HC Deb 31 July 1850 vol 113 cc595-602

Order for Second Reading read.

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

MR. S. CRAWFORD moved that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."

Question proposed, "That the word `now' stand part of the Question."


said, that he arose to resume an old debate. His hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale had moved that this Bill be read a second time that day three months. He (Mr. Fox) implored the House to assent to the proposition for throwing out this Bill. He begged to inform the House that this Bill was a mutilated abstract of the original Landlord and Tenant Bill of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, of which it contained the five clauses in favour of the landlords, whereas all the clauses in favour of the tenants were cut out of this professing Landlord and Tenant Bill. Now, these clauses might possibly contain something useful, which, however, he denied altogether, either as regarded landlords or tenants; but he would not consent to discuss them now. There was at this moment violent political excitement in Ireland on the subject of the relations between landlord and tenant, and the House of Commons could not avoid considering that subject amongst the earliest of their duties next Session. The proper course would be, if there were any weight in the Bill now before the House, to discuss all this subject early next Session. The tenantry of Ireland had been promised a settlement of their claims during this Session. None had been given to them, and he implored the House and the Government not to send over to the people of Ireland this landlord Bill as the only, result of their deliberations upon their unhappy position, at a time when all parties were raising a loud outcry for the full and complete settlement of the relations of landlord and tenant.


thought that if the Government intended to bring the whole question before the House next Session, such partial legislation as this Bill contained would be useless. Nothing, in his opinion, could be more injurious than constant legislation, and the Government ought really to state what they intended to do with respect to the Bill before the House.


said, that without pledging himself to all the details of the Bill, his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland had already stated his opinion that the House ought to take the second reading, and that there were several of the clauses calulated to be of considerable benefit. In that opinion he entirely agreed. No one could doubt that the frequent carrying off of crops at night and on Sunday, and the conflicts which ensued between the police and the people, were very serious evils, and it was desirable for the benefit of all classes that some provision should take place on the subject. He should vote, therefore, for the second reading, as some of the clauses were valuable, but was by no means prepared to give his assent to the Bill as a whole.


considered that some measure was imperatively called for, in order to prevent the cutting and carrying off crops at night and upon Sundays by the tenants.


called on the House to consider well before they rejected a measure which, in effect, assimilated the law of the two countries. Every material clause was intended to do justice between landlord and tenant. Was it unjust, for instance, to enable a landlord to bring an ejeetment against a tenant who owed him a year's rent? Well, it could not be done under the present state of the law, and the Bill sought to remedy so great an injustice. Another clause was intended to meet a state of things which could not be understood in this country. When a landlord had got possession of his land from a tenant, after an expensive law process, it often happened that the tenant returned immediately, and by force or fraud got into possession of the land again. As the law stood, there was so much confusion and injustice about it, that the landlord was obliged to allow the man to remain in possession till he had brought another eject- ment. Could any one say that the clause which enabled the landlord by a simplified process, and without going into law courts at great expense, to recover his land under such circumstances, a great amendment of the law and an act of injustice? As a landlord and magistrate, he knew, and was convinced, that in nine cases out of ten between landlord and tenant, the landlord was the party aggrieved. Of his own knowledge he asserted there was more injustice, usury, injury, wrong, and violation of the law, committed upon the landlords of Ireland, than upon any class of Her Majesty's subjects. The grossest injustice and tyranny was committed against them, and the whole bearing of persons in authority in Ireland was against the landlord, and in favour of the lower orders. He knew hundreds of cases where people who owed six and seven years' rent held pos session of their land, removed their crops as they pleased, and bade defiance to their landlords. Would any man of common honesty demoralise the people by protecting such proceedings? Would any man in that House, by denouncing the landlords, give a cover to persons to commit acts of fraud and dishonesty in the performance of contracts with their landlords? It was a favourite subject with some hon. Members who had met with one or two oases of injustice and tyranny on the part of landlords, in the blue books, to inveigh against all the landlords, and to take those cases as examples of the habits of the whole class. He would challenge the persons who made such accusations against the Irish landlords, and he would leave the whole question to be decided by twelve or fifteen respectable English Members, and if he could not prove that in nine cases out of ten the landlords were the aggrieved and injured parties, he would never make the statement again. They were kept out of their rents and out of their lands—he did not say by the whole, but by a large.' part of their tenantry. He would ask the opponents of Sunday trading, would they encourage the present system of fraud and dishonesty? Any one who voted against this Bill was a direct supporter of a system which enabled the tenant to cheat his landlord by cutting and removing his crops by night and on a Sunday. The practice had taken place extensively in Ireland, conflicts had ensued between the people and the police in consequence, and lives had been lost and blood shed on several occasions. He hoped the House would consent to a Bill which would remedy such serious evils.


said, that the citizens of Waterford had great reason to congratulate themselves upon having secured the services in Parliament of the hon. Baronet who had last addressed them, and who took upon himself to assert in that House that the great mass of the tenantry of Ireland were robbers, cheats, and swindlers.


That is false.


The phrase which the hon. Baronet has used is unparliamentary, and I must call upon him to retract it.


Then I say it is untrue.


But does the hon. Member retract it?


As the phrase is held to be unparliamentary, and as you, Sir, say that it ought to be retracted, I obey your orders.


said, it was by no means an unusual tiling for hon. Members in that House to use strong negatives, and frequently to express them in unparliamentary language, while, as they were immediately obliged to withdraw those phrases, there was no danger attaching to such a course of conduct. On the present occasion the hon. Baronet had used expressions which he was compelled to withdraw; but using such language in that House was not the same thing as using it out of doors. The hon. Baronet had stated that any one who voted against going into Committee or reading a second time the Bill then before them, would, in effect, sanction a system of fraud and swindling. Without intending to quote the language of Scripture irreverently, or to impute any intentional misrepresentation to the hon. Baronet, lie would say that he had borne "false witness against" the country. The hon. Baronet, moreover, said that the landlords of Ireland were the most maligned, the most calumniated people in the whole country; and the hon. Gentleman then went on to say that on that question he was willing to appeal to the decision of twelve English gentlemen; from whom he (Mr. Reynolds) very much doubted that the hon. Baronet would receive a favourable verdict. He certainly could not reckon upon the support of such a gentleman as the Rev. Mr. Sidney Godolphin Osborne, an English Protestant clergyman, whose writings with regard to the state of Ireland had excited and merited the warmest gratitude of the unfortunate people of that country. For what Mr. Osborne had done, he (Mr. Reynolds) could not help exclaiming, "God bless him!" His humanity and benevolence were deserving of all praise. He had spoken the words of truth and justice, and, committing them to the press, had sent them not only to the furthest corners of the united kingdom, but to every land in which the English language was understood. On the statements, then, which Mr. Osborne and other witnesses had made, he would say that the people of Ireland ought not to be interfered with as to the times at which they might cut or gather in or remove their crops; and he did not hesitate to say that to resist them in that respect was an audacious, an insulting, and an Algerine proceeding. Such a measure could only have emanated from landlords of the class which Mr. Osborne described and denounced. Let Gentlemen only look at the roofless houses, the destitute people of Ireland, and then they would see the effect of landlordism as it exhibited itself in that country. As to the poor-law, he believed it was to a certain extent the salvation of Ireland, and but for its operation there would have been much more to complain of. He had recently travelled ten Irish miles, in the course of which journey he did not see one house with a roof on it, one field that was not open to the public—he did not see one man, woman, or child, or even a beast; and he could not help then exclaiming, that if ever there was a body of men who deserved to be visited with Divine vengeance, that body was the landlords of Ireland. It was time, then, that some stop should be put to their progress. More than 100 Acts of Parliament had been passed for the promotion of their interest. It was time that something should be done for the protection of the tenantry, and it was now, in the year 1850, that that enlightened legislator the hon. Member for the city of Waterford walked into that House and told them that the landlords were compelled to seek for protection. For his part, he should say that, though among the landlord class in Ireland, there were many honourable exceptions to the general rule; yet, as a body, he held that they deserved to perish. He desired only to add, that if in the course of that debate he had used any discourteous phrase or intemperate language, no one would regret anything of the sort more than he should; but he could not sit down without cautioning the Government not to listen to those who seemed inclined to "bear false witness against" the country.


denied that he had brought any wholesale accusations against the tenantry of Ireland. What he said was that, in nine cases out of ten, in disputes between landlord and tenant, the landlord was the injured party; and that he would leave to the judgment of any competent tribunal. He never knew any case come before a court of justice in which it was not manifest that the landlord was the aggrieved party.


said, he was willing to except the two clauses to which the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary objected, and merely to retain that part of the Bill which made it penal fraudulently to cut or remove crops on a Sunday, together with such other portions of the Bill as might be necessary for giving effect to that.


was glad to hear what had fallen from his hon. and learned Friend, because it obviated to a great extent his objection to the measure. He believed some legislation on the subject was necessary, but at the same time could not help adverting to the singular title of the Bill. It was entitled an Act "to improve the relations of landlord and tenant;" but there was not a single clause in the Bill with reference to the improvement of the tenant. The whole object of it was to give more power to the landlord, and he thought it ought to be entitled "a Bill for the most speedy and effectual recovery of rent in Ireland."


said, the measure was to all intents and purposes a landlords' Bill. Was this a time for passing such additional restrictions upon the people of Ireland? The attention of the people of that country had been drawn to the Bill; with one voice they denounced it, and that voice would now be more loudly heard but that they thought there was little probability of the measure being carried through Parliament at the present period of the Session. He conceived that the Legislature was not entitled thus to interfere with the rights of property. The crop was the property of the tenant, and Parliament ought not to restrict him as to the times of cutting or removing that crop. Moreover, in the north, if not in the other parts of Ireland, the tenantry were not, and ought not to be anywhere, at the mercy of the landlords. The tenant-right existed in Ulster, and was as genuine a right as any that the landlord possessed. In the name, then, of those rights and interests—in the name of equity—in the name of pacification, he called on them not to adopt such a measure. It gave the landlord a lien over the crops of a tenacity which he never before possessed; and it deprived the small holder, when he happened to be a labouring man, of the privilege of dealing with his crops between sunset and sunrise, the only opportunity a labourer could possess.


said, that any person who knew Ireland must be aware that if they expected peace in that country they must give a power to the landlord to pre-vent the fraudulent taking away of crops—a practice that had led last year to much misery.


said, he should not detain the House many minutes, but he wished to express his anxiety for the adoption of the clauses No. 6 and 7 of' this Bill being enacted, and to corroborate what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for the city of Waterford. In his opinion these clauses were essentially necessary for the preservation of tranquillity in Ireland. He would only state one case which occurred in his own immediate neighbourhood, where life had been lost for want of this Bill. A large party of persons assembled upon a Sunday morning, and being accompanied by a number of carts and horses proceeded to take possession of a quantity of corn and other produce, under distress for rent. Unfortunately a collision took place between the peasantry and the police: one man was killed, and several severely wounded. The magistrate in attendance was insulted, and the riot consequent was not quelled without great difficulties, after the arrival of the military and more bloodshed. Even this single occurrence, he thought, proved the necessity of an enactment to preserve life and property.


was against any plan for increasing the power of the landlords, and he regretted to observe that, notwithstanding all that was said, nothing was done for improving the condition of the tenantry. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was anxious that the same law should exist in England as in Ireland; but what would be said if the farmers of England were forbidden to cut their crops between sunset and sunrise?


said, the law would not prevent the farmers of Ireland from cutting their crops, but would only prevent them from carrying them away at night.


Well, it might be a good clause, but when the Government professed in the Queen's Speech to legislate on a large and comprehensive scale for the benefit of both landland and tenant in Ireland, he certainly considered that the postponing of any general measure in favour of the tenant, as well as the landlord, was not keeping faith with the people of that country.


thought it impossible to discuss the question during the present sitting; he therefore moved that the debate be adjourned.


hoped the hon. Gentleman would not persist in his Motion.


was opposed to the penal clause, which would subject tenants to the proceedings of informers if they worked in their fields after sunset. He would recommend the hon. Member to withdraw the Bill.


thought it very inconsistent to proceed with the second reading of a Bill several important clauses of which had been withdrawn.


said, the Bill had come down from the House of Lords, and the alterations which might be made in it could not be made until it went into Committee; it was therefore necessary to read the Bill a second time.

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.