HC Deb 17 April 1849 vol 104 cc382-403

rose to call the attention of the House to the legal circumstances which unduly impede the sale of landed property in Ireland, and to those facilities which may be safely afforded for its free transfer. When he looked at the present condition of Ireland, the widespread destitution, and the sufferings of her population, and the resignation and patience with which they had borne the ravages of poverty and pestilence extending over two-thirds of the country; when he saw the difficulties into which her gentry had fallen, the insolvent circumstances of her traders, her hierarchy reduced to a degrading poverty, her clergy and medical men cut off in the performance of their duties, by a direful pestilence; when he observed the diminution in the financial circulation of the country, and saw the cruelties perpetrated in the name of charity under the operation of a vicious poor-law; when he saw the cultivator of the soil going out by moonlight to till the land, and in the morning yielding to the poor-law collector, who would take no excuse, his farm horses and implements of husbandry, to satisfy the cravings of a system which paralysed industry and wasted the best resources of the country; when he looked at the sessional policy of Her Majesty's Ministers, and the spirit in which they had received every remonstrance from Ireland—he trusted that he might claim, with confidence, the generous indulgence of the House while he called its attention to the legal circumstances which unduly impeded the sale of landed property in Ireland, and those facilities which might be safely afforded for its free transfer. Owing to the want of proper facilities for the transfer of landed property in Ireland, the application of capital and agricultural science to the improvement of the land and development of its resources was greatly impeded. He would just call the attention of the House to one single passage in the report of the Committee which sat in 1846, for the purpose of considering how far the burdens on land in this country could be diminished, with the view of counteracting the effects which the adoption of free trade must for a short period have upon the value of landed property. The Committee complained that the transfer of landed property in this country was subjected to expense by the law, which, in the opinion of the Committee, greatly diminished the maketable value of the land itself. Now, if such a difficulty were felt in this country, how much more disastrous must it prove in Ireland, where land was so much encumbered, and where a different law prevailed with regard to its transfer! Mr. Pymm, in his valuable work on the condition of landed property in Ireland, attributed much of the prevailing distress to the cumbersome and expensive machinery which attended its transfer; and there could be no doubt that the delay, difficulty, and expense attendant on the complex devolution of Irish titles, amounted to a flagrant and crying evil. No power existed there of instituting what was known in England as a foreclosure suit. Every encumbrance, however old, must be kept alive. The most recent mortgagee was compelled, for his own safety and protection, to trace and enrol the claim of the party who had the most remote and indefinite interest in the property—a system which was exceedingly costly, and subjected the transfer of the property to much legal chicanery, and served only to extend and keep up litigation which could benefit no party. Under the existing system every individual who had a remote or indirect interest in the property, had to be brought before the Court of Chancery in Ireland. In the course of those proceedings every fact might become the separate subject of a small equity suit; and after a reference to the master's office, the selling value of the property was generally diminished 30 per cent. As many as 180 "charges" had been known in the case of one estate—a "charge" being analogous to a small bill in equity, to which a "discharge" must be filed by way of answer. When the report was made, exceptions and objections were taken to it, which gave rise to a new source of litigation; and even when the matter came before the Chancellor in such a shape as to enable him to pronounce a decree for the sale of the property, a subject for bitter contest again presented itself on what were called the "notes" of the decree. The unfortunate estate was then again turned into the master's office; the master, besides being a professed lawyer, an accountant, an experienced conveyancer, and a stock-broker, must be a land auctioneer. He had to settle the conditions of sale, which, in nine cases out of ten, required that the purchaser should not object to the title on account of some obscure will. The tendency of the conditions of sale and the state of the law by which real property was disposed of in Ireland, was calculated to produce much mischief. The practical effect was to involve every purchaser of land in Ireland in continued litigation. The consequence of the imperfect system of registration, and the total want of the registration of incumbrances on land, and of judgment debts, materially impeded the sale of property in that country. He would venture to assert that a more obscure Act did not exist than the 7 and 8 Vict., cap. 9, commonly called the Judgment Debts Act, for it was not possible to get a barrister who would undertake to give a positive opinion as to the construction of that statute. The consequence of such a state of things must be to impede the sale of land in Ireland. No man would purchase landed property when the disposal of it was hampered with such difficulties and risks. The proceedings taken in the master's office for the sale of estates were directly opposite to those which any prudent or sensible auctioneer would recommend. As it was, the estate was advertised for sale on a particular day and at a specified hour, when the sale must take place, according to the rule of the Court of Chancery. Any attempt on the part of an intending purchaser to obtain an insight into the nature of the title of such an estate, previous to the sale, always proved unavailing. This, in point of fact, was calling upon a party to purchase a pig in a poke. He submitted that the estate should be advertised for sale at a particular time, and if it was not sold at a certain price then, that the master should be allowed to treat privately with purchasers subsequently to that date; and, although it might be the result of a prolonged treaty, that there should be no restrictions as to private sale. If the master declared a party had offered the value, he should receive the estate, although it had not been again exposed to public competition. There was scarcely a limit to the check on the transfer of land in Ireland caused by the present system of conveyancing. He conceived that the whole of the stamp duties with respect to the transfer of property should undergo revision; and he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would consider whether it would not be better to impose some charge upon landed property in place of those stamp duties which were now imposed upon a landed property every time it changed owners. He did not think that an estate worth 1,000l. a year should be constantly subject to stamp duties every time a portion of it was sold. He warned the House of the danger of legislating with reference to questions purely Irish, hut more especially those which had relation to the tenure of land, without a perfect knowledge of the nature and operation of the laws of real property in that country—he warned them not to legislate without consulting practical men, well versed in the laws of real property in Ireland. He gave every credit to the learned Solicitor General for the introduction of the Encumbered Estates Bill of last year, but it was now admitted to have been a failure. He (Mr. Sadleir) had repeatedly said that the operation of that measure would rather tend to impede than to facilitate the sale of encumbered estates, and the operation of it had positively hindered the investment of capital on mortgage of estates in Ireland. It was impossible that any man could safely invest his money in this way so long as this Act remained in force. There were estates in Ireland the nominal proprietors of which had as much interest in them as the Emperor of China. There were estates in Ireland with which he was acquainted, which, taking the highest value which could be placed on them, were wholly unable to repay the principal and interest charged upon them. Under such circumstances, what interest could the inheritor have in them? As the hon. and learned Solicitor General was about to introduce a Bill for the amendment of the law of last year on this subject, he hoped that a clause would be introduced to remove an inconvenience resulting from the present statute. According to the opinion of the Attorney General of Ireland on the construction of the Act for the sale of encumbered estates, if a mortgagee of an estate wished to transfer his mortgage, he was bound to furnish searches to the party to whom it was to he made over for judgments against himself, and he was hound to show that there were no judgment debts against himself. The unfortunate effect of this was, that no man would take a mortgage on an estate in Ireland. He did not think that a judgment against a mortgagee ought to be allowed to affect the transfer of a deed of this kind; for it operated not only to prevent the transfer of land, but also to throw obstacles in the way of the investment of capital on the security of land. It was by affording capitalists every facility to make such transfers that they would inspire them with confidence in the security of such investments. He wished the House to bear in mind that, with regard to the condition of Ireland, there was nothing of more importance than the state of the law affecting the sale of landed property in that country. So long as they hesitated to deal with the land question, all their measures for the alteration and improvement of the poor-law—all their plans for the extension of the suffrage—all their proposals for the extension of the same municipal system to Ireland which existed in England—all their exertions to place a limit to the amount of the poor-rate, and to exempt estates from being overwhelmed by the arrears of rates—would fail. If they determined to administer the encumbered estates through the medium of the Court of Chancery, under the operation of any measure like the Act of last year, they would inevitably fail. He believed the present system only led to increased confusion. He could not see why two or three gentlemen, acting on a commission, and well acquainted with the subject, could not proceed in such a manner as to overcome all the difficulties which now appeared to be insuperable; they would ascertain, in a short time, the amount and character of the incumbrances and title which now took years to investigate in the Master's Office. When this was done, they might confer on purchasers a primitive and perfect title; and that in the most simple form. They might make as clear a title to land as if it were the first acre of land saved from the waters of the deluge. The purchaser would want no title deeds; for all that would be requisite would be a transfer from the commissioners—duly registered by them. By the adoption of such a course, all the difficult questions which now occasioned so much vexation and trouble in the Court of Chancery, with regard to incumbered estates, would be got rid of. As long as the present system with regard to landed property existed, the evils resulting from it would produce much greater mischief than any that resulted from free trade, from the failure of the potato crop, or from the operation of the poor-law. He would refer the House to the opinion of Mr. Senior, a most able conveyancer, and for several years a Master in Chancery, who had strongly expressed his opinion as to the state of the law, which was productive of so much mischief in England, and of infinitely more evil in Ireland. That gentleman stated, with reference to the proceedings with regard to the transfer of landed property in England— I am aware that the system of conveyancing imposes great difficulty, great expense, great delay, and great uncertainty upon the transfer of land. There is scarcely a title marketable in the legal sense of the term, meaning a title without a flaw; scarcely any title that is not subject to some legal doubt. A man who has agreed to sell a field for 300l. does not know that he has not contracted to spend 500l. in proving his title; while he who has agreed to buy, does not know that he has not contracted to spend 500l. in getting the title proved. England is the only civilised country requiring a sixty or even a forty years' title. In every country but this the transfer of property is made through a notary's book. In every country but this the land is transferred in the same way as stock. One thing was manifestly essential: to remove all questions touching incumbered estates from the Court of Chancery, the procedure of which imposed upon every estate an overwhelming amount of costs, under the most futile pretexts. For example, in the case of "Gardiner v. Blessington," there were filed 188 "charges" for debts, the debts being generally wholly undisputed and indisputable. In another case, which the Masterof the Rolls had himself denounced as a disgrace to the Court of Chancery, and which, after 20 years' litigation abated by the death of the plaintiff, the costs incurred amounted to no less a sum than 20,000l. In another case, the costs amounted to no less than 62 per cent on the whole rental of 500l. per annum in litigation. He (Mr. Sadleir) had in his hand a return very indicative of the condition into which agriculture was rapidly falling in Ireland. This was a return from some extensive lime quarries in one of the most flourishing agricultural districts in Ireland. Those quarries were situated in the county of Kilkenny. In 1845 those quarries sold 110,223 barrels of lime, but since then there had been a gradual diminution in the amount in each successive year, and in the last year, 1848, the sale had fallen to 24,793 barrels. He could not state to the House a fact which established more clearly than this how rapidly the agricultural interest of Ireland was falling. It might be thought an exaggeration, but nevertheless it was true, that twenty years was not an unusual period for suits in the Irish Court of Chancery to extend to, when they related to the sale or transfer of landed property. Indeed he knew of some cases in which the litigation had extended to a longer period. The hon. and learned Member next touched upon the subject of ejectment; and, by way of illustrating the great length to which proceedings under that process extended, he exhibited to the House an immense sheet of paper, which appeared to be closely printed, and which, the hon. Member observed, could be compared to nothing but a double supplement of the Times. This, he begged to assure the House, was a genuine document in a recent ejectment case; and, notwithstanding its inordinate length, the pleader who drew it said that some forty or forty-five demises had been omitted, which, in strictness, ought to have been inserted. The hon. Gentleman next proceeded to show how the interests of a landed proprietor might be sacrificed, even in an amicable suit in Chancery, when it was a proceeding by a friendly creditor, conducted in the most feeling and economical manner, so as to empower the sale of a portion of the estate, in order that the residue might be enjoyed free from the claims of mortgagees and creditors. By the kindness of a friend of his, a solicitor, he had been favoured with the particulars of the case. The bill was filed in 1833, the suit having been instituted to effect a sale, as speedily as possible, of a portion of the estate, to pay debts then amounting to 17,000l. Now, during the progress of that suit there were nine bills of revivor and supplementary bills, and twenty-three answers filed. In the course of nature a defendant occasionally died; and on the death of a defendant, however amicably disposed his representatives might be, a bill of revivor became necessary. A decree to account was obtained in 1836, being three years after the commencement of the suit, and it was only by the most extraordinary energy and exertion that such a decree could have been obtained within that time. Thirteen charges were filed in the master's office, and a decree for the sale of the property was obtained in 1839, so that the proceedings were in the master's office for only three years, an unusually short period in the history of Irish Chancery litigation. A portion of the estate sufficient to pay the debts was offered for sale in 1839, and that portion was bought for 25,000l. On account, however, of technical objections made by purchasers, great delay took place in endeavouring to complete the title. The purchasers, in fact, availed themselves of every possible technicality, and got out of the sale. The same lands, with the same title, and with the same conditions of sale, were set up in 1845, but not being then likely, from the fall in the price of land and from the libels upon the title, to produce enough to pay the debts, more land was added, and a sale was effected at a loss of 27 per cent. According to the practice of the court, a purchaser, on being declared the buyer, is compelled to lodge one-third of the purchase-money which is invested; and the money so invested in this instance, amounting to 22,369l., when it came to be distributed among the parties entitled to receive it, produced, owing to delay and fluctuations, only 19,600l. He had omitted to mention, that although this suit was instituted in 1833, the property in question had been for a long time previously under the control of the court, and managed by the receiver of the court for twenty-six years, in which time the amount of rents received was 78,000l. The interest upon the debt, 1,000l. a year, amounted during that time to 26,000l, and this would leave 52,000l. to pay the principal and all expenses. The House would have no difficulty in conjecturing the way in which this estate had been managed, when, after twenty-six years of Chancery superintendence, it became necessary to sell a large portion of it for the purpose of paying the debts. The aggregate loss was 11,960l., being more than half the original debt; and all this was owing to the working of the system on which encumbered estates were dealt with through the intervention and machinery of the Court of Chancery. He contended, that if the Legislature persisted in leaving encumbered estates to the jurisdiction of that court, they would be inflicting great injustice upon the owners of such properties in Ireland; they would bring ruin upon creditors who had advanced money upon the security of such properties; they would be acting a cruel and disgraceful part towards the tenant-occupiers upon those estates, and they would be contributing much to the increase of those great and alarming evils which were at present shaking the very foundations of society, even in the most favoured districts of Ireland. As the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for England proposed to introduce a Bill to amend the Encumbered Estates Act, he (Mr. Sadleir) might take that opportunity of impressing upon that hon. and learned Gentleman a few facts connected with the present operation of the law, and which, perhaps, might aid him in rendering the Act in some degree ameliorative of those evils of which all parties had just cause to complain. Perhaps the attention of the Solicitor General had been directed to the case of Goldsmith v. Glengall, which was what was called an Irish creditors' suit—that unfortunate proceeding in which it became necessary to bring before the court all parties beneficially or remotely interested in the estate. In that Irish suit there were no fewer than 180 defendants. Application was made to the Master of the Rolls to stay all other suits which might be then in prosecution for the same purpose, so that all might become merged in this creditors' suit, and a title might be obtained satisfactory to purchasers. In that suit constant reference was made to the Encumbered Estates Act of last Session. The Master of the Rolls, in giving judgment, expressed himself to the effect that he was there to administer the law as it was, and not as it ought to be; that he had himself prepared a short Bill, the effect of which would have been to diminish the number of defendants to three or four in such a case; but that in these matters the suggestions of practical men were disregarded and set aside, and the opinions of English conveyancers relied upon instead, which threw the whole of the proceedings into confusion. He (Mr. Sadleir) also held in his hand the opinion of a member of the Irish bar, who was also, he believed, a member of the English bar, and who had had great experience in every thing connected with the law of real property in Ireland. The hon. Member here read the opinion, the leading points of which were, that the provisions of the Encumbered Estates Act, which authorised sales out of court, were clogged with so many safeguards against possible frauds, and so many formalities to complete a title, as to be practically inoperative, and that a sale was much more complex under these provisions than under the authority of the court; that under the operation of the Encumbered Estates Bill, before an encumbrancer could proceed he was bound to pay off prior encumbrancers not only what was due to them, but what they said was due; that as matters now stood, it was better to proceed under the old and known law, than incur the hazard and risk of acting under the measure of last Session; and, finally, that that Act, unless greatly modified, would become a dead letter as regarded those for whose benefit it was passed, and those who would seek to put it in motion. That was the opinion of a gentleman of the Irish bar practically conversant with the subject. It appeared to him (Mr. Sadleir) that the evils of the present system were so intolerable—that they imposed such a burden upon landed property in Ireland, and were so calculated to impair its value—that any efforts to administer the estates through the Court of Chancery, by legislative interposition, which did not go to the constitution of some commission or board, the duty of which should be to deal expressly with the peculiar circumstances of the estates, to ascertain the nature of the title, and which should have the power of conferring a new and Parliamentary title—any proposition which did not go that length would be found insufficient to cope with the exigency of the case, and wholly disproportionate to the difficulties with which it was beset. Some Gentlemen had, he thought, evinced rather too great haste in repudiating the notion of constituting a local board or commission, with a view of dealing on the spot with evils which had arisen to such height that a spirit of more than ordinary courage and self-reliance was now required to encounter and conquer them. The hon. Gentleman then read an extract from the Committee of Inquiry of 1833, recommending that, in consequence of the redundancy of labour in Ireland, a board should be appointed with the necessary powers for carrying into effect a comprehensive system of national improvement, and that that board be empowered to appoint commissioners to make a survey, valuation, and partition of waste lands in Ireland. There was sufficient evidence of the value of those waste lands. Sixty years ago, Arthur Young had borne testimony to it. Last year, moreover, a Committee of the House of Commons reported that the evidence went to show not only the necessity of these lands being brought into cultivation, but for the appointment of a board with summary powers for bringing that plan into operation. He (Mr. Sadleir) had no doubt that this would be perfectly practicable, and that the appointment of a board, rightly constituted, with full and comprehensive powers, would afford the most direct, speedy, and safe means of dealing with the social condition of the people of Ireland. He had no doubt that such a board would easily ascertain the encumbrances on the estates, and the real value and resources of the property, and provide for their better management. If such a board had practical powers to effect a complete transfer of the property, the legitimate means might be easily conceived and devised of affording to landed proprietors greater facilities of obtaining money from capitalists. If the law of real property was altered so as to convince capitalists that in placing out their money on the security of land, they did so on a convertible security, and if landed property were rendered convertible in a mercantile sense, the greatest benefit would be conferred upon the landed interest of Ireland. Why not so reform the law? What practical objection could be urged against an alteration which would enable the capitalist or the banker to advance money on the mortgage of land in Ireland, and would confer upon him a power by which, in default of payment, he should have a speedy and summary right of sale and purchase through the intervention of the sheriff, or some local officer? His notion of a comprehensive scheme was the introduction of a series of measures, each small in itself and unpretending in character; each, taken as an isolated measure, calculated to confer perhaps but limited benefit; but all united together as a connected system, the parts dovetailing one with the others, and all bearing upon one another, tending to give that fair and legitimate encouragement which capital and industry required. It was only by the introduction of such a series of measures as bad been urged upon Parliament year after year, and recommended by commission after commission, that that legitimate encouragement could be given, which society in Ireland was justified in expecting, to the successful investments of labour and capital in developing the resources of the country. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland introduced a measure with regard to tenancy in Ireland, which he (Mr. Sadleir) regretted to say was afterwards withdrawn; but he hoped that an early opportunity would be taken of again bringing it forward.


said, the Bill had already been introduced into the House of Lords.


was happy to hear it. It was the condition of the tenant tenures in Ireland which greatly contributed to embarrass and obstruct industry. In no other country could so absurd a system be found. He had himself looked into the system of tenant tenures in many countries, and he found that of Ireland to be among the worst. In England the land was cultivated by a class of tenantry who had the protection of a simple and intelligible tenure. In nine cases out of ten it was a lease for a fixed term, or a tenancy from year to year, maintained and supported by local usage, by a spirit of confidence on the part of the landlord, and fidelity on the part of the tenant. These were the moral buttresses which gave a tenant all the encouragement which his industry required. How different was the case in Ireland! There, there were leases for lives renewable for ever in every possible variety, calculated to create litigation, heartburnings, and neglect, to repress industry, and to keep asunder the tenant occupier and his natural landlord. There, there were leases which not only discouraged industry, but administered to the worst passions of the people. Many of these leases were renewable, not upon payment of a pecuniary fine, or the delivery of a peppercorn, but upon conditions which must lead to solemn reflections as to the morality of the system, though some of them might excite momentary mirth. Hon. Gentlemen were under the impression that all leases for lives in Ireland were renewable for ever, as in England, upon payment of a fine generally equal to half a year's rent, the delivery of a pair of roast fowls, or a peppercorn; but he had one in his possession renewable for ever upon the fall of each life, on the condition that the tenant deliver to the landlord as much "Parliament whisky" as would make one hundred and seventy-two glasses of strong whisky punch. He asked the House whether this was a description of tenure which ought to be tolerated, or permitted to exist for one hour, in a civilised country, particularly where there had been a great temperance movement, peculiarly honourable to the Irish people. There were also leases for three lives renewable for one life; leases for lives and thirty-one years, leases for lives and years concurrently, and leases for years provided a life shall last so long. Then there were the collegiate leases. A vast mass of landed property in Ireland belonged to the provost and fellows of Trinity College, who, even in the present year, had sanctioned a system of tenure and of management which no private individual in England, or in Ireland either, would tolerate for a moment. They adhered to the pernicious system of sanctioning and encouraging the growth and spread of middlemen. In recent cases, where the college had it in their power to adopt, as their immediate tenants, the cultivators of their land, whoso characters were unimpeachable and circumstances solvent, and who were anxious to pay the utmost occupation rent that could be reasonably imposed, they, in their wisdom, acting upon their system of management, actually sought in every direction to obtain a party to take the land much under that which the occupying tenants were willing to pay. At last they obtained a man willing to pay a lesser rent than the occupying tenants, and they had put this person into the invidious position of a middleman. Could any system be more objectionable than this? He thought, under such circumstances, it was the duty of Government at once to interpose, and insist upon the due and rational management of the college lands, to confer upon the board the power of granting agricultural leases for fixed terms of years, and to prevent the practice of establishing a middle interest. In other words, it was the duty of Government to see that the tenant occupiers were the immediate tenants of those lands. So it was also with the lands under the control of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Nothing could be worse than their management of the estates placed under their control. So also with the estates of Sir Erasmus Smith, and Sir Patrick Dunne's charities. No manage- ment could be worse. The same character was applicable to the management of the estates of some great absentee proprietors. He could name, however, several who had made great efforts to relieve the distresses of their suffering tenantry. But the most kind and spirited among them were the proprietors of too much land. The Marquess of Lansdowne, for example, was the proprietor of too much land in Ireland. If that noble Lord were to consult his own interest, the interest of the tenant occupiers upon his estate, the public interest, and the welfare and tranquillity of Ireland, he would denude himself, by every prudent means, of a portion of his landed possessions in that country. Nothing could be better than the noble Marquess's management of his estates in Meath and Queen's County; nothing could be more meritorious than the exertions he had made to alleviate the misery of the people who tenanted his estates in Kerry. But the effort to improve their condition was beyond the compass of any one man's power. The Marquess of Lansdowne was one of the most benevolent, humane, and judicious of Irish absentee proprietors; and therefore he had taken the liberty of mentioning his name publicly, as one of the most favourable instances of a great proprietor having done much for the people, though, for the sake of his tenants and the public, he believed the noble Marquess to be the proprietor of too much land in Ireland. Upon all these considerations he contended that it did not become Her Majesty's Ministers to excuse themselves from introducing measures calculated to assimilate the law in Ireland to that of this country, upon the ground that they involved great labour, and could only be accomplished by overcoming great difficulties. They had at least one great advantage in their favour, which more than counterbalanced the difficulties in which the social position of Ireland placed them. This was the anxious desire on the part of all classes, both in the House and in the country, to second any bold and honest efforts to ameliorate the condition of the people. They would not have to encounter any vexatious opposition in that House; on the contrary, they would find, among the independent Members, every disposition to encourage and support them in the introduction of such measures. He considered, then, that they had it in their power to convert the present exigency into a source of great prosperity; and he could not see any ground upon which they could decline the introduction of a series of measures calculated to emancipate the land from legal impediments. The protectionist party, he considered, ought to be the last to oppose measures calculated to improve the value of land. Could the financial reformers object to them? They wished to keep down expenses, and they cried out about the cost of government. Why, he would tell them that the expense of governing one native in Tipperary exceeded the cost of governing ten subjects in any other part of Her Majesty's dominions. The peace party could not object to them, because they were calculated to promote peace and encourage order. If, then, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, converted the feelings of dissatisfaction, almost amounting to hatred, which now poisoned and distracted the minds of the southern districts of Ireland, into feelings of confidence and gratitude, which was perfectly practicable by such measures, he would be enabled to withdraw the military from Ireland, and to abolish the police barracks, which were now necessary to sustain the resident gentry in those districts. Such a state of things would enable the peace party in every foreign Cabinet to point to the tranquillity of the people of Ireland and their prosperity, as an argument against war with this country. It was not, however, by raising up artificial defences through the poor-law, that they would effect the sale of landed property, or inspire prudent men with confidence in Ireland. Nor could they effect it by declaring that such and such districts only should pay a fixed amount of rate. Purchasers of laud, cultivators of the soil, could never be obtained by such means. He was unwilling to revert to the subject of the poor-law; but he could not forbear repeating that, under present circumstances, its operation retarded the purchase of land in Ireland; and he thought the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland might advantageously turn his attention to a consideration of the vast quantity of land held under joint tenures, coparcenery, and tenancies in common. Upwards of two millions of acres were so held. It was a cruel mockery to tell the cottier tenantry to fall into the rank of labourers in a country without a labour market. There were, literally, three millions of people in Ireland who had no legitimate opportunity of living by honest industry. There was no labour market for them; and if no remedy was adopted, the evil would go on increasing; for, after it had ruined the most favoured districts of Ireland, it would inevitably attack the best portions of England. He considered beneficial results would follow, if power were given to the Bank of Ireland to invest its surplus means in mortgages upon landed property in that country. In all the measures which he urged, it would be wholly unnecessary to make such sweeping alterations as to overturn the laws of entail, or to render land as convertible as a bale of cotton. The laws of transfer, however, might be improved without adopting those extreme views. By a policy which would realise the words of Adam Smith, the prosperity and happiness of Ireland may be greatly increased; for he said— The manufactures and the agriculture of Europe have arisen from the fall of the feudal system, and from the establishment of Governments which have afforded to industry the only encouragement it requires—a tolerable security that it may be allowed to enjoy the fruits of its own enterprise and labour.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the legal circumstances which unduly impede the sale of Landed property in Ireland.


seconded the Motion.


presumed, that the object of the hon. Gentleman in making his present Motion, was to obtain an opportunity of delivering the speech which he had just addressed to the House, rather than of seriously asking for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the various subjects embraced in that speech. The legal experience of the hon. Gentleman undoubtedly entitled any observations which might fall from him on those subjects to the respectful attention of the House. But it was to be observed that on the present occasion the hon. Gentleman had entered upon a very wide field, and had gone into all sorts and descriptions of matters which were scarcely within the scope of his Motion; and were he (the Solicitor General) to follow the hon. Gentleman in detail through all the points he had thought proper to urge, he should extend his observations far beyond the usual limits of debate; for the hon. Gentleman had not confined his remarks to those matters which affected the transfer of landed property in Ireland, but bad touched upon everything that in the remotest degree affected the existing judicial system in Ireland as regarded real property. It certainly was not his present intention to enter upon the discussion of a subject of such magnitude, the details of which were so complicated, and the views entertained concerning which were so many and of so extremely various a character. It would be impossible for him to expound within the compass of a reasonable speech, the peculiar opinions he might entertain individually with relation to any particular parts of that subject. He should, therefore, confine himself to one or two points only, which the hon. Gentleman had adverted to; avoiding, in the first place, all those observations which the hon. Gentleman had made concerning the existing system of conveyancing—a subject certainly of vast magnitude and importance, but one not fit to be treated of on the present occasion; and equally avoiding the commentaries of the hon. Gentleman on the various stages of a suit in Chancery in Ireland, and his very graphic manner of describing the steps that gradually led, first to the obtaining of a decree for the sale of an estate; then, after the decree, to an actual sale; and, lastly, to the many possible inconveniences that might arise from that branch of our judicial procedure. It was not to be denied that great evils did arise from the peculiar doctrines and system of procedure in the Court of Chancery in Ireland; and unquestionably that system and those doctrines ought to be reformed and the evils removed. He wished he could say that this objection to our judicial procedure was confined to the courts in Ireland; but he must be allowed to observe that the existence of those evils, so far from being denied by the eminent judges who for a long series of years had successively presided in our courts of equity, was distinctly admitted and deplored by them, and that there had always existed a strong desire on their part to reform the abuses which were known to prevail in the forms of procedure in the English Court of Chancery. It must be admitted, too, that very considerable steps had already been taken towards effecting that reform, though it could not be denied that very much still remained to be done. But when the hon. Member complained, that after an estate had been sold in Ireland, there were no means of compelling the purchaser to complete his purchase and take possession of the estate he had contracted to buy, the hon. Gentleman was not pointing out any defect in the judicial procedure of the Court of Chancery, or any defect in the law relating to the transfer of real property; but he was pointing out a defect, and a most radical defect, which existed throughout Ireland, and which had been strongly adverted to in the evidence of Mr. Senior—namely, that there was scarcely to be found a good legal marketable title in Ireland. No reform in our judicial procedure could remove that evil. It must be removed by searching much more deeply into the present system by which real property in that country was enjoyed, and by establishing a good system of real property law in addition to, and in conjunction with, whatever useful reforms might be made in the judicial procedure of the courts as affecting landed property. In making one or two observations respecting the Act of last year for the sale of encumbered estates, he should carefully refrain from stating anything with respect to the present views which Her Majesty's Government might entertain upon that subject, or with respect to the details of a measure which it was his intention to introduce on Tuesday next. This he did, because he considered it would be an inconvenient course to pursue to enter upon the discussion of a measure, the details of which were not yet before the House. At the same time he could assure the hon. Gentleman, that the attention of Her Majesty's Government had been earnestly and carefully directed to all the various points to which he had referred, and, he might add, to many other subjects to which the hon. Gentleman had not very pointedly or particularly alluded. The hon. Gentleman had quoted a judgment pronounced by the Master of the Rolls in Ireland, in a case heard before him in relation to the operation and working of the Act for the sale of encumbered estates; and he stated that the first part of the Act, which related to the sale of estates not under the management of the Court of Chancery, was so encumbered with forms that, in fact, that part of the Act had become a dead letter, and had never had any operation in Ireland. Now, he (the Solicitor General) was sure that the hon. Gentleman, and the House, would bear him out in remembering that those very forms of which the hon. Gentleman complained were forced upon him (the Solicitor General), and that he very reluctantly adopted them. On bringing forward that measure, it was his most anxious desire to disencumber it from all forms and restrictions, thinking that it might be safely intrusted to the parties themselves to arrange that part of the proceedings, without incurring the operose process of legal forms. It was to be observed, also, that a very great change had taken place in the feeling and temper of the House of Commons upon this subject since its first introduction. Forms and restrictions were in the first instance almost insisted upon, whereas now there appeared to be a disposition on the part of the House to diminish those forms rather beyond that limit which he himself should think either advisable or necessary. The hon. Gentleman had suggested that it would be very desirable, in any plan that might be adopted for facilitating the sale of encumbered estates, to make money represent land, and to give a clear and unencumbered title to the purchaser at once. That was the very object and scope of that portion of the Encumbered Estates Act which related to the sale of land not under the management of the Court of Chancery. He admitted that there was a reservation in favour of any parties who might be able to make out a title within a period of five years; and, undoubtedly, many considerable difficulties arose from that part of the measure. But still he contended that the principle of that part of the Act of last Session was the very principle which the hon. Gentleman had been endeavouring to prevail upon the Legislature, and with justice, to adopt. But, recurring to the judgment of the Master of the Rolls in Ireland, he (the Solicitor General) understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the Master of the Rolls had represented himself as having prepared a measure for shortening the proceedings in the Court of Chancery, by making a smaller number of parties necessary to a suit. Now, he (the Solicitor General) had never seen that Bill, neither did he believe that any Member of Her Majesty's Government had any knowledge of such a Bill. There might, no doubt, be means adopted for shortening those proceedings, particularly with reference to the sale of estates; and he might he allowed to state, that, with regard to the Court of Chancery in England, a great diminution of expense had been effected by the reduction of the number of the parties necessary to the proceedings, in consequence of certain orders of the Court which had recently been passed. In one part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman, he (the Solicitor General) most fully concurred—namely, in that portion of it in which he stated that he thought the regeneration of the state of property in Ireland was to be produced rather by a series of measures which should multiply by degrees, and aid and assist each other, than by any one single and comprehensive measure. He (the Solicitor General) begged most fully to express his concurrence in that opinion. He could not but think that there had been a little mistake committed upon this point. Many persons seemed to suppose it possible, when talking of measures of this description, and of the evils which had now come to a concentrated head, and were ready to canker the whole social system, that those evils could be removed by some single measure, as if by the touch of a magic wand. But it was utterly impossible that such a result could take place by the adoption of any one particular measure; and those who expected any such result would, in his opinion, be grievously disappointed. Still, he did believe that, by a series of useful measures uniting with and assisting each other, preparations might be made for ultimately producing a state of prosperity in Ireland far exceeding not only what had ever been known in Ireland before, but far exceeding even that prosperity which now existed in this country. But he must repeat, that no such result could be produced by any one specific measure. It appeared to him that the views and opinions of persons upon this subject had arisen from the contemplation of the peculiar evils that now existed in Ireland; and, from their anxiety to remove those evils, they would fain persuade themselves that this might be done by some extraordinary measure that should work a sudden magical change. There were a great number of branches connected with this complicated subject; and it would be very difficult to introduce the whole of them into any one measure of legislation. No human sagacity could foresee the working of the details of any one measure that embraced only a single branch of the subject. Some little delay would be necessary to mark the operation of each such measure before introducing any succeeding measure by which a further beneficial result might be produced. He fully concurred in the opinion expressed by the hon. Gentleman, that Her Majesty's Government would receive a sincere support from the Irish Members upon every subject which they conceived would be productive of benefit to Ireland. He (the Solicitor General) did not believe that any party motive would interfere in the slightest degree with the measures which Her Majes- ty's Government might propose, but, on the contrary, that the Irish Members were most anxious to give their cordial support to any measure that would be most practically beneficial to Ireland. It was his conviction that, with regard to the measure which he introduced last year, no person opposed its details but from a sincere desire to render it as beneficial to Ireland as possible. He admitted, then, that with such support very great benefit might be derived to Ireland; but in carrying into effect those views which Her Majesty's Government might entertain upon this subject, he must suggest to, and warn, the House, not to suppose that they could achieve any such sudden result as might be possible if the management and occupation of land were the sole thing they had to deal with, and there wore no population at all, or rights of any sort or description to be considered. With regard to the observations of the hon. Gentleman as to the operation of the poor-law in Ireland, he (the Solicitor General) concurred with him that that law had afforded great facilities for the improvement of property in Ireland. Persons removed from the land with much less disinclination than before that law was introduced. They more readily gave up their tenements and went to some other part of the country, where they knew they might be employed and have support. Undoubtedly this voluntary clearing of the land of small occupiers must be a work of time; but it could not fail, ultimately, to lead to a different system, and to introduce a class of tenant farmers having good-sized farms to cultivate, in the same manner as in England and in Scotland. The proprietors could not, however, expect, under that new system, to receive the same amount of rent as was now paid by the small cottier tenants, who, for a portion of the year, derived a little food from the pigs fed upon their plot of land, and then for the rest of the year lived upon potatoes. That this transition state was a painful one, could not be doubted; but that the result would be beneficial to all parties, he could not but be convinced. He was also convinced that those measures which Her Majesty's Government were about to introduce would be productive of beneficial results, and that a state of things would arise from them such as all were desirous of seeing established in Ireland, but which it was unwise to expect would be realised by any sudden and single measure, however comprehensive its provisions might be. Allow him to say, that nothing was so easy as to devise a scheme to cure the evils existing in any particular state of society, but that nothing was more difficult than to sit down and mark out the practical details by which that scheme was to be carried into effect. It was much more easy to lay down a set of general principles, and to say, "Do this," and "Do that," than it was to draw up the clauses of an Act of Parliament, at the same time taking care that they were calculated to work practically with the existing state of the law and of society. This was true in the general; but how much more was it true when it was applied to the special condition of Ireland! But he firmly believed that the objects they all desired to accomplish might be obtained by the measures which Her Majesty's Government were about to introduce; and he confidently relied on the cordial co-operation of the House in carrying those measures into effect. He had been desirous of addressing these few observations to the House, anxious, however, to avoid stating the particular provisions of the measure which it would be his duty, at an early day, to introduce, or of those measures which Her Majesty's Government were about to bring forward. He preferred leaving them to be discussed, both in principle and detail, as they should be severally submitted to the House, without embarking into a discussion upon the general state and condition of Ireland, which could lead to no practical result, but might divert the attention of the House from those measures which he believed to be of paramount and primary importance.


was glad to hear that it was the intention of Government to bring in a meaaure to remedy the evils connected with the system of landed property in Ireland. He should be very sorry to draw an omen of the efficiency of these measures or their possible success from the phrases which the hon. Gentleman had used in alluding to them.

Notice taken, that forty Members were not present; House counted; and forty Members not being present, the House was adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock.

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