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



The Parnellite movement, both in its scope and characteristics, stands out quite distinct from other Agrarian, Home Rule, and Eenian movements in Ireland. Combining, with elements of a quite new character, some of the most prominent points of each of its predecessors, it yet forms, as a whole, a completely new departure in Irish politics. The dream of "an Irish Republic, free and independent," amongst the disaffected classes of Irishmen, is as old as any of the historical events which can be called to mind regarding Ireland; but the efforts in this direction, to a great extent, lacked practical shape and form till Mr. Parnell and his associates betook themselves to the work of agitation. There had been amongst the "Extreme" moves,—an Irish Rebellion in 1798, a Young Ireland movement in 1848, and a "Fenian" rising on a very small scale in 1867; and amongst the milder stages of the revolutionary fever, there were to be numbered O'Connell's agitation, which succeeded in gaining Catholic emancipation; and Isaac Butt's Home Rule Association, which, prior to the dictatorship of Mr. Parnell, laboured page 8 to bring about some federal arrangement. Both types of agitation had their admirers and supporters, and both had a distinct following. Men through whose veins the hot blood of revolution coursed swiftly and violently, would only have to do with those active measures which suited their appetite and temperament, treating with scornful opposition those other classes who took sides with the quieter methods of O'Connell and Butt; while the followers of the latter, on their side, refused countenance to all other but the constitutional form of procedure. It was for Mr. Parnell, however, to change all this, and to work with such magical effect as to draw all sorts and conditions of men of a "Separatist" way of thinking into league with one another.

Mr. Charles S. Parnell, M.P., at present member for the City of Cork—"Rebel Cork" as it is affectionately termed by the "Extremists"—is a remarkable man. The eldest son of an Irishman who married an American lady of Republican ideas, he has from his very earliest days been trained to nurture an almost unaccountable hatred of all things British, and in private, as well, indeed, as in public, he makes no effort to shroud these thoughts of his. Entering the Imperial Parliament in 1875, at a time when he was twenty-nine years of age, he very soon acquired notoriety by the way in which he obstructed the public business of the Legislature. At the time he entered Parliament, Mr. Butt's Home Rule movement (on Federal lines) was in full swing; and Mr. Parnell became nominally a member of the party which supported the claim for this method of settlement of the Irish difficulty. But while nominally a member of the Butt section, he very quickly broke away from the leadership of Mr. Butt, and, joining with Mr. Joseph Biggar, M.P., Mr. Callan, M.P., and Mr. O'Connor Power, M.P.—all past or present members of the Fenian conspiracy—formed a sort of advanced section in the Irish party in Parliament of that period.

Mr. Parnell and his confreres lost little time in showing their condition of mind in the matter of hatred of all things English, and while, on the one hand, they spoke continuously and strongly in favour of the policy of Fenianism [when Irish debates were before the House of Commons], they, on the other, brought what has been called "the policy of exasperation" and obstruction to a positive science. As Mr. Parnell himself said, this policy was "perfectly page 9 simple," once the rules of procedure in the House of Commons had been sufficiently mastered. Faulty and inadequate as these rules were they had proved fully equal to all the requirements of debate till Mr. Parnell and his followers came to deal with them. Once they took them in hand, by a combination of cunning and entire disregard of gentlemanliness and courtesy, they succeeded in turning the House of Commons into a "bear garden," and making legislation for certain periods impossible. Such was the inadequacy of the powers given to the Speaker, that member after member could get up, speak on the most uninteresting subjects in the most ridiculous manner, and generally obstruct in the most pertinacious way, while still within their rights, as the rules then existed.