2 CHARLES STEWART PARNELL [1883
Proceedings were taken against him. He was committed for trial. Then the prosecution was suddenly dropped. Mr. William. O'Brien published a seditious libel in ' United Ireland.' He was prosecuted and was sent for trial. The jury disagreed, and he was discharged. Davitt and Healy were sentenced to six months' imprisonment because they refused to find sureties to keep the peace. They were discharged at the end of three months.1
All these measures, feeble in their ' strength/ served only to discredit the Government, to consolidate the Nationalists, to lessen the chances of a split, to improve the position of the Extremists, and to make it more difficult for Parnell to persevere in his efforts to keep the Kilmainham treaty.
1 'I delivered a very strong speech,5 says Davitt, ' in view of the possible return of distress, and I threatened that if the Government did not undertake some public works I would call upon the starving peasantry of the west to march down on some fruitful lands which their ancestors were given to make room for cattle. I was prosecuted for that speech under a statute of Edward III., and sentenced to imprisonment or to find bail. I refused to find bail, and was sent to prison. I was released after three months.'—Davitfs evidence before the Special Commission^ Qs. 86,906-7.
Mr. William O'Brien's article was entitled ' Accusing Spirits,' and it dealt with a subject which at the moment excited a good deal of popular interest. Four men had been hanged for the murder of the Joyces. One of these men, Myles Joyce, asseverated his innocence on the scaffold. The other three prisoners admitted their guilt, but declared in a paper (which had been submitted to the Lord Lieutenant) that Myles Joyce was innocent. Nevertheless he was hanged. Mr. O'Brien, expressing the popular view, denounced the Government as judicial murderers. Curiously enough the judge—the late Lord Justice Barry—who tried the prisoners was much impressed by the statement of the three men who asserted the innocence of Myles Joyce. «'The evidence against Myles Joyce,'he said subsequently to an Irish Q.C.,' seemed to me to be as strong as the evidence against the other prisoners, and yet I find it very difficult to believe that these three men (who did not deny their own guilt) should on the verge of the grave have insisted on the innocence of Myles Joyce if he were guilty too.1 Bightly or wrongly, the people of the district believed in the innocence of Myles Joyce, and his execution made the Government intensely unpopular.