To enable our readers to have a clearer understanding of all that has gone before and all that is to follow, I think it well at this stage to give a just impression of the Party, of its personnel, its method of working and its general character and composition.

The Irish Party, as we know it, was originally the creation of Parnell, and was, perhaps, his most signal achievement. It became, under the genius of his leadership, a mighty constitutional force - disciplined, united, efficient and vigilant. It had the merit of knowing its own mind. It kept aloof from British Party entanglements. It was pledged to sit, act and vote together, and its members loyally observed the pledge both in the spirit and the letter, and did not claim the right to place their own individual interpretation upon it. Furthermore, it was a cardinal article of honour that members of the Party were to seek no favours from British Ministers, because it needs no argument to demonstrate that the Member of Parliament who pleads for favours for himself or preferment for his friends can possess no individual independence. He is shackled in slavery to the Minister to whom his importunities are addressed. He is simply a patriot on the make, despised by himself and despised by those to whom he addresses his subservient appeals. There was no place for such a one in Parnell's Irish Party, which embodied as nearly as possible that perfect political cohesion which is the dream of all great leaders. There were men of varying capacity and, no doubt, of differing thought in Parnell's Party, but where Ireland's national interests were concerned it was a united body, an undivided phalanx which faced the foe. And by the very boldness and directness of Parnell's policy, he won to his side in the country, not only all the moral and constitutional forces making for Nationalism, but the revolutionary forces - who yearned for an Irish Republic - as well. He was, therefore, not only the leader of a Party; he was much more - he was the leader of a United Irish nation. His aim was eminently sane and practical - to obtain the largest possible measure of national autonomy, and he did not care very much what it was called. But he made it clear that whatever he might accept in his time and generation was not to be the last word on the Irish Question. He fought with the weapons that came to his hand - and he used them with incomparable skill and judgment - with popular agitation in Ireland, with "direct action" of a most forcible and audacious kind in Parliament. A great leader has always the capacity for attracting capable lieutenants to his side. We need only refer to the example of Napoleon as overwhelming proof of this. And so out of what would ordinarily seem humble and unpromising material Parnell brought to his banner a band of young colleagues who have since imperishably fixed their place in Irish history. I am not writing the life-story of the members of Parnell's Party, but if I were it would be easy to show that most of the colleagues who have come to any measure of greatness since were men of no antecedent notoriety (I use the word in its better application), with possibly one exception, and it is somewhat remarkable that the son of John Blake Dillon, who owed perhaps not a little to the fact that he was his father's son, should have been the one who first showed signs of recalcitrancy against Party rule and discipline when he inveighed against the Land Act of 1881 and betook himself abroad for three years during the time when the national movement was locked in bitterest conflict with the Spencer Coercionist regime. Let it be at once conceded that Parnell's lieutenants were men whose gifts and talents would have in any circumstances carried them to eminent heights, but it might be said also they lost nothing from their early association with so great a personality and from the fact that he brought them into the gladiatorial arena, where their mental muscles were, so to speak, trained and tested and extended in combat with some of the finest minds of the age.

In the days when the later Irish Party had entered upon its decrepitude some of its leaders sought to maintain a sorry unity by shouting incessantly from the house-tops, as if it were some sacred formula which none but the unholy or those predestined to political damnation dare dispute: "Majority Rule." And a country which they had reduced to the somnambulistic state by the constant reiteration of this phrase unfortunately submitted to their quackery, and have had grave reason to regret it ever since. Parnell had very little respect for shams - whether they were sham phrases or sham politicians. He was a member of Butt's Home Rule Party but he was not to be intimidated from pursuing the course he had mapped out for himself by any foolish taunts about his "Policy of Exasperation"; he was a flagrant sinner against the principle of "majority rule," but time has proved him to be a sinner who was very much in the right. Mr Dillon used to hurl another name of anathema at our heads - the heads of those of us who were associated with Mr O'Brien in his policy of national reconciliation - he used to dub us "Factionists." It was not fair fighting, nor honest warfare, nor decent politics. It was the base weapon of a man who had no arguments of reason by which he could overwhelm an opponent, but who snatched a bludgeon from an armoury of certain evil associations which he knew would prevail where more legitimate methods could not.

I entered the Party in May 1901, having defeated their official candidate at a United Irish League Convention for the selection of a Parliamentary candidate for Mid-Cork on the death of Dr Tanner. In those days I was not much of a politician. My heart was with the neglected labourer and I stood, accordingly, as a Labour candidate, my programme being the social elevation of the masses, particularly in the vital matters of housing, employment and wages. I was not even a member of the United Irish League, being wholly concerned in building up the Irish Land and Labour Association, which was mainly an organisation for the benefit, protection and the education in social and citizen duty of the rural workers. Mr Joseph Devlin was sent down to the Convention to represent the Party and the League. It was sought to exclude a considerable number of properly accredited Labour delegates from the Convention, but after a stiff fight my friends and myself compelled the admission of a number just barely sufficient to secure me a majority. This was heralded as a tremendous triumph for the Labour movement, and it spoke something for the democratic constitution of the United Irish League, as drafted by Mr O'Brien, that it was possible for an outsider to beat its official nominee and thereby to become the officially adopted candidate of the League himself. In due course I entered the portals of the Irish Party, but though in it was, to a certain extent, not of it, in that I was more an observer of its proceedings than an active participant in its work. My supreme purpose in public life was to make existence tolerable for a class who had few to espouse their claims and who were in the deepest depths of poverty, distress and neglect. Hence, except where Labour questions and the general interests of my constituents were concerned, I stood more or less aloof from the active labours of the Party. I was in the position of a looker-on and a critic, and I saw many things that did not impress me at all too favourably.

In the years immediately following the General Election of 1900 the Party had a splendid solidarity and a fine enthusiasm. There had been just sufficient new blood infused into it to counteract the jealous humours and to minimise the weariness of spirit of those older members who had served in the halcyon days of Parnell and had gone through all the squalidness and impotence of the years of the Split. Had the Party been rightly handled, and led by a man of strong will and inflexible character, it could have been made the mightiest constitutional power for Ireland's emancipation. Unfortunately Mr John Redmond was not a strong leader. He unquestionably possessed many of the attributes of leadership - a dignified presence, distinguished deportment, a wide knowledge of affairs, a magnificent mastery of the forms and rules of the House of Commons, a noble eloquence and a sincere manner, but he lacked the vital quality of strength of character and energetic resolve. He was not, as Parnell was, strong enough to impose his will on others if he found it easier to give way himself. And thus from the very outset of his career as leader of the reunited Party he allowed his conduct to be influenced by others - very often, let it be said, against his own better judgment. Mr Redmond had a matchless faculty for stating the case of Ireland in sonorous sentences, but too often he was content to take his marching orders from those powers behind the throne who were the real manipulators of what passed for an Irish policy. In the shaping of this policy and in the general ordering of affairs, the rank and file of the members had very little say - they were hopelessly invertebrate and pusillanimous. The majority of them were mere automatons - very honest, very patriotic, exceedingly respectable, good, ordinary, decent and fairly intelligent Irishmen, but as Parliamentarians their only utility consisted in their capacity to find their way into the voting Lobby as they were ordered. To their meek submission, and to their rather selfish fear of losing their seats if they asserted an independent opinion, I trace many if not all of the catastrophes and failures that overtook the Party in later years. Needless to say, neither the country nor the other parties in Parliament had the least understanding of the real character and composition of the Nationalist Party. It had always a dozen or more capable men who could dress the ranks and hold their own "on the floor of the House" as against the best intellects and debating power of either British party. Irish readiness and repartee made question time an overwhelmingly Irish divertissement. Our members had a unique faculty for bringing about spectacular scenes that read very well in the newspapers and made the people at home think what fine fellows they had representing them! All this might be very good business in its way if it had any special meaning, but I could never for the life of me see how taking the Sultanate of Morocco under our wing could by any stretch of the imagination help forward the cause of Ireland.

The policy of the Party, in the ultimate resort, was supposed to be controlled by the United Irish League acting through its branches in Convention assembled. Inasmuch as the Party derived whatever strength it possessed in Parliament from the virility and force of the agitation in Ireland, it was in the fitness of things that the country should have the right of ordering the tune. When he founded the United Irish League Mr O'Brien unquestionably intended that this should be the case - that the country should be the master of its own fate and that the constituencies should be in the position of exercising a wholesome check on the conduct of their Parliamentary representatives, who, in addition to the pledge to sit, act and vote with the Party, also entered into an equally binding undertaking to accept neither favour nor office from the Government. As the Party was for the greater part made up of poor men or men of moderate means, members received an indemnity from a special fund called "The Parliamentary Fund," which was administered by three trustees. This fund was specially collected each year, and in principle, if the subscriptions came from Ireland alone, was an excellent method of making members of the Party obey the mandate of the people, under the penalty of forfeiting their allowance. But in practice, most of the subscriptions were collected in America, and we had in effect the extraordinary situation of Irish representatives being maintained in Parliament by the moneys of their American kith and kin. And the situation after 1903 was rendered the more ludicrous by reason of the fact that the Party could never have dragged along its existence if it had been dependent upon Irish contributions to its funds. These were largely withdrawn because the Party was delinquent in adhering to the policy of Conciliation. It is a phenomenon worth remarking that the Irish people never failed to contribute generously what Parnell had termed "the sinews of war" so long as the members of the Party deserved it of them. But when symptoms of demoralisation set in, or when contentions distracted their energies, the people cut off the supplies. This would undoubtedly have been an effective means of control in normal circumstances, but when the Party, of its own volition, was able to send "missions" to America and Australia to collect funds, it was no longer dependent on the popular will, as expressed in terms of material support, and it became the masters of the people instead of their servants.

Not that I want for one moment unnecessarily to disparage the personnel of the Party - it was probably the best that Ireland could have got in the circumstances - nor do I seek to diminish its undoubtedly great services to Ireland in the days of Parnell and during the period that it loyally adopted the policy of Conciliation. But what I do deplore is that a few men in the Party - not more than three or four all told - were able, by getting control of "the machine," to destroy the fairest chance that Ireland ever had of gaining a large measure of self-government. Knowing all that happened within the Party in the years of which I am writing, knowing the methods that were employed, rather unscrupulously and with every circumstance of pettiness, to bear down any member who showed the least disposition to exercise legitimately an independent judgment - knowing how the paid organisers of the League were at once dispatched to his constituency to intrigue against him and to work up local enmities, I am not, and never was, surprised at the compelled submission of the body of the members to the decrees of the secret Cabinet who controlled policy and directed affairs with an absolute autocracy that few dared question. One member more courageous than his fellows, Mr Thomas O'Donnell, B.L., did come upon the platform with Mr Wm. O'Brien at Tralee, in his own constituency and had the manliness to declare in favour of the policy of Conciliation, but the tragic confession was wrung from him: "I know I shall suffer for it." And he did!

I mention these matters to explain what would otherwise be inexplicable - how it came to pass that a policy solemnly ratified by the Party, by the Directory of the League, and by a National Convention was subsequently repudiated. Whilst Mr O'Brien remained in the Party there was no question of the allegiance of these men to correct principle. Mr Joseph Devlin, who later was far and away the most powerful man in the Party, had not yet "arrived." (It was the retirement of Mr O'Brien from public life and the resignation of Mr John O'Donnell from the secretaryship of the United Irish League - under circumstances which Mr Devlin's admirers will scarcely care to recall - which gave him his chance.) Mr Dillon was a more or less negligible figure until Mr O'Brien made way for him by his retirement. Right up to this there was only one man for the Party and the country, and that man was William O'Brien. Let me say at once that in those days I had no attachments and no personal predilections. John Redmond, William O'Brien and John Dillon were all, as we say in Ireland, "one and the same to me." If anything, because of my Parnellite proclivities, I rather leaned to Mr Redmond's side, and his chairmanship of the Party had certainly my most loyal adherence. Otherwise I was positively indifferent to personalities, and to a great extent also to policies, since I was in the Party for one purpose, and one alone, of pushing the labourers' claims upon the notice of the leaders and of ventilating their grievances in the House of Commons whenever occasion offered. Furthermore, I do not think I ever spoke to Mr O'Brien until after the Cork election in 1904, when, convinced of the rectitude of his policy and principles, I stood upon his platform to give such humble support as I could to the cause he advocated, and thereafter, I am proud to say, never once turned aside, either in thought or action, from the thorny and difficult path I had chosen to travel. I take no credit to myself for having taken my stand on behalf of Mr O'Brien's policy. I knew him in all essential things, both then and thereafter, to be absolutely in the right. I was aware that, had he so minded, in 1903, when he was easily the most powerful man in the Party and the most popular in Ireland, he could have smashed at one onslaught the conspiracy of "the determined campaigners" and driven its authors to a well-deserved doom. But the mistake he made then, as mistake I believe it to be, was that he left the field to those men, who had no alternative policy of their own to offer to the country, and who, instead of consolidating the national organisation for the assertion of Irish right, consolidated it rather in the interests of their own power and personal position. Thus it happened that a movement conceived and intended as the adequate expression of the people's will became, in the course of a short twelve months, everywhere outside of Munster, a mere machine for registering the decrees of Mr Dillon and his co-conspirators.

I do not think, if Mr T.M. Healy had been a member of the Party then, that Mr Dillon would have been able so successfully to entrench himself in power as he did. Mr Healy knew Mr Dillon inside out and he had little respect for his qualities. He knew him to be vain, intractable, small-minded and abnormally ambitious of power. Parnell once said of him: "Dillon is as vain as a peacock and as jealous as a schoolgirl." And when he was not included as a member of the Land Conference I am sure it does him no wrong to say that he made up his mind that somebody should suffer for the affront put upon him. It is ever thus. Even the greatest men are human, with human emotions, feelings, likes and dislikes. And though it is far from my intention to robe Mr Dillon in any garment of greatness, he was, unfortunately, put in a position to do irreparable mischief to great principles, as I conceive, through motives of petty spite. Even if Mr Dillon had stood alone I do not think he would have counted for very much, supported though he was by the suave personality of Mr T.P. O'Connor. But he had won to his side, in the person of Mr Devlin, one of great organising gifts and considerable eloquence, who had now obtained control of the United Irish League and all its machinery and who knew how to manipulate it as no other living person could. Without Mr Devlin's uncanny genius for organisation Mr Dillon's idiosyncrasies could have been easily combated. Mr Dillon's diatribes against "the black-blooded Cromwellians" at a time when the best of the landlord class were steadily veering in the Nationalist direction, I could never understand. Mr Devlin's detestation of the implacable spirit of Ulster Orangemen was a far more comprehensible feeling, but the years have shown only too thoroughly that both passions, and the pursuit of them, have had the most disastrous consequences.

Even when Mr Dillon was most powerful in the Party there were many men in it, to my knowledge, who secretly sympathised with the policy of Conciliation but who had not sufficient moral courage to come out in the open in support of it, knowing that if they did they would be marked down for destruction at the next General Election. It is evident that from a Party thus dominated and dragooned, and an organisation which had its resolutions manufactured for it in the League offices in Dublin, no good fruit could come.

Mr Redmond's position was pitiful in the extreme. Neither his judgment nor his sense of statesmanship could approve the departure which Mr Dillon and his accomplices had initiated. He avowed again and again, publicly to the country and privately in the Party, that he was in entire agreement with Mr O'Brien up to the date of his resignation; and it is as morally certain as anything can be in this world that if he had not crippled his initiative by sanctioning, under his own hand, the announcement of the 24-1/2 years' purchase terms for his estate, he would never have allowed himself to be associated with what he rather wearily and shamefacedly described as "a short-sighted and unwise policy."

From the time that Mr Dillon and his friends got control of the Party and the national organisation the country was never allowed to exercise an independent judgment of its own, for the simple reason that the facts were carefully kept from its knowledge by a Press boycott unparalleled in the history of any other nation. Under this tyranny all independence and honest conviction were sapped. And with a brutal irony, which must compel a certain amazed admiration on the part of the disinterested inquirer after truth, the men who set the Party pledge at defiance, who set themselves to destroy Party unity and to scoff at majority rule, were the men who at a later date, when it suited their malevolent purpose, used the catch-cries of "Unity," "Majority Rule" and "Factionists" with all their evil memories of the nine years of the Split to intimidate the people from listening to the arguments and reasonings of Mr O'Brien and his friends. And when their kept Press and their subservient Parliamentarians did not prevail, they did not hesitate to use hired revolver gangs and to employ paid emissaries to prevent the gospel of Conciliation from being preached to the people.

With the entrance of false principles and the employment of pernicious and demoralising influences the moral of the Party began to be at first vitiated and then utterly destroyed. It lost its independent character and cohesive force. To a certain extent it became a party of petty tale-bearers. The men most in favour with the secret Cabinet were the men who kept them informed of the sayings and doings of their fellows.

The members of lesser note simply dare not be seen speaking to anyone suspected of a friendly feeling to Mr O'Brien or his policy. Woe to them if they were! In the expressive phrase of Mr O'Donnell, they were "made to suffer for it."

The proud independence and incorruptibility which the Party boasted in Parnell's day of power now also began to give way. With the accession of the Liberal Party to office in 1906 the Nationalist members began to beseech favours. It may be it was only in the first instance that they sought J.P.-ships for their leading friends and supporters in their several constituencies. But we all know how the temptation of patronage grows: it is so fine a thing to be able to do "a good turn" for one's friend or neighbour by merely inditing a letter to some condescending Minister. And now, particularly since there was no censure to be dreaded, it became one of the ordinary functions of the Nationalist M.P.'s life. It was no secret that prominent leaders were exercising a similar privilege, and the rank and file saw no reason why they should not imitate so seductive an example.

I once heard a keen student of personalities in Parliament observe that Mr Dillon and Mr T.P. O'Connor always appeared to him to be sounder and more sincere Liberals than they were Irish Nationalists. I agree, and no doubt much of Ireland's later misfortunes sprang from this circumstance. I confess I have always thought of Mr Dillon, in my own mind, as an English Radical first and an Irish Nationalist afterwards. I believe he was temperamentally incapable of adopting Parnell's position of independence of either British Party and of supporting only that Party which undertook to do most for Ireland. Then, again, Mr Dillon was more of an Internationalist than a Nationalist. He delighted in mixing himself up in foreign affairs, and I am much mistaken if he did not take more pride in being regarded as an authority on the Egyptian rather than on the Irish question. Mr T.P. O'Connor was so long out of Ireland, and had so completely lost touch with genuine Irish opinion that much might be forgiven to him. His ties with Liberalism were the outgrowth of years spent in connection with the Liberal Press of London and of social associations which had their natural and inevitable influence on his political actions.

With Messrs Dillon and O'Connor and - at this time, probably, in a more secondary sense - Mr Devlin, in control of the Party, it can be well understood how easy was the descent from an independence of all parties to an alliance with one. I believe that in all these things Mr Redmond's judgment was overborne by his more resolute colleagues. I believe also, as I have already said, that the weakness of his position was engendered by the unforgettable mistake he made in regard to the sale of his estate - that he felt this was held over him as a sword of Damocles, and that he was never able to get away from its haunting shadow sufficiently to assert his own authority in the manner of an independent and resolute leader.

I am at pains to set forth these matters to justify the living and, in some measure, to absolve the dead. I want to place the responsibility for grievous failures and criminal blunders on the right shoulders. I seek to make it plain how the country was bamboozled and betrayed by Party machinations such as have not had their parallel in any other period of Irish history. I state nothing in malice or for any ulterior motive, since I have none. But I think it just and right that the chief events of the past twenty years should be set forth in their true character so that impartial inquirers may know to what causes can be traced the overwhelming tragedies of recent times.