Parnell was an Irish nationalist and statesman who led the fight for Irish Home Rule in the 1880s.
Charles Stewart Parnell was born on 27 June 1846 in County Wicklow into a family of Anglo-Irish Protestant landowners. He studied at Cambridge University and was elected to parliament in 1875 as a member of the Home Rule League (later re-named by Parnell the Irish Parliamentary Party). His abilities soon became evident. In 1878, Parnell became an active opponent of the Irish land laws, believing their reform should be the first step on the road to Home Rule.
In 1879, Parnell was elected president of the newly founded National Land League and the following year he visited the United States to gain both funds and support for land reform. In the 1880 election, he supported the Liberal leader William Gladstone, but when Gladstone's Land Act of 1881 fell short of expectations, he joined the opposition. By now he had become the accepted leader of the Irish nationalist movement.
Parnell now encouraged boycott as a means of influencing landlords and land agents, and as a result he was sent to jail and the Land League was suppressed. From Kilmainham prison he called on Irish peasants to stop paying rent. In March 1882, he negotiated an agreement with Gladstone - the Kilmainham Treaty - in which he urged his followers to avoid violence. But this peaceful policy was severely challenged by the murder in May 1882 of two senior British officials in Phoenix Park in Dublin by members of an Irish terrorist group. Parnell condemned the murders.
In 1886, Parnell joined with the Liberals to defeat Lord Salisbury's Conservative government. Gladstone became prime minister and introduced the first Irish Home Rule Bill. Parnell believed it was flawed but said he was prepared to vote for it. The Bill split the Liberal Party and was defeated in the House of Commons. Gladstone's government fell soon afterwards.(http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/parnell_charles.shtml, accessed 21 January 2014)
The Irish National Land League (Irish: Conradh na Talún) was an Irish political organisation of the late 19th century which sought to help poor tenant farmers. Its primary aim was to abolish landlordism in Ireland and enable tenant farmers to own the land they worked on. The period of the Land League's agitation is known as the Land War.
Within decades of the league's foundation, through the efforts of William O'Brien and George Wyndham (a descendant of Lord Edward FitzGerald), the 1902 Land Conference produced the Land (Purchase) Act 1903 which allowed Irish tenant farmers buy out their freeholds with UK government loans over 68 years through the Land Commission (an arrangement that has never been possible in Britain itself). For agricultural labourers, D.D. Sheehan and the Irish Land and Labour Association secured their demands from the Liberal government elected in 1905 to pass the Labourers (Ireland) Act 1906, and the Labourers (Ireland) Act 1911, which paid County Councils to build over 40,000 new rural cottages, each on an acre of land. By 1914, 75% of occupiers were buying out their landlords, mostly under the two Acts. In all, under the pre-UK Land Acts over 316,000 tenants purchased their holdings amounting to 15 million acres (61,000 km2) out of a total of 20 million acres (81,000 km2) in the country. Sometimes the holdings were described as "uneconomic", but the overall sense of social justice was undeniable. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_National_Land_League, accessed 21 January 2014)
The Irish National Land League was founded at the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar, the County town of Mayo, on 21 October 1879. At that meeting Charles Stewart Parnell was elected president of the league. Andrew Kettle, Michael Davitt, and Thomas Brennan were appointed as honorary secretaries. This united practically all the different strands of land agitation and tenant rights movements under a single organisation.
The two aims of the Land League, as stated in the resolutions adopted in the meeting, were:
...first, to bring out a reduction of rack-rents; second, to facilitate the obtaining of the ownership of the soil by the occupiers.
That the object of the League can be best attained by promoting organisation among the tenant-farmers; by defending those who may be threatened with eviction for refusing to pay unjust rents; by facilitating the working of the Bright clauses of the Irish Land Act during the winter; and by obtaining such reforms in the laws relating to land as will enable every tenant to become owner of his holding by paying a fair rent for a limited number of years.
Charles Stewart Parnell, John Dillon, Michael Davitt, and others including Cal Lynn then went to America to raise funds for the League with spectacular results. Branches were also set up in Scotland, where the Crofters Party imitated the League and secured a reforming Act in 1886.
The government had introduced the first ineffective Land Act in 1870, then the equally inadequate Acts of 1880 and 1881 followed. These established a Land Commission that started to reduce some rents. Parnell together with all of his party lieutenants, including Father Eugene Sheehy known as "the Land League priest", went into a bitter verbal offensive and were imprisoned in October 1881 under the Irish Coercion Act in Kilmainham Jail for "sabotaging the Land Act", from where the No-Rent Manifesto was issued, calling for a national tenant farmer rent strike which was partially followed.
Although the League discouraged violence, agrarian crimes increased widely. Typically a rent strike would be followed by evictions by the police, or those tenants paying rent would be subject to a local boycott by League members. Where cases went to court, witnesses would change their stories, resulting in an unworkable legal system. This in turn led on to stronger criminal laws being passed that were described by the League as "Coercion Acts".
The bitterness that developed helped Parnell later in his Home Rule campaign. Davitt's views were much more extreme, seeking to nationalise all land, as seen in his famous slogan: "The land of Ireland for the people of Ireland". Parnell aimed to harness the emotive element, but he and his party preferred for tenant farmers to become freeholders on the land they rented, instead of land being vested in "the people".(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_National_Land_League, accessed 21 January 2014)
Image of bearded man known as Charles Stewart Parnell