Séminaire franco-britannique d’histoire
Jeudi 26 janvier à 17h, salle D421 à Sorbonne Université, Maison de la recherche, 28 rue Serpente 75006 Paris
Frank Rynne (CY Cergy Paris Université), The Queen v. Parnell: A state trial and the Irish Land War, 1879-82
In nineteenth century Ireland, the end result of state trials was generally a foregone conclusion with conviction inevitable. State trials were political trials aimed at thwarting sedition or political movements. Examples include the trial of Daniel O’Connell and others in 1844 and the Fenian Special Commission in 1866. However, during the Irish Land War 1879-82 much had changed in Ireland. The case, The Queen v. Parnell and others was a more nuanced and complicated affair. From the outset the government had little confidence that they would secure convictions. The Irish Land War, 1879-82, resulted from a compact between the transnational Fenian movement and radical politicians in Ireland led by Charles Stuart Parnell. Central to the agitation, which ostensibly sought to gain peasant proprietorship for tenant farmers, was a national organisation, The Irish National Land League. Through the summer and autumn of 1880 Land League branches were founded throughout Ireland with mass meetings being held even in the remotest districts.
By autumn 1880 government appointees in Ireland were at loggerheads with Gladstone over his refusal to continence a coercion act for Ireland. While Gladstone resisted draconian measures, the Irish administration sought to appease potentates who demanded habeas corpus suspension. It was clear to the Dublin Castle administration that should the trial fail to result in convictions Gladstone’s hand would be forced and he would have to introduce a coercion in Ireland. Thus, the state invested a vast amount of human and financial capital in pursuing the case.
The documentation associated with the preparation for the trial and the evidence presented offers unique insights into the Irish National Land League’s rapid growth and also the nature of government in Ireland in the 1880s. The trial itself and its aftermath, which included the introduction of habeas corpus suspension in Ireland, illustrates the complexity of the Irish political situation during the Land War. It is also clear that the leaders of the Irish Nationalist movement revelled in the prospect of a state trial for conspiracy; confident in acquittal and relishing such a platform for promoting their agenda. This paper will also examine the preparation for the trial and the remarkable throve of evidence the government compiled. It is clear that rather than being a further example of what nationalists might have concluded was the judicial suppression of a political movement, The Queen v. Parnell illustrates a symbiotic propaganda exercise by both the government in Ireland and the Land League.
Frank Rynne is a Senior Lecturer in British Studies and Irish history at CY Cergy Paris Université and a Visiting Research Fellow at The School of Modern History, Trinity College Dublin. He is a member of Agora (EA 7392) CY Cergy Paris Université and an associate member of Prismes (EA 4398) Université Sorbonne Nouvelle.