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Charles Stewart Parnell

      Charles Stewart Parnell, the Irish politician, was born at Avondale, in County Wicklow, June 28, 1846. His father belonged to an old Cheshire family, which purchased an estate in Ireland under Charles II., and from which had sprung Thomas Parnell, the poet, and Sir Henry Brooke Parnell, created Baron Congleton in 1841. His great-grandfather was that Sir John Parnell who was long Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, and an active supporter of Grattan in his struggle against the Union; his grandfather, William Parnell, sat for County Wicklow, and published in 1819 a foolish political novel, anything but Irish in sentiment; his mother, Delia Tudor Stewart, was daughter of Admiral Charles Stewart, of the United States Navy. He was educated at Yeovil and elsewhere in England under private masters, and was for some time a member of Magdalene College, Cambridge, but took no degree. In 1874 he became High Sheriff of County Wicklow; next year he contested County Dublin without success, but in April, 1875, was returned as an avowed Home Ruler for County Meath.

      He attached himself to Joseph Biggar, the member for Cavan, who was the first to discover the value of deliberate obstruction in parliamentary tactics, and during 1877 and 1878 he gained great popularity in Ireland by his audacity in the use of the new engine. There were many scenes of violence and excitement, and the new horror of all-night sittings became familiar to the House of Commons. Throughout the struggle Parnell showed equal audacity and coolness, and acquired a masterly knowledge of parliamentary forms. Mr. Butt, the Irish leader, disapproved of this development of the active or obstructive policy, but his influence quickly gave way before Parnell's, and in May, 1879, he died. The year before, Parnell had been elected president of the English Home Rule Association. He now threw himself with energy into agrarian agitation, gave it its watchword: "Keep a firm grip of your homesteads," at Westport in June, and in October was elected president of the Irish National Land League, which had been founded by Michael Davitt.

      Mr. Parnell next visited the United States to raise funds for the cause, was allowed, like Lafayette and Kossuth, to address Congress itself, and carried home #70,000. At the general election of 1880 he was returned for the counties of Meath and Mayo and for the city of Cork, and chose to sit for the last. He was now formally elected chairman of the Irish parliamentary party by twenty-three votes over eighteen for Mr. Shaw. Meantime the agrarian agitation grew, and in a speech at Ennis, September 19, 1880, he formulated the method of boycotting as an engine for punishing an unpopular individual. Mr. Gladstone's government now came to the conclusion that the objects of the Land League were contrary to the law, and in December put Parnell and several other members of the executive on trial, but the jury finally failed to agree. Next session the government brought in a Coercion Bill, which Mr. Parnell opposed vigorously. In the course of the struggle he was ejected from the House, after a stormy scene, together with thirty-four of his followers, February 3, 1881. Mr. Gladstone next carried his famous Land Bill, but this Parnell refused to accept as a final settlement until the result of certain test cases before the new Land Court was seen. On October 13th, Mr. Gladstone sent him to Kilmainham Jail, and there he lay till released on May 2, 1882, after some private negotiations with the government conducted through the medium of Captain O'Shea. Mr. Forster resigned the Irish secretaryship in consequence of the release, and next followed the terrible tragedy of Phoenix Park, of which Parnell, in his place in the House of Commons, expressed his detestation.

Parnell testifying against the "Times."

      The Crimes Act was now hurried through Parliament in spite of the strenuous opposition of the Irish party. Already the Land League had been proclaimed as an illegal association after the issue of the "No Rent" manifesto, but early in 1884 the Nationalists succeeded in reviving it under the name of the National League, and Mr. Parnell was elected its president. The year before the sum of #35,000, mostly raised in America, had been presented to him by his admirers. After an unsuccessful attempt to make terms with the Conservatives, in the course of which he had a famous interview with Lord Carnarvon, the viceroy, Parnell flung his vote--now eighty-six strong since the lowering of the franchise--into the Liberal scale and so brought about the fall of the short-lived first Salisbury government. Mr. Parnell nominated the greater number of Nationalist candidates for the Irish constituencies, and the firm hand with which he controlled his party was seen in the promptitude with which he crushed a revolt of Healy and Biggar against his nomination of Captain O'Shea for Galway.

      Mr. Gladstone's views on the question of Home Rule had by this time undergone a complete change, and accordingly he introduced a Home Rule Bill which was defeated owing to the defection of a large number of Liberal members headed by Lord Hartington and Mr. Chamberlain. The consequent appeal to the country (July, 1886) gave Lord Salisbury a Unionist majority of over a hundred votes, and threw Parnell into a close alliance with Mr. Gladstone and the portion of the Liberal party that adhered to him. It was at this period that the Times newspaper published its series of articles entitled "Parnellism and Crime"--a tremendous indictment against the chief Nationalist leaders, the most startling point in which was a series of letters published in fac-simile, one, signed by Parnell, expressing approval of Mr. Burke's murder. After an elaborate trial (extending to one hundred and twenty-eight days), the most sensational event in which was the breakdown under cross-examination, and the flight and suicide at Madrid, of Pigott, the wretched Irishman who had imposed upon the Times with forgeries, Mr. Parnell was formally cleared of the charge of having been personally guilty of organizing outrages, but his party were declared to have been guilty of incitements to intimidation, out of which had grown crimes which they had failed to denounce. Parnell now began an action against the Times, which was quickly compromised by a payment of 5,000.

      The "uncrowned king" of Ireland had now reached the summit of his power--the height of the wave was marked by the presentation of the freedom of Edinburgh, July 30, 1889, and the banquet given him on his forty-fourth birthday. But his fall in public esteem was quickly to follow. A few months later his frequent mysterious absences from his parliamentary duties were explained by his appearance, or rather his non-appearance, as co-respondent in a divorce case brought by Captain O'Shea against his wife. After formal evidence was given by the petitioner, the usual decree was granted with costs against Parnell (November 17, 1890).

      The Gladstonian party in England now demanded his retirement from the leadership of the cause, and Mr. Gladstone informed the Irish members that they must make their choice between Parnell and himself. They met and reappointed him their chairman, expecting, as the majority explained later, that after this recognition of his past services he would voluntarily retire, at least for a time. But they had not calculated upon the characteristic obstinacy of his nature, and quickly found that their leader had no mind to efface himself. After some days of profitless and heated wrangling, the majority ended the discussion by leaving the room and electing Justin McCarthy as their chairman. Parnell, with the shattered remnants of his party, now carried the warfare into Ireland, where his condemnation by the Irish bishops and the emphatic defeat of his nominees for North Kilkenny and North Sligo showed that a large number of his fellow-countrymen shared the judgment of his conduct pronounced by Mr. Gladstone and the party in England. The career of the man who had forced the issue of Irish Home Rule upon the English people, and made it the great question of the day, was drawing rapidly to its close. He died October 6, 1891.

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