Page images

progress of conciliation between ruled and rulers was sought to be arrested; how a people asking for justice were answered by ferocious animosity; how men who had suffered imprisonment, degradation, and calumny in their country's service were foully attacked by the weapons of moral assassination, and how every dastard means known in the records of political warfare was purchased and employed to cripple or destroy the elected representative of the Irish nation.

This story will picture this once-powerful organ of English public opinion earning again the title of " literary assassin which Richard Cobden gave it near thirty years ago. It will stand again in this light when its writers are seen plotting with Houston, planning with Pigott, and bargaining with Delaney how best to reawaken in the English mind the old hate and jealousy and fear of a people who were to be depicted in its columns in the most odious and repulsive character that forgers' or libellers' mercenary talent could delineate in “Parnellism and Crime."

This story will exhibit these men sitting in the editorial rooms of Printing House Square, with professions of loyalty on their lips and poison in their pens; with“ honesty ” loudly proclaimed in articles which salaried Falsehood had written; with simulated regard for truth, making “Shame ashamedof their concocted fabrications.

And these men, with the salaries of the rich in their pockets and the smiles of London society as their reward, carrying on a deliberately planned system of infamous allegation against political opponents who were but striving to redeem the sad fortunes of their country, in efforts to bring to an end a strife of centuries' duration between neighboring nations and peoples.

Between the “ Times” on the one hand, and the accused on the other, your lordships are, however, first to judge. It is, if I may say so without presumption, as serious and momentous a duty as judges of England were ever called upon to perform. The traditions of your lordships' exalted position, elevated as that position is above the play of political passion of the influence of fear or favor, will call, and will not, I am sure, call in vain, for the exercise of all those great qualities of trained ability, of calmness, of discernment, of judgment, and of courage which are the proud boast of the judicial bench of this land.

Whether or not the test of a cold, indiscriminating law will alone decide an issue in which political passion has played so great a part, and where party feeling has been a moving principle in acts and words; whether the heated language of platform oratory, or the sometimes crude attempts at political reform, are to be weighed in the balance of legal scales,--scales never fashioned, at least in England, to measure the bounds of political action; or whether the test is to lie with a discriminating judicial amalgam of law in its highest attributes and of calm reason applied to the men and motives and means of the Land League, as the accused, and to the “ Times,” its charges and allegations, as the accuser, I am, as a layman, unable to forecast.

But, be the test what it may, if it be only based upon truth and guided by the simple monitor of common sense; I say on my own behalf and on that of the Land League and of the peasantry of Ireland, hopefully, confidently, fearlessly, “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”


[A monster demonstration in favor of the Land League movement, which sought to reform the Irish land laws, was held at Straide, County Mayo, February 1, 1880. Mr. Davitt was among the speakers, and a peculiar interest was attached to the meeting from the fact that the platform from which he spoke was erected over the very ruins of the old homestead from which he, with his father and mother, had been evicted many years before. Mr. Davitt delivered the following speech:]


HILE every nerve must be strained to stave off, if

possible, the horrible fate which befel our famine

slaughtered kindred in 1847 and 1848, the attention of our people must not for a moment be withdrawn from the primary cause of these periodical calamities, nor their exertions be relaxed in this great social struggle for the overthrow of the odious system responsible for them. Portions of the English press had recently declared that the charity of Englishmen would be more spontaneous and generous if this agitation did not stand in the way. Well, Ireland's answer to this should be that she asks no English alms, and that she scorns charity which is offered her in lieu of the justice which is her right and her demand. Let landlordism be removed from our country, and labor be allowed the wealth which it creates instead of being given to legalized idlers, and no more famine will darken our land or hold Ireland up to the gaze

of the civilized world as a nation of paupers. England deprives us annually of some seven millions of money for Imperial taxation, and she allows an infamous land system to rob our

try of fifteen or twenty millions more each year to support some nine or twelve thousand lazy landlords, and then, when famine extends its destroying wings over the land, and the dread spectre of death stands sentinel at our thresholds, an appeal to English charity—a begging-box outside the London Mansion House-is paraded before the world, and expected to atone for every wrong inflicted upon Ireland by a heartless

and hated government, and to blot out the records of the most monstrous land code that ever cursed a country or robbed humanity of its birthright. The press of England may bring whatever charges its prejudices can prompt against this land movement, the Duchess of Marlborough may hurl her gracious wrath at the heads of “ heartless agitators,” but neither the venomed scurrility of government organs nor the jealous tirades of politico-prompted charity can rob the much-abused land movement of the credit attached to the following acts. The cry of distress and national danger was first raised by the agitators, and all subsequent action, government, viceregal, landlord, and Mansion House, to alleviate that distress, was precipitated by the action of the “heartless agitators.” The destroying hand of rackrenting and eviction was stricken down for the moment by the influence of the agitation, and the farmers of Ireland were spared some two or three millions with which to meet the distress now looming on their families and country, while the rooftrees of thousands of homesteads were protected from the crowbar brigade; and the civilized world has been appealed to against the existence of a land monopoly which is responsible for a pauperized country, a starved and discontented population, and every social evil now afflicting a patient and industrious people, until a consensus of home and foreign opinion has been evoked in favor of a lasting and efficacious remedy. With these services rendered to Ireland, with a resolve to do the utmost possible to save our people from the danger immediately threatening them, the “ heartless agitators " will not relax a single effort or swerve one iota from their original purposes,—to haul down the ensign of land monopoly and plant the banner of the “land for the people" upon the dismantled battlements of Irish landLordism. Against what have we declared this uneeasing

strife, and whence the justification for the attitude we are calling upon the people to assume? The resolution so eloquently proposed by my friend Mr. Brennan declares that the present land code had its origin in conquest and national spo liation, and has ever since been the curse of our people and the scourge of Ireland. Does not the scene of domestic devastation now spread before this vast meeting bear testimony of the crimes with which landlordism stands charged before God and man to-day? Can a more eloquent denunciation of an accursed land code be found than what is witnessed here in this depopulated district? In the memory of many now listening to my words that peaceful little stream which meanders by the outskirts of this multitude sang back the merry voices of happy children and wended its way through a once populous and prosperous village. Now, however, the merry sounds are gone, the busy hum of hamlet life is hushed in sad desolation, for the hands of the home destroyers have been here and performed their hellish work, leaving Straide but a name to mark the place where happy homesteads once stood, and whence an inoffensive people were driven to the four corners of the earth by the ruthless decrees of Irish landlordism. How often in a strange land has my boyhood's ear drunk in the tale of outrage and wrong and infamy per petrated here in the name of English laws and in the interest of territorial greed. In listening to the accounts of famine and sorrow, of deaths from landlordism, of coffinless graves,

of scenes

On highway's side, where oft were seen
The wild dog and the vulture keen
Tug for the limbs and gnaw the face

Of some starved child of our Irish race, what wonder that such laws should become hateful, and, when felt by personal experience of their tyranny and injustice,

« PreviousContinue »