Taken from Charles Stewart Parnell, A Memoir by John Howard Parnell, published 1914.
The following in its form as it appeared in the Times of November 29, 1890:
Mr. Parnell issued at a late hour last night the following manifesto to the Irish people:
TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND.
The integrity and independence of a section of the Irish Parliamentary party having been sapped and destroyed by the wirepullers of the English Liberal party, it has become necessary for me as the leader of the Irish nation to take counsel with you, and having given you the knowledge which was in my possession, to ask your judgment upon the matter which now solely devolves upon you to decide.
The letter from Mr. Gladstone to Mr. Morley, written for the purpose of influencing the decision of the Irish party in the choice of their leader, and claiming for the Liberal party and their leaders the right of veto upon that choice, is the immediate cause of this address to you, to remind you and your Parliamentary representatives that Ireland considers the independence of her party as her only safeguard within the Constitution, and above and beyond all other considerations whatever. The threat in that latter, repeated so insolently on many English platforms and in numerous British newspapers, that unless Ireland concedes this right of veto to England she will indefinitely postpone her chances of obtaining Home Rule, compels me, while not for one moment admitting the slightest probability of such loss, to put before you information which until now, so far as my colleagues are concerned, has been solely in my possession, and which will enable you to understand the measure of the loss with which you are threatened unless you consent to throw me to the English wolves howling for my destruction.
In November of last year, in response to a repeated and long-standing request, I visited Mr. Gladstone at Hawarden, and received the details of an intended proposal of himself and his colleagues of the late Liberal Cabinet with regard to Home Rule, in the event of the next General Election favouring the Liberal Party.
It is unnecessary for me to do more at present than to direct your attention to certain points of these details, which will be generally recognized as embracing elements vital for your information and the formation of your judgment. These vital points of difficulty may be suitably arranged and considered under the following heads:
- The retention of the Irish members in the Imperial Parliament.
- The settlement of the land or agrarian difficulty in Ireland.
- The control of the Irish Constabulary.
- The appointment of the Judiciary (including Judges of the Supreme Court, County Court, Judges, and resident magistrates).
Upon the subject of the retention of the Irish members in the Imperial Parliament, Mr. Gladstone told me that the opinion, and the unanimous opinion, of his colleagues and himself, recently arrived at after most mature consideration of alternative proposals, was that, in order to conciliate English public opinion, it would be necessary to reduce the Irish representation from 103 to 32.
Upon the settlement of the land, it was held that this was one of the questions which must be regarded as questions reserved from the control of the Irish Legislature, but at the same time Mr. Gladstone intimated that, while he would renew his attempt to settle the matter by Imperial legislation on the lines of the Land Purchase Bill of 1886, he would not undertake to put any pressure upon his own side or insist upon their adopting his views – in other and shorter words, that the Irish Legislature was not to be given the power of solving the agrarian difficulty, and that the Imperial Parliament would not.
With regard to the control of the Irish Constabulary, it was stated by Mr. Gladstone that, having regard to the necessity for conciliating English public opinion, he and his colleagues felt that it would be necessary to leave this force and the appointment of its officers under the control of the Imperial authority for an indefinite period, while the funds for its maintenance, payment, and equipment, would be compulsorily provided out of Irish resources.
The period of ten or twelve years was suggested as the limit of time during which the appointment of Judges, resident magistrates, etc., should be retained in the hands of the Imperial authority.
I have now given a short account of what I gathered of Mr. Gladstone’s views and those of his colleagues during two hours’ conversation at Hawarden – a conversation which I am bound to admit was mainly monopolized by Mr. Gladstone – and pass to my own expressions of opinion upon these communications, which represent my views then as now.
And, first, with regard to the retention of the Irish members, the position I have always adopted, and then represented, is that, with the concession of full powers to the Irish Legislature equivalent to those enjoyed by a State of the American Union, the number and possession of the members so retained would become a question of Imperial concern, and not of pressing or immediate importance for the interests of Ireland. But that, with the important and all-engrossing subjects of agrarian reform, constabulary control, and judiciary appointments, left either under Imperial control or totally unprovided for, it would be the height of madness for any Irish leader to imitate Grattan’s example, and consent to disband the army which had cleared the way to victory.
I further undertook to use every legitimate influence to reconcile Irish public opinion to a gradual coming into force of the new privileges, and to the postponements necessary for English opinion with regard to constabulary control and judicial appointments, but strongly dissented from the proposed reduction of members during the interval of probation. I pointed to the absence of any suitable prospect of land settlement by either Parliament as constituting an overwhelming drag upon the prospects of permanent peace and prosperity in Ireland.
At the conclusion of the interview I was informed that Mr. Gladstone and all his colleagues were entirely agreed that, pending the General Election, silence should be absolutely preserved with regard to any points of difference on the question of the retention of the Irish members.
I have dwelt with some length upon these subjects, but not, I think, disproportionately to their importance. Let me say in addition that, even when full powers are conceded to Ireland over her own domestic affairs, the integrity, number, and independence, of the Irish party will be a matter of no importance; but until this ideal is reached it is your duty and mine to hold fast every safeguard.
I need not say that the questions – the vital and important questions – of the retention of the Irish members on the one hand, and the indefinite delay of full powers to the Irish Legislature on the other, gave me great concern. The absence of any provision for the settlement of the agrarian question, of any policy on the part of the Liberal leaders, fills me with concern and apprehension. On the introduction of the Land Purchase Bill by the Government at the commencement of last session, Mr. Morley communicated with me as to the course to be adopted. Having regard to the avowed absence of any policy on the part of the Liberal leaders and party with regard to the matter of the land, I strongly advised Mr. Morley against any direct challenge of the principle of State-aided land purchase, and, finding that the fears and alarms of the English taxpayer to State aid by the hypothecation of grants for local purposes in Ireland as a counter-guarantee had been assuaged, that a hopeless struggle should not be maintained, and that we should direct our sole efforts on the second reading of the Bill to the assertion of the principle of local control. In this I am bound to say Mr. Morley entirely agreed with me, but he was at the same time much hampered – and expressed his sense of his position – in that direction by the extreme section of his party, led by Mr. Labouchere. And in a subsequent interview he impressed me with the necessity of meeting the second reading of the Bill with a direct negative, and asked me to undertake the motion. I agreed to this, but only on the condition that I was not to attack the principle of the measure, but to confine myself to a criticism of its details. I think this was false strategy, but it was a strategy adopted out of regard to English prejudices and Radical peculiarities. I did the best that was possible under the circumstances, and the several days’ debate on the second reading contrasts favourably with Mr. Labouchere’s recent and abortive attempt to interpose a direct negative to the first reading of a similar Bill yesterday.
Time went on. The Government allowed their attention to be distracted from the question of land purchase by the Bill for compensating English publicans, and the agrarian difficulty in Ireland was again relegated to the future of another session. Just before the commencement of this session I was again favoured with another interview with Mr. Morley. I impressed upon him the policy of the oblique method of procedure in reference to land purchase, and the necessity and importance of providing for the question of local control, and of a limitation in the application of the funds. He agreed with me, and I offered to move, on the first reading of the Bill, an amendment in favour of this local control, advising that, if this were rejected, it might be left to the Radicals on the second reading to oppose the principle of the measure. This appeared to be a proper course, and I left Mr. Morley under the impression that this would fall to my duty.
But in addition he made me a remarkable proposal, referring to the probable approaching victory of the Liberal party at the polls. He suggested some considerations as to the future of the Irish party. He asked me whether I would be willing to assume the office of Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, or to allow another member of my party to take the position. He also put before me the desirability of filling one of the law offices of the Crown in Ireland by a legal member of my party. I told him, amazed as I was at the proposal, that I could not agree to forfeit in any way the independence of the party or any of its members; that the Irish people had trusted me in this movement because they believed that the declaration I had made to them at Cork in 1880 was a true one and represented any convictions, and that I would on no account depart from it. I considered that, after the declarations we had repeatedly made, the proposal of Mr. Morley, that we should allow ourselves to be absorbed into English politics, was one based upon an entire misconception of our position with regard to the Irish constituencies and of the pledges which we had given.
In conclusion, he directed my attention to the Plan of Campaign estates. He said that it would be impossible for the Liberal party when they attained power to do anything for these evicted tenants by direct action; that it would be also impossible for the Irish Parliament, under the powers conferred, to do anything for them; and, flinging up his hands with a gesture of despair, he exclaimed: “Having been to Tipperary, I do not know what to propose in regard to the matter.” I told him that this question was a limited one, and that I did not see that he need allow himself to be hampered by its future consideration; that, being limited, funds would be available from America and elsewhere for the support of those tenants as long as might be necessary; that, of course, I understood it was a difficulty, but that it was a limited one, and should not be allowed to interfere with the general interests of the country.
I allude to the matter only because within the last few days a strong argument in many minds for my expulsion has been that, unless the Liberals come into power at the next General Election, the Plan of Campaign tenants will suffer. As I have shown, the Liberals propose to do nothing for the Plan of Campaign tenants by direct action when they do com into power; but I am entitled to ask that the existence of these tenants, whom I have supported in every way in the past, and whom I shall continue to support in the future, shall not constitute a reason for my expulsion from Irish politics. I have repeatedly pledged myself to stand by these evicted tenants and that they shall not be allowed to suffer, and I believe that the Irish people throughout the world will support me in this policy.
Sixteen years ago I conceived the idea of an Irish Parliamentary party independent of all English parties. Ten years ago I was elected the leader of an independent Irish Parliamentary party. During these ten years that party has remained independent, and because of its independence it has forced upon the English people the necessity of granting Home Rule to Ireland. I believe that party will obtain Home Rule only provided it remains independent of any English party.
I do not believe that any action of the Irish people in supporting me will endanger the Home Rule cause or postpone the establishment of an Irish Parliament; but even if the danger with which we are threatened by the Liberal party of today were to be realized, I believe that the Irish people throughout the world would agree with me that postponement would be preferable to a compromise of our national rights by the acceptance of a measure which would not realize the aspirations of our race.
I have the honour to remain,
Your faithful servant,
CHARLES STEWART PARNELL