Articles on the Irish Question
|Author(s)||Jenny Marx Longuet|
These articles were written by Marx’s daughter Jenny for the French Republican newspaper Marseillaise and dealt with the questions raised in Marx’s article “The English Government and the Fenian Prisoners.” The third article was written together with Marx. All except the second article were signed J. Williams.
London, February 27, 1870
The Marseillaise for February 18 quotes an article from the Daily News in which the English paper gives information to the French press concerning the election of O’Donovan Rossa. Since this information is somewhat confused and since partial explanations only serve to throw a false light on the things which they are claiming to elucidate, I should be grateful if you would kindly publish my comments on the article in question.
Firstly, the Daily News states that O’Donovan was sentenced by a jury, but it omits to add that in Ireland the juries are composed of minions more or less directly nominated by the government.
Then, in speaking with righteous horror of the felony of treason, the false liberals of the Daily News omit to say that this new category in the English Penal Code was expressly invented to identify the Irish patriots with the vilest of criminals.
Let us take the case of O’Donovan Rossa. He was one of the editors of the Irish People. Like most of the Fenians he was sentenced for having written so-called seditious articles. Consequently the Marseillaise was not wrong in drawing an analogy between Rochefort and Rossa.
Why does the Daily News, which aims at keeping France informed about the Fenian prisoners, remain silent about the appalling treatment which they have received? I trust that you will allow me to make up for this prudent silence.
Some time ago O’Donovan was put in a dark cell with his hands tied behind his back. His handcuffs were not removed night or day so that he was forced to lick his food, gruel made with water, lying on the ground. Mr. Pigott, editor of the Irishman, learnt about this from Rossa who described it to him in the presence of the prison governor and another witness, and published the information in his newspaper, encouraging Mr. Moore, one of the Irish members of the House of Commons, to request a parliamentary enquiry into what goes on in the prisons. The government strongly opposed this request. Thus, Mr. Moore’s motion was rejected by 171 votes to 36 – a worthy supplement to the voting which crushed the right to suffrage.
And this took place during the ministry of the sanctimonious Gladstone. As you can see the great Liberal leader knows how to mock humanity and justice. There are also Judases who do not wear glasses.
Here is another case which also does England credit. O’Leary, a Fenian prisoner aged between sixty and seventy, was put on bread and water for three weeks because – the reader of the Marseillaise would never guess why – because Leary called himself a “pagan” and refused to say he was Protestant, Presbyterian, Catholic or Quaker. He was given the choice of one of these religions or bread and water. Of these five evils, O’Leary, or “pagan O’Leary” as he is called, chose the one that he considered the least – bread and water.
A few days ago after examining the body of a Fenian who died at Spike Island Prison the coroner expressed his very strong disapproval of the manner in which the deceased man had been treated.
Last Saturday a young Irishman called Gunner Hood left prison after serving four years. At the age of 19 he had joined the English army and served England in Canada. He was taken before a military tribunal in 1866 for having written seditious articles and sentenced to two years’ hard labour. When the sentence was pronounced Hood took his cap and threw it into the air shouting, “Long live the Irish republic!” This impassioned cry cost him dear. He was sentenced an extra two years in prison and fifty strokes for good measure. This was carried out in the most atrocious manner. Hood was attached to a plough and two strapping blacksmiths were armed with cat-o’-nine-tails. There is no equivalent term in French for the English knout. Only the Russians and the English know what is meant by this. Like draws to like.
Mr. Carey, a journalist, is kept at present in the part of the prison intended for the insane, the terrible silence and the other forms of torture to which he has been subjected having turned him, into a mass of living flesh deprived of all reason.
The Fenian, Colonel Burke, a man who has distinguished himself not only by his service in the American army but also as a writer and painter, has also been reduced to a pitiful state in which he can no longer recognise his closest relatives. I could add many more names to this list of Irish martyrs. Suffice it to say that since 1866, when there was a raid on the Irish People’s offices, 20 Fenians have died or gone mad in the prisons of humanitarian England.
London, March 5
During the meeting of the House of Commons on March 3 Mr. Stackpoole questioned Mr. Gladstone on the treatment of Fenian prisoners. He said, among other things, that Dr. Lyons of Dublin had recently stated that
“the discipline, diet, personal restrictions and the other punishments were bound to cause permanent damage to the prisoners’ health.”
After having expressed complete satisfaction with the way in which prisoners were treated, Mr. Gladstone crowned his little speech with this brilliantly witty remark:
“As to the health of O’Donovan Rossa, I am glad to be able to say that during her last visit to her husband Mrs. O’Donovan Rossa congratulated him on looking better.”
Whereupon a burst of Homeric laughter broke out from all sides of that noble assembly. Her last visit! Note that Mrs. O’Donovan Rossa had not only been separated from her husband for several years, but that she had travelled all over America earning money to feed her children by giving public lectures on English literature.
And bear in mind also that this same Mr. Gladstone, whose quips are so pointed, is the almost sacred author of Prayers, the Propagation of the Gospel, The Functions of Laymen in the Church and the recently published homily Ecce homo.
Is the profound satisfaction of the head jailer shared by his prisoners? Read the following extracts from a letter written by O’Donovan Rossa, which by some miracle was slipped out of the prison and arrived at its destination after an incredible delay:
Letter from Rossa[edit source]
I have already told you about the hypocrisy of these English masters who, after placing me in a position which forced me to get down on my knees and elbows to eat, are now depriving me of food and light and giving me chains and a Bible. I am not complaining of the penalties which my masters inflict on me – it is my job to suffer – but I insist that I have the right to inform the world of the treatment to which I am subjected, and that it is illegal to hold back my letters describing this treatment. The minute precautions taken by the prison authorities to prevent me writing letters are as disgusting as they are absurd. The most insulting method was to strip me once a day for several months and then examine my arms, legs and all other parts of my body. This took place at Millbank daily from February to May 1867. One day I refused, whereupon five prison officers arrived, beat me mercilessly and tore off my clothes.
Once I succeeded in getting a letter to the outside, for which I was rewarded by a visit from Messrs. Knox and Pollock, two police magistrates.
How ironical to send two government employees to find out the truth about the English prisons. These gentlemen refused to take note of anything important which I had to tell them. When I touched upon a subject which was not to their liking, they stopped me by saying that prison discipline was not their concern. Isn’t that so, Messrs. Pollock and Knox? When I told you that I had been forced to wash in water which had already been used by half a dozen English prisoners, did you not refuse to note my complaint?
At Chatham I was given a certain amount of tow to pull out and told that I would go without food if I did not finish the work by a certain time.
“Perhaps you’ll still punish me even if I do the job in time,” I shouted. “That’s what happened to me at Millbank.”
“How could it?” asked the jailer.
Then I told him that on July 4 I had finished my work ten minutes before the appointed time and picked up a book. The officer saw me do this, accused me of being lazy and I was put on bread and water and locked in a dark cell for forty-eight hours.
One day I caught sight of my friend Edward Duffy. He was extremely pale. A little later I heard that Duffy was seriously ill and that he had expressed the wish to see me (we had been very close in Ireland). I begged the governor to give me permission to visit him. He refused point-blank. This was round about Christmas ’67 – and a few weeks later a prisoner whispered to me through the bars of my cell: “Duffy is dead.”
How movingly this would have been described by the English if it had happened in Russia!
If Mr. Gladstone had been present on such a sad occasion in Naples, what a touching picture he would have painted! Ah! Sweet Pharisees, trading in hypocrisy, with the Bible on their lips and the devil in their bellies.
I must say a word in memory of John Lynch. In March 1866 I found myself together with him in the exercise yard. We were being watched so closely that he only managed to say to me, “The cold is killing me.” But then what did the English do to us? They took us to London on Christmas Eve. When we arrived at the prison they took away our flannels and left us shivering in our cells for several months. Yes, they cannot deny that it was they who killed John Lynch. But nevertheless they managed to produce officials at the enquiry who were ready to prove that Lynch and Duffy had been given very gentle treatment.
The lies of our English oppressors exceed one’s wildest imagination.
If I am to die in prison I entreat my family and my friends not to believe a word of what these people say. Let me not be suspected of personal rancour against those who persecuted me with their lies. I accuse only tyranny which makes the use of such methods necessary.
Many a time the circumstances have reminded me of Machiavelli’s words: “that tyrants have a special interest in circulating the Bible so that the people understand its precepts and offer no resistance to being robbed by brigands.”
So long as an enslaved people follows the sermons on morality and obedience preached to them by the priests, the tyrants have nothing to fear.
If this letter reaches my fellow countrymen I have the right to demand that they raise their voices to insist that justice be done for their suffering brothers. Let these words whip up the blood that is moving sluggishly in their veins!
I was harnessed to a cart with a rope tied round my neck. This knot was fastened to a long shaft and two English prisoners received orders to prevent the cart from bouncing. But they refrained from doing this, the shaft rose up into the air and the knot came undone. If it had tightened I would he dead.
I insist that they do not possess the right to put me in a situation where my life depends on the acts of other people.
A ray of light is penetrating through the bolts and bars of my prison. This is a reminder of the day at Newtownards where I met Orangemen and Ribbonmen who had forgotten their bigotry!
Political prisoner sentenced to hard labour
London, March 16, 1870
The main event of the past week has been O’Donovan Rossa’s letter which I communicated to you in my last report.
The Times printed the letter without comment, whereas the Daily News published a commentary without the letter.
“As one might have expected,” it says, “Mr. O’Donovan Rossa takes as his subject the prison rules to which he has been subjected for a while.”
How atrocious this “for a while” is in speaking of a man who has already been imprisoned for five years and condemned to hard labour for life.
Mr. O’Donovan Rossa complains among other things “of being harnessed to a cart with a rope tied round his neck” in such a way that his life depended on the movements of English convicts, his fellow prisoners.
But, exclaims the Daily News, “is it really unjust to put a man in a situation where his life depends on the acts of others? When a person is in a car or on a steamer does not his life also depend on the acts of others?”
After this brilliant piece of arguing, the pious casuist reproaches O’Donovan Rossa for not loving the Bible and preferring the Irish People, a comparison which is sure to delight its readers.
“Mr. O’Donovan,” it continues, “seems to imagine that prisoners serving sentences for seditious writing should be supplied with cigars and daily newspapers, and that they should above all have the right to correspond freely with their friends.”
Ho, ho, virtuous Pharisee! At last you have admitted that O’Donovan Rossa has been sentenced to hard labour for life for seditious writing and not for an attempted assassination of Queen Victoria, as you vilely insinuated in your first address to the French press.
“After all,” this shameless newspaper concludes, “O’Donovan Rossa is simply being treated for what he is, that is, an ordinary convict.”
After Mr. Gladstone’s special newspaper, here is a different angle from the “liberal” press, the Daily Telegraph, which generally adopts a rougher manner.
“If we condescend,” it says, “to take note of O’Donovan Rossa’s letter, it is not because of the Fenians who are incorrigible, but exclusively for the well-being of France.
“Let it be known that only a few days ago in the House of Commons Mr. Gladstone made a formal denunciation of all these outrageous lies, and there cannot be any intelligent Frenchmen of whatever party and class who would dare doubt the word of an English gentleman.”
But if, contrary to expectation, there were parties or people in France perverse enough not to believe the word of an English gentleman such as Mr. Gladstone, France could not at least resist the well-meant advice of Mr. Levy who is not a gentleman and who addresses you in the following terms:
“We advise our neighbours, the Parisians, to treat all the stories of cruelties committed on political prisoners in England as 80 many insolent lies.”
With Mr. Levy’s permission, I will give you a new example of the value of the words of the gentlemen who make up Gladstone’s Cabinet.
You will remember that in my first letter I mentioned Colonel Richard Burke, a Fenian prisoner who has gone insane thanks to the humanitarian methods of the English government. The Irishman was the first to publish this news, after which Mr. Underwood sent a letter to Mr. Bruce, the Home Secretary, asking him for an enquiry into the treatment of political prisoners.
Mr. Bruce replied in a letter which was published in the English press and which contained the following sentence:
“With regard to Richard Burke at Woking Prison, Mr. Bruce is bound to refuse to make an enquiry on the grounds of such ill-founded and extravagant insinuations as those contained in the extracts from the Irishman which you have sent me.”
This statement by Mr. Bruce is dated January 11, 1870. Now in one of its recent issues the Irishman has published the same Minister’s reply to a letter from Mrs. Barry, Richard Burke’s sister, who asked for news about her brother’s “alarming” condition. The ministerial reply of February 24 contains an official report dated January 11 in which the prison doctor and Burke’s special guard state that he has become insane. Thus, the very day when Mr. Bruce publicly declared the information published by the Irishman to be false and ill-founded, he was concealing the irrefutable official proof in his pocket! It should be mentioned incidentally that Mr. Moore, an Irish member in the House of Commons, is to question the Minister on the treatment of Colonel Burke.
The Echo, a recently founded newspaper, takes an even stronger liberal line than its companions. It has its own principle which consists of selling for one penny, whereas all the other newspapers cost twopence, fourpence or sixpence. This price of one penny forces it on the one hand to make pseudo-democratic professions of faith so as not to lose its working-class subscribers, and on the other hand to make constant reservations in order to win over respectable subscribers from its competitors.
In its long tirade on O’Donovan Rossa’s letter it finished up by saying that “perhaps even those Fenians who have received an amnesty will refuse to believe the exaggerations of their compatriots,” as if Mr. Kickham, Mr. Costello and others had not already published information on their suffering in prison totally in accordance with Rossa’s letter! But after all its subterfuge and senseless evasions the Echo touches on the sore point.
The “publications by the Marseillaise,” it says, “will cause a scandal and this scandal will spread all round the world. The continental mind is perhaps too limited to be able to discern the difference between the crimes of a Bomba and the severity of a Gladstone! So it would be better to hold an enquiry” and so on.
The Spectator, a “liberal” weekly which supports Gladstone, is governed by the principle that all genres are bad except the boring one. This is why it is called in London the journal of the seven wise men. After giving a brief account of O’Donovan Rossa and scolding him for his aversion to the Bible, the journal of the seven wise men pronounces the following judgment:
“The Fenian O’Donovan Rossa does not appear to have suffered anything more than the ordinary sufferings of convicts, but we confess that we should like to see changes in this regime. It is very right and often most advisable to shoot rebels. It is also right to deprive them of their liberty as the most dangerous type of criminals. But it is neither right nor wise to degrade them.”
Well said, Solomon the Wise!
Finally we have the Standard, the main organ of the Tory party, the Conservatives. You will be aware that the English oligarchy is composed of two factions: the landed aristocracy and the plutocracy. If in their family quarrels one takes the side of the plutocrats against the aristocrats one is called a liberal or even radical. If, on the contrary, one sides with the aristocrats against the plutocrats one is called a Tory.
The Standard calls O’Donovan Rossa’s letter an apocryphal story probably written by A. Dumas.
“Why,” it says, “did the Marseillaise refrain from adding that Mr. Gladstone, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Mayor were present each morning while O’Donovan Rossa was being tortured?”
In the House of Commons a certain member once referred to the Tory party as the “stupid party.” Is it not a fact that the Standard well deserves its title as the main organ of the stupid party!
Before closing I must warn the French not to confuse the newspaper rumours with the voice of the English proletariat which, unfortunately for the two countries, Ireland and England, has no echo in the English press.
Let it suffice to say that more than 200,000 men, women and children of the English working class raised their voices in Hyde Park to demand freedom for their Irish brothers, and that the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association, which has its headquarters in London and includes well-known English working-class leaders among its members, has severely condemned the treatment of Fenian prisoners and come out in defence of the rights of the Irish people against the English government.
P.S. As a result of the publicity given by the Marseillaise to O’Donovan Rossa’s letter, Gladstone is afraid that he may be forced by public opinion to hold a parliamentary public enquiry into the treatment of political prisoners. In order to avoid this again (we know how many times his corrupt conscience has opposed it already) this diplomat has just produced an official, but anonymous denial of the facts quoted by Rossa.
Let it be known in France that this denial is nothing more than a copy of the statements made by the prison jailer, police magistrates Knox and Pollock, etc., etc. These gentlemen know full well that Rossa cannot reply to them. He will be kept under stricter supervision than ever, but ... I shall reply to them in my next letter with facts the verification of which does not depend on the goodwill of jailers.
London, March 18, 1870
As I announced in my last letter Mr. Moore, an Irish member of the House of Commons, yesterday questioned the government on the treatment of Fenian prisoners. He referred to the request made by Richard Burke and four other prisoners held in Mountjoy Prison (in Dublin) and asked the government whether it considered it honourable to hold the bodies of these men after having deprived them of their senses. Finally, he insisted on a “full, free and public enquiry.”
So here was Mr. Gladstone with his back to the wall. In 1868 he gave an insolent, categorical refusal to a request to hold an enquiry made by the same Mr. Moore. Since then he has always replied in the same fashion to repeated demands for an enquiry.
Why give way now? Perhaps it would not be a bad idea to admit to being alarmed by the uproar on the other side of the Channel. As to the charges levelled against our governors of prisons, we have asked them to give a full explanation in this connection.
The latter have unanimously replied that all this is sheer nonsense. Thus, our ministerial conscience is naturally satisfied. But after the explanations given by Mr. Moore (these are his exact words) it appears “that the point in question is not exactly satisfaction. That the satisfaction of the minds of the government derives from its confidence in its subordinates and, therefore, it would be both political and just to conduct an enquiry into the truth of the jailers’ statements.”
One day he says this, and the next day says that,
His yesterday’s views today he will shelve,
He now wears a helmet, and now a top hat,
A nuisance to others, a bore to himself.
But he does not give way at last without making reservations.
Mr. Moore demanded a “full, free and public enquiry.” Mr. Gladstone replied that he was responsible for the “form” of the enquiry, and we already know that this will not be a “parliamentary enquiry,” but one conducted by means of a Royal Commission. In other words the judges in this great trial, in which Mr. Gladstone appears as the main defendant, are to be selected and appointed by Mr. Gladstone himself.
As for Richard Burke, Mr. Gladstone states that the government had learnt of his insanity as early as January 9. Consequently, his honourable colleague Mr. Bruce, the Home Secretary, lied outrageously by declaring in his open letter of January 11 that this information was untrue. But, Mr. Gladstone continues, Mr. Burke’s mental disturbance had not reached a sufficiently advanced stage to justify his release from prison. It must not be forgotten that this man was an accessory to the blowing up of Clerkenwell Prison. Really? But Richard Burke was already detained in Clerkenwell Prison when a number of other people took it into their heads to blow up the prison in order to free him. Thus he was an accessory to this ridiculous attempt which, it is thought, was instigated by the police and which, if it had succeeded, would have buried him under the ruins! Moreover, concludes Mr. Gladstone, we have already released two Fenians who went mad in our English prisons. But, interrupts Mr. Moore, I was talking about the four insane men detained in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin. Be that as it may, replies Mr. Gladstone. There are still two madmen less in our prisons.
Why is Mr. Gladstone so anxious to avoid all mention of Mountjoy Prison? We shall see in a moment. This time the facts are verified not by letters from the prisoners, but in a Blue Book published in 1868 by order of Parliament.
After the Fenian skirmish the English government declared a state of general emergency in Ireland. All guarantees of the freedom of the individual were suspended. Any person “being suspected of Fenianism” could be thrown into prison and kept there without being brought to court as long as it pleased the authorities. One of the prisons full of suspects was Mountjoy Convict Prison in Dublin, of which John Murray was the inspector and Mr. M’Donnell the doctor. Now what do we read in the Blue Book published in 1868 by order of Parliament?
For several months Mr. M’Donnell wrote to Inspector Murray protesting against the cruel treatment of suspects. Since the inspector did not reply, Mr. M’Donnell then sent three or four reports to the prison governor. In one of these letters he referred to
“certain persons who show unmistakable signs of insanity.” He went on to add: “I have not the slightest doubt that this insanity is the consequence of the prison regime. Quite apart from all humane considerations, it would be a serious matter if one of these prisoners, who have not been sentenced by a court of law but are merely suspects, should commit suicide.”
All these letters addressed by Mr. M’Donnell to the governor were intercepted by John Murray. Finally, Mr. M’Donnell wrote direct to Lord Mayo, the First Secretary for Ireland. He told him for example:
“There is no one, my Lord, as well informed as you yourself are on the harsh discipline to which the ‘suspect’ prisoners have been subjected for a considerable time, a more severe form of solitary confinement than that imposed on the convicts.”
What was the result of these revelations published by order of Parliament? The doctor, Mr. M’Donnell, was dismissed!!! Murray kept his post.
All this took place during the Tory ministry. When Mr. Gladstone finally succeeded in unseating Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli by fiery speeches in which he denounced the English government as the true cause of Fenianism, he not only confirmed the savage Murray in his functions but also, as a sign of his special satisfaction, conferred a large sinecure, that of “Registrar of habitual criminals,” on his post of inspector.
In my last letter I stated that the anonymous reply to Rossa’s letter, circulated by the London newspapers, emanated directly from the Home Office. It is now known to be the work of the Home Secretary, Mr. Bruce. Here is a sample of his “ministerial conscience!”
As to Rossa’s complaint that he is obliged “to wash in water which has already been used for the convicts’ ablutions, the police magistrates Knox and Pollock have declared that after their careful enquiry it would be superfluous to consider such nonsense,” says Mr. Bruce.
Luckily the report by police magistrates Knox and PolIock has been published by order of Parliament. What do they say on page 23 of their report? That in accordance with the prison regime a certain number of convicts use the same bath one after the other and that “the guard cannot give priority to O’Donovan Rossa without offending the others. It would, therefore, be superfluous to consider such nonsense Thus, according to the report by Knox and Pollock, it is not O’Donovan Rossa’s allegation that he was forced to bathe in water which had been used by convicts which is nonsense, as Mr. Bruce would have them say. On the contrary, these gentlemen find it absurd that O’Donovan Rossa should have complained about such a disgrace.
During the same meeting in the House of Commons in which Mr. Gladstone declared himself ready to hold an enquiry into the treatment of Fenian prisoners, he introduced a new Coercion Bill for Ireland, that is to say, the suppression of constitutional freedoms and the proclamation of a state of emergency.
Theoretical fiction has it that constitutional liberty is the rule and its suspension an exception, but the whole history of English rule in Ireland shows that a state of emergency is the rule and that the application of the constitution is the exception. Gladstone is making agrarian crimes the pretext for putting Ireland once more in a state of siege. His true motive is the desire to suppress the independent newspapers in Dublin. From henceforth the life or death of any Irish newspaper will depend on the goodwill of Mr. Gladstone. Moreover, this Coercion Bill is a necessary complement to the Land Bill recently introduced by Mr. Gladstone which consolidates landlordism in Ireland whilst appearing to come to the aid of the tenant farmers. It should suffice to say of this law that it bears the mark of Lord Dufferin, a member of the Cabinet and a large Irish landowner. It was only last year that this Dr. Sangrado published a large tome to prove that the Irish population has not yet been sufficiently bled, and that it should be reduced by a third if Ireland is to accomplish its glorious mission to produce the highest possible rents for its landlords and the largest possible quantities of meat and wool for the English market.
London, March 22
There is a London weekly with a wide circulation among the mass of the people which is called Reynolds’s Newspaper. This is what it has to say about the Irish question:
“Now we are regarded by the other nations as the most hypocritical people on earth. We blew our own trumpets so loudly and so joyfully and exaggerated the excellence of our institutions 80 much, that now when our lies are being exposed one by one it is not at all surprising that other peoples should ridicule us and ask themselves whether it can be possible. It is not the people of England who have brought about such a state of affairs, because the people also have been tricked and deceived – the blame lies with the ruling classes and a venal, parasitic press.”
The Coercion Bill for Ireland which was introduced on Thursday evening is a detestable, abominable, execrable measure. This Bill extinguishes t the last spark of national liberty in Ireland and silences he press of this unhappy country in order to prevent its newspapers from protesting against a policy which is the crying disgrace of our time. The government wants its revenge on all those newspapers which did not greet its wretched Land Bill with transports of delight, and will get it. In effect the Habeas Corpus Act will be suspended, because from now onwards it will be possible to imprison for six months or even for life any person who cannot explain his behaviour to the satisfaction of the authorities.
Ireland has been put at the mercy of a band of well-trained spies who are euphemistically referred to as “detectives.”
Not even Nicholas of Russia ever published a crueller ukase against the unfortunate Poles than this Bill of Mr. Gladstone’s against the Irish. It is a measure which would have won Mr. Gladstone the good favour of the famous King of Dahomey. Nevertheless, Mr. GIadstone had the colossal effrontery to boast in front of Parliament and the nation of the generous policy which his government is proposing to adopt with regard to Ireland. At the end of his speech on Thursday Gladstone even went as far as producing expressions of regret pronounced with a sanctimonious, lachrymose solemnity worthy of the reverend Mr. Stiggins. But snivel as he may, the Irish people will not be deceived.
We repeat that the Bill is a shameful measure, a measure worthy of Castlereagh, a measure which will invoke the condemnation of all free nations on the heads of those who invented it and those who sanction and approve it. Finally, it is a measure which will bring well-deserved opprobrium to Mr. Gladstone and, we sincerely hope, lead to his swift defeat. And how has the demagogic minister Mr. Bright been able to keep silent for forty-eight hours?
We state without hesitation that Mr. Gladstone has proved to be the most savage enemy and the most implacable master to have crushed Ireland since the days of the notorious Castlereagh.
As if the cup of ministerial shame were not already full to overflowing, it was announced in the House of Commons on Thursday evening, the same evening as the Coercion Bill was introduced, that Burke and other Fenian prisoners had been tortured to the point of insanity in the English prisons, and in the very face of this appalling evidence Gladstone and his jackal Bruce were protesting that the political prisoners were treated with all possible care. When Mr. Moore made this sad announcement to the House he was constantly interrupted by hoots of bestial laughter. Had such a disgusting and revolting scene taken place in the American Congress, what a howl of indignation would have gone up from us!
Up till now the Reynolds’s News, the Times, the Daily News, Pall Mall, the Telegraph, etc., etc., have greeted the Coercion Bill with shouts of wild joy, particularly the measure for the destruction of the Irish press. And all this is taking place in England, the acknowledged sanctuary of the press. But isn’t there a case after all for wanting revenge on these new writers. You will agree that it was too hard to watch the Irishman each Saturday demolish the tissue of lies and calumny which these Penelopes worked on for six days of the week with sweat on their brows, and that it is quite natural that the latter should give a frantic welcome to the police who come to tie the hands of their formidable enemy. At least these fine fellows realise their own collective worth.
A characteristic exchange of letters has taken place between Bruce and Mr. M’Carthy Downing concerning Colonel Richard Burke. Before reproducing it I should like to remark in passing that Mr. Downing is an Irish member of the House of Commons. This ambitious advocate joined the ministerial phalanx with the noble aim of making a career. Thus, we are not dealing here with a suspect witness.
February 22, 1870
If my information is correct, Richard Burke, one of the Fenian prisoners formerly held in Chatham Prison, has been transferred to Woking in a state of insanity. In March 1869 I took the liberty of bringing his state of apparent ill-health to your notice, and in the following July Mr. Blake, former member for Waterford, and I informed you of our opinion that if the system of his treatment were not changed, the worst consequences were to be feared. I received no reply to this letter. My object in writing to you is the cause of humanity and the hope of obtaining his release so that his family may have the consolation of seeing to his needs and mitigating his suffering. I have in my hand a letter from the prisoner to his brother dated December 3 in which he says that he has been systematically poisoned, this being, I imagine, one of the phases of his disease. I sincerely trust that the kind sentiments for which you are known will urge you to grant this request.
February 25, 1870
Richard Burke was transferred from Chatham as a result of his illusion that he was poisoned or cruelly treated by the prison medical officers. At the same time, without him being positively ill, his health deteriorated. Consequently I gave orders for him to be moved to Woking and had him examined by Dr. Meyer from Broadmoor Asylum, who was of the opinion that his illusion would disappear when his health improved. His health did, in fact, improve rapidly and an ordinary observer would not have noted any signs of his mental weakness. I should very much like to be in a position to give you an assurance of his early release, but am not able to do so. His crime and the consequences of the attempt to free him are too serious for me to be able to give you such an assurance. Meanwhile all that medical science and good treatment can do to restore his mental and physical health will be done.
H. A. Bruce
February 28, 1870
After receiving your letter of the 25th in reply to my request that Burke should be handed over to the care of his brother, I hoped to find an occasion to talk to you on this matter in the House of Commons, but you were so busy on Thursday and Friday that an interview was Out of the question. I have received letters from a number of Burke’s friends. They are waiting anxiously to hear whether my request has been successful. I have not yet informed them that it has not. Before disappointing them I felt “justified” in writing to you again on the matter. I thought that as a person who has invariably and at some risk denounced Fenianism, I could permit myself to give a word of impartial, friendly advice to the government.
I have no hesitation in saying that the release of a political prisoner who has become mentally unbalanced would not be criticised and certainly not condemned by the general public. In Ireland people would say: “Well, the government is not as cruel as we thought.” ‘Whereas if, on the other hand, Burke is kept in prison this will provide new material for the national press to attack it as being even crueller than the Neapolitan governors in their worst days. And I confess that I cannot see how men of moderate views could defend the act of refusal in such a case....
I regret that I am unable to recommend Burke’s release.
It is true that he has shown signs of insanity and that in ordinary cases I would be “justified” in recommending him to the mercy of the Crown. But his case is not an ordinary one, because he was not only a hardened conspirator, but his participation in the attempt to blow up Clerkenwell which, if it had succeeded, would have been even more disastrous than it was, makes him an improper recipient of pardon.
H. A. Bruce
Could anything be more infamous! Bruce knows perfectly well that if there had been the slightest suspicion against Colonel Burke during the trial concerning the attempt to blow up Clerkenwell, Burke would have been hung next to Barrett who was sentenced to death on the testimony of a man who had previously given false testimony against three other men, and in spite of the evidence of eight citizens who made the journey from Glasgow to prove that Barrett had been there when the explosion had taken place. The English have no scruples (Mr. Bruce can confirm this) when it is a question of hanging a man – especially a Fenian.
But all this spate of cruelty cannot break the iron spirit of the Irish. They have just celebrated their national holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, more demonstratively than ever in Dublin. The houses were decorated with flags saying: “Ireland for the Irish!,” “Liberty!” and “Long live the political prisoners!” and the air rang with the sound of their national songs and – the Marseillaise.
VI Agrarian Outrages in Ireland[edit source]
London, April 2, 1870
In Ireland the plundering and even extermination of the tenant farmer and his family by the landlord is called the property right, whereas the desperate farmer’s revolt against his ruthless executioner is called an agrarian outrage. These agrarian outrages, which are actually very few in number but are multiplied and exaggerated out of all proportion by the kaleidoscope of the English press in accordance with orders received, have, as you will know, provided the excuse for reviving the regime of white terror in Ireland. On the other hand, this regime of terror makes it possible for the landowners to redouble their oppression with impunity.
I have already mentioned that the Land Bill consolidates landlordism under the pretext of giving aid to the tenant farmers. Nevertheless, in order to pull the wool over people’s eyes and clear his conscience, Gladstone was compelled to grant this new lease of life to landlord despotism subject to certain legal formalities. It should suffice to say that in the future as in the past the landlord’s word will become law if he succeeds in imposing on his tenants at will the most fantastic rents which are impossible to pay or, in the case of land tenure agreements, make his farmers sign contracts which will bind them to voluntary slavery.
And how the landlords are rejoicing! A Dublin newspaper, the Freeman, publishes a letter from Father P. Lavelle, the author of The Irish Landlord since the Revolution, in which he says:
“I have seen piles of letters addressed to tenants by their landlord, the brave captain, an “absentee” living in England, warning them that from now on their rents are to be raised by 25%. This is equivalent to an eviction notice! And this from a man who does nothing for the land except live off its produce!”
The Irishman on the other hand publishes the new tenure agreements dictated by Lord Dufferin, the member of Gladstone’s Cabinet who inspired the Land Bill and introduced the Coercion Bill in the House of Lords. Add the rapacious shrewdness of an expert moneylender and the despicable chicanery of the advocate to feudal insolence and you will have a rough idea of the new land tenure agreements invented by the noble Dufferin.
It is now easy to see that the rule of terror has arrived just in time to introduce the rule of the Land Bill! Let us suppose, for example, that in a certain Irish county the farmers refuse either to allow a 25% rent increase or to sign Dufferin’s land tenure agreements! The county’s landlords will then get their valets or the police to send them anonymous threatening letters, as they have in the past. This also counts as an “agrarian outrage.” The landlords inform the Viceroy, Lord Spencer, accordingly. Lord Spencer then declares that the district is subject to the provisions of the Coercion Act which is then applied by the same landlords, in their capacity as magistrates, against their own tenants!
Journalists who are imprudent enough to protest will not only be prosecuted for sedition, but their printing presses will be confiscated without the semblance of legal proceedings!
It should, perhaps, now be obvious why the head of your executive.’ congratulated Gladstone on the improvements which he had introduced in Ireland, and why Gladstone returned the compliment by congratulating your executive on its constitutional concessions. “A Roland for an Olivier,” those of your readers who know Shakespeare will say. But others who are more versed in the Moniteur than in Shakespeare will remember the letter sent by the head of your executive to the late Lord Palmerston containing the words “Let us not act like knaves!”
Now I shall return to the question of political prisoners, not without good cause.
The publication of Rossa’s first letter in the Marseillaise produced a great effect in England – the result is to be an enquiry.
The following dispatch was printed by all the newspapers in the United States:
“The Marseillaise says that O’Donovan Rossa was stripped naked once a day and examined, that he was starved, that he was locked in a dark cell, that he was harnessed to a cart, and that the death of his fellow prisoners was caused by the cold to which they were exposed.”
The Irishman’s New York correspondent says:
“The Rochefort Marseillaise has placed the suffering of the Fenian prisoners before the eyes of the American people. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Marseillaise which, I trust, will be promptly paid – “
Rossa’s letter has also been published by the German press.
From now onwards the English government will no longer be able to commit its outrages in silence. Mr. Gladstone will gain nothing from his attempt to silence the Irish press. Each journalist imprisoned in Ireland will be replaced by a hundred journalists in France, Germany and America.
What can Mr. Gladstone’s narrow-minded, out-of-date policies do against the international spirit of the nineteenth century?
VII The Death of John Lynch[edit source]
I am sending you extracts from a letter written to the Irishman by an Irish political prisoner during his detention (he is now at liberty) in a penal colony in Australia.
I shall limit myself to translating the episode concerning John Lynch.
Letter from John Casey
The following is a brief, impartial report of the treatment to which my brother exiles (twenty-four in number) and I were subjected during our incarceration in that pit of horrors, that living tomb which is called Portland Prison.
Above all it is my duty to pay a tribute of respect and justice to the memory of my friend John Lynch who was sentenced by an extraordinary tribunal in December 1865 and died at Woking Prison in April 1866.
Whatever may be the cause to which the jury has attributed his death, I confirm, and am able to furnish proof, that his death was accelerated by the cruelty of the prison warders.
To he imprisoned in the heart of winter in a cold cell for twenty-three hours out of twenty-four, insufficiently clad, sleeping on a hard board with a log of wood as a pillow and two worn blankets weighing barely ten Ibs. as one’s only protection against the excessive cold, deprived through an inexpressibly fine stroke of cruelty of even covering our frozen limbs with our clothes which we were forced to put outside our cell door, given unhealthy, meagre nourishment, having no exercise apart from a daily walk lasting three-quarters of an hour in a cage about 20 ft. long by 6 ft. wide designed for the worst type of criminals: such privation and suffering would break even an iron constitution. So it is not surprising that a person as delicate as Lynch should succumb to it almost immediately.
On arrival at the prison Lynch asked for permission to keep his flannels on. His request was rudely refused. “If you refuse I shall he dead in three months,” he replied on that occasion. Ah, little did I suspect that his words would come true. I could not imagine that Ireland was to lose one of her most devoted, ardent and noble sons so soon, and that I myself was to lose a tried and tested friend.
At the beginning of March I noticed that my friend was looking very ill and one day I took advantage of the jailer’s brief absence to ask him about his health. He replied that he was dying, that he had consulted the doctor several times, but that the latter had not paid the slightest attention to his complaints. His cough was 80 violent that although my cell was a long distance from his, I could hear it day and night resounding along the empty corridors. One jailer even told me, “Number 7’s time will soon be up – he should have been in hospital a month ago. I’ve often seen ordinary prisoners there looking a hundred times healthier than him.”
One day in April I looked out of my cell and saw a skeleton-like figure dragging itself along with difficulty and leaning on the bars for support, with a deathly pale face, glazed eyes and hollow cheeks. It was Lynch. I could not believe it was him until he looked at me, smiled and pointed to the ground as if to say: “I’m finished.”
This was the last time I saw Lynch.
This statement of Casey’s corroborates Rossa’s testimony about Lynch. And it should not be forgotten that Rossa wrote his letter in an English prison whilst Casey was writing in an Australian penal colony, making any communication between the two of them quite impossible. However, the government has just stated that Rossa’s assertions are lies. Bruce, PolIock and Knox even declare “that Lynch was given flannels before he asked for them.”
On the other hand Mr. Casey insists as firmly as Mr. Bruce denies it that Lynch complained that “even when he was incapable of walking and was forced to remain in the terrible solitude of his cell his request was refused.”
But as Mr. Laurier said in his beautiful speech:
“Let us leave aside human testimony and turn to the testimony that does not lie, the testimony that does not deceive, the silent testimony.”
The fact remains that Lynch entered Pentonville blooming with life, full of hope and vitality, and, three months later, this young man was a corpse.
Until Messrs. Gladstone, Bruce and his cohort of police can prove that Lynch is not dead, they are wasting their time in vain oaths.
VIII Letter From England[edit source]
London, April 19, 1870
“No priests in politics” is the watchword which can be heard all over Ireland at the moment.
The large party which has been opposing with all its might the despotism of the Catholic Church, ever since the “disestablishment” of the Protestant Church, is growing daily with remarkable rapidity and has just dealt the clergy a crushing blow.
At the Longford election the clerical candidate, Mr. Greville-Nugent, beat the people’s candidate, John Martin, but the nationalists challenged the validity of his election because of the illegal means by which it had been won, and got the better of their opponents. The election of Nugent was annulled by judge Fitzgerald who declared Nugent’s agents, that is to say the priests, guilty of having bribed the voters by flooding the country not with the Holy Spirit, but with spirits of a different kind. It appeared that in the single month from December 1 to January 1 alone the reverend fathers had spent £3,500 on whisky!
The Standard allows itself to make some most peculiar comments on the Longford election:
“With regard to their scorning of the intimidation by the clergy,” writes the mouthpiece of the “stupid party,” “the nationalists deserve our praise.... The great victory which they have won will encourage them to put up new candidates against Mr. Gladstone and his ultra-montane allies.”
The Times writes:
“From the Papal Bull issued in the eternal city to the intrigues of the country priests, all ecclesiastical power was lined up against Fenianism and the nationalists. Unfortunately this ardour was not accompanied by prudence, and will result in a second battle at Longford.”
The Times is right. The battle of Longford will break out again and be followed by those of Waterford, Mallow and Tipperary, the nationalists in these three counties also having presented petitions requesting the annulment of the election of the official members. In Tipperary it was O’Donovan Rossa who first won the election, but since Parliament stated that he was incapable of representing Tipperary the nationalists proposed Kickham in his place, one of the Fenian patriots who has just finished a spell in English prisons. Kickham’s supporters are now declaring that their candidate has been duly elected in spite of the fact that Heron, the government and clerical candidate, gained a majority of four votes.
Bear in mind, however, that one of these four voters for Heron is a wretched maniac who was taken to the poll by a reverend father – you know the weakness which priests have for the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And that the second voter is a corpse! Yes, the honest and moderate party actually dared to profane the name of a man who died a fortnight before the election by making him vote for a Gladstonian. Apart from this, patriotic voters say that eleven of their votes were discounted on the grounds that the first letter of Kickham’s name was illegible, that their telegrams were not delivered, that the authorities were bribing electors right and left and that a base system of intimidation was practised.
The pressure which was brought to bear in Tipperary was unprecedented even in the history of Ireland. The bailiff and the policeman, who stand for eviction warrants, besieged the tenants’ hovels in order to terrify wives and children first. The booths in which the voting took place were surrounded by police, soldiers, magistrates, landlords and priests.
The latter hurled stones at people who were putting up posters for Kickham. On top of all this, the moneylender was present in the booths, his eyes resting hungrily on his wretched debtor during the voting. But the government got nothing for all its pains. One thousand six hundred and sixty-eight small tenants braved it out and, unprotected by secret ballot, gave their votes openly for Kickham.
This brave act reminds us of the heroic struggle of the Poles.
Faced with the battles waged in Longford, Mallow, Waterford and Tipperary, will anyone still dare to say that the Irish are the abject slaves of the clergy.
- Gladstone’s speech appeared in The Times on March 4, 1870.
- The author paraphrases Voltaire’s words: “All genres are good except the boring one.”
- The demonstration demanding an amnesty for the Fenians detained in English prisons was held in Hyde Park on October 24, 1869.
- An anonymous article in The Times of March 16, 1870, written by Henry Bruce, Home Secretary in the Liberal Government, attempted to disprove the facts adduced by O’Donovan Rossa.
- George Moore’s speech in the House of Commons and Gladstone’s reply on March 17, 1870, were published in The Times on March 18, 1870.
- On December 13, 1867, a group of Fenians set off an explosion in London’s Clerkenwell Prison in an unsuccessful attempt to free the gaoled Fenian leaders. The explosion destroyed several neighbouring houses causing the death Of several people and wounding 120. The Fenian attempt was used by the bourgeois press to incite chauvinistic anti-Irish feelings among the English population.
- Before they assumed office in December 1868, when the election campaign was in full swing, Gladstone and the Liberals sharply criticised in the House of Commons the Conservative Government’s policy in Ireland, especially the reprisals against the participants in the Fenian movement. The Liberals compared the actions of the Conservatives with the conquest of England by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. The Fenian uprising was prepared by the Fenian Irish Revolutionary (republican) Brotherhood early in 1867 with the aim of winning independence for Ireland. It was to start on March 5. The organisers planned to form several mobile columns of insurgents who were to conduct guerilla warfare from bases in woods and mountainous areas. However, weak military leadership and the fact that the authorities got to know the insurgents’ intentions prevented the plan being brought to fruition. Armed revolt broke out only in some eastern and southern counties. The insurgents seized several police barracks and stations and for a short time gained control of the town of Killmalock (County Limerick). There were also clashes with the police in the suburbs of Dublin and Cork. The uprising failed because of the conspiratorial tactics of the Fenians and their weak ties with the masses. Half of the 169 participants in the uprising brought to trial were sentenced to hard labour.
- The Land Bill for Ireland was discussed in the English Parliament in the first half of 1870. Submitted by Gladstone on behalf of the English Government on the pretext of assisting Irish tenants, it contained so many provisos and restrictions that it actually left the basis of big landownership by the English landlords in Ireland intact. It also preserved their right to raise rents and to drive tenants off the land, stipulating only that the landlords pay a compensation to the tenants for land improvement, and instituting a definite judicial procedure for this. The Land Act was passed in August 1870. The landlords sabotaged the implementation of the Act in every way and found various ways round it. The Act greatly promoted the concentration of farms in Ireland into big estates and the ruination of small Irish tenants. The Coercion Bill was submitted by Gladstone to the House of Commons on March 17, 1870. Aimed against the national liberation movement, the Bill provided for the suspension of constitutional guarantees in Ireland, the introduction of a state of siege and the granting of extraordinary powers to the English authorities for the struggle against Irish revolutionaries. The Bill was passed by the English Parliament.
- A reference to the book: F. T. H. Blackwood, Mr. Mill’s Plan for the Pacification of Ireland Examined, London, 1868.
- A quotation from Reynolds’s Newspaper of March 20, 1870. The article was signed “Gracchus.”
- The author paraphrases Shakespeare. See King Henry VI, Part 1, Act I, Scene 2.
- Lawyer Laurier made this speech on March 25, 1870, at the trial of Prince Pierre Bonaparte, who was accused of the murder of the journalist Victor Noir. The speech was published in the French newspaper Marseillaise No. 97, March 27, 1870.