The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54
At the beginning of the Session of 1881, Mr. Bradlaugh was one amongst the very few English members Who Voted in Favor of an Amendment Brought in by Mr. Parnell: "That the peace and tranquillity of Ireland cannot be promoted by suspending any of the constitutional rights of Irishmen". In return for this vote, Mr. Parnell and his party vote that the "constitutional rights" of Northampton shall be ignored.
On the 8th of February, 1881, Mr. Parnell was somewhat mysteriously absent from the House; and Mr. Bradlaugh Actually Moved the Rejection of the Coercion Bill Which Mr. Forster Had Brought in. On the Following Night, he Voted Against its Second Reading, and Further Voted Against each Clause, Except on one Division When He Was in Bed After an all Night Sitting. In return for these votes, one of Mr. Parnell's favored lieutenants is indecent enough to put in large type, in United Ireland, a recognised Parnellite organ, of which he (Mr. O'Brien, M.P.), is editor: "Bradlaugh bowled out by the Irish vote." "Bradlaugh scotched again." He does worse. In an editorial he actually lies, by stating, with a view to injure Mr. Bradlaugh, that Mr. Hopwood's amendment, upon which the voting took place, was that "the Atheist should be allowed to profane the oath". Mr. Hopwood's amendment, as he well knew, was to allow the option of affirmation.
Irishmen, are you aware of these things? I appeal to your honor and to your sense of justice, not to permit a man who has labored in your cause to be thus shamefully and ungratefully treated.
With regard to one or two votes which he gave in opposition to the Parnellite party, but, as he contends, in the true interests of the Irish people, I will allow Mr. Bradlaugh himself to speak, simply premising his words by stating that if he were wrong in these particular votes—which I deny—it would not justify the Irish party in the treatment to which they have subjected him. You must not damn a man because you cannot fully agree with his page 11 every act. I myself might not agree with all he has said upon this very question. I may think he has gone a little too far upon some points, and that he has not gone far enough upon others; but that does not blind me to his real merits; neither does it hide from me the gross injustice done him by those whom he has endeavored to serve. Indeed, I hope I may never use my disapproval of a man's views as a justification for doing him a political or social wrong.
With regard to the votes in question, he says: "It is true that I voted against obstruction. I was sent to Parliament to promote legislation, and to me the essence of Parliamentary government is that, the minority being first fully heard, the majority shall then legislate. It is also true that I voted for the Anns Act. I am in favor of lawful agitation; I am against cowardly assassination. I am in favor of reform in Parliament; I am against placing arms in the hands of starving men."
Now I ask you, and you are bound to reply, Do you believe in obstruction as such? and if so, do you profess to believe in it? Are you against lawful agitation, and in favor of assassination? Are you against Parliamentary reform, and in favor of revolution? If you say No to these questions—and you can scarcely say Yes—I am entitled to ask why you have allowed, without protest or word of disapproval, the party which claims to represent you in Parliament and through the country to contemptibly strike down, in so far as it was able, the man who practically said No, as you must and do say? They have not only struck the blow, but have made merry with jibe and jeer (the miscalled Freeman's Journal to wit) over the injury done to him and to the constituency which he represents. They have treated in this way the man whose voice rang in earnest denunciation of their country's wrongs whilst many of them were yet babies, and whose cry, in spite of the injustice done him, is still "Justice for Ireland".
If it were even possible that the Parnellite party are not what they profess to be: if they are—what their newly-found friends and allies have often dubbed them—a revolutionary party in disguise, their action towards Mr. Bradlaugh must still remain mean and cowardly. Their deliberately adopted plan appears to be to misrepresent page 12 and belie him, in order to make such misrepresentation serve as an excuse for voting against him and otherwise injuring his prospects. If this were not so, how comes it that Mr. O'Connor, M.P. for Tipperary, another prominent and trusted leader in the Parnellite camp, in defiance of the truth, as proved by Mr. Bradlaugh's recorded votes against coercion, goes to the constituents of Finsbury and denounces him as "that arch-coercionist"?
There is a vague and undefined notion existing in the minds of perhaps the majority of the people in Ireland and the Irish people in England, that Mr. Bradlaugh has in some fashion or other acted or spoken ill of their country, and this they fancy justifies them in their hostility to his name. The origin of this totally false and erroneous impression is to be found in the untruthful articles and speeches written and spoken by those whom they trust, and in the almost total suppression of what he really does say by those whose duty and calling it is to make such matters truthfully known.