Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 84



But the assassinations of the 6th of May, 1882, if they were horrible and ghastly in their inception and development, were fated to lead to a somewhat better condition of things in Ireland. The arm of Parliament was strengthened. There was little desire now to halt in the matter of placing exceptional powers at the disposal of the Executive; and a better and a stronger state of mind succeeded that condition, in which men and legislators had previously looked rather stupidly on, while civil war was marching apace. The funerals of the murdered officials had scarce been concluded, ere Government was called upon to legislate in the matter of Irish criminal procedure. And as a result of what had then taken place, the Crimes Act of 1882 was placed upon the statute book. By this measure it became possible to change the venue and remove prisoners for trial from disturbed districts—where verdicts of acquittal were foregone conclusions to places such as the chief city in Ireland, where impartial consideration could be given to the cases, undisturbed by local page 28 influences and terrorism; to arrest men without the delay necessitated by the ordinary law; to summon witnesses [like as was in the case in other parts of the United Kingdom, but not, unfortunately, hitherto in Ireland], and examine them with regard to their private actions; and to suppress public meetings and newspapers, when such tended to produce crime or incite to outrage. The measure became law on the 11th of July, the delay in passing it through its different stages, being caused by the fierce opposition of the Parliamentary representatives of the "Nationalist" party, who used obstruction in every possible form to prevent the Government proposals becoming law. But to no effect.

The Land League had been suppressed on the 20th October, 1881; Davitt had been previously re-arrested for some inattention to the requirements of his "ticket-of-leave; " the Crimes Act now came into operation; and the remedial legislation of the previous year or two was obtaining consideration and trial, so that there was not much "active" work engaged in as far as outward appearances went. Slowly but surely the power of the law, commenced to make itself felt; and under the new methods sanctioned by the Legislature, things commenced to right themselves. Informers became only too eager to tell the secrets of the different conspiracies; details regarding the various murders came to light with rapid succession; juries commenced to convict; the men who had been arrested on suspicion, and since released, now secretly left the country, as information regarding their wrong-doing came to hand; and convicted "Nationalist" murderers, had to pay the penalty of their crimes on the gallows. The evidence of the different informers was always distinct and startling in its significance. Carey, the sub-leader of the Phoenix Park murderers, and whilom companion of certain of the Fenian Members of Parliament; who had obtained a seat in the Dublin Municipal Council through the advocacy of the special "National ' organ, United Ireland, was of opinion, when examined by the Crown, that the money for the Phoenix Park murders "must have come from the Land League"—an opinion in which his colleagues of the "Invincible" conspiracy shared. Another informer, speaking of the working of the "Invincible organisation in the country, said it had been arranged at the outset, that the Land League would supply the new society with arms,". . .

page 29

The members were all to get their expenses, and were to "go into different counties, and even England, to shoot landlords, bailiffs and spies, and the Land League would pay their expenses." While a third, who was the chief leader of the Moonlighters in the south of Ireland [the name being taken by lawless peasants who went about disguised at night shooting persons and breaking into dwellings], told the Court that he got "£12 on two occasions from Dublin.. . . There were also rewards given for bravery, at these outrages, in money, and a Parnell medal was sometimes given."

But this reassertion of the claims of law and order in no way suited the temper of the Nationalists, whilst the disclosures which were forthcoming filled them with anger and dread. Accordingly, there commenced a terrible outcry; and insinuations were made about juries being packed, and unfair trials taking place. The administration of justice was impeached, and charges of the most corrupt and iniquitous character were launched against the Executive. The Irish World, the great American organ of the active section, commenced a series of articles glorifying the crimes of the past, and inciting to still greater atrocities; and to make murder an attractive and paying proceeding, a special fund was opened to support the families of those who had been convicted in connection with the Phoenix Park and other assassinations. Sums of £300 each were distributed amongst the various families of the imprisoned or executed "Invincibles."

Meantime efforts were being made to resuscitate the suppressed organisation, and, under a new title, it once more sprang into being, the name now bestowed upon it being the "National" instead of the "Land" League; and things went very merrily forward for the agitation. As Irish parliamentary seats became vacant, they were filled up by Mr. Parnell's nominees; his staff commenced to gain substantial recognition for alleged services in Parliament in the way of money testimonials; and the people were being either persuaded or coerced to join the resuscitated organisation. Where coaxing and persuasion failed to obtain their allegiance, "Boycotting" was put in full swing, and the work was carried on so cautiously and dexterously that but little opening was left for Governmental movement. Under the Crimes Act regime, crime had visibly decreased. For the latter half of 1882, when it first took effect, there were only 836 crimes recorded; for page 30 the following year, 1883, the number was only 834; and for the year 1884 the record showed 744. From January to June, 1S8;. there were 373 crimes, and from April to June there were 299 people wholly or partially Boycotted—this latter period being the first for which a "Boycotting" record is available.