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Suckered! Plus Quadrilogy Part 2

It may surprise many readers of this quadrilogy to learn that it was the stated policy of the Conservative Government in 1888-89 to assist The Times in its case against Parnell and his associates.  Before providing the evidence for this, let us refresh our memories as to what Wolf Vanderlinden did not like about the Suckered! trilogy. 

Wolf says that Suckered! disregarded 'the inconvenient facts which point to illegal work by high ranking officials in the aid the Times against Parnell and the Irish cause' .  He does not tell us how such work would have been 'illegal' and, while there is no doubt that for the government to have directed its officials to do work which was not properly government work would have been ultra vires (i.e. beyond its powers), the real issue in respect of the Parnell Special Commission was political not legal.

The Conservative Government had set up the Special Commission in order to allow Parnell to clear his name following the allegations against him in The Times - specifically relating to the publication of letters which he claimed to be forged - but also, in a delicate balancing act, to allow The Times to defend itself against the allegation that it got it all wrong about the links between Parnell and crime (and other matters) in its 'Parnellism and Crime' series of articles.  For that reason, it was politically important for the Government to remain neutral in the dispute.  It would have looked bad for it to have set up an inquiry to allow Parnell to clear himself while secretly assisting The Times to destroy him.  But it is important to stress that this was largely a political constraint. 

That it was Government policy to assist The Times in its case was well known at the time.  The position taken by the Government was that it had a duty to provide any and all relevant information to the Special Commission. To that extent, it said that if The Times asked for its help, it would provide it, but equally, if Parnell or his associates asked for help, it would help them too.  This was repeatedly stated by ministers in the House of Commons. 

Thus, on 12 November 1888, W.H. Smith, the First Lord of the Treasury, in answer to a question from Mr Labouchere, said:

' to official documents, precisely the same facilities had been given to the solicitors for The Times and to solicitors for the Parnellite members.'

On 6 December 1888, in response to a question from a Member of Parliament (Harrington) who wanted an assurance that no-one collecting evidence for the Special Commission on behalf of the Parnellites would be interfered with, Arthur Balfour, the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, said (underling added):

'Of course no such persons will be interfered with.  We shall be glad to aid them.'

On 11 December 1888, in response to a protest by Henry Labouchere that Irish constables were collecting evidence for The Times, Balfour said that:

'as far as the Special Commission was concerned, the police were as much at the disposal of the Irish members as The Times.'

At the same time, he reminded the House of the duty of 'the Government and every one, to assist the Commission in getting at the truth.' 

On 4 March 1889, Balfour set out his Government's policy in respect of the Special Commission:

'The Government consider it their duty to aid the parties in this as they would any other judicial investigation.  They will afford that aid to either party, but hitherto only one party has been giving evidence, and the Government have afforded such information as has been asked for.'

The next day, 5 March, Balfour informed the House:

' is the duty of the Government to give all the assistance in their power to the Commission.' 

On 7 March 1889, the Attorney-General, Sir Richard Webster, who was acting as Counsel for The Times as well as being a member of the Government, stated in the House:

'When I was instructed to act for The Times, after the Commission Bill was passed, and from that date to the present, Mr. Soames has, from time to time at my request, applied to the officials both in Ireland and England for information as to specific facts and persons bearing upon the charges and allegations. Mr. Soames has communicated to me the results of such applications, which I have used for the purposes of the Commission.' 

In a leader in its issue of 14 March 1889, The Times stated:

'It is said that official assistance has been given to The Times in its conduct of the case.  This is only so far true that the Government, as is duty bound, have aided in bringing to light the truth, and will, we presume continue to do so till the Commission has carried the inquiry to an end. While the case for The Times was proceeding official information was placed at the disposal of Mr. Soames and now that the case for Mr. Parnell and his associates is to be opened, we have no doubt that similar information will be in like manner at the disposal of Mr. Lewis, if he thinks he can make any use of it.'

Responding to this, a Member of Parliament (John MacNeill) asked Balfour if similar information to that which had been provided to Mr Soames would indeed be provided to Mr Lewis, solicitor for Parnell, as The Times' leader had claimed, and Balfour replied on 15 March 1889 by saying: 

'I have observed in the House more than once that the Government desire so far as possible to deal equally by all parties appearing before the Commission. Some information has been supplied to Mr. Lewis in the manner suggested.'

So here we have a confession by a Government minister that the Government had secretly (to the extent that the public had been unaware of it) provided information to Parnell's solicitor!

On the same day, pressed by Mr MacNeill as to whether the information that had been provided to Mr Soames had been supplied on the advice of the Government's law officers, Balfour said:

'The information has nothing to do with the first law officer of the Crown.  It was the obvious duty of the Government to give it.'

Balfour also stated on 15 March:

'I have more than once stated in the House the desire of the Government to furnish all legitimate information either to the Commission or to parties charged before the Commission, and I have further stated that the proper method of obtaining such information is the ordinary one of writing a letter to the Irish Government asking for the information which is required. Any application of that kind from Messrs. Lewis will be dealt with without unnecessary delay.'

On 18 March, referring to tabulated statistics of crime in Ireland, Balfour said in the House:

'If The Times applied for information of that kind, it would be supplied to them.' 

The claim that the Government was secretly and illegally assisting The Times is essentially based on allegations by one William Henry Joyce (a.k.a. the 'Prime Informer').  According to Wolf Vanderlinden:

'...ignored by those who disbelieve in Scotland Yard's actions against Parnell are various political activities which took place during Monro's tenure as head of Special Branch.  For example, according to William Henry Joyce, a sub-inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary who, while in this position, aided the Times' case during the Parnell Commission.'

As a matter of fact, Joyce was appointed as a Resident Magistrate on 20 January 1888 (Times, 30 June 1888) and it was in this capacity, not as an R.I.C. District Inspector, that he claimed to have aided The Times' case on the instructions of the Government.  So the point has got absolutely nothing to do with Scotland Yard. It is all about whether the Government (specifically the Irish Government) was using Joyce to help The Times.

In April 1910, William Joyce, who had been compulsorily retired from his position as a Resident Magistrate nine years earlier due to illness, read in his newspaper the debates in the House of Commons which occurred following the revelations that Sir Robert Anderson had been the author of the 'Behind the Scenes in America' articles.  It prompted him to write a twenty-seven page memorandum setting out his role in assisting The Times during the period of the proceedings of the Special Commission.

Five years earlier, on 27 November 1905, he had written a letter to the Irish Under Secretary to request that his pension be increased.  He was not at all happy that he had received a reduced pension when he retired in 1901 due to the fact that the government's medical adviser concluded that he had become ill due to excessive alcohol intake.  In the letter, to persuade the Under Secretary that he had given good service to the Government, he set out his former duties (T 164/50/4), as follows:

'In January 1888 I was offered and accepted the position of Resident Magistrate with the view of conducting inquiries into crime and outrage under the provisions of the "Crimes Act", and for some time as so occupied.  I pause here to respectfully ask attention to this very critical part of history of agrarian crime with which I am dealing in order that some idea may be gathered of the strain involved through the continuous performance of such trying work.  Then followed in the latter part of 1888-89, 1890 and 1891 very important duties which I discharged principally at the Castle and at the Irish Office in London, with occasional intervals spent investigating such cases as the murder of District Inspector Martin at Gweedore, Co. Donegal, and the disturbances at "New" Tipperary and other similar incidents.' 

Given what he would say in his 1910 memorandum (as set out below) it is strange that Joyce does not make any express mention about the work he did in respect of the Special Commission, although this must be what he meant when he referred to to 'very important' work which he did in 1888-89.  It should be noted that the murder, by a mob, of District Inspector Martin, occurred on 3 February 1889, with 35 people being charged for it in March, the trial taking place in July, which was during the period of the Special Commission, so Joyce's attentions were not exclusively focussed on that Commission.

However, there is no doubt that Joyce did have a role in gathering information for the purposes of the Special Commission because this was confirmed in the House of Commons by Arthur Balfour on 18 March 1889 when he said that such information gathering had commenced immediately after the passing of the Special Commission Act (13 August 1888), but 'before it was known what course the court would direct in regard to the production of information before it' .  Earlier, on 12 March 1889, he had said:

'Mr .Joyce and Mr. Horne [Alfred Horne, another Resident Magistrate] were engaged in examining papers and statistics etc. connected with crime in Ireland in order that particulars could be furnished upon application being made either by the Commission or any parties appearing before it.'

Balfour also stated:

'So far as I am aware they [Joyce and Horne] have not been engaged in assisting The Times to obtain evidence. No doubt they have rendered, and will render, any assistance in their power with a view to the elucidation of the various matters now under investigation before the Special Commission.'

In addition, Balfour said:

'These resident magistrates undertook the duty by order of the Government, and furnished the results to the Government.'

So it was no secret in March 1889 that Joyce had been collating information on crime in Ireland for the Government and that, as Balfour's carefully crafted answers made clear, he had authority to render any assistance in his power to The Times but not to actually assist The Times to gain evidence, a somewhat fine distinction.

Some documents were certainly provided to The Times, and this was known to Parnell at the time. For example, on 13 March 1889, Soames revealed in his evidence to the Special Commission that, upon application to the Government, he had obtained some confidential police reports.  It should be noted, however, that he was asked by Counsel for John Dillon why he had not requested them earlier, to which he replied:

'For the simple reason that the reports have been kept from me. I have not seen the Government reports any more than you have.'

He also said:

'I must explain that I have not got all that I asked for.  I have asked for the production of those that were made to Dublin Castle as well' (Times, 14 March 1889).

In other words, it was no secret to anyone that Soames was obtaining documents from the Government.

Having said this, amongst the papers retained by Joyce and held in the University College of Dublin archives is a copy of a list of documents 'transmitted from the Government to Times and returned'  (UCD, LA1/H/188) which seems to show that the Government, in October 1888, secretly provided letters authored by Parnell to The Times, no doubt for the purposes of handwriting comparison, and, later in the year, some files kept at the Irish Office and Dublin Castle were lent to The Times, along with a Foreign Office minute of evidence regarding Irishmen in America.  However, it would appear that the provision of such information was within the Government's stated policy.

On 22 March 1889, Balfour told the House that charges of collusion between the Government and The Times were 'shocking, scandalous and unfounded', saying that the Government took 'a distinctly neutral position', but that 'everyone whether a constable, a resident magistrate, or anyone else - is bound to give the Commission all the information he could', adding that, 'I will do everything in my power, whether by giving information to Mr Soames, Mr Lewis or to the Commission, to enable it to arrive at the truth.'

Giving information to The Times via Mr Soames, therefore, as well as to Parnell via Mr Lewis, was approved Government policy and, according to the Government, equivalent to giving that information to the Commission itself.  It makes it difficult, therefore, to say what was 'proper' assistance to The Times and what was 'improper' assistance.  If providing information to The Times was not only lawful but publicly stated Government policy then it barely matters whether most of Joyce's allegations are true or not because there was no prohibition on helping The Times, as long as the government was prepared, in theory, to help Parnell too. 

In his 1910 memorandum (NLI, MS 11,119), Joyce said that that he was introduced by way of letter (the date of which he does not provide) to John Macdonald, the manager of The Times, by the then Under Secretary for Ireland (presumably Sir Joseph West Ridgeway) and that:

'I was called upon by the Government to act as the Chief Agent in secretly procuring and collating the greater portion of evidence subsequently used by the "Times" as well as conveying to the same quarter every description of secret information for the purpose of getting up the case against the Irish party. The materials so procured were conveyed under conditions of utmost secrecy to the late Mr Soames...'

Elsewhere, he dates the start of his relationship with The Times, as 10 May 1888, well before the establishment of the Special Commission, during preparations by The Times for the O'Donnell v Walter libel trial (which occurred in July), when he said he was introduced to Mr Soames by a former Crown Solicitor called George Bolton (see Leon O Broin's 1971 book, The Prime Informer, chapter 4).  He was asked to help The Times with its libel case based on his special position and his unique knowledge of crime in Ireland but was unsure what to do so he consulted the Under Secretary's Private Secretary who referred him to the Commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police who advised him to give Soames all the help he could, which means that the advice did not come from a member of the Government. 

Further, assisting The Times with its libel action against O'Donnell was rather different from assisting it with its case against the Parnellites at the Special Commission because, as stated above, the Special Commission was a government creation, hence the government was supposed to be impartial, whereas there was no particular reason why it could not side with The Times in its libel action.  At the same time, it seems to have been an individual choice by Joyce to help The Times with the libel action as opposed to something he was instructed to do. This leads to the suspicion that Joyce might have been paid by The Times for his help; but he does not say in his memorandum if this was the case or not.

Unfortunately, Joyce does not provide too many specific details of the work that he did for The Times during 1888 in respect of the Special Commission but there is corroborative documentary evidence that he was liaising with Soames. This is in the form of a letter, held in the State Papers of Ireland, dated 3 November 1888.  In this letter, Soames wrote: 

'Dear Mr Joyce,

How can we prove the circulation of the Irish World by the Land League or its officers in the League?'

The question that Soames was asking Joyce to help him with was an important one. One of the questions for the Special Commission to establish was whether the Parnellites were circulating copies of the radical Irish World newspaper, and one of the findings of the Commission was: 'We find that the respondents did disseminate the Irish World and other newspapers tending to incite to sedition and the commission of other crime.'  It is not clear to what extent Joyce was able to provide any evidence of this but evidently it was to Joyce that Soames was writing to ask for assistance on this point in November 1888.

The rest of the information that Joyce would have been in a position to provide to Soames would have related to the rather dull topic of agrarian crime in Ireland which occupied the time of the Special Commission for the majority of its first three months of sittings.  Joyce was the man who had collated all the relevant statistics and reports so that all requests for such information from The Times probably went through him.

Joyce, together with Alfred Horne, also appears to have been involved in selecting and proofing witnesses who gave evidence at the Special Commission on behalf of The Times.  The issue of Government assistance in this respect was one which was raised in court with numerous witnesses by Parnell's counsel during the Special Commission and a large number of questions were asked about it in the House of Commons during 1889.

Most police witnesses tendered by The Times denied on oath under cross-examination that they were given any instructions by their superiors to assist The Times but one police witness, Head Constable Roden, said that William Joyce, having read one of his (Roden's) police reports, which contained pertinent information, sent for him and he was ordered by the Inspector General to go to Dublin and provide a statement to Joyce (Times, 13 February 1889).

Subsequently, in the House of Commons, Arthur Balfour denied that Joyce was engaged in taking evidence of police witnesses for The Times at Dublin castle: the denial presumably being based on the fact that this was not being done specifically for The Times as opposed to being done for the Government's own aim to assist the Commission.  He also denied that the Inspector General had ordered any officials to report to his office or get up evidence for The Times (Times, 29 March 1889).  According to Joyce, he was drafting the parliamentary answers for Balfour during this period, so, to the extent that any answers were untrue, this might not have been within Balfour's knowledge.

A cynical (but not necessarily unreasonable) view, however, would be that the statements by Balfour and W.H. Smith in the House of Commons about the Government's duty to assist The Times were no more than a transparent attempt to justify its secret policy of collusion with The Times and that Soames got practically everything he wanted from the Government. But, even if this is true, where does it take us? 

Even if Joyce's allegations were true and Balfour was fully aware of what Joyce was doing - something which is unlikely because Joyce says that he was not supposed to tell him what he was doing precisely so that he could deny knowing what was going on - the assistance being given here was confined to the Irish Government (as the Irish Office was referred to), and was nothing to do with Scotland Yard. For that reason it can have no bearing on whether Scotland Yard, and Robert Anderson in particular, sent officers to America to assist The Times, which is the stated reason why Wolf Vanderlinden wants us to focus on what the Government was doing.

Joyce did, however, make an attempt to implicate Scotland Yard in his 1910 memorandum as we shall see.  His story also involves an allegation relating to the British Consul in New York which we will deal with first.

At the end of March 1889, Joyce says he was assigned a new task, which claim is supported by documentary evidence.  On 24 March 1889, he received a letter from Arthur Balfour which was delivered to him by Balfour's principal private secretary, Thomas Browning.  Joyce was instructed to hand this letter to John Satterfield Sanders, the assistant private secretary to Henry Matthews at the Home Office, which he did the following day, accompanied by Major Nicholas Gosselin, the head of the Irish Special Branch.  That letter apparently contained instructions for secret Home Office papers relating to government informants on Irish crime to be delivered to Joyce.  These papers apparently included reports from various American consuls containing statements by informers in which allegations were made against the Irish Parliamentary leaders.

According to Joyce, the papers were delivered to the Home Secretary's private residence, for him (Joyce) to read there, because Henry Matthews did not think it advisable for them to be examined at the Home Office where Irish Nationalist sympathisers might be watching. 

What might have been going on here is that, following the revelations in court by Le Caron, the Government decided that it needed to know what informants it was paying for information on Irish matters.  One can easily imagine that Government ministers did not want a single individual to have sole possession of such knowledge like Robert Anderson did with Le Caron.  They needed to know what was happening.

At the same time, such information would have been of great interest to The Times. Although the case for The Times at the Special Commission had closed on 13 March 1889, Soames, who had agents out in America negotiating with known Irish-American terrorists,  evidently believed that his clients would still be allowed to call a further important witness or two, if men with inside knowledge of the secret societies could be found and persuaded to step into the spotlight.  Consequently, according to Joyce, 'The material portions of these documents were copied at the Home Office and handed over to Mr. Soames.'

The next step was to obtain documents from the Foreign Office.  Joyce said that Sir West Ridgeway, the Under Secretary at the Irish Office, arranged with Sir Thomas Villiers Lister, Assistant Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, that Joyce would be given access to the Foreign Office's papers relating to Irish terror groups abroad.  Joyce says that he made an examination of their papers and discovered that there was a system under which the British Consul in New York, William Hoare, supplied information received from his agents directly (in diplomatic bags) to James Monro at Scotland Yard (in his capacity as Secret Agent), having done the same prior to this with Edward Jenkinson.

This discovery evidently led Balfour to contact both James Monro at Scotland Yard, via the Home Office, and William Hoare in New York, via the Foreign Office, to obtain more information.  Indeed, Hoare was recalled from New York to London for this purpose.

Before continuing with this story, let us look at how Vanderlinden tells it:

'In the autumn of 1888 it was decided by certain high ranking members of the British Government that along with Henri Le Caron, British double agent General Francis Millen should be encouraged to travel from New York to London in order to give testimony against Parnell at the Commission. The man who was Millen's handler in the U.S. was William Robert Hoare, the British Consul at New York, who was reluctant to comply. Millen, a high ranking Clan na Gael member, was just too important an intelligent asset to be burned so that a privately owned newspaper could win its case. His inside knowledge was invaluable and irreplaceable. British Government officials saw things differently.' 

Some basic errors of fact are apparent in Vanderlinden's version to the extent that the entire paragraph is wrong.  In the first place, the events being described did not happen in 1888; Joyce makes clear that everything involving Hoare and the British Government happened after he (Joyce) received Balfour's letter on 24 March 1889. Furthermore, there is no reason to suppose that Hoare was being asked by anyone to do anything regarding General Millen.

The Times was aware that General Millen could provide information about Parnell and his associates from at least as early as November 1888 when a former Metropolitan Police superintendent, James Thomson, was despatched to New York by Joseph Soames specifically to persuade Millen to come over to London and give evidence to the Commission.  He was not, therefore, 'hired by Robert Anderson to schmooze General F.F. Millen' as Simon Wood bafflingly claims in his book.  Soames testified at the Special Commission in February 1889 that he had sent Thomson to New York in the autumn of 1888 (Times, 15 February 1889).

On 13 December 1888, after some discussions with the General, Thomson cabled to Soames to say (NLI, Ms 8579):

'The final decision of F.M. [Millen] is that he is now ready to come over and give evidence, on three days notice, upon payment of five thousand pounds down, and the remaining five thousand to be paid him after his evidence and cross-examination, and he is no longer required. I think him of the utmost importance.  Cable reply in full.'

Soames replied on 20 December that he was awaiting instructions from Counsel and would wire those instructions as soon as he received them.  Thomson responded on Christmas Eve, saying that he was 'with the General daily' and that any further delay in making a decision meant that 'you risk losing your best witness'. After consulting Counsel, Soames replied on 28 December saying that Patrick Sheridan, who was then in negotiations with Joseph Kirby, another of The Times' agents in Colorado, was believed to be the most important witness.  For Millen to be taken seriously, Soames needed to know what he could prove, whether he had any documentary evidence in support and whether he was actually prepared to give evidence.

There was a setback for The Times on the very same day. The Irish newspaper, Freeman's Journal, of 28 December 1888 broke the story that an emissary on behalf of The Times calling himself 'Mr George' had tracked down Sheridan and offered him £10,000 for giving evidence to the Special Commission.

Consequently, during his cross-examination before the Special Commission on 14 February 1889, Soames was forced to reveal that he had employed agents in America called Kirby and Thomson.  It may be as a result of this that Thomson was replaced in New York by a man called 'Johnstone'.  Either that or Thomson adopted a false name to receive his cables (which had previously been sent to him under his own name).  Kirby returned to Colorado with an expert in manuscript documents from the British Museum called Walter de Gray Birch.  Suspecting that the cypher used for his cables had been broken, as indeed it had been (hence the Freemans Journal story), Kirby used a far more difficult cypher but this was broken too, the original coded telegrams having been obtained by Irish-Americans from a sympathetic telegraph clerk.

The point of outlining all the above is that The Times did not, in 1889, need the assistance of the British Consul in New York in locating or negotiating with General Millen to give evidence in London.  Millen had already agreed to do so but it was The Times that was reluctant to use him, not being sure if he could prove anything of value to help their case.

William Hoare had his own informants in New York and it was these informants who were interesting The Times, not Millen.  Wolf continues his account of what happened (with what must be a reference to events in April 1889) by saying:

'Cables flew back and forth across the Atlantic while notes and messages were passed in London. Among those Government officials who were involved in attempting to illegally provide evidence for the Times newspaper against a democratically elected sitting member of Parliament were: the Chief Secretary of Ireland, Arthur Balfour; Deputy Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, Sir Philip Currie; The Prime Minister himself, Lord Salisbury and the head of Special Branch, one James Monro. Christy Campbell, writing in Fenian Fire, goes so far as to state “There was an intense round of meetings in Whitehall [regarding Hoare’s obstinacy in not providing Millen for the Commission]. Monro was clearly up to his ears in it.” ' (Wolf's underlining)

Leaving aside the fact that there is no evidence at all of 'an intense round of meetings in Whitehall', something which appears to be the product of Campbell's imagination, the reason that Campbell, and thus Wolf, seems to think that Hoare was being obstinate in not providing Millen for the Commission is based on a misinterpretation of a telegram sent by Soames to 'Johnstone' in New York on 1 April 1889.  This telegram read:

'Hoare, British Consul has authority to give you names of some informants like Major Le Caron.  See him. Get all particulars and induce one or two men to come over.  Assistance will be sent to you for Millen.'

It is self-evident that two different things are being mentioned in this telegram.  Firstly, 'Johnstone' is being instructed to speak to William Hoare in order to obtain the names of other informants like Le Caron.  Secondly, and separately, 'Johnstone' is being told that, following on from the correspondence with Thomson (who might also have been 'Johnstone') back in December 1888, someone (or something) is going to be sent over from London to assist him with the negotiations with General Millen.

At this point, we should establish Hoare's actual role in New York because Campbell gets his biography wrong. In his book, he says that Hoare replaced the Consul General, Sir Edward Archibald, in January 1883 (p.129) and was the 'Acting Consul General, New York' (p.380). This was not the case.  After retiring on 31 December 1882, Archibald was replaced as Consul-General by William Lane Booker. Hoare only took on the role of Acting Consul General when William Lane Booker was on leave but this was not the situation in April 1889. Nor was Hoare 'the British Vice Consul for New York' as Simon Wood says in his book.  At the relevant time, he was the British Consul for New York. 

When the 1861 census was taken, William Robert Hoare was a Railway Clerk living in Islington, London.  Apparently, bored of this life he emigrated to the United States and, in 1871, was employed as Chief Clerk of the Consulate General in New York (FO 282/22). Due to lack of available personnel, he subsequently took on the temporary role of Acting Vice Consul on five occasions until, on 11 May 1882, he was appointed second Vice Consul following an application on his behalf by Sir Edward Archibald (FO 282/22).  He was promoted to Consul on 3 February 1886 (Times, 13 February 1886).  As Vice Consul he had been put in charge of secret work relating to Irish business and communicated directly with Edward Jenkinson (who destroyed all his papers in 1887) and then with James Monro at Scotland Yard, where his letters were locked away, hence William Joyce had found no documents at the Foreign Office or the Home Office relating to Hoare's work in New York, which appears to have been what prompted Hoare's recall to London.

It should be noted that being recalled to London was not so unusual for William Hoare.  Only the previous year he had been summoned back by Robert Anderson for purposes unconnected with The Times. A memo from London written by Sir Philip Currie, Assistant Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, of 2 January 1888 to the Foreign Office (FO 5/2044), stated as follows:

'Mr Anderson of the Home Office, called here today on behalf of Mr Monro to say that the proceedings of the dynamitards in America gave reason for anxiety if not alarm and that Mr Monro is desirous of conferring personally with Consul Hoare.

Mr Hoare, in reply to an enquiry from Monro, has stated that he is ready to come over his only difficulty being that to take leave now, for however short a time, will debar him from claiming accumulated leave on a future occasion.

Mr Anderson asked if the difficulty could be overcome.

The best plan will be to order W. Hoare to come home on public service - his absence will then not count as leave.'

Subsequently, the following instruction was sent by telegram by Sir Philip to William Lane Booker in New York (FO 5/2044): 

'Tell Mr Hoare to come home on leave as soon as possible to confer with Mr Monro.  His absence will be considered as on the public service.'

So a recall in April 1889 would not have come as a massive shock to Hoare.  However, the story of his recall as told by Christy Campbell is undoubtedly very suspicious and appears to indicate a major conspiracy at the highest levels of Government.  But is that story true? Let us see.

In response to the telex of 1 April 1889 for 'Johnstone' to see Hoare and induce one or two men to come over, Johnstone did not waste time.  He met with Hoare and replied to Soames on the same day:

'Hoare very civil.  Cannot assist in any way.'

It was at this point, three days later, that Hoare was recalled from New York.  This was at the insistence of Lord Salisbury who sent the following memo to Sir Philip Currie on 4 April 1889:

'I wish to confer with Mr Hoare the Consul at New York. Telegraph to him (in cypher) that I wish to see him on matter of public importance and request him to come over as soon as he can' (FO 5/2060).

As Campbell states, the recall order was sent by Sir Philip Currie on 4 April 1889, although he does not seem to be aware that two telegrams were sent by Sir Philip in London to New York on that date.  The first telegram said:

'H.M. Govt wish to see you on matters of public importance.  Come over as soon as you can' (FO 5/2060).

The second telegram, which Campbell quotes, read:

'Give some reason for your journey unconnected with Irish business such as private affairs or Consular business.' (FO 5/2359)

The response from William Hoare to Sir Phillip Currie on the same day, 4 April, was:

'I will leave 13th - sooner if required - but I have to make some needful arrangements.'

On that day, Hoare also sent a telegram to James Monro at Scotland Yard (forwarded to Sir Philip Currie) as follows:

'Your telegram received.  I have also received a telegram from the Foreign Office instructing me to go over; will leave 13th: I propose with your approval making the same arrangements as before.  Please cable remittance; send no more letters and wire any special instructions.'

So we learn from this telegram (not mentioned by Campbell) that, prior to receiving his recall order from the Foreign Office, Hoare had received a telegram from James Monro in which the possibility of a return to London had clearly been raised, with Hoare having presumably been informed by the Commissioner that the Irish Office wanted to be briefed about secret Irish business being conducted in New York.

Hoare's response to Sir Philip Currie was circulated internally within the Foreign Office.  On the reverse are some manuscript comments which Campbell does not quite represent correctly.

In the first place, Campbell says that there is a comment 'Sent to Monro, morning 5 April' (page 340 of his book). This is not found on the reverse of Hoare's reply to Sir Philip.  It is written on the copy of Hoare's reply to Monro. Furthermore, Campbell has misread the date which actually says 'morning 4 April'.

Then, as Campbell correctly states, someone has written on the reverse of Hoare's reply to Sir Philip (probably Sir Philip himself): 'Will the 13th be early enough? He had better be told by Tel.'  In response, the letter having been passed upwards, Lord Salisbury, the Foreign Secretary (also the Prime Minister but clearly writing in his capacity as Foreign Secretary) has written (apparently as a draft response to Hoare): 'Yes: that will do: provide some excuse for your journey'. Campbell has got a bit confused here (see page 341 of his book), inserting 'U.S.' into Salisbury's sentence but 'U.S.' has been written on the document by another hand as a filing instruction for the document to be placed in the United States correspondence file.

Hoare telegram.jpg

Campbell also cites the notation: '6 April. Mr Hoare was told by tel of 4 April to give some reason unconnected with Irish business for his departure.'  That comment, however, is found on a separate note to the Foreign Secretary on 6 April, apparently in response to Salisbury's instruction for Hoare to be told to provide an excuse for his journey.  In other words, the Foreign Office official was informing Salisbury that no further instruction need be sent to Hoare, as Salisbury had instructed, because he had already been told on 4 April that he should provide a cover story for his trip to London.

None of these minor errors in themselves are significant in understanding what is going on but it is worth noting, in respect of what follows, that Campbell's approach to interpreting the documents is a little sloppy.

According to Campbell, the next telegram in the sequence was sent by Soames to 'Johnstone' on 8 April in which Soames said: 'Difficulties will be removed and assistance in other quarter.  Remain for the present.'

The picture presented by Christy Campbell, therefore, is a very clear one.  Having had its agent in New York rebuffed by Hoare, someone from The Times has had a quiet word with the Prime Minister, or someone at a similarly high level, who has ensured that Hoare has been recalled from New York, with a phoney cover story, and Soames, having been informed of this, tells his agent that all difficulties (in obtaining the names of Hoare's informers) will be removed.  It looks like a slam dunk and, on the evidence presented by Campbell, it is hard to conceive of any other interpretation of the sequence of events and telegrams.

However, there are a couple of things that Campbell does not mention.  Firstly, 'Johnstone' received a reply to his telegram of 1 April on the following day, not seven days later.  Thus, on 2 April, Soames wrote from London to New York:

'All informers' reports, including those from Philadelphia, passed through his hands up to 1884, and were sent by him here.  If he does not know names himself, he can refer to you those who do.'

The significance of this is that it actually casts some doubt on whether the phrase 'difficulties will be removed' in the 8 April telex is a reference to Hoare because, on 8 April, Soames was obviously replying to a different telegram than the one sent on 1 April, the text of which we don't know.

Furthermore, Campbell has, for some reason, omitted to reproduce the full text of the telegram of 8 April.  What Soames actually wrote on that date was this:

'He can; but has not proper authority.  Difficulties will be removed and assistance in other quarter. Remain for the present.'

One can see why this was not attractive to Campbell.  Soames had already told his agent that Hoare 'has authority to give you names' yet the person being spoken of in this telegram 'has not proper authority.'  It just adds to the doubt that the 'difficulties' being referred to relate to Hoare which in turn would destroy Campbell's entire scenario.

Having said this, it seems likely that the 8 April telex was referring to Hoare.  We need to use some imagination here but perhaps in response to the implied instruction from Soames to see Hoare again (i.e. 'If he does not know names himself, he can refer you to those who do') 'Johnstone' had gone back to the Consulate in New York, got nowhere and sent a telegram to Soames saying something like 'Hoare still cannot help', to which Soames replied 'He can but has not proper authority...'.

This would mean that the expression 'difficulties will be removed' must be some sort of reference to Hoare's recall but there is one massive question we need to ask here.  If the issue was, as Soames identified in his 8 April telex, that Hoare did not have 'proper authority', why did someone from The Times not simply speak to Salisbury, or someone else at a very high level in Government, with whom, if Campbell has called it correctly, they must have been in cahoots, and arrange for a telegram to be sent by the Foreign Office to New York, not only giving Hoare whatever authority he needed but also ordering him to provide whatever information was being requested by The Times' agent? Why, indeed, was there a need to recall him to London at all on 4 April - and Hoare clearly wasn't going to be arriving in London until about the last week in April - when the solution was so simple and could be executed with a single telegram?

Perhaps there was something else going on here which was not quite as simple as Campbell's version of events.

If we start from a basic assumption that there was no contact at all between representatives of The Times and Government ministers/senior officials but that The Times relied exclusively on William Joyce as its direct link to Government then the confusing series of messages, where Hoare one day has authority but does not have it the next day, starts to make sense.

Let us consider the following scenario:

Having reviewed the documents at the Foreign Office and the Home Office, Joyce realises at the end of March 1889 that a crucial set of documents from Hoare in New York is missing.  He informs Balfour at the Irish Office. Enquiries are then made with the Foreign Office and the Home Office, causing someone at the Home Office to speak to Monro who explains that Hoare has not revealed to him the names of those individuals providing information to the Consulate in New York. The Government, wanting to avoid another situation like Le Caron, where it was taken entirely by surprise by his appearance in the witness box, just like everyone else, and embarrassed by the fact that Robert Anderson was privately holding onto all the documents relating to Le Caron in his house, ponders its next move.

While the Government is thinking about what to do, Joyce tells Soames, who is obviously very keen to find another informant like Le Caron, that Hoare in New York should be able to provide him with the names of his informants. Soames, thinking this means that Hoare has actually been given authority to do so, sends the telegram to his agent in New York on 1 April, worded in the way we have seen.  But the agent finds that Soames has been misinformed.  Hoare is telling him nothing.

This is reported to Soames who, on speaking to Joyce, realises that there has been a misunderstanding and that Hoare does not have authority to do anything at all and, moreover, might not even personally know the names of the informants in New York of interest to The Times, having only obtained his information from reading reports of others.  A slightly modified message is sent to his agent in New York on the basis of what Joyce has told him, concluding with the information that, if he doesn't know anything himself, Hoare will be able to put the agent in touch with someone who does know the identity of some informants in New York.

Meanwhile, James Monro informs Hoare by telegram that he needs to speak to him in person - due to the questions being asked by the Government - and that he will probably need to come back to London, just like he had done in January 1888.  Balfour at the Irish Office has also come to the same conclusion.  Hoare should come back to London to reveal everything he knows to Joyce so that the Government is not in the dark. He explains the problem to Salisbury at the Foreign Office who decides he needs to speak to Hoare in person and the recall order is sent on 4 April.

The news of this recall reaches Joyce.  He assumes firstly that it has been orchestrated by The Times and secondly that it will now be a straightforward matter to extract whatever information is required from Hoare.  He tells Soames the good news, giving him the impression that he (Joyce) will be able to give Hoare the authority to unburden himself to The Times. But Joyce has miscalculated badly.  Hoare is not prepared to tell him (or The Times) anything.  Also, the Foreign Office, to whom he is answerable, is not prepared to instruct him to give away his informants' names to Joyce.

While this is all speculation, we find some support for the hypothesis in William Joyce's 1910 memorandum in which he states:

'Mr. Hoare arrived in due course and Mr. Balfour saw him at the Irish Office, and handed him over to me, after performing the ceremony of introduction. I had several interviews with Mr. Hoare who proved difficult to manage. The main object in getting him to London was to secure his co-operation in having one or more of his agents in New York brought over to give evidence to the Times. One of these reputed agents occupied a good position, and it was to get this particular person to give evidence that the matter was deemed important: however Mr. Hoare refused to move in this direction and from some of the circumstances which subsequently transpired his refusal was by no means incompatible with the view that no such agent existed at all and that the information he supplied was not in any sense genuine.' 

Joyce certainly seems to have received a shock that Hoare wasn't prepared to tell him anything - he clearly could not get authority from the Foreign Office to make him speak - and perhaps that is why he came to the conclusion that Hoare's agent didn't exist; or perhaps he really did not exist. The point is that Hoare wasn't talking.

Now, it is fair to mention here that any information gathering exercise being carried out by the Government was being done in the context of the Special Commission and specifically in the knowledge that such information gathered would be of great interest to The Times.

Bearing in mind that the Government believed it had a duty to pass on any relevant information to The Times there is no reason to suppose that such information would not have ended up with The Times.  So when Joyce says that, 'The main object in getting him to London was to secure his co-operation in having one or more of his agents in New York brought over to give evidence to The Times' this is probably what he believed (or assumed) the reason to be at the time. It was certainly what he believed it to be when he wrote his memorandum more than twenty years later, in 1910, but that belief might have been coloured by his grudge against the Government for denying him a full pension and his belief that everyone other than him who had been involved in helping The Times had been properly rewarded. Whether Balfour, or any other senior person in Government, actually told Joyce that this was the reason why Hoare had been recalled is another matter.

Equally, whatever suspicions one may have, there is no evidence, or reason to think, that senior representatives of The Times were in direct communication with senior representatives of the Government.  Men like Arthur Balfour, Lord Salisbury and Sir Philip Currie would have been very careful not to speak to men like Walter, Buckle, Macdonald or Soames during the existence of the Special Commission.  It really is very unlikely that these men were having cosy chats round the fire at their homes or even in each others' offices.  Balfour and Salisbury would have been fully aware of the dangers of having private conversations with people from The Times and it is extremely unlikely that they would have allowed themselves to be compromised by secretly meeting with them. Instead, it is hugely probable that all the communication that The Times, in the person of Soames, had with 'the Government' was with Joyce.

In other words, the Government and The Times did not have the kind of relationship that some people seem to think they did and Soames relied heavily on Joyce for information, which would explain why he was sending duff intelligence about Hoare to his agent in New York.  How else can one explain him cabling to his agent that Hoare had authority to provide him with information, only for Hoare to refuse to do so, only for Soames to say a bit later that he did not have the authority?  Far from pulling the strings with the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary at the Irish Office, Soames and The Times were feeding off a junior official who himself was probably not fully informed of everything that was happening at a much higher level.

We can see a good example of Joyce's ignorance of the bigger picture if we look at his account of what happened to Hoare after he refused to assist him.  Of this, Joyce says darkly:

'Hoare was not to return to New York but was relegated to a much less important place.'

Thus, as Joyce explained:

'The result to him when he declined to carry out what was required is a grave incident, typical of the risks to which subordinates were exposed.'

In fact, Hoare did return to the Consulate at New York after April 1889 and, during the period from late May to early September 1890, fulfilled the role of Acting Consul-General while Booker was on leave (FO 282/35).  It was not until 7 February 1891 that he left New York, having been appointed as Her Majesty's Consul at Trieste (London Gazette, 27 March 1891).  There is no reason to think that this was anything other than a promotion - he would now no longer be inferior to a Consul-General as he was in New York - but, as his cover was blown twice, first in the House of Commons in March 1890, with the exposure of the telegrams between Soames and 'Johnstone', and then by allegations in the Labour World newspaper in October 1890 that he had colluded with an informant to entrap innocent men, it is possible that it was untenable for him to continue doing secret work in New York, hence his transfer to Austria.

Campbell says that Major Gosselin, who took over from Monro as Secret Agent in June 1890, went to New York and sacked Hoare but offers no evidence to support this.  It is rather unlikely, bearing in mind that he did not have authority to sack one of Her Majesty's Consuls, such things being the responsibility of the Foreign Office, but, if Hoare was removed from New York on his advice, it seems just as likely to have been due to a belief that he was using fake informants (as Joyce concluded) as to him not being willing to reveal their identities for the benefit of The Times.

Campbell says that Hoare was re-posted to Brest, but this posting did not happen until April 1892 (London Gazette, 28 March 1892) after he had been the Consul in Trieste. Subsequently, in 1898 he was posted to Honolulu, where he was residing as Consul for the Sandwich Islands, and then in August 1900 he was appointed Consul for Hawaii before his resignation in 1904 and death the following year at the age of 71.

In addition to pumping Hoare for information, a more successful attempt was made to get hold of James Monro's confidential papers relating to Irish business. The way this happened is very revealing.

Joyce tells us that the plot was hatched in the Irish Office during a meeting in May 1889 (probably on 3 May*) attended by Arthur Balfour, Sir West Ridgeway and Peter O'Brien, the Attorney General of Ireland. The fact that such senior people were involved suggests that no-one thought it was going to be easy to obtain the papers.  In fact, John Satterfield Sanders from the Home Office was drafted in specifically because Monro was proving difficult.  Thus, says Joyce:

'Mr Saunders (sic) was called in because Mr. Monro showed some hesitation in parting with these documents owing to the Le Caron incident having caused so much notoriety and it was to surmount this obstacle that Mr Saunders' aid was required.'

By Joyce's own account, therefore, Monro had been approached by someone in the Irish Office to give up his papers but had refused.  This in itself puts the lie to the notion that he was, as we have seen Wolf Vanderlinden allege, 'involved in attempting to illegally provide evidence for the Times newspaper against a democratically elected sitting member of Parliament.'

All Monro did was comply with a request from the Home Office to provide his papers to William Joyce.  Following the meeting on 3 May*, John Saunders - regarding it as his 'mission' to get Monro to hand over the papers - evidently met with the Commissioner on the same day (quite possibly at the Oxford and Cambridge Club in Pall Mall) because, having turned Monro round, he wrote to Joyce*:

'I think I may say my mission has fairly prospered.  Monro is most anxious to allow every use to be made of the material portions of the reports, and will be glad to see you tomorrow and settle basis of working arrangement, will you go?'

*Joyce says that the meeting with the Attorney General of Ireland and others was on 5 May 1889, presumably because, in refreshing his memory, he noted that Sanders' letter to him (on Oxford and Cambridge Club headed notepaper) bore that date.  This letter invited Joyce to see Monro 'tomorrow' but then Joyce reproduces a subsequent letter from Monro in which Monro said 'Please look in on Monday instead of Saturday if it suits your convenience'.   5 May 1889 was a Sunday so that does not make any sense. When writing his memorandum in 1910,  Joyce had presumably misread the date of the letter of 3 May as 5 May so that the meeting referred to was probably on Friday 3 May not Sunday 5 May.

So Monro agreed to give up the papers and, if Joyce is correct, was aware or suspected that something funny was going on because he supposedly asked Joyce to collect the papers from his home at Eaton Square 'to avoid observation at Scotland Yard.'  It doesn't really matter what Monro believed, however, because he had only given up the papers at the request of the Home Secretary's assistant private secretary.  He was clearly not some kind of member of a gang which was colluding to defeat Parnell.  Furthermore, there is no reason to suppose that Robert Anderson had any idea at all that this was going on.

There is no doubt that Joyce would have loved to have implicated Anderson in the charge of collusion with The Times.  Joyce was greatly irritated by Anderson's hints in the press to the effect that, had the services of Scotland Yard been available to The Times, 'the result would have been very different'.  Considering that Joyce seems to have regarded himself as the chief investigator of the case against Parnell, Anderson's comments were taken as a personal insult.

In his memorandum, Joyce attempts to show that Scotland Yard, under Anderson's direction, did get involved in the investigation against Parnell during November 1888 but he fails to make the charge stick.

Joyce refers to a rather bizarre incident from March 1883 when John Walsh, suspected of involvement in the Phoenix Park murders, wrote to the Bank of England informing them that he had lost two £10 notes, the numbers and dates of which Walsh provided in his letter. Joyce does not explain the significance of this fact but one has to assume that he (or The Times) would have liked to have been able to prove in 1888, from the numbers of the banknotes, that the money had been provided to Walsh by the Land League or one of the Irish defendants at the Special Commission.

Joyce provided the documentary evidence of the March 1883 incident (which apparently referred to a clerk, possibly one at the Bank of England) to Anderson, presumably hoping that the Assistant Commissioner would be able to get to the bottom of it.  He was disappointed.  For, on 23 November 1888, Anderson wrote to Joyce as follows:

'Dear Mr. Joyce,

I am informed by Inspector Tunbridge (who has returned from sick leave only today) that he has no recollection whatever of the Clerk referred to in the report of March '83 which you left me and which I now return.'

Joyce uses this to show that Anderson was of no use whatsoever in investigating the Parnellites.  Perhaps, however, it shows that Anderson had no desire to assist Joyce, and his response is certainly a little abrupt.

Indeed, we should note the following from Joyce's 1910 memorandum (underlining added):

'At one of my interviews with him [Anderson] he explained that his inability to afford assistance was largely owing to the alleged circumstances that secret documents bearing on the subject had been destroyed, and this was subsequently confirmed by Mr. Monro, which is a matter of some significance.'

We know that the papers had been destroyed by Jenkinson but it is particularly telling that Joyce refers to Anderson's 'inability to afford assistance'. Here is the man who, were are told by Wolf, was so obsessed with destroying Parnell and the Irish Party that he would do absolutely anything to ensure his defeat at the Special Commission in effect telling the official who was liaising with The Times on behalf of the Government that he could not give him any assistance.

This is the inconvenient truth that Wolf Vanderlinden does not mention.  Perhaps he wasn't aware of it.


By way of postscript to the Joyce allegations, it is worth noting an exchange of correspondence that the Resident Magistrate had with Balfour during 1891, when Joyce was seeking to be appointed Assistant Inspector General (all within UCD, LA1/H/186).

On 2 March 1891, Balfour wrote to Joyce to thank him for 'the quiet zeal and energy you have displayed in carrying out a work which has been, I am afraid, in some respects uncongenial.'

Subsequently, in a letter to Balfour dated 6 May 1891,  Joyce, emphasising the difficult work that he had done for the Government, said that, 'the duties I have performed during the last three and a half years have been for the most part outside the scope of those usually performed by a Resident Magistrate' and that, 'circumstances have occurred which may at any time embarrass me in the performance of Magisterial duties.'

This puzzled Balfour who, when replying on 26 May 1891, referred to 'one of more points in your letter...on which I should like to have a more explicit statement and explanation', adding that he did not understand what Joyce meant by the afore-quoted passages.

In Joyce's response on 28 May 1891, he said that, when he referred to duties outside the scope of a Resident Magistrate, he meant:

'such duty as getting up the defence in the case of "Blunt v Byrne", preparing the evidence in criminal proceedings, notably in the case of "the Queen v Father McFadden and others" [this was the District Inspector Martin murder trial], the work in Dublin, London and elsewhere in reference to the Special Commission, the temporary appointment in Dublin with its attending circumstances such as holding special inquiries in Captain Stack's division and preparing for evidence in the Tipperary prosecutions etc.'

This shows that Joyce regarded his 'special duties' in the period as going further than just his work relating to the Special Commission.  Then, with regard to his claim that circumstances had occurred which might in the future embarrass him if he continued as a Resident Magistrate, Joyce wrote:

'Now with regard to the second point which touches on delicate ground, I wish to point out that I hesitate to enlarge upon it in writing unless it is considered absolutely necessary when I will do so truly, but I think my past services and career might be taken as evidence of my bona fides and that I would not lightly put the matter forward. I may however say that I have a very clear opinion that a Magistrate who sits in court to administer justice ought to be in a position to do so with perfect independence between man and man "without fear and favour and affection" and that when he feels himself trammelled in this regard, with a prospect of any time of further embarrassment, then in my judgment it would be more than imprudent to perpetuate the evil without calling attention to the fact which has become very deeply impressed in my mind.'

If this was supposed to be some kind of cryptic reference to his work on the Special Commission, Balfour for one did not understand it for he replied on 5 June 1891:

'I am still, I am sorry to say, unable to understand exactly the position which you take up.  I rather anticipated that you would have found yourself in a position to give me more explicit information.'

He suggested that the best course would be for Sir West Ridgeway to visit him in Dublin so that Joyce could talk the matter over with him.  This appears to have happened, with the details of the conversation passed to Balfour, but, whatever was said, the Irish Secretary was not convinced.  On 4 August 1891 he wrote to Joyce (underlining added):

'I have been thinking anxiously over your case and the views you entertain as regards the direction in which you can most usefully continue your public services; and though I am not myself disposed to agree with your estimate of the embarrassments which continued work as a Resident Magistrate might cause you, still I am most unwilling to ask you to undertake any duties for which on any ground you feel yourself unequal.'

Consequently, Balfour offered him the position of an Inspector under the Local Government Board, which offer was spurned by Joyce who wanted to be the Assistant Inspector General.  That Balfour was not at all convinced by Joyce's protestations that any work he had done for the Government would embarrass him in the future as a Resident Magistrate is reflected in the fact that his private secretary not only stated as much in a letter to Joyce dated 2 November 1891 but, on 9 November 1891, Joyce learnt that his reward was to be promoted to the Second Class of Resident Magistrate, precisely what he did not want, and this rejection was to be one of the factors which fuelled his resentment about the way he had been treated.  Not to mention the reduction in his pension for excess drinking (a charge he denied but one which was supported by medical opinion).


Finally, we need to dispose of Wolf Vanderlinden's strange claim that the Government was in some way opposed to the Special Commission being a hearing in public, despite the fact that it set up the Special Commission itself.  This is based on a simple mistake by Wolf.  According to Vanderlinden:

'...professor Bernard Porter describes the reaction of the Home Office when the Parnell Commission was called into being. They were against an open public hearing, stating “if there have been any questionable proceedings on the part of the Government or Police Agents, these might come to light in the course of the trial with damaging consequences” (my underline). As Porter states, “This suggests at the very least that the Home Office were not confident that everyone around them had clean hands.” [Bernard Porter, Origins of the Vigilant State: The London Metropolitan Police Special Branch Before the First World War, Boydell & Brewer, 1987.] “Police Agents” in this context very much suggests Monro’s Special Branch. Why would the Home Office worry about their activities in connection with an open public commission on Parnell if Scotland Yard was so politically blameless? Why was the H.O. unsure of what was going on in their own bailiwick?'

Readers of the Suckered! trilogy might recognise the quote, 'if there had been any questionable proceedings on the part of the Government or Police Agents, these might come to light in the course of the trial with damaging consequences'.  For, as set out in 'The Thomas Barton Affair', this appeared in a memo from Godfrey Lushington to the Home Secretary in 1890 when the notion that Inspector Jarvis might sue Henry Labouchere was being discussed.  The quote does not, therefore, bear any relation to the Special Commission which had already reported its findings by this time.  It follows that it does not reflect the reaction of the Home Office, or anyone in the Home Office, to the Special Commission being called.  Nor was the Home Office worried about their activities, or those of Scotland Yard, in connection with an open public commission on Parnell. Wolf has simply misunderstood what Bernard Porter was saying in this respect, because Porter was well aware of the date of the memo.

That memo, of course, only reflected the views of Lushington and, with respect to Police Agents, was a sensible point to raise, bearing in mind that no-one in the Home Office (either then or today) can ever be sure about misconduct or corruption on the part of individual police officers within its own 'bailiwick'.  Lushington's point was that if libel proceedings went ahead against Labouchere it was theoretically possible that, while Jarvis might win the action, other facts could emerge which would be politically embarrassing.  However, as we saw in Suckered!, the Home Secretary gave the go-ahead for Jarvis to bring proceedings so the Home Office cannot have been too worried about the possibility.


In conclusion, we have seen that the Government claimed that it had a duty to collate all information relevant to the Special Commission and to then ensure that the information was passed on to the Commissioners.  The cynical view would be that this was simply a way for it to assist The Times with its case against Parnell without undue criticism or sanction. Well, the fact is that the Government was comprised of politicians while the defendants at the Special Commission were also politicians.  Politicians act politically and if it was in the political interests of the Government for other politicians to be defeated by The Times then it is not terribly surprising that this was the Government's political agenda.

However, at the same time, it is important to recognise that the machinery of Government was not put at the free and unfettered disposal of The Times.  What happened was that the Irish Government, within the Irish Office, allocated to some relatively junior officials (Resident Magistrates) the task of gathering the information within Whitehall and, as appropriate, ensuring that this information was made available to the Special Commission via The Times (which is, at least, the way that ministers viewed it).  However, there were certain constraints on what information was given to The Times.

There was little point in The Times being given secret internal Government documents and reports which had to remain secret.  In order for The Times to make use of such documents they would have needed to have been disclosed to the Commissioners, and to Parnell's legal team, but the question would then have arisen as to how they had been obtained (which is precisely what did happen when such documents were produced).

What lawyers for The Times seem to have wanted most of all were names of people they could speak to who were prepared to give evidence to the Commission.  But it is important to realise that the lawyers for The Times were allowed to talk to anyone they wanted to build up their case, just as in any judicial proceedings.  They could write to the Government or speak to officials for that purpose.  There was even nothing wrong with them approaching Robert Anderson or James Monro to ask them for names of informers, past and present, who they could then contact to see if they would be prepared to give evidence.  Exactly the same was true of Mr Lewis for Parnell and any other lawyers for the defendants.

Requests for information are one thing but working together in cahoots is another.  There is a fine line between the two and perhaps that line was crossed on occasion by the Government or its officials but the main point for our purposes is that all the activity was being driven by the Irish Office.  The key fact is that when the Irish Office asked Scotland Yard for assistance it was given reluctantly and, in the case of Monro, only after the intervention of the Home Office.  Anderson, as we are told by Joyce, was unable to afford any assistance.


Thus, whatever the Government was doing to assist The Times, it does not follow that Scotland Yard was doing the same thing.  In fact, in part 3 of this quadrilogy we will see that the specific allegations which have been made of collusion between Scotland Yard and The Times are wholly unfounded.


First published: 18 September 2015

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