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yEi.35] AN 'ILLEGAL ASSOCIATION7 287
word, the policy of the Government was everywhere met with denunciation and defiance, the Land League remaining supreme. The difficulties of the situation, in nowise diminished by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, were fully realised at Dublin Castle, as the following minute of Lord Cowper will show:
Lord Cowper to the Cabinet
1 The first point which I will consider is whether it is desirable to break up the Land League. I mean whether it should be declared an illegal association, and the head committee in Sackville Street and the various local committees forcibly suppressed. There is no doubt that in the opinion of many lawyers it is an illegal association, and if our law officers had shared this opinion it might have been a grave question in the early autumn whether it should not have been put an end to. This could hardly be done now without an Act of Parliament, and how long such an Act would take to pass, and how far the business of the session would be interfered with, her Majesty's Ministers are better able to judge than I am. It must be remembered that the Land League has now taken very deep root throughout the country, and that Fenians, Eibbonmen, and bad characters of every description take advantage of its organisation, and are enrolled in its local branches. If the restraining influences of the central body were withdrawn, and the local branches driven to become secret societies, crime, particularly assassination, might increase ; for though the central body gives unity and strength to the movement, it does to a certain extent restrain crime.
'The priests still exercise an extraordinary influence