SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
LONDON. THE HOME OFFICE AND SECRET SERVICE
Sir Robert Anderson, son of the late Crown Solicitor for Dublin, is one of those men to whom the country, without knowing it, owes a great deal. Silently and efficiently he and his family have worked for years in high Government positions. And they have worked with a sweet reasonableness and an absence of hide-bound, red-tape-tied officialism which is as delightful as it is exceptional. His brother, Sir Samuel Lee Anderson, was a singular instance of the level head and the sympathising mind. It is a rare combination and an exceedingly fine one. Hard heads, soft hearts.
R. BLATHWAYT in Great Thoughts.
ROBERT ANDERSON may almost be said to have drifted into
Secret Service work. He belonged to the fortunate class of barristers who
become self-supporting from the start. In 1865 a number of persons were charged
at State trials in Dublin with treason-felony. My grandfather, the Crown
Solicitor, had deputed his duties to his eldest son, afterwards Sir Samuel Lee
Anderson. Between the brothers there was unrestricted confidence ; so it came
about that the Crown briefs were placed at my fathers disposal, and all
the confidential reports and secret information which led to the arrest of the
leaders of the conspiracy.
There was then at Dublin Castle no Secret Service organisation or Intelligence Department, and all kinds of secret documents lay in an undigested mass in an office cupboard. The new Chief Secretary, Lord Naas, later Earl of Mayo, entrusted my father with the duty of preparing a précis of these and other official papers relating to Fenianism. The task completed, he wrote a history of the Fenian conspiracy up to date which proved of value to the government. This again led to his services being requisitioned by the Attorney-General when a Fenian outbreak occurred in 1867. The Irish Republican Brotherhood was popularly known as the Fenian Society, or simply the Fenians. It was a political association of Irish or Irish-Americans for the overthrow of British authority in Ireland and the establishment of a republic. Centres were formed in the United States with the object of raising funds, especially for the purchase of arms and munitions of war. "Fenian Bonds" were issued for the purpose. I have one of these, beautifully engraved, which reads:
"The Irish Republic is indebted unto the bearer in the sum of ten dollars, redeemable six months after the acknowledgment of the Independence of the Irish Nation with interest from the date hereof at six per cent. per annum." The "date hereof" is 30th March 1866, and it is signed by John OMahony, Agent for the Irish Republic.
Two abortive raids into Canada were staged in 1866 and 1871. Later developments (about 188385) were the formation of a "Skirmishing Fund," raised to promote the free use of dynamite for the destruction of English public buildings and English commerce; and the rise of an extreme party called the Clan-na-Gael. Members known as the "Invincibles" were to make history by the removal of "tyrants."
But to return to my fathers experiences in 1867. In order to secure the necessary evidence he obtained a permit to see all the prisoners without any restrictions. Going one morning to Kilmainham gaol, he took the Governor into his confidence. After visiting a number of the men he left the prison as openly as he had entered it. But, returning by way of the Governors house during the officials dinner hour, he was smuggled unobserved into the cell of the man he indicated. Determined that not even the police should get an inkling of his mission, he enjoined the Governor not to release him until after locking-up time, refusing to listen to the warning that he little realised the ordeal before him.
Long afterwards, when engaged in his campaign for prison reform, he described this experience. When his object had been attained he found that three hours remained before his release was due. The only thing distinguishing that cell from any other barely furnished closet-room was that the aperture which passed for a window was, as in every prison cell, placed high up near the ceiling, obscured glass preventing the sight of even a few square yards of sky.
Although his mission had been successful beyond expectation, the prisoner having told all he knew of the Fenian leaders in America in addition to giving all the evidence required for the coming trials, my father said he felt a depression which would in time have become almost unbearable. And so, in after years, he made use of this never-forgotten ordeal in his plea for more humane methods in the treatment of prisoners. There lies before me as I write a permit given by the Home Office in 1867. It reads
To THE GOVERNORS, respective Prisons. Allow Mr. Robert Anderson to have an interview in private, and without the presence of any officer of the Prison or other person, with any prisoner whom he may desire to see.
(Signed) JAMES FERGUSON, Bart., Under-Secretary of State.
To continue the story of those early years I quote the words of an obituary notice in The Times fifty years later
It was in this almost accidental way that he was enlisted in the public service. His special knowledge of the ways of Irish political conspiracy became known in high official circles not only in Dublin but in London. After the famous Clerkenwell explosion in 1867 - a warning of which he was able to transmit beforehand to the London police, although they failed to make use of the information - one of the results of what he himself termed the unreasoning panic that followed was the organisation of a Secret Service department of the police, and he was invited to take charge of it. But it only remained in existence for three months, and he was about to return to the Irish Bar when he was requested to take charge of Irish business at the Home Office. In this capacity he had a good deal to do with the surveillance of the Fenian conspirators - Irish and American-Irish - whose plots gave some anxiety to the Government in the years 1869 and 1870.
My father had what he called an intelligent aversion to the Civil Service. And he did not entertain a high opinion of the Home Office of those days. When he first took up work there in 1877 it was impressed on him that the way to get on was to do as little as possible and do it as quietly as possible. The ordinary work was light, and it was left to an industrious minority. The hours were from 11a.m. to 5 p.m., a nominal 11a.m. and a punctual 5 p.m. ; much of that time was given to luncheon, gossip and the newspapers ; and there was plenty left for games and ragging. However, about that time, with the advent of a new Under-Secretary, a new era of efficiency set in.
Looking upon his work in the Civil Service as temporary, he had no intention of abandoning his profession and was duly called to the English Bar, but never engaged in court practice in England. In the meantime, Sir Richard Mayne, Commissioner of the London police, had given him access to the detective department and, soon gaining the confidence and goodwill of the officers, he got to know all that was worth knowing about their work.
And the London life had great attractions for him, especially the House of Commons, where his friendship with Captain Gosset, then Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms, gave him access to "Gossets Room," which was in reality a sort of social club, invitations to which were extended (with the exception of two or three relatives) only to M.P.s. In this way my father was brought into touch with all the by-play of the House, and met the elite of its members.
An instance of the sang-froid which stood him in good stead when dealing with informers and people of that kidney in the course of secret service and police duties is given in one of his stories of those days
"On the last evening of the historic debate on the Irish Church an old friend of my fathers whom I met at dinner spoke of his fruitless efforts to get an order for the Peers Gallery, and declared that he would give £100 for a seat. When we rose from dinner I asked him to come with me to Westminster. I passed with him through the lobbies and up to the gallery door. There, with the lordliest manner I could assume, I told the doorkeeper that I would be extremely obliged if he could find a seat for my friend. Whom he took me for I never knew, but he responded effusively, and begged me to bring him in. Later on I noticed that the official and a colleague were evidently discussing me, trying no doubt to make out who I was. So I thought it better to skip as the Yankees say; but my friend kept his seat till the House rose. In passing out I thanked the doorkeeper for his courtesy and expressed regret that I could not stay longer myself. I should add that I never got the £100!"
The way in which my father became acquainted with Charles Reade, author of The Cloister and the Hearth, is worth telling again. In order to avoid an unwished-for visit from some relatives, the novelist told his housekeeper, Mrs. Seymour, to put the rooms on a house-agents books, and to write the relatives that they must not come; he himself then went off to Oxford, where he had a Fellowship at Magdalen. Within a few hours my father had taken the rooms in Reades beautiful house at Albert Gate overlooking Hyde Park, without having any idea to whom they belonged. Finding him there on his return set Reade fuming more than the proposed visit of his relatives had done; he wouldnt have lodgers in his house, he declared. But Mrs. Seymour knew how to manage him, and the lodger was left in possession, although for a time ignored by the "landlord." The way in which they made friends must be told in my fathers own words:
"Although I couldnt write Never too Late to Mend, I could make buttered eggs, and as Reade watched the operation in my room one night, his looks and words suggested that he thought the cooking more wonderful than the writing. We had met at the hall door on his return home very hungry from a theatrical supper at which, he explained, there was a division of labour, he doing the talking and the others the eating. In his handkerchief he had some baked potatoes purchased at a stall which stood in the street opposite his house; and his apology for not offering to share them with me was that in his room he had neither knife, fork nor plate. So I begged him to come upstairs with me, and I disclosed the contents of my cupboard, which included all needed for an impromptu supper, not excepting a loaf and butter, eggs, a saucepan and an etna. As already intimated, the process of making buttered eggs excited his admiration, and from that hour I believe he regarded his lodger as a personage."
My father received many kindnesses from Reade, who even used to lend him his own pet room, built in the garden, when friends came to dinner, sometimes joining the party himself. In that same room, looking out on "the trees of the nation," is laid one of the chief scenes in A Terrible Temptation. Charles Reades house was, as far as I know, the first and last one that the future C.I.D. Chief broke into.
"I never realised," he wrote, "what an amount of determination and nerve it takes to break into a dwelling-house at night until I discovered my own deficiencies in these respects. Arriving home late one night I found I had forgotten my latch-key, and being unable to rouse the inmates I decided to enter burglariously. My experience of criminal courts had given me a theoretical knowledge of the business, and it was with a light heart that I dropped into the area and attacked the kitchen window. Of course I had no fear of the police. Neither had I any cause to dread a pistol shot on entering the house. Yet such was the effect on my nerves of spending twenty minutes in that area that the sound of a constables tread in the garden made me retreat into the coal-cellar. I felt then that my case was desperate. As there were no steps to the area, escape was impracticable, and a new bolt on the window baffled me. So I was driven to break the glass. The passers-by were attracted by the noise; but they had no bulls-eye lantern to flash into the area, and as I had again taken refuge in the coal-cellar they could see nothing. As soon as they had gone it was an easy task to scramble in. . . . The police were sent for next morning. The broken glass and the marks inside and outside gave proof of a felonious entry; but nothing had been stolen, nothing even disturbed. The case was most mysterious, and passed into the statistics as an undetected burglary. Charles Reades delight was great when I told him the facts."
The moral of the story was that burglaries are usually committed by men who are burglars in the sense that other men are doctors, lawyers, architects, etc., the only difference being that in the burglars trade success gives proof of greater proficiency than seems necessary in some other lines
During the early years in London, in addition to his ordinary work, he was secretary to several government Commissions; in this way, as related elsewhere in these pages, he gained the friendship of Lord Aberdeen, the 7th Earl, who became Viceroy of Ireland, 1886 and 1906 -15, and Governor-General of Canada, 1893 - 98. It was in connection with a Royal Commission on Railway Accidents that the first of three attacks was made upon him in Parliament, in replying to which Mr. W. H. Smith stated that he had discharged his duties with great ability and perfect faithfulness. When serving on the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh Commission he made the acquaintance of Sir George Airy, the Astronomer Royal, whose help proved valuable when The Coming Prince was being written, one of his books referred to in Chapter X.
He also acted as secretary to the Royal Commission on Loss of Life at Sea. Lord Aberdeen, who was again the chairman, tells in his reminiscences (We Twa) that this Commission was appointed as the result of a vehement controversy arising from certain statements by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain regarding the excessive mortality amongst the crews of merchant ships, attributed largely to the overloading of vessels. Shipping interests as a whole strenuously challenged this inference. The controversial element was quickly manifested when the Commission met, and it was frequently the chairmans duty to throw oil on the troubled waters. On such occasions he often found it advisable to discover that it was just time to adjourn for luncheon, which usually had a soothing effect. This, however, would certainly not have been the case had not a private arrangement- been entered into with the caterers whereby the Treasury allowance of 1s. 6d. per head was augmented. "Of course," wrote Lord Aberdeen, "this was kept a profound secret, known only to myself and our secretary - the late Sir Robert Anderson, K.G.B., a very able and high-minded public servant." In this connection my father mentions that the Duke of Edinburgh did not approve of hurrying over the cigar stage of the luncheon recess, and when his colleagues rose, usually kept the secretary with him. On H.R.H.s leaving to take up a command in the Mediterranean he desired my father to write to him regularly about the work of the Commission, and afterwards, after the well-known manner of our Royal Family, gave many proofs that he had not forgotten him.
Lord Aberdeen, by the way, seems to have shared my fathers poor opinion of Treasury ways. He gave his support in a tussle over salary and pension rights, and wrote:
"If the object can be secured without making the Treasury feel they have been defeated it will be much better; otherwise they will try to punish us all through the enquiry."
Another letter from him throws light on the almost incredible pettiness of some officials. "My dear Anderson," it reads, "I do now remember that I carried out (by stealth for fear of hurting the feelings of the Department) a private arrangement about a clock!" In the same letter Lord Aberdeen said: "I am very sorry you have to cross again to that tiresome old island of yours in this weather." The following year however he became Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and he then wrote from Dublin: "I think the Irish are still amenable to marks of sympathy." He was, of course, a strong supporter of Mr. Gladstones Home Rule policy.
It was as secretary to the Prison Commission, which, unlike the others, was a branch of the permanent Civil Service, that my father gained experience which was to prove of great value in after years in his campaign for reforms in the treatment of criminals and in the nature of prisons.
Eighteen-eighty was an epoch-making year in Ireland, for it was then that "boycotting" was introduced - a crime which, according to an Irish judge, made the life of the victim a living death. At the same time a revival of Fenian activity in Ireland excited the conspirators in England to follow suit. It was in these circumstances that Sir William Harcourt, the Home Secretary, re-enlisted my father in Secret Service. "Such work was never to my taste," he wrote afterwards," and I had definitely turned away from it. I was still in touch with le Caron and some prominent Fenians in America, but not with the leaders of the organisation at home. To ascertain who were the London leaders was an easy task, but how to get hold of them was the problem. They solved it by forming a plot to discover who their enemy was at Whitehall. A letter came from a man whom I knew by repute as one of the most dangerous of the London Fenians. He wished to give information to the government - that was the bait - but he would deal only with 'the gentleman at the head of the Intelligence Department he would hold no communication with the police."
The sequel gives an idea of what Secret Service sometimes entails
"I met the fellow by appointment one night. He lied to me for an hour whilst I listened as though I believed all he was telling me. This as I expected led him to ask for money. I then pretended to lose my temper. I said I had come prepared to pay him handsomely for information, but I was not to be fooled by the yarns he had been telling me. Taking a handful of sovereigns from my pocket I jingled them before him. The greedy look on his face told its own tale. He pleaded that if I would give him time he would tell me all I wished to know, and meekly asked for his expenses. I saw that the bait had taken, so I gave him a couple of pounds. Within a few weeks I had two of the most influential London Fenians in my pay. . . . I will only add that the hold thus obtained upon the organisation prevented the commission of outrages at a critical time, and further that the information received from these men was never used to bring a criminal charge against any member of the conspiracy."
In such work, however, kudos is not gained by preventing crimes, but by detecting them and successfully prosecuting the offenders. My father had again decided to turn from this branch of service, partly because he had received offers of more congenial work, when what he called a hateful and fateful murder drew him back into the toils. On 6th May 1882 Lord Frederick Cavendish, who had just been appointed Chief Secretary, and Mr. Burke, the Under-Secretary, were done to death within sight of the Viceregal Lodge in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Although creating such a sensation it was only the last of a series - one more added to the terrible list of Land League murders. And as my father pointed out it was in one respect of less significance than many of those which had preceded it. For the assassination of government officials could give no such indication of the state of Ireland as the murder of a lady returning home from church or of humble peasants whose only offence was obedience to the law. In many districts terror reigned in every cottage-home refusing allegiance to what was fitly called the defacto government.
The Phoenix Park murder, however, galvanised the British Government into action; a new Coercion Act was passed, and special measures adopted to administer it, an Under-Secretaryship for Police and Crime being established in Dublin; and under pressure from Sir William Harcourt my father agreed to represent this department in London.
At that time his work at Whitehall was many-sided. Whilst still Secretary to the Prison Commission, he was retained by the Irish government to look after their interests in London, and was also responsible to the Secretary of State in relation to political crime in general. When the dynamite campaign began he was in daily touch with Dublin Castle, and kept up a private correspondence with the British Consuls in America as well as with le Caron and other informants there. And never a week passed without his having to meet informants in London at his own home or sometimes in out-of-the-way places, for they never went to Whitehall.
But to return to the Dublin murders - my uncle, Sir Samuel Lee Anderson, was another of the officials marked down to be "put out of the way," his life being saved by what is commonly called a chance. His regular daily route to the Castle was known to anyone who cared to watch him. But once when within a stones throw of where the murder gang were waiting for him, suddenly remembering some commissions he had promised to execute for his wife, he turned back and went round another way.
Having to keep a secret for twenty-one years for the sake of anothers safety can hardly be a usual experience. In Major le Carons life story (Twenty-five Years in the Secret Service) he pays this tribute to my father
"He never wavered or grew lax in his care. He proved indeed to me not the ordinary official superior, but a kind, trusty friend and adviser, ever watchful in my interests, ever sympathising with my dangers and difficulties. To him and to him alone was I known as a Secret Service agent during the whole of the 21 years of which I speak. Therein lay the secret of my safety. If others less worthy of the trust had been charged with the knowledge of my identity, then I fear I should not be here on English soil quietly penning these lines."
Can the spy stories of fiction produce anything equal to the true narrative of this mans adventurous career? His real name was Thomas Beach, son of a respected citizen of Colchester. A thirst for excitement led him to leave home again and again in early life; and while still a boy he found himself in Paris without money or friends or knowledge of the language. Having been a choir-boy at home his singing gained the friendship of a member of the English church he attended in the French capital, and this led to his obtaining a good berth. But when the American Civil War broke out in 1861 he was on the move again; crossing the Atlantic he enlisted in the Northern army, with the name of Henri le Caron. In due course he obtained a commission and rose to the rank of major. During his service he made the acquaintance of John ONeill, who later became head of the American Fenians. It was from him that le Caron first heard of the Fenian schemes, including those for raids into Canada; and this led to his becoming a spy in their ranks. The accusation that he undertook this hazardous task for the sake of financial gain is utterly false. He had become a qualified medical man, was happily married, and could have settled down to a quiet, comfortable life.
Le Caron joined the Fenian movement with the definite object of serving his country, and it was in letters to his father that he first reported all their doings and plans. These were shown to the local Member of Parliament, who passed on the information to the Home Office, no payment being given or asked for. But at a later date, the M.P., Mr. Rebow, urged that le Caron should be put into direct touch with a representative of the government, and my father was then asked to deal with him. Thus began a correspondence lasting for over twenty years until le Caron came into the open at the time of the Parnell Commission in 1889.
Morleys Life of Gladstone states that for more than twenty years le Caron was in the pay of Scotland Yard. "Scotland Yard," replied my father, "was not aware of the mans existence until he appeared as a witness at the Parnell Commission." As a matter of fact the correspondence was carried on through his wife in America and a relative of my fathers in England, and was always treated as private. On his visits to London, le Caron used to see my father at our own house; I have a clear recollection of seeing him there and wondering who he was.
At the Special Commission he was denounced by Sir Charles Russell (afterwards Lord Russell of Kilowen) as a "common informer who wormed himself into the confidence of men presumably honest, however mistaken their views, only to make money and betray them." "Actually," wrote my father, "the assassins and dynamiters whose plots were exposed by him were justly described by Sir Henry James, for The Times, as enemies of the human race, the lowest and most degraded of beings." Sir Henry went on to point out that the exertions of a man who apprehends a criminal after the crime are rightly praised, "but here you have a man who, running risks such as probably no one ever ran before, set himself to defeat crime before it was carried out, and thus to save the lives of those who had no other protection." Further, it was stated by my father that in no single instance was a criminal charge brought upon le Carons testimony. As regards financial gain, he was as indifferent to money as to danger; anything he received was not enough to compensate him for having to employ a qualified locum tenens during his absence. The only really important payment he ever received was his reward for thwarting the 1870 Fenian raid on Canada. From the first he considered his role to be that of a military spy in his countrys service.
As illustrating the need for keeping their names secret, my father tells that his first Fenian informant was shot as the result of his name having been given to Lord Mayo, then Chief Secretary for Ireland, who passed it on to the Lord-Lieutenant during dinner at the Viceregal Lodge. A servant behind a screen repeated the information in the servants hall. My father learned this from a detective officer at Dublin Castle, and states that from that time no informant of his was ever betrayed. His refusal to give their names and his insistence on treating their letters as private was objected to at one time by Sir William Harcourt, who remarked that "Andersons idea of secrecy is not to tell the Secretary of State"
Another incident shows how easily secret information can become known. On the occasion of Mr. Gladstones visit to Haddo House mentioned in another chapter, my father tells how the Premier, sitting beside him at a writing table, was busy with a file of Foreign Office papers when another guest brought a passage in the Odyssey to his notice. Mr. Gladstone discussed this as though the Foreign Office did not exist, but directly afterwards took up his pen and wrote a Minute of grave importance about Egypt. It was the time when excitement over the Sudan and General Gordons position in Khartoum was at its height. "How do I know the purport of the Minute?" said my father; "it was perfectly legible on the blotting pad he had used! Is it any wonder I refused to trust the lives of informants to ministers of state?
As another example of Mr. Gladstones versatility Sir Robert mentions a long letter (a closely written four-page one which I have in my autograph album) about a book of his, written on the day which, according to Lord Morleys Ljfe of Gladstone, was devoted to the reconsideration of the whole Irish question in view of Mr. Parnells visit to Hawarden.
And Lady Aberdeen tells, in We Twa, how, on returning from church one morning, he asked for a hymn-book, which he took to his room, and in the afternoon produced a translation into Italian of the hymn, "Hark, my soul, it is the Lord." This was on a Sunday when he was in much anxiety over affairs in Egypt, with messengers from Downing Street coming and going, and he was conferring about a statement to be made next day in Parliament.
But to return to le Caron. My father paid this tribute to him:
"During the four-and-thirty years of my official life I came to entertain a sincere regard for not a few of the Police Officers who assisted me in campaigns against criminals, but none of them did I esteem more highly than le Caron. And it is with them that I have always classed him, not with secret agents and informers. No bad man could win as he did the unbounded respect of wife and children.
And to personal charm he added sterling integrity. He was one of the most truthfully accurate men I have known . . . Though he deserves well of his country he will never get a statue. But if he is to be pilloried I will take my place by his side." After le Carons appearance at the Commission his life was in constant danger. There were many rumours as to his whereabouts in various parts of the world. Actually he lived under an assumed name not far from Hyde Park. I remember more than once, when walking there with my father, his saying that he had to go and see a sick friend, never giving the slightest hint of his identity even to us. Afterwards he wrote
"Though I had been in communication with him for so long, and seen him on his visits to England, I never really knew him until the illness which ended fatally on April 1st, 1894. With all his cynicism and coldness of manner he was a remarkably attractive man. . . . At first we used to talk over his adventures, but later on we often spoke on subjects of which I will make no mention here."
What these subjects were may be gathered from the following letter
"I fully appreciate and will always endeavour to keep in my mind the pith, the main principle of what you have impressed upon me in reference to Gods goodness and my duty to Him; and if I live to get well again my earnest desire is that I may ever keep uppermost in my mind what I owe to Him and what He is willing to do for me.
Believe me to be, Yours sincerely,
H. LE CAR0N."
I have the original letter in my possession; also his commission as Major and Military Organiser in the service of the Irish Republic, dated 5th August 1868. This is signed by John ONeill, President, Fenian Brotherhood, Patrick J. Meehan, Acting Secretary of War, and John Byron, Assistant Adjutant-General F. B. It was on account of his relationship with le Caron that my father was the subject of two violent attacks in Parliament. At this length of time the story would not be of sufficient interest to relate in detail. On the first occasion he was accused of handing over, in his capacity as head of the C.I.D., confidential documents to an informer. As already mentioned, le Carons letters had always been deemed private, and he claimed accordingly that he should have access to them in preparing the evidence he was to give at the Parnell Commission. The letters had never been on record in any government office; they had indeed been kept in our own home. My father was vigorously defended by the Home Secretary, Mr. Henry Matthews, afterwards Viscount Llandaff; and his chief assailant, Sir William Harcourt, gave kindly proof afterwards that he bore no ill-will in spite of his violent political invective. In 1905 his son, later Viscount Harcourt, wrote to my father:
"I am most grateful to you for your kind words about him, which show a real appreciation of his character in spite of his hard-hitting propensities which showed themselves on the surface."
The second attack was made in 1910 in consequence of Sir Robert having mentioned in Blackwood that he was author of certain articles on the American Fenians published anonymously in The Times as far back as 1887. They were entitled "Behind the Scenes in America." In this case he was accused of having acted in a way contrary to the rules and traditions of the Civil Service. The fact that one of the articles exposed a plot to bring about a dynamite explosion in Westminster Abbey at the time of Queen Victorias Jubilee might, one would think, have excused any breach of official propriety had such been indeed committed. But naturally the wild Irishmen in the House were out for his scalp and demanded the withdrawal of his pension. Unfortunately, on this occasion the responsible Minister, instead of defending him, contented himself with appeasing his opponents by making light of the whole matter and minimising the services he had rendered to the State. Of the many letters of sympathy and encouragement received at that time, only one will be quoted here. The writer was a Scottish lawyer, Mr. R. B. Stewart, a valued friend, who was well- known in connection with the Keswick Convention and many other branches of Christian activity
"To speak of a faithful and able servant of his country, who unsparingly gave himself to her service in work most trying and involving danger to his own life, during a perturbed time which it is difficult for any one who did not live through it to understand or even to credit, - in the way in which you have been spoken of, is a lasting disgrace to British statesmanship. And it was in order that those might be kept sweet who are the representatives of the spirit and work condemned by the Parnell Commission!
What man can be zealous in his work if he feels that one day for party purposes he may be sacrificed to an opposing faction whom, in the line of his duty, he has offended, and that the sacrifice may be made for the sake of getting votes?
Politics are corrupt. Let us hope that the officials of the country may notwithstanding remain true, little as is the encouragement they sometimes get."
The next chapter goes back to the year 1888, when the period of service at Scotland Yard began. Incidentally it was the date of the appointment of the Parnell Commission to which reference has been made. The Times had published a series of articles entitled "Parnellism and Crime" which were a tremendous indictment of the chief Nationalist leaders. A Special Commission was appointed to inquire into the whole matter, the trial lasting for 28 days. Mr. Parnell was formally cleared of the charge of having been personally guilty of organising outrages; but his Party was declared to have been guilty of incitement to intimidation, out of which had grown crimes that it had failed to denounce.
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