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AGAINST NONRESIDENT LANDLORDS
FROM THE SPEECH DELIVERED IN ST. LOUIS, MARCH 4, 1880
R. PRESIDENT AND LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:-)
thank you for this magnificent meeting—a splen.
did token of your sympathy and appreciation for the cause of suffering Ireland. It is a remarkable fact that while America, throughout the length and breadth of her country, does her very utmost to show her sympathy and send her practical help to our people; while there is scarcely any hand save America's between the starvation of large masses of the western peasantry, Eng. land alone of almost all the civilized nations does scarcely anything, although close beside 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 Ire. land are too crowded. The lands of Ireland are not 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 Ireland-than 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 al
lowed 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 an acknowledgment of the complete conquest of Ireland by England, an acknowledgment 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 with which you are intrusting us 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 Coer
cion acts which expired this year. Let me explain to you what these Coercion acts are. Under them the Lord Lieu. tenant of Ireland is entitled at any time to proclaim 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 Eng. land is now seeking to re-enact. I tell you, when I read this despatch, 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 as it has done in former years. We shall then be able to put to a test the newlyforged 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 it the Irish members do their duty that 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.
And now, I thank you in conclusion for the magnificent service that you are doing for the cause of Ireland. Keep up this work; help to destroy the Irish land system which hangs like a millstone around the necks of our people, and when we have killed the Irish land system we shall have done much to kill English misgovernment in Ireland.
We cannot give up the right of Ireland to be a nation, and although we may devote all our energies to remove the deadly upas tree of Irish landlordism, yet still you will trust us and believe that above and before all we recognize and are determined to work for the right of Ireland to regain her lost nationhood. We believe that Ireland is eminently fitted to take her place among the nations of the world. A people who can boast of such a history as ours; who can boast of martyrs like Robert Emmet, whose memory we celebrate to-day; who have had such leaders as Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Wolfe Tone; whose literature has been enriched by a Davis I say that such a people has shown that although we may be kept down for a time, we cannot long continue deprived of our rights. And I, for one, feel just as convinced that Ireland will be a nation some day or other, as I feel convinced that in a year or two the last vestiges of landlordism will have disappeared from the face of our country.
ON THE COERCION BILL
[In the former part of this speech, delivered in the House of commons, April 18, 1887, Mr. Parnell denounced as a forgery the letter purporting to have been written by him, as giving countenance to the Phoenix Park murders, and published in facsimile in “ The Times" of this date.]
IR,—The right honorable gentleman [Mr. A.J. Balfour]
refrained from answering the speech which I delivered
on the first reading of this Bill, and the Government refused to allow the adjournment of the debate, in order that some other member of the Government should have an opportunity of answering it the next day; and now, upon the second reading of this Bill, he goes back to the speech, and he attempts an answer to it, at a time of the night when he knows perfectly well that no reply can be made to him; and, with characteristic unfairness—an unfairness which I suppose we may expect to be continued in the future—he has refused to me the ten or twelve minutes that I should have craved to refer to a villainous and barefaced forgery which appeared in the “ Times” of this morning, obviously for the purpose of influencing the Division, and for no other purpose.
I got up when the right honorable gentleman the member for Midlothian [Mr. Gladstone] sat down. I had not intended to have made a speech at all upon the second stage of this Bill. . I should not have said more than a very few words in reference to this forgery; but I think I was entitled to have had from the right honorable gentleman an opportunity of exposing this deliberate attempt to blacken my character at some time when there would have been some chance of what I stated reaching the outside world.