Charles Stewart Parnell

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Without the help of the people our exertions would be as nothing.

Charles Stewart Parnell (27 June 18466 October 1891) was an Irish Protestant landowner, nationalist political leader, land reform agitator, Home Rule MP in the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and founder and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party.


  • Why should Ireland be treated as a geographical fragment of England, as he had heard an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer call it some time ago. Ireland was not a geographical fragment, but a nation.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (26 April 1875)
  • The law gave those landlords extensive power at the present time, and unless they went in for a revolution he confessed he did not see how they were going to bring about a radical reform of the system of land tenure in this country.
    • Speech in Tralee (15 November 1878), quoted in Michael Davitt, The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland; Or, The Story of the Land League Revolution (1904), p. 137
  • You can never have civil liberty so long as strangers and Englishmen make your laws and so long as the occupiers of the soil own not an inch of it.
    • Speech in Navan (12 October 1879), quoted in F. S. L. Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell [1977] (1991), p. 96
  • [Y]ou have an expenditure of five or six millions of pounds sterling—nearly all of it paid by the English taxpayers, and all for the purpose of screwing rack-rents out of the Irish tenants. I am very sure that that sort of thing will not be allowed to go on. Would not it be a very wise thing for the Irish landlords to recognize the situation in time, to see that if they do not be reasonable they will be chucked overboard altogether?
    • Speech in Wicklow, reported in United Ireland (17 October 1885), quoted in The Times (31 January 1889), p. 6

"No Rent" Manifesto (1881)[edit]

"No Rent Manifesto" (18 October 1881)
  • Fellow citizens:The hour to try your souls and to redeem your pledges has arrived.
  • Stand together in face of the brutal, cowardly enemies of your race!
  • Bring English tyranny to its knees.
  • Pay no rent under any pretext!
  • The government, with its bayonets, will learn in a single Winter how powerless are armed forces against the will of a united determined, and self-reliant nation.

Cork address (1885)[edit]

Speech in Cork (21 January 1885)
  • Do what is beyond your strength even should you fail sometimes.
  • Without the help of the people our exertions would be as nothing.
  • No man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation.
  • No man has the right to say to his country "Thus far shalt thou go and no further".
  • While we leave those things to time, circumstances and the future, we must each one of us resolve in our own hearts that we shall at all times do everything which within us lies to obtain Ireland the fullest measure of her rights.

Galway speech (1880)[edit]

  • I would not have taken off my coat and gone to work had I not known that we were laying the foundations by this movement for the recovery of our legislative independence.

Quotes about Parnell[edit]

  • He had statesmanlike qualities; and I found him a wonderfully good man to do business with, until I discovered him to be a consummate liar.
    • William Ewart Gladstone's remarks to Lionel Tollemache (13 January 1896), quoted in Lionel Tollemache, Talks with Mr. Gladstone (1898), p. 128
  • Accident made him a parliamentarian, but he was a cold-blooded tactician, amenable to liberal considerations but utterly immune from liberal sympathies. The romantic notion of the “brotherhood of man” disgusted Parnell.
  • [T]he one man in politics for whom I was ever able to feel a genuine respect.
    • Keir Hardie, Labour Leader (17 November 1894), quoted in Keir Hardie's Speeches and Writings, 1888–1915, ed. Emrys Hughes (1928), p. 38
  • Home Rule apart, he was himself a Tory.
  • Mr. Parnell has proved to the world the kind of leader the Irish nation is on the point of losing. He is a man of iron determination, inflexible will, matchless courage and audacity and of peerless skill as a leader, but a man who will not allow even the demands of conscience and honour to stand in the way of his purposes, 'who neither fears God nor respects man'. ... Who can withhold his meed of admiration from the old fallen commander and who can help feeling compassion at the ruin of such grandeur!
    • David Lloyd George, Genedl Gymreig (10 December 1890), quoted in Thomas Jones, Lloyd George (1951), p. 15
  • Mr Butt was a lawyer, and believing that he could persuade Parliament of the justness of his cause, he attempted to effect a revolution by argument. ... Parnell appreciated the situation more correctly, but he was hampered by the crimes that clung round the Land League, and by the opposition of the landlords, naturally exasperated by attacks on their property.
    • Maurice George Moore, An Irish Gentleman, George Henry Moore; His Travel, His Racing, His Politics (n.d.), p. 384
  • Mr. Parnell showed himself acute, frank, patient, closely attentive, and possessed of striking though not rapid insight. He never slurred over difficulties, nor tried to pretend that rough was smooth. On the other hand, he had nothing in common with that desperate species of counsellor, who takes all the small points, and raises objections instead of helping to contrive expedients. He measured the ground with a slow and careful eye, and fixed tenaciously on the thing that was essential at the moment. Of constructive faculty he never showed a trace. He was a man of temperament, of will, of authority, of power; not of ideas or ideals, or knowledge, or political maxims, or even of the practical reason in any of its higher senses, as Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson had practical reason. But he knew what he wanted.
    • John Morley, The Life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume III (1903), p. 304
  • He has many of the qualities of leadership—and time will give him more. He is cool—extremely so and resolute.
    • James O'Kelly to John Devoy (5 August 1877), quoted in Dudley Edwards, ‘Parnell and the American Challenge to Irish Nationalism’, University Review, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Summer, 1960), p. 58
  • “Ireland a nation!” These words justify me in summoning the pale and angry ghost of Parnell to stand beside the ghosts of Tone and Davis and Lalor and Mitchel. If words mean anything, these mean that to Parnell the final and inevitable and infinitely desirable goal of Ireland was Separation; and that those who thought it prudent and feasible, as he did, to proceed to Separation by Home Rule must above all things do nothing that might impair the Separatist position or render the future task of the Separatists more difficult. Of Parnell it may be said with absolute truth that he never surrendered the national position.
    • Patrick Pearse, ‘Ghosts’ (1915), quoted in Collected Works of Padraic H. Pearse: Political Writings and Speeches (1922), pp. 244–245

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