§ SIR WILLIAM SOMERVILLE
said: Sir, in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Law of Landlord and Tenant in Ireland, I believe I shall best consult the convenience of the House if I proceed at once to state the nature of this measure, the principles upon which it is founded, and the machinery upon which it is intended to give effect to those principles. It would be easy for me at the commencement of my observations to dilate on the extreme difficulty and delicacy and the complicated nature of the subject which I have undertaken to bring under the attention of the House. But, Sir, it is the very complicated nature of the question which leads me to think that the best plan which I can now follow will be simply to state the nature of the measure to the House, because I feel that until we have the power of comparing its details and sifting its provisions, it will be difficult to form a correct opinion of its merits. The Bill which, with the permission of the House, I shall this night lay on the table, embraces two points. First of all, it will provide compensation for the improvements made by the tenants during their holding, if they are dispossessed previous to the expiration of a certain period; and secondly, it will, I hope, effect several not unimportant changes in the relations between landlord and tenant. The Bill proposes to encourage the outlay of capital by the tenant, by providing compensation for him should he be dispossessed of his holding within a period that would not afford him the full benefit of his outlay; and it endeavours to carry out this object without any disturbance of existing interests, and with as little interference with the rights of property as possible. I will not at this period of my statement urge on the attention of the House the necessity of conceding this principle. I believe, by the majority of this House, and by the majority of the public out of doors, that principle has already been conceded. Indeed it is no new principle, for I have met with publications relating to the state and condition of Ireland—of considerable antiquity, more than a century old—in which the principle is broadly laid down, that inasmuch as in Ireland it is not the 674 custom of the landlord to provide suitable farm-buildings for the tenant, if the tenant should think fit to spend capital in the erection of them, and he should be dispossessed at a period when he had not had the full benefit of that outlay, he would be entitled to compensation upon being dispossessed. That principle has been often discussed out of this House before it came recommended to the consideration of Parliament by a Commission issued by the Crown, the report of which Commission was laid on the table of this House three years ago; and after that a noble Lord, not my immediate predecessor in the office which I have the honour to hold, but who formerly filled that office, laid on the table of this House a Bill embodying a similar principle; and I remember that that principle was received with favour by the House, and the noble Lord was permitted to lay the Bill on the table for their consideration. Before I proceed, then, to notice the changes which I contemplate making in the law affecting the relation of landlord and tenant in Ireland, I will state to the House in what manner it is intended the measure should proceed for securing compensation to the tenant for his outlay of capital. It is intended that from and after the passing of this Act, all tenants possessing an interest, to be hereafter specified, and holding under any lease or agreement, or from year to year, at a rent not exceeding ten pounds, may serve notice in a printed form, according to the terms to be prescribed, in a schedule appended to the Act, specifying the proposed improvements, whether of building, fencing, or subsoiling, and that he having done so, he shall nominate an arbitrator of his own, and call upon the landlord to do the same. If, within a given period, say within twenty-one days, the landlord shall not name an arbitrator to act in his behalf, it shall be competent for the tenant to summon him or his acknowledged agent before the petty sessions; and the court of petty sessions is to nominate an arbitrator, to be conjoined with the arbitrator originally selected by the tenant. The two arbitrators are then to choose an umpire, or should they decline doing so, the petty sessions are to be called upon to appoint one; and the arbitrators and umpire thus appointed are to form the body of arbitration to whom is to be assigned the duty of deciding on the notice which the tenant has served on his landlord. They will make it their business to inspect the farm generally; to consider the 675 value, character, and suitableness of the contemplated improvements; and to determine the additional rent which ought to be paid by the tenant in the event of the landlord consenting to execute them himself. If they decide that the improvements are suitable and desirable, and should be proceeded with, they are to make an award to that effect; and the instrument is to be deposited in the hands of the clerk of the peace to be by him preserved amongst the records of the country. A copy of it is to be served by the tenant on his immediate landlord, and upon all other landlords who can be affected by it; and it is to be competent for any landlord, either immediate or superior, to institute within twenty-one days after the issuing of the award, an appeal before the assistant barrister at quarter-sessions. The barrister is to be empowered to enter into a consideration of the nature and value of the improvements; and having done so, he will proceed to ratify, disallow, or vary the amount at which they have been valued; and his decision is to be final. In conformity with a recommendation which originated with Lord Devon's Commission, power is granted to the landlord to give notice to the tenant of his intention to come in and execute the contemplated improvements himself, and to charge on account of them the increased rent specified in the original award. The party, whether landlord or tenant, then goes on to execute the works, and having done so, he is to appeal to the arbitrators; and the arbitrators having accurately examined the same, are to give to the landlord or tenant, as the case may be, a certificate stating that the works have been completed in conformity with the award, whether of the original arbitrators, or of the assistant barrister. The certificate, which will likewise specify whether any deduction, and if so what, is to be made from the rent originally fixed, is to be deposited with the clerk of the peace, who will take care to have it filled with the records of the country. Up to this point the tenant has, in every instance, been the moving and initiating party. On the termination of the tenantry, however, the landlord becomes the moving party. It is proposed, that if within twenty-one years the landlord have become entitled to possession, either by the dropping of the lease, or by service of notice to quit, or by ejectment of the tenant for non-payment of rent, or by any other contingency, he is to serve notice on the tenant, intimating 676 that he has himself appointed an arbitrator, and calling upon the tenant to nominate another. These arbitrators are to be appointed on the same footing, and are to be subject to the same rules and regulations, as those who were nominated in the first instance, to decide on the nature and character of the improvements proposed to be undertaken. They will have to inspect the works, and to make an award, defining the amount of compensation due to the tenant; but, in accordance with a recommendation of the Devon Commission, it is to be provided that the compensation is not to exceed three years' rent of the holding. The Bill will contain a provision whereby the landlord may be enabled to avoid payment of compensation; and the mode proposed in order to the attaining of this end is, that he should permit the tenant to remain in possession for twenty-one years after the completion of the works, at the same rate of rent that was paid before. There will, moreover, be a provision, enabling the immediate landlord to recover compensation from the superior. You will perceive that all these provisions are prospective. We found that it would be attended with very great inconvenience to apply a retrospective principle to holdings under the value of 20l.; but the case is different as it regards holdings under 10l. It is therefore proposed that, in so far as holdings under the value of 10l. are concerned, the provisions of this Bill shall be retrospective. We purpose, therefore, to enact that every tenant holding at a rent not exceeding 10l. shall, if he have been dispossessed by his landlord, be entitled to the value of his improvements during the five years antecedent. Compensation for those improvements (which, be it observed, are not to be valued beyond the amount of ten years' rent of his holding), is to be recovered by civil-bill process before the assistant barristers, who are to have full power to decide the question. I have disposed of that portion of the Bill which relates to compensation to be awarded to tenants for improvements which they have themselves effected. I have stated how difficult and how complicated the arrangements are, but I hope I have made them intelligible to the House. I now proceed to consider that portion of the measure which refers to the not unimportant changes which the Bill contemplates as to the relation between landlord and tenant. In the first place, the Bill contains a clause which regulates the power of distress. In order to 677 exempt the occupying tenant from undergoing the terrible hardship of a double distress—one from the immediate landlord, and another from the superior—it will for the future be enacted that tenants holding under a certain yearly rent, to be specified in the Bill, are to be altogether deprived of the power of distress, if they underlet their land. Another great advantage to the occupying tenantry will be, that this Bill will give them power to set up an equitable defence in the superior courts of law. By the law as it at present stands, the tenant has a right to set up such a defence before the assistant barrister; but if the case be moved by the superior landlord into a higher court, the tenant, unless he can afford to undertake a suit in equity at an enormous expense, is deprived of the benefit which he might have enjoyed under the jurisdiction of the barrister. It is proposed also to increase very considerably the powers of the assistant barrister. The House will more clearly understand the exact proportion in which it is intended to make this increase of powers when the Bill shall have been placed upon the table. It is also provided that tenants holding at will may be ejected for non-payment of rent. It is my firm conviction that the clause containing that enactment will be beneficial in its operation both to the land-land and the tenant. It will throw no additional power into the hands of the landlord who may be disposed to use his authority capriciously. The privilege is only given for the non-payment of rent, and therefore it will afford no additional facility to the heartless landlord, who would wish to use his power harshly or capriciously for the removal of an industrious and frugal tenant. The landlord must proceed according to the ordinary course of law; but for the non-payment of rent he would have greater facilities afforded him by this Act. It must be remembered also, that we retain in the present Bill all the present law that is favourable to the rights of the tenant. My belief is, that we should not have to hear so continually of the cruel hardship of those notices to quit so frequently used in Ireland, and held in ter-rorem over the tenant's head, if the landlords had had the power of ejecting tenants for non-payment of rent last year. I am therefore most decidedly inclined to the opinion that much good will result from the clause authorising ejectment for nonpayment of rent; but it is to be observed that we propose to couple with this power 678 a very important provision, to have the effect of securing short accounts between landlord and tenant, which is this—that on parole demise no rent shall be recoverable which shall not have become due within two years. [Mr. O'CONNOR inquired the meaning of the phrase "parole demise?"] It means a demise without a lease. With respect to receipts for rents, it is proposed to require that each receipt shall distinctly specify the particular gale which it is designed to cover; and in the absence of such specification, the document is to be considered as referring to the gale last due. I regard this as a most important point, because it will insure the protection of both landlord and tenant from loss. There are other provisions of a less important character on which I will not at present linger. I believe that I now have explained the leading features of the Bill, which I hope to have the honour of laying this evening on the table of the House. I am aware that I may be met with a double objection. Some hon. Members may, and doubtless many will, contend that it is useless to attempt to interfere in contracts between man and man, and that such matters should be left to be regulated by the parties immediately concerned. To hon. Gentlemen who argue in such a strain I can only reply, by telling them to look to the state of Ireland. Look to her undeveloped resources—look to the backward state of her agriculture—look to the unhappy condition of her present population; and I think you will at least admit that the experiment we are now about engaging in is worth being made. I will further venture to assert, that if there is ever to be legislation on this subject, the time for it has now fully arrived. It is time that this House should at once distinctly state not only what it will do in this respect, but what it will not do. The longer this question is left open, the longer it is left undecided, the greater will be the excitement out of doors, and the more extravagant will be the notions and ideas entertained regarding it—notions which it is not in the will or power of this House to comply with. For myself, I can only express my conviction, that provided you are just to the landlords—provided you do not violently disturb the rights of property (and I know of no country where a violent disturbance of the rights of property would be attended with more disastrous consequences than in Ireland)—the more generous you are to the tenantry of 679 Ireland, the more you will do to promote peace, good order, tranquillity, and prosperity in that country. I feel convinced that if you do not endeavour to bring forward some practical measure, having for its object a more equitable adjustment of the relation between landlord and tenant, all your attempts to promote the welfare of Ireland will fail. This is not a party question. I am quite sure there is not an hon. Gentleman in. this House who, in discussing a question like this, will not cheerfully lay aside any political prejudice that may exist in his mind, and gladly lend his aid towards the construction of a measure which will substitute tranquillity and good order for the distrust and distraction which now unfortunately exist in Ireland. When this Bill shall have been laid upon the table of the House, I shall be most happy to consider any suggestions for its improvement which hon. Gentlemen on any side of the House may think proper to bring forward. There can be no doubt that there is much force in the objection which relates to the difficulty and delicacy of interfering with the relation of landlord and tenant, and interposing in agreements which ought to be voluntary between the parties immediately concerned; but I do think that the circumstances of Ireland justify us in refusing to attach a paramount importance to such an objection. Besides, I think it right to observe that there will be found in this Bill a clause facilitating voluntary agreements, and enabling them to be registered, so that they may be safely preserved and easily referred to. The question of agricultural improvement is and must always be one of primary magnitude in Ireland. Just at the present moment it is a question of vital importance. The failure of the potato crop has rendered it absolutely necessary that the productive powers of the soil should be taxed to the uttermost if the people are to be fed upon the produce of the country; and the period is particularly propitious for any attempt having for its object the bringing about of a result so desirable. I believe that the public mind in Ireland is now of one accord as to the necessity of improving the agriculture of the country; and being upon this topic, I hope it will not be considered that any observations are out of place if I venture to allude to the great and striking success which has attended the measure of the Irish Lord Lieutenant, by which agricultural lecturers were sent to instruct the people in the most distressed and famish- 680 ing districts. The success of that movement has been signal beyond my noble Friend's most sanguine expectations. All parties have welcomed his lectures with the greatest joy; and by none, I am happy to say, and I say it most gratefully, have their efforts been more usefully seconded than by the Roman Catholic clergymen of Ireland in those districts which they have visited. In conclusion I would merely observe, that not only is the agricultural improvement of Ireland a most important matter, but that the time is now most opportune for submitting it to the consideration of the House, because the public mind just at this moment is peculiarly alive to the necessity of increasing the productive power of the soil. I trust I have succeeded in making the leading principles of the Bill clear to the House. I ask now permission to place it on the table, in the hope that by encouraging the industrious tenantry of Ireland to expend their capital in the improvement of the soil, it may augment the natural resources of that country, and by increasing the prosperity and happiness of its people, tend, indirectly indeed, but surely and most effectively, to the general well-being of the United Empire.
§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
was most anxious to promote the success of any measure which would conciliate the different interests involved; but he feared that the Bill of the right hon. Baronet would spread great dismay amongst the tenantry of Ulster. Their tenant-right would be totally overthrown. The nature of that custom had been frequently described by writers, as well as in a petition which was presented to the House last year from the county of Londonderry. For two hundred years they had enjoyed the tenant-right, and had made great improvements in their holdings, in the confident expectation that it would not be disturbed; but the system of things proposed to be established under the new Bill was very different indeed from what the men of Ulster understood by tenant-right. What the people of Ulster claimed was, that if a landlord served a tenant with notice of ejectment, the tenant should be able to go before a legal tribunal, and, proving the value of the property created by his labour, claim to be compensated according to whatever might be the increase of value proved to have resulted from his labour. They further claimed compensation in damages when improperly dispossessed. Great improvements had been made in Ulster on the faith of that 681 custom. Attempts had been made of late years by the landlords of Ulster to limit the amount of compensation to which the tenant was entitled. Those attempts had excited great apprehensions among the tenantry of Ulster. When he looked to the principle of the Bill proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, he found that it would in no way protect the tenantry of Ulster who had made those improvements. The Bill was but a transcript of that brought in by the noble Lord who was formerly Secretary for Ireland (the Earl of Lincoln). The principle was the same—namely, to prevent the tenant from recovering the value of his improvements unless he first began by serving notice and getting the landlord's consent. It was said by the right hon. Gentleman, that the measure was only to have a retrospective operation with regard to tenants paying a rent under 10l.; and that would be of no value to the tenantry of Ulster, who were generally of a higher class. To show the evils that arose from a want of security on the part of the tenant, he would take the case of a man who, at the age of twenty-five in the year 1816, had got possession of a farm on a lease for thirty-one years, and who could command a capital of 800l. He spent the whole of that sum in thorough draining, quarrying out rocks, and other improvements; and as profits came in, he expended a like sum of 800l. on a dwelling-house, and erecting fences, &c. Thus, he laid out altogether on the premises a sum of 1,600l.; but he did not want to rob the landlord of his fair rent, and therefore, when the lease dropped in 1847, he offered to pay the full rent for the land according to the poor-law valuation, which was 25s. an acre. The landlord, however, refused to accept it, and served notice of ejectment. What was the result? The tenant was put out of the farm, which was given over to the landlord's own son. Here, then, was the tenant's situation: he came on the farm in the prime of life, with 800l. in his possession; he expended that sum twice over in improving the land and building, and hoped he should in his old age enjoy the produce of his expenditure; but he was turned out penniless on the world, though he had offered an increased rent of 120l If the property would have sold for l,500l. on his entering, it would have sold for 3,600l. when the lease expired, the landlord obtaining all the advantage of the increased value; and the beneficial interest, winch properly 682 belonged to the tenant, would have brought not less than ten years' purchase, or 1,200l. He asked, was not that downright robbery, and would the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman protect such a man as that? If he understood the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman rightly, all claims for improvement would terminate within the limit of twenty-one years. No matter what a man had done—no matter how valuable his improvements might be—no matter that he had gone through all the complicated processes which this Bill required—still, no matter; every claim on the part of the tenant should terminate in twenty-one years. If the landlord allowed him to remain in occupation for twenty-one years, then the landlord might step in and dispossess him. Did he not say justly, then, that such a Bill as this would excite apprehensions in the province of Ulster? It might be said that this Bill did not abrogate the custom of tenant-right, or say it should not continue; but though it might not in law, it would really in fact abrogate it, for it would afford a pretence to landlords to abrogate the custom. They would say that a law had been passed for the relief of the tenants in Ireland, and the landlord would take advantage of that law to deprive the tenant of those rights, who had hitherto enjoyed them. He would now give them the case of a small holder. A tenant took a piece of waste land, containing six statute acres, at a rent of 5s. an acre, for thirty-one years. He reclaimed the land; he made it productive, and built a house, and made other improvements, at a cost of not less than 100l. The lease dropped in 1846; he offered a rent according to the poor-law valuation of 20s. an acre; but the landlord refused to take it, being determined to consolidate the farms on his estate, and he put out the poor tenant, giving him 5l. to go to America. The man did not go there, and he and his wife were inmates of the poorhouse. This poor man was willing to pay four times the original rent; he had built a valuable house on the land; but he was put out of possession, although his beneficial interest should at least have brought him 15l. an acre, including the house, if it were put up to sale according to the principle of the tenant-right. The right hon. Gentleman's Bill, though he was sure it was introduced with the best intention, would not reach such cases as these. He contended that every man should be secured in the possession of the value of his labour and capital. 683 Every man who laid out his labour and capital in improving the land which his landlord supplied him with, was entitled to his full share and full and fair proportion of the value he had created by that joint expenditure. That was the view on which he claimed the tenant-right, not for Ireland alone, but he claimed it as an universal principle of justice for England, Ireland, and Scotland, and no length of time ought to cut short that right. But the Irish tenant had stronger claims upon their kindness and justice than any other, because everything that was done on the land was done by his own means. He (Mr. Crawford) need not enter upon the ground on which interference on the part of the State was justified. It could be amply and fully proved that the State had a right to interfere when the public interest required the regulation of any kind of property—land as well as of any other property. He need not enter on that point; for he considered that point had been already admitted, several Bills having been introduced into that House both for England and Ireland, which clearly proved that the right of such interference on the part of the House was admitted. The Irish tenant, above all others, was not a free agent; for in Ireland the possession of land was necessary for the sustainment of life; and when he came before the landlord and asked for the land, on the ground that it was necessary for his subsistence—under such circumstances he was not a free agent. What was the situation of Ireland? Provisions were not scarce nor dear in Ireland. Then why were the people starving? Because, no matter how cheap the provisions were, they had not the means of buying them. What did that arise from? From the want of employment. What occasioned that? This fact, that there was no security for a due return of investment on the land. The farmer who had money would rather hide it in the thatch than lay it out on the land, because he had no security that it would bring a proper return to him. Therefore he did not employ the people. The working classes who held land were equally unwilling to expend their time in increasing the production of the land, and that also arose from the want of security, as was proved by the evidence before Lord Devon's Commission. He admired the proposition of his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, with regard to sending out instructors to instruct the people in agriculture; but at the same time he must declare his 684 conviction that every lesson they could supply, all the education they could give in that way, would be perfectly useless, unless they were accompanied by measures which would produce confidence on the part of the people that what they expended would be productive to them. It was also to be observed that in Ireland there was a great number of landlords who were tenants for life, and could not give that security, even if they wished it; and therefore it was necessary that the law should step in. Hitherto it must be admitted that there had been one law for the rich and another for the poor; all the laws had been passed to protect the landlord's and not the poor man's right. The landlord's rights were called the sacred rights of property, but they had neglected to protect the rights of labour. And unless they protected the labourer, they could not expect to have a people obedient to the law; but if the people found they had protection, then they would be ready to assist in their maintenance of those laws which some of them were at present disposed to violate. There were particular claims also in particular parts of Ulster; he referred to the Ulster plantations. In the reign of James I., about the year 1608, there were six counties of Ireland forfeited to the Crown. The Crown made grants of the property in them to "undertakers," under the conditions that they should let the lands at reasonable rents and for certain tenures. Letters of complaint were on record for the non-fulfilment of those terms in the year 1612; and in the year 1615 and in the year 1634 the patents were cancelled, but afterwards restored. On those particular lands the custom of tenant-right was understood to be established as a consideration for the non-fulfilment of those conditions; that was its origin in those particular counties called the plantation counties, and they had peculiar claims for its maintenance. But he would not raise the question on those particular claims. He would raise it on the ground that it was a just and right principle that the expenditure of capital and labour should be duly recognised. He had thought it necessary to state to the House what the claims were of the Ulster tenants, He was desirous to see that custome stablished by law, and extended to all improving tenants. He wished it to be understood, clearly that he maintained no claim from the right of occupancy alone, for he would not accede to any demand for tenant-right made by a 685 tenant, simply because he was in the occupation of the land; he considered that the tenant-right could only be founded on the rights of labour and on increased value conferred by labour. No man could set up a claim, in his judgment, with any justice, to tenant-right, unless he could prove that by industrious cultivation of the soil and other modes of improvement he had increased the value of the premises. Those were the only grounds on which he could possibly admit the claim of the tenant. He was aware that the tenant-right was abused in the province of Ulster, and that a claim was often made when it was not justly founded. He was aware it was sometimes made when there ought rather to be a claim for compensation on the part of the landlord. But this arose from the fact that there was no security given for the rights of labour; but the moment that security should be given for the rights of labour, then such claims would no longer be made. There would be no longer any apology for them, for the moment a tenant had security that the labour would be for his own benefit, then they would no longer ask for the tenant-right unless they were entitled to it. It was said that in many parts of Ireland no claim of tenant-right could be made; but he was satisfied that if they once passed a law by which the principle of tenant-right would be established, there would be an impulse given to improvement, and in a short time the tenantry of Ireland, small and large, would put themselves in a position to claim the tenant-right. He considered that an Act ought to be passed providing means for preventing ejected tenants being left to starve in ditches, and that the poor-law should be made effective for their relief. It was not effective now. Tenants that were turned out were dying at the backs of ditches: such occurrences ought not to be permitted. When the tenant-right was not sufficient to give protection, means should be taken to prevent these melancholy results.
§ Mr. H. A. HERBERT
wished to make a few remarks on what had just fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochdale. He was anxious to express, as soon as possible, his opinion on the subject, representing as he did a very large county (Kerry) in the south of Ireland, where there had been some agitation on the subject. The hon. Member for Rochdale had proclaimed that this was a question which was very little understood; and he concurred 686 with the hon. Member; and he would give a reason why it was so little understood, and that was because the advocates of tenant-right did not understand it themselves. It could not be wondered at that persons who formerly were not acquainted with this subject should not now understand it, when they found that at the various meetings that had taken place, and from the letters written on the question, hardly any two gentlemen gave the same definition to tenant-right. The hon. Member for Rochdale had defined tenant-right. The hon. Member argued that occupancy or possession alone did not constitute any claim to tenant-right. That, however, was not the opinion of all the advocates of tenant-right. He held in his hand the copy of a resolution proposed and adopted at a very large meeting in the county of Tipperary, to which he begged to call attention. It was proposed, he thought by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Tipperary, whom he did not see in his place, and it was adopted by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the city of Limerick (Mr. J. O'Connell), whose position should give him very great weight in his own country; and in that resolution there was a distinct disclaimer of the proposition of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. A definition of tenant-right, too, had been given at a large meeting of the Irish Council. It was proposed by a member of that council, in a speech of considerable talent; and he not only defined what tenant-right was, but told them what the effect of it would be. The effect, it was said, would be the transfer of property from the owner to the occupier. He could not imagine any proposition more simple than that, for he admitted that this principle of transfer of one man's property to another would simplify legislation exceedingly. He perceived the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place; and he believed the right hon. Gentleman would find it a very simple means of making up his budget, if the House allowed him to transfer any portion of the property of Her Majesty's subjects he pleased to public purposes; but he believed the House would never sanction the transfer of one man's property to another. He entirely objected to the principle laid down by the hon. Member (Mr. S. Crawford) that the sale of tenant-right was any criterion whatever as to its value. There was not a Member of that House who did not know that in consequence of the intense competition for land in Ireland, 687 any sum, however exorbitant, might be obtained for what was called the tenant-right; or any sum, however exorbitant, might be promised for rent. What would be said to a landlord in Ireland if he avowed that he would let his land at the highest rent he could receive for it? It would be said at once to be unjust, and moreover it would be said to be foolish, as they knew, from the competition for land, that any sum that was pleased to be asked would be promised—he would not say paid. Generally speaking, the purchase-money of tenant-right was paid; but how was it paid? In a great number of cases by the entering tenant borrowing the money, and thereby impoverishing himself. With, the permission of the House, he would read two extracts from the digest of Lord Devon's Commission. They had reference to that very estate which was so often quoted as a model; but even on that model estate they might see the evils of what was called tenant-right, which it was now proposed by the hon. Gentleman should be introduced into other parts of the country. He would read the evidence of John Andrews, farmer and agent, he believed, to Lord Londonderry. He was asked his opinion of tenant-right, and he said he believed the land was sold at a high price by the outgoing tenant, who took away the capital that ought to be left with the incoming tenant. He added, that in order to get the land a man gave all he had to get it, and left himself without capital. He found further on, that a tenant-right would be more valuable than any compensation for improvements would be; and that they would not have many sales of farms except by ill-doing tenants, who exhausted the land, and then got a good deal of money for it. That witness said—He saw parties get a good deal of money for the sale who should be liable to an action for depredation.As the representative of a large Irish county, he should protest against the introduction of anything of that kind into Munster, not only as destructive to the interests of the landlords, but also as most prejudicial to the interest of the tenants. He could not understand the principle on which the taking away the capital of a man before entering into a farm—however good that might be to the outgoing tenant—could produce anything but unmitigated injury to the man who was coming in; and how he could effect improvements was more than he could understand. He wished 688 to mention to the House a fact which appeared to him to afford a striking instance and exemplification of the effects of tenant-right. There was a district in his county, comprising he could not say how many acres, for he had not a return which he had expected would have been laid before the House some time ago, but at all events it was a considerable district—he referred to the common of Ardfert, in the county of Kerry. That common had been taken possession of several years ago, and was now in the possession of a number of occupiers, who were also owners of the land. From time to time subdivisions had taken place on this land; and having heard a great deal of the condition of the inhabitants of this district, he had made it a point during the late recess to pay them a visit, in order to see an instance of what the unmitigated use of tenant-right would produce in the south of Ireland. He went over that land, and whether he considered the state of cultivation or the wretched condition of the tenantry, he could not conceive anything more awful. During the course of his tour through the country ha saw misery which, if he had not seen it patiently submitted to, he should have thought was beyond human endurance. But he saw no misery greater than, if any that was equal to, the misery he had seen on the common of Ardfert. He should not detain the House by any attempt to describe what he saw there, but he should repeat the words of the man he had hired to show him the boundary of the district. He said to him, "not a man on the common of Ardfert can eat his supper this night except those who are getting outdoor relief?" He (Mr. Herbert) would recommend those who dreamed of peasant proprietors for Ireland, to look to the common of Ardfert for an exemplification of what they would be. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochdale, in one of his letters to the people of the north of Ireland, had stated that the interests of the tenants were jeopardised by those who made extravagant demands on their behalf, in connexion with seditious and dangerous projects. He (Mr. Herbert) believed that that would be the case; and he intreated of him to consider whether these interests might not be equally jeopardised by holding out hopes that never could be realised, and thereby weakening the advocacy of those who were endeavouring to obtain for the tenant-farmers their just rights, and to induce the Government to accede to 689 those just demands which their best friends thought they had a right to make. He believed that those only who made these demands were the real friends of the tenant-farmers of Ireland.
§ MR. WILLIAM FAGAN
said, that on so complicated a question as the relations of landlord and tenant, it was not surprising that a great variety of opinions were entertained. The great question in Ireland was how the land was to be cultivated; how its resources could be more fully developed; how the land which was said to be capable of sustaining 17,000,000 inhabitants, but which at present did not sustain a population of only some 7,000,000 or 8,000,000, could be brought to that degree of fertility. He maintained that this could only be effected by encouraging improvement in the cultivation of the land; and therefore he felt himself compelled to agree in the opinion that had been expressed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochdale, that mere occupation alone was not sufficient to constitute the title of tenant-right. He concurred in the opinion expressed by the hon. Gentleman, that the people of Ireland, not merely the people of Ulster, had been looking forward with much anxiety for this measure, and expected an effective Bill from Her Majesty's Government, in consequence of the professions that were put forward at the commencement of the Session. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman also in saying that this measure would be received in Ireland with disappointment and dismay. He was one of those who, upon the accession to power of Her Majesty's present advisers, resolved to give them a fair trial. In consequence of the crisis of last year, and the difficulties of their position, he had not thought it fair to expect that their measures would be immediately developed; but he confessed he had looked forward with anxiety, though at the same time with confidence, to find at the commencement of this new Parliament some measures of a decisive character brought forward to tranquillise the people of Ireland. He regretted to say that the measure now before the House would not have that effect. He remembered that the Bill which was introduced by the noble Lord the Member for Falkirk (the Earl of Lincoln), sneered at though it was, contained many provisions far superior to the measure now proposed by Her Majesty's Govern- 690 ment. At another time, and under other circumstances, there were one or two provisions which had been stated to the House that night, which might tend in a great measure to relieve Ireland, and improve its agriculture. In such a country as England a measure like the present—recognising the right of compensation to the tenant—might be useful, because in England not one third of the population were engaged in agricultural pursuits, and those who were not had fifty other modes of obtaining an honourable livelihood. But in Ireland nearly the entire population was altogether dependent upon agriculture. He would not refer to the famine, nor would he speak of the effect of free trade, but he would take the permanent condition of the population, and he had no hesitation in saying that the condition of the people of Ireland was such, that the measure before the House would not remedy it. What was the proper remedy? They had been told that the remedy for the present state of things in Ireland was to develop the resources of that country—to bring forth those resources in a more profitable manner—to enable the tenant to give a higher rent for his land. But was the measure of the right hon. Gentleman of a nature to induce the tenant to direct his energies towards the better cultivation of the land? Was it of a nature to enable him to pay double rent? The only provision of the Act which he thought beneficial was that which did not allow rent of more than two years outstanding to be recovered in case of no lease. That, he thought, was an excellent provision. With respect to the question of tenant-right, he agreed in some respects with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kerry. He knew that enormous sums of money were given for tenant-right in the province of Ulster; and if the system acted upon in Ulster was introduced into the south of Ireland, it would be found to work most injuriously for all parties he believed that the extreme competition for land would render any such system impracticable—it would result in a total and entire failure. But the Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman went to the opposite extreme—instead of giving him an enormous sum for tenant-right, it limited his claim for improvements to a very inadequate amount. The present was not only a landlord and tenant question, but it was a life and 691 death question, in many parts of Ireland. The people of Ireland had been looking forward to the measure with deep interest, not unmixed with hope, and he felt satisfied that it would create great dismay and great dissatisfaction. He did not think that the efforts of the itinerant agricultural lecturers had been so successful as it was anticipated they would have been. That the idea was well intended, and that the gentlemen appointed to lecture were in every respect competent, he was quite ready to admit; but to tell him, who knew something about the agricultural population of Ireland, that the lecturers would work any improvement in the state of that population was quite preposterous. Until the tenant was given an interest in the improvement of the soil—by a long tenure of his land—he would not, and human nature said he should not, attend to the instructions of the itinerant lecturers. It was delightful for gentlemen living in England, living on their own land, to hear lectures on agriculture, and to profit by those lectures; but with the poor Irish agriculturist it was quite a different thing. The only way of meeting the difficulty was by a fair and equitable valuation of the improvements effected by the outgoing tenant. In addition to this system of valuation they must give to the occupiers of land in Ireland the benefit of a certain and long tenure. But he had looked in vain in the Bill to find any provision of the kind. Until the system of long tenure was established, he would say nothing of the transfer of one man's land to another, for to that he was decidedly opposed; but until certainty of tenure was introduced, agriculture could not progress in Ireland. If agriculture were carried to the same extent in Ireland as it was at the present day in England, the rental of Ireland would amount to 25,000,000l annually, instead of being scarcely sufficient to pay the interest on the mortgages. Speaking of mortgages, reminded him that they had heard nothing respecting the sale of encumbered estates in Ireland. A measure of that kind was promised, and it ought to have preceded the one then before the House. He regretted exceedingly that the Government had taken no active measures to encourage the system of small farms—from twelve to twenty acres of land. If a system of that kind, were carried out, there would be ample and profitable employment of the population; Ireland would be prosperous, without the ne- 692 cessity of resorting to colonisation, or the enforced necessity of cultivating the waste lands. He would endeavour to give his best attention to the Bill when it was printed; he might have mistaken some of its provisions; and, if on a more full consideration of them, he should find them more favourable than at first sight they appeared to him, he should rejoice exceedingly to give his support to the proposition of the right hon. Baronet.
§ VISCOUNT CASTLEREAGH
observed, that when in the last Session, this subject was before the House, he expressed his sorrow that great difficulty should be thrown in the way of its final and satisfactory settlement. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland had brought forward the Bill in a very praiseworthy and conciliatory spirit; no man could have more zealously and correctly explained the object of the Bill; and the provisions gave the best proof of careful cogitation; but he was very sorry that he could not agree with them. He would be the last man to say anything against the measure if he thought it an adequate one; but he was bound to state his conviction that, with respect to the north of Ireland—the province of Ulster—the measure, so far as he understood it, would not come up to the expectations of the people. The hon. Member for Rochdale had exhibited a great deal of kind and cordial feeling towards the people of Ireland; but he (Lord Castlereagh) was very much afraid that this kind and good feeling had been quite thrown away. The proposition of the hon. Gentleman was much too kindhearted to be practical. The hon. Gentleman had taken up the question and introduced his remedy, year after year, and every year he had found it more important and more difficult. He could not join in the views of the hon. Gentleman. The Government measure, in his opinion, was of too complicated a character—it was more complicated than the measure formerly introduced by the noble Lord the Member for Falkirk (Lord Lincoln). It was more complicated than many other measures which had been submitted to the House. The Government measure had also the fault of being entirely prospective. There was not one word in the Bill as to improvements already effected. He would merely allude to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kerry to show the difficulty of legislating for Ireland. If the House gave the tenant-right in Kerry, the hon. Gentle- 693 man said that it would produce the most deplorable effects, and make the peasants more miserable than they were at present, and instanced the wretchedness of the people on the common lands of Ardfert as a warning. And the hon. Gentleman quoted the evidence of the agent of a relative of his (Lord Castlereagh), to show that tenant-right was not such a beneficial custom in that particular part of Ireland. He happened to recollect the exact answer given to the question by Mr. Andrews. Mr. Andrews was asked—Do you think the obtainment of tenant-right would be dangerous to the peace of the country?" The answer was—"I am sure it could not safely be granted; you would have a Tipperary in Down.That was Mr. Andrews' answer with respect to tenant-right. He did not mean to say with regard to this measure, that that person or that Government who would settle this immense practical question would not be the greatest benefactor to Ireland; but he was greatly afraid that if they legislated with the best intentions in the world, either by doing too much or doing too little, or on the other hand of taking the course laid down by his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale, which he thought held out rather too much to the people, and encouraged too great an expectation on their part—they would get rid of that which he for one would be the last person in the world to see got rid of, namely, the good feeling and mutual interest which existed between landlord and tenant in Ulster, and which he was afraid any legislative enactment, if they were not careful, and did not watch every part of it without anything like party spirit or party feeling, would destroy. He was glad to see that, in one part of the speech made at Londonderry by his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale, he said, that although the farmers in the north might have something to complain of, yet it was far more necessary that they should agitate this question for other parties in other places. He was glad to see that that was his hon. Friend's opinion of his part of the country; and he only hoped that they might not sacrifice the good they at present possessed there for any benefit of which the result was not quite sure; and this he must be permitted to say, and say at once, that, placed as he was in connexion with property in Ireland, he could not give his consent to any measure that should go to constitute mere occupancy property; because he conceived 694 that such a measure, if brought forward, would not be confined to Ireland alone, but would spread to other quarters—there would not be one species of law there and another here; and as he wished to see the best measures for Ireland, he should certainly vote against any such proposition.
§ MR. FEARGUS O'CONNOR
thought some parts of the measure would give great satisfaction; but he regretted to find that the Government was not prepared to go to the root of the evil. In his opinion the hon. Member for Rochdale had been rather unfairly treated by the hon. Member for Kerry. His hon. Friend (Mr. S. Crawford) had been charged with the faults of others. The hon. Member for Kerry, in objecting to the transfer of land from the owner to the occupier, had illustrated his argument by asking what would be the feelings of the country if the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to transfer the property of a private individual to the coffers of the Exchequer? Why, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was constantly doing that very thing. It was one of the right hon. Baronet's greatest privileges, and one which he used most extensively. The hon. Member for Kerry had drawn a deplorable picture of the state of the Ardfert commoners—he had described them as browsing like goats; but the hon. Gentleman did not tell the House what quantity of land was occupied by each of those commoners—whether it was sufficient to support them. The hon. Gentleman had given the strongest proof of the value of land in Ireland, by quoting the prices at which the tenant-right had been sold. What he complained of was, that the Bill did not go to the root of the evil. The Irish landlords naturally opposed the measure. But they must bear in mind the fact that free trade had been commenced, and free trade must be carried out. He had always told the people that when one channel was closed against the industrious artisan, another channel must be opened—and the only channel open to them was the land. The subject excited great attention in Ireland, but not more so than it did in England. In Ireland the agitation was for small farms—for tenant-right. In England the same cry would very shortly be raised. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on parts of the measure. The registration of votes, the taking away the power of distress in certain cases, the regulation of the law of ejectment, the giving an equitable as well as a legal jurisdiction 695 to the court of quarter-sessions, were all good provisions. These provisions had all been proposed by him (Mr. O'Connor) fourteen years ago. He must, however, say that the machinery of the Bill was too complicated. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fagan) that it would be to the permanent benefit of Ireland, if as good a system of agriculture could be established as that which prevailed in England. The landlords of Ireland should go through the agricultural counties of England and see the farm-buildings. He would rather hold 60 acres of land at 1002. a year with farm-buildings, than he would 100 acres of land at 100l. a year without those buildings. The erection of commodious buildings, suited to a farm of 60 acres, would not cost more than 300l. in Ireland. Six per cent on the outlay would be 18l. That additional rent would be nothing in comparison to the loss sustained by the absence of the buildings. The farmer lost 40l. a year in the condition of his cattle from their being exposed to the cold, independently of the loss of the manure. One question had been lost sight of in this discussion. It was the duty of the Government to superinduce the employment of task-labour instead of slave-labour in Ireland. The Bill contained clauses respecting the appointment of arbitrators, and the assessment of compensation; but the House should bear in mind the saying, that "a landlord of straw can break a tenant of steel." He hoped that a measure for the sale of encumbered estates would speedily be brought forward. Under existing circumstances it was impossible for many of the landlords of Ireland to perform their proper and legitimate duties. In many cases interest on loans at the rate of 10 and 15 per cent was paid by the life-owners. When hon. Members talked of the want of agricultural enterprise in Ireland, they overlooked the fact that this want of apathy did not arise from anything peculiar in the land, but from the uncertainty of its tenure. In Ireland, every man knew that his labour on the land was slave-labour—that he would not reap the benefit of his own improvement—and he worked but little. But give him fixty of tenure, and he would work from the dawn of morning till the noon of night. Let not the House suppose that the Bill would dispose of the land question. The hopes of the people of the United Kingdom were fixed on the land. To that gladdening hope might be mainly 696 attributed the remarkable and praiseworthy patience and quietude of the working population, under most distressing circumstances. There was not an acre of land, either in England or Ireland, but would let for double its present rental, if the right of the tenant was equitably secured. The right hon. Baronet must propose some more extensive and more comprehensive measure. The present Bill would be a fruitful one for lawyers—it would lead to a great deal of contention and litigation between landlord and tenant. It mattered not whether the people of Ulster were satisfied with their privileges, or that the people of Kerry wanted more; a stringent law would have to be applied to the whole kingdom. If all the property in Ireland were managed like the estates belonging to the family of the noble Lord (Lord Castlereagh), there would be no necessity for such a Bill. Or if it were managed like the property of many Lords in England, there would be as little cause of complaint. But unfortunately in Ireland a good landlord was the exception, while in England it was the rule. And when good landlords proposed measures for the settlement of this question, and the suggestions of these men so thoroughly acquainted with the state of the country were rejected, would not the people say that the legislation of the House was fallacious—that it was based on speculation rather than experiment? He disagreed with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork as to the usefulness of the agricultural lecturers. He considered that the labours of these gentlemen would prove of great advantage to Ireland—they might be a little difficult to be comprehended at first by the farmers, but they would come to understand them; and he, for one, should like to see a Minister of Agriculture sitting in that House to look to the landed interest, as well as a Minister for Nutmegs and Allspice. He hoped that the landed interest would ere long see the necessity of such a Member of the Government. After all their discussions and considerations, they had afforded no relief to Ireland. Would the House show him any measure that had been adopted during the last forty-eight years for the encouragement of agriculture in Ireland? It might be answered that, without the aid of legislation, the people cultivated the land. True, it was their natural occupation. All other occupations were artificial. If Lord Clarendon carried out his excellent scheme for the formation 697 of small farms, they would hear of no more outrages—no more murders—in Ireland; nor would they require any poor-laws for that country. He would endeavour to give the Bill his best attention. It was a very bulky affair, and very imperfectly understood by the House. He was afraid it would be as little understood by the people. What the people wanted was something simple. They wanted to work for themselves, and not for other men—they were unwilling that either the landlord or the middleman should have the result of their labours. As far as the Bill went, it was good—it was getting the wedge into the matter. The Government had a difficult task. He could see the right hon. Baronet (Sir William Somerville) look right and left at the Irish landlords when he explained the provisions of the Bill. The right hon. Baronet seemed to ask, "How do you like this?" and "How do you like that?"
§ Mr. W. SMITH O'BRIEN
could not support the measure in its present shape; but he had no hesitation in saying, that if he were offered as an alternative the adoption of the measure, or the letting things remain as they were, he should vote for the Bill. A system of casual or uncertain tenure in Prussia had been converted into a holding in perpetuity, with the greatest benefit to all parties. He considered that it was not just, as between man and man, that when the incoming tenant handed over money to the outgoing tenant for his interest and improvements on the land, and that with the full cognisance and by consent of the landlord, that that incoming tenant should be liable to be ejected by the landlord on the very next day after his entry into possession, without being entitled to receive any compensation. It was his conviction that the Bill would utterly fail, it being merely a measure calculated to undermine the present tenant-right system of Ulster. Another point upon which he could not concur with his right hon. Friend was the principle on which he founded his limitations regarding the compensation to be allowed to the tenant. He did not think the principle a fair one which held that the possession of a farm for a certain number of years ought to be considered as an equivalent to the receipt of compensation for the improvements effected upon it. He did not think it signified whether a man's capital had been laid out twenty years ago, or only yesterday, if the landlord's estate had re- 698 ceived the benefit, and been increased in value by the improvements effected by that outlay. He thought the landlord was equally bound to take that into account. His right hon. Friend said that in twenty-one years the value of the improvements made by the tenant would be worn out. He trusted that that power would be reconsidered. It appeared to him that the complexity of the measure would be fatal to its operation. It would give rise to a system of litigation which would render the Bill anything but a blessing to the country. However, he would say no more upon the measure at its present stage. It was a question of the utmost importance to Ireland how and in what manner the relations of landlord and tenant should be adjusted. That was a question which should be immediately considered and settled. He believed its settlement could not be safely postponed any longer. It could not be postponed with safety even to another Session. He believed that if they did not at once, by some moans, give to the occupying tenants an inducement to lay out their capital upon their holdings, by securing them from the loss of their outlay, and thereby enabling them to employ their labourers, they would find property of every description, but especially that of landlords, swallowed up by the overwhelming poor-rates. If another Session were allowed to pass over without a satisfactory adjustment of the question, there would be no possibility of obtaining rents peacefully. There would be a universal resistance to the payment of rents. There would be a general combination, which would include not only the peasantry of the south of Ireland, but the Presbyterian yeomanry of the north—a combination against the rights of property. And they would, if they longer postponed a satisfactory adjustment, be obliged at a future time to pass a measure of a description very different indeed from that which would now be found sufficient.
MR. M. J. O'CONNELL
did not think it necessary to go into any details at the present stage of the Bill. But he wished to express his concurrence with many of the sentiments expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick who had just sat down. He differed from the right hon. Gentleman who had introduced the mea-sure with regard to the distinction drawn between the larger and the smaller holdings, as to the prospective and retrospective rights. He thought it an untenable 699 distinction; he thought that compensation should be secured to all; but that if any were to have greater advantages in proportion than others, it was the larger holders to whom that encouragement should be given. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would reconsider that point, and allow the retrospective effect to be extended to the larger holders. It was highly requisite that their legislation should now be satisfactory. They should remember the words of Chief Justice Pennefather, who said, "The course of legislation for many years past has all gone in one direction, to strengthen the hands of the landlords against the tenants." The tenants should now be shown that the law was taking a part in their favour, and that it made no difference whether they had ten, or twenty, or fifty acres of land. But he did not concur with his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick in the opinion that the length of time during which the tenant occupied his holding was not to be taken into account in the question of compensation. He could not think that if a man's ancestors had laid out a certain sum of money on a holding in the year 1790, that he was to be entitled to a return for it in giving up possession nearly a century afterwards. In fact, the bulk of improvements made by tenants would be amply repaid to them in less than twenty-one years. He remembered a tenant-farmer having told him that a field which he had drained, it having been previously very boggy, had repaid his entire outlay by the crop which he had off it in the third year. In dealing with the question, the landlords should be prepared to make some sacrifice of those legal (they were not moral) rights which they possessed. His hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford) had truly said that the landlord and the tenant were really partners, and they should make mutual sacrifices where their interests were mutually concerned. He (Mr. M. J. O'Connell) was glad that the tenant-right was to be restricted to cases where the tenant made substantial improvements. As to the objection that this Bill would destroy the protection given at present by the tenant right of Ulster, the two instances given by his hon. Friend opposite proved that tenants in Ulster could be turned out of their holdings as it was. And as to the destruction of the protection, he (Mr. M. J. O'Connell) had too much faith in the determination of the sturdy men of the north, to believe that they would allow themselves 700 to be deprived of their rights by such a measure as the one under consideration. He did not agree either with his hon. Friend and Colleague (Mr. Herbert) in his condemnation of the tenant-right of Ulster. For his part, he would rather see it introduced, with all its faults and imperfections into Munster, than that the present want of protection to the tenantry of the south should continue. But it was a custom which required mutual confidence between the landlord and tenant; and it consequently could not be established in the south, where such mutual confidence did not exist. He therefore thought that a Bill like the present, carried faithfully into effect, would give a confidence to the tenantry. They would be induced to lay out their capital upon their holdings, and when they had done so, they would take care to pay their rents, lest they should lose the advantage of their outlay. It would, consequently, be for the benefit of landlords and tenants.
§ Leave given.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Nine o'clock.