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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 84



This state of incipient rebellion culminated in what is known world-wide as the "Phoenix Park Murders," whereby Lord Frederick Cavendish, M.P. [on the day of his arrival as new Chief Secretary' for Ireland], and Mr. Thomas Henry Burke, the Under-Secretary, met their deaths on the 6th of May, 1882. The record of the 6th of page 25 May, 1882, is the record of a crime of almost unparalelled audacity, and unequalled atrocity. The civilised world shivered as the revolting details flashed across the electrical wires of Christendom; and there is scarce need now to burthen this sketch with a recital of the horrible facts. In the calm of a summer's evening, ere daylight had taken its departure, these two gentlemen, walking in the Phoenix Park, were set upon and unmercifully butchered by a body of so-called "Irish Nationalists;" who seemed for the moment to cease to be human, and to be effaced from the Divine image. The crime was the work of the active section of the Irish "Nationalist" Party, who took to themselves the name of the "Irish Invincibles." They had been organised by the notorious John Devoy, whose name has already appeared in these pages in connection with the Parnellite negotiations with the "Extremists" in America.

While Devoy arranged with the Obstructionist section he organised the "Invincibles," and laid the foundation of future movement in the direction of dynamite explosions. So far back as January, 1881, he made his intentions, or rather moves, quite clear in a speech which he delivered to the New York Branch of the Irish National Land League, in which he indicated the policy of reprisals as follows :—"Our aid has hitherto given the people the impetus that has brought about this state of things. Shall we desert them in the hour of peril? No; for every Irishman murdered we will take in reprisal the life of a British minister. For every hundred Irishmen murdered we will sacrifice the lives of an entire British Ministry. For a wholesale massacre of the Irish people we will make England a smouldering ruin of ashes and blood. The receipts of the Land League are now £100 a day, and that is ample for their wants, but we want a fund that will aid us in carrying out this design." And then he referred to the "Skirmishing Fund," urging that it was quite unable to meet the drain upon it, and therefore should be augmented without delay.

The murders were, however, a little inopportune, and placed certain parties of a "National" way of thinking in an awkward predicament. Mr. Parnell and others of the leaders had just been released from prison prior to the assassinations, they undertaking, by arrangement with the Government of the day, to assist in passing certain measures into law which would have a satisfactory tendency in the country. The arrangement has come to be known as "The page 26 Kilmainham Treaty," [Kilmainham was the name of the prison in which Mr. Parnell was confined] and it is not a creditable record either to Mr. Gladstone's Ministry, who sought the aid of the Agitator who had come to be styled the "Uncrowned King" of Ireland, or to Mr. Parnell: who, in the course of communications on the matter, offered to use the Land League organisers who had got up the outrages, and who had planned the "Invincible" operations—but of this latter Mr. Parnell had to say nothing to reduce the country to a state of quiet. But, as has been already said, the Nationalist leaders were placed upon the horns of a dilemma by the murders. To retain their position in public estimation, it became necessary that they should at once repudiate the assassinations : and at the very great risk of having their stroke of policy mistaken and misunderstood, they immediately issued a manifesto condemning and deploring what had taken place.

Of what happened after this between the conspirators behind the scenes, the world still remains in ignorance, but there were not wanting indications to show that the recriminations were of a strong and decidedly bitter character. Those of an "Oppositionist" way of thinking wanted to have a still further proof of the would-be-believed opposition of the League to this kind of thing, supplied by the offer of a reward for the discovery and conviction of the murderers; but even the public treasurer of their funds—Patrick Kgan—scoffed at the idea, and refused outright to give any such lying representation of what their true feelings were. Telegraphing, four days after the murders, to the editor of the Nationalist daily paper in Dublin, he said, "Edítor, Freeman, Dublin: In The Freeman of yesterday. Mr. James F. O'Brien suggests a reward of £2,000 out of the Land League fund for the discovery of the perpetrators of the terrible tragedy of Saturday. Remembering, as I do, the number of innocent victims who in the sad history of our country have been handed over to the gallows by wretched informers, in order to earn the coveted blood-money, and foreseeing the awful danger that, in the present excited state of public feeling, crime may be added to crime by the possible sacrifice of guiltless men, I am determined that if one penny of the Land League fund were voted for such a purpose, I wo. 1 at once resign the treasurership," And his action in this respect was warmly commended in the "Extremist" page 27 press. Mr. John Devoy, still the spokesman of the active section, writing, in regard to the matter, in his American organ, said, "Patrick Egan has spoken out like a man against the adoption by Irishmen of the base English policy of suborning informers. He declares that should a penny of the Land League funds be devoted to such an object he will resign the treasurership. Mr. Parnell should at once repudiate the attempt made from this side to connect him with action so culpable and un-Irish. By consenting to become the trustee of the Irish-American blood-money he would forfeit the sympathies of his warmest admirers." And again, at a later date, he wrote, The Irish members have not yet recovered their heads. At a meeting of the Irish Parliamentary party on Wednesday (10th May) the opinion was expressed, that if Mr. Gladstone's Bill be confined to its nominal objects—the improvement of the administration of justice and the suppression of secret societies—it would meet with very general acceptance. It would seem they are tired of getting money from America, and are willing to put down the men who placed them where they are."