With the death of Parnell a cloud of despair seemed to settle upon the land. Chaos had come again; indeed, it had come before, ever since the war of faction was set on foot and men devoted themselves to the satisfaction of savage passions rather than constructive endeavour for national ideals. We could have no greater tribute to Parnell's power than this - that when he disappeared the Party he had created was rent into at least three warring sections, intent for the most part on their own miserable rivalries, wasting their energies on small intrigues and wretched personalities and by their futilities bringing shame and disaster upon the Irish Cause. There followed what Mr William O'Brien describes in his Evening Memories as "eight years of unredeemed blackness and horror, upon which no Irishman of any of the three contending factions can look back without shame and few English Liberals without remorse."

And thus Ireland parted with "the greatest of her Captains" and reaped a full crop of failures as her reward. Too late there were flashing testimonials to his greatness. Too late it became a commonplace observation in Ireland, when the impotence of the sordid sections was apparent: "How different it would all be if Parnell were alive." Too late did we have tributes to Parnell's capacity from friend and foe which magnified his gifts of leadership beyond reach of the envious. Even the man who was more than any other responsible for his fall said of Parnell (Mr Barry O'Brien's Life of Parnell):

"Parnell was the most remarkable man I ever met. I do not say the ablest man; I say the most remarkable and the most interesting. He was an intellectual phenomenon. He was unlike anyone I had ever met. He did things and said things unlike other men. His ascendancy over his Party was extraordinary. There has never been anything like it in my experience in the House of Commons. He succeeded in surrounding himself with very clever men, with men exactly suited for his purpose. They have changed since - I don't know why. Everything seems to have changed. But in his time he had a most efficient party, an extraordinary party. I do not say extraordinary as an opposition but extraordinary as a Government. The absolute obedience, the strict discipline, the military discipline in which he held them was unlike anything I have ever seen. They were always there, they were always ready, they were always united, they never shirked the combat and Parnell was supreme all the time."

"Parnell was supreme all the time." This is the complete answer to those - and some of them are alive still - who said in the days of "the Split" that it was his Party which made him and not he who made the Party. In this connection I might quote also the following brief extract from a letter written by Mr William O'Brien to Archbishop Croke during the Boulogne negotiations:

"We have a dozen excellent front bench men in our Party but there is no other Parnell. They all mean well but it is not the same thing. The stuff talked of Parnell's being a sham leader, sucking the brains of his chief men, is the most pitiful rubbish."

Time proved, only too tragically, the correctness of Mr O'Brien's judgment. When the guiding and governing hand of Parnell was withdrawn the Party went to pieces. In the words of Gladstone: "they had changed since then" - and I may add that at no subsequent period did they gain the same cohesion, purpose or power as a Party.

It may be well when dealing with Parnell's position in Irish history to quote the considered opinion of an independent writer of neutral nationality. M. Paul Dubois, a well-known French author, in his masterly work, Contemporary Ireland, thus gives his estimate of Parnell:

"Parnell shares with O'Connell the glory of being the greatest of Irish leaders. Like O'Connell he was a landlord and his family traditions were those of an aristocrat. Like him, too, he was overbearing, even despotic in temperament. But in all else Parnell was the very opposite of the 'Liberator.' The Protestant leader of a Catholic people, he won popularity in Ireland without being at all times either understood or personally liked. In outward appearance he had nothing of the Irishman, nothing of the Celt about him. He was cold, distant and unexpansive in manner and had more followers than friends. His speech was not that of a great orator. Yet he was singularly powerful and penetrating, with here and there brilliant flashes that showed profound wisdom. A man of few words, of strength rather than breadth of mind - his political ideals were often uncertain and confused - he was better fitted to be a combatant than a constructive politician. Beyond all else he was a Parliamentary fighter of extraordinary ability, perfectly self-controlled, cold and bitter, powerful at hitting back. It was precisely these English qualities that enabled him to attain such remarkable success in his struggle with the English. Pride was perhaps a stronger motive with him than patriotism or faith."

We have here the opinions of those who knew Parnell in Parliament - the one as his opponent, the other as, perhaps, his most intimate friend - and of an independent outsider who had no part or lot in Irish controversies. It may be perhaps not amiss if I conclude this appreciation of Parnell with the views of an Irishman of the latest school of Irish thought. Mr R. Mitchell Henry, in his work, The Evolution of Sinn Fein, writes:

"The pathetic and humiliating performance (of the Butt 'Home Rulers') was ended by the appearance of Charles Stewart Parnell, who infused into the forms of Parliamentary action the sacred fury of battle. He determined that Ireland, refused the right of managing her own destinies, should at least hamper the English in the government of their own house; he struck at the dignity of Parliament and wounded the susceptibilities of Englishmen by his assault upon the institution of which they are most justly proud. His policy of Parliamentary obstruction went hand in hand with an advanced land agitation at home. The remnant of the Fenian Party rallied to his cause and suspended for the time, in his interests and in furtherance of his policy, their revolutionary activities. For Parnell appealed to them by his honest declaration of his intentions; he made it plain both to Ireland and to the Irish in America that his policy was no mere attempt at a readjustment of details in Anglo-Irish relations but the first step on the road to national independence. He was strong enough both to announce his ultimate intentions and to define with precision the limit which must be placed upon the immediate measures to be taken.... He is remembered, not as the leader who helped to force a Liberal Government to produce two Home Rule Bills but as the leader who said 'No man can set bounds to the march of a nation....' To him the British Empire was an abstraction in which Ireland had no spiritual concern; it formed part of the order of the material world in which Ireland found a place; it had, like the climatic conditions of Europe, or the Gulf Stream, a real and preponderating influence on the destinies of Ireland. But the Irish claim was, to him, the claim of a nation to its inherent rights, not the claim of a portion of an empire to its share in the benefits which the Constitution of that empire bestowed upon its more favoured parts."

Judged by the most varied standards and opinions the greatness of Parnell as the leader of a nation is universally conceded. The question may be asked: But what did Parnell actually accomplish to entitle him to this distinction? I will attempt briefly to summarise his achievements. He found a nation of serfs, and if he did not actually make a nation of freemen of them he set them on the high road to freedom, he gave them a measure of their power when united and disciplined, and he taught them how to resist and combat the arrogance, the greed and the inbred cruelty of landlordism. He struck at England through its most vulnerable point - through its Irish garrison, with its cohorts of unscrupulous mercenaries and hangers-on. He struck at it in the very citadel of its own vaunted liberties - in the Parliament whose prestige was its proudest possession and which he made it his aim to shatter, to ridicule and to destroy. He converted an Irish Party of complaisant time-servers, Whigs and office-seekers into a Party of irreproachable incorruptibility, unbreakable unity, iron discipline and a magnificently disinterested patriotism. He formulated the demand for Irish nationhood with clearness and precision. He knew how to bargain with the wiliest and subtlest statesman of his age, and great and powerful as Gladstone was he met in Parnell a man equally conscious of his own strength and equally tenacious of his principles. In fact, on every encounter the ultimate advantage rested with Parnell. He won on the Land Question, he won on the labourer's demands, he won on the Home Rule issue and he showed what a potent weapon the balance of power could be in the hands of a capable and determined Irish leader.

Not alone did he create an impregnable Irish Party; he established a united Irish race throughout the world. His sway was acknowledged with the same implicit confidence among the exiled Irish in America and Australia as it was by the home-folk in Ireland. He was the great cementing influence of an Irish solidarity such as was never before attempted or realised. He did a great deal to arrest the outflow of the nation's best blood by emigration, and, if he had no strong or striking policy on matters educational and industrial, he gave manhood to the people, he developed character in them, he gave them security in their lands and homes, and, if the unhappy cataclysm of his later days had not be-fallen, he would unquestionably have given them a measure of self-government from which they could march onward to the fullest emancipation that the status of nationhood demands.

There was never stagnation, nor stupidity, nor blundering in the handling of Irish affairs whilst his hand was on the helm. It was only later that the creeping paralysis of inefficiency and incompetence exhibited itself and that a people deprived of his genius for direction and control sank into unimagined depths of apathy, indifference and gloom.

He thwarted and defeated what appeared to be the settled policy of England - namely, to palter and toy with Irish problems, to postpone their settlement, to engage in savage repressions and ruthless oppressions until, the race being decimated by emigration or, what remained, being destroyed in their ancient faiths by a ruthless method of Anglicisation, the Irish Question would settle itself by a process of gradual attenuation unto final disappearance.

It was Parnell who practically put an end to evictions in Ireland - those "sentences of death" under which, from 1849 to 1882, there were no less than 363,000 peasant families turned out of their homes and driven out of their country. It was his policy which invested the tenants with solid legal rights and gave them unquestioned guarantees against landlord lawlessness. He and his lieutenants had their bouts with Dublin Castle, and they proved what a very vulnerable institution it was when courageously assailed.

Taken all in all, he brought a new life into Ireland. He left it for ever under manifold obligations to him, and whilst grass grows and water runs and the Celtic race endures, Ireland will revere the name of Parnell and rank him amongst the noblest of her leaders.