War in the Enemy's Camp, 1877-1903

40. The scene, however, now shifted to the Parliament in London. The nation had never given great heed to the proceedings in that Parliament, but they now did so because of a striking personality that had arisen in it. That personality was Charles Stewart Parnell. Englishmen were bewildered at this personality, so full of passion, and yet with that passion controlled by so implacable a will and so proud a reserve; but Irishmen understood it perfectly. They understood its purpose, and rejoiced in it. Parnell was determined if the English Parliament would not concede the demand of the Irish nation that it would at least accomplish no other work. He was resolved, if necessary, to make a bear-garden of its proceedings. And he accomplished his purpose some success, while his nation applauded. He became the most hated man in England and the best beloved in Ireland. Yet whenever he spoke he shewed that he had as shrewd a perception of English political situations as he had a statesmanlike grasp of Irish problems. Therefore, he never permitted the effort on Irish soil to relax, though he sought to bring that effort to bear on the field where he himself fought.

When England gave power for Coercion in Ireland he pointed out the perfect logic and inevitability of the action. Joseph Chamberlain stated in 1885 that the English "system in Ireland is founded on the bayonets of 30,000 soldiers, encamped permanently as in a hostile country"; and since the beginning of the century there had scarcely been a year when Coercion or Insurrection Acts had not been in force. "This," said Parnell, "was a public admission that the Irish nation was a nation in captivity." The English nation, whom it pleased to consider Ireland as part of a free English people, desiring to impose that fiction on Europe, was as enraged at his cold logic as it was at his ruthless will. ........ First, it was permitted a revision of rents; then it won security of tenure; and finally it was permitted to purchase back the land that had four hundred years before been taken from it. It required menace, with both the threat and execution of arms, at each stage; but the result was that the nation, now fully awake and resurgent, won the second stage on the road before it.