§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. BRIGHT
submitted, that the Bill was not in order as it then stood before the House. The Bill, as it originally stood, was entitled a "Landlord and Tenant Bill," its object being to improve the relations between these bodies. At present it was proposed to call it "An Act to Prevent the taking away of Crops to avoid the Payment of Rent." There was only one clause retained in the Bill as it came down from the House of Lords, with part of another clause, to which, however, was tacked a long proviso. The Bill was in point of fact one for the creation of new criminal offences, and could not with any degree of justice be classed under the title of a Landlord and Tenant Bill, which was the character it pretended to on leaving the Lords. What he asked was, if this objection was not fatal to the Bill? and if not, he would proceed to state further reasons why the Bill should not be entertained.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the objection was not fatal to the Bill. If the Bill had ori- 892 ginated in that House, the case would be different; but as the Bill came from the Lords, no objection could be taken to an alteration even in the title of the Bill.
§ MR. BRIGHT
would then address himself to some points of the Bill, and conclude his observations by moving that the House do not go into Committee upon the Bill. The measure then before the House was one for making more stringent the law of distress in its mode of operation, and extending that law to a class of property under circumstances in which it did not at present apply. The law of distress was altogether, in this country as well as in Ireland, very questionable; and on that ground he was fortified in his belief that they would not be acting wisely to make that law more stringent than at present. It might be observed by hon. Members that the Devon Commission received a very considerable amount of evidence which went against the law of distress in Ireland, showing it to be a harsh and severe law, and that it was a law not alone harsh and cruel to the tenant, but often not beneficial or satisfactory to the landlord. That being the case, and knowing that the law of distress was based upon a very questionable principle, conferring on a particular class of property the right of recovery not extended to other classes, he should declare himself opposed to the proposition now before the House, namely, to add new stringency to that power in the case of Ireland, particularly in the present condition of that country. It was well known that for some time past there had been a sort of servile war between the landlord and tenant classes of Ireland. He believed the landlords there were, in a great number of cases, oppressing and coercing the tenantry; and that the tenantry were endeavouring to avoid, by fraudulent means, the payment of their rents. In fact, there raged a sort of social anarchy, arising from causes heretofore discussed in that House, but which anarchy, or the cause of which, the present Bill was not calculated to remove. The hon. Member for the University of Dublin was a member of the Devon Commission, and would, he doubted not, bear him (Mr. Bright) out in saying that abundant evidence was laid before that Commission to show that the law of distress was so unpopular that in cases where property was distrained for rent, it was next to impossible to find a sale for it. Like goods seized for tithes, or church rates, in this country, it was almost im- 893 possible to find a free market and ready sale for it; and almost invariably the property had to be sold below its value. Now, coming to the Bill before them, the House would see that, after its enactment, no person would be allowed to cut crops between sunset on Saturday and sunrise on Monday. That was a sort of sabbatical observance that might be turned to a very harsh use. [Mr. M. J. O'CONNELL: No, no!] The hon. Gentleman who cried "No," must be more ignorant of the state of Ireland than he (Mr. Bright) believed him to be. The hon. Member should surely be aware that on estates in Ireland—where the landlords were absent, and even at home—the management was entrusted to the agents, and by them to the bailiffs and drivers; and he therefore contended that this Bill would be made use of in endless cases for purposes of oppression. The Bill provided that not only should not crops be cut between sunset on Saturday and sunrise on Monday; but even not between sunset and sunrise on the other days of the week, where the intention was supposed to be fraudulent, with a view to avoid the payment of rent. Every hon. Member from Ireland knew how the tenants were beset by parties who drove their cattle, and distrained on all possible occasions: and therefore it should be clear to them that a law adding fresh stringency to such a power should be regarded as most oppressive. When he was in Ireland last autumn, he happened to see in an office where was managed the affairs of one of the largest estates in the county of Limerick, a pile of papers drawn up and printed, and requiring only to be filled up with the name of the agent, commissioning the driver and bailiff to seize the cattle in payment of the rent due to the landlord. He saw hundreds of those forms, which showed that the whole management was carried on under a system of extracting rent, not by any free payment of the tenant, but by driving and impounding the cattle in lieu of the rent. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not know whether these cries, proceeding from hon. Gentlemen opposite, were intended for or against his position, but he asserted that where property had sunk into that condition, Parliament was not to look to the proprietor with a view of increasing his powers to extract his rent, but to the cause that produced that anarchy, with a view to remedy it. This Bill would enable the landlords to seize and impound the carts and horses and waggons removing, about to 894 remove, or preparing to remove, those crops, no matter to whom belonging, and though not even on the land on which the particular landlord might not be empowered to make a distraint. He did not believe the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland had read through the provisions of the Bill: neither did he believe the House would consent to enact the measure. This measure made that which hitherto was—if he might use the expression—only a civil wrong, in future a criminal offence. The non-payment of rent or taking away of property in this country, or in Ireland, had not been heretofore made a crime in the way that stealing was a crime, or felony: but by this Bill they were going to change the nature of the offence, and they were going to enact that the non-payment of rent in Ireland was a misdemeanour, punishable with twelve months' imprisonment and hard labour. This Bill, introduced by the hon. Member for the University of Dublin, showed to what desperate and cruel lengths Gentlemen of otherwise mild tempers and dispositions could go, in attaching twelve months' imprisonment and hard labour to an act that heretofore the laws of England did not recognise as an offence. He put it to the law officers of the Crown to say, if this Bill would not bring about the changes to which he had referred, and if it would not affect their notions as to law, and the principles on which law was based? When the Crown failed to obtain revenue, when payment of duties was evaded, penalties were attached and modes of recovery pointed out; but in no case was the offence made a misdemeanour, and followed by a punishment unjust and savage. There was a proviso introduced into the Bill which appeared to him not alone unjust, but also most absurd. It was to the effect, that any cart or waggon seized under the provisions of the Bill, not the property of the owner of the crop which was being removed, such cart or waggon should not be restored until the owner proved to the magistrate that it was not known to him (the owner) the purpose for which they were about to be used. Now, he wished to know from the hon. Gentleman opposite how he could call on a man to prove a negative, when it was for the prosecutor to prove him guilty? Thus the principles of law and justice were reversed. On these grounds the Bill was so objectionable, that he would oppose its proceedings that night, and also join with those hon. Gentlemen who took the same 895 view as himself in opposing its further progress at every single step. He understood these clauses were recommended by no less eminent an authority than the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. But that was nothing to him (Mr. Bright); for there had been known Lord Lieutenants, both before and since the union of both countries, who recommended a great amount of legislation most pernicious; and, therefore, such high authority went for nothing with him. He certainly should like to see the Lord Lieutenant urging on Government the necessity of passing measures of justice to the whole people of Ireland, but not such measures as the present, and that which occupied the attention of the House at an earlier stage of that day's proceedings, particularly as there was no necessity for them, and as they outraged all sense of law and justice. At the commencement of the Session, the Government brought in a Bill for the purpose of settling the long-pending question of the relative rights of landlord and tenant in Ireland; and he might appeal even to the hon. Member for the University of Dublin, whether, in the present condition of Ireland, it was not the duty of Government to legislate between them? The Government had brought in a Bill of many clauses, five-sixths of which were understood to be protective of the interests of the tenant, with three or four clauses strengthening the right of the landlord. The Government found they could not carry the Bill this Session. It had, consequently, been put off from time to time, and was, he believed, fixed for second reading on Thursday next. It certainly was odd that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland should have allowed the Bill to lie on the table, whilst the Marquess of Westmeath, in the House of Lords, was getting on with his clauses. How, he wished to know, had these Bills been passed by the House of Lords? Why, about five noble Lords sat—two on the Ministerial side, and three on the Opposition—who would not divide; and in that way the measures came down to the House of Commons, and hon. Gentlemen were expected to legislate on them. [An Hon. MEMBER: No!] The hon. Gentleman said "No:" it might not be so as regarded the present Bill, but, generally speaking, it was so, and he could not help saying that such legislation would be disgraceful to any country in the world. He asserted such legislation was wrong in principle; because it gave more stringent 896 powers to the Irish landlords, which powers all the world admitted were already sufficiently stringent, and had also been greatly abused. It was also wrong with regard to the temper that at present existed between the landlords and tenants of Ireland; it would only add fuel to the flame now raging, and would, in fact, give to the people, who were calling for "bread," nothing better than "stones" for their appeasement. The tenantry asked to be given a right in the land which they worked and toiled upon; and that House responding, came forward with a measure having only two such clauses as every tenant in Ireland would consider not alone not favourable, but more or less hostile to his interests. It was, then, because he conceived it would be disastrous to confer additional powers on the landlord class, that he objected to this measure. It was also brought forward at an unfavourable period—the fag-end of the Session, when not more than forty Members might attend for its discussion, and in the absence of very many who felt an interest in it. Therefore, conceiving it of too important a nature to be settled in that way, he begged to move that the House go into Committee on the Bill that day three months.
§ 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," instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. G. A. HAMILTON
said, it was necessary after the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, that he should make a few remarks. It was true, as stated by the hon. Member, that many of the witnesses before the Devon Commission had recommended the total abolition of distress; but it was also true that the Commissioners having given the subject their fullest and most anxious consideration, had come to the conclusion that it would neither be consistent with the rights of property, nor with the interests of the tenants themselves, that distress for rent should be abolished. They, however, recommended certain modifications in the law. They had recommended that distress of growing crops, though it was now the law in England, should be done away with 897 in Ireland, and that certain notices should in all cases of distress he given, in order that the tenant might know how much rent was due, and have the opportunity of paying it before the sale of his goods. But the abolition of distress of growing crops had been followed by consequences which the Commissioners did not foresee. The House was aware that no civil process of law could be executed at night, or on Sunday. Fraudulent and dishonest tenants, therefore, by cutting and carrying their crops at night, or on Sunday, could escape distress altogether. This, however, was manifestly a fraud and act of dishonesty. It had been followed by very injurious consequences to the tenants themselves, and in some instances fatal collisions had taken place. The Bill was intended to prevent and punish this fraud. It was necessary in every case that a fraudulent intent should be proved, and a jury were to determine on it. He would be quite ready in Committee to show that it was not the case that any new principle of law was introduced in this Bill, and the law in England at the present moment was far more stringent as regards the punishment for carrying away distress.
§ MR. LENNARD
considered the cutting of crops on Sundays to evade the rent to be a downright species of felony, and one of the most dishonest practices that ever prevailed in any civilised country. He hoped that the Government would take care that the Bill passed during the present Session.
§ MR. TORRENS M'CULLAGH
denied that it was a general practice to remove crops in the way alleged by the supporters of this Bill. The tenantry of Ireland did not deserve the imputations which had been so lavishly heaped upon them; and he could not but believe that there had been some great moral constraint pressing upon the mind of the right hon. Baronet the Irish Secretary when he consented to the second reading of the measure. He (Mr. M'Cullagh) condemned the mode in which this Bill had been introduced and proceeded with. The last time it was discussed it was long after midnight; and he believed there was no formal advantage of which its promoters would not avail themselves in order to have it passed into law. Why was it not brought in sooner in the Session, if the necessity for it was so great as had been represented? Its framers had placed it in the hands of a Peer (the Marquess of Westmeath), the very last that 898 he should have thought likely to be intrusted with such a measure. He was not one who was accustomed to make strong remarks relative to the Members of the Upper House; but be should have thought that the Government, or Gentlemen opposite, would have chosen as the person to introduce this measure into the House of Lords some man whose antecedents, whose character for sobriety of judgment, and whose consistency of conduct, in public life, were such as to win esteem.
§ MR. DICKSON
rose to order. The hon. and learned Gentleman, he presumed, had no right thus to refer to what took place in the other House of Parliament.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not out of order if he referred to what was found in the Votes of the House of Lords.
§ MR. TORRENS M'CULLAGH
held in his hand a copy of the Bill as it was printed by order of the House of Lords, and he found the name of the Marquess of Westmeath on the back of it. The measure originally brought in by the Government to amend the relations subsisting between landlord and tenant in Ireland had not been proceeded with, but its most stringent clauses were imported into, and now formed the whole of, the present measure; and he must repeat that Ministers could only have given their sanction to the second reading under some extraordinary feeling of constraint, or some overpowering sense of its necessity. Then, if that were so, why did they not adopt at once the responsibility of carrying it through Parliament? The hon. Member for Manchester had pointed out the difference between a civil wrong and a criminal offence; and he would only add to his statement, that, anciently, by the common law, nothing could be distrained that partook of the quality of the soil. It was only after 1688 that this principle was disturbed, and the right of distraint over growing crops was recognised by statute. This right, first established in England, was subsequently extended to Ireland; but the power was abused so universally and so notoriously that the Devon Commission, of which the sponsor for this Bill in that House (Mr. G. A. Hamilton), was a member, reported that it should be abrogated. Nobody proposed to take the power of distraint over growing crops from the landlords of England; but the Devon Commissioners reported that it was necessary to divest the landlords of Ireland in that re- 899 spect of a statutable remedy which experience had shown to be liable in that country to great abuse. But, much as he approved of the proposal to abolish the powers of distraining growing crops, he would rather run the risk of the greatest abuse of that law, than support the Bill now before the House. They would not attempt such a measure for England; and they wronged the people of Ireland, when they imposed upon them a yoke greater than they themselves were willing to bear. He would appeal to the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland whether this was not an attempt to repeal by a sidewind the remedial and conciliatory Act of 1846, which had been passed at the instance of Lord Besborough? If the Bill should go into Committee, he would move an Amendment to do away with its criminal character, and leave to the parties a civil remedy only, and thereby efface from the measure its worst features. Had the proposition been confined to prohibiting, under penalties, the carrying away of crops on Sunday, he should not have felt so much opposed to it; but this was a law against the tenant cutting his crop any day in the week after a certain hour. Such an enactment would subject every tenant in Ireland to the malice of any scoundrel who might for the basest purposes inform against him. And then, before whom were the accused to be arraigned? Before the magistrates sitting at sessions; that was to say, before their own landlords. The crime was to consist in the intent of the accused; and this was to be proved to the satisfaction of two persons interested—if not directly, at least by sympathy of class—in his conviction. Circumstantial evidence, coloured by prejudice and passion, or the reckless swearing of some miserable dependant, would, of necessity, be the only proof. And what was to be the punishment? Twelve months' imprisonment with hard labour! A more tyrannical procedure could not be devised, even against the serfs of Russia.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
said, that the hon. Member for Manchester possessed as little knowledge of the law upon this subject as he did of the facts to which it related; and he was surprised that the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk should have adopted the authority of that hon. Gentleman upon this subject. The real question for the House to decide was, whether the existing law was in so satisfactory a state 900 as not to require any alteration. In his opinion the law as it at present stood aiforded no remedy to the landlord. He would ask whether the Government would allow the law to remain in that state? Was there, in fact, to be no such thing as the recovery of rent in Ireland? No Irish landlord would ask for more power than was absolutely necessary. He had lived among the Irish people for years, and his family had done so before him for centuries; he was, in fact, one of them; and he would fearlessly say, that that man would speak falsely who should assert that the landlords of Ireland required unnecessary powers over their tenantry. The oppressions exercised by the landlords of Ireland over their tenants were not to be compared in severity with the hardships endured by the factory labourers of England under their exacting taskmasters.
§ MR. C. ANSTEY
opposed the Bill. He considered the hon. Member for Dundalk quite correct both in his law and in his facts. The principle of the measure was simply this, that if a tenant, however conscientiously, presumed to differ from his landlord as to the extent of his liabilities towards him, as to whether, perhaps, he owed him any rent at all, the landlord was to be in a position to remove the settlement of the question from a civil into a criminal court, and to subject the unfortunate tenant to fine and imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for a twelvemonth, leaving the tenant who would not submit to this tyranny no other alternative than a resort to agrarian justice. As to fraudulent removals, they were sufficiently provided against by the existing law. It was said that the Bill was merely to prevent tenants from moving their crops by night; why, the unhappy men were so engaged during the day, in the employment, perhaps, of the very landlord who was oppressing them, that they had only the night in which to attend to their own concerns. There were two principles which ought to govern any law upon this subject: one was that nothing should be done to prevent the tenant selling his own produce at the time he pleased himself; and the other was, that a distress should be levied at such a time as to avoid the probability of a disturbance of the public peace. Both those principles the present Bill violated. There was no provision in it to make the existing law more effectual than it was at present. It was a piece of landlord legislation, and, however accept- 901 able it might be to the class represented by the hon. and gallant Colonel, it would be scouted by every man who wished to maintain peace and tranquillity in Ireland. He deprecated the idea of discussing a Bill of this nature in a House with not fifty Members present, and at the fag end of the Session; and, in order to get rid of the measure, he should conclude by moving that the debate be adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."
§ MR. ALCOCK
hoped this Bill would not become law, for he considered that it would be very detrimental to the interests of Ireland. Nothing, he believed, would tend more to the advantage of that country than the introduction of English farmers, of English enterprise, and of English capital; but if an English farmer who settled in Ireland attempted to reap his crops by night, he might, under this Bill, be committed to prison, tried, and sentenced to hard labour. He knew an English farmer who went to Ireland two years ago, and who occupied 1,000 acres of land in the county of Gal way, who would be precluded by this measure from working after sunset or before sunrise. A large portion of the land in Ireland was subject not only to" rent, but to rent-charge. Although, therefore, a tenant might have paid his rent, the rent-charge might be due, and, if the tenant proceeded to reap his crops within the prohibited time, he might be informed against, fined, and punished with hard labour.
§ MR. HENLEY
thought it was unfortunate that the law of Ireland was not the same as in England. ["Hear, hear!"] The English farmer was liable to punishment for the offence here. He knew the hon. Gentleman was a magistrate for Surrey, and he had no doubt similar complaints had been made to the hon. Member as to himself (Mr. Henley) of tenants taking away goods to prevent their being distrained for rent. The law, however, gave power to the landlord to follow them for thirty days; and if he did not then recover them, he could proceed against the tenant, who would be liable to six months' imprisonment. He could not see why this was not extended to Ireland; for he believed the only remedy at present was, to bring an action for double the amount of rent, thus making it a simple debt.
§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
thought the subject had been discussed with more warmth than was called for. All the Gen- 902 tlemen who had addressed the House had admitted that frauds had taken place in consequence of the farmers carrying off the crops to avoid the payment of rent. It was not denied that it was desirable that there should be some provision in the, law to meet such cases. He had said, on a former occasion, and he then repeated, that all he wanted was a minimum punishment which would put a stop to a state of things which all must condemn. He did not think this question had anything to do with the relations of landlord and tenant. It was clear they must adopt some steps to put a stop to this practice, and he considered the object of the present Bill was merely to put down these frauds. An hon. Gentleman said that this was a landlord's alarm; but he (Sir W. Somerville) considered such a statement to be a calumny on the tenantry of Ireland. The system did not merely demoralise those who were parties to carrying off the crops, but when they were taken away, they were taken to the houses of other farmers, who, against their will, were obliged to take them in. He was sure the great body of the farmers of Ireland would be glad to see an end put to the practice. When they got into Committee they could calmly consider whether some means might not be adopted to put; an end to these frauds.
§ MR. MOORE
did not object to the objects of the Bill, but to the means proposed for carrying them out. If such a conspiracy as had been referred to existed among any large body of the tenantry in Ireland, to remove the crops in order to defraud their landlords, he contended that it was the duty of the Government to have brought forward a Bill on this subject at an earlier period of the Session. If a Bill of this kind were brought forward upon their responsibility, he would willingly consent to any reasonable measure for repressing so monstrous an evil. But the real fact was that Irish landlords, pressed by the necessity of the times, had laid their heads together in another place, and had devised this Bill to facilitate the collection of their rents: and he strongly objected to such a mode of legislation, as establishing a most dangerous precedent.
§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
concurred with the right hon. Secretary for Ireland in wishing to prevent frauds; but he would not endeavour to do so by a one-sided Bill, which would prevent frauds on the part of the tenants, while it left the frauds practised by landlords unrestrained. He con 903 sidered it a fraud on the tenant that, when he had made improvement on the soil, an enormous rent should be demanded from him which he was unable to pay, and that the landlord should then take posession of the produce of his tenant's capital and labour.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
hoped the House would bear in mind the cheers with which the observations of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire had been received, that the law of England should be applied to Ireland on the subject of landlord and tenant. If they acted on that principle, to which they had by their cheers almost pledged themselves, they would remove various objectionable parts of the Bill. Should they go into Committee, he trusted they would content themselves with putting the law affecting Ireland on the same footing as the law of England. He had a great objection to legislating on the subject at this period of the Session. There were provisions in the Bill so offensive and insulting to the tenantry of Ireland, that it was impossible the House could assent to them. The grievances of the Irish tenantry were innumerable. One of the worst of those grievances would be aggravated by the Bill, inasmuch as, having to pay rents on a range of prices which had been materially changed by the legislation of that House, and calculated on the supposition of successful potato crops, tenants, if they did not pay their rents to the last farthing, would find that by the Bill power was given the landlord to prevent them from selling their produce as they saw fit, and from carrying away their crops for the purpose of sale. They would find also that any informer might bring evidence against them to show that in the removal of their crops they were acting in a fraudulent manner. The effect of such legislation would be to encourage landlords to maintain extravagant rents, and keep alive that unfortunate state of feeling between landlord and tenant which it was so desirable to alter. The depopulation of Ireland had been proceeding rapidly; no fewer than 100,000 families had disappeared within the last year or two. Tenants ought to be protected from harsh and cruel evictions. The common law was said to be sufficient to prevent these; but an Act was passed not long ago to provide an effectual check. It was notoriously a dead letter. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland received many accounts of evictions from the constabulary; and it might be asked why those returns 904 were not produced? The effect which such evictions had in forcing numbers of the Irish population to come to this country, showed to what an extent the people of England felt on this subject. The Bill would tend still further to encourage evictions and promote the depopulation of Ireland. A just measure would give advantages to tenants as well as to landlords.
§ MR. R. M. FOX
observed, that the Bill made every man to whom another paid rent a landlord under its provisions; so that not only a landlord in the proper sense, but every agent or driver, could prevent a man from digging a potato in his garden. One of the clauses would prevent a man from removing any of his chattels, and vehicles might be seized as if they were the property of the man whose house they were leaving. The provisions of the Bill were of so arbitrary a character that he could not, under any circumstances, give them his support. If the question of adjournment were negatived, he would be prepared to present his views in detail.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 22; Noes 46: Majority 24.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. REYNOLDS
then moved that the House do adjourn. The House ought to adjourn in order that the subject might be more fully discussed. In Manchester the ratepayers paid 28,000l. in one year for outdoor relief to Irish paupers. [Mr. M. J. O'CONNELL: Question!] He was glad the hon. Member for Kerry, who was fond of interrupting him, was before him on this occasion; the last time he interrupted him he was behind him. [Mr. M. J. O'CONNELL:No!] On the last occasion the hon. Member was behind him. [Mr. M. J. O'CONNELL: That is not true.] The hon. Member stated that what he (Mr. Reynolds) said was not true. [Mr. M. J. O'CONNELL: I never interrupted the hon. Member sitting behind him.] He would call upon the hon. Member not to interrupt him any more. [Mr. M. J. O'CONNELL: Question, then.] Mr. Speaker would be the judge whether he was speaking to the question, not the hon. Member. What he (Mr. Reynolds) said might be unpalatable to certain persons who imagined themselves landlords, but were not landlords, either in the present or the future tense; and they appeared the most turbulent portion of 905 the Irish landlords in the House. [Dr. NICHOLL rose to order. The hon. Member did not address his observations to the question.] He should be very sorry to be considered disorderly in the mind of a Gentleman who took a reasonable view of the subject, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman was such an one; but there ought to be some latitude allowed. It was not just to the people of Ireland, after all the arguments brought against this Bill, to force it into Committee at half-past one in the morning—["Half-past twelve"]—well, half-past twelve. It might be inconvenient to him to remain in London during the entire of this month, but he would do so if he could be instrumental in defeating this Bill, which he considered an unjust attack upon his countrymen. He would proceed to call the attention of the House to the preamble.
§ MR. SPEAKER
must remind the right hon. Member that he was going again into the merits of the Bill, and not discussing the question of adjournment.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
wished to show reasons why the House should adjourn. He would not trespass further than by repeating what he had already stated, that he should offer all the opposition in his power to this Bill, and expressing his regret that the Government should give their sanction to a one-sided Bill like this. He would not go again into the merits of the Bill; but he hoped the House would adjourn.
§ Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."
MR. M. J. O'CONNELL
begged to say, that he remembered the occasion to which the right hon. Member referred when he accused me of interrupting him behind his back. He did not do so. He should be particularly careful in his conduct towards a person after the cessation of a previous friendly intercourse. The whole subject before the House had been debated, and Gentlemen, instead of going into Committee to proceed with the Bill, made the same statements over and over again.
§ MR. C. ANSTEY
was surprised at the lecture which the hon. Member for Kerry had bestowed upon the opponents of the Bill; because the history of Parliament could show no person who had more distinguished himself than the hon. Member by Motions of adjournment, for the purpose of obstructing Sir Robert Peel's Administration. [Mr. M. J. O'CONNELL: Never.] Oh, yes! He remembered the 906 hon. Member's conduct with regard to the Arms Bill. Now, he (Mr. Anstey) acknowledged that he wanted to defeat the present Bill. For that object he had moved the adjournment of the debate; for that object he supported the present Motion; and for that object, when the present Motion should be disposed of, he would repeat the Motion he had already made. The Government had abandoned their remedial measures for Ireland on the ground that there was not time to consider them; but they found time to press this penal measure.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
thought that something ought to be done for the prevention of irregular debates. In the present temper of the House, it was perhaps advisable to consent to the adjournment of the discussion.
§ LORD C. HAMILTON
complained of the numerous speeches against time which had been made by the opponents of the Bill, and in particular of the painful effort of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk. He protested in the face of the country against such a disgraceful abuse of a privilege. Those who had been guilty of it showed little regard for the dignity of the House, to say nothing of their own character. The House ought, if possible, to visit with some censure the efforts made to impede the progress of public business. [Mr. ANSTEY: Oh, oh!] He was aware that the hon. and learned Member was unable to comprehend anything about the dignity of the House, and he dared to say that the hon. and learned Member, in his cups with his companions, would rejoice in what he had done. It was not to be expected, however, that the hon. and learned Member should be able to understand or appreciate the dignity of that House. He was only capable of turning it into ridicule.
§ MR. C. ANSTEY
wished to take the opinion of the Chair upon the language of the noble Lord. The noble Lord had spoken of him as a person incapable of comprehending what appertained to the dignity of the House, and said that when in his cups with his companions he would turn it into ridicule. He wished to know whether that was Parliamentary language,; and, if it were not, he hoped Mr. Speaker would visit the noble Lord with censure.
§ LORD C. HAMILTON
disclaimed having used the words imputed to him. He; had said that he dared say the hon. and learned Member would do as described.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The noble Lord says he did not use the words, which must be satisfactory to the hon. and learned Member. The words are certainly not Parliamentary.
§ LORD C. HAMILTON
said, the conduct of the opponents of the Bill in making such frivolous and vexatious speeches on the subject of adjournment was highly reprehensible. It was too bad that the progress of wholesome and salutary legislation should be impeded by such practices. It was all very well to talk about the rights of a minority, but it should not be forgotten that the majorities also had rights which ought to be respected. The conduct of the hon. and learned Member who was pursuing a course so factious and mischievous to defeat a Bill which would be so beneficial in Ireland, and the object of which was simply to prevent the illegal carrying away of crops, was like that of a vicious boy who might place a plank upon a railway line to overturn a train.
§ MR. BRIGHT
would remind the noble Lord that during the debate on the Franchise Bill he had himself divided the House no less than eight times on questions which the House had uniformly decided to be frivolous and vexatious. He (Mr. Bright) had observed, during the evening, that no lawyer had spoken in favour of the Bill; and on that ground he thought an adjournment necessary. Of the law officers of the Crown, only the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland was present, and he had preserved a profound silence. They ought not to go into Committee on the Bill till they had the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, and knew whether the principal Members of the Government supported it. Till they had that opinion they were entitled to move the adjournment of the House with the view of obtaining an adjournment of the debate. And no imputation of factious opposition should prevent him from supporting such a Motion. He was astonished at the conduct of the Government, who had not the manliness to support the Bill, though there was no doubt it was suggested by the Lord Lieutenant.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
thought it impossible to go into Committee at such an hour, and in the then temper of the House, with the prospect of making any progress; and, therefore, the House had only to consider whether they would adjourn the debate, or go into Committee pro formâ, in order to allow the opponents of 908 the Bill to give notice of any changes they might think it expedient to make. He did not feel that any justification was necessary for the conduct pursued by himself and his hon. Friends. It was said that a practice prevailed which no one could justify of abstracting that which was to secure the landlord the payment of his rent. If that practice did exist, it was a fraud and injustice, and should be prevented. It really was no advantage to the tenants to permit them to practice fraud, for it could not lead to good, and if a tenant began by defrauding his landlord of half a year's rent, he could not expect to be continued on his land, and he (Viscount Palmerston) held that they did the tenant good by preventing his expulsion. As to the principle of the Bill, therefore, he thought that, as a measure to prevent such fraudulent practices, it deserved the consideration of the House. He did not, however, pledge himself to the details of the Bill, and' suggested that hon. Gentlemen on both sides should come to an understanding respecting it. As to the two proposals before the House, it was "an even toss-up" between them.
§ MR. NAPIER
would, as a lawyer, remind the hon. Member for Manchester, who had taunted the lawyers with not having expressed any opinion on the question under discussion, that both in England and Scotland the case of the fraudulent removal of crops liable to distress for rent was, by law, punishable as a criminal offence. He would ask the hon. Member for Manchester what remedy he proposed to give the landlord against these frauds? If the landlord turned off the tenant, he was denounced as an exterminator, and his murderers would find some in that House to palliate their crime. He was to be denied the power of distraining for rent, and thus no remedy would be left to him against these frauds and robberies. This fraudulent removal of crops was no new thing. He had just received a letter stating that in one part of Ireland they had commenced putting it in practice already, and that if something was not done, "blood would be shed." If hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to take the responsibility of that blood, let them do so; but he would seek to promote the passing of the Bill by every fair means in his power.
§ MR. HAWES
thought he had perceived that the suggestion which had been thrown out by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire during the discussion—namely, that the 909 law should be assimilated in England and Ireland—was received with general approbation by many of those who were carrying on the opposition to this Bill. Why not go into Committee pro formâ then, in order that any alteration which the hon. Member for the University of Dublin might wish to suggest might be printed for discussion hereafter?
§ MR. G. A. HAMILTON
appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite to adopt those proposals. Surely no hon. Gentleman could approve of fraud and injustice. The law existed in England, and no one complained of it. Let the House go into Committee pro formâ, that the hon. Member for Oxfordshire might bring forward his Amendments.
§ MR. TORRENS M'CULLAGH
thought that if they were colonists or British subjects in foreign countries, they would, no doubt, get justice from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinsale, and the noble Viscount the Foreign Secretary, but had not a chance of being treated as Englishmen, because they were mere Irish. The hon. Member for Oxfordshire had censured the Bill because it did not assimilate the law of Ireland to the law of England; and the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin coolly asked them to go into Committee for that very reason. A tenant who committed a fraud in England was committed to prison in default of payment of the sum defrauded, but they should not confound such a just law with the provisions of that Bill.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that as the ground of the debate was now entirely changed—the proposal that seemed now to be most in favour being simply the assimilation of the law in Ireland to the English and Scotch law on the subject in dispute—he wished it to be understood that those who continued to refuse the application of a remedy for a state of things under which there was evidence of the existence of an organised system of fraud and violence, were, in so doing, pursuing a course which was nothing short of justifying, if not supporting, a violation of the laws of property in Ireland.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
then said, as it was impossible the debate could lead to any result, it would be better that it should be adjourned.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.910
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
MR. M. J. O'CONNELL
wished to say, in reference to an accusation that had been made against him in the course of the debate, that when the Irish Arms Bill was before the House he had followed the system now complained of, of repeatedly moving adjournments for the purpose of obstructing the Bill, that he had not taken that course, and in support of his statement he could refer to Hansard.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock.