I can only rapidly sketch the events that followed the publication of the Land Conference Report. Mr Sexton made it his business in The Freeman's Journal to decry its findings on the sinister ground that they offered too much to the landlords and were not sufficiently favourable to the tenants, sneering at the proposal for a bonus, hinting that no Government would find money for this purpose. Mr Davitt, who was an earnest disciple of Henry George's ideal of Land Nationalisation, naturally enough found nothing to like in the proposals for land purchase, which would set up a race of peasant-proprietors who would never consent to surrender their ownership to the State and would consequently make the application of the principles of Land Nationalisation for ever impossible in Ireland. Besides, Michael Davitt had cause for personal hatred of landlordism, which exiled his parents after eviction, and incidentally meant the loss of an arm to himself, and a violence of language which would be excusable in him would not be justifiable or allowable in the cases of men who had not suffered similarly, such as Messrs Dillon and Sexton. Yet the fault was not theirs if the Land Conference did not end in wreckage and such a glorious chance of national reconciliation and appeasement was not lost to Ireland.

In the meantime Sir Antony MacDonnell, greatly daring and, I would likewise say, greatly patriotic, accepted the offer of the Irish Under-Secretaryship in a spirit of self-abnegation beyond praise. Mr Redmond and Mr O'Brien had, at his request, met him, early in February, 1903, to discuss the provisions of the contemplated Purchase Bill. It may be remarked that Messrs Dillon and Davitt were invited to meet Sir Antony on the same occasion, but they declined. They apparently desired the position of greater freedom and less responsibility, from which they could deliver their attacks upon their friends. They received little support from the country in their guerrilla warfare on the Land Conference findings. The Standing Committee of the Catholic Hierarchy left no room for doubt as to their views. They declared the holding of the Land Conference "to be an event of the best augury for the future welfare of both classes" (landlords and tenants), and they expressed the hope that its unanimity would result in legislation which would settle the Land Question once for all "and give the Irish people of every class a fair opportunity to live and serve their native land." The Irish Party and the National Directory of the United Irish League, the two bodies invested with sovereign authority to declare the national policy, unanimously, at specially convened meetings, approved the findings of the Land Conference and accepted them as the basis of a satisfactory settlement of the Land Question. Neither Mr Dillon nor Mr Davitt attended either of these meetings. Indeed, Mr Dillon ostentatiously took his departure from Dublin on the morning the meetings were held, but strangely enough he attended an adjourned meeting of the Party at Westminster the following day and opposed a proposal to raise the question of the Land Conference Report on the Address. Mr Redmond entered a dignified protest against Mr Dillon's conduct, pointing out that the previous day was Mr Dillon's proper opportunity for submitting any objections of his to his colleagues of the Party and of the National Directory. Mr Dillon did not find a single supporter for his attitude, and he was obliged to disclaim, with some heat, that he had any grievance in reference to the Conference. Next day he went abroad for the benefit of his health.

The debate on the Amendment to the Address had the most gratifying results. Mr Wyndham accepted, in principle, the Land Conference Agreement and announced that the Government would smooth the operations of Land Purchase by a bonus of twelve millions sterling as a free grant to Ireland. The debate accomplished another striking success, that it elicited from all the men of light and leading in the Liberal Party - from Mr Morley, Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, Sir E. Grey, Mr Haldane and Mr John Burns - expressions of cordial adhesion to the policy of pacification outlined by the Chief Secretary, thus effecting the obliteration of all English Party distinctions for the first time where one of Ireland's supreme interests was concerned. It required only the continuance of this spirit to give certain assurance of Ireland's early deliverance from all her woes and troubles. But an adverse fate, in the form of certain perverse politicians, ordained it otherwise.

On 25th March 1903 Mr Wyndham introduced his Bill. It adopted fully the fundamental principles of the Land Conference and undertook to find Imperial funds for the complete extinction of landlordism in Ireland within a period which Mr Wyndham estimated at fifteen years. Furthermore the tenants were to obtain the loans on cheaper terms than had ever been known before - viz. an interest of 2-3/4 per cent. and a sinking fund of 1/2 per cent., being a reduction in the tenants' annuity from L4 to L3, 5s. as compared with the best of the previous Acts. In addition a State grant-in-aid to the extent of L12,000,000 - roughly equivalent to three years' purchase - was produced to bridge the gap between what the tenants could afford to pay and the landlords to accept. The Bill fell short of the requirements of the Land Conference in certain respects, notably in that it proposed to withhold one-eighth of the freehold from the tenants as an assertion of State right in the land, and that the clauses dealing with the Evicted Tenants and Congested questions were vague and inadequate. Other minor defects there also were, but nothing that might not be remedied in Committee by conciliatory adjustments. A National Convention was summoned for 16th April to consider whether the Bill should be accepted or otherwise. Previously there was much subterranean communication between Messrs Dillon, Davitt, Sexton and T.P. O'Connor, all with calculated intent to damage or destroy the Bill. And it is also clear that certain members of the Irish Party (Messrs Dillon and T.P. O'Connor), who were pledge-bound to support majority rule "in or out of Parliament," were carrying on official negotiations of their own with the Minister in charge of the Bill and were using the organ of the Party to discredit principles and proposals to which the Party had given its unanimous assent. It would not, in the circumstances, be unjust to stigmatise this conduct as disloyalty, if not exactly treachery, to the recorded decisions of the Party. At any rate it was the source and origin of incredible mischief and the most deplorable consequences to Ireland. The opponents of the Bill made a concerted effort to stampede the National Convention from arriving at any decision regarding the Bill. They wanted it to postpone judgment. But the Convention, in every sense magnificently representative of all that was sound and sincere in the constitutional movement, was too much alive to all the glorious possibilities of the policy of national reconciliation which was taking shape and form before their eyes to brook any of the ill-advised counsels of those who had determined insidiously on the wreck of this policy.

In all the great Convention there were only two voices raised in support of the rejection of the Bill. And when Mr Davitt moved the motion, concerted between Mr T.P. O'Connor, Mr Sexton and himself, that the Convention should suspend judgment until it was brought in its amended Third Reading Form before an adjourned sitting of the Convention, he was so impressed by the enthusiastic unanimity of the delegates that he offered, after some parley, to withdraw his motion, and thus this great and authoritative assembly pledged the faith of the Irish nation to the policy of national reconciliation and gave its loyal adhesion to the authors of that policy.

But this decision of the people, constitutionally and legitimately expressed, was not long to remain unchallenged. Immediately after the Convention Mr Davitt waited upon Mr Redmond, at the Gresham Hotel, Dublin, and blandly told him: "I have had a wire from Dillon to-day from the Piraeus, to say he is starting by the first boat for home and from this day forth O'Brien and yourself will have Dillon, T.P. and myself on your track." Thus was set on foot what, with engaging candour, Mr Davitt himself later described in an article he contributed to The Independent Review as "a determined campaign" against the national policy which had been authoritatively endorsed and approved by every organisation in the country entitled to speak on the subject. The country has had to pay much in misery, in the postponement of its most cherished hopes and in the holding up of land purchase over great areas owing to the folly, the madness and the treachery of this "determined campaign." Mr Dillon, at a later stage, with a certain Machiavellian cunning, raised the cry of "Unity" from every platform in the country against those who had never acted a disloyal part in all their lives, whilst his own political conscience never seemed to trouble him when he was flagrantly and foully defying that very principle of unity which he had pledged himself to maintain and uphold "in or out of Parliament."

The National Convention was followed by an event which might easily have been made a turning point in Ireland's good fortune had it been properly availed of. Lord Dunraven and his landlord Conciliation Committee met the day after the Land Convention and resolved to support sixteen out of the seventeen Nationalist amendments. They furthermore sent a message to Mr Redmond offering to co-operate actively with the members of the Irish Party throughout the Committee stage of the Wyndham Bill. Every consideration of national policy and prudence would seem to urge the acceptance of this generous offer. It would, if accepted, be the outward and visible sign of that new spirit of grace that had entered into Irish relations with the foregathering of the Land Conference. But fear of what Mr Dillon and theFreeman might do if this open association with a landlord - even if a friendly landlord - interest took place apparently operated on Mr Redmond's judgment. Although urged by Mr O'Brien, who made the utmost allowance for the leader's difficulties, to accept the offer of Lord Dunraven and his friends for continued co-operation, Mr Redmond temporised, and the opportunity passed into the limbo of golden possibilities gone wrong.

When Mr Dillon, in pursuance of his wire to Mr Davitt, returned from his holiday, he proceeded to make good the threat to be "on the track of Redmond and O'Brien." He made himself as troublesome as he could during the Committee stage of the Bill and did his utmost to force its rejection. He sought to commit the Party to a policy which must have meant the defeat or withdrawal of the measure. He made vicious personal attacks upon Lord Dunraven. He did everything in his power to delay and frustrate the passage of the Bill in Committee. And the most generous construction that can be placed upon his actions is that he did all this in support of the theory, which he is known to have consistently held, that Home Rule should precede the settlement of the Land Question, or any other Irish question. Notwithstanding Mr Dillon's criticisms, not then well understood either in the Party or the country, the Bill at length emerged triumphantly from its ordeal, with the good will of all parties in Parliament. It should have created - and it would, if it had only been given a fair chance - a new heaven and a new earth in Ireland. As far as could be prognosticated all the omens were favourable. Even the atmosphere of administration, so important a matter where any Irish Act is concerned, was of the most auspicious kind. The Lord-Lieutenant was Lord Dudley, who was immensely popular in Ireland, and who had made public proclamation of his desire that "Ireland should be governed in accordance with Irish ideas." Two out of the three Estates Commissioners, in whose hands the actual administration of the Act lay, were men of whose absolute impartiality the Nationalist opinion of the country was assured. Sir Antony MacDonnell was the power in Dublin Castle, and not much likely to be intimidated by the permanent gang there. All that was required was that the Irish Party and the United Irish League should agree upon a broad-based policy for combining the various classes affected to extract the best possible advantage from the provisions of the Act. A meeting of the National Directory was summoned to formulate such a policy, but shortly before it was held Mr Dillon went down to Swinford and, from the board-room of the workhouse there, definitely raised the standard of revolt against the new Land Act. Nothing could be said against his action if he had come out from the Party and fulminated against its authority, but to remain a member of the Party and then to indict its conduct of the nation's business was, to put it mildly, indefensible. He denounced the new spirit of conciliation that had been so fast gaining ground, attacked the landlords, who had proved themselves friendly to a settlement, in rather ferocious language, and spoke in violent terms of those who would "in a moment of weakness mortgage the future of Ireland to an intolerable extent." Clearly Mr Dillon intended carrying out his threat of "taking the field" against Mr Redmond and Mr O'Brien and of damning the consequences. But the country was not yet "rattled" into disaffection by Mr Dillon's melancholy vaticinations and rather vulgar appeals to the baser passions of greed and covetousness which are perhaps more firmly rooted in the peasant than in any other class.

The National Directory, unintimidated by Mr Dillon's pronouncement, met and calmly proceeded to formulate plans for the better working of the Purchase Act. A clear and definite plan of campaign was outlined for the testing of the Act. Mr O'Brien was also in favour of handling the disaffection of Mr Dillon and the Freeman in straightforward manner and of pointing out to them their duty of loyally supporting the decisions of the Party and of the League. Mr Redmond shrank from decisive action. It was part of the weakness of his estimable character that he always favoured "the easier way." He thought that when the Directory spoke out the recalcitrant elements would subside. Little did he understand the malignant temper of the powerful group who, with the aid of the supposedly national organ, were determined to kill the operations of the Purchase Act and to destroy the policy of Conciliation which had promised such splendid fruit in other directions. Mr Dillon went to Swinford again and he and his associates did everything in their power to stir up a national panic and to spread the impression that the Purchase Act was a public calamity, "a landlord swindle," and that it would lead straight to national bankruptcy.

Even yet those who sought the wreck and ruin of land purchase might be met with and fought outright if the announcement had not appeared in the Freeman that Mr Redmond had sold his Wexford estate at "24-1/2 years' purchase," or over two years' purchase higher in the case of second-term rents and four and a half years' purchase in the case of first-term rents than the prices which the National Directory had a few weeks previously resolved to fight for, with all the force of the tenants' organisation as a fair standard. True enough Mr Redmond was able to plead later that these were not the terms finally agreed upon between his tenants and himself, and beyond all question he made no profit out of the transaction. Where the mischief lay was in the original publication, which gave a headline to the landlords all over the country and, what was far more regrettable from the purely national standpoint, irretrievably tied the hands of Mr Redmond so far as making any heroic stand against Mr Dillon and his fellow-conspirators was concerned. Thus the country drifted along, bereft of firm leadership or strong guidance. Mr O'Brien had to hold his hand whilst "the determined campaigners" were more boldly and defiantly inveighing against the declared and adopted national policy and trampling upon every principle of Party discipline and loyalty. The situation might have been saved if Mr Redmond had taken his courage in both his hands, summoned the Party together and received from it an authoritative declaration defining anew the National policy and the danger that attended it from those who had set out recklessly to destroy it; or if he sought an opportunity for publicly recalling the country to its duty and its allegiance to himself and to the Party whose chosen leader he was. Mr Redmond was fully alive to the danger, but he hesitated about taking that bold action which could alone bring the recalcitrants to heel. He was afraid of doing anything which might provoke a fresh "split." Later he delivered himself of the unstatesmanlike and unworthy apophthegm: "Better be united in support of a short-sighted and foolish policy than divided in support of a far-sighted and wise one." This was the fatuous attitude which led him down the steep declivity that ended so tragically for him and his reputation. In those fateful days, when so much was in the balance for the future of Ireland, Mr O'Brien pressed his views earnestly upon Mr Redmond that unless he exercised his authority, and that of the Party and the Directory, it would be impossible for them to persevere in their existing programme, and that the only alternative left for him would be to retire and leave those who had opposed the policy of Conciliation a free stage for any more heroic projects they might contemplate. Mr Redmond still remained indecisive and Mr O'Brien - whether wisely or unwisely will always remain a debatable point with his friends - quietly quitted the stage, resigning his seat in Parliament, withdrawing from the Directory of the United Irish League, and ceasing publication of his weekly newspaper on the ground, as he says himself, that "the authorised national policy having been made unworkable, nothing remained, in order to save the country from dissension, except to leave its wreckers an absolutely free field for any alternative policy of their own."

It is no exaggeration to say that the country was thrown into a state of stupefaction by Mr O'Brien's retirement. It did not know the reason of it. Very few members of the Party did. I was then a member of it - perhaps a little on the outer fringe, but still an ordinarily intelligent member - and I was not aware of the underground factors and forces which had caused this thunderbolt out of the blue, as it were. Needless to say, the country was in a state of more abysmal ignorance still, and it is questionable whether outside of Munster, owing to a scandalous Press boycott of Mr O'Brien's speeches for many years afterwards, the masses of the people ever had an understanding of the motives which impelled him "to stand down and out" when he was undoubtedly supreme in the Party and in the United Irish League and when he might easily have overborne "the determined campaigners" if he had only knit the issue with them in a fair and square fight. This, however, was the thing of all others he wished to avoid. Perhaps if he could have foreseen how barren in any alternative policy his sapient critics were to be he might have acted otherwise, but the credit is due to him of making dissension impossible by leaving no second party to the quarrel.

Speaking at Limerick a few days after his retirement, Mr Redmond avowed that Mr O'Brien's principles were his own, and added these memorable words: "But for Mr William O'Brien there would have been no Land Conference and no Land Act." Every effort was made to induce Mr O'Brien to withdraw his resignation. A delegation of the leading citizens of Cork travelled all the way to Mayo to entreat him to reconsider his decision. To them he said: "There is not the smallest danger of any split either in the Party, or in the League, or in the country. There will be a perfectly free field for the development of any alternative policy; and I will not use my retirement in any way whatever to criticise or obstruct; neither, I am certain, will anybody in the country who has any regard for my wishes."

But having got all they wanted, "the determined campaigners" mysteriously abandoned their determined campaign. Mr Dillon's health again required that he should bask 'neath the sunny southern skies of Italy, whilst Mr Davitt betook himself to the United States, without either of them making a single speech or publishing a single suggestion to the tenants how they were to guard themselves against the "inflated prices" and the national insolvency they had been threatening them with. Having destroyed the plans of the National Directory for testing the Purchase Act they had no guidance of their own to offer. The tenants were left leaderless, to make their own bargains as best they could, with the inevitable result that the landlords, thanks to "the determined campaigners," were able to force up prices two years above the standard which the Directory of the League had decided to stand out and fight for.

It used to be said of Daniel O'Connell that whenever The Times praised him he subjected himself to an examination of conscience to find out wherein he had offended as against Ireland. Likewise one would have supposed that when Mr Dillon found himself patted on the back by the extreme Orange gang he might have asked himself: "Wherein am I wrong to have earned the plaudits of these people?" For if Mr Dillon was rabid in his opposition to the policy of Conciliation the Ulster Orangemen were ferocious in their denunciation of it, Mr Moore, K.C., referred to it as "the cowardly, rotten, and sickening policy of Conciliation." Small wonder that the Orange extremists should have dreaded this policy, since it had already been the means of creating in the North an Independent Orange Order, who unhesitatingly declared as the first article of their creed that they were "Irishmen first of all," and who had an honest and enthusiastic spokesman in the House of Commons in the person of Mr Thomas Sloane, and an able and, indeed, a brilliant leader in Ireland in Mr Lindsay Crawford. But so it was - every advance towards national reconciliation and mutual understanding was opposed by those two divergent forces as if they had a common interest in defeating it.

Mr O'Brien having retired from Cork, the vacancy should, in the ordinary course, have been filled in the course of a few weeks. But the Nationalists of "the City by the Lee" made it clear that they wanted no other representative than Mr O'Brien, and they forbade the issue of a writ for a new election. And so there was the extraordinary spectacle of a people who voluntarily disfranchised themselves rather than give up the last hope of a policy of National Conciliation in which they descried a Home Rule settlement by Consent as surely as the abolition of landlordism already decreed. As an example of loyalty and personal devotion, as well as of patriotic foresight, it would be difficult to parallel it. Towards the close of the session of 1904 Mr Jasper Tully, a more or less free lance member of the Party, took it upon himself to play them the trick of moving the writ for a new election. And the Nationalists of Cork knew their own business so well that, without a line of communication with Mr O'Brien, they had him nominated and re-elected without anybody dreaming that anything else was humanly possible. There were no conditions attaching to Mr O'Brien's re-election. He was free to rejoin the Irish Party if it should resume its position of twelve months ago or to remain out of it if a policy of mere destruction were persisted in. He was re-elected because the people of Cork had the most absolute confidence in his integrity, good faith and political judgment, and because they were convinced that his return to public life represented the only hope of the resumption of the great policy in which their confidence never for a moment wavered.

Within a week of Mr O'Brien's re-election an event took place which once again made it possible for him to take up the threads of his policy where he had surrendered them. The landlords' Conference Committee, to the number of three hundred of the leading Irish nobles and country gentlemen, met in Dublin and resolved themselves into a new Association, under Lord Dunraven's leadership, which was named the Irish Reform Association. It immediately issued a manifesto proclaiming "a policy of conciliation, of good will and of reform," by means of "a union of all moderate and progressive opinion irrespective of creed or class animosities," with the object of "the devolution to Ireland of a large measure of self-government" without disturbing the Parliamentary Union between Great Britain and Ireland.

Within three days of the publication of the manifesto Mr Redmond, who was on a mission to the States pleading for Irish-American support, cabled: "The announcement [of the Irish Reform Association] is of the utmost importance. It is simply a declaration for Home Rule and is quite a wonderful thing. With these men with us Home Rule may come at any moment." It is known that the idea of the Irish Reform Association had been talked over between Mr Wyndham, Lord Dunraven and Sir Antony MacDonnell, but it is probable that it would never have emerged into the concrete if the Cork election had not opened up the prospect of a fair and sympathetic national hearing for a project of self-government, now advocated for the first time by a body of Unionist Irishmen. Mr Redmond's fervid message from America also was as plain a welcome to the new movement for genuine national unity as words could express. But "the fly was in the ointment nevertheless."