Trial of the Land Leaguers.
Mr. Sullivan appeared as counsel for Mr. Patrick Egan, treasurer of the land league. The speech was delivered on Thursday, January 27th, and is thus reported in The Nation of the following Saturday:—
May it please your lordships—Gentlemen of the jury—On me it devolves to speak the last words in this defence; and, with my gifted and learned friend Mr. Adams, I can truly say I rise to occupy a brief portion of your time, not with, but against, my personal choice; yielding only to the call of duty pressed on me by client and colleagues. I appeared for Mr. Patrick Egan; and for him I can but feel that he stands before you at some disadvantage, in that he has confided the justification of his conduct, the vindication of his aims, his objects, his principles, to an advocate but poorly endowed for so serious a responsibility. I therefore ask for him some measure of your kind consideration, I ask for myself your kindly indulgence, rising at this exhausted and critical stage of the defence, all unaccustomed to address you—now almost a stranger here. Speaking in this court to-day I excercise for the first time, and in all human probability for the last time in my life the privilege, which I proudly prize, of belonging to the bar of my own country. That kindly indulgence, I feel, gentlemen, I shall receive not only from you, but from their lordships. I so presume, for I know that of one of them it is true to say that with him generosity to those who need it has become a proverb in the profession; and of the other, the distinguished president of this court, I can never forget that I have ere now received at his hands, in a supreme moment of my life, fairness and courtesy as a judge, magnanimity as a man. Gentlemen, there has arisen to many a lip, as there recurs to every mind a memorable parallel for the eventful drama of which this court for weeks past has, been the theatre. Our thoughts instinctively go back to that episode of nearly forty years ago which fixed upon our city the gaze of empires, the anxieties of Christendom. In one sense it may be said that the cause and the issues are still the same—nought but the personnel is changed. To-day, as then, the Irish people, represented by their most trusted leaders, stand at the bar. Once more the law officers of the Crown are the accusers. Again the charge is conspiracy. New faces are on the bench and in the jury box; but in the theories of our law the tribunal is the same. For in their lordships we are presumed to see the Queen in person presiding in this court, and in you, gentleman, the country; mark you well, the country is supposed to be present listening to the page 2 evidence, and by that evidence to declare the issues of innocence or guilt. But there is another sense, and a very real and important sense, in which I see not parallel, but contrast—a striking contrast—between the spectacle of 1843 and the scene of 1881. Gentlemen when I come to point that contrast I have a complaint to make, and it is this: that what I would say in all sincerity and truth of the tribunal to-day is robbed of half its force by the language of insincerity and complaisance paraded in that time. Yielding to considerations of policy or propriety—perhaps I ought more justly to say, deferring considerations of what was due to the dignity of a public court of justice in the abstract—men spoke of and to the jurors of that time as if any man believed them to be unprejudiced, and of the president of that court as if he was regarded as a miracle of impartiality. We know the truth now! The inexorable judgments of history have long since passed upon those men, one and all. We know to-day what the highest legal and constitutional authority pronounced upon the rulings and the charges of that time. We know what universal history declares of the animus of that prosecution, of the verdict of that jury. In all, or nearly all, of these respects, I say, in the sincerity of my soul, that I believe the State trials of to-day are destined to present a luminous contrast to that miserable exhibition of partisanship, passion and subserviency. Gentlemen of the jury, I said that you sat in the box as the country. I believe it was the learned Attorney-General who remarked that my distinguished leader in this case went back as far as Magna Charta—the barons and King John. That is one of the artifices of debate and contention in a case like this; yet most relevant most necessary, may be to connect the past often with the present, and to show how down through the stream of history great rights have come and duties have accrued to men like you. He referred to a clause in the great Charter, not for the purpose of distracting your mind by retrospect of history, but of enforcing the constitutional argument that to jurors belong rights, privileges, duties, which no power in the land, no judge however illustrious, no monarch however powerful, can ever take away—the right to judge of the innocence or guilt in criminal cases, but especially between the subject and the Crown. Gentlemen, this is a composite tribunal. You sit in that box, their lordships preside upon the bench; and yet if any man were asked in all broad Britain, or here in Ireland, by an inquiring foreigner, in what consisted the pre-eminent glory of our jurisprudence, be would be answered, "Trial by jury." The man would be laughed to scorn who called it trial by judge; and yet the judge is a necessary part of the tribunal. Why has national history and political instinct in a free people fastened upon the phrase "trial by jury" rather than "trial by judge," or "trial by judge and jury"? Gentlemen, it is because in the experience which has shaped the development of legal institutions in these countries it has been found not only most wise but most necessary to commit to the twelve men in the box rather than the twelve judges on the bench issues that require a breadth of view and a comprehension of popular instinct. In other words, the English people know that although many a glory surrounds the names of their judges, and will ever attach to the bench of justice, yet bitterly they have been made to feel that in the hour of their struggle against oppression from the Crown they leaned upon a broken reed when they depended for the protection of liberty upon judges. Not in judges, however learned, able, or distinguished, but in men like you, in the juries in the box, whether in page 3 the reign of the Stuarts or of the Hanoverian line—yes, even since the Revolution—liberty has found its truest bulwark. Gentlemen, I speak not thus to disparage the rights, the functions, that are committed to the bench; and in the day when juries attempt to invade the domain that belongs to judges justice will be wrecked, though passion or faction may triumph for an hour. It is in the fair and due observance by each portion of this tribunal of its own just rights that the ends of equity as well as the law and public justice can best be attained. But, gentlemen, there are two subjects pre-eminent of all that devolve upon jurors—that need their special vigilance and care; pre-eminently two in which it behoves twelve jurors to grasp firmly their rights, and part with them only with their life. Those two questions are political sedition, political conspiracy. Gentlemen, there are reasons why these should belong specially to the jealous care of jurors. Firstly, because these matters of political sedition, these charges of political conspiracy, arise in conflict between the Crown and the people. Secondly, because they are questions touching matters vague, indefinite—matters of opinion; because they require to be viewed in conjunction with the surrounding circumstances of the times. You cannot draw the line, it has never yet been drawn, it can be drawn by no hard rule, it must always depend upon the elastic judgment of a jury to draw the line between the patriot's duty and the language of sedition. There have been moments in the history of this empire when that which technically might be ruled seditions, saved the commonwealth and protected the rights and liberties of the people. The third reason why you need to keep within your own powers these great issues in cases of political conspiracy is because these conflicts and these accusations are often the resorts of Governments whose own conduct, whose misfeasance of all duty may have promoted the act which they seek to fasten on the men they charge. Sedition! Why there exists not to-day in our land, or in Great Britain, a public man of any eminence who, when denouncing some public indignity or wrong—I speak in the broadest spirit of all public men, whatever party they may belong to—not one of them all against whom an indictment for sedition might not be made; and if juries were to apply the law in all its rigid technicality they would be bound to convict for such a crime. As for conspiracy—conspiracy! the last miserable resort of imbecile power! When no jurors can be trusted to pronounce a verdict in sedition, you will always find some feeble hand weaving the net of conspiracy. There is this distinction between conspiracy and sedition, that in a charge of sedition the men who have used seditious language must each one answer for himself; but in conspiracy the messenger of God's goodness 4,000 miles away beyond the ocean may be held accountable for the honest ravings of some village patriot at home. So odious to all honorable minds is this miserable resort of conspiracy that the military law—in many respects more severe than the civil law—has repudiated it and condemned it. Lord Woodhouselee, in his text-book on military law, quotes a remarkable letter from the King, through his Secretary of State, reproving, in angry language from the royal lips, officers of a court-martial in Edinburgh who stored up offences against men, not dealing with them as they arose, but kept them up for eight long months, and at last brought the culprit to the bar. The King, through his Secretary of State, declared that this was an outrage on justice; that the Ministers or officials who saw the crime—if it was crime— page 4 passing before their eyes, and stored it up for some future use, deserved the censure of the Crown. Yet that is the resort of the Irish Government to-day in this indictment for conspiracy! Gentlemen, you know what evil it has already done in this fair land of ours; you know, gentlemen, that it was found potential to convict as a criminal a man who was held up to us as an example of legality and respect for law, in the opening speech for the Crown. All men knew that if ever there arose a public character in Ireland whose whole purpose, whose set purpose and endeavour it was to keep the people within the law, it was O'Connell. He carried the language of scrupulous reverence for the Crown and the tribunals of justice to exaggeration. Sleeping and waking his anxiety was to teach the people that within the law, and within reverence for law, right might be done. Yet even then this miserable resort of conspiracy was potential, and the co-operation of jurors was obtained—of jurors who had been seduced from a sense of duty in response to appeals that never should have been made to them. Gentlemen, it is agitation—strong, stormy, often violent agitation—that has protected your interests and industries, and secured such franchise of freemen as you now enjoy. I see before me merchants of this city of high position—you have not a right, you have not a possession of property or of political endowment that has not been won for you by agitations that might have been crushed by prosecutions for conspiracy. But you may be told when I have done that it is right to agitate, but you must agitate with propriety and decorum—your language must be within certain bounds, and your conduct should be regulated by drill. Yes, gentlemen of the jury—yes, that is true, and that is right that you should be so told by whosoever will state to you the strict letter of the law; but while we know the jurors are bound to take into their minds this consitutional truth, that it is impossible in a free country to conduct the agitations that are directed to save a nation's life by the prim and strict rules of drawing room decorum or the proprieties of language that ought to prevail in a court of justice. No. You, gentlemen, would have no rights if these cast-iron rules of prim propriety of act and language were to be held against the Hampdens of two hundred years ago, or against the Parnells, Egans, and Sheridans of to-day. I care not how humble the man, I care not how lofty the man, a lord in his castle, a workman in a village, or a peasant on the hill—such men have been the benefactors of public liberty. Now, gentlemen, the English people possess many inestimable blessings of liberty—they have the reality of a free constitution, the envy of the world. Its miserable parody is sometimes seen on the Irish shore. Gentlemen, you have been referred to the great Reform movement some forty or fifty years ago. Was language of prim propriety, was conduct of decorous legality, pursued by Lord John Russell and the other leaders of that agitation? No. Were acts of violence resorted to? Why, never in Ireland, not even in the tithe war, much less in this moderate and restricted agitation of to-day, has there been anything to equal the records of the Reform agitation in 1831. Ducal palaces blazed; the king was hooted in the streets; resolutions were passed which not even Mr. Nally's extravagant language could approach. Yes, resolutions were passed as extravagant as this—that for those who denied them justice they would prepare their powder and melt their lead. The Common Council of the City of London—the municipal parliament of the British metropolis—passed page 5 resolutions calling on the people to give the king no supply till the Reform Bill was carried. Think of these things, and what do they mean? The struggle then was not to keep the wolf of hunger from their doors—it was not to save life; no, it was for a very different object. Measure, I adjure you, the motives of that agitation, when they almost combined in civil war, with this land agitation, and say if in the eyes of man or God these two can compare for a moment. And yet no officer of the Crown attempted to prosecute Lord John Russell, or Lord Grey, or Brougham, or Villiers, or any of the other leaders of that movement. And why? I say fearlessly here, in the responsibility of an humble member of the bar, that by a strict and technical holding of these hateful doctrines of conspiracy Lord John Russell would have been convicted on the decision of the judges. But he was not tried, and I will tell you why. Because right well the Attorney-General of that day knew that twelve honest Englishmen, no matter how strongly they differed in politics—in religion they were undivided—no twelve honest men could be got to find a verdict of guilty. No matter how tumultuous the assemblies, no matter how wild or desperate the expressions and exhortations, English jurors would, as the Crown well knew, take the sound constitutional view that, measured by the circumstances and the necessities of national safety and liberty, such violent effort was called for. And so from the jury box would thunder forth verdicts the meaning of which would be, "Though these men have erred in the heat of language, the true culprits were really in the cabinets of the king." And such the answer is here to-day. Gentlemen, there is a violence that all jurors must honestly be ever ready to discriminate, the passion of faction, and the movements of a nation. If you have travelled, as I have done, the forests of America, or even passed through the indigenous woods of our own beautiful Killarney and Glengarriff, there you may see many a vast mass of rock which has been rent asunder by the development of a single slender root, a little seedling that fell into a fissure of that rock. You might have crushed it with your finger as it grew, yet by the development of nature it rent asunder the mass that a giant could not move. That was the force of physical law, it was the law of nature, and so the violence of some of these movements has rent apart some wrong that has attempted to cramp the progress and development of a nation. Now, what has incited these men to the course which has brought them before this court to-day? I assert that the objects they had in view were just and legal. I say they are the wrong men at the bar. The true culprits sit round the Council board in Downing-street. Governments have their duties as well as their rights, and although no Cabinet, no Government in its individuality, can be held accountable for the wrongs of past years, yet the Government as a continuous body fail in their first great duty to the people if dangers that threaten the public safety are idly allowed to grow, if evils that load the people with misery, that render life unendurable, are allowed to continue in horrible apathy from year to year and generation to generation. If these evils can be traced from year to year, and if the Government, not, as I said, in an individual sense, but in its continuity—is fixed with knowledge, official knowledge, of the necessity for measures needed to cure the wrongs, and have the power within their reach to apply them—the Government which fails to do so has, I assert, committed the direst, the deepest, and the darkest and bloodiest crime that any page 6 Government can commit. During sixty-eight miserable years I will fasten on the Government official knowledge of this state of things; and I shall ask your verdict—whatever its technical effect may be—your verdict of acquittal of my clients in the condemnation of the Government. Gentlemen, what is it these men are engaged in? A land agitation—a land war. In all countries this land question has been the cause of embitterment and strife between classes. I shall not go back upon Irish history. I can imagine you shudder at it. I shall only ask you to take note of an historical fact—that the land system against which these men have agitated was established in the last century. There have been conquests and confiscations in other countries; there have been conquests and confiscations here; and heaven knows, criminal should I be if I were to rake up history to embitter feeling because there have been conquest and confiscation in Ireland as there have been in England—in every country in Christendom. But gentlemen, there is great distinction between the cases of Ireland and any other country in Europe as regards confiscation and as regards conquest. In all other countries the conqueror and conquered learned to forget. In all these countries what was done by the confiscation was soon obliterated in the memory of the people, because the new owners of the land assimilated with the population. In fact, gentlemen, it seems to be a natural law that if men come upon a land and confiscate it they shall at all events assimilate in process of time with the people round about them. If any such class, from the Vistula to the Tiber, from the Danube to the Shannon, sullenly isolate themselves, and never fuse in national feeling, in common safety, with the population in the midst of which they are set, their position is simply that of an arrowhead buried in the human flesh, the hateful source of a festering sore and a fatal wound in an otherwise wholesome body. Gentlemen, I only refer to the conquests and the laws as regards property in Ireland in the last century to establish this fact, that the land system under which we now live, established in the last century has ever since kept alive wounds, has never allowed them to heal, so faithfullly has the landlord class hugged the traditions of those who were the early settlers here, so continuously have they kept their feet upon the conquered and prostrate race. It is the simple truth to say that Cromwell lives to day in the land system of the Irish people, with the result to them of miseries unutterable, of suffering unknown in any other country of Christian Europe. What effort did our landlords ever make to benefit the population? They might have moulded the nation as the potter does the plastic clay. The landlords made the laws. Alone they sat on the grand juries. Alone they sat on the bench, and administered laws which they alone had made. Whatever Ireland is to-day, culpable or liable to accusation, I lay it at the door of the long dominant and ruling class; whatever of virtue, of humanity, remains in our poor people, God bless them, is in despite of the rule of those men. Gentlemen, no people have a right to conspire against their Government if they have not afforded that Government a fair and honest chance of doing their duty by them. Let us see how that is. The condition of the Irish people from 1701 to 1800, the unutterable horror of their sufferings and oppressions, is now conceded. What is the record since then? In 1819 a select committee of the House of Commons was appointed to enquire into the condition of Ireland. That committee took official evidence and page 7 reported to the House—"That the state of things was calamitous to the last degree, and called for immediate legislation." What was done? Nothing. Four years passed by. In 1823—I seek by these facts to fasten knowledge, and official knowledge, on the Government of a state of the country which in any other country would have led to a revolution—in 1823 another committee was appointed and it said—"The condition of the people is wretched and calamitous in the last degree. The people live in a state of the utmost destitution, with scarcely an article of furniture in their miserable cabins, using as bedclothes a little flannel and a quantity of straw thrown over it." In 1870 Mr. Gladstone, the Minister of to-day, stated that such a state of things as that was enough to forfeit the right of the Turk to govern Bulgaria. Gentlemen, nothing was done on the report of 1825. A few years more passed, and in 1829 another crisis arose, and another committee was appointed. Mark you, it is always a committee, never redress. The committee reported that the state of the country called for immediate legislation; yet, owing to the state of business in the House, there was no chance of getting a bill passed through. During all these years it was not for votes or franchises that the Irish people were waiting (as the reformers of 1831); it was for leave to live in the ordinary condition of human existence. In 1830 another committee makes its report on the 18th July. The report was laid on the table, but the people were loft in their misery and distress, as if to tempt them to the last resort of rebellion, well knowing that the strong armed power of England could trample out the revolt in blood. Gentlemen, I ask you, is there not in all this a criminal neglect, an utter abandonment of duty by the Government? Mr. Stanley, afterwards Lord Derby, stating a plaint from the people of Connemara, as it comes to-day, said, "Severe as are the sufferings of the people in the extremity of their distress, they do not give utterance to one syllable of insubordination, or even of discontent;" and that was one of the reasons why he thought their condition deserved the attention of Parliament. Not a syllable of insubordination! Did they fare the better for it? I believe in my soul if, instead of lying down under the tyranny that oppressed them, they took a very different course they would not have been left to linger in their wretchedness and subjection. Well, in 1834 another is made, but in vain, and shortly afterwards Sharman Crawford, a name of honor, appeared on the scene. He was a Protestant gentleman, of the North of Ireland. Perhaps I may be excused if here I repeat what has been often said by me elsewhere. I often think that Almighty God has given it as a ray of sunshine illuminating our gloom that whenever Ireland was down and prostrate there is always found a Protestant patriot to arouse her spirit and lead her on. Sharman Crawford was the man at this time. From 1834 to 1847 he strove for some justice to the people. Not less than six times he brought measures into Parliament; and, mark you, what were they? They were measures falling very far short of what even the landlords of to-day would gladly accept. But here beneath my hand are the results of the division lists upon these measures, and what do they tell? They tell that, as every effort, however small, to obtain justice for the people was made, the Irish landlords and their representatives sprang forward to arrest the blessed effort of the kindly, honest Protestant gentleman. The division lists, I repeat, show how persistently the Irish landlords resisted justice, that they resisted it from day to day. I pass page 8 on. Soon came the dark shadow of a terrible calamity. In 1846, in the midst of these vain pleadings, in the midst of this long-continued story of the utter failure of the Parliament and Government to do their duty, the gloom of a deeper shadow fell on our land. in other countries—would it were so in our own! the gentry class discharge noble functions in social and public life. They are the natural leaders of the people, qualified by education, fortune, position, and opportunity. They might have been so here. They would have found a kindly, warmhearted, grateful people, ever disposed to render the tribute justly due to social position when allied to personal virtue and public worth. All the world over such men are the first to scent danger to the people, the first to meet it. When the gloom of a terrible famine fell upon our shores, what did the landlords do? Many of them, no doubt, nobly did their duty when the distress was in its full force. But what was the conduct of the landlord class at this time? There were patriotic men who, like the popular leaders of 1879, cried out that the famine cloud was over the land. How were they met? They were met by incredulity. They were charged with exaggeration. A member of Parliament, who lives still, and who is every day attacking the Land League, made a public speech in 1847 in which he described the warnings of famines as the language of "panic-mongers"; there was no famine coming! Oh, gentlemen, famine was coming. We read that by a sort of instinct, such as that by which even the lower animals feel that the hunter's foot is on their track, the peasantry of our Western counties felt that the hour of their doom was near. Oh, it was only when almost the last meal of food was gone from them the Government stirred, and then! they appointed inspectors to inquire! Ah! when their report came in it was too late; the measures that were taken in precipitancy to mitigate that which all men worthy of being of a Government should have known was coming only plunged our country into the demoralisation of a profligate expenditure without result. Oh, the scenes of that time! I feel I must pass rapidly over this portion of my statement. They said the destitution could not be extreme because the workhouses had room for more, and workhouses were built while the people were dying. Yes; that was true; but why were the workhouses not full? Let the Pashas of Turkey study the story, which will show that even kindly hearted landlords when they come to act as members of a system will fall into conduct of a murderous result. In the Irish Poor-law, modelled, and framed, and passed by the Irish landlords, there was an infamous clause called the "Quarter Acre Clause," by which no man who held more than quarter of an acre of land could receive relief. Our people did not fill the workhouses, God bless them for it. They did not fill the workhouses for reasons every man of humanity and light feeling will sympathise with, because going into the workhouse meant destruction of the little home, the destruction of all future industry and effort. Once a man who held an acre of land left his cabin door and came to the portals of the workhouse he might read overhead the words of the great Italian poet
"Abandon hope, all who enter here."
Gentlemen, of the conduct of the landlord class at this time of awful calamity we could have given, and were prepared to give ample, yea, shocking, startling, terrible evidence, but the Crown fled the field! His lordship kindly told us, to facilitate fair defence that he would take page 9 judicial notice of the dreadful fact, for fact it is, that public statutes had to be passed to restrain the fell work of the landlords even in that time of awful calamity! No sooner was the faint and exhausted farmer obliged to seek the relieving officer at the gate of the work-house, than came the landlord with the crowbar to level his home, that home he would never see again. And thus were thousands and tens of thousands lost to home, shut out from all resource in future, and made a perpetual charge upon those who survive them. A perpetual charge! Oh, no. The Angel of Death was doing his work. In the crowded fever-sheds of these workhouses, as well as at the gates, hundreds of families were broken up, never to meet again! O, gentlemen, those parting scenes! Each father knew that when by the rules and discipline of the establishment the little family group were torn asunder, they had seen their last of one another in this world. He knew that his wife some day, perhaps a fortnight hence, would be carried off in the midst of the last cartload of unpainted coffins that left the workhouse gate. He knew that perhaps in that load one day would be carried away to a pauper's grave his little idol, Aileen, or Mary, the fair-haired child of his heart, the light of his once happy home. [Here Mr. Sullivan, struggling with emotion, had to pause awhile.] I must pass from all this; I cannot face the ordeal; for with my own eyes I saw these things. I, in my own parish, when a boy, stood at the workhouse gate and saw the heap of dead humanity go by, and I paid my penny to the bearer of the trap-bottom coffin whereby I had seen put into one vast charnel-pit 200 human bodies. Oh, gentlemen of the jury, it was at a moment as terrible as this that even the Parliament of England had stepped in to arrest the hand of brutal landlordism that came to evict the starving tenantry when the sun had set and the moon was in the sky. That Parliament, you may trust it well, was not too ready to interfere, as the record I have quoted will tell you, yet it had to interfere and to enact that the anniversary of the birth of our Saviour at Bethlehem should, at all events, be sacred from the rapaciousness of Irish landlordism; that Good Friday, a day made holy for ever by the death and agony of the Redeemer, should not be made a day, as it had been made, for carrying out this foul work, but that upon that day the spoiler should hold his hand. If Irish landlordism had only that record against it, no blacker record could be found against it than that the Parliament of England, in the midst of the scenes I have described, passed that statute to put an end to the acts which in the face of humanity had brought disgrace upon this land. The famine was pronounced by landlords a blessing sent by God. Oh, blasphemy! Sent by heaven to clear off a redundant population. And now Ireland was to be turned into a great grazing tract; the fruitful mother of flocks and herds. In that year arose an effort, one of the noblest our country ever saw, when Ulster joined with Munster, when Protestant and Catholic, priest and minister, joined in the Tenant League, and thought to renew that appeal to Parliament; thought that that Parliament which had been deaf as stone for years before would have done its duty as a Government, without which I deny its right to govern the people, How was that appeal received? Where is that Tenant League now? It was broken up and scattered. Some have passed away, some with sorrow, disheartened, withdrew from the movement and were seen no more. Some went to foreign lands and showed that there the genius of an Irishman on a fair field could make itself a page 10 road to future fame. Then the Saturday Review, and that press of London which has hounded on this prosecution, screamed aloud, and said at last Ireland is our own. Soon the Celt will be as rare on the banks of the Shannon as the wigwam of the Red Indian on the banks of the Hudson. And as each emigrant ship left this land laden with its cargo of human beings flying from misery, seeking a happier home on other shores there arose a cry of exultation and execration and the shout of derision and laughter from those who exulted in their fall, and there was gladness and peace in the country—they had made a desolate solitude and called it "peace"—such peace as would gladden the heart of an Irish Attorney-General. We had a "peace" which showed that honest, open, constitutional, political agitation like this was absent but other work was going on. The people, driven from the public arena of agitation, took to what I then called, even at the risk of misunderstanding from countrymen, whom I love, the politics of despair. They conspired, not in the technical language of the law, but in the daring of men who were ready to spend their lives to have an end to this dreadful system. Again we saw the terrible panorama of Irish misery history before us at Green-street, the convict dock and the cell chokeful again with men whom I fearlessly say, whatever their guilt before the law, showed themselves in that terrible hour animated by feelings and aspirations as noble as ever animated the human heart. Did these things arouse the generous impulses of English statesmen? What aroused them? I stake upon this fact the justification of the Land League. What awakened, what stirred, what moved the fatal torpor of England, that requires not only the ordered movement of theoretical public life, but something like a public convulsion? Before Catholic Emancipation, Wellington said we were on the verge of a civil war, and so it is the time of dissatisfaction and insurrection that awakened the English public to the conviction that there was something wrong. Something was wrong. Why, all society needed to be constructed in this desolate island! And so Mr. Gladstone at last passed a Land Bill as good as public opinion at the moment, in my belief, warranted him in attempting to pass, yet ineffectual, too crude for the magnitude of the evil it sought to remedy. The people who trusted to it, when it passed, found themselves leaning on a treacherous reed. It did not arrest the landlord's cupidity, and it gave the tenant what? the right to a lawsuit! It benefited those who lived by litigation, but it was in the end for the tenant a delusion, a mockery, and a snare. That was the scope of the protection the Land Act gave. Yet it was gratefully received by the people, and not one word shall fall from my lips disparaging the effort, even in the measure of its accomplishment; but no sooner did it pass than the tenants found it was insufficient. It failed to give security, yet the people tolerated it. But how did the landlords receive it? If even in 1870 Irish landlordism had said, "Come, let the dead past bury its dead," there might have been an end to this contention. The ingenuity of the lawyers was set to work by the Lord Leitrims and Dukes of Leinster of the day to devise leases that might cheat the tenants out of the beneficence intended for them by the Goverment of England. Not even at the twelfth hour would these men swear to bury in kindliness and good will, with a grasp of the hand, this long record of strife and contention. From 1870 to 1880 there were introduced into the House of Commons eight-and-twenty page 11 public measures for the reform and amendment of the insufficient though well-intended Land Act of 1870. Who introduced them? Were they all wild Home Rulers? Oh, no. Were they all Liberals? No. I will not make a speech here of a party man; the subject is too solemn for that. I cannot forget that Conservatives as well as Liberals in the House of Commons did their share in these efforts in the last few years. But how were these efforts received? Let the Order Book of the House of Commons tell us how. Shall I say they were spurned? I should be within the truth if I said they were answered with scoff and jeer and taunt. And what was the taunt? The taunt was this: That there was no demand in Ireland, no public exigency, because there was no public agitation. Spurned from the door of the legislature because we were too calm in Ireland; prosecuted in the Queen's Bench to-day because we are not tranquil! Yes, spurned again were the efforts of good men of all parties and all creeds, and so in 1880 history repeats itself. The short gleam of agricultural prosperity from 1870 to 1876 again had faded into gloom, and men could see, if they wished to see, that the wolf was on the path as in 1847. Was it from Irish landlordism that the shout of danger and warning came forth? No. The instinct of selfishness at the very moment of public calamity made them not reach out the hand to God's poor, but to clutch their pockets, and say like Shylock, "It is in my bond; it is in my bond." Who sounded the alarm? Who shouted in the legislature? Charles Stewart Parnell and the men who are dragged here to day to be sacrificed for a public virtue. It is a matter of public notoriety, these men implored the Government to be awakened, that famine was at hand. How were they received? Again laughed to scorn; and again they were charged with exaggeration for the purpose of putting her Majesty's Government into embarrassment. They had not read history in vain, and well they knew that unless they did more than in 1847 the fate of 1847 was upon us again to desolate the land. It was in that hour these men sprang to action. What was their first act? They formed the Land League, and they set to work to see how best they could save the people. Yet what was the language which, in the jargon of that legal document, the indictment, was applied to them? They were "evil disposed persons;" that with mind of guilt, with purpose of guilt, with intent of guilt, they went into some conspirator's meeting-place and combined. What did they meet to do? They saw what was at hand. Some of them charged here, forsooth, were too young to have seen the scenes of 1847. Oh, these things could not have animated them because they were not born! Do the prosecutors here not know that the memory of wrong and suffering, of vengeance, if you will, that may be handed down from father to child accumulates rather than loses by time? And the greatest dread that England has to fear to-day is not from the Irish emigrant himself whom misgovernment swept across the sea, but from the second generation, born on a foreign soil, who have learned from their fathers the story of Ireland's wrong; and so my young friend Mr. Brennan, and so all his compatriots, who if too young to have seen the famine scenes, well knew the famine story, and the first act of the Land League was to determine that human life must be preserved. They looked abroad and they saw in no other country the husbandman slaughtered by these oft-recurring famines. They could no longer see in the fair land of the Rhine or in gallant Franco that feudal land system which, though it might have been admirable in its day, was unsuited to page 12 the present age. They saw that in these lands the tiller of the soil was the lord of his little patrimony, and they set about winning for the Connemara peasantry that system which had made frugal and loyal and happy and contented the Frenchman and the German. Was it for the purpose of guilt, for hateful greed, or as a hateful slaughter, as the London press would have it? Behold the grandson of the illustrious Irish Protestant patriot—a youth bearing honours from the halls of an English university, the proud young man takes literally, not figuratively, his hat in his hand, and marches through the tens of thousands of American assemblies and begs alms for the suffering Irish people. Boused by the example of the Land League, other noble, kindly hearted organisations arose, one of them headed by a noble woman, I bless it all the more because it was the act of a women, the Dutchess of Marlborough. She did nobly and well. Better still your own chief magistrate, and you the citizens of Dublin. There was seen at that board that revered and distiguished prelate of the Protestant Church, the Most Rev. Dr. Trench, a man of European fame as a scholar. He sat at that board and did his share of the toil and labour with the Catholic Lord Mayor of the City. And never absent when good was to be done in Ireland—God bless them!—were the society of friends! I saw the fruits of their charity and munificence in 1847. It was ready to well up in 1847, and it was ready to well up then. Home came Parnell from America, a victor in the cause of charity, and now what was the task before them? Was this visit to the nations of the world to become periodic? The Turk had given us his charity gift, the Indian Prince, the Mahommedan, and the Hindoo dropped a munificent contribution into the alms-box of Ireland. But had we no pride, no pride of manhood, to make us recoil from this thing becoming perpetual? Was it not the most supreme act of benevolence to try to arrest the system which made these things periodical visitations in Ireland, and in Ireland alone? So they said, "We shall make an end of Irish landlordism." No, "Irish landlords," said the Attorney-General, as if when he and his political chief were a few years ago conspiring, confederating, and combining to make an end of Irish Churchism they intended to destroy and massacre all Irish Churchmen. They pretended to see no difference here: but he knows the difference very well. The difference is between assailing a system and the individuals who compose it. So the defendants girded themselves up for this struggle. Who were they? Here they stand to-day, brought to trial in an atmosphere,—I had almost said of calumny—no, not of calumny, for the shafts that have been aimed at them have (alien short; but you know, gentlemen of the jury, that the Crown lay by for months, while public journals in this city and elsewhere, as they thought, educated the juror class to a proper pitch of prejudice and passion. And for that purpose this trial was delayed until the moment had come to strike; when the beastly caricatures of the London press bad made the name of Irishmen sufficiently odious and detestable, and the broadsheets of prejudice had gone to every home, it was thought to poison the minds of the men who might sit in that box. What was the picture drawn of these men? They were wicked conspirators and Communists. Even in this court a prosecutor to whom I pay the homage of my respect—I cannot praise, but I know the contrast this prosecution presents to others that went before—but still he made these charges. Look at the men. Is Charles Stewart Parnell the venal agitator living on agitation as his means of page 13 bread? What have these men put in their pockets? Look at the humblest of them all, who is sneered at because he plied his honest trade in a Western town. It came out in the evidence that he pays out of his too slender purse his travelling expenses, being no paid agent, and not even, I believe, a member of the Land League at all—a charge, and I hope the Attorney-General, who has left it rankling, perhaps, in some minds, will have the honesty to withdraw. He was unable to prove, because it was false, that either Nally or this man were members of the Land League at all, much less that they were paid agents. And my client, Patrick Egan, in whom I not only see a client but proudly claim a friend of many a long year, that friend for whom I would cross not merely sixty miles of sea, but speed from the utter ends of the world were he in peril, to give him my advocacy and aid. I have known him long; is he a venal agitator? What has he given up—what has he done in this noble work of benevolence and patriotism? Providence has given to him all that makes life happy at this side of the grave—a stainless reputation, a happy home, a wife whom he loves, children who wait his footfall in the hall. I have known him long; but little as he moved in the outer circle of public life he is well known in every organisation in this city, whether at Christmas or Winter's depth, for the alleviation of the suffering of the poor. Knowing my friend as I do, I should have called him false to all his career, false to the principles of his blameless life, if the efforts of the Land League found him absent from its ranks. These are the men whom you are asked to convict as criminals to-day. They have gathered the alms of the world: and now, were these alms to pass into the landlords' pockets as rent? It is no imaginative case, it is a public fact well known, that in many cases the alms given from the charities of these societies in Dublin were appropriated or donated as rent. Long, long had those impossible rents been paid by nothing that the landlord had a moral right to tax, but by the remittances of the child, the son or the daughter in America. Long had these impossible rents beyond the Shannon been paid by the supreme industry of these Western harvestmen who have been libelled as indolent and lazy. And, oh! gentlemen, at what a price, how often, was that rent won by them! Not a coasting steamer crossing to Liverpool from Sligo, Cork, Drogeda, or Dublin, comes to disaster in the Summer time that some of these poor harvestmen are not sent to their doom in their efforts to wring from a foreign land the impossible rent for the little plot at home. No, not a railway disaster in the sister isle at some seasons of the year, with its tales of suffering and death, in which some frieze-coated Irish peasant does not perish, a victim to landlord greed and heartlessness. I cannot present to you as the absolute fact, though fact it be, one story out of many which I myself have read or known, and which comes at this moment to my mind. Lest I should transgress a ruling of the bench, I can only present it as an illustration of my argument of the fate of some of these poor harvestmen in these English railway slaughters. I ask you to picture one of them, lifted from the wreck of the train, mangled and bleeding, while in his pocket is found the letter that tells the story of his life, that he had left in Mayo a wife and four little children, and came, the second time that year, to England to earn another £12, an additional call by the landlord, because the noble lord was spending munificently in garden parties in the West End. And as the kindly hearted English page 14 station-master lifted him up and saw the life-blood welling from his heart, he heard the dying peasant murmur of the children and wife at home in distant Connemara. Gentlemen, you remember the lines in which Byron describes for us the gladiator dying in the Roman arena while the shout of exultation was in his ears,
"He heard it but he heeded not. His eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away;
He recked not of the life he lost, nor prize;
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay,
There were his young barbarians all at play;
There was their Dacian mother—he, their sire,
Butchered to make a Roman holiday."
Ah, yes! Charles Stewart Parnell, John Dillon, Patrick Egan, not in this court, where you now appear arraigned as criminals, but before that dread bar where all must one day stand, should you account for it if amidst gathering perils like these you felt not for your own countrymen, if hardening your heart and closing your ears to the plaints of misery, you wrapped yourselves in sordid selfishness of profit, pleasure, or ambition, and, like so many others, stifled consceience by murmuring, "Am I my brother's keeper." And in that you passed not by the wounded on the wayside, but sought to lift him up and staunch his wounds, in that you have pleaded, and begged, and striven, and fought, and suffered for the lowly and the desolate, you shall have your reward from Him who has promised that the lightning of His just wrath shall strike the oppressors of the poor. Nor shall this band of aspiring Samaritans wait for vindication even here. The world often stones its prophets, and the track of the philanthropist and the patriot is often but the road to martyrdom; yet kind Heaven often gives it to some to see the fruition of their hopes even at this side of the grave. Living witnesses shall behold the accomlishment of the blessings those men will have won for us all. Yes, it must be so. There will be an end of this horrid phantasmagoria of history, The temple of Janus must be closed. Peace and good-will, concord and kindly feeling, between class and class, and creed and creed, must have their home in this isle of ours, long wasted by the demoniac passions of this cruel land war. Rich and poor we may have still, but no longer tyrant and slave. No eternal spectre of despair shall darken for ever the peasant's home. The Irish farmer shall lie down at night beneath his humble roof to start no more in dreams of terror of the crowbar and the bailiff at the door. And, think you, gentlemen of the jury, that the Irish people, made free, and happy, and secure, will fail hereafter in their blessings and their prayers to remember the men who have worked out their liberation.
"If they value the blessings that shine on each hearth—
The wife's loving welcome, the children's sweet mirth—
When they taste them at eve they will think upon those
Who have purchased for them their domestic repose;
And give honour to him, who, when danger afar
Had lighted for ruin its ominous star,
Left pleasures, and country, and kindred behind.
And sped to the shock on the wings of the wind!"
And you, gentlemen—you, too, mean to bear a part in the great events that are at hand—yon will have a share of the gratitude and glory which history will accord to the benefactors of their country. You well know what great changes are drawing near—you well know what important measures the Minister of England is even now preparing. page 15 Yes, at the very moment he asks you to link your names with a proceeding which he knows posterity will execrate, he is about to win for himself fresh glory and power by overthrowing the very system he asks you to endeavour to sustain—your share to be all the obloquy—his all the fame! No, no; you will answer him back that, howsoever you may be in religious or political belief, you are twelve Irishmen resolved to leave upon record a nobler part in this moment of your country's fate, I told you you were there as the country. Speak with the voice of Ireland for justice and for right. And if you hear, as doubtless you shall when I am done, an adjuration addressed to you "to vindicate the majesty of the law"—that ancient formula so oft evoked to lure twelve honest men into complicity with the darkest crimes of oppression!—answer through your verdict that law derives no majesty from its vindictive power of terror or punishment—none when divorced from the sacred principles it is presumed and bound to mirror forth—the eternal equities of God. Speak! Speak the words that shall be hailed as a message of mercy in the peasant home—that shall resound as an evangel of peace and liberty throughout this long-distracted land, and be yours the hands to close for ever this record of a nation's suffering, all stained and blotted by blood and tears.
Edwards and Green, Printers, Featherston Street, Wellington.