In the cabin, in the shieling, in the home of the "fattest" farmer, as well as around the open hearth of the most lowly peasant, in town and country, wherever there were hearts that hoped for Irish liberty and that throbbed to the martial music of "the old cause," the name of Parnell was revered with a devotion such as was scarcely ever rendered to any leader who had gone before him. A halo of romance had woven itself around his figure and all the poetry and passion of the mystic Celtic spirit went forth to him in the homage of a great loyalty and regard. The title of "The Uncrowned King of Ireland" was no frothy exuberance as applied to him - for he was in truth a kingly man, robed in dignity, panoplied in power, with a grand and haughty bearing towards the enemies of his people - in all things a worthy chieftain of a noble race. The one and only time in life I saw him was when he was a broken and a hunted man and when the pallor of death was upon his cheeks, but even then I was impressed by the majesty of his bearing, the dignity of his poise, the indescribably magnetic glance of his wondrous eyes, and the lineaments of power in every gesture, every tone and every movement. He awed and he attracted at the same time. He stood strikingly out from all others at that meeting at Tralee, where I was one of a deputation from Killarney who presented him with an address of loyalty and confidence, which, by the way, I, as a youthful journalist starting on my own adventurous career, had drafted. It was one of his last public appearances, and the pity of it all that it should be so, when we now know, with the fuller light and knowledge that has been thrown upon that bitterest chapter of our tribulations, that with the display of a little more reason and a juster accommodation of temper, Parnell might have been saved for his country, and the whole history of Ireland since then - if not, indeed, of the world - changed for the better. But these are vain regrets and it avails not to indulge them, though it is permissible to say that the desertion of Parnell brought its own swift retribution to the people for whom he had laboured so potently and well.

I have read all the authentic literature I could lay hold of bearing upon the Parnell imbroglio, and it leaves me with the firm conviction that if there had not been an almost unbelievable concatenation of errors and misunderstandings and stupid blunderings, Parnell need never have been sacrificed. And the fact stands out with clearness that the passage in Gladstone's "Nullity of Leadership" letter, which was the root cause of all the trouble that followed, would never have been published were it not that the political hacks, through motives of party expediency, insisted on its inclusion. That plant of tender growth - the English Nonconformist conscience - it was that decreed the fall of the mighty Irish leader.

It is only in recent years that the full facts of what happened during what is known as "The Parnell Split" have been made public, and these facts make it quite clear that neither during the Divorce Court proceedings nor subsequently had Parnell had a fair fighting chance. Let it be remembered that no leader was ever pursued by such malignant methods of defamation as Parnell, and it is questionable how far the Divorce Court proceedings were not intended by his enemies as part of this unscrupulous campaign. Replying to a letter of William O'Brien before the trial, Parnell wrote: "You may rest quite sure that if this proceeding ever comes to trial (which I very much doubt) it is not I who will quit the court with discredit." And when the whole mischief was done, and the storm raged ruthlessly around him, Parnell told O'Brien, during the Boulogne negotiations, that he all but came to blows with Sir Frank Lockwood (the respondent's counsel) when insisting that he should be himself examined in the Divorce Court, and he intimated that if he had prevailed the political complications that followed could never have arisen. On which declaration Mr O'Brien has this footnote: "The genial giant Sir Frank Lockwood confessed to me in after years: 'Parnell was cruelly wronged all round. There is a great reaction in England in his favour. I am not altogether without remorse myself.'"

Not all at once were the flood-gates of vituperation let loose upon Parnell. Not all at once did the question of his continued leadership arise. He had led his people, with an incomparable skill and intrepidity, not unequally matched with the genius of Gladstone himself, from a position of impotence and contempt to the supreme point where success was within their reach. A General Election, big with the fate of Ireland, was not far off. Was the matchless leader who had led his people so far and so well to disappear and to leave his country the prey of warring factions - he who had established a national unity such as Ireland had never known before? "For myself," writes William O'Brien, "I should no more have voted Parnell's displacement on the Divorce Court proceedings alone than England would have thought of changing the command on the eve of the battle of Trafalgar in a holy horror of the frailties of Lady Hamilton and her lover."

The Liberal Nonconformists, however, shrieked for his head in a real or assumed outburst of moral frenzy, and the choice thrust upon the Irish people and their representatives was as to whether they should remain faithful to the alliance with the Liberal Party, to which the Irish nation unquestionably stood pledged, or to the leader who had won so much for them and who might win yet more if he had a united Ireland behind him, unseduced and unterrified by the clamour of English Puritan moralists. O'Brien and Dillon and other leading Irishmen were in America whilst passions were being excited and events marching to destruction over here. "The knives were out," as one fiery protagonist of the day rather savagely declared. It is, as I have already inferred, now made abundantly clear that Gladstone would not have included in his letter the famous "Nullity of Leadership" passage if other counsels had not overborne his own better judgment.

It was this letter of Gladstone which set the ball rolling against Parnell. Up till then the members of the Irish Party and the Irish people were solidly and, indeed, defiantly with him. No doubt Michael Davitt joined with such zealots as the Rev. Mr Price Hughes and W.T. Stead in demanding the deposition of Parnell, but one need not be uncharitable in saying that Davitt had his quarrels with Parnell - and serious ones at that - on the Land Question and other items of the national demand, and he was, besides, a man of impetuous temperament, not overmuch given to counting the consequences of his actions.

Then there came the famous, or infamous, according as it be viewed, struggle in Committee Room 15 of the House of Commons, when, by a majority of 45 to 29, it was finally decided to declare the chair vacant, after a battle of unusual ferocity and personal bitterness. And now a new element of complication was added to the already sufficiently poignant tragedy by the entry of the Irish Catholic bishops on the scene. Hitherto they had refrained, with admirable restraint, from interference, and they had done nothing to intensify the agonies of the moment. It will always remain a matter for regret that they did not avail themselves of a great opportunity, and their own unparalleled power with the people, to mediate in the interests of peace - whilst their mediation might still avail. But unfortunately, with one notable exception, they united in staking the entire power of the Church on the dethronement of Parnell. The effect was twofold. It added fresh fury to the attacks of those who were howling for the head of their erstwhile chieftain and who were glad to add the thunderbolts of the Church to their own feebler weapons of assault; but the more permanent effect, and, indeed, the more disastrous, was the doubt it left on the minds of thousands of the best Irishmen whether there was not some malign plot in which the Church was associated with the ban-dogs of the Liberal Party for dishing Home Rule by overthrowing Parnell. It was recalled that the Catholic priesthood, with a few glorious exceptions, stood apart from Parnell when he was struggling to give life and force to the Irish movement, and thus it came to pass that for many a bitter year the part of the Irish priest in politics was freely criticised by Catholics whose loyalty to the Church was indisputable.

Even still - if only the temporary withdrawal of Parnell were secured - all might have been well. And it was to this end that the Boulogne negotiations were set on foot. Mr William O'Brien has, perhaps, left us the most complete record of what transpired in the course of those fateful conversations. Parnell naturally desired to get out of a delicate situation with all possible credit and honour, and his magnificent services entitled him to the utmost consideration in this respect. He insisted on demanding guarantees from Mr Gladstone on Home Rule and the Land Question, and these given he expressed his willingness to retire from the position of Chairman of the Party. At first he insisted on Mr William O'Brien being his successor, but O'Brien peremptorily dismissed this for reasons which were to him unalterable. Mr Dillon was then agreed to, and a settlement was on the point of achievement when a maladroit remark of this gentleman about the administration of the Paris Funds so grievously wounded the pride of Parnell that the serenity of the negotiations was irreparably disturbed, and from that moment the movement for peace was merely an empty show.

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.