§ MR. STAFFORD
said, he highly approved of the measure now proposed. He thought all their legislation should be subsidiary to the passing of this Bill. He not only cordially supported it, but he thanked Her Majesty's Government for bringing it forward; and he entertained sanguine 345 hopes that it would effect all the advantages anticipated by its promoters.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
coincided in the views expressed by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire. The Government would accomplish a real benefit by having introduced the Bill, and the greatest good that could be conferred on Ireland would be to expedite its passage through the House.
§ MR. GROGAN
also approved of the Bill, but it would be insufficient unless it were accompanied by an entire change in the poor-law system. There were already more estates in the market than could find purchasers. He knew of one estate that had been lately sold for between ten and eleven years' purchase, although the title was perfectly clear. But the fact was, they should ensure purchasers against the incalculable liabilities under the present poor-law.
§ SIR H. W. BARRON
approved of the Bill; but he should impress upon the House that more was necessary, and unless they went to the root of the evil, and altered the poor-law, so as to make the purchasers secure against their property being swallowed up by poor-rates, it would be useless to bring lands into the market. Within the last few days three estates had been offered for sale in Dublin: two could find no purchasers, and the third was sold at 60 per cent under what was considered by the best judges as its real value. He recommended the Government to weigh well the plan suggested by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. Estates could not be sold at present in Ireland with the clearest titles; and unless some inducement were held out to purchasers, how did they expect that purchasers could be found by merely making the clearing of titles more easy?
§ COLONEL DUNNE
could not agree with those hon. Members for Ireland who had so highly praised the Bill. He thought it a very faulty measure, and one which was entirely abrogating the law of the land. He did not think it wise or prudent to send into the country a board of commissioners with inquisitorial powers to search into the condition of any man upon whose property a debt might be secured, and whose creditor came before the board to demand a sale. He thought the plan unwise which would send into the market a large quantity of land at a moment when it was extremely difficult to find purchasers; and, above all, he should like to know who the com-missioners were to be. Upon that would 346 depend much of his objection to the measure. For instance, he would not trust himself to such a commission if the hon. Member for Manchester were to be one of the commissioners, after the sentiments which that hon. Member had expressed. Any man, from motives of spite or political enmity, could force a sale of an estate under this Bill, by merely buying up some small debt upon it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth had guarded his plan with an observation which had been unobserved by the Government, and the guard had been left out of the present Bill. The right hon. Baronet said, that owners of estates to be sold should receive the full value of them; hut no such reservation was made in the Government measure. An hon. Friend of his (Colonel Dunne) was about to introduce an important clause into it, which he trusted would be finally carried. Its object would be to compel the new purchasers of land to reside upon the estates they should purchase. At present about 6,000,000l. a year was drawn out of Ireland by absentee proprietors; and as the difficulties of dealing with the subject hitherto had been very great, he hoped that this proposition would be found simple enough to provide at least for the prevention of future absenteeism. It was impossible but that such a constant drain must diminish the capital of a country. He was not one of those who believed that there were large masses of capital concealed in Ireland; and when the estates were brought into the market, he did not believe that many Irishmen would be found able to purchase them, even if they should be broken up into the smallest portions, to suit people of small capital. He thought the Irish estates would be bought up by speculators, and persons anxious to seize upon Irish property; and the result would be, unless some timely precautions were taken, that the land would get into the hands of non-residents, and the evils to the population would be increased. He hoped no hon. Member would vote for the Bill until Her Majesty's Ministers had declared who the commissioners were to be. He did not see why they should not at once declare that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and the Master of the Rolls, who was one of the best equity lawyers in Ireland, should be two of the commissioners. There would then be some sort of security that the proceedings of the commission would be guided by some respect for the laws of the land.
SIR R. B. BROOKE
approved of the principle of the Bill, and thought that the Government deserved credit for its introduction. Nothing was more important to the future prosperity of Ireland than the existence of some means for facilitating the transfer of property from those who were but the nominal possessors of it, to those who could really improve the land and employ the people. He would recommend the addition of a clause compelling absentee landlords to provide in some way or other for the support and employment of the labourers upon their estates.
§ MR. TURNER
assented to the principle of the Bill, but objected to some of its provisions, particularly to the powers given to the commissioners. He thought they ought to be instructed to have regard to the interests of the first mortgagee. As the Bill now stood, the owner of an incumbered estate might apply for a sale, and compel the mortgagee to go into the market at a most unfavourable time, and when his interest would be sacrificed. He did not mean to say that the mortgagee ought to be protected against public policy, but, as far as might be, consistently with public policy. The commissioners were empowered to call upon the mortgagees of every estate in Ireland to produce their title, and, if he understood the Bill rightly, to overrule the decisions of the courts of equity. They were not to be restrained in any manner in the execution of the extensive powers conferred on them. He thought there were cases in which an injunction ought to be granted, and the means afforded to the owner of retaining his estate, when it could be done with justice to the mortgagee. He threw out the suggestion for the consideration of the hon. and learned Solicitor General.
§ MR. SADLEIR
said, that when the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Coventry objected to the Bill as interfering with the Court of Chancery in Ireland, he should remember that that court had already had ample opportunity of applying its machinery to the evil, and that it was because it had failed that this measure was introduced, having for its object an economical, speedy, facile, and advantageous sale of incumbered estates. Last year he moved for a return of the number of decrees pronounced by the courts of equity in Ireland within the last five years, with the view of seeing the amount of property decreed to be sold, and contrasting it with the amount actually sold; 348 and in that return he found that in the year ending the 9th of March, 1848, no less than 51 decrees had been pronounced by the Court of Chancery alone, and in the year ending March, 1849, no less than 69. Now, how far had the masters succeeded in selling the estates under those decrees? In Mr. Murphy's office, in the year ending April, 1848, only 15 sales had been effected; and in the year ending April, 1849, only six. In Mr. Brookes's office, in the year ending April, 1848, only seven sales had been effected; and in the year ending April, 1849, only one. Thus, while there had been a steadily increasing number of suits for the sale of incumbered estates, he found that in the offices of the Chief Remembrancer and the four Chancery Masters there had been a great decrease in the number of sales effected. This return alone sufficed to show the absolute necessity for some such measure as that before the House. But he hoped that no consideration would induce the Solicitor General to copy the Incumbered Estates Bill of last Session, under which every practical man knew it was impossible to sell incumbered estates. He hoped he would provide in this Bill for the repeal of that Act, reserving only those two or three valuable provisions contained in it. It was absurd to suppose that the proposed commission would expire in five, or even ten, years. They were now, for the first time, about to acknowledge the principle that purchasers of land should acquire a Parliamentary title, and it would be idle to suppose that any sales of estates could be effected except under the operation of that principle, and, therefore, through the commission; because, however good might be the title, there were always conditions which rendered it less clear or certain than the proposed Parliamentary title. In fact, it would be utterly impossible for the owners of estates for private sale to compete with persons selling under the operation of this Bill. As he read the Bill, the hon. and learned Solicitor General did not propose the sale of those short terminable interests held by middlemen, who formed so large a class in the south of Ireland. He thought it would be unjust to exclude them from the benefits of this measure; because if they offered them for sale in the ordinary method, they would be hampered by many conditions, which a Parliamentary title would supersede. They did not consider themselves proprietors or landlords of the 349 land; although they discharged many of the fiscal duties of landlords. He believed they were anxious to be denuded of the outward ostentation of being landlords, which in reality they were not, and that they felt that the tenant occupiers were getting more desirous every day of becoming the direct tenants of the owners. He thought, therefore, that some clause might be successfully introduced to enable the commissioners, where the owner in fee, and the parties holding the intermediate interests, were assenting parties, to extinguish those intermediate interests, and offer the property for sale in such a form as would be most likely to attract the English capitalist. He thought they might be commuted for some determinable rent charge. He was also of opinion that some provision ought to be made for partition in cases of coparcenary—2,000,000 acres of the land of Ireland being so held. He knew a case of property being held conjointly by three persons who had had a partition suit in the Court of Chancery for twenty-five years, without any immediate prospect of an arrangement. With regard to the powers of the commissioners, objected to by the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last, he thought they ought to be most extensive and summary powers, so as to enable them to enforce their orders with readiness, not only in Ireland, but in England and Scotland, where so many of the mortgagees resided. He was justified in urging the Government to render the Act such, that all parties connected with property in Ireland might be enabled to avail themselves of its provisions. It was possible that some incumbered proprietors, acting in conjunction with their creditors, and anxious to preserve their estates from coming within the Act, would be able to defeat it altogether, or, at all events, curtail the advantages expected to flow from the measure. He thought the power of putting the Act in operation should be given to other persons than those at present mentioned, otherwise the measure would be completely inoperative. If, for instance, there was a combination between the inheritor and the creditors, the Act might easily be defeated. Taking the Bill in conjunction with the Irish Poor Law Bill, lately introduced by the First Minister of the Crown, it might be assumed that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to empower the sale of a portion of the land for payment of the arrears of poor-rates now due. 350 For his own part, he was entirely in favour of giving the most summary power for the recovery of arrears of poor-rates from the landlords. He meant those arrears due in respect of land, either in their own actual possession or in the occupation of such of their tenants whose rent did not exceed 4l. a year each. He knew there were many of his countrymen who considered it a great hardship that such extensive powers should be given for the recovery of poor-rates, and that landed proprietors should be held responsible at all for poor-rates. But it should be recollected that the vast sum of three millions sterling, collected last year for poor-rates and county cess, had been paid by the tenantry in actual occupation of the land, the majority of whom paid less than 15l. a year rent. The landlords had no reason to complain, perhaps, when it was recollected that the most stringent and extensive powers were conferred upon poor-law guardians, to have the rates collected where the annual value was over 4l. The goods, chattels, and bodies of the tenantry were liable where the annual value exceeded that sum. There was the greatest anxiety to meet the demand shown by the tenantry in Ireland; and he thought it was only justice to see that that portion which was payable by the landlords was enforced, and that every facility should be given for its recovery. He feared, as the Bill was now framed, there was not a sufficiently distinct and summary mode given to compel payment of those rates by the proprietors of land. The poor-law guardians or commissioners should be at liberty to proceed, in the civil-bill courts, for the recovery of those rates, where their amount was within their jurisdiction, and when beyond it they should be empowered to bring actions in the superior courts; when the proprietors resided in England that they might be proceeded against here, and on judgments being recovered, that those judgments might be transferred to Ireland, where they could be made available as liens upon the land. As to landed proprietors who resided on the Continent, or who took up their residences perhaps at Brussels or Boulogne, it would be difficult to proceed against them effectively, and much expense would be incurred. The very best mode to avoid injustice to any one would be to extend the jurisdiction of the assistant barristers' courts, and empower them to adjudicate upon all cases relating to poor-rates due by landed proprietors—the decree of the as- 351 sistant barrister to be registered in Dublin, and have the same effect as any judgment. That would put an end to the necessity or the opportunity of incurring costs in fruitless and harassing proceedings. With regard to the landlords' exemption from arrest for rates due by them, he had no wish to see them liable to be arrested. On the contrary he was satisfied to exchange their liability to arrest for the more rational modes of enforcing payment he had suggested. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: To any amount?] Yes; and he assured the House, that if something like what he had suggested were not adopted, the whole project would be an utter failure. The Bill could never be made to work. The whole thing would break down for want of purchasers. It was in the power of the Government still to hold out inducements to parties to invest capital in the purchase of land in Ireland. There were many privileges and advantages that would operate as powerful inducements to capitalists to invest their money in land there, and those privileges might safely be entrusted to them. If proper inducements were given by the Government, Ireland would soon have the advantage of the investment of a large amount of that capital with which the city of London and this country generally was literally surcharged. If such alterations were made in the Bill as would render land an easily convertible security for parties willing to invest their capital in it, one of the results would be, that the resources of Ireland would soon become profitably developed, instead of rapidly retrograding to ruin, as they were at present.
§ MR. W. KEOGH
would have contented himself with the expression of opinion which he gave on a previous occasion, had it not been for the observations which had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Coventry, observations calculated unnecessarily to alarm the English mortgagees, and thus assist in raising up a formidable opposition to the Bill. His own unbiassed and honest conviction was, that the Bill was calculated to confer the greatest possible advantage on all classes in Ireland; and if he was to select any particular class as likely to experience peculiar benefit, it would be that of the incumbered proprietor entirely disabled from discharging the duties or realising the advantages of his property. He did not think that the objections urged against the Bill by the hon. and learned Member for Coventry were 352 well founded. Every reasonable precaution was taken in the Bill to secure the interests of all parties. He was quite at a loss to understand why any objection should be made by any mortgagee to a cheap and advantageous mode of realising what was owing to him, looking at the difficulty which now existed on that point. Neither could he see why a Parliamentary title should not enhance the value of the property by four or five years' purchase, thus affording a chance that the proceeds would prove adequate to meet the claims both of the first and second mortgagee. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated that the Bill proposed to confer extraordinary discretionary powers upon the three commissioners to be appointed under it; now, in that respect, likewise, he had the misfortune of differing from the hon. and learned Member. As he (Mr. Keogh) read the Bill, the powers with which the commissioners were to be invested were reasonable enough. The directions given could not be more clear or specific. The ninth section required the commissioners to frame and circulate forms of application and directions, indicating the particulars of the information necessary to be furnished, on application to them. First, with reference to title; then, as to incumbrances, the special circumstances of the land, and such other information as in the judgment of the commissioners might assist them in forming an opinion on the application. The nineteenth section authorised the commissioners to direct notices to be given to, and to hear any parties interested in the land or lease; it further stated that they should investigate the title and the incumbrances affecting such lease and land, and the state and circumstances of the land, so as to enable them to determine whether it would be expedient that a sale of all or any part of it should be made; and if such a sale should be expedient, then that they should be empowered at their discretion to make an order for the sale of all or any part of such land, or of the land comprised in the lease. That was undoubtedly a very proper power to invest the commissioners with. Any person interested in the property might apply to the commissioners, and should be heard; specified notices to all persons concerned being given; and, after a strict investigation of all the circumstances, the commissioners exercised their discretion as to the expediency of a sale. There was not the least reason, therefore, for arriving at the conclusion that petty in- 353 cumbrancers, to the extent of a few pounds, might compel the sale of any property in Ireland. There was every possible guarantee that no such evil could arise, unless indeed hon. Members imagined that the most incompetent persons would be selected as commissioners. The hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington had adduced a very novel argument against the Bill. In comparing its provisions with the operation of the Court of Chancery, he stated that this court had fenced property by safeguards and protections which did not exist in the Bill before the House. So far, however, as he (Mr. Keogh) could understand the matter, the effect of these safeguards had been to prevent, by delay and expense, the realisation of those objects which the parties applying to the Court of Chancery had in view. He knew enough of the west of Ireland to induce him to say that, under the impression that Her Majesty's Ministers had no more comprehensive measure in contemplation than the present—and although he was far from saying that no other measure was needed—he was prepared to treat the question not as a legal question, but in a much broader view; and he trusted that no opposition would prevail against the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman then entered at some length into an explanation of the mode in which incumbered property was now managed through the instrumentality of the Court of Chancery. Not unfrequently receivers were appointed under a previous arrangement with solicitors, to throw as much as they could in their way in the shape of law costs. He had just been told, that in one union no fewer than nine estates were under the charge of receivers; and he was not surprised to hear that that union was one of the bankrupt ones. The hon. and learned Member for Coventry had spoken of the alarm which the proprietors of property felt at the consequences of the proposed Bill. Evidence, however, of a contrary feeling could be appealed to. He knew that the estates of the late Mr. Martin, in Connemara, extending to 196,000 Irish acres; the estates of Mr. O'Neil and others, amounting in all to 279,000 Irish acres, would be sold at the present moment if eligible purchasers could be found. He would appeal to those of his hon. and learned Friends who were best acquainted with the workings of the Court of Chancery, if they ever knew an instance of a proprietor who entered that court, coming out of it in a 354 solvent state? Looking at the miserable condition in which Ireland was placed, he, for one, would gladly concur in the adoption of any measures which tended to extricate her from that condition.
§ MR. HENLEY
observed, that they were all agreed in this—that it would be desirable to let loose the incumbered land in Ireland. The question was, how was that to be done with justice to all parties, and with little shock to the feelings of all parties. He thought the Irish Gentlemen had just reason to complain of the Government in this matter. In 1847, he knew that a representation had been made to the Government by persons in this country interested in Irish estates, and who then pointed out the advantage of giving to purchasers a Parliamentary title. That was very much pressed upon Government, and it was refused by Government. The great object of public policy in the present state of Ireland should be to let loose the land; but were they not by the Bill going beyond what was necessary to effect that object? An hon. and learned Gentleman who had addressed the House to-night stated, that decrees for sale were easy enough to be obtained, but the difficulty was to effect the sale. And how did they think that such a Bill as this would tend to induce persons to buy land in Ireland? After agreeing to give a man a Parliamentary title to an estate, see what a condition they placed him in, and if it would be an inducement to him to lay out his money in land in Ireland. The return of interest upon the investment of money in land was small; and the reason why persons were induced to lay it out in land was on account of the nature of the security. There was an idea that, owing to the law of England, a man could not be easily divested of his land; and that was one great reason why persons in buying land were contented with a less amount of return for their capital. But if they introduced into Ireland a new scheme for dealing with the land, as the hon. Member for Carlow had told them, they must extend it—they would not be able to stop here with this Bill—they must give it an almost permanent operation. It was in fact to be a kind of roving commission. Look at the mortgagee—see how they would treat him. The only security which he had was his parchments. They had been told that many of those parchment securities had gone out of the country; and how many more did they think would yet go out if this Bill were passed 355 into a law, and people were called upon to produce them? In his opinion, those persons would act wisely who placed them out of the reach of the court. He must say, therefore, going as he did fully with those who desired to let loose the land of Ireland, that the provisions of the Bill went beyond what was necessary to effect their own object; because all who had yet spoken in support of the measure agreed that there was a large quantity of land under decree for sale, and that purchasers could not be found. Was it necessary, then, to go beyond what they had power now to do? Let them give a Parliamentary title, and see if purchasers would come in and clear the land which was now for sale in the market. But if it were necessary to go beyond the law in the sale of an estate, in order to let loose the land, there could be no reason for taking the distribution of the fund from the ordinary tribunals of the country, unless they came to that conclusion to which he thought the Bill would fast bring the country—that the Court of Chancery must be swept away. He knew that, both in England and Ireland, there were many persons who thought that great reforms were necessary in that court; but if they took this great step, they must be prepared to go a step further, and either show the special grounds of exemption that were to take the distribution of the funds out of the ordinary tribunals of the country, or remodel those tribunals, or sweep them away. Another reason against the commission for distribution of the funds was this, that there would be a sort of ex parte inquiry by them before a sale was decreed, and it would be supposed by people that these commissioners had formed certain opinions of the rights of parties when they decreed a sale; and, therefore, would not come as an impartial tribunal to decide on conflicting interests in the distribution of the funds.
§ MR. S. MARTIN
admitted there was a good deal of truth in what had fallen from the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, when he said the Bill seemed to give a sort of roving commission. He thought there were some points in which it could be improved for the practical carrying out of the objects it proposed, and for the benefit of the country. He would propose to confine the power of the commission to the sale of land merely, and to hand over to the Court of Common Pleas the distribution of the funds arising from the sale—a court which would give universal satisfaction. He thought it would be found expedient 356 to confer upon this commission power to inquire into all estates on petition being presented to them: first, into the value of the estate; and, secondly, into the amount of incumbrances upon it; and when these incumbrances should amount to a certain large proportion, that then, and not till then, should the commission have power to deal with that estate. The two functions proposed by the Bill to be conferred on the commission were—first, to effect a sale of the estate; and, secondly, to distribute the funds. The first was a function which might be discharged by many with great advantage to all parties interested in the estates in question; but the second, which was to decide upon the priority of charges, however simple it might seem to those acquainted with law, was yet one of the most intricate questions which could come before any tribunal. He proposed, therefore, that the three commissioners should be empowered effectually to discharge the first of these functions, so as to decree and complete the sale; and that the money, after deducting, say 3 per cent on the price, or 5 per cent, or whatever other rate was usually charged by a respectable auctioneer, for he would have the rate fixed for the expenses of the sale sent into the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland, where the distribution could be effectually and satisfactorily made. Another difficulty connected with this commission was this—that, while their powers should be defined and limited by the Bill, they might be found insufficient in certain cases, or in certain cases the commissioners might go beyond their powers. The consequence would be, that a prohibition would issue from the courts in Dublin to stay these proceedings; and that, once issued, would for ever paralyse their operations. To remedy that evil, he proposed to make the commission to all intents a court of record; and, that instead of any Parliamentary title being offered, their mere record, ordering and completing the sale of the estates, should be itself a protection against all previous charges. But, in his opinion, all this would operate only as a temporary relief, so long as they left the great source of most of the evils affecting landed property untouched. In Ireland the practice existed, and was universally pursued, of making a judgment a security for money given in loan. So different was the state of affairs in England, that, till the reign of Edward I., landed property was not subject to execu- 357 tion under the judgment of a court of common law; and from that time till the year 1838, only half an individual's estates were held liable to the effects of a judgment. In Ireland this was esteemed the most convenient kind of security, and accordingly these judgments were daily sued out without any intention of issuing execution; and these judgments affected the whole of the estates possessed by the proprietor, or that he may afterwards possess, and follow the estates into whatever hands they may fall. Hence, on purchasing estates, it was necessary to investigate, not merely what judgments might have existed against the last vendor, but every previous vendor might have judgments against him, and all things attaching to the property. The mortgage deed in England at once showed what lands, described by their boundaries and their locality, were subject to the charges; but in Ireland the securities he was talking of created a difficulty of investigation fiftyfold greater. He proposed, then, to meet this by enacting that judgments, unless levied in the course of one or two years, should cease to be of force. He hoped, with these provisions in operation, that Ireland would recover from her present adversity to a state of prosperity as great as was enjoyed by this country.
The SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, the hon. and learned Member for Coventry seemed to have misunderstood the objects of the Bill. It was intended by the Bill to empower the commission to sell incumbered estates; but in order that they might do so speedily, it was necessary to disencumber them of those fetters and forms of the Court of Chancery which had interfered with the course of justice. In regard to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, as to the mortgages, he wished the House to bear in mind that the title-deeds of an estate, which in this country were looked upon as of the greatest importance, were, in Ireland, of next to none; and what was called the legal estate was of no importance whatever. Hence it came that a mortgagor would never show his deeds. But then, the commission would act upon decrees of the Court of Chancery, where all the deeds and muniments had been produced and examined before the decree was pronoueced. Now, in the present state of Ireland, it was open to a mortgagor either to sell the property or to foreclose his mortgage, or to enter into 358 possession; foreclosure, in fact, being but another way of entering into possession. Was it then desirable for him to enter into possession? A marketable title was a very scarce thing in Ireland, although a good holding title was more common. Would the mortgagor be benefited, then, if he were allowed to take one or other of the two courses he had mentioned? It was not desirable to take possession—it was little better to endeavour, in the present state of Ireland, to attempt to sell the estates with the deficient nature of their titles. One of the great difficulties in the way of a sale felt just now in Ireland was the difficulty of finding purchasers; but he believed their number would be greatly increased by the Bill before the House, which proposed to give the purchaser a Parliamentary title. He said it was intended to introduce several alterations and additions upon the Bill as it at present stood. It was intended to empower the commissioners to make a partition in the case of a sale of estates of undivided interest. It was further intended to give them the power of enforcing the contracts entered into for the purchase of estates, and also of rescinding these contracts under certain circumstances which might render that necessary. At the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, among other things, he proposed to enact that no prohibition should issue on mandamus against the commissioners out of any of the courts in Dublin. The commissioners would likewise have the power of making such rules and taking such measures as would be necessary to carry the object of the Bill into effect. The hon. and learned Member for Coventry would perceive a case perfectly analogous in that respect, in the case of the West India Commission, who had the utmost latitude in drawing up their own rules and regulations. The evils of the present system were owing to the practice with which the Court of Chancery, for its own sake, had circumscribed itself; and he would mention an illustration that had been sent to him a few days ago. An estate was placed in the court about twenty years since. Eight different suits were instituted for a sale, to which there were forty-five defendants. It was found that a good title could not be given under any one, and in 1843 a ninth was instituted, which, though an amicable one, had gone on for six years, and was not yet closed. 359 This evil arose from the mixture of the Chancery system with the peculiar tenure of land in Ireland, and unless the Legislature interfered with a strong hand, both owners and incumbrancers would be involved by it in one common ruin. A law analogous to that which he proposed had existed in Scotland for 200 years. Originally, under that law, estates were sold, after inquiry, into the incumbrances and their priority, but only with the consent of the owner. This, however, being found injurious, it was altered, so that estates could at once be sold, even though the owner objected; and all Scotch lawyers would say that it had worked admirably. No person would derive greater benefit from this Bill than mortgagees. Under the existing state of things they did not desire to obtain possession of the estates on which their money was secured; but whether they did or not, the measure would enable them to obtain more money and at a much earlier period than they otherwise would. It was an error to suppose that it would be in the power of an owner to suspend the proceedings under the commission—the very essence of the Bill being that the commissioners should proceed with the sale as speedily as they possibly could. The proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Pontefract for paying the money into the Court of Common Pleas could not be adopted without manifest injury; for the result of it would be, that the court having to administer Chancery law would adopt Chancery forms, and after a certain time it would fall into the same state of discredit as the Court of Chancery, because it would not be able to do justice to those persons who desired, through its agency, to obtain that to which they were justly entitled. With reference to judgments, a measure was in contemplation which would be introduced as soon as possible. No system of the description necessary to meet the evil could be complete which did not attack the law of judgments as one of its chief sources. With the hon. Member for Car-low, he desired to get rid as far as possible of the system of middlemen; and he thought the words in the 30th Clause of the Bill would be large enough to include them, but if not, they could be made adequate in Committee, so as to enable the purchasers of estates to come into immediate relation with the cultivating tenant. He agreed with the hon. Member for Carlow, that when "great and comprehensive 360 measures" were talked of for Ireland, it was difficult to tell what was wanted. He believed it was a series of measures, gradually introduced, analogous to that now before the House. But such measures were not very easy to frame. They required much care and attention. He did not pretend to say that if all those before the House were carried, or even those relative to judgments, a great deal would not have been done. A step would have been taken in the right direction; but much would remain to be done. By the present Bill a perfectly clear and free title would be given to a certain amount of land in the first instance, and it would be found, if two estates were to be sold—one under this Bill and the other not—that the one purchased under the Bill would bring a better price than the other. But it was manifest that when the land was once emancipated from encumbrances, a recurrence of them must be prevented in future. This, he was satisfied, would not be accomplished until there was a perfect system of registration for titles and incumbrances; and a great advantage was that such a system must be begun at once with the land sold under this Bill, because the whole of the previous register would be swept away. By such measures the people of Ireland would be taught to feel the advantages of law, and the benefits of a paternal government. All their interests would lie in supporting government and law; there would no longer be any talk about a repeal of the Union, and agitation would cease to exist. For himself, he claimed no merit whatever in the proposition of this or any other measure; but on the part of Her Majesty's Government he claimed for them the merit of having been desirous to receive suggestions from all quarters calculated to be of benefit to Ireland. He claimed for them the merit of carefully considering those suggestions, and of carrying them out, as far as they were practicable, with the sole view of securing the amelioration of the country, totally regardless of all questions of party or politics.
§ MR. NAPIER
would not oppose the Bill in that stage; on the contrary, he would endeavour in Committee to make it more perfect; but he reserved to himself the right of accepting or rejecting it as a whole upon the third reading. He concurred with the Solicitor General that the multiplication of judgments and the delay of justice were great evils; but he main- 361 tained that they were caused, not by the Court of Chancery of Ireland, hut by the Imperial Legislature. The multiplication of receivers by judgment creditors was a crying evil also; and another evil was, conferring on the judgment creditor the same power as if he had an equitable charge on the land. These things were not at all in the practice of the Court of Chancery, hut had been created by law. There were two classes of suits in the Courts of Chancery in Ireland, which it would be for the benefit of the country to have altered, namely, administration suits and creditor suits. They were serious evils to property in Ireland. If the Court of Chancery was rectified in these cases, there would be no occasion for a court of commission. The Bill gave a co-ordinate and even superior jurisdiction to a new court; and the House had not been shown that the Court of Chancery under such circumstances would not be sufficient to carry out its provisions. Unless that was done, the necessity for that new court was not proved. He (Mr. Napier) admitted that the Bill should be looked upon in a commonsense view as well as in a professional manner; hut it should also he looked upon as regarded the administration of justice and the benefit of Ireland.
Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.