The following is the essay that won Jenffer Mulholien, of East
Central High School, the 2002 ICSSA Scholarship Award. We hope
you enjoy it while learning a little history. Sr. Carmel says
that the name 'Mulholien' is a common name in Cork, (where else?).
Charles Stewart Parnell
Many Irish historians refer to Charles Stewart Parnell as the
"uncrowned King of Ireland" (Electric Library). Parnell is
recognized by the Irish as a fighter for freedom and as an
Charles Stewart Parnell was born on June 27, 1846 at Avondale in
County Wicklow, Ireland. Charles Stewart Parnell was from a
wealthy family. His father was a landowner and his mother, a
daughter of Admiral Stewart of the US Navy. Parnell was educated
at many private schools before entering Cambridge University in
England. Parnell was successfull in school but left Cambridge
without graduating. After his college days Parnell was elected
as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Meath, County, Ireland in 1875.
Just before Parnell was elected, Daniel O'Connell had won the right
for the Irish to be represented in the Parliament.
At that time Parnell was elected, the Irish in parliament were
working on diplomatic discussions with the British Government to
make an attempt to obtain self-government or "Home Rule". As soon
as Parnell joined the Parliament he became involved with the Home
Rule party created and led by Isaac Butt. The fellow supporters
of the Home Rule party were beginning to lose faith that their
peaceful negotiations were not working. "Parnell was quick at
mastering the parliamentary system and made full use of the
technique of obstruction in the House of Commons in London"
(Britannica). His leadership powers began to flourish, and when
Butt died Parnell became President of the Nationalist Party in
1877. Parnell had proven himself the dominant figure in the Irish
Party despite the fact he was Protestant who had little in common
with the native Irish Catholics.
The next major step in his continuing fight for freedom was the
creation of the Land League. Along with Michael Davitt, Parnell
founded the (mostly Catholic) Land League, a organization that
aimed to redistribute farmland back to the native Irish that was
taken away by the British. It was during the time of the Great
Famine in Ireland that many British landlords had evicted Irish
tenants. The Land League decreed that landowners who had evicted
tenants could no longer invite new tenants. They developed a
policy urging the Irish to boycott English goods and urged Irish
farmers to refuse to rent or work on farms owned by English
landlords. This would later be known as the Land War of 1879-82.
The first English victim of these Land League policies was Captain
Charles Boycott. He found that no one would work on his farm or
buy his produce. This is how the word boycott was added to the
English language. In reaction to the Irish's Land League and
their policies the British Government under Prime Minister
Gladstone were so infuriated by the Irish's demonstration that they
passed the Coercion Bill making it illegal for the Irish to refuse
to work or to boycott produce from English landlords. The whole
confrontation led to violence and outrage, the common law ceased to
function over large parts of the country, and the country turned to
chaos. Parnell and his men then took another plan of action. They
attempted to lobby English Members of the Parliament to support
their Home Rule cause. But Parnell's tactics led him and his
followers to be thrown into a Kihmainham jail in October of 1881.
British political leaders decided that the landlord system could no
longer be defended. Gladstone came to terms with Parnell in March
of 1882 with the Kihmainham Treaty. With the issue of this treaty
all prisoners were released and the Irish's Land League was
discontinued. The Land Act of 1881 was to begin the policy of land
reform. On the day of Parnell's release two British officials, Lord
Frederick Cavendish (the chief Secretary of Ireland) and his Under
Secretary T.H.Burke, were stabbed to death in London. Their killers
were members of a secret society known as "'The Invincible" and were
widely regarded as Irish terrorists (Grolier)
Parnell saw the destruction of landlordism as merely a step towards
the overthrow of English rule. He went about strengthening the
Irish Party in preparation for the general election of 1885. "This
election was a triumph for him: his party, pledged to fight for
legislative independence and constitutional means" (MSN Encarta).
Parnell won every seat outside of eastern Ulster and the University
of Dublin. Gladstone was convinced by Parnell's success of the
justice of the Home Rule cause and he gave it steady support for
the rest of his livelihood. The year 1886 was a turning-point in
British relations with Ireland. It was the first time a major
political party had committed itself to granting at least a
measure of self-government to Ireland.
Parnell's downfall would eventually come into being.
His seven-year affair with a married woman, Katie O'Shea, came to
be known when her husband Captain William O'Shea filed for divorce
in 1889 naming Parnell as the adulterer. Captain O'Shea was impotent
and had known about the affair, in fact he had even given his silent
consent. "The court case brought many incriminating details about
Parnell to the public's attention and eventually ruined his career"
(Britannica). It also prevented Home Rule from becoming a reality
for many years in Ireland.
Captain O'Shea was a man of mediocre talents and doubtful character
who had been aware of Parnell's ten year relationship with his
wife almost since it began, and had turned a "blind eye" in the
hope of securing political advancement for himself. Captain O'Shea
and his wife had virtually parted when she met Parnell, and began
the proceedings for divorce. "Parnell refused to defend the action,
for fear that the evidence of O'Shea's involvement would influence
the court to deny a decree" (Grolier). He wanted above all to make
Katharine O'Shea his legal wife; and they had three children. The
Irish party dismissed Parnell claiming his mind was clouded and
this ended his political career.
Parnell died on October 6, 1891 in Brighton, England at the
age of 45. "His cause of death is not certain some say he died
after a bout of rheumatic fever, others say of exhaustion while
still others said he died of a broken heart" (Britannica).
Parnell was one of the greatest leaders Ireland ever had, and
though his life seemed to end in failure, his achievements are
still acknowledged. He made the British people conscious of his
country's claim to self-government. Many native Irish people
believe that Parnell alone could have led Ireland to Independence
and he is still remembered today on Ivy Day, 6th October, when
supporters wear a sprig of ivy on their clothing. He is
remembered in Ireland as a hero for the cause and it is a shame
that, his personal life ultimately caused his downfall.