Chaos had come again upon the Irish Cause, and the Irish people, who were so near the goal of success, wasted many years, that might have been better spent, in futile and fratricidal strife, in which all the baser passions of politics ran riot and played havoc with the finer purposes of men engaged in a struggle for liberty and right.
Thedeath of A leader
There is no Irishman who can study the incidents leading up to Parnell’s downfall and the wretched controversies connected with it without feelings of shame that such a needless sacrifice of greatness should have been made.
Parnell broke off the Boulogne negotiations ostensibly on the ground that the assurances of Mr Gladstone on the Home Rule Question were not sufficient and that if he was to be “thrown to the English wolves,” to use his own term, the Irish people were not getting their price in return. But giving the best thought possible to all the available materials it would seem that Mr Dillon’s reflection on Parnell’s bona fides was really at the root of the ultimate break-away.
Mr Barry O’Brien, in his Life of Parnell, thus describes the incident:
“Parnell went to Calais and met Mr O’Brien and Mr Dillon. The Liberal assurances were then submitted to him and he considered them unsatisfactory; but this was not the only trouble. Mr O’Brien had looked forward with hope to the meeting between Parnell and Mr Dillon. He believed the meeting would make for peace. He was awfully disappointed. Mr Dillon succeeded completely in getting Parnell’s back up, adding seriously to the difficulties of the situation. He seemed specially to have offended Parnell by proposing that he (Mr Dillon) should have the decisive voice in the distribution of the Paris Funds.... Mr Dillon proposed that the funds might be drawn without the intervention of Parnell; that, in fact, Mr Dillon should take the place Parnell had hitherto held. Parnell scornfully brushed aside this proposal and broke off relations with Mr Dillon altogether, though to the end he remained on friendly terms with Mr O’Brien.”
It is a vivid memory with me how closely we in Ireland hung upon the varying fortunes and vicissitudes of the Boulogne pourparlers, and how earnest was the hope in every honest Irish heart that a way out might be found which would not involve our incomparable leader in further humiliations. But alas for our hopes! The hemlock had to be drained to the last bitter drop. Meanwhile Parnell never rested day or night. He rushed from one end of the country to the other, addressing meetings, fighting elections, stimulating his followers, answering his defamers and all the time exhausting the scant reserves of strength that were left him.