The SOLICITOR GENERAL
rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to provide more simple and effectual securities for advances to purchasers of incumbered estates in Ireland. In consequence of what had occurred when he moved for leave to introduce this Bill on a former occasion, it would be necessary for him, as concisely as possible, to explain the object of the Government in proposing it. That object had been completely misunderstood by the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington, when he said that it was to benefit English capitalists. It was, on the contrary, to benefit Irish landed proprietors solely; and if others were benefited, it would be only by means of the benefits conferred on those individuals. The operations under the Incumbered Estates Bill had been so expensive 101 that not less than 658 offers had been made of the sale of estates; and while such a circumstance was undoubtedly a sufficient proof of the necessity which existed for such a measure, it was desirable at the same time to prevent its having an injurious result to the owners of land in Ireland. It was said, that if the Incumbered Estates Commissioners continued to sit, the Court of Chancery in Ireland would have little or nothing to do; but he believed the effect of that Bill had been to take away more than 400 suits from the court, the consequence of which was that the Court of Chancery had been more actively engaged and had done more real and substantial business than for many years before, when it had been blocked up and choked up with this mass of suits which had no operation whatever. It was then to be considered, if this immense amount of estates was to be thrown suddenly into the market, that the effect would be an enormous depreciation in the value of land, which would fall much below its real value, and a considerable injury would thus be inflicted on the owners; and it was therefore thought desirable that the Incumbered Estates Commissioners should distribute the sales over as much time as they could, and obtain the best purchasers in their power; while the means of purchasing should, if possible, be increased by legislative enactment. He did not regard so much the number of purchasers as the means of purchasing; and there was no doubt if this latter object could be effected by the introduction of English capital, a great benefit would be conferred on the class of persons who generally purchased these estates. He trusted that he should have no difficulty in satisfying the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington, that he bad quite mistaken him in supposing that he had ever expected, by means of that or any other legislative measure, to create a large class of English purchasers who would buy land in Ireland. He had never expected to accomplish anything of the sort—not that there was any want of sufficient security in Ireland, or in Irish land, but that English purchasers of land, like all other purchasers of that commodity, bought it partly for purposes of enjoyment; they wished, generally speaking, to see what they bought, and that it should be easy for them frequently to visit it. He, therefore, never had expected that measures of that description could have the effect—as the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington supposed 102 him to expect—of creating a large class of English purchasers. But, though it might not be attended with any such consequences, there was no reason why its operation should not be to induce English capitalists to advance their money on the security of purchases soon to be made in Ireland by persons resident in that country. Although extensive purchases might not be made by persons residing out of Ireland, yet a great point would be gained in supplying those who purchased land there with the use of capital for the purpose of assisting them in making those purchases, and in subsequently improving the land that they bought. It was a portion of the object which he had in view that nothing should interfere with the full payment of the purchase-money of any estate sold in Ireland for the discharge of incumbrances, in order that every creditor should be paid in full, or at all events that the whole of the proceeds of every estate sold should be fairly distributed amongst all who had demands against it. Now, for this purpose two objects must be attained: one was that the nature of the purchase should be such as would induce capitalists to lend their money for the purpose of aiding those who sought to make such purchases, by supplying them with the means not only of paying the full value of the land, but subsequently of effecting on it useful and permanent improvements. The second object was to introduce such provisions as would make the borrowing of money under the present Bill as slight a fetter as possible upon the future purchasers of land in Ireland. This latter object they had endeavoured to attain by restricting the amount of money to be borrowed on the security of an estate to one-half the value of the land on which it was to be secured. It was also proposed to make every reasonable provision for a regular and satisfactory payment of the interest on such loans, and it was therefore suggested that, if the interest should be in arrear for a period of three months, the property should be sold; but it was thought that that portion of the details had better be worked out between the Commissioners and the parties, and not introduced as a portion of the Bill. One thing, however, was very manifest, that provision ought to be made for the payment of all sums due for interest money at some fixed time and place. The place proposed to be appointed for that purpose was the Bank of Ireland, where a depart- 103 ment might be created for the purpose of receiving and paying the interest on those estates, somewhat in the manner of dividends. It would of course be necessary for some companies or persons to guarantee the punctual payment of those several sums of interest, and remuneration out of the interest itself might easily be awarded to them. Looking, then, at the case as it stood, he thought it exceedingly probable that some such arrangement could easily be carried into effect. Having thus by such a Bill as he proposed to introduce provided for the perfect security of the lender and for the regular payment of the interest accruing on such loans as might be effected under the Bill, it next became a matter of great importance to see that there was no difficulty about the title. Upon that point he proposed to provide for the lenders the great advantage of a Parliamentary security. The estates would be conveyed to the new purchasers subject to the charges which it was proposed to create under the present measure, and therefore the lenders would have all the advantage of a Parliamentary title. Another object which he hoped to accomplish would be to render all the operations under the proposed measure as simple as possible. The Bill would provide a distinct form of certificate, which would be registered at the proper office in Dublin, and doubtless, from what he had said, the House would understand that these certificates would not in their aggregate amount exceed half the value of the estate upon which they were granted, and would, of course, constitute upon that estate the first charge. These certificates, which would be evidence of the loan, and a title to receive interest thereon, would be transferable by endorsement, like an inland bill of exchange, the endorsement always to be registered at the proper office in Dublin in the name of the transferee. There were some other lesser details, with which he should not trouble the House at any length, but rather content himself with observing that the measure now proposed to be introduced would be a great advantage to landed proprietors in Ireland. It would, he hoped, prevent many serious inconveniences to the owners of land in that country; and here he wished to observe that he did not mean that the certificates were to stand in the nature of personal debts against the owner of the estate upon which they were to form the first charge. The holders of those certificates would not be entitled to take the 104 holder of the estate or his goods, or to place a receiver over the estate; and thus he trusted that the landed proprietors of Ireland would be saved from the evils of receivers, and from the evils also of applications to the Court of Chancery and all their disastrous consequences. He should further say, that after the best consideration which he and those whom he advised with could bestow upon the subject, they came to the conclusion that no measure or plan was likely to be devised which would so little fetter the operations of the landlords of Ireland as the Bill which he proposed to introduce. It was well known that many persons who bought land in Ireland were unable to make that land profitable in consequence of their inability to invest sufficient capital in its permanent improvement. Then, again, though even at present there was a considerable amount of capital in Ireland, yet there manifestly was not enough to purchase the enormous quantity of land now about to be brought into the market—still less would there be found there an amount of capital sufficiently to improve that land; but with capital supplied from places out of Ireland there would be abundant means of accomplishing those objects, the land of Ireland, as he conceived, affording sufficient security to guarantee the lenders of such capital, if payable off by instalments from time to time. It had come to his knowledge that persons residing in remote parts of Ireland, having saved a little money and borrowed as much more, were enabled to purchase small estates, and so improve them as to discharge all incumbrances, all expenses, and live many years in the perfect enjoyment of an unincumbered property. If a large number of persons could be assisted by a legislative measure to proceed extensively with operations such as he had referred to, a great object would be attained. It manifestly would be impossible for him then to enter into all the minute ramifications of a subject so extensive as that which the Bill embraced, but he should say, generally, that it was a measure in framing which every care had been taken to fetter as little as possible those who might be disposed to advance capital. There would probably be associations formed for the purpose of lending money to landed proprietors. It was, of course, not possible to foresee to what extent people might be induced to invest money on such security as the purchasers of land in Ireland had to offer; but of this there could be no doubt, 105 that there was at present in this country a great deal of capital, the owners of which were seeking earnestly the means of profitable investment, and he doubted not that most English capitalists would be willing to lend their money upon certificates constituting the first charge upon Irish estates incumbered only to half their value. Some people apprehended that this Bill would not work successfully. For that apprehension he believed that there was no ground; bat, assuming that the measure failed, it could at least do no mischief, for, supposing it to be unsuccessful, nothing worse could happen than that it should become a dead letter. From its failure no evil could arise; but if it proved successful every one must acknowledge that it was likely to produce many and great advantages to the country. He had heard one objection to the proposed Bill, to which considerable weight seemed to be attached. It was, that the effect of such a measure would be to enable all proprietors to reincumber land just freed from incumbrance. To that he thought a very obvious answer could be given; namely, that every man who, living in Ireland, desired to purchase land there, would endeavour to do so on as large a scale as he could conveniently manage, and would in many eases endeavour to raise funds, not only to improve his estate, but to pay a part of the purchase-money. Now, if a man holding an estate desired to borrow money, Parliament could not interfere to prevent him—it would be totally impossible to prevent the borrowing of money. Now, what they proposed to do by the Bill was to give the lenders in these cases a Parliamentary title, and to give to the whole transaction as much as possible of a mercantile character. Do what they might money would be borrowed, and their duty was to see that such transactions produced the least possible degree of injury to the individuals concerned or to the public. Loans effected according to the plan that he proposed would be paid off by instalments, the estates would be immediately improved', and eventually unincumbered; he hoped', then, that one effect at least of the measure would be to prevent land in Ireland being depreciated below its fair value. Unfortunately there were in that country persons who had an interest in the depreciation of landed property. Many owners, or nominal owners of estates, were liable personally on account of the incumbrances upon those estates; if the estates 106 were brought to sale, and the incumbrances discharged at a time when land was deeply depreciated, the owner might manage to get rid of the liabilities, and buy the land back again for himself at a low price; then the land, freed from its old incumbrances, would only be liable to that sum which might have been borrowed for the purpose of enabling him to purchase it. Such practical results would certainly be a great evil, and the depreciation of the prices of land, which such persons as he had described desired, would also be a great evil,-both of which, he trusted, would be prevented by the proposed Bill; for it supplied a mode by which mortgages could be transferred from one person to another without minute inquiry into titles, without long draughts by conveyances engrossed upon many skins of parchment. That transfer would be very easy and simple, and he trusted that the facility of making it would greatly enhance the value of land in Ireland. [Mr. J. STUART dissented.] His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newark shook his head; but he did hope that all the benefits which he expected to arise from this measure would every one be realised. He had now stated to the House the general scope and object of the measure. Its main object was to enable those who wanted capital to obtain it elsewhere than in Ireland with as much ease as circumstances would permit. No doubt a measure of that description must lead to diversity of opinion, and he could not hope that every one would be satisfied with the explanation that he had attempted to give; but he hoped the House would allow the Bill to be introduced, and when they saw what it was, their understanding of it would, be of course more complete than any which they could derive from the statement that he had then made. If the sense of the country, after calm deliberation, were against the proposed measure, he certainly should not press it. It was intended for the benefit of the people of Ireland, and they could best understand its probable operation; but he would say, that since the subject had been brought under public notice, he had received several letters from Ireland, all of which were in favour of the measure, not one which was not in favour of the general principle of the Bill, and the language of the public press showed very plainly that those letters coincided with the general sentiment of the public at large respecting the measure. He trusted, then, that the Bill would prove a great benefit 107 to Ireland, and be conducive to the lasting prosperity of that country.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
considered that the measure was one which would materially affect the currency in Ireland—it was one of great importance, and he would maintain that he had been fully justified upon a former occasion in calling the attention of the House to it. Such a measure ought not to have been introduced in any but a full House. At the time when he objected to it, there were only four Irish Members present, and not above twenty English; and he would now put it to the House whether it was not perfectly fair in him to have taken exception to such a Bill, brought in under such circumstances. At that time the public attention was not directed to it, and he must say that the tone and manner of the hon. and learned Solicitor General was now very different from that which he assumed when the subject was previously before the House. There was a history attached to the measure that he did not think was sufficiently known to the House. A measure of a somewhat similar character, and suggested by the success of a plan introduced in Prussia, had formerly been proposed by himself, and other Gentlemen deeply interested in the prosperity of Ireland, with a view of enabling advances to be made to Irish proprietors anxious to improve their properties, but it met with no support from Her Majesty's Government; and he was told that, if adopted, Irish estates would not be sold; and tonight he had heard, for the first time in an official quarter, a declaration from the hon. and learned Gentleman of good feeling towards the Irish proprietors. This alone was sufficient to have made him entertain doubts as to the spirit in which the Bill was conceived. He did not think the hon. and learned Member would find in the Irish newspapers an approbation of the scheme which he proposed, although they all advocated the principle put forward by himself, Mr. Frewen, and other Irish proprietors. At present, no man could borrow money in Ireland unless his estate were whitewashed by the Incumbered Estates Act, and yet they were daily called upon to apply more money to the improvement of their estates. He had always been opposed to the Incumbered Estates Act, to which this was a supplementary measure, and he considered it had failed in the objects it had proposed to accomplish. It had glutted the market with landed property, and a recent case 108 had occurred in which an estate had been sold under the Act for a year and a half's purchase. He did not hesitate to say that any gentleman whose property was taken from him and sold at such a sacrifice was robbed of it. The hon. and learned Solicitor General stated that he had received letters from Ireland, approving of the operation of the Incumbered Estates Act; but he (Colonel Dunne) had received many more letters against it, complaining of the injury, injustice, and ill-feeling which it excited. A few evenings since he had the honour to present a petition from a gentleman of the highest respectability, in a southern county, against the injustice which he suffered from the operation of this iniquitous measure. From this it appeared that Mr. Drew, of Drewsborough, had inherited, under a will made in 1796, an estate of the then value of 1,700l. per annum, charged with a debt of 2,769l. and a jointure of 461l. yearly. In 1845, this estate was worth 2,000l. a year, being all good land, and let at low rents; and the present possessor had, as he had a right to do, charged the estate with a jointure for his wife, and with a fortune for younger children. Latterly the tenants on the estate, suffering from the recent famine, and the poor-law, have fallen into arrears, and a receiver was appointed over the estate, who has neglected it, and a sum of 5,000l., in all, is due on it. A creditor has applied for a sale under the Encumbered Estates Act. If sold now, this estate may not bring five years' purchase. If it had been sold some five years since, it would have sold, at a moderate calculation, for 35,000l.; and whatever price it now brings, he must lose an enormous amount of its value, his wife be deprived of her jointure, and his children of their fortunes; and, if he had no other fortune, a man of old family, connected with a noble family, would be driven a beggar on the world. Another case, of which he (Colonel Dunne) believed several Members in that House were aware, was an estate of the value of 4,000l. a year; it was not encumbered permanently to half its value; but an old jointure brought it within the power of this court; all the interest on the encumbrances and jointure were paid up, and the arrears of rent were only 200l. The proprietor had lately removed the agent, and, in revenge, he had influenced a creditor for 1,000l. to bring this estate into the Encumbered Estates Court, where an order was given for its sale; and, if 109 sold at the rate estates were selling, by means of that court, the malice and revenge of an individual would be able to deprive a man of high position and ancient lineage of his estate, his wife of her jointure, and her children of the means of subsistence; but these instances were too numerous, and he (Colonel Dunne) would not weary the House by repeating more. Any one who looked in the newspapers must see that every sale was made at a value far under the real value of the property. And could this law be called just, or the policy that dictated it be justified? The hon. and learned Gentleman would not find the Irish proprietors opposed to the Bill, if he would extend to them what he proposed to give to speculators by the present Bill. A great deal had been said of the advantage of giving a Parliamentary title. But a Committee sat last year on the subject of titles, and the evidence given before it went to show that the difficulty did not exist so much on the subject of titles—that, in fact, there were many Parliamentary titles in Ireland not more than 150 years old; that the difficulty lay not in their registration, but in the searches, and other legal inquiries. If these difficulties were removed, it was clear that these titles would be as good as any that the present Parliament could give. But if Parliamentary titles were to be given at all, they ought to be given to the present proprietors as well as to speculators. Judging from the tone taken by the English press, there existed an intention to drive out the present landed proprietors of Ireland, and dispossess them of their estates. He would always oppose the attempt to carry out such a design. The hon. and learned Gentleman had had very little encouragement to persevere in his legislative enactments for Ireland. Law after law had been brought in, but had only increased the sufferings of that country. Ireland had suffered much from the inflictions of Providence, but her sufferings had been greatly aggravated by bad legislation.
§ SIR L. O'BRIEN
could bear testimony to the high respectability of Mr. Drew, from whom a petition had been presented in the early part of the evening, complaining that his estate, which was worth 2,000l. a year, was about to be sold to discharge a debt of 3,000l., and he complained of the law which allowed such a state of things. He (Sir L. O'Brien), for one, was quite ready to support any Bill which facilitated the sale of incumbered estates, 110 but he condemned the system of forcing sales. If Her Majesty's Ministers had legislated in a spirit of kindness to Irish proprietors; if they had said to them, we sympathise in the afflictions which have befallen you, and we will try to keep you in possession of your estates till the storm has passed over; if there are any of you whose estates are incumbered beyond the hope of redemption, we will give you facilities for their sales, but we will be no parties to rob you of your estates—if they had done this they would have conciliated, instead of exasperating, as they have done, the proprietors of the soil. He could scarcely credit the statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington, that an estate had been sold for a year and a half's purchase, partly because the hon. and gallant Member had neither mentioned the name of the proprietor nor the county in which it occurred, and still more because he could not believe that Baron Richards would suffer such a thing to take place. He wished to call attention to a circumstance which had a material bearing on these matters. By the provisions of the Bill the creditor could force on a sale of the estate at forty days' notice; but one reason why a landlord could not pay his debt, might be, and very often was, that his tenants did not pay their rents. He might be kept for a year and a half out of the rent of his farms by the tenants overholding, and then he might lose his estate on forty days' notice being given. If they made stringent terms for the sale of landed property, they must also give the landlord greater power to recover his rents, or to recover possession of his farms. He had himself been kept out of a farm on which he lost a year and a half's rent by the overholding of the tenant; and he knew an estate which was purchased a few years ago entirely free from debt, but on which there were now thirty farms over-held. At the same time he concurred with the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington, that if they were to give this measure a retrospective effect as well as a prospective one, so that the benefit of the proposed debentures should be secured to those who now held land as well as to the speculators in new purchases, it would go far to redeem the blot existing on the present measure.
§ MR. F. FRENCH
said, the hon. Baronet the Member for Clare had stated that it was difficult to give credence to the statement of the hon. and gallant Member 111 for Portarlington, that an estate had been sold for a year and a half's purchase, because he had neither specified the name of the proprietor nor the county where the estate was situated. But his hon. Friend would be no longer sceptical when he (Mr. French) told him that the estate was in Mayo, that the name of the proprietor was Mr. M'Laughlin, that it was valued at 400l. a year, and that it sold for 600l. It was true there had been 658 cases of estates brought before the court; but how many sales had there been? Only four—not more than four estates had been sold, or alleged to have been sold. He said alleged, because one of the sales related to a property in Westmeath, which it was said had been bought by a farmer resident on the property at a fair value; but on inquiry it turned out that there was no such person as the alleged purchaser in existence. In the second case he would mention, he had learned from the unfortunate proprietor himself, Mr. Baldwin, that in 1845 he had refused 8,500l. for his estate, while it was sold at the commencement of this year for 3,500l. This estate was described as having been sold at eighteen years' purchase; but in reality, taking the ordinary value, it sold only for eight and a half years' purchase. There was one curious circumstance connected with this Bill, as compared with the former Incumbered Estates Bill. The hon. and learned Solicitor General had explained that a power was given to purchasers by the present Bill to incumber the estates when purchased to the extent of half their value; and this he described as a perfect guarantee to the lender. And yet, in the former Bill, it was assumed that when an estate was incumbered to the extent of half its value, it afforded no guarantee whatever, and ought to be sold. He alluded to this as showing the intention of the Government and their legislation to deprive such proprietors of their estates, and complained that the Government had not adopted the system practised in Silesia by the Prussian Government, where the proprietors were in as depressed a condition as the Irish landlords were; but the Government came to their assistance by lending them money to the value of half or three-fourths of the value of their estates—proper security for repayment, as well as for the interest, being taken—the consequence of which was that the Silesian proprietors were speedily raised from the dust, and restored to a state of prosperity.
§ MR. NAPIER
did not think they ought to refuse the hon. and learned Solicitor General permission to introduce this Bill, because the present circumstances of the country were peculiar; and he thought it was for the public interest that they should keep up the price of land. The present result he had anticipated, when the late Bill was before them, and pressed upon the attention of the House that its effect would be to force a great quantity of land upon the market. He could not agree with the hon. and learned Solicitor General that that was any proof of the beneficial working of the measure, because he remembered that a clause was introduced into the last Bill giving costs to every petitioner, and that he feared had operated as an inducement to collusive practices. It was said, that the late measure was an imperfect one. Be it so. But that was the greater reason for trying some experiment—and he admitted that this was an experiment—for improving its operation; and having talked over the question with many persons in Ireland, he found that differences of opinion existed with respect to it, and he thought, therefore, that the safer course was to allow the measure to be introduced. Another reason was, that as matters now stood there was a strong inducement to proprietors to exhaust the land; for as they had no prospect in the present state of prices of ever getting a farthing of the surplus from the sale of their estates, it would be found that between the notice and the sale the land was greatly exhausted. He thought, therefore, it was of great importance that the House should endeavour to prop up and get a crutch made for that which they had themselves made lame, till confidence was restored throughout the country. And he confessed he thought that, along with the introduction of other measures, confidence would be restored. Allusion had been made to one estate having been sold at a year and a half's purchase; but he believed that estate had not been sufficiently advertised, and he knew that parties would have given a good deal more for the estate if they had been aware it was for sale. But let them look to the north of Ireland, where there was so much agitation on the subject of tenant-right. He knew a case where the brother of a Presbyterian clergyman, one of the great agitators on the subject of tenant-right, had purchased the tenant-right of a farm at nine and a half years' purchase. The property was in an electoral division for- 113 merly of large extent; but the Poor Law Commissioners had the good sense to narrow the electoral division, and the consequence had been a reduction of pauperism and outdoor relief. People were, therefore, getting up their spirits, and land was increasing in value. He did think, therefore, that by giving the land a breathing-time—by not teasing the people with too much legislation—they would be able in a little time to have property sold at a price that would be beneficial to all parties.
§ MR. SADLEIR
thought that power should be given to the Bank of Ireland, and to insurance companies in this country, to make advances on the certificates proposed in the Bill. He had always anticipated that great sacrifices would be experienced in the sale of incumbered estates under the recent Act. That Act was introduced for great and beneficial objects, but not for purposes of forfeiture, as was stated by his hon. Friend opposite. It was for the public good that estates heavily incumbered should be sold. As a means of benefiting both proprietors and tenantry, he had always advocated a diminution of the area of taxation; and, for the same reason, he held it necessary that excessive bankrupt properties should be brought to the hammer as speedily as possible. This might be injurious to individuals, but it was clearly for the benefit of the country at large. The great body of the proprietors in Ireland were unincumbered, and, as compared with those who were excessively incumbered, a great many more were only partly so. He was happy to hear the hon. and learned Solicitor General speak highly of the Bill, because he thought it would introduce a more simple mode of obtaining money on the security of Ireland, as he (Mr. Sadleir) looked upon a simplification of the means of borrowing money on land as a matter of the very highest consequence.
§ MR. STAFFORD
regretted one obsersation which fell from the hon. and learned Solicitor General, that the Government had given up all hope of witnessing the investment of English capital in Irish property; but that though English capitalists would not buy land for themselves, they might be disposed to lend money to those who did. He must say that if that impression went forth as the opinion of the Government, it would increase the difficulty of obtaining capital for investment in Ireland. He wished to remind the hon. and 114 learned Gentleman and the House that the difficulty thus referred to was owing to their own legislation for the last few years. The hon. and learned Gentleman would recollect the arrangements respecting the poor-law, against which he (Mr. Stafford) and others had so often protested in vain, but which the Government had at last consented to alter—the arrangements respecting the electoral unions, which rendered it impossible that any proprietor could know to what extent he would be called upon to contribute to the pauperism in his neighbourhood, or to what extent his estate would be rendered valueless from the ill management of the neighbouring property. It was only the day before yesterday that he received the plan of the new boundaries of the union with which he was more immediately connected. These boundaries appeared to have afforded great satisfaction; and if the hon. and learned Gentleman attached one-half as much importance as he (Mr. Stafford) did to the new arrangement, he would feel that it would be impossible to say how far it would affect the market price of land in Ireland. But he could not avoid again deprecating the manner in which the owners of incumbered estates in Ireland were dealt with and spoken of by the Government. There was more blame and obloquy thrown upon them than ever had been cast upon any body of men. They were represented as a doomed class which it was desirous to get rid of as quickly as possible, and yet they now found the Government inviting and holding out inducements to others to join that doomed class. Seeing that the Legislature had already drawn a distinct line of demarcation between the landed proprietor in England and the landed proprietor in Ireland, it was only folly to expect that English capitalists would invest their money in Irish land, when they could get land in England, at even double the price, and for this reason, that there was a settled state of things in England. There was not that spirit of intermeddling, and of what he might call levity, in legislating for the landed proprietary in England, which was exhibited with regard to the landed proprietary of Ireland. It might have been wise to intermeddle as they had done, but they should recollect that they could effect no improvement in Ireland, except by the introduction of capital into it. They could hope to get no capital but English capital to flow into Ireland, and there was no chance of its introduction unless there was 115 security of the most positive description afforded. Before sitting down he felt bound to say that the House and the country were deeply indebted to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for the great pains he had taken in preparing measures for the benefit of Ireland, and for the ability he had shown; whilst the patience with which he had listened to the objections raised, and answered all the inquiries made of him respecting them, was such as to reflect the highest possible credit upon him. And there was a strong feeling amongst the well-informed and educated classes in Ireland, of deep respect and gratitude towards the hon. and learned Gentleman for the efforts he had made to carry measures for the benefit of that country. He (Mr. Stafford) hoped that the Government would bear in mind that the only hope of inducing the English people to invest their capital in Irish soil lay in the giving equal security in both countries, and in dealing out the same impartiality and fairness to them as common subjects of one common empire. The House would do well to pause before it pronounced a verdict of condemnation upon the landed proprietors of Ireland, until it had seen how the paid guardians of the poor had managed the affairs entrusted to them. Let hon. Members compare the mode in which those paid guardians had performed their duty, with that in which the landed proprietors whom they superseded had performed theirs, considering the enormous difficulties with which the latter were surrounded; and if they found, as he believed they would, that the paid guardians had manifested the grossest negligence, mismanagement, and injustice, and had made the most profligate expenditure of the funds entrusted to their care, they would probably feel somewhat inclined to reverse the unfavourable decision to which they had previously come regarding the unpaid guardians.
The SOLICITOR GENERAL
begged to say a few words in explanation. With respect to what he had said regarding English purchasers, he certainly did not speak the opinions of the Government. He spoke his own individual opinion only, and no one but himself was responsible for them. But he certainly thought, from personal observation, that purchasers of landed property generally wished to live upon and enjoy personally the benefit of their property, and for that reason he thought that English proprietors would 116 not be very likely to buy estates in Ireland, unless they intended to go and reside in that country upon them; whilst many capitalists would be satisfied to advance their money upon the security of estates in Ireland, where that security would be ample. As to the observations of the hon. Member for Roscommon with respect to the half value incumbrance of the property, he completely misunderstood him if he thought he (the Solicitor General) had stated the object of the Bill to be that the estates were not to be sold unless they were incumbered to one-half their value. The original principle of the Incumbered Estates Bill was, that the estate might be sold if it were incumbered, and the owner could not pay off the incumbrance. It was in the House of Lords that the clause was introduced, providing against the sale of estates unless they were incumbered to one-half their value; but the original principle was, that if the owner could not pay the debt, the incumbrancer was to have power to sell without reference to the value. Now, with regard to the instance which the hon. Gentleman had given of an estate having been sold for one and a half year's purchase, he hardly supposed it would turn out upon examination to be exactly correct. It was, in the first place, very difficult to say what was the precise yearly rental of an estate in Ireland. Then, again, we were not told whether the assumed rental had been calculated upon the income of ten years ago, or upon what had been received the other day. But to show the difficulty of ascertaining the precise facts of the rental, he would mention that he had received the following information from the Commissioners for the sale of Incumbered Estates in Ireland. The House would remember that under the Act it was essential that the commissioners should state the names of the tenants, the description of their holdings, the amount of rent they had to pay, the nature of their tenures, and the state of the land upon which they were settled. Now to show what great difficulties they had to encounter to fulfil those requirements, he should state that in many cases there was not a single person in existence who knew what the rent was. The landlord did not know it. His steward did not know it. The tenants knew as little about it as any one else. They did not in many cases know what land they had, or what were their boundaries. They merely knew generally that they held the land amongst 117 them; that they were in arrear; that the steward was to call for the rent, and that they were to make up as much for him against the time he was to call upon them as they could scrape together. The commissioners were obliged in those cases to arbitrate between the parties, and state the particulars as fairly as they could, so as to comply with the requisitions of the Act. He was bound, therefore, to receive with considerable suspicion the statement that an estate had been sold for one and a half year's purchase. And if it were stated that it had been sold for what purported to be one and a half year's purchase of what would be a fair rental at the present time, he could only say that he doubted it very much.
§ Leave given.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Solicitor General, Sir George Grey, and Sir William Somerville.