§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
said, Mr. Speaker, I desire, with your permission and that of the House, to make a very brief statement of a personal character with regard to certain charges which have been made against me in the recent trial of "O'Donnell v. Walter and another," which charges I consider seriously affect my character as a Member of Parliament—charges which I consider I ought to lose no time in contradicting from my place in the House. They are contained in a series of letters, some alleged to have been written by other persons, some of them alleged to have been written by me; and I will say with regard to any charges which have been made against me in reference to the questions involved in that trial, and also in regard to any charges which might have been made against me, that I attended in Court during a portion of two days in the expectation that I would have been called as a witness in the case, and that I would have had an opportunity of answering on oath the charges which had been made or which were to be made. However, Sir, the unexpected turn which the case took deprived me of that opportunity; and therefore I now take this, the first opportunity of making a statement in reference to the matter to the House. I will first deal with the letters in the order in which they were given by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster), the counsel for the defendants in this case. The first of them was a letter purporting to have been written and signed by Mr. Patrick Egan, under date February 24, 1881. It is to the following effect:—My dear Friend,—Write under cover to Madame Rouyer, 99, Avenue de Villiers. Mr. Parnell is here and will remain for about a week. I have spoken to him about a further advance for the "A" fund, he has no objection, and you may count upon it. All goes well. We have met Mr. O'L. and other friends who 576 are here, and all are agreed that prompt and decisive action is called for.Yours very faithfully P. EGAN.The hon. and learned Attorney General went on to state that Mr. O'Leary was a person who had been convicted of treason felony. Well, Sir, in regard to that letter, I have not seen it, but I am perfectly convinced that it is an undoubted forgery, and that if the case had gone on, and if that letter had been produced by the defendants in the case, it would have been easily proved to the satisfaction of the jury that that letter is a forgery. With regard to Mr. O'Leary, I wish to say that I know him personally, and from my long knowledge of him I am convinced—both from my knowledge of his public and private character—that he would never have countenanced or taken part in any scheme of assassination whatever. Further, although I have no knowledge of the line of defence that Mr. O'Donnell would have adopted, I believe that Mr. O'Leary, if he had been asked to do so —he is now living in Ireland, and has been for several years—would have come into the box and would have sworn that there was no foundation for the imputation against him contained in that letter. The next letter is one from myself. It bears no date except that of Tuesday, and it is a short letter in the following terms:—
§ "Dear Sir,—Tell B. to write to me direct. Have not yet received the papers.
§ Yours very truly,
§ CHAS. S. PARNELL."
§ I can only say, Sir, that I have not seen this letter. It may be genuine, but certainly I have no recollection of any business of that kind which could have called upon me to write such a letter. The letter, of course, is of an innocent character; all I have got to say about it is that it may have been written by me, but I am inclined to believe that it was not written by me. The next letter is one from Mr. Patrick Egan, or alleged to be from Mr. Patrick Egan, under date October 25th, 1881. It is as follows:—
§ "Dear Sir,—I have by this post sent in £200; he will give you what you want. When will you undertake to get to work, and give us value for our money?
§ I am, dear Sir, faithfully yours,
§ PATRICK EGAN.
§ James Carey, Esq."577
Now, Sir, this letter was alleged by the counsel for the defendants to have been found in James Carey's house in Dublin; but, at the same time, if it was found in James Carey's house in Dublin it was found by the police. The police thoroughly searched James Carey's house from top to bottom, and did find there some admittedly genuine letters of Mr. Egan which have not been produced in the case. But if this letter was found by the police the excuse, and this is the only controversial matter I will go into in reference to this case, because it concerns an absent man—namely, Mr. Egan, against whom no charge has ever been advanced in a Court of Justice in reference to this matter—the excuse that was given for not producing any documents and the persons from whom the defendants got any documents could not hold, for there could be no objection to produce the police to say they found the letter if it was found at all. Sir, Mr. Egan has cabled from America denying in the strongest terms that he ever wrote any such letter to Carey. The next letter is one alleged to be in the writing of Mr. Henry Campbell, who was my private secretary for some years, and to be signed by myself. It is dated as follows:—
9, 1, 1882. Dear E,—what are these fellows waiting for?
§ at that time I was in Kilmainham prison—
§ "This inaction is inexcusable. Our best men are in prison, and nothing is being done. Let there be an end of this hesitancy. Prompt action is called for. You undertook to make it hot for old Forster and Co. Let us have some evidence of your power to do so. My health is good, thanks.
§ Yours very truly,
§ CHAS. S. PARNELL."
§ Now, Sir, this letter I denounce as an absolute forgery. I never wrote it; I never signed it; I never directed it to be written; I never authorized it to be written, and I never saw it. As I have said, I have never seen this letter, and I am not able to say whether it is in Mr. Campbell's handwriting or not, but if the body of it is in the same handwriting as the alleged fac simile of another alleged letter of mine published by The Times last year, I most unhesitatingly say it is not in Mr. Campbell's handwriting. The next letter is one alleged to have 578 been signed by myself. It is under date May 15, 1882, and reads as follows:—
§ "Dear Sir,—I am not surprised at your friend's anger, but he and you should know that to denounce the murderers was the only course open to us. To do that promptly was plainly our best policy. But you can tell him and all others concerned, that, though I regret the accident of Lord F. Cavendish's death, I cannot refuse to admit that Burke got no more than his deserts. You are at liberty to show him this, and others you can trust also, but let not my address be known. He can write to the House of Commons.
§ Yours very truly,
§ CHAS. S. PARNELL."
§ This letter was published by The Times in fac simile a year ago. At the time I denied in the strongest terms that it was signed by me, or authorized by me, or that I knew anything whatever about it. I repeat that denial here to-day, and I say that the statement made in Court that the body of the letter was in Mr. Henry Campbell's handwriting was untrue. It has not the least resemblance to Mr. Henry Campbell's handwriting. With regard to this particular letter, I may mention the fact—I think I ought to mention the fact, which I have never mentioned before, because at the time I was dealing with this subject in the House formerly I was not aware of this fact, and it is that the signature which is attached to this letter is a copy of a signature of mine which I have not used since the end of 1879. The letter bearing date 15th May, 1882, has attached to it a copy of a signature of mine which I have not used since the end of 1879. At the time I was speaking on this subject in the House before, I had forgotten that I had ever used such a signature—indeed, the three years' interval between the years 1879 and 1882 had caused me to forget that I ever had used such a signature as that attached to this letter, and it was only upon looking over correspondence with my agent, consisting of about 100 letters which I had written during the last 10 years, that I found I had changed my signature at the end of 1879. Then I remembered definitely for the first time that I had so changed it. I changed it at the end of 1879 when I first went to America, and I have not been able to find a single letter written by me since then, or a single signature attached by me to any document public or private, which is the same as that I used up to 579 that date at the end of that year. This is a very remarkable fact, and the House will give it that significance to which it is entitled. That fact, I may say, does not apply to another of the letters, the one dated from Kilmainham. The letter dated from Kilmainham undoubtedly does boar an imitation, and a fairly good imitation, of the signature I was in the habit of using at that time. Then comes another letter, under date June 16, 1882—
§ "Dear Sir,—I am sure you will feel that I could not appear in Parliament in the face of this thing unless I condemned it. Our position there is always difficult to maintain; it would be untenable, but for the course we took. That is the truth. I can say no more.
§ Yours very truly,
§ CHAS. S. PARNELL."
§ I denounce that letter as an absolute forgery. I never wrote it; I never heard of it until the hon. and learned Attorney General read it out in his statement, and I certainly never signed it, or caused it to be written. The same thing applies to the letter of the same date subsequently read by the learned Attorney General—
§ "June 16, 1882.
§ Dear Sir,—I shall always be anxious to have the good-will of your friends, but why do they impugn my motives? I could not consent to the conditions they would impose, but I accept the responsibility for what we have done.
§ Yours very truly,
§ CHAS. S. PARNELL."
§ Now, Sir, I come to the letter which is alleged to have been written by Mr. Frank Byrne under date February 8th, 1882, from Cannes, France, to the executive of the National League and the Land League of Great Britain. I have not seen this letter, and I have no means of saying whether it is genuine or not; but it appears to me, from its context and the nature of it, to be a genuine letter. I am not prepared to admit that it is genuine until I have seen it, and have some opportunity of testing its authenticity; but it appears to me, from the words and the context, to be a genuine letter. He says—
§ "Mr. McSweeney will also have informed you that I received the promised cheque, £100, from Mr. Parnell on the day I left London."
§ Now, I did not know Mr. Frank Byrne was going to leave London when he did. I certainly never gave Mr. Frank Byrne a cheque for £100, or any money what- 580 ever, during the whole course of my life, save once many years ago; it must be 10 or 12 years ago—at the time Mr. Isaac Butt was alive. A testimonial was got up for Mr. Frank Byrne, then an officer of the Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain, because he had fallen dangerously ill, and it was thought likely that he was going to lose the sight of his eyes. I subscribed some small sum on that occasion. That is the only sum I ever paid to Mr. Frank Byrne. My memory is perfectly clear and distinct on that, and as to this cheque for £100, I certainly never paid him that or any sum of money at all. My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) will tell you that it was he who paid Mr. Frank Byrne the £100 cheque on the day he left, innocently, and in the ordinary course of his duty as president of the National League of Great Britain. I had very little to do with Mr. Frank Byrne at any time. I was not a member of the National League of Great Britain, of which Mr. Frank Byrne was the secretary. I saw Mr. Frank Byrne very seldom indeed, and I had no means of knowing his goings out or his comings in. But if I had been in a different position it would not necessarily have attached any suspicion whatever to me. I merely state the facts as they are. I think that that finishes all the references I have to make to these letters. The great majority of them are palpable forgeries—most undoubted forgeries; they bear the look of forgery on their very face. The context of most of these letters is perfectly absurd. In order to attach any credence to them you must suppose that I deliberately put myself in the power of a great number of people who were privy to the Phœnix Park murders, that I entered into correspondence with them, attaching my own signature to letters, that I put myself in the power of men who had halters round their necks, and were accessories, and that I put myself in the position of being accessory before or after the fact. The letter alleged to be written from Kilmainham prison is plainly an incitement by me to Mr. Egan to compass the assassination of Mr. Forster. The House must suppose that I, a prisoner in Kilmainham with a desire to assassinate Mr. Forster, was fool enough to communicate this 581 desire to Mr. Egan in writing, with all the risks and the absolute certainty that the Governor and the Government would become possessed of the letter long before it could reach Mr. Egan, who was hundreds of miles away. I do not wish to enlarge upon these matters; I could go over every one of these letters, and show the inherent absurdities and improbabilities connected with all of them. I do not wish to trespass on your kind indulgence, Sir, and that of the House, and I will only say that the absurdity of the whole series of letters, with one or two trifling exceptions which I have pointed out, must be palpable on the face of them to every fair-minded man.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY (Londonderry)
I ask the leave of the House for a few moments in order that I may make a short and straightforward statement about this mysterious cheque for £100 given or sent to Mr. Frank Byrne on the day he left London and proceeded to Cannes, as I understood, to have a holiday on account of ill-health. I gave him the cheque, in a simple, business-like way, as I will explain to the House in a few words. Our association—of which my hon. Friend was not then, and never has been, a member—was supported by contributions from all parts of the country, by profits from lectures delivered here, there, and everywhere, by subscriptions through branches, and by the sale of cards of membership. Sums of money came to Mr. Byrne, as secretary of the confederation, in all sorts of forms, sometimes in large cheques, sometimes in small cheques, sometimes in postal orders in varying amounts going down as low as 1s. There was no banking account in connection with the association, and, therefore, to make matters easy, I received all the small amounts from Mr. Byrne at different times; we went over them, and I gave him a cheque on my own bankers. When he was leaving for Cannes he came to me where I was living, in one of the flats in Victoria Street, saying that he had to pay some bills, and that he had got some cheques and postal orders which he wanted me to change. I could not see him myself, but my son saw him, and brought to me the cheques and orders, with a note of the amount, and I gave him a cheque for £100 in my own name, and passed all these cheques and orders through my 582 own bankers. This is the simple business-like transaction out of which the whole of this story has grown up. I must say that I cannot even yet attach any blame to myself for having no suspicion of any sinister purpose on the part of Mr. Byrne. He had been an officer of the association for many years under Mr. Isaac Butt, Mr. Mitchell Henry, and Mr. Shaw, and he never in my presence—and I saw him constantly upon business—said one word which would make any one suppose for a moment that he was other than a practical, hard-headed and hard-working officer of the association, whose whole purpose and bent of mind was directed to the work of the association, to registration, and to fighting elections throughout the country. I do not think that out of this common business-like transaction any suspicion could arise, and I never heard any charge against Mr. Frank Byrne until after he went to Cannes. My impression of things now has nothing to do with the statement I make. I tell the House truly I have stated how this whole affair occurred. There was no reason for my not giving this cheque to Byrne under these conditions, and I leave this marvellous and portentous story, out of which so much has been made, to the judgment of the House and the country.