for Home Rule, Parnell became his close ally. Parnell's power vanished in 1890 and after, as the result of a divorce suit scandal, and soon afterward he suddenly died. As an orator Parnell was ready and forcible; less fluent and rhetorical than his famous predecessor, yet with much power of his own. In 1880 he traversed the United States as President of the Irish Land League, making there some of his best speeches. He collected on this visit $350,000 for the good of the cause.
EVICTION AND EMIGRATION [The selection here given is from Parnell's speech of March 4, 1880, delivered at St. Louis, during his tour of the United States.]
I thank you for this magnificent meeting-a splendid token of your sympathy and appreciation for the cause of suffering Ireland. remarkable fact that, while America, throughout the length and breadth of her country, does her very utmost to show her sympathy and send her
CHARLES STEWART PARNELL
practical help to our people; while there is scarcely any hand save Amer ica's between the starvation of large masses of the western peasantry: England alone of almost all the civilized nations does scarcely anything, although close behind Ireland, to help the terrible suffering and famine which now oppress that country. I speak a fact when I say that if it had not been for the help which has gone from America during the last two months among these, our people would have perished ere now of starvation...
We are asked : “Why do you not recommend emigration to America ?” and we are told that the lands of Ireland are too crowded. They are less thickly populated than those of any civilized country in the world; they are far less thickly populated—the rich lands of Irelandthan
any of your western States. It is only on the barren hillsides of Connemara and along the west Atlantic coast that we have too thick a population, and it is only on the unfertile lands that our people are allowed to live. They are not allowed to occupy and till the rich lands; these rich lands are retained as preserves for landlords, and as vast grazing tracts for cattle. And although emigration might be a temporary alleviation of the trouble in Ireland, it would be a cowardly step on our part; it would be running away from our difficulties in Ireland, and it would be acknowledgment of the complete conquest of Ireland by England, an acknowledg. ment which, please God, Ireland shall never make.
No! we will stand by our country, and whether we are exterminated by famine to-day, or decimated by English bayonets to-morrow, the people of Ireland are determined to uphold the God-given right of Ireland to take her place among the nations of the world. Our tenantry are engaged in a struggle of life and death with the Irish landlords. It is no use to attempt to conceal the issues which have been made there. The landlords say that there is not room for both tenants and landlords, and that the people must go, and the people have said that the landlords must go. But it may-it may, and it undoubtedly will —happen in this struggle that some of our gallant tenantry will be driven from their homes and evicted. In that case we will use some of the money you are entrusting us with in this country for the purpose of finding happier homes in this far western land for those of our expatriated people, and it will place us in a position of great power, and give our people renewed confidence in their struggle, if they are assured that any of them who are evicted in their attempts to stand by their rights will get one hundred and fifty good acres of land in Minnesota, Illinois, or some of your fine Western States.
Now the cable announces to us to-day that the Government is about to attempt to renew the famous Irish Coercion Acts which expired this
CHARLES STEWART PARNELL
year. Let me explain to you what these Coercion Acts are. Under them the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland is entitled to proclaim at any time, in any Irish county, forbidding any inhabitant of that county to go outside of his door after dark, and subjecting him to a long term of imprisonment with hard labor, if he is found outside his door after dark. No man is permitted to carry a gun, or to handle arms in his house ; and the farmers of Ireland are not even permitted to shoot at the birds when they eat the seed corn on their freshly-sowed land. Under these acts it is also possible for the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland to have any man arrested and consigned to prison without charge, and without bringing him to trial ; to keep him in prison as long as he pleases; and circumstances have been known where the Government has arrested prisoners under these Coercion Acts, and has kept them in solitary confinement for two years, and not allowed them to see a single relative or to communicate with a friend during all that period, and has finally forgotten the existence of the helpless prisoners. And this is the infamous code which England is now seeking to re-enact.
I tell you, when I read this dispatch, strongly impressed as I am with the magnitude and vast importance of the work in which we are engaged in this country, that I felt strongly tempted to hurry back to Westminster in order to show this English Government whether it shall dare, in this year 1880, to renew this odious code with as much facility it has done in former years.
We shall then be able to put to a test the newly-forged gagging rules that they have invented for the purpose of depriving the Irish members of freedom of speech. And I wish to express my belief, my firm conviction, that if the Irish members do their duty, it will be impossible that this infamous statute can be re-enacted ; and if it again finds its place upon the statute-book, I say that the day upon which the royal assent is given to that Coercion Act will sound the knell of the political future of the Irish people.