HC Deb 24 July 1849 vol 107 cc882-95

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, he rose to move that the House resolve itself into Committee on the Bill on this day three months. If it was the pleasure of the House not to adopt his Amendment, he should propose clauses by which the corporation of London and the Irish Society should be excepted from the operation of this Bill. The object of the Bill was to convert leasehold into freehold property by a compulsory process. The preamble stated— Whereas many lands in Ireland are held under leases and under-leases respectively, with covenants for perpetual renewal, and great expense is constantly incurred in procuring renewals under such covenants, and much litigation and inconvenience arise from such tenures; and it is expedient that such tenures should be converted, in manner hereinafter provided, into tenures in fee, and that, except as herein excepted, all leases and under-leases of lands in Ireland, with covenants for perpetual renewal, granted or made after the passing of this Act, should operate and take effect in manner hereinafter mentioned, The allegations, whatever foundation may have existed for them in other cases, were not only inaccurate but untrue as regarded the Irish Society. The Bill as it stood was an infringement and partial repeal of charters granted by the Crown to the corporation of London in the reign of James I. Nothing like the proposal now before the House of Commons had been made, unless during the existence of the Star Chamber, when these and other charters were cancelled by that anomalous and tyrannical body in the time of Charles I.; and that monarch had ever after reason to regret the course then taken by him. These charters were restored in the time of Charles II., the object of which was to plant and colonise the city and county of Londonderry and Colcraine, and under them large sums of money had been raised and expended. [The hon. and learned Gentleman then read the purposes intended and the powers conferred, as stated in the charters.] The property granted was undertaken by the twelve great companies of the city of London, and the Irish Society. Nearly one half of the property retained by the Irish Society would be materially affected by the Bill. If it were necessary, he should be able to show that the present Lord Chancellor, when Master of the Rolls, and Lord Lyndhurst, with the assent of Lord Campbell, held that this property was of a permanent character, of which it could not be divested, and powers over it remained to be exercised under the direction of the Irish Society. What, then, could be thought of the modesty of those who required the Irish Society to relinquish the character of landlords of this property—which they had hold since the reign of James I. to the present time, and all power and control over it? This was impolitic as well as unjust; for what was unjust never could be expedient even in politics. He challenged the hon. Baronet the Member for Londonderry, who was more the author of the Bill than the Government, to prove that there was any great expense to the tenantry in getting renewals of their leases. He denied that there was any expense of the kind to the tenants of the Irish Society to justify the proposal to convert the present leasehold tenures into tenures in fee. Was the House aware of the nature of the holdings of this property? With the view of showing this, he would refer the House to the statement of the Irish Society. That body stated— The Irish Society object to be included in the provisions of the Leasehold Tenure of Lands (Ireland) Bill, because none of the reasons which exist in other parts of Ireland for such a Bill, apply in the slightest degree to the property granted by charter to the Irish Society. The Irish Society have never in any case insisted upon the forfeiture of a lease, nor has litigation prevailed amongst their lessees and their undertenants; a covenant in their leases constitutes the society the sole arbitrator in all disputes which may arise between them. The leases are for twenty-eight years and three lives; so that, should the lives drop, the lessee is certain of a terra of twenty-eight years without a renewal. The average period of renewal is about thirty years. The leases also contain covenants to repair, to protect the fisheries of the society, and other covenants most beneficial to the property and its lessees. The only certain means of enforcing the performance of the covenants of the lessees is by periodical renewal. This wholesome check is by the Bill proposed to be abolished; and the Irish Society will be deprived of the best means of enforcing the regulations which have been found so beneficial. The charters granted to the Irish Society for plantation purposes have been carried out to the fullest extent. The property of the society is a pattern to all other parts of Ireland for peace and tranquillity. If the authority of the Irish Society is repealed by granting the fee of their estates to their lessees, they will no longer have any motive to apply the whole of their disposable revenue in improving the property and contributing to the educational and other charities of the district, as heretofore; and the property will in a few years become like the other parts of Ireland. The Bill will transfer the powers of the society to the middlemen, who have been so notorious for their extortion and hardship to their undertenants; and will leave their under-tenants entirely in their hands, without the salutary chock which the society has hitherto had upon them. The rent received by the Irish Society amounted to only the small sum of 2,500l. a year, while the rent received by the gentlemen holding under them, according to the poor-law assessment, amounted to 40,000l. a year. From this it was clear that the benefits conferred by this Bill would be derived exclusively by the middlemen, who would possess themselves of the entire control over these estates. He could not conceive on what ground they should attempt to divest the Irish Society of the land they held under charter, and of all control over their own estates. It was notorious that this changing the tenure to a fee-farm rent, must add greatly to the value of the property to the leaseholder, without giving any compensation to the Irish Society. He was told that existing covenants were amply provided for under the Bill as it stood; but he did not believe that the noble Lord who introduced the clauses al- luded to in another place, could believe that they would have the slightest effect to insure the interests of the Irish Society. He was the only permanent member of the Irish Society, and he was so in his official capacity as Recorder of the city of London; he, therefore, would not confine himself to his own interpretation of this Bill, as to its effects on the property of that corporation. He had taken the opinion of an eminent conveyancer as to the effect which this measure would have, and that learned gentleman stated that no process whatever, and no clause which could be inserted in the Bill, would have any effect in protecting the interests of that body; their only safety, therefore, consisted in being freed from the operation of the Bill. [The hon. and learned Gentleman then read the opinion in question.] Such being the effect of this Bill on the estates of that body, he asked whether they were justified in pressing it? He did not say it might not be called for in other parts of Ireland, but it would be the grossest injustice in enforcing it here. The House should consider the peculiar circumstances connected with this case. Here was an enormous estate, placed in the hands of the Irish Society, in consideration of their laying out large sums of money upon it. This was by the act of the Crown, when a large tract of the country, in or near Londonderry and Coleraine, was placed at its disposal by the forfeiture of its former owners. An appeal was made to the corporation of London, and the plantation was to be undertaken by the Irish Society and the large companies. The latter bodies had since laid out large sums in the purchase of other properties. It was desirable, also, that this property should remain under the control of the Irish Society, so as to ensure its good government, and the welfare of the people on it. There were provisions in the leases which only allowed the Irish Society to enter on the property at a certain period, if the tenant had not complied with the engagements entered into by him. There would be the danger of great inconvenience, and a stoppage to improvements, if the Irish Society had not the power of making their lessees carry out the conditions and objects of the plantation. This was the first opportunity he had had, and that at the close of a laborious Session, of protesting against the forfeiture of property belonging to the Irish Society and the corporation of London under this Bill. In doing so, he could not avoid expressing his surprise that the provision should be endeavoured to be enforced at a time when the Government were calling upon English capitalists, and the corporation of London, to come forward and assist in the regeneration of Ireland. This was at a time when the parties now to be affected were anxious to promote the welfare of Ireland, and when the landlords of that country were unable to help the peasantry, who were in a starving condition, and who also were unable to maintain any rents. The corporation of London were then making great exertions for the furtherance of improvements, and for the extension of civilisation in Ireland, and they ought to be protected by law in the employment of their capital, instead of being injuriously dealt with, as they would be under this Bill. The moment was selected for this proceeding to repeal the charters granted by James I. and Charles II., as if it was feared any bodies would dare to undertake improvements in Ireland. This measure, he repeated, was nothing but an act of spoliation of the worst kind, and transferred the property from such wise and moderate landlords as the Irish Society, to a number of large tenants, who were at present required by the covenants of their leases to improve the property, but who, if this measure was passed, would not be compelled to look to the interests of the tenants immediately under them. The Irish Society had also promoted the moral and religious instruction of the population on their estates without religious distinction, and had advanced every measure for the improvement of their condition. The Irish Society constantly held courts to see if any thing could be done for the benefit of the part of the country with which they were connected. At the present moment, when he looked at the thin condition of the House, and at the number of Irish Members present, he could hope to make little impression on it. No doubt the hon. Member for Londonderry might have some misgiving when he voted to take the control of their property from the Irish Society, and give it to himself and others who had a personal interest in the matter; and no doubt nothing but the most enlarged views and patriotic feelings induced the hon. Baronet to overcome his objections to the course which he had taken. All that the Irish Society asked was to be insured the means of being allowed to carry out the conditions of the charters of plantation, which they had sworn to do. Did Irish Gentlemen forget that they were going to dispossess the Irish Society of what was fixed in them by the charters of the Crown, and the conditions of which had been faithfully performed on the part of this society?

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word, "that" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee."


regretted the hon. and learned Gentleman had made the observations which he did on the Irish Members, and, above all, as he intended to support the hon. and learned Gentleman. He regretted the hon. and learned Gentleman had not laid on the table the charters under which the Irish Society held their property. The Bill was most injurious to that body, and so it would prove to many private landlords. The hon. and learned Gentleman alluded to the charters granted by the Stuarts, as if they were the production of peculiarly wise monarchs. Now, these monarchs were only remarkable in this way, namely, the first was a bad poet; the second never spoke the truth; the third was always with women; and the fourth was a coward, and ran away. The hon. and learned Gentleman was anxious to be enabled to prove the extent to which the Irish Society would be injured; he therefore thought the House ought to accede to the proposition of the hon. and learned Member, and clear all, at that late period of the Session, when they were within a few days of the prorogation. Every attention should be paid to the city of London, and, above all, at a time when it was going to Connemara to take possession of Mr. Martin's property for the purpose of improvement; and he hoped the gentlemen who went over for that purpose, would be hospitably received in Ireland.


said, that he had every respect for such a respectable body as the Irish Society; but he could not understand why it should be excepted from the operation of the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman had given notice of many special clauses under which the Irish Society and the corporation would be exempted from its provisions; but he had proposed an Amendment directed against the principle of the Bill. This would affect all landowners, and the Irish Society had no greater claim to be excepted than private gentlemen. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in the course of his observations, turned round and said he should be defeated, as he saw so many Irish Members present; and the inference he seemed to draw was, that they were all bad landlords, while the corporation was the only good one. He (Sir J. Young) would venture to say that there were hundreds of Irish proprietors who were quite as good landlords as the society alluded to. He would go further, and would say that there was not a county in Ireland in which there were not numbers of tenants better off, and lodged in better houses, and the farms better cultivated, than was the case on the estates of the Irish Society. He knew many large owners of property who were a great deal better landlords—who were better landlords than the Irish Society had over been, or could ever be. The great improvements effected on the property of that body, had been effected by the tenantry under the perpetual leases held by them, and these would be extended if this Bill passed. If the clause of the hon. and learned Gentleman were adopted, it would appear to be a very invidious distinction.


said, as he had been so personally alluded to by the hon. and learned Member, he felt called upon to make a few observations. The hon. and learned Member had spoken as if an enormous property belonged to the corporation. This was not so, for the enormous tract was of the extent of about 8,000 acres in and near Londonderry and Coleraine. The matter was one entirely between the Irish Society and the tenants on its property. It had been declared that the Irish Society had granted leases of their property on the most beneficial terms. Now, the fact was, they had been compelled to grant leases in perpetuity about eighty years ago, after a dispute had arisen on the subject which had lasted for a long period. If this had not been done, the whole would have been ruined, and the whole settlement lost. But this was not a piece of liberality on the part of that society; for it imposed an increased rent and other charges on the tenants to the amount of 36 per cent. and hampered the tenants, on the leases so granted, with all sorts of vexatious provisions. The hon. and learned Member said there had been no case of litigation between the tenants and the society. He could mention cases of the kind in which the society had been defeated. As for there being no case of forfeiture, it arose from the circumstance that the Court of Chancery decided that the society, having promised or given leases in perpetuity to the tenants, could not come in to eject them. Did the hon. and learned Member mean to say that the Irish Society had well managed its affairs, and was in a prosperous condition? By their folly and extravagance, they last year had to pay 670l. for the interest of the money they had borrowed; and that debt was gradually increasing. All that the tenantry on the property of the Irish Society asked was, that the same privileges should be extended to them which were given by all other landlords. When these leases were granted, the estate was estimated at 2,500l. a year rental; but it had since been so improved by the tenants, that it was now assessed to the poor-rates at 40,000l a year. He conceived it to be impossible, with any fairness, to draw a distinction between the Irish Society and other landlords.


regretted the debate had been allowed to proceed in the absence of the hon. Alderman the Member for Southwark, the head of the Irish Society, and the other Members of the corporation. He therefore moved the adjournment of the debate.

Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."


said, that he had given notice of a Motion for the society to be heard by counsel against the Bill, on the second reading; but that stage had been taken at midnight, without any notice to him.


hoped, in a few words, to show the propriety of not acceding to the Motion just made. The Bill had been delayed in consequence of the illness of the Lord Chancellor; but it had been sent down from the other House after it had received the most attentive consideration. He had had several opportunities of proceeding with this Bill in Committee, in the morning sittings; but he had postponed doing so in consequence of his hon. and learned Friend being anxious to be heard in opposition to it, and, in conformity with an arrangement made with his hon. and learned Friend, that day had been fixed upon for the debate. With respect to the other Members connected with the corporation of London and this society not being present, there would be ample opportunities of hearing them at its future stages. He confidently appealed to the House not to allow the Motion for adjournment to be adopted, the only effect of which would be to defeat the Bill. The question raised by his hon. and learned Friend was entirely one for the Committee, as it applied to the details and not to the principle of the Bill. The question involved in this measure had not been introduced for the first time, and the city of London had no right to complain that they had no opportunity of stating their views on the Bill. No one would say that the House of Lords was in favour of confiscation, or unwilling to hear parties who said they had grounds of complaint to state against a measure. The Bill had been delayed for a considerable time in the House of Lords, and the city of London had ample opportunities of interposing.


said, it was a matter of regret that no one connected with the Irish Society was present. He had had opportunities of inspecting the accounts of the Irish Society, and he was satisfied no property could be bettor managed. As it was, four-fifths of the rental received was laid out in the improvement of the property and in benefiting the tenantry. He believed the Irish Society to be entitled to every indulgence and support, in consequence of their liberal treatment of their tenantry. Coming as he did from the west of Ireland, he was anxious to encourage the introduction of capital with habits of business and improvement, as was proposed under the auspices of the city of London. He fared this Bill would have the effect of deterring English capitalists from interfering with Irish property.


said, the Members of the Irish Society could be heard at a future stage of the Bill; therefore, the present Motion appeared to be a most vexatious mode of defeating this Bill. He would venture to say, that in the south of Ireland, where this tenure was well known, the tenants were most anxious that the Bill should pass, and the landlords were not opposed to it. In fact, all classes in Ireland believed that it would confer great benefit on them. [Mr. F. FRENCH: Make it permissive.] It was very well for the hon. Member now to ask to make it permissive, when he had just stated that it should be postponed until certain Aldermen could come down to the House. The proceeding adopted was a factious mode of defeating the Bill by a mere side wind.


said, that he had no personal interest in the matter, but he thought the Irish Society ought to have a fair opportunity of being heard. He would not persist in his Amendment for adjourning the debate.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the Question,"

put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

On Clause 1,


proposed the alteration of certain words, to make the measure permissive instead of its being compulsory.


supported the proposition. The House had refused to acknowledge in the case of copyholds the principle that a proprietor should be compelled to part with his property; and why should they in the present instance compel a landlord to give the fee-simple of his land to a tenant, whether he was willing or not? There was gross injustice in such a proposal. He objected also to the monstrous proposition that a landlord should be obliged to pay the costs incurred in defending his property before the Court of Exchequer or Chancery, and that the Remembrancer of the Court of Exchequer should have the power of conveying that man's estate in his name, and against his will.


would say nothing with respect to the question of costs, as that was embraced in another clause. The question before them was, whether it should be compulsory on the original lessor to commute a leasehold tenure into a fee-simple. Now, the real owner of the estate was the lessee, the lessor having no right whatever to the property. They had heard much of the Irish Society; but estates held under this tenure were no more the property of the Irish Society than copyhold property was the property of the landlord. The real owner of the property was the lessee, with the perpetual right of renewal. Now, this view of the case did away with all those charges of injustice which were brought against the Bill. It was not correct that the Copyhold Enfranchisement Bill was thrown out on the principle. It was rejected because the details of the Bill were found not to be in harmony with the principle. It might as justly be said that the owner of the manors in England was the owner of the soil that belonged to the copyhold tenant, as to say that the lessor of those lands in Ireland was the owner of those lands.


had objected to the compulsory power given in the Copyhold Es- tates Bill for Enland introduced by the hon. Member for Cockermouth, and they were now going to place the tenants of a certain description in Ireland in such a situation that they would be able to compel the landlords to change the tenure of their property. Surely if in England, where the landlords were to receive compensation, the House would not yield, it was monstrous to make the Irish Society subject to such enactments, when it would not get the slightest benefit from the change. This was a more stringent provision than he had ever before seen in an Act of Parliament. Under this Bill, also, the costs were to be paid under the direction of the Court of Chancery or the Remembrancer, by either the landlord or the tenant. This was a monstrous injustice, for by it the costs might be thrown on the unwilling party. It was, in short, an act of confiscation. The only question was, whether it should be compulsory on the original lessor or the person who represented him to commute the leasehold tenure into a fee-simple upon the payment of a fee-farm rent. Now, the real owner was not the lessor but the lessee, who had a perpetual right to the renewal of his lease, which right, it had been decided, in a great number of cases, could not he taken away from him. The hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded to the case of copyholds. The case was perfectly analogous with the present. The property held in Londonderry by the tenantry on the estates alluded to, was no more the property of the Irish Society than a copyhold estate was the property of the lord of the manor. He was entitled to certain rights and fees, but he could not get possession of the property or receive the rents. So it was in Ireland. In such cases as the Irish Society, they were compelled to grant new leases for ever, and because they kept up the word lease, it had given rise to an erroneous notion of the Bill. The Copyhold Estates Bill was not thrown out the other day because it was compulsory in its enactments, but because its details would not carry the object in view into effect. He denied that the Irish Society were the real owners of the land, but the lessees who held under them, and to whom it was proposed to give the real advantages of their position.


regretted to hear the hon. and learned Recorder say that the hon. Baronet the Member for Londonderry had a personal interest in the matter. The hon. Baronet might hold property under the Irish Society as a trustee, but he had no interest in the matter. He (Captain Jones) was also connected with Londonderry and supported the Bill, but he had no personal interest in the matter.

Amendment negatived without a division.

On the Question that the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill,


said, as he understood the matter, the objection to the Copyhold Enfranchisement Bill, introduced by his hon. Friend the Member for Cocker-mouth, was, that it was compulsory on the landlord and not on the tenant. As he read this clause, it was open to the same objection. He conceived, that with regard to this as well as the other Bill, the House should proceed on something like fixed principles. It appeared that it was only where the reversionist was called upon by the tenant, that the deed of enfranchisement would be granted. It appeared to him to be very hard upon a reversionist, who had many of these lessees on his estate, that he should be compelled by some of them to convert their tenures into perpetuities, while others of his tenants, because they refused to make the application, would keep up the old tenure. He thought the power should be given to both parties.


was sorry to say, the clause was open to the objection stated by the right hon. Baronet. It was exceedingly difficult to make such an arrangement as was desirable, as had been alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman. The present Bill would enable any one tenant to go to the lessor, and compel an enfranchisement subject to a foe-farm rent. The reason why the course suggested by the right hon. Baronet had not been adopted was, that such difficulties would arise as to the details that it would not he possible to carry them into effect.


asked whether the provisions of this clause were the same as those in the Church Temporalities Bill?


thought they were the same, but he would not at once pledge himself on the subject.


said, he had objected to the Copyhold Enfranchisement Bill, because it was a one-sided measure; and he now found this Bill was open to the same objection. He thought there ought to be equal powers on both sides. The provisions in the Bill should be altered, so as to effect this object.


said, the Clause should be reconsidered before the last stage of the Bill.

Ayes 71; Noes 21: Majority 50.

Clause agreed to, as were also Clauses 2 to 38.

The other clauses were also agreed to after a long and desultory conversation.


then proposed the introduction of an additional clause. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that it was painful to him to think that he was the only Member of the House present who was connected with the corporation and the Irish Society, and he had attended day after day in that House to protect the interests of both those bodies. As the legal adviser of the corporation, he was hound not to shrink from the duty of defending their interests. He should take the sense of the House as to this last effort he should make to except the Irish Society from the operation of this Bill:— And be it enacted, That nothing in this Act contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to prejudice, diminish, alter, or take away any of the rights, privileges, powers, or authorities vested in or enjoyed by, or duties or liabilities imposed upon, the Society of the Governor and Assistants, London, of the New plantation in Ulster, within the realm of Ireland, under or by virtue of any Charter or Charters heretofore granted to them by the Crown, or of any Statute or Statutes in anywise relating thereto. Brought up, and read 1°.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second Time."


felt bound to state that the corporation of London, as well as the Irish Society, had been treated very strongly at the present moment, when they were about to purchase land to a very great extent in Ireland for the purpose of improvement. Was this the time to take from them the management of their own capital? As the trust for the plantation was originally imposed upon them, he conceived they were justified in asking the House to be excepted from the operation of the Act.


said, there was no difference between the leases in perpetuity granted by this society, and those given by any other owner. It was about eighty years since the Irish Society had been compelled to grant leases in perpetuity.


could conceive an opposition to the Bill, on the ground that it was objectionable on principle, or because it was a one-sided measure, but he could not conceive why there should be an exception in favour of the Irish Society. He considered the effect this Bill would have on that Society was one of the best parts of the Bill.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 10; Noes 88; Majority 70.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.

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