Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

England under Gladstone, 1880-1885 online

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alluded to. The letter, which was dated from Kilmainham on
April 28, 1882, was addressed to Captain 0')Shea, member for
Clare, and ran as follows : —

* I was very sorry that you had left Albert Mansions before
I reached London from Eltham, as I had wished to tell you
that after our conversation I had made up my mind that it
would be proper for me to put Mr. M'Carthy in possession of
the views which I had previously communicated to you. I
desire to impress upon you the absolute necessity of a settle-
ment of the arrears question, which will leave no recurring sore



connected ■witli it behind, and whicli will enable us to show the
smaller tenantry that they have been treated with justice and
some generosity. The proposal you have described to me, as
suggested in some quarters, of making a loan over however
many years the payment might be spread, should be absolutely
rejected, for reasons which I have already fully explained to you.
If the arrears question be settled upon the line indicated by us,
I have every confidence — a confidence shared by my colleagues — •
that the exertions which we should be able to make, strenuously
and um-emittingly, would be effective in stopping outrages and
intimidations of all kinds. As regards permanent legislation of
an ameliorating character, I may say that the views which you
always shared Avith me as to the admission of leaseholders to
the fair-rent clauses of the Act are more confirmed than ever.
So long as the flower of the Irish peasantry are kept outside the
Act there cannot be the permanent settlement of the Land Act
which we all so much desire. I should also strongly hope that
some compromise might be arrived at this session with regard
to the amendment of the tenure clauses of the Land Act. It is
unnecessary for me to dwell upon the enormous advantages to
be dei-ived from the full extension of the purchase clauses, which
now seem practically to have been ado^Dted by all parties. The
accomplishment of the programme I have sketched out to you
Avould, in my judgment, be regarded by the country as a prac-
tical settlement of the land question, and I believe that the
Government at the end of this session would, from the state of
the country, feel themselves thoroughly justified in dispensing
with further coercive measures.'

Mr. Parnell read this letter, not from the original, but from
a copy furnished by Captain O'Shea, who had misquoted the
last paragraph. Mr. Forster immediately called attention to
the misquotation, and put into the hands of Captain O'Shea
a copy of the letter, in which the concluding paragi-aph ran
thus : — ' The accomplishment of the programme I have sketched
out to you would, in my judgment, be regarded by the country
as a practical settlement of the land question, and would, I
feel sure, enable us to co-operate cordially for the future with


the Liberal party in forwarding Liberal principles; and T
believe that the Government at the end of the session would,
from the state of the country, feel themselves thoroughly justified
in dispensing with future coercive measures.' For the moment
the matter dropped ; but the same evening Captain O'Shea,
speaking on the first reading of the Ai^ears of Eent (Ireland)
Bill, made an explanation of the negotiations, and the part he
had played in them. In considering the condition of Ireland in
April, Captain O'Shea had come to the conclusion that the
country was in a state most conducive to the proposal of a
truce, and to the ultimate hope of a permanent peace. He
accordingly wrote to the Prime Minister, oflfering to submit
to him a statement on Irish afiaii's as they appeared to him.
• While he was waiting for a reply, Mr. Parnell, who was out
of prison on parole, called upon him on April 11. The two
conversed on Irish questions, and Mr. Parnell appeared anxious
that Captain O'Shea should exert all his influence with the
Government to get the question of arrears practically adjusted.
Captain O'Shea then asked whether, in the event of the arrears
question being satisfactorily settled, Mr. Parnell would not
consider it his duty to use his immense personal influence for
the purpose of assisting in the preservation of law and order in
Ireland; to which Mr. Parnell had replied, 'Most undoubtedly.'
Captain O'Shea received a letter next day from the Prime
Minister, in reply to which, on the 13th, Captain O'Shea sent
the statement on Irish affairs, and also mentioned having seen
Mr. Parnell, but that Mr. Parnell was unaware of his intention
to write. The Prime Minister replied in a letter expressing his
warm desire for the pacification of Ireland. Captain O'Shea
had also written to Mr. Chamberlain, enclosing a copy of his
letter to the Prime Minister ; and Mr. Chamberlain had replied,
concurring with his view that it was the duty of the Govern-
ment to make themselves acquainted with i'ej)resentative oi^inion
in Ireland ; but urging, on the other hand, that the leaders of
the Irish party should pay attention to public opinion in England
and Scotland. Inspired with confidence by these two letters
Captain O'Shea had many conversations with members of the


Government, including Mr. Forster. Through Mr. Forstev he
was enabled to correspond pi'ivately with Mr. Parnell in prison,
and Mr. Forster gave him the pass which allowed him to visit
Mr. Parnell in Kilmainham. On April 30 he handed Mr.
Forster the letter from ^Nlr. Parnell which had been read to the
House. After he had done so it occurred to him that one phrase
in that letter might be misunderstood by the only persons whom
he could have supposed would ever see it. He accordingly saw
a Cabinet minister, and stating to him that he considered his
authority extended to the use of his own judgment in such a
matter, asked that the sentence in question should be ex-
punged. Mr. Parnell had kept no copy of the letter, and when
he accordingly asked Captain O'Shea for a copy to read to the
House, Captain O'Shea wrote out what he believed to be a true
copy and gave it to Mr. Parnell, who had no idea that there
was any omission whatever in the letter.

Mr. Forster then made an explanation. According to the
late Chief Secretary he had had an interview with Captain
O'Shea after his return from Kilmainham, and had made a
memorandum of the conversation. According to this memo-
randum Mr. Forster was dissatisfied with Mr. Parnell's letter
to Captain O'Shea, who offered to get other words, but said
that what was obtained was ' that the conspiracy which had
been used to get up Boycotting and outrages will now be used
to put them down.' Here Captain O'Shea interposed, ob-
jecting to the word 'conspiracy.' Organisation, was, he believed,
the word used. Mr. Forster went on to say that Captain O'Shea
said that Mr. Parnell hoped to get back from abroad a released
suspect named Sheridan, who would be able to help him to put
down agitation, ' as he knew all its details in the west.' Mr.
Forster began to regret that he had had anything to do with
the negotiation, and resolved that he would have notliing more
to do with it.

Now came ."Mr. Parnell's turn, and the House listened to
his explanation with the greatest curiosity. The letter he had
written to Captain O'Shea was marked ' private and con-
tidential,' and was never meant to be shown to Mr. Forster.


If Captain O'Shea had made use of any suggestion about an
organisation which had been used to promote outrages being
used again to put them down, it was on his own responsibility,
for he (Mr. Parnell) had used no such words and conveyed no
such impression. With regard to Mr. Sheridan, all Mr. Parnell
had asked was ' that Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Egan might be per-
mitted to come back in the event of this question being settled ;
he also mentioned Mr. Davitt's name, saying that it was oi
great importance that Mr. Davitt should be released. Mr.
Sheridan was — and he had so told his honourable friend — one
of the chief organisers of the Land League in Connaught. He
had told his honourable friend that if Mr. Sheridan were per-
mitted to retuiTi to Ireland, he believed he would be able to use
his influence to discourage the commission of outrages, and to
induce the tenantry to accept this settlement of the arrears
question.' He had no reason to believe that Mr. Sheridan had
ever incited to the commission of any crime. There was some
further slight discussion that day, but the matter was renewed
the following day, Tuesday, IGth, when Sir Stafford Northcote
asked the Piime Minister what other members of the Govern-
ment besides the Prime Minister and Mr. Forster had communi
cation, direct or indirect, with Mr. Parnell before his release ;
whether these communications were made known to the Govern-
ment as a whole, or to Mr. Forster in paiticalar ; whether any
members of the Government had personal interviews with Mr.
Parnell before his release, and how far the release of Michael
Davitt was stipulated for in the communications. Mr.
Gladstone replied, pointing out that the House was already
aware that Captain O'Shea had had communication with Mr.
Chamberlain as well as with himself and Mr. Forster. With
regard to the second question, Mr. Gladstone had no knowledge
of the matter except what was in possession of his colleagues
in the Government as a whole, and such he believed to be the
case with regard to Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Forster. No
members of the Government had had personal interviews with
Mr. Parnell, and no stipulations had been made for the release
of Mr. Michael Davitt. After some desultory wrangling, Mr.


A. J. Balfour moved the adjournment of the Housa, and attacked
the Government for having made a compromise Avith Mr. Par-
nell hy which Mr. Parnell was to get his release and legislation
as to arrears, while the Government was to obtain in return
peace in Ireland and Parliamentary support. Mr. Gladstone
angrily replied that there was not one word of truth in Mr.
Balfour's accusation from beginning to end, and defied him to
prove his chai\ges. Mr. Gibson then followed with a long speech,
in Avliich he described the letter sent by Mr. Parnell to Captain
O'Shea as a protocol — * a despatch sent by an engaging and
attractive ambassador, who had the usual diplomatic direc-
tion as to leaving a copy with the other party, and giving any
further explanation that might be demanded.' This letter, as
addressed to shrewd capable men, and not to simpletons, dis-
tinctly disclosed three considerations which were to move from
the Government, and two that were to move from the member
for Cork. The question of the release of the Avi'iter was not
mentioned, because it Avas too obvious to be stated. No Govern-
ment entertaining such a letter would keep its writer in custody
twenty-four hours afterwards. Sir William Harcourt answered
with a slashing, hard-hitting defence of the Government, deny-
ing the existence of any secret understanding, and delivering
a clever side stx'oke at Mr. Forster for having read a memoran-
dum of a private conversation, without going through the usual
diplomatic practice of first submitting it to the other party to
the conversation, in order to know whether he admits the accuracy
of it. ]\Iore futile debating, if indeed profitless recrimination
could be called debating, followed, and then Mr. Chamberlain
gave an explanation. With regard to the famous omitted
sentence in the Parnell letter, Mr. Chamberlain said that
Captain O'Shea had indeed expressed his wish to have one
sentence of it withdrawn, but Mr. Chamberlain had not paid
much attention to this desire : first, because he could not see
what avithority Captain O'Shea had to withdraw any part of the
letter ; and next, because he did not consider the matter of suf-
ficient importance. In fact, it so entirely escaped his memory,
that when the letter was read out by Mr. Parnell, he had not


the slightest idea that any sentence had been withdrawn from
it. As to Mr. Forster's memorandum, with Mr. Parnell's pledge
to use the organisation which had been emjjloyed in getting up
outrages to put them down again, he had never attached much
importance to it, because it appeared to him on the face of tilings
absolutely impossible to suppose that Mr. Parnell, whom every-
one knew to be a man of great ability, ' would have committed
the supreme folly of making such an incriminating confession.
Mr. Chamberlain therefore assumed that these words, if used at
all, had been used by Captain O'Shea ; in which case they were
of small importance, because Captain O'Shea was not a member
of Mr. Parnell's party, nor even a follower of Mr. Parnell, and
would undoubtedly regard the Land League with very diflerent
eyes from Mr. Parnell. This debate did not definitely close the
Kilmainham question, it still kept cropping uj) every now and
then, often in debates w^here it was least expected, still more
often in the form of ingenious questions to members of the
Government. It made one of its latest appearances when Mr.
Reginald Yorke tried to interrupt the progress of the procedure
rules by moving for a committee to inquire into the whole busi-
ness, and the motion was talked out. But nothing further came
of questions or debates, and indeed just then the public mind
was somewhat diverted from any question of the Kilmainham
compacts by the two important Irish measures which imme-
diately occupied the attention of the House, the new Coercion
Bill and the Arrears Bill.

It is not necessary to go at any great length into the detail
of the debates on these two measures. The Irish members
opposed the Coercion Bill by all the means which the forms of
the House allowed them. On June 30 the obstruction came to
a head over the manner in which the assessment on the rate-
payers of any district for compensation where crime had been
committed. Early in the afternoon rumours of an all-night
sitting began to circulate through the lobbies. It was said that
the Government were determined to force down the Ii-ish opjoo-
sition ; that arrangements for relays had been arranged by the
Ministerialist whips ; that the Ii'ish, on their side, were busily


organising their plans for an enduring struggle. The expecta-
tions were not disappointed, and the curious who had the courage
to remain in the galleries of the House all through the long hours
of that debate may boast that they had witnessed one of the mof-t
exciting of the historical all-night sittings. Jane passed away
and became July ; the warm lights of the chamber were extin-
guished, and the grey summer morning lit up the dreary scene,
and still the debate went on. Chairman after chairman had
swayed, or tried to sway, the committee ; Irish member after
Irish member had spoken again and again on motion after
motion ; there had been scenes of fierce attack and stormy
recrimination, followed by long lulls of dull debate, during
which the Commons seemed to have fallen into an apathy as
complete, if not as pleasant, as that of the dwellers in the
Castle of Indolence. At last, about nine o'clock on the Satur-
day morning, ]\Ir. Playfair suddenly I'ose in the middle of a
speech by Mr. Ptedmond, and warned the House that for the
last three days the progress of business had been retarded by
systematic obstruction, and that he should soon have to indicate
to the committee who were the members engaged in it. Mr.
Hedmond resumed his speech, but the warning had spread
through the House, and the almost empty Chamber began sud-
denly to fill up again in expectation of something new. From
upper lobbies, w^here they had been trying to sleep, from the
dining-rooms, where they had been seeking to recruit their
strength with hurried breakfasts, supporters of the Govern-
ment, members of the Opposition, and followers of Mr.
Parnell, came hurrying into the chamber in obedience to the
summons of scouts, who had rushed out after Mr. Playfaii^'s
warning to collect their forces. Mr. Playfair had a good
audience when he rose again, interrupting Mr. Redmond, who
was still speaking. Mr. Playfair announced that the time had
come to stop the systematic obstruction, and he read out, amid
loud and indignant protests from Mr. O'Donnell, who had just
come, the names of fifteen Irish members, whom he accused of
taking part in it. Di-amatically, the stroke was a fine one ;
artistically speaking, it lacked rehearsal, for, whereas Mr.

The sixth of mat. 217

Play fair read out the names of only fifteen Irish members to the
House, Mr. Childers, whose duty it was to move their suspension,
quickly inserted another name, and moved the suspension of
sixteen. On a division the suspension was carried by 12G to 27,
and the sixteen members immediately left the House. But the
storm and stress was not over. Mr. Playfair then reported INIr.
O'Donnell for having insulted the chair by his interruption when
his name was read in the list of those suspended. Mr. Joseph
Cowen gave notice of a vote of censure on Mi\ Playfair. The
Irish members still left unsuspended carried on the debate with
vigour unabated, until at about seven on the Saturday evening
Mr. Playfair named nine more Irish members, whose suspen-
sion was carried by 128 to 7. There being then practically no
Irish members left to carry on the debate, the Government
ran through the amendments with great rapidity, passed the
thirtieth clause, and progress was reported, after a continuous
sitting of some twenty-three hours. On Monday, July 3, Mr.
O'Donnell's case was brought forward, and Mr. O'Donnell
was suspended from the service of the House for fourteen
days. On Tuesday, July 4, Mr. Gladstone moved and carried,
by 402 to 19, a motion that the business of the House was
urgent. The Speaker then immediately rose and laid on the
table the urgency rules that had been in force the previous year,
supplemented by an additional rule, under which closure could
be enforced by a majority of three to one. Mr. Justin M'Carthy
then rose and read a resolution, drawn up by the Irish party,
condemning the conduct of the Government ; after which the
Irish party immediately left the House, to take no further part
in the coercion discussion. One result of the withdrawal was
a Ministerialist defeat on July 7, on a Government amendment
to clause fourteen, regulating the right of the jjolice to make
midnight searches. The defection of many of the Whigs was
the primary cause of this defeat. They were hostile to any
amendment which in any way lessened the stringency of the
Coercion Bill ; and they preferred to risk a change of Ministry
to allowing the Government to carry a conciliatory amend-
ment. There were wild rumours at once of resignations,


of great Cabinet changes, even appeals to the country. No-
thing, however, of the kind happened. Mr. Gladstone explained
that under ordinary circumstances he would have gone no fur-
ther with the Bill, but that he could not do so in the existing
condition of Ireland, nor would he resign.

Once sent to the Lords, the Crimes Bill soon passed into law.
The amended Arrears Bill was then carried after long debates
in the Commons, and sent to the Lords, who did not give it the
same warm welcome that they had afforded to the Crimes Bill.
Coercion is always congenial work to the Peers, but amelio-
rative legislation of any kind is o])posed to their tastes and
their traditions, and the Arrears Bill was soon sent back to the
Commons, cumbered with some heavy amendments that practi-
cally rendered it valueless. Mr. Gladstone took the challenge
of the Lords very composedly. The serious amendments which
involved any radical change in the nature of the measure he
calmly declined to accept. For the sake of compromise he
consented to accept some trifling amendment which scarcely
altered anything, and so the Bill was returned to the Upper
House. The Ministry were playing the part of Falconbridge
to the modern Lord Salisbury.

Put up thy sword betime,

Or I'll so maul thee and thy toasting iron

That you shall think the devil is come from hell,

are the words with which Shakespeare's Falconbridge meets the
anger of Lord Salisbury. ]\Ir. Gladstone's reply to Lord Salis-
bury's successor was not couched in the same vehement terms,
but it conveyed something of the same idea. The Lords felt
that they had gone too far. The country never in the end
encourages the Lords to offer any prolonged resistance to the
will of the Commons. Lord Salisbury, it is said, was all for
fighting the matter out to the bitter end. Perhaps his warlike
ardour was not diminished, but he was certain that his followers
were not so bellicose as he, and that he might therefore be bold
enough without any fear of causing a Ministerial complication,
or provoking battle between the two Houses of Parliament. The


Arrears Bill was accepted without division, and became law on
Aicgust 10.

The Arrears Bill and the Crimes Bill were the only import-
ant measures Avhich the Government were able to deal with
during this protracted session. The Corrupt Practices Bill had to
be abandoned ; the Ballot Act, instead of being improved, had
to be bundled at the last moment into the Expiring Acts Con-
tinuance Act, The Bankruptcy, County Government, and
Municipality of London Bills never made their appearance at all.
The Electric Lighting Bill was carried by Mr. Chamberlain ; it
gave municipalities the right to adopt the electric light for street
and other purposes by the permission of tlie Board of Trade alone,
instead of a local Act of Parliament. Mr. Fawcett cari-ied his
Parcels Post Bill, enabling the Post Office to convey and deliver
parcels up to a prescribed limit of weight at a settled charge,
without regard to distance. The Married Women's Property
Bill, introduced by the Lord Chancellor, practically placed married
men and married women on an equality before the law as far as
regarded their private income, earnings, or inheritance. The
Municipal Corporation Act and the Bills of Exchange Act,
Earl Cairns's Settled Lands Bill, removing many of the restric-
tions in dealing with entailed estates, and a new education code
"were the principal other performances of the session.

On April 24 Mr. Gladstone had brought forward a respect-
able, if somewhat colourless budget. On July 24 he intro-
duced a supplementary budget to meet the cost of the Egyptian
War. He asked for a vote of credit for 2,300,000^., of which
900,000^. was for the arm}^ and 1,400,000/. for the navy. I\Ir.
Gladstone proposed to meet this by increasing the income tax
from 5cZ. to 8f/. in the pound, which, as two quarters had already
been collected on the lesser rate, was equal to the levy of a tax
of Q\d. for the whole of the year.

On August 15 a great national celebration took place in
Dublin. The Exhibition of Irish Arts and Manufactures was
opened. Foley's statue of O'Connell, which had been sot up at
the lower end of Sackville Street, opposite to what was once
called Carlisle, and is now called O'Connell Bridge was unveiled.


The peculiarity of the Dublin Exhibition was its entirely national
character. For the first time in the history of Dublin since the
Union an enterprise was carried out which disdained the
patronage of the Castle, and appealed directly to popular support.
To the great disappointment of the Castle clientele the exhibition
was a success. The building, skilfully and pleasingly composed
of that combination of glass and iron which Sir Joseph Paxton
was the first to apply to the purposes of exhibitions, was erected
at the back of the Rotunda. Inside, it was crowded with the
productions of Irish art and of Irish manufacture, which were
the most convincing arguments of the commercial possibilities
of the country whenever her resources were proj^erly woiked.
This day of national celebration deserves to be commemorated
for the perfect peace and order with which it passed ofi". There
had been gi-ave apprehensions in England, and in Ireland as
well, that the celebration would be made the occasion for wild
outbreak of some kind. The purely national character of the
pi'oceedings, the numbers of persons from the country round
about the city who would flow into Dublin on the day, the
excited condition of the people — all these were brought forward
as arguments in favour of the probability of some dangerous
distui-bance taking place. The authorities deserve commenda-

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyEngland under Gladstone, 1880-1885 → online text (page 20 of 38)