Evidence on Conditions in Ireland: Comprising the Complete Testimony, Affidavits and Exhibits Presented Before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland

Commissioner Addams, presiding: I think the next witness is Mr. Furnas from Philadelphia. Mr. Furnas is going to put in a report of the investigation made by the English Quakers, the Society of Friends in England. They made an investigation of conditions in Ireland last October, was it? Mr. Furnas: The investigation was made the last part of Septem- ber, but made public in October. Commissioner Addams: We telegraphed the members of their Commission to come here, and they, unfortunately, were unable to do so. But Mr. Furnas was in London then, and he can state the conditions under which it was made. It was made by Englishmen. (Mr. Fumas takes the witness stand.) Q. Mr. Manly: For the sake of the record, will you give your name and address? A. Paul I. Furnas, 501 Fifth Avenue, New York City. Q. Senator Norris: Let him give his age and profession. A. I am treasurer of the General Food Products Company, and I am thirty years old. Where were you born? A. I was born in Marion County, Indiana. I am a Quaker by conviction.
Q. Were your parents Quakers? A. Yes. But in the hearings here, I appear as an individual and not representing any organization or the Society of Friends. I am simply able to give a statement as to who the Commission of the English Friends was composed of, and the circumstances under which they were appointed, and the circumstances under which they reported. Q. Mr. Manly: Will you state those facts, please? First, how the Commission came to be created. A. The Friends of England, known as the London Yearly Meet- ing of the Society of Friends, have an ad interim executive body which is known as the Meeting for Sufferings. That body in its September meeting appointed a commission of three— Q. Senator Norris: What year? A. September, 1920. Appointed a commission of three to go to Ireland and make an investigation and report back to that meet- ing. This commission was composed of John Henry Barlow, who was the chairman of the All Friends Conference, which was a world meeting of the Society of Friends in London in August of this year. He was formerly the presiding officer of the Society of Friends in England. He lives, I believe, in Birmingham. The second member of the commission was Roger Clark, who was an assistant chairman of the All Friends Conference held in London, and is the presiding officer, or what is known as the clerk of the London Yearly Meet- ing. The third member of the commission was Miss Edith M. Ellis, who is a prominent worker for peace in England and sister of Lady Palmore. These three people— Q. They are all English people? A. They are all English people, yes. This committee went to Ireland and met Irish Friends in Dublin. And then they proceeded to what I believe was approximately a two weeks’ investigation, which took them both to the north of Ireland and the south of Ireland. Q. Commissioner Newman: When was that? A. This was the latter part of September, 1920. At the Meeting for Sufferings held on the first day of October, 1920, in London, to which I have already referred, this committee made its report. Q. Mr. Manly: Do you know how long the committee was in Ireland? A. About two weeks. I have here a copy of the report which was written out by John Henry Barlow following the meeting, which covers substantially what I heard him say in that meeting. Q. Mr. Manly: He made the report for the committee? A. He was one of two who reported. Now, I shall follow what- ever course you indicate as to whether I shall read this report, or as to whether I shall simply identify it and leave it with you. Q. Commissioner Addams: Is it long, Mr. Furnas? A. It is four typewritten pages, written double space. Senator Norris: I think it ought to be read in full. Q. Commissioner Addams: Yes, read it. First, before you read it, is this report the report of the committee, or just of one member of the committee? Is it signed by anybody except the person who made it? A. I have here only a copy, but I heard it made, and can testify that it is, as stated, by the member of the committee. Q. Senator Norris: But what we want to get at is whether it is the report of the committee or just an individual. A. It is the report of the committee. Q. All right. They made an unanimous report, then? A. They did make an unanimous report. I should say that I have here a report written by John Henry Barlow and one written by Roger Clark. They are in agreement and are supplemental. This report, written by John Henry Barlow, was a few days after? wards published in the London Times—I believe the London Times of October fifth. He started out by saying:
“At its September Meeting the Executive Committee of the Society of Friends (England) had before it the disturbed condition of Ire- land. After serious consideration it was decided to send a deputa- tion to visit the country to gather facts and impressions and report to a subsequent meeting as to the possibility of relief, reconstruc- tion, and reconciliation. The deputation numbered three, of whom the writer was one. It may fairly be claimed that they went with open minds, anxious to receive light from whatever quarter it may shine. It is thought that some account of what was seen and what impressions were received may be of general interest.” That is his general introduction to what was made public. “The chief centers visited were Dublin, Belfast, Limerick, Cork, visits being made also from these to places in the neighborhood. Our interviews were with men of every shade of opinion—Unionists, Nationalists, Sinn Feiners, Protestants, Orangemen, Catholics, Labor leaders. They included members of Parliament, bishops, business men, university professors, members of the Sinn Fein cabinet, Sinn Fein judges, journalists, working men. Altogether we had about sixty interviews besides attending groups and conferences. Every- where we were received with unfailing courtesy and kindness, and every facility was given for carrying out our commission.
“First of all as to what we saw. On the surface Dublin was quiet, but while we were in the north, Mr. Lynch was shot in a Dublin hotel, and one or two encounters took place between the Irish Volunteers and the military. It was in Dublin that we had our first experience of the curfew, and received particulars of the burn- ing of the seventeen cooperative creameries. There, too, we found that there are two governments in Ireland, that of the Crown and that of the Irish Republic. Each has its cabinet, its executive, its armed force, its courts of justice. It is no exaggeration to say that eighty per cent, of Ireland renders allegiance to the Irish Republic, whether willingly or unwillingly, and that in that area the au- thority of the British Government rests upon force and not upon consent.
“In Belfast we saw something of the ruin caused by the recent outbreaks, but it was not until we visited Lisburn, a short distance from the city, that we began to understand how fierce the violence had been. House after house, shop after shop, burnt out com- pletely, in some cases not even the walls left standing. The marvel was how the flames had been kept from spreading and the whole town saved from destruction. In the outskirts were all that was left of one or two good houses, standing in their own grounds—bare walls and heaps of debris. Going to Limerick we found several ruined houses where the work of destruction had been carried out with extraordinary completeness. Painted in large letters on the walls left standing were such sentences as ‘The work of the Black- and Tans,’ ‘The work of the R.I.C.’ In Kerry Street, which had been raided but not burned, we found that practically every window, both glass and woodwork, had been smashed, doors burst open, and furniture, ornaments, earthenware—in fact, everything break- able—included in one common destruction. The accounts given were most graphic. Here it was a woman showing the remains of cherished ornaments and looking glass; there another lamenting over the shattered remnants of a wardrobe; and again another pointing to a plaster cast of the Virgin and rejoicing that it had been spared. Leaving this Via Doloroso, it was not surprising to read on the walls of some neighboring buildings such inscriptions as ‘Sorrow to England,’ ‘Damn England.’
“From Limerick we made a long round by motor car to visit three villages which had just been ‘shot up.’ These were Ennis- tymon, Lahinch, and Miltown Malbay. The first sign of trouble was cut telegraph wires. This had been done in two places. On entering Ennistymon the acrid smell of burning met us everywhere. Some of the ruins were still smoking, and here and there flame was flickering over the ashes. A man who had been present during the raid told us of the frenzy of the attack, the wild shouting, the blaz- ing houses, the bullets whizzing past his head as he tried to bring two women from the street to a place of safety, the shooting of a man and the hurling of the body in the flames.
“As we left the village a lorry passed us manned by armed police, and carrying on the floor two coffins. Presumably these were for two of a party of police ambushed and shot a day or two before. Lahinch had suffered more than Ennistymon. ‘Come this way, sir,’ said a man. We followed. There at the back of the house, in a low, poor shed, was a comparatively small chest covered with a white cloth, and on the top a few flowers. ‘He was burnt, sir, in one of the houses. He was a stranger. We don’t know who he was.’ This was all that was left. Now we were talking to a woman. ‘When they came to my house I begged and prayed them not to burn it. The man at the door was tall and fair. I could see him plainly, for it was bright moonlight, and there was the light from the burn- ing house. I pleaded hard, “Don’t burn this house. There’s no one but women and children in it.” And they went away and did not burn it.’ Again we are questioning a man who had succeeded in putting out the flames in his house—a small inn. ‘I carried the water up here. I was afraid they would see me and shoot me. There were some visitors upstairs, and they helped them out with their luggage. They said, “It’s not women and children we want; it’s the men we’re after. We’re out for blood.” ’ And now we leave the houses to go into the main street. A crowd is moving slowly from the farther end. A coffin carried shoulder high by the men of the village is being borne to the cemetery. With bared heads we join in the march. It is the funeral of one of those killed in the raid. A short interval and then a change. A motor lorry, carrying six or eight soldiers with trench helmets, bayonets, and rifles at ‘the ready,’ passes through the village. I stand looking hard at this symbol of physical power. The soldiers’ eyes range over doors, windows, and doorways, their fingers on the rifle trig- gers. I think of the charred remnants of the stranger a few yards away in the shed, of the coffin carried shoulder high; my eyes rest on the ruin left by the fires, and I cannot deny that a feeling of fierce anger flares up within me. And then like a flash comes the recollection of the lorry we have seen leaving Ennistymon, with its armed policemen guarding the two coffins; and I think of the mur- dered policemen, their widows and little children. And then, as in colors of flame, the conflict of the tragedy of Ireland is before me.
“Continuing our drive, we saw evidence that the reprisals had not been confined to villages and towns, but that isolated farms and cottages had been included. In other respects the country looked prosperous. The cottages and farm buildings are well thatched and cleanly whitewashed; and indeed we were assured from many quar- ters that Ireland is financially prosperous. “On the last night which we spent in Cork, I was awakened at about two o’clock by an explosion. Springing to the window I looked out. There was a good deal of firing, the coming and going of lorries and armored cars, and a searchlight in the distance. Two or three times I got back to bed, only to hurry to the window again as a shot or shots rang out. Gradually matters seemed to settle down. Investigation in the morning showed that a large part of an extensive shop front had been blown out by an explosion, and practically every pane of glass on the opposite side of the street for a considerable distance shivered by its force.
“In Cork we had the opportunity of attending a Sinn Fein court. Three young men sat on the bench, and there were about forty people present. The cases related to the licensing laws, and the proceedings were conducted in a quiet and businesslike manner. From many quarters we received testimony to the efficiency of these courts, and to the impartiality with which they administer justice. They deal with criminal offenses, questions of rent, ownership and occupation of land. So much for what we saw. Now for a few impressions.
“The old irreconcilable Unionism is dead, except in Ulster. The old constitutional Nationalist Party has gone also. One former Nationalist M. P. told me he doubted if he could find enough supporters to fill his nomination papers. Everywhere men talk of a Republic, a liberal measure of home rule, or Dominion home rule. It is not that Unionists think home rule the better policy, but that they regard something of the kind as inevitable. A measure of the kind that would have been fought five years ago would now almost certainly be accepted by Unionists with thankfulness. “The Parliamentary Nationalist Policy was discredited because it was found to lead only to disappointment, broken Government promises, bills withdrawn, Acts suspended. No one could trust the Government. In consequence practically the whole of the Nation- alist following has gone over to Sinn Fein. We gathered, however, that while the extreme Sinn Feiners were apparently irreconcilable, and will accept nothing short of an independent Irish Republic, there is a large mass of moderate opinion which would accept a well-conceived liberal measure of self-government. Several ex- pressed the opinion that the bestowal of this would kill the agita- tion for independence. However this may be, I must repeat that deeds, not words, are needed. Government promises are simply disregarded.
“Broadly speaking, the courses before England seem to be limited to three: (1) Repression and yet more repression, and all that this involves; (2) the gift of a liberal measure of self-government, including fiscal and financial control; (3) an independent Irish Republic. I am inclined to think England will rule out the first and third of these. What of the second? And what of the stopping of police reprisals, the withdrawal of the armed forces of the Crown as a pledge of the good faith of the Government, whose good faith also stands in need of some guarantee of the kind? I believe there is hope in this direction. But action must be prompt and decisive. Tempers are hardening. The door of opportunity is closing. Will the Government have the courage to act before it is again too late?” The Witness: This completes the report as written by John Henry Barlow. There are just a few conclusions that were stated for the committee by Roger Clark that I might offer in addition if you wish them. There may be points in his conclusion that are also referred to here, but I think it might be of some interest to have them in the words of another member of the committee.
“We must endeavor to summarize briefly our general impressions on the situation. Politically it is clear that the constitutional Home Rule or Nationalist Party has entirely disappeared. One of the late Members for Cork told us that if he put up again as a Nation- alist, he doubted if he would get enough support to fill up his nomi- nations. Sinn Fein, originally a semi-literary movement to revive the old native culture, language and life, developed later into a political movement for complete national independence from Eng- land. The Nationalist Party, disillusioned utterly by the repeated non-fulfilment of promises of self-government from England, has moved bodily over to Sinn Fein. The elected Sinn Fein members meet frequently in Dublin instead of coming to Westminster, and have set up a Republican Government, electing a Cabinet which functions through judiciary, police, army, etc. 'They have appointed agricultural and other commissions, on which prominent Unionists have been not unwilling to serve.
“It is generally admitted by moderate people, including many Unionists, that the only protection they enjoy is from the Sinn Fein police. Their meetings are protected from interruption, stolen goods are found and returned, writers of threatening letters are dealt with and stopped, laws controlling the sale of intoxicating drinks are rigorously enforced. All this when it is a penal offense for a Sinn Fein Volunteer policeman to act as such. It is plausibly maintained that if the English garrison and armed police were to withdraw, the Sinn Fein Government could and would run the coun- try, and that at present order and safety are only found in districts from which the English military and police have been withdrawn. Moderate people are already discussing to which Government they shall pay their next income tax. The English Government has ceased to function over at least eighty per cent, of Ireland. We were bound to recognize that a state of war is considered to exist, and does exist. The Irish Volunteers are the Sinn Fein army.”
The Witness: Here is just a bit of conclusion: “As Friends we must deplore the violence and the bloodshed on both sides that take place in such a state of war. As English citi- zens we must surely chiefly feel the shame of the direct responsi- bility of our Government for the policy of reprisals by the so-called Black-and-Tans led by their officers, during which town after town is being ravaged and burnt, and women and children are driven terror stricken into the fields and woods to seek safety at night.” Q. Commissioner Maurer: Did I understand you to say that that committee consisted of three people? A. It did. Q. What nation did they come from? A. They are Englishmen. Q. Were they all English? A. All English. There were three of them, one living in Bir- mingham, one in a suburban town south of London, and Edith Ellis lived in London at the time I was there. They were all English people.. Q. And this report was made at the World Conference? A. No, this was made following the World Conference of Friends, and was made to the executive ad interim body. Q. Senator Norris : It was made to the same body that appointed the committee? A. It was. Q. Commissioner Maurer: Did I understand you to say that you heard this report made? A. Yes, I did. Q. And you were in England at the time? A. I was. Q. Mr. Manly: Were there any objections made to the report? A. There were no objections made to the report. There was a great deal of expression of commendation to the Friends who served on the committee, and under some difficulty and inconvenience went to Ireland to make the investigation. I can add, however, that there were some Friends in the meeting, who were in the decided minority, who were not clear as to the withdrawal of the English forces. That is, they had in mind the opposition of the people in the north of Ireland to the withdrawal of the English forces, and they said they did not see what was going to happen next unless it was civil war if they were withdrawn. I should say that there were from five to six people out of a committee of one hundred who expressed that attitude. Q. There was no question raised as to the facts, but only on the policy? A. Only as to the policy. I may say that these three Friends who made the report are generally considered among Friends to be as responsible as any three people could be. They have the highest regard and respect for them.
Q. Do you know how many Friends there are in Ireland? A. Not less than three thousand or more than five thousand. I do not know exactly. Q. Where are they located? Do you know? A. About Belfast and Dublin, and a few who are centered in the south of Ireland. Q. Both in the north and south of Ireland? A. Both in the north and south. Q. Do you know whether any complaints have come to the Society of Friends regarding the persecution of the Friends in Ire- land, or any violence toward them? A. No, I know of no persecution of Friends. There have been instances in which the homes of Friends have been searched. Q. By whom? A. I think both by representatives of Sinn Fein and the English Government, but I am unable to give details. But in no case that I know of has violence been done or property destroyed. Q. Do you know whether or not the Friends in the south of Ireland are as a class Republicans? A. As a class they could not be said to be Republicans. They have in times past been Unionists or Nationalists. They are not now actively in Sinn Fein, but I know that a great many of them are very sympathetic with the Sinn Fein. Q. But as a class they have, you think, been rather aloof recently from this more bitter political movement? A. They have always been aloof from it, as far as taking any partisan part is concerned, because of the fact that their principles deterred them from being very partisan in the matter — that is, from taking an active part in it. Q. Would it be your view then that the Friends would be as nearly impartial and unbiased as any group of people in Ireland can be? A. I don't know whether my opinion is worth very much on that point. Q. Well, you have stated the fact that their principles have kept them out of partisan politics to a large extent? A. Yes, yes; that is correct. To a large extent. Q. And would you draw the conclusion from that that they would be as impartial as a body of people could be? A. Yes, yes. I think that is a warranted conclusion. Q. Senator Norris: Do the Friends have churches in Ireland? A. Yes, they have. Q. Where are they located? A. I am unable to give a list of places where there are Meetings, as they are called. Q. But wherever they are, they have places of worship? A. Yes, a considerable number of them. The chief places are Belfast and Dublin. Q. Well, Dublin is a Catholic community and Belfast is a Protestant community. A. Yes. Q. Well, then, I wish you would tell the Commission of any cases that you know of where the Friends have been interfered with in their religious services. A. I know of no such instances. Q. Either in the north or south? A. Either in the north or south. Q. Commissioner Newman: If there had been, you would have heard of such disturbances? A. I think I would.
Q. Chairman Howe: Are the Friends fearful that if the Repub- lican form of government comes about they will be interfered with in any way? A. I have never heard any Friends express that. I know that there are some Friends in the north of Ireland who are fearful of the new government, but not on religious grounds. Q. But your Friends in the south of Ireland, where the Repub- licans are in the great majority, have more reason to be fearful, in case there were to be any persecutions, than those in the north. A. Yes, that would be so. But I have friends in the south of Ireland, and I have never heard them express anything that way. Q. Commissioner Newman: What are the political affiliations of the Friends in England? A. Before the war they were Liberals, but since the war it is hard to say. A great many of them are affiliating with the Labor Party. Q. The Friends during the war supported the war, did they not? A. I could not answer that question yes or no, because there were a good many Friends who did go into the army or did take part in the financing of the wartime work in England. But the attitude of the Friends as a whole was against the war and against military service, and they stood out publicly on it throughout the war. Q. Mr. Manly: Their attitude, though, is not against this par ticular war, but against all wars. A. That is correct. Q. It is a long-standing principle that the action of the indi- vidual Friend is a matter of personal discretion in time of war. A. That is correct. Q. And it has been recognized by the government in past wars, has it not, that the Society of Friends is entitled to religious ex- emption ? A. It has been recognized, I would say, to a more or less degree, its recognition depending on how hard pressed the government was. Q. That was true, though, in this country that there had been a recognition of the Society of Friends as one of the religious organi- zations which on principle was opposed to military activity. A. That is quite true. Q. Commissioner Maurer: How many Friends are there in Eng- land? Have you any idea? A. About 18,000; possibly 20,000. Q. Chairman Howe: How many are there in the United States? A. About 100,000. Q. Communicants, or members of meeting houses? A. Yes, about 100,000, widely scattered. Q. Commissioner Newman: The Society of Friends in the United States did not oppose military service, did they? A. They took the same stand that the Friends did in England. I myself did oppose it. I will have to make an explanation in order to answer that question. I will make it as briefly as possible. The Society of Friends does not undertake to bind their members as to their individual procedure. It is supposed that they in a gen- eral way have convictions that are in harmony with the principles that have been set down as the principles of the Society of Friends. But they Eire not ordered to do anything, but are supposed to follow their convictions. And it would simply follow that if a person did not in general agree with the principles of the Society of Friends, it would be expected that he would eventually resign. But no Friends were discharged or dismissed from membership because they took part in the' war, although at the same time the official attitude of the Society of Friends was against participation in the war, or against war in any form or in any circumstances as a method of settling any international dispute, both now and past and future. (The witness was thereupon excused.) Q. Chairman Howe : Are there any other questions as to the Irish testimony? If not, are there any other witnesses this morning? Have you anybody else, Mr. Manly? Mr. Manly: No, I have not. Chairman Howe: The witnesses we expected to have this week are still on the seas. They are on the Baltic and the Carmania. They were expected to land this week, so that we could continue the hearings today or Saturday; but neither of these boats will land before Sunday. The Commission expects to continue its hearings on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. We cannot set a definite day or hour now, but they will be announced in the press. The hearings will be held here in the LaFayette Hotel. Thereupon, at 11:45 A. M., the Commission adjourned until the Fourth Hearings.
Before the
Session One Jane Addams James H. Maurer Oliver P. Newman George W. Norris Norman Thomas ) COMMISSIONERS David I. Walsh L. Hollingsworth Wood Frederic C. Howe Acting Chairman Before the Commission, sitting in Hotel LaFayette, Washington, D. C, Tuesday, December 21, 1920. Session called to order by Chairman Howe at 10:20 A. M. Chairman Howe: The hearings will come to order. The hearing of witnesses will continue the greater part of today, tomorrow, and Thursday. The witnesses who have come for today in response to the Commission's request are two English women who have made a personal inquiry in Ireland, which has been embodied in a report printed, I understand, and distributed through their organization. They have kindly consented to come over here and appear before the Commission and give evidence. The first witness is Mrs. Robin- son. Mrs. Robinson, you can adjust yourself to your comfort, and if you can speak so that the audience can hear you, it will add to their comfort.
Q. You will first state your name, Mrs. Robinson. A. Annot Erskine Robinson. Q. Your residence? A. Manchester. Q. Senator Norris: England? A. England.
Q. Chairman Howe: And you are a member of an organization in England that made an inquiry in Ireland? A. Yes, the Women's International League. Q. What is the nature of the Women's International League? A. The Women's International League is a body of women which first came together in 1915 as the result of a congress held at The Hague. As a result of that congress bodies of women have been established in England as well as in America. The object of that organization was to try to establish the principle of cooperation in international aifairs, to find some other way of settling the dis- putes of nations besides war. They held a conference at The Hague in May, 1915; and in May, 1919, a second international conference was held at Zurich in Switzerland, and it again discussed methods whereby nations could settle differences other than by war. Our British Section has carried on its work in Britain, and of course other sections have carried on their work in different countries.
In the spring of 1920 the attention of the British Section was naturally much occupied by what was happening in Ireland. We believed that the principle of self-determination was a funda- mental right of a people to ask and have put into operation. We also felt that the atrocities and reprisals happening in Ireland were building up a tremendous state of war and hatred and hostility between Britain and Ireland. Because of that, and because also of the suffering of the women and children, we determined in August to send a commission of ten to Ireland to determine what was hap- pening, and Miss Wilkinson and myself were two of the members of that commission of ten. Q. Commissioner Wood: May I ask how you knew of the suffer- ing of the women and children before you went? A. Well, of course, it is perfectly obvious, is it not, that when it is reported in the newspapers that homes were being destroyed, that women and children are going to suffer? I do not know that there was any particular statement of that suffering in the news- papers, but perhaps it was but our own imaginations that led us to know that what was happening there would cause suffering among the women and children. We knew that reprisals had occurred, and that they would fall hardest upon the women and children. Q. You had no information from friends in Ireland? A. Yes, the Irish Branch of the Women’s International League was founded in 1915. The Irish women felt that they could not conscientiously set up a branch of the British Women’s League. Miss Louie Bennett, a writer whose name you may have heard, became the secretary of the Irish International League. But it was not because of any appeal that they sent that we decided to send a commission to Ireland. It was as a result of our own consciousness of what we knew was happening. Q. Chairman Howe: And the British Section that you represent is confined to England, Scotland, and Wales? A. Yes. Then in October of this year we sent a delegation of ten women to investigate conditions in Ireland. We have distributed among the members of the Commission a little printed pamphlet that we issued as a result of that mission.
On our return from Ireland on the sixteenth of October, I, as Organizing Secretary, arranged a large number of demonstrations throughout the large cities of England, at which members of the commission spoke and gave their impressions from their visit to Ireland. I think at this juncture I ought to say that the commission did not go as one mission. Some of us went to one part of Ireland and some to another; and we endeavored at these demonstrations to present the impressions of those members of the commission which had visited the different parts of Ireland. We had demon- strations in London and Manchester and Bristol and Newcastle and Edinburgh and Leeds and all the big centers of population. And now, since Miss Wilkinson and I are over here, the series of demon- strations have been continued; and one reason that we hesitated to come was that we wanted to stay and try to inform public opinion by these demonstrations. We held this series of demonstrations in practically all the big cities of the country. At all those meetings we have had very large audiences indeed. At Manchester we held our meeting in the Free Trade Hall, which is a very well-known hall, an historic place, and holds about three thousand people. And we have had the biggest halls in most of these big towns; and we found a tremendous feeling of astonishment in Britain at what is happening in Ireland, and a great deal of sympathy with the Irish people in their demand for some recognition of their nationality.
I do not know whether this is the place where I think that British citizens ought to make it perfectly clear that there are a great many influences in Britain at the present time that are working in the direction of obtaining some recognition of the nationality of Ire- land. I think—of course I have not been in the fortunate position of being able to see the American papers, but I should imagine that that is a side of British public life at present that has not been well reported in the American press. Q. Senator Walsh: Has it been in the British press? A. Yes. There, of course, we have some newspapers in Britain that have done a very great deal about publishing the facts about what is happening in Ireland during the last few months. I think we have handed in to Mr. MacDonald a series of photographs published by the Manchester Guardian. The Manchester Guardian during this spring, and particularly during September and October of this year, sent over four of their best photographers and also press reporters to Ireland, who have made it their business to go to each locality where atrocities have been reported to obtain photo- graphs and first-hand information from those who have participated in those outrages. The photographs Mr. MacDonald has. They appeared in the Manchester Guardian. The Manchester Guardian, of course, is a newspsaper with a very great influence in Britain in liberal circles. Not only the Manchester Guardian and the Daily News and Leader have done that, but also the Daily Herald, the Labor newspaper, although it has not so much space to give in its columns, has reported very fully indeed the information about atrocities and murders in Ireland. Q. Commissioner Wood: What is the circulation of these papers, Mrs. Robinson? A. The Daily Herald now has 350,000, and it has a circulation among people who have very considerable weight in Great Britain. Q. But it has a circulation only among one class. A. Among one party, but not among one class. But I cannot go into the political side of it. Q. But I wanted to know what that meant in formulating British public opinion. A. I should state that not only the Manchester Guardian and the Daily Neivs and Leader and the Daily Herald, but also the weekly Nation—I don’t know how large its circulation is, but it has a circulation among some of the most thoughtful and influential peo- pie, and it has done a very great deal of good. As to the exact circulation of the papers I have mentioned, the Daily Herald has a circulation of 350,000. You know, of course, that the Daily Herald is a Labor Party paper, but the Labor Party, when its new consti- tution was formed in 1919, extended its invitation to people who work with hand and brain; and it is not true to say that the Labor Party in England consists only of manual workers. It has also many representatives of professional people. It is therefore not true that the Daily Herald represents only one class—it represents one party, but it has all classes in it. Then the Manchester Guardian has a very great national influence. Although it is a provincial paper, it has a national influence, and represents national radical opinion.
Q. Senator Norris: Now, Mr. Chairman, I would make an in- quiry of this witness that I think might be part of her preliminary testimony. I have understood that you ladies had some difficulty in getting permission to come over here. Before you go into your testimony proper, if you had any such difficulty, I wish you would tell the Commission about it. A. Yes. When the invitation was received from this Commis- sion by our national executive that we should come here to give evidence before this Commission, our national executive had con- siderable difficulty deciding whether we ought to come or ought not to come. Obviously, it is a difficult thing to come out of one’s own country into another country and discuss a matter that might be considered in some aspects as of domestic policy. On the other hand, as we were international and had branches in all countries, we realized that the Irish question was not only a question of na- tional politics; it was also a question of international politics. And so we applied to our own Foreign Office for permission to come. When we applied to our own Foreign Office, the passports were issued without any difficulty; and we were told that our passports would have to be vised by the American Consul in Manchester. I understood that that was a mere matter of formality, and therefore we did not apply as early as we might have done. The steamship on which we came, the Baltic, came on Wednesday, the eighth; and on the sixth we applied at the American Consulate to have our passports vised. The visa is with ordinary officials supposed to go through in the ordinary course of business; it is a mere matter of formality, after one’s own government has issued a passport. But when we applied to the American Consul in Manchester to visé our passports, he refused. Q. Senator Walsh: His name, please? A. Mr. Wells. Mr. Wells came forward and said, “I refuse to visé these passports.” Naturally, I was very much astonished, par- ticularly in my own city of Manchester, where I am very well known. And I said, “Mr. Wells, we cannot accept that. Would you mind giving me some reason for such an extraordinary re- fusal?” And he said, “We are not encouraging inquiries in Amer- ica into the state of affairs in Ireland.” And I told him that I did not consider that that was a sufficient reply. And so I took the night train up to London, and called at the office of the American embassy and also on the American Consul-General. And I also saw some friends who had diplomatic influence in London. I was assured by the Consul-General (I am not sure whether it was the Consul- General or one of his assistants) that as far as he knew, he saw no reason why the passport should not be viséd by the American Consul at Manchester; but perhaps he was not satisfied with the bona fides of Miss Wilkinson and myself. He advised me to go back to Manchester and see him again. I traveled back, arriving in Manchester Wednesday morning. The boat sailed that afternoon. And Miss Wilkinson and I, with a friend, called again at the office of the American Consul and said that we had again come with reference to the passports. And then, after extracting from us a definite promise that we would not address meetings, engage in any propaganda, or grant any interviews while we were in America, he consented to visé our passports. Q. Senator Walsh: Will you repeat that, please? A. Having given a definite undertaking that we would not en- gage in any propaganda, address any meetings, or give any inter- views while in America, he consented to visé our passports. Q. What is his full name? A. I do not know. Miss Wilkinson : Mr. F. Wells. Q. Is he an Englishman or an American? A. I don’t know, but I should judge by this gentleman’s accent that he was an American, but his policy was rather English. He extracted from us that very definite pledge, and then we were al- lowed, three hours before the boat sailed, to come here. Q. Senator Norris: Did you give that promise in writing? A. No. Q. Did he say anything to you in his conversation on either occasion that would give you information as to whether he was acting under instructions, or whether the action was taken on his own volition? A. I don't know, but the Consul-General in London said he was sure that he was not acting on general instructions, but on his own initiative. And the intimation to me was that he had some terrible information about Miss Wilkinson and myself. Q. Commissioner Newman : What information did you obtain from the American embassy in London? A. I did not see the Ambassador, but a secretary told me that he was very much astonished that the visa had been refused. Q. Senator Norris: Do you know whether the Ambassador at London communicated with Mr. Wells at Manchester? A. Yes. I asked that he should do so, and left some money to pay for the telegrams. Q. Commissioner Newman: Do you know what information he sent to the Consul at Manchester? A. I was not informed. We only can draw an inference, as we say in Scotland. Q. Commissioner Wood: Did I understand you to say that the embassy required you to pay money? A. I was asked to leave a deposit to pay for the telegrams. It was later refunded. I asked for it back. Q. Senator Walsh: Did Mr. Wells in Manchester say that he had heard from London between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning? A. He did not say so, but I knew it indirectly. Q. But after hearing from London, he made you extend certain promises ? A. Quite, quite. Q. And your mouth is sealed from talking to newspaper men? A. So. I might say that on the small slip of paper on which we were asked to put in our business for going to America, it is true I only wrote in the word "business," but I explained to the secre- tary very fully what I was going to do, and what I was going to state. But the Consul said, in spite of that, that we only had written the word "business" on that scrap of paper, and had not stated what that business was. But physically it was quite impossible to do so, for there was no room on that little piece of paper at all. Mr. Manly: May I ask a question, Mr. Howe? Chairman Howe: Certainly. Q. Mr. Manly : Before you went to the Embassy you called upon some of the more prominent and influential liberals in London? A. Yes, but I would not care to give their names. Q. But you think it is very probable that they communicated with the Ambassador? A. Yes. I felt that this situation was so peculiar that I should use any influence that I had.1
Q. Senator Walsh: Now, the witness can go back to the news- paper matter. A. Yes. I was saying that the Manchester Guardian has a very remarkable influence in Britain, even though it is a provincial news- paper. As to the amount of its circulation, I don't know. The Daily News and Leader is at present the daily organ of the Free Liberals, and has a very large circulation. And these newspapers for the last few months, at any rate, have devoted a very large amount of space to the demand that the Government should recon- sider its policy in Ireland. Not only have the newspapers been doing that, but organizations like our own are acting on the same policy. We not only have the Women's International League, but also the Peace for Ireland Committee. On that committee we have several very well-known politicians who are sitting, and also some very well-known men and women. And they have been sitting in a committee room of the House of Commons, and they are working very hard, by spreading literature and propaganda, to give a knowl- edge of what is happening in Ireland, and creating a very definite public opinion on the matter. And then, of course, we have the Labor Party, which, as you know, has sent several missions to Ire- land, and is taking up the Irish question with a great deal of vigor at the present time. Q. Commissioner Thomas: May I ask, for our benefit, if you will elaborate a little on that? Can you tell us who some of the people are on that Peace for Ireland Committee, and can you tell some of their names?

1 Mrs. Robinson and Miss Wilkinson, at the request of the Commission, swore to the statements herein made concerning the attempt of U. S. Consul F. Wells to prevent their coming to America to testify, which affidavit was submitted to the U. S. Secretary of State December 23, 1920, for official action.
A. Yes. Mrs. H. M. Swanwick, who is a very well-known woman in Britain, a very well-known journalist and author, a well- known publicist. Lord Henry Bentinck is a member of it. He is a member of one of the established families, a life-long member of the Conservative Party, who has taken a very strong position indeed on this Irish matter. If any member of this Commission has seen the files of the London newspapers, you will see that Lord Henry Bentinck has asked questions almost every day on the Irish question at question time in the House of Commons. Sir John Simon is also a member—one of our best-known lawyers, and a leading politician; and he also has taken a very strong stand on this matter. Commander Kenworthy, who is a member of the House of Commons, a Liberal Member, has also devoted considerable time and very much attention to bringing out the facts about Ireland, such as he could obtain, from Sir Hamar Greenwood. And Miss Maud Roydon, who is perhaps known here as an eminent woman preacher. I should think that Miss Maud Roydon is one of the best-known women in England at the present time, and one of the most influential. Lord Buckmaster is also a member of it, and Miss Buckmaster is also acting as its secretary. Q. Commissioner Addams: Mr. Hobson, the well-known econo- mist, is also a member, is he not? A. Yes, and Ramsay MacDonald and J. J. Mallon. Q. Lady Courtney? A. Yes, Lady Courtney, and Captain Fitzhodgings Berkeley.
Q. Senator Norris: I wish you would give us an idea, if you can, of the position that these various persons named in these vari- ous organizations take on the Irish question. Do they stand for freedom for Ireland, or for some modifications of Ireland’s demand for freedom? A. I think at the moment what they stand for first and foremost is a reconsidering of the policy of the Government. And secondly, they want some settlement of the Irish question on the basis of granting self-determination to the Irish people. But I am quite certain that no further agreement would be found among these various names as to the form that this should take. Q. Senator Walsh: There probably would be some disagreement on that? A. Yes, I am quite sure there would. Q. But they agree on these two things? A. Yes. Q. Commissioner Thomas: May I bring this out further? Do they demand that the troops be withdrawn? A. Yes, they demand that the troops be at least withdrawn to the seaboard; but whether they agree that the troops should be entirely withdrawn from Ireland I could not say. I might as well bring out here that you find the troops going about in small iso- lated bodies. The railroads, as you know, have refused to carry munitions of war or troops that are armed. That means that the troops must go about from point to point sometimes in quite small bodies. The policemen have also done that. And that has made it comparatively simple for a member, say, of some secret society in Ireland, if some such society exists, or any Sinn Feiner, if he feels exasperated — it provides opportunity for the murders that have occurred. Many of us have felt that it was a very unfortunate method for the distribution of the troops in Ireland. And I am sure that every member of that Peace for Ireland Committee would say that the troops should be withdrawn at least to the seaboard, and that the patrolling of lonely country roads should immediately cease. Q. Commissioner Thomas: Would they agree to the second point, that Ireland should be given some kind of self-determination? A. Well, you see that I am not a member of that Peace for Ireland Committee. Therefore, while I am quite willing to answer general questions as to both our program and that of the Peace for Ireland Committee, I cannot speak with any certainty. Q. You understand that in asking you, we are perhaps going ahead of what would be done in exceedingly formal legal testimony. But we want information along this line. It is peculiarly important for us to know what is meant in England by a reversal of the Gov- ernment policy. Now, we know that there is probably no one opinion. We would be willing to assume that. But we want to get as clear a picture of it as possible. That is why I asked these questions. A. Yes, quite. What we, the Women's International League, did was to send this committee to Ireland to get first-hand informa- tion and the facts, as well as they could be learned, about the situation there. We knew that the problem could not be settled all at once, but we felt that there were certain first steps that should be taken immediately. We therefore advocated the immediate re- lease of Irish political prisoners and the offering of a truce, during which all forces should be withdrawn, and the placing of responsi- bility for keeping order in the hands of Irish local bodies, thus making a situation in which the Irish people could determine their own form of government. And I should think you would find a universal opinion among those people I have mentioned that this should be done. Q. Do you mean that these organizations favor withdrawing the troops from Ireland? A. I believe that the presence of the troops in Ireland has led to very great bloodshed. My organization believes that they should at least be withdrawn to the seaboard. Q. Do you mean by self-determination that the Irish people should determine their form of government, outside or inside of the Empire? A. I do. Q. Does your organization? A. Yes. But I want to make it quite clear that I am not answer- ing for all these organizations, particularly the newspapers. Of course you must remember that a very great number of people agree with Mr. Asquith, who has stood for the dominion form of self- government. That is a point of view which I should say is much more widely held by the bodies of which I have spoken than the other point of view, when I say that I and my organization favor self-determination. Q. Senator Norris: That would mean giving Ireland the same kind of government that is given to Canada? A. Precisely. Q. Commissioner Thomas: You would say that the home rule policy of the British Government scarcely represents the mind of England? A. Quite. I wonder if it would not be worth while to trace the stage where public opinion is at in England today? Chairman Howe: That would be very interesting.
The Witness: Well, in 1914, before the war, when the Home Rule Bill was placed on the statute books, although it was never made operative at that time, you had Sir Edward Carson and F. I. Smith, now our Lord Chancellor, who were the recognized leaders of the Ulsterites, protesting in the name of the people in the six counties (it was six at that time; now it is four), who protested that they would not accept separation from Great Britain. And you had at that time the Ulster Volunteers very effectively armed and drilled. You had up in northeast Ulster a very well drilled and disciplined and armed body of troops. The arms, as you know, were obtained partly from big firms in Britain and partly from Germany when you had the gun-running at Larne; and at that time the lawlessness in Ireland was all in the northeast of Ulster. And lawlessness in Ulster at that time had the support of a certain proportion of the aristocracy and the Conservative Party, which represented the aris- tocracy in Great Britain. When you talk of the northeast Ulster situation, you must realize that a large section of Conservative and aristocratic opinion in England upheld them in their open rebellion against the Home Rule Bill. They imported arms and got ready to fight against its enforcement. And then came the war. Q. Senator Walsh: That opinion is a powerful one? A. Yes, it is an important factor. Q. It has been more or less the ruling opinion? A. Yes, yes. One feels that these questions can only be an- swered by paragraphs.
And then after that, in 1914, came the war. And Redmond, in the name of Ireland, called upon Ireland in the British Parliament to fight for the right of small democracies. And then after that very little about Ireland appeared in our newspapers. Naturally, the war occupied the attention of the great mass of people in Great Britain, because, of course, the war came into our work and family life, perhaps more than it did in this country. And after that came the 1916 Rebellion. Before the 1916 Rebellion the Sinn Fein move- ment was not a movement whose existence was recognized by many poeple in Great Britain. It was a literary movement, an educational movement. It was not, to the knowledge of most people, a political movement. And then after the Rebellion you had the execution of the leaders, which was protracted over a good many days. Q. Chairman Howe: Just why were those executions protracted over a great many days? A. I don’t know. Q. Just for terrorism? A. I don’t know. I have no opinion. And of course the shoot- ings in cold blood after the Rebellion had been subdued, these executions naturally aroused a very great depth of feeling in Ire- land. Q. Senator Walsh: Was that without trial or court-martial? A. It was under courts-martial. Ireland at the time, of course, was under martial law. Dublin was. Q. Commissioner Wood: It aroused a great deal of feeling in Ireland, but not in England? A. It aroused a great feeling in England, especially in Labor circles, and outside of Labor circles too. Q. Senator Walsh: It almost immediately made Ireland Sinn Fein? A. Yes, it gave support to the growth of the Sinn Fein demand for absolute independence in Ireland. Before 1914 there was very little talk of absolute independence in Ireland. After the 1916 Rebellion and the executions in Ireland, the demand for inde- pendence assumed very much greater importance, and the Sinn Fein movement spread. Then in 1917 and 1918 there were many arrests of suspected people in Ireland — people suspected of disloyal opinion.
Q. Senator Walsh: How were these people treated? What method of trial did they get? A. Well, that is answered by this summary which I have pre- pared : In the year 1917 no policeman was killed, but the police and military raided private houses and arrested 394 persons for political opinions, deported 24 persons without charge or trial, suppressed meetings and newspapers, and killed several civilians. I think that is just as good a summary as I can give you.1 Q. Commissioner Wood : Deported means deported to England? A. Yes, deported to England and kept away from their own country. Q. Chairman Howe: That is 1917? A. Yes, 1917. Q. Senator Walsh: From what source does that information come? A. From the newspapers ordinarily. Q. And from your investigations? A. No, but it is a matter of general notice. Miss Wilkinson : They were taken from a White Paper published by the House of Commons by a friend of mine. Senator Walsh: Very well.

1 See summary in Exhibit I.
Mr. Basil Manly: May I ask a question? Chairman Howe: Certainly. Q. Mr. Manly: To go back to the Ulster movement, the Carson movement. Is it true that Sir Edward Carson defied the Govern- ment to impose its Home Rule Bill on Ulster? A. Yes, it is true. Q. Is it true that an army was raised and armed by Sir Edward Carson to prevent its enforcement? A. Yes. Q. Senator Walsh: Previous to the war? A. Yes, previous to the war. Q. Mr. Manly: Was there any action taken by the British Gov- ernment to suppress that revolution or rebellion? A. No, no action was taken. Q. What action did certain sections of the British Army take, do you recall? A. Yes, I recall, but my information of that was extremely hazy. It was said in the press, and it was not contradicted by the Gov- ernment, that the soldiers at the Curragh Camp in Ireland would refuse to try to suppress the actions of the Ulster Volunteers if ordered to do so. Q. Do you know of any punishment, any disciplinary action that was taken? A. There was none. Q. Senator Walsh: Now go back to 1918.
A. In the year 1918 no police were killed. One hundred and ten political arrests took place. Seventy-seven persons were deported without trial. Fairs and markets were suppressed, and five civilians were killed. Q. Now, just for the sake of the record, is this information from the same source? A. Miss Wilkinson: Yes, taken from a White Paper. Q. Chairman Howe: White Paper being what, — a Government White Paper? A. Yes, published in response to a Parliamentary request. Mrs. Robinson: Yes, and it was published in the newspapers gen- erally throughout England and not contradicted. Q. Senator Walsh: Do you know whether up to this time the British troops had been stationed in Ireland in large numbers? A. Well, there always have been these large British camps in Ireland. I do not know how many soldiers are habitually kept at the Curragh Camp. Q. In 1917 and 1918? A. Always. There always were. Q. Commissioner Wood: When you say six civilians were killed—— A. Five civilians. Q. Do you mean that they were killed by the Government forces? A. Yes, or by the police in skirmishes. You see, in Ireland the police go about heavily armed. They are always a half-militarized force. Q. Senator Walsh: And always have been? A. They are not a civilian force. They are half military. Q. Commissioner Thomas: May I go back to the question from which we started? About the development of British opinion: what was happening in Great Britain? A. Yes, I was going on to 1918, was I not? After the armistice in 1918 we had a general election in December, 1918. Q. Commissioner Wood: May I ask, before you go on to the armistice, in regard to the enforcement of conscription in Ireland, or the non-enforcement of conscription in Ireland, and what influ- ence that had on British public opinion? A. I think Miss Wilkinson could answer that better than I. I am quite sure she would be very glad to deal with that as part of her testimony. I do not feel that my impressions are sufficiently clear- cut to answer that.
Q. Chairman Howe: I would like to have the witness just con- tinue this chronologically of what happened in Ireland. It will make it much clearer in the record. A. Yes. Then in 1918 you had the general election, and you had the Coalition Government returned with a tremendous majority, and Sir Edward Carson and his Irish policy as an integral part of the Government. Q. Commissioner Addams: That is, his policy was in a way approved by the election ? A. Yes, certainly. Q. Mr. Manly: But the general election was not on that issue. A. The general election was not on that issue. But, you see, the Coalition group had adopted his policy as its own in the agree- ments reached for the formation of the Cabinet and the fight over the general election; and it was perfectly evident that the Irish policy of Sir Edward Carson was adopted as an integral part of the Coalition policy for the British Government in order to secure the votes which he undoubtedly represented in the Cabinet and in the Government. Q. Chairman Howe: I confess I have never been able to under- stand why Sir Edward Carson could exercise so much power and influence in the Government. What are the sources of his strength and power? A. I am not a member of the Cabinet. I am afraid I could not say. All I can say is that in order to gain the support of Sir Edward Carson and all the aristocratic influences he stands for, in order to secure that, the Coalition Government adopted as an integral part of its policy the policy of Sir Edward Carson in Ireland' Q. You were discussing the elections of 1918. A. Under that is the point that the Commission ought to bear in mind, that the election of 1918 resulted in the adoption of the Irish policy of Sir Edward Carson. Q. Senator Norris: Briefly, what was that policy? A. At that time it was definitely the Ulster policy. Q. Commissioner Addams: The Unionist policy? A. Yes, the Unionist policy at that time. Since then it has been very considerably modified. Since 1918 very considerably modified. Then in December, 1918, you had very definitely the Irish Parlia- ment elected and the Irish members of Parliament refusing to come to the British House of Commons, setting up an independent Par- liament of its own committed very definitely to Irish independence; while you had the Coalition Government committed to Sir Edward Carson’s policy. And the suppressions went on in Ireland.
Q. Mr. Manly: Would it be accurate to say that the result of that 1918 election was that the Ulster policy secured control of the British Government and that the Sinn Fein policy secured control of the situation in Ireland? A. Yes, as far as 82 per cent of the people of Ireland were concerned, the Sinn Fein policy secured the support of 82 per cent of the electorate of Ireland, further confirmed by the elections of January, 1920. The shooting of police did not begin until January, 1919; and the claim is made that the policemen attacked were policemen who had been especially active in hunting down Sinn Feiners. Q. Commissioner Wood: When you say that the shooting of policemen did not begin until a certain date, did you get that in- formation from any Government White Paper? A. Yes. Q. Senator Norris : That is an indisputable fact? A. Yes, that is an indisputable fact. And, of course, it rather points to the fact that the shooting began in Ireland as a result of the outrages of the preceding three years. Q. Commissioner Addams: At what date did the shooting begin? A. In January, 1919. Of course, by January, 1919, you had the Easter Rebellion and the execution of the leaders and the 1918 elec- tions, and afterwards the municipal elections of January, 1920, all strengthening Sinn Fein feeling in Ireland; and on the other hand, following the general elections, the acceptance of Sir Edward Car- son as a member of the British Cabinet. Q. Senator Walsh: That is the election of 1918? A. Yes, December, 1918. Q. Chairman Howe: And the acceptance of Carson in the Cabi- net was construed by a great number of the Irish people as the end of dominion home rule and the end of their hopes for the rights of small nations? A. Yes, right. And also the end of the possibility of constitu- tional agitation. Q. Senator Walsh: You say that Sir Edward Carson was ac- cepted by the Coalition Cabinet. Was that an action agreed to by the English people, or was it a political trade, — certain forces got together and went before the electorate, and he was one of the forces gathered together? A. You could not legitimately call that a trick. Senator Walsh: No, a trade. The Witness : Yes, it was a trade. Senator Norris: You see, a trade in politics is very often a trick. The Witness : I presume you are a politician.

Contents  |  Previous  |  Next
From page number for pages

In this version the Corrigenda have been actioned. In other respects it aims to be as close to the original as possible - barring masses of OCR errors still to be corrected.

Other sources
Edited by Roger W Haworth (email and website) to whom errors should be reported, please.
(2020-03-08 22:03:08)