§ Order read, for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [7th December], "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, he begged to draw the attention of the House to certain proceedings that had been taken in reference to this subject since the question was last before them. After the debate and division on the subject of adjournment on the previous occasion, when this measure was under discussion, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department acceded to a proposition that was originally made by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee), to have the Bill at present before the House, and the Bill commonly called Mr. Sharman Crawford's Bill, referred to a Select Committee. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland was present on the occasion, and expressed no dissent from that arrangement; and he (Mr. Fitzgerald) conceived that when one Member of the Government (the Secretary of State for the Home Department) made that arrangement, and when another Member of the Government (the Attorney General for Ireland) was present and did not object to it, the natural inference to draw was that the right hon. and learned Gentleman assented to it. Although some Members on his side of the House apprehended that the Bill introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny would be strangled in the Select Committee, still they abided by the proposition that had been agreed to. Although he (Mr. Fitzgerald) dissented from the principles of the Tenants' Compensation Bill, he felt himself bound, after assenting to what had been done by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny not to oppose the second reading; but after that proceeding had taken place in that House, he heard with great surprise an account of what occurred when a noble Earl in another place proposed a question in reference to this subject to the noble 1529 Lord at the head of the Government. In the course of the observations made by that noble Earl on that occasion, he stigmatised the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny as one calculated to subvert the rights of property, and as a communistic measure that had been twice rejected by that House; and he asked the noble Lord at the head of the Government whether the arrangement to refer the Bills to a Select Committee had taken place with his sanction? Now, if this Bill, as introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, was a communistic Bill, it appeared to him, that in truth, honesty, and plain dealing, it was the duty of the Government to oppose it step by step, and not to have consented to the second reading. Though he would not for a moment say that by consenting to the second reading, the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had pledged himself to the principle of the Bill, yet he had assented so far that he admitted it did contain a principle that might be adopted by the House. He made these observations to give his right hon. and learned Friend opposite the fullest opportunity of explaining a proceeding, which he (Mr. Fitzgerald) ventured, though a young Member, to denounce as unprecedented. Though the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had consented to send the Bill introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny to a a Select Committee, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in another place, declared that he had no hesitation in saying that he thought the principles of that Bill were entirely subversive of the rights of property, and would never be passed by the House of Commons; and he added, that the second reading was merely pro forma —that he was as much opposed as the noble Earl (the Earl of Roden), who put the question to him to the principle of the Bill, which he thought was destructive of the rights of property; that no Committee would be got to sanction such a Bill; and even if a Committee sanctioned it, no sanction would be given to it by the House of Commons. That proceeding was followed by another still more singular on the part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland; and it was in consequence of the letter to which he was going to allude that he wished to give the right hon. and learned Gentleman an opportunity of making a clear explanation on the sub- 1530 ject. It appeared that the course taken by the right hon. and learned Gentleman had been also censured, and that his own Bill had been described as a communistic Bill, destructive of the rights of property. One party charged the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) with introducing a Bill containing communistic principles; and another party, in language equally plain, accused the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, and said that his Bill was equally subversive of the rights of property. Such a charge having been made, he would read to the House a letter which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had thought fit to write and publish, addressed to the Editor of the Dublin Evening Mail, a paper which, in public repute at least, was supposed to be one of the organs of the Irish Government: —Whitehall Gardens, Saturday.Sir—J see in your paper of yesterday an article headed 'Mr. Napier's compromise of Irish property.' The charge thus put forward is attempted to he sustained by assuming that I consented to allow Mr. Serjeant Shee's Bill to be read a second time, and to go to a Select Committee with the Bills of the Government. I beg to say that the charge is utterly unfounded, and the assumption is untrue. This is as plain language as I can use to express my meaning, and I hope it is not open to any cavil for haze or ambiguity.—Truly yours,JOSEPH NAPIER.He (Mr. Fitzgerald) thought that the language of that letter was open to cavil for "haze and ambiguity," for the charge made against the right hon. and learned Gentleman was, that he assented to the second reading of the Bill introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny. He did not deny that statement in clear and plain language; but, using language that was in some degree to be expected from a gentleman belonging to the profession of the law, intimated that the assumption was unfounded and untrue. He (Mr. Fitzgerald) asked those who were present in the House at the former debate —did not the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland assent to the second reading of the Bill after the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in language plain and unambiguous. It appeared to them on that side of the House as if the arrangement had been the result of a conference amongst the Members of the Government then in the House; but, more than that, the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland spoke afterwards twice in 1531 the same debate, and they did not hear a word of dissent from him. He wished to give the right hon. and learned Gentleman an opportunity to explain, because he (Mr. Fitzgerald) complained on his own behalf, and on the part of the Gentlemen who acted with him, that there had not been true and fair dealing with them. He asserted fearlessly, that if the Bill introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny was subversive of the rights of property, and did contain communistic principles, he would feel it to be his duty to oppose it step by step; and if he should feel it to be his duty to take that course, how much more was it the duty of the Government, if they entertained that opinion, not to allow it to pass? He (Mr. Fitzgerald) now wished to state his views in reference to the principle of the Bill before the House, but at the same time it was not his intention to oppose the second reading. He would say, with reference to the two Bills that had now to some extent been the subject of discussion, that he dissented from one of them (the Bill of the Attorney General for Ireland) because he thought its principle was objectionable, while he assented to the other (the Bill introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, Mr. Serjeant Shee), because he thought it contained a true principle, though he considered its details were very objectionable. He would not then oppose the Bill of the Attorney General for Ireland, in consequence of the arrangement to which he had referred, and because the Preamble was large enough to develop the true principle; and, if so, it was open to add to, alter, or amend it, so as they did not exceed the Preamble of the Bill. He dissented from the Bill, because no measure of the kind could be satisfactory to the country, as founded on a true and just principle, unless that principle asserted property in improvements. He found that principle asserted in the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (and he was not afraid to confess that, although he adopted the principle of that Bill, he objected to most of its details), whilst the principle of the Bill introduced by the Attorney General for Ireland merely gave a defeasible compensation, variable in amount, and liable to be defeated. It was enveloped in a network of notices and proceedings, tending to produce a hostile spirit, and a system of litigation between landlord and tenant. He would say, in reference to this ques- 1532 tion, that it was not a mere Irish question, but an Imperial question, the just settlement of which was of far more importance even than the Budget of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, which they had already spent three nights in discussing.
§ MR. NAPIER
said, it was exactly on the principle last stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, that from the year 1848 to the present time he (Mr. Napier), knowing the value to Ireland of a right settlement of this question, which he considered a matter of great imperial and national importance, had laboured diligently and incessantly with the purpose of completing an equitable adjustment. He, therefore, only asked the House to listen to the grounds on which he vindicated the course he had followed in proposing his own measure, and opposing that of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, on a subject which, like many others relating to Ireland, threatened to degenerate into a personal matter. In dealing with the subject he should treat it less as an officer of the Government than as a private Member, whose only wish was how best to secure the happiness of their common country: and he did expect and hope that, notwithstanding political differences, notwithstanding any differences which might exist in private life—coming to that House on a subject which affected the interests of all Ireland, without reference to creed or party—it might have been possible for a time to give up those differences, and cooperate for the purpose of framing a measure which should work beneficially for Ireland. The question before the House, like other questions connected with Ireland, divided itself into real and personal. He had found it stated, by the correspondent of an Irish newspaper, that, in consequence of some pressure, he (Mr. Napier) had consented to the second reading of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny's Bill, which was held to be illustrative of the advantage to the Irish party of holding together and managing their policy in that House on a certain principle. That statement, however, was not true. The hon. and learned Gentleman would bear him out when he stated that on one or two occasions he told the hon. and learned Gentleman that he did not find it convenient to take on himself the charge of perfecting arrangements which might not coincide with the arrangements of the House, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was 1533 the proper person to control; and he referred him to the right hon. Gentleman, adding that he would not interfere with any arrangement. On the Monday night, when the Bills were put down for a second reading, he came prepared to state his reasons for objecting to the Bill of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, and he would add that he had insuperable objections to that measure; and though he would not say, like others, that he had closed his mind against all arguments, yet, as at present advised, he did not see his way to giving any assent to it. At eleven o'clock at night it was called on, but there was evidently no opportunity of entering upon a debate on such a subject. A most important trial was to take place in Dublin on the Wednesday, which he (Mr. Napier) was under obligation to attend. The hon. and learned Member for Athlone then told him that his Bill was rank nonsense, every line of it, and challenged him to a discussion. He was obliged, therefore, to send off an express on Tuesday morning to Dublin, intimating that it was necessary for him to remain hero for the purpose of defending the principle of his own Bill against the principle of the Bill brought forward by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny. He (Mr. Napier) came down on Tuesday. He had no contract, understanding, arrangement, or anything of the sort, but he desired that his own Bill should go forward. Believing the two Bills to be irreconcileable, and seeing that the hon. Gentleman had adopted the principle, and, indeed, all the details of Mr. Sharman Crawford's Bill, he took it as a matter of course that those who supported the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny would raise a discussion, in which he should be able to state his reasons for supporting his own Bill, The debate went on. The learned Serjeant made a very long and elaborate speech; and as he (Mr. Napier) had himself probably taken up too much time, he thought it but fair and reasonable to allow hon. Gentlemen opposite to express their opinions before he rose to reply. One of his own Friends, the hon. and learned Member for Armagh (Mr. Ross Moore), was the only Member who spoke on his (Mr. Napier's) side; and then the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Ball) made a very temperate and fair speech. He (Mr. Napier) was asked by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to follow the hon. Member for Carlow, and was prepared to do so, when the, adjournment 1534 of the debate was moved, and the House divided on the question of the adjournment. Up to that moment he (Mr. Napier) had no notion but that the debate was to go on. When he came back from the lobby it was stated that it had been arranged by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who took charge of matters connected with Ireland, that as there were difficult details to he considered, it would be proper that the Bills should go before a Select Committee, and that, therefore, the convenient course would be to let the hon. and learned Member's Bill go along with them, when the several details could be carefully examined, and by these means the House would be placed in a condition more satisfactorily to settle the whole question at once and for ever. He (Mr. Napier) heard that proposition first announced by the Secretary for the Home Department, whom he had known for many years on terms of the greatest intimacy—a man of the highest honour, and one who, in whatever he did, acted from the best of motives. After this arrangement had been made, as it was said, in a spirit of conciliation, he (Mr. Napier) considered it would have been a petty thing for him to express his individual dissent, though he did not concur in the arrangement at all. So stood the matter; and having now cleared the subject of everything personal, and cherishing an honest and anxious desire to take a good course for Ireland, he appealed confidently to the House and the country whether the course he had taken was not the best adapted to achieve that object which they all professed to have at heart? Let it be observed that he did not understand any substantial objection to be taken to three out of the four Bills he had submitted to the House. A controversy had no doubt arisen with respect to the fourth. But the House ought not to consider the Bill now before it as severed from the others: they were all parts of one whole, and as such only should they be considered. By the first Bill he provided for the case of landlords themselves executing improvements. That was a matter which had not yet been proposed to be dealt with by Parliament; but it was one which by the Devon Report was shown to be of very great importance, because the complaint in Ireland was that improvements were thrown on the tenant, whereas they ought to be made by the landlord. They would find, that having enabled the landlord to make a certain class of improvements, 1535 under restrictions, when he came to the case of the tenant he gave him like powers, with similar checks, and with due precautions to prevent fraud. The Bill to which he attached the greatest importance was that for facilitating the leasing power of landlords, taking as the basis of his code the principle of contract between the two parties, and facilitating it to the utmost extent the rights of property would allow. The third Bill was a consolidation of all the laws affecting the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland; and then came the fourth Bill, on which the difficulties and objections of hon. Gentlemen arose. His desire was, that the whole of that Bill should be sifted to the bottom by a full Parliamentary discussion before it went over to be discussed in Ireland. It was far better that it should be thoroughly examined in that House before it was brought before excited audiences with one-sided views, or made the subject of articles in newspapers, denouncing himself, like the learned Serjeant, as an author of communistic measures. He thought, therefore, that if it were fully examined in Parliament, the public would be in a better position to judge on the merits which of the two measures was right. In bringing forward this code, he had to deal with a peculiar and difficult case —namely, where parties had made no contract, and where the landlord was unwilling or unable to make improvements (as was not unfrequently the case), and where the tenant was willing to make them, by his capital and his industry—provided he could obtain a just compensation — and, having regard to the particular circumstances of Ireland, he thought the principle of the measure he had introduced to regulate that case was fair and just. The subject was not new, nor did he pretend to any infallibility in respect to it. For years back hon. Members had been speaking on this subject, and he had always answered them by begging that they would put their views in the shape of a Bill or clause, and then they would see what were the difficulties which beset legislation on the subject. Let them bring in what Bills and draw what clauses they pleased; yet they would find it useless to put upon legislation more than legislation would bear; there were moral duties as well as social obligations involved in the relations between landlord and tenant, which legislation might no doubt facilitate, but the performance of which no 1536 legislation could compel. Like the learned Serjeant he had tried to reconcile the rights of property with the rights of industry. The learned Serjeant said that they ought to endeavour to encourage improvement by the tenant. He quite agreed with him, but he said, also, that they must respect the rights of property. It was not the rich alone who were interested in preserving those rights; the poorest man in the country was as much interested in their preservation as the greatest proprietor in the land, for he had the fruits of his labour to guard; and what was property but the accumulations of industry? He found, in legislating on the subject, two models to go by. He found three Bills had been introduced in past years with respect to it— one in the House of Lords, and two in the House of Commons—all of which had undergone very careful consideration on the point of compensation; though, as yet, no Bill had been introduced but his own with respect to the leasing powers of landlords. One of these Bills went through a Select Committee of the House of Lords, another had been introduced into that House without a dissentient voice; and a third, having been brought into that House by the late Government, was sent up to a Select Committee, which was composed entirely of Irish Members—with the exception of Mr. Pusey, the then Member for Berkshire, who took a great interest in the question, and also the hon. Member for Surrey. It had been finally adjusted by this Committee. Now, he appealed to those hon. Members if he could have taken a more natural model than a Bill on which such a Committee, after having sat for three hours a day for three months, had come to such a conclusion, and which, when amended, had been received without objection- by the House, though Her Majesty's Government of that day had not taken any subsequent steps to pass it into a law, except introducing the Bill, as amended, in 1850? In September, 1851,he found forty-one of the hon. Members who sat opposite had met and passed a Resolution that they would not support any Government which did not make a Bill embodying the principles of Mr. S. Crawford's measure a Cabinet question. ["Hear hear!"from the Irish Members.] Well, it was perfectly fair and honest for them to say so, if they really believed the principles of that measure were the best—and the question the House had now to decide was whether the. Bill he proposed, or that 1537 which had been introduced by the learned Serjeant, was most fitted for the object in view. Mr. S. Crawford's Bill was presented to the House and considered by them in 1848; and the only difference between it and the Bill now presented by the hon. and learned Serjeant was, that an addition had been made to the latter—the two principles of fixity of tenure and compulsory valuation. Now, if Parliament had rejected Mr. S. Crawford's Bill of 1848, a fortiori it must reject the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny in 1852, seeing that nothing had been changed in it except for the worse. He bad been a party to the rejection of the former measure of 1848, along with the Secretary of State for the Home Department at the time (Sir G. Grey), who led the opposition to it, and the House pronounced against it by a large and overwhelming majority, on the ground of its interference with the rights of property. So closely did the Bill introduced by the learned Serjeant resemble the last Bill of Mr. S. Crawford, that it even copied its verbal errors. Well, then, be asked hon. Gentlemen opposite if any man, wishing honestly and sincerely to settle the question of tenants' compensation, could have adopted as a model a Bill which had been already deliberately rejected by Parliament by a large majority? The principle adopted for legislation on this subject by the noble Lord now at the head of the Government, when, as Lord Stanley, he had charge of the Bill in the other House in 1845, was, that "if the tenant does improve by the expenditure of industry or capital, he shall not be afterwards turned out penniless, and without compensation." That principle was carried out in his Bill; and Lord Devon stated in his place in Parliament at the time that the Commissioners had, after full consideration, come to the conclusion that the Bill would answer the purpose intended. Well, he had adopted that principle, and the Bill he had introduced was more liberal to the tenant than that introduced by the late Government, and approved of by the Select Committee of Irish Members; and if that were so, and if its machinery was less complicated, he thought he might escape crimination and personalities. If any one could assist him in improving or simplifying his Bill, nothing would give him more pleasure. He had laboured at it long to carry out his own views; he could not violate his opinions with respect to the rights of property; but, 1538 being honestly anxious to settle the question, and to put an end to agitation in Ireland—for there was only one form of agitation which they could afford to despise, and that was agitation without a real grievance —he had tried to carry out the principle of compensating the tenant for his improvements without any aggression on the rights of the landlord. The objections raised to the Bill, in which he had endeavoured to do so, were of two classes. First, it was said by the learned Serjeant he destroyed the the tenant-right of Ulster, and the property accumulated and acquired on the faith of it. He was surprised at such a charge; but, if so, the Bill of Lord Stanley, approved of by the Devon Commissioners, and the Bill of the hon. Member for Carlisle and Lord Lincoln, and the Bill of the late Government as amended by Irish Members, were open to the same objection. But be was the last man who could be supposed to have any motive for the destruction of Ulster tenant-right. Ulster was his native province; he was connected with it by all the ties of lineage, of early life, and of professional exertion. If his Bill would destroy tenant-right, it was strange he had heard no observations to that effect from hon. Members connected with Ulster, or representing counties in that province. As to that tenant-right, he would ask how his Bill or any Bill could destroy it? He denied that the tenant-right of Ulster had been properly defined by the learned Serjeant, who bad, in fact, totally mistaken what the tenant-right of Ireland was. He held in his hand a pamphlet published by the hon. and learned Member for Cork, in which he quoted the words of Arthur Young in 1766, showing how the tenantry of Ulster then cultivated, or rather "barrened" the land, uniting with such cultivation the labour of the loom. By degrees, as the province become prosperous by its trade, competition for land increased, and the custom sprang up of paying the outgoing tenant for the interest of his farm—a custom which the landlord often encouraged, as the outgoing tenant often paid him the arrears of rent out of the money so received by his successor. It was not to be supposed that the prosperity of Ulster was caused by tenant-right —neither was it that prosperity which gave such a value to the land as to render the interest in it worth paying for. He knew cases where the custom had operated in the most injurious way—where a tenant in arrear, for example, sold his farm to the 1539 best bidder, who then came into possession, and was unable to cultivate it properly from the want of capital, as he had expended it all on the purchase of the good-will. The relation between landlord and tenant in this respect was much better managed in Scotland. There it was, as had been observed in a most excellent letter he had received from a very sensible gentleman, well informed on the subject, a matter of contract at the beginning of the term what the improvements were to be, and who were to make them, instead of being a scramble between landlord and tenant at the end of it. There was a great difference of opinion as to the meaning of tenant-right as used by different parties. He contended that the only thing the House could justly legislate for was compensation for the tenant's improvements; and, if he confined himself to that, was he to be told that he could not legislate justly without destroying the Ulster tenant-right? That right had not been created by Act of Parliament, and it ought not to be interfered with; but if hon. Gentlemen thought his Bill would affect it, he had no objection to the insertion of a clause in his Bill providing that its enactments should not affect any existing custom in any part of Ireland. In the views he had carried out, he was supported by the admirable report of the Society of Friends, and the report of the Devon Commission. In the Bill he had introduced, he was fortified by the opinion of that House, by legislators, wise men, and philanthropists, and he was, above all, justified by their deliberate judgment in refusing to interfere with the private dealings and relations of landlords and tenants. Next he came to the charge against his Bill of complication of machinery. In the first place, he would say he had no objection whatever to amend it in that point, and if any one could show him any machinery more simple and efficacious, no one would be more delighted than himself—for what object could he have in using any machinery but that best adapted to carry out the principles of his measure? But it was a difficult thing to deal with; it was difficult to legislate in such cases between tenants for life and remaindermen and reversioners; and in such complicated cases, and to provide against fraud, they must take care that the law should carefully supervise those improvements for which the law forced the landlord to make compensation. Now, he would say that the machinery pro- 1540 posed by Lord Stanley's Bill was more complicated than that of the Bill he had introduced, and that he could compare the present measure, on that point, with the Bill of Lord Lincoln and Sir James Graham, or with the Bill of the late Government, on which there was the greatest unanimity of opinion on the part of the Irish Members. He confidently appealed to his Bill to show how much more favourable he was to the tenant than the authors of any of those measures, and that its machinery was more simple. As a proof of that, indeed, he might remind hon. Members opposite that he had been charged with communism. He did not regard such charges. He was persuaded that if a man acted honestly, though he would not escape abuse, the good sense of the public would in the end do him justice. He had had no object but to make his Bill as complete as possible, and in that attempt he had received the assistance of eminent men, and amongst others two of the learned Commissioners of the Encumbered Estates Court, and he had received the assurances of Mr. Griffith that he approved of every one of his Bills. He had also received a letter from tenant-farmers in the north of Ireland expressing a decided approval of the Bills, and thanking him for introducing them. It was worthy of remark, too, that in the report of the Board of Works, which was issued about a week ago, it was stated that in some places the small tenant-farmers, with that quickness which characterised the Irish, had by their own skill and industry acquired a sufficient knowledge of the system of drainage which was carried on under the inspection of the Board of Works to enable them to execute the drainage of their own farms, but that, not being in the position of owners, they were not qualified to obtain loans for the purpose of carrying out those improvements under the existing Act. Under this Bill of his (Mr. Napier's), however, these small tenants would be enabled by their own industry to execute the necessary improvements on their farms, and at the same time to secure to themselves adequate compensation. He maintained, therefore, that so far as his Bill operated, it must be beneficial to the tenants of Ireland; and he believed that the more it was examined and understood, the more satisfied they would be that he had done all for them that was possible. Now, Mr. S. Crawford, who was examined before the Devon Commission, stated his great object to be a 1541 practical prolongation of tenure, founded on valuable improvements made by the tenant. This he proposed to effect by giving the tenant power to claim compensation, and that the landlord might pay by prolonging the tenure rather than by money; the more substantial the improvements, the more likely to end in such prolongation of tenure. Mr. Crawford also thought that with yearly tenants the plan of having the improvements valued on completion might properly be adopted; and he stated his opinion that the continuance of possession at a fair adjusted rent would in all cases afford compensation and a sufficient return to the tenant for any calls upon him. In reply to the question, "Are you prepared to state specifically the mode in which that part of your system, the adjustment of rent, could be carried out?" Mr. Crawford said—"I am of opinion that it is a thing which cannot be done by compulsory enactment." Now, those words ought to be printed in letters of gold. Mr. Crawford then added that by establishing a correct public valuation, a basis for amicable adjustment would be formed, which would gradually be adopted. This subject had also been handled by the hon. and learned Member for the county of Cork (Mr. V. Scully), in a work published so recently as 1851, in which he properly separated the temporary and the permanent evils to be remedied, and suggested the special consideration of special cases of hardship since 1846. The two branches, he said, rested on different grounds, and should be kept wholly distinct, He referred to a letter of Mr. Sharman Crawford, published in April, 1851, in which, speaking of compulsory valuation, he said—If a principle affecting in so strong a manner the rights of property be brought before the Legislature, the favourable position will be lost. The contest will be recommenced on what I fear is an untenable position.Mr. Scully spoke of compulsory adjustment as likely to be regarded by the Legislature "as an unjust and visionary scheme, calculated to interfere unduly with private contracts." He said—It will be for the advantage of each industrious tenant to feel assured that the idea of now forcing all owners or landlords to part with their lands for maximum rents or fines, to be fixed by public arbitrators or by juries of farmers, or through any other mode of compulsory valuation, is one of those delusions which can end only in the sacrifice of the attainable for the unattainable, of the substantial benefit for the impracticable 1542 scheme. For these and other obvious reasons, it is the plain interest of the tenant class to abandon an idea which in principle is utterly unsound, and in practice would prove most injurious to both landlord and tenant, and possibly end in' a depopulation of the country,He had then the opinions both of Mr. S. Crawford and of the hon. and learned Member for the county of Cork, that they ought not to disturb the integrity of the contract between landlord and tenant, or to interfere unduly with the rights of property. The late Sir Robert Peel, who was a great authority on matters of this kind, stated, when he assented to the appointment of the Devon Commission, that he would not allow it to go forth that there was any intention whatever of interfering with the rights of property, and he added that such interference would inflict a most serious blow upon the industry of the country. For his own part, he (Mr. Napier) must say, that he would not introduce any Bill which he believed in his conscience and judgment would violate that principle, and he considered that to endeavour to adjust rent by compulsory valuation would be an invasion of those rights. What he had done was this. He had endeavoured to promote the interests of the tenant in possession, and had not unduly fettered him in making improvements. There were certain classes of improvements, which, on principles of public policy, ought to be made either by the landlord and tenant jointly, by contract, or by the landlord if he chose to undertake them himself; but if the landlord did not choose to effect them, he (Mr. Napier) thought that the tenant should not be prevented from making them, because they were connected with the beneficial cultivation of the land. He considered it a fair and just principle that a man who made such improvements should be allowed to look to others, who were to share the benefit, for some compensation. Now, he (Mr. Napier) thought that he had carried out Mr. S. Crawford's suggestion by securing to the tenant the possession of his farm, when improvements had been made, until such a period had expired as might be fairly considered a compensating period for those improvements; and it the tenant was interfered with by the landlord before that period expired, he (Mr. Napier) would give the tenant the value of the unexhausted term for that compensating period. Now, with regard to the class of improvements to which the Bill related, he would not attempt to 1543 place his own opinion in competition with that of those who were practically acquainted with the subject; but he had endeavoured to obtain the best information he could acquire, and he invited suggestions in Committee from any quarter. If any other classes of improvements could be introduced into the Bill, he would at once say let them be candidly considered, and, if they were deemed wise and just, by all means let them be included in the measure. If the periods he had fixed upon were too short, let them be extended; if the machinery he proposed was too complicated, let it be simplified. No one would be more delighted than himself if the measure could be rendered more just towards the tenantry of Ireland. He believed he stood in this position, that he had not introduced into his measure a single principle that had not, at one time or other, received the sanction of Parliament. He had thought it better to adopt that course than to propose any measures which, though they might please persons out of doors, might have the effect of perilling the rights of property. He would now take leave to offer a few remarks with reference to the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for the county of Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee). The Bill of 1843, which was presented to the House by Mr. Sharman Crawford, and which led to the issue of the Devon Commission, did not say one word about enabling the tenant to force a surrender on his landlord, but provided that when a tenant should be required to pay an increased rent, or should be served with notice to deliver up possession, he might claim compensation for certain classes of improvements, and for this purpose very complicated machinery was proposed. He did not agree with the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman as to the tenant-right custom of Ulster, because he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement involved the principle of the compulsory valuation of rent.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHEE
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman was entirely mistaken. The words "fair valuation" in the recital of the tenant-right custom of Ulster, meant a valuation which was, in point of fact, fair.
§ MR. NAPIER
Well, in fact fair. That was still a matter of opinion; but he had always been opposed to any interference as to the question of rent between landlord and tenant. In fact, he regarded rent as a matter of contract—a commercial 1544 transaction between landlord and tenant. He might, indeed, appeal to the evidence of Mr. Sharman Crawford himself, who said that the adjustment of rent was a thing that could not be effected by compulsory enactment. Now, how did the hon. and learned Member propose that the fairness of the valuation should be decided? By arbitration. The landlord and tenant were to appoint arbitrators, who would of course be mere partisans, receiving instructions from those who appointed them. Well, if they could not agree they were to appoint an umpire, and, if no decision then took place, the matter might be brought before the Assistant Barrister, and either party might require a reference to a jury. Now, the hon. and learned Member for the county of Cork had said that such valuation, whether by arbitrators or by jury, was a delusion. [Mr. V, SCULLY observed that, in the very next page of his book to that in which he condemned the system of compulsory arbitration, he said that the custom of Ulster ought to be legalised.] He (Mr. Napier) further objected to the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for the county of Kilkenny, because it presumed all the improvements to be the property of the tenant. He (Mr. Napier) was perfectly willing that the tenant should get the value for the compensating period, but he could not consent to make the improvements effected upon the soil the absolute and unqualified property of the tenant. The 10th section of the Bill provided that tenants might serve notice of surrender with a demand for a reduction of rent. Now, he (Mr. Napier) thought he had given the full benefit to the tenant in this way—that if the landlord sought to increase his rent by giving the tenant notice to quit, the tenant was secured in possession at the rent at which he then held if the landlord did not pay the sum awarded as compensation. He begged to say plainly and honestly that he could not see his way to the adoption of the principles of the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny; but that, having taken up principles which he had found already embodied in previous Bills, and which had met his own approval and conviction, he had endeavoured to work them out liberally towards the tenant. He had anxiously devoted himself to this subject long before he was or expected to be connected with the present Government; and he appealed to Gentlemen on both 1545 sides of the House who wished to see a good, tenant law, and who wished to sec the question speedily settled by Parliament, to abandon all personal recriminations— which only retarded useful legislation—and join with him in the honest endeavour to secure a good agricultural code for the people of Ireland. If they did so, and if the law when passed were impartially administered to all classes of the community, as he doubted not it would be, he should not despair of yet living to see the day when their proceedings would contribute to the substantial good and prosperity of Ireland.
§ MR. LUCAS
said, he quite agreed in the spirit of the appeal which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had made to both sides of the House in his closing remarks; but he must say, that in making that appeal the right hon. and learned Gentleman bad not done justice to the remarks which the hon. and learned Member for Ennis (Mr. Fitzgerald) had made in introducing the subject that day to the notice of the House. He (Mr. Lucas) did not understand the remarks of that hon. and learned Gentleman as having been made in a spirit of angry recrimination at all; neither did he understand him as having made any charges against the right hon. and learned Gentleman; but what he understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to say was this—that Her Majesty's Government had placed this question in a peculiar position, which required a distinct and explicit explanation; and in a spirit of perfect fairness he called for that explanation, which he (Mr. Lucas) was sorry to say had not yet been given. The question which the hon. and learned Gentleman had asked was this: It had been agreed on the appeal of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) to refer the four Bills which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had brought forward, and the Bill which came from that (the Opposition) side of the House, to a Select Committee. It had been understood that that Committee was to be a fair and impartial Committee; that it was to be perfectly free and unfettered as to the conclusions at which they should arrive; and that the Government were also to be unfettered as to their power of approving of those conclusions, if they should find them to be reasonable. But how did the matter stand now? It appeared that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, 1546 in answer to a question put to him in another place, had stated that if the decision of the Committee should turn out to be of a certain complexion—however it might be supported by evidence and reason—-that was a conclusion against which the Government was now and would be for ever absolutely pledged. Now, this had entirely altered the state of the case; and it was important therefore to know whether he and others were mistaken in supposing that such was the fact. He wished to know, then, from the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether the inquiry was really to be an illusory one, or a bonâ fide and satisfactory inquiry? The right hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to a resolution which many Members of that House had adopted at a meeting in Dublin. He (Mr. Lucas) adopted that resolution, and was ready to maintain it. He believed that the principle of Mr. Sharman Crawford's Bill was absolutely and indispensably necessary to the permanent and satisfactory settlement of this question; but would he, therefore, go into the Committee pledged against inquiry, determined not to allow any new light to enter his mind on the subject, and to resist every evidence that could be offered to him? Nothing of the kind. He should enter into the Committee in no such spirit, but the very opposite; and he wanted to know if Government were ready to do the same? The reason why he objected to the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman might be described in one word. He, and he believed those who acted with him, wished to have a measure of conservation. In other words, they desired to have a liberal and conservative reform, and they objected to the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because they believed it was a measure which, in its whole essence and character (excepting one or two good principles which lay at its base without producing any effect on the superstructure), was not liberal and conservative, but illiberal and revolutionary. The difference between a conservative and a revolutionary measure, according to his idea, was this, that the one took into account that which already existed, and, while cautiously and skilfully pruning away whatever of evil might be found to attach to it, endeavoured, with equal caution and skill, to develop to the fullest extent all that it contained of good—while the other proceeded on the opposite principle. Now, he objected to the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because it took no 1547 account of the past circumstances of Ireland; because it was founded mainly upon abstract principles, and endeavoured to introduce a new order of things which had no basis in Irish habits or Irish society. Circumstances which might be true in England or Scotland, and which might properly determine the compensating period, did not exist in Ireland, and could not be applied to that country without producing confiscation. He had no charge to make against the Devon Commission, but the case of the tenant had not yet been stated fairly. The subject was distasteful to the English people, because they had been led to believe that the Irish tenant-farmer was a listless, unimproving sort of person, and they were apt to imagine that the best Landlord and Tenant Bill that could be framed for Ireland would only be labour thrown away. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had frequently referred hon. Members to a book which had been brought out under his superintendence, and which he adopted as his own. That book contained an assertion to which he wished to call the attention of the House for a moment. In the Report of the Devon Commission, or in the Digest, he forgot which, it was stated that it was a very doubtful point whether the landlord laid any portion of the rent on the improvements of the tenant. But the book which was written under the superintendence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman went further than this, and converted the indication of doubt into a positive assertion, that very few cases of the kind existed. Now, this was an assertion which had been so notoriously falsified by abundance of evidence, that he wondered any one could be so misled as to put it upon paper. In 1780 Arthur Young estimated the whole rental of Ireland as under 6,000,000l. sterling. What was it now? According to the best authorities, it appeared that even after the famine it was near 12,000,000l. [Murmurs ofdissent.] According to the poor-law valuation of 1850 it was 11,923,459l., and the actual rental would of course be greater than these estimates from valuations. Well, whence did this increase of 6,000,000l. arise? It must have arisen from improvements on the land effected by somebody. Every one admitted that the landlords had not made them, and there could not be a shadow of doubt, he thought, that they had been made by the tenants. Well, how did the case stand as regarded England? In Porter's Progress of the 1548 Nation, a work which was considered a great authority on statistics, it was stated that, "with scarcely any exception, the revenue drawn in the form of rent from the ownership of the soil has been at least doubled in every part of Great Britain since 1790." That was to say, that the rental in Great Britain and Ireland had increased in precisely the same proportion. But he begged the House to bear in mind that in England the improvements on the land had been effected by the combined exertion and enterprise of landlord and tenant, whereas in Ireland they had been effected by the unaided, depressed, discouraged, much-abused, and calumniated tenantry. In Ireland the tenant alone—the tenant whom it was the fashion here to calumniate and despise—["No, no!"]—yes, it was the fashion of' writers of all shades of opinion to calumniate and despise him, and recently, in discussion respecting this measure, he had been described as listless and improvident, one whom no encouragement could make to improve; and it had been stated by important journals in this country that there was no danger that he would "improve the landlord out of his property"—this calumniated and despised tenant, who lived in a miserable dwelling, because he dared not live in a better, lest extortion should fix its fangs upon him more deeply if he appeared to possess any wealth, and who wore frieze in many instances because the landlord said, "No tenant of mine shall wear broadcloth;" the tenant, weighted with impediment, and subjected to difficulties, had increased the rental as much as landlord and tenant cooperating had done in England. Arthur Young estimated the rent of land in Ireland in 1780, taking good and bad together, at 6s. 4d. per English acre; it was difficult, in consequence of the famine, to ascertain the rent in 1850, but before the famine M'Culloch and others estimated the average at something like 16s. or 17s, Arthur Young, after very careful calculation and inquiry, estimated the produce of oat and barley land in 1780 at 28 bushels per English acre; the accurate returns of Captain Larcom for 1850 showed 38¼ bushels for oats, and for barley 39¼. This enormous increase, which was duo almost exclusively to the industry, enterprise, and thrift of the much-calumniated Irish tenant-farmer, made the state of the crops bear comparison with those in England. M'Culloch gave the produce in England in 1841 at 36 bushels per acre for oats, and 32 1549 for barley; the work entitled British Husbandry put oats at 32 bushels, and barley at 36; Mr. Caird, the Times Commissioner, the latest writer on the subject, put the produce higher; but though, according to him, it was greater in oats, it was less in barley than in Ireland: taking the three authorities, the average to be derived from them was 37⅓ bushels of oats, and 35½ of barley per acre, both being below the amount of produce per acre in Ireland, It was thought here that the Irish farmer knew nothing about green crops; but Captain Larcom's statistics, compared with those of England, showed that the proportion of green crops to grain was as great in Ireland as in England. M'Culloch stated the number of acres in England under wheat, barley, oats, rye, beans, and peas in 1841 at 7,700,000—Mr. Caird, in 1851, at 7,972,500; the number of acres under potatoes, turnips, and other green crops was stated by the former at 1,200,000, and by the latter at 3,416,750. In Ireland, according to Captain Larcom, in 1850, there were 3,149,553 acres under wheat, oats, barley, here, rye, beans, and peas, and 1,317,572 acres under turnips, mangolds, potatoes, and other green crops. To take another point; his object being, as the black and bad side of the agricultural system in Ireland had been generally presented to the British public, to show that there was a good side to be encouraged and developed, lest Parliament should legislate in ignorance of it, and he destroying that which was not merely valuable but invaluable. A Committee of that House which sat in 1830 on the state of the Irish poor took evidence which showed that very considerable improvement had then recently taken place in farming, and particularly in farming implements— ploughs, harrows, &c.—everything that spoke of an active, industrious, improving class, a class ready to improve, though with the prospect of being deprived of the fruits of their industry; a class whose good qualities the right hon. and learned Gentleman should recognise and encourage, and not treat them as a class out of whom very little good was to be got, and from whose hands the power of improvement and the machinery which was to give the reward for it should be taken, to be placed in the hands of the landlords, who as a class had made no improvements and done nothing, and to whom if it had been left the land would have been as barren now as 200 years ago. One of the witnesses, a large 1550 land agent, said, "I think the improvement of Ireland has been more rapid than any improvement I ever saw in England in any large tract of country." He was speaking of a term of ten or fifteen years; and supposing that there was some exaggeration, still there must have been great improvement. He (Mr. Lucas) had inquired a little into the progress that had been made in some districts in regard to agricultural implements, because progress in this respect would show that the tenant was anxious to improve, and was in himself a machinery of improvement which it would be well not to disregard. To take an instance—Callan, in the county of Kilkenny; some thirty years ago the agricultural implements in use were of the very rudest description. There was the old common wooden plough, which was superseded by the Scotch wooden plough, and that again by the iron plough, now become universal. An old man, still resident in Callan, about twenty-six years ago made the first iron plough in that part of the country. Since then he had made about 870, another blacksmith 700, another 30, besides iron harrows and other agricultural implements. He (Mr. Lucas) was not protending that Irish agriculture was on a level with English; but he wished to show that the Irish tenant-farmers had made every effort which they had the means of making, and very much more than they had any encouragement in making, and that if we did not disturb the existing system of improvement which had been but momentarily disarranged by the famine, and if the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland would but let them call that which was their property their own, and allow them that security and encouragement, there was an immense and magnificient machinery of improvement at work upon the soil, and that to interpose obstructions and restrictions, thinking to take improvement out of the hands of the tenant and put it into the hands of the landlord, would be doing an unmitigated evil. He had made inquiries with respect to particular counties in detail. He had had the means of making them best in Kilkenny. He had been enabled to obtain Mr. Griffith's last valuation of several baronies, separating the value of the land from that of the buildings. He found there a large, estate, the buildings upon which, according to Mr. Griffith's valuation (which was much below the actual cost and value), were of the annual value of 2,178l 1551 and how much of them had been erected by the landlord? Just three houses, the value of which was something less than the odd 178l., and buildings worth 2,000l a year had been added to that estate exclusively by the tenants. He had found the same thing in other baronies. The annual value of the land in four baronies in that county, excluding the city of Kilkenny, was given at 132,124l.; and of the buildings, 23,986l.: taking the rest of the county and dividing the value between land and houses in this proportion (excluding the city), the value of the land would be nearly 300,000l., and of the buildings, 53,000l. He had inquired what proportion of the annual value of the land itself, as distinct from the buildings, had been created by improvements made by the tenants; and, after comparing the answers he had obtained, his conclusion was, that in that county the value of the land had been doubled since 1780, the period when Arthur Young wrote, by the tenants—that half its present annual value had been created by them, and all but a small percentage of the buildings. Such an immense amount of property called for great caution in dealing with it. As these buildings were estimated very much under their real value, the annual estimate might be taken at thirty years' purchase; and, taking the tenants' share of the land at twenty years' purchase, you had in the county of Kilkenny property created by the tenants to an enormous amount— no less than 3,000,000l. in land, and 1,500,000l. in buildings. To come now to the proposition about compensating periods, the principle of compensating periods applied to Ireland as to England. A man in England who got a building lease of a plot of ground paid, say 10l. a year, for so many feet of frontage and depth, and upon that he built a house which he could let during the term of his lease for, say 40l. or 50l. a year. The possession of a house during a long building lease would enable the owner to get sufficient rent, not only to cover the interest of his capital, but also sufficient to enable him to create a fund sufficient to replace the capital he had expended after a given number of years. He had two things, therefore, to depend upon—first, the contract under which he held the property that produced the rent, and which was a security that all the powers on the face of the earth could not touch; and, secondly, the ability which that contract gave him to secure the re- 1552 placement of his capital. Now, was that the case in Ireland? It was said that the Irish tenant was left in possession of his improvements, and that if he was so left a certain time, that was in itself a compensation. But he said in Ireland the landlord was the person in possession, and not the man whose capital and industry had made the improvements. The possession belonged to the landlord, who took out by a rack-rent not merely the natural value of the soil unimproved, but also the worth of every improvement the tenant made. At the end of the period, when the industrious improving tenant had lived like a serf, sometimes like a pig, and with a pig, in something little better than a sty, had lived hardly, not eating meat more than eight or ten times in a year, the light hon. and learned Gentleman would turn round upon the man who had been robbed of everything, and from whom the landlord had exacted year by year, not merely a high rent for the land in its natural state, but every farthing he could for the very improvements he had made upon it, and the man was to be told that the privilege of having been robbed for seven, fourteen or twenty-one years was compensation for his improvements. ["No, no!"] Some hon. Gentleman seemed to think the picture too highly coloured. What said the Encumbered Estates Commissioners in their Report of May, 1851? Speaking of Clare, Limerick, Tipperary, and Mayo, they said—In these counties the rents reserved are generally so disproportional to the value as to afford no true measure of the income derivable out of the lands. "And, again," As to the rates of purchase generally, it is fallacious to estimate the number of years from the published rentals, which usually represent the rents of 1845 and previous years, and which in many instances were even then excessive, and far beyond any sums that could possibly be collected from the tenants.Far beyond what could "possibly be collected," even taking into account the increased productiveness of the soil created by the tenants. He (Mr. Lucas) had inquired about the rental of land in other counties than Kilkenny, and the answer he got was, that even with good landlords, in whole districts of Ireland, where very considerable improvements had been made, the custom was to put an impossible rent upon the tenant. ["No, no!"] He was not saying it was universal; thore might be many exceptions; but he was speaking of particular districts, large districts, which would be affected by this Bill, He 1553 had in his mind a landlord whoso general character he respected, in intention an extremely good landlord, who, he was told, in common with his whole class in the district, put impossible rents upon his tenants as a system. The difference between good and bad landlords was, that the good landlord did not actually attempt to enforce the rent, hut left it hanging over the tenant; while the bad landlord did so attempt, at least if he had a motive, as, for instance, when an election occurred. If from any cause the tenant did not conduct himself as the servile tool of the landlord, the arrear of this impossible rent was demanded —a matter which (the subject of arrears) was to be dealt with by this Bill, he was glad to see, to a certain extent. What could you make of a "compensating period" under such conditions? He (Mr. Lucas) had made inquiries with respect to various estates in the county of Kilkenny. In regard to one property, he had an account of thirty-one tenants upon seven townlands, where the landlord was tolerably popular, and the estate really well managed; the land was not peculiarly fertile, it was mountain land. The rent for the whole seven townlands before 1790 was, as far as he could ascertain, about 320l., and he believed that was very nearly the fact; that was about 8s. 8d. per Irish acre. The highest rent during the war was 846l., or 22s. 10d. per Irish acre. The rent now was 675l., or 18s. 3d. per Irish acre. Such had been the increase since 1790, where no improvement whatever had been made by the landlord. The tenants themselves had made all these improvements, and they were paying now 18s. 3d, upon their own improvements. What did they consist of? Nineteen of those tenants had built slated houses, several of them two stories high; sixteen had drained with stone drains 240 English acres, or one-fifth of the whole; twenty-three of them, or their predecessors, had reclaimed from bog or rock at least 500 English acres. The buildings were valued at 127l., and this must have cost the tenants at least 4,000l. [Lord NAAS: What is the name of the townland?] He would have no objection to name the townland, if the noble Lord would promise him a fair and searching investigation into the whole matter, but not otherwise. To mention the name of the tenants might do them an injury; but he challenged the noble Lord to investigate the case, and put him in a position to prove the accuracy of his statements. If these 1554 improvements had been made in England, it would have been said that the tenants had acted very well towards the land. Now, if the tenants, over since 1790, had been putting that money in their pockets, he would have agreed in saying that they had replaced their capital, and that the case of the landlord had been made much stronger, that of the tenant much weaker. But it was absurd to say, that in Ireland the tenant had property in his improvements, so long as he continued to pay rack-rent. Indeed, to seize upon improvements made during the course of many years, through all which the tenant was subject to a rack-rent, was nothing more than confiscation. The best test of the rack-rent system was to be found in the circumstance that in cases where tenants had emigrated to America, the landlords had afterwards been obliged to let their farms, with all the improvements, to persons who paid a loss rent than their predecessors, the improving tenants. The result as regarded tenants in the part of the country to which he had alluded was summed up in the following words by his informant: "Notwithstanding the visible improvements of the tenantry, they were never so poor as they are now; they are now worse off than their fathers were who followed the old common plough." He (Mr. Lucas) had particulars of several other estates, but he would bring before the House only one more case in which the tenant had been deprived of a return for his improvements. There was a town in Ireland near which was some common land, which was described fifty years ago as the receptacle of all the bad characters of the neighbourhood. Since then the land had been improved by tenants settling and appropriating patches of it, from two to ten acres in extent. One of these tenants, who had got a patch of about 6½ acres, half of which was at first under water, and the remainder uncultivated, sold it, in 1846, for 143?. This tenant also held under a neighbouring landlord five acres of ground, at a rent of 2l 10s. an acre, which was valued, under the poor-law valuation, at 1l, an acre. Several years ago it was proposed to run a canal through this land, and the opposition of the tenant to this scheme was removed by an offer of the landlord to reduce his rent by a sum of 3l. The landlord's promise was a verbal one, and was kept for some years; but a new agent becoming manager of the estate, the promise was broken, and the original rent 1555 exacted from the tenant. The tenant did not succumb to his difficulties; but as the canal had not been completed, he set to work, and after many years' labour he filled up the excavations which had been made for the canal, and by that means reclaimed an acre and five perches of land. Notwithstanding his exertions, no abatement was made in his rent, and he was at length turned out without one penny of compensation. The tenant who now occupied the same land, with all the improvements, held it at a rent of 1l. 10s. an acre. That was really not an unfair sample of the treatment of the tenants on that estate by their landlords. The tenant who had been improving and paying at a rack-rent emigrated perhaps, or was removed in favour of an incoming tenant at a less rent. He believed that the shortest period of compensation which the right hon. and learned Gentleman allowed under his Bill was seven years for drainage; but that would take them back to 1845; the seven years of compensation which the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave them included the seven years of famine. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had rested his measure entirely on the similarity between the state of capital in England and Scotland and in Ireland; hut there was in fact no similarity under heaven between the two cases, and no rule could be laid down for Ireland from the state of capital in England and Scotland. With regard to the question of the Ulster tenant-right, he must say that the provisions of the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny relating to that subject, depended not so much upon the recital as upon the enacting part of the Bill. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland said, that he differed from their definition of what the Ulster tenant-right was. He (Mr. Lucas) did not care if that definition were struck out of the recital of their Bill, for it did not touch their case. What they said was, that if there was a custom in the north of Ireland which gave the tenant anything over and above the value of his improvement in the land, he should have the advantage of that custom, varying, as it might, on different estates and in different districts. The same state of things existed in England, and it was a well-known fact, that in this country there was no difficulty in establishing a local custom by evidence adapted to each locality. The Ulster tenant-right must be treated in the same manner as a custom 1556 which varied in different localities, and required to be established in each locality by special evidence. Here was a custom by which millions of property had been created. Let it be made a fair subject of investigation what the custom was, what was its value, and what its right, and let the tenant be told that he must establish his case by proper evidence before he should get one shilling from the pocket of the landlord. He (Mr. Lucas) would feel extremely indebted to the right hon. and learned Gentleman if the Ulster men could get a satisfactory Bill to secure their improvements, and he thought they would be glad that their part of the case should not be omitted from the discussion. Give them compensation which would be really compensation, give them a retrospective measure which would be really retrospective, for all the Bills previously introduced on this subject had been had, because the case of the tenant had not been kept in view; and as the right hon. and learned Gentleman, by the retrospective clause of his Bill, abolished all adequate compensation for past improvements, so by his prospective clause he would render it impossible for improvements to be carried on in future, for no tenant would improve under the system proposed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. For the last fifty years it had been always said, that the landlords of Ireland were beginning to make improvements; but by some extraordinary fatality, they had never yet arrived at any result. They had always made great professions; but they had never said a word of the constant, persevering, unobtrusive improvements affected by their tenantry, to which he (Mr. Lucas) had alluded that day. The right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had produced a Bill, which was based on complete and undeniable ignorance of every fact of the case which bore upon the subject. He (Mr. Lucas) stated this as a fact, and not with any view of giving offence to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. They must choose between compensation periods and the admission of an absolute property by the tenant in his improvements. They had no alternative, there was a debt which must be paid, and as it could not be paid by compensation periods, they must pay it by giving the tenant an absolute property in his improvements. He would beg leave most earnestly and unaffectedly to suggest to the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland that he should employ the time 1557 during the recess, before this Bill went before a Select Committee, in maturely and anxiously considering the question of compensation periods, and if he would do so they might go into Committee with some chance of good results, which otherwise they could have no hope of arriving at. He (Mr. Lucas) would put into the right hon. and learned Gentleman's hands all the evidence that he could collect, in order that the subject might be fairly and fully investigated, and as he and his friends would be ready to receive ail the conviction which the right hon. and learned Gentleman could bestow upon them, so they had a right to expect that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would enter into the Committee with the same feeling, and that he would give them credit for not wishing in any way to violate the rights of property, as they were willing to give him credit for not desiring to confiscate the rights of the tenant. They came there for the purpose of granting fresh security to property, and were all anxious that there should be no confiscation. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman desired to raise an everlasting and enduring monument to his name, if he possessed the honourable ambition of settling this question permanently in Ireland, and breaking up the bloody feuds and discords which, through this question, had defaced that beautiful country, they were prepared to enable him to write his name as the author of that settlement, which he (Mr. Lucas) believed would hereafter prove the source of a greater benefit to Ireland than had ever been conferred upon her before.
§ MR. H. DRUMMOND
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had made a very important speech, and one filled with very interesting and instructive details. But he did not exactly know what was the immediate object which the hon. Gentleman wished to attain. As far as he could understand, it would appear that the hon. Gentleman wished for a Select Committee to inquire into the entire condition of the tenants in Ireland; but he (Mr. Drummond) had no hesitation in saying that if they were to take no step in that matter until after such a Committee should have concluded its labours, they could make no attempt, in the course of the present Session, to amend the laws which regulated the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland. He believed, too, that such an arrangement would be wholly unnecessary. For his own part he was 1558 ready to admit everything which had been said both with respect to Irish landlords and Irish tenants by the hon. Gentleman. He admitted that they had then before them the complaints of a very largo body of much-injured men. It appeared from a statement made the other evening, that the number of tenants in Ireland holding portions of land under thirty acres amounted to 430,000; and he would grant that all that was on their holdings was of their own creation, and that they ought in some way or other to he secured in its possession. But he was at a loss to understand what there was in the condition of landlords and tenants in Ireland which made their relations different from those of landlords and tenants in any other part of the world, and which rendered it impossible that they could make just arrangements among themselves. If that were a Bill for regulating the relations of landlords and tenant:; in England, he should give it his most unequivocal opposition. But if Irish landlords were unlike all English, Scotch, Dutch, French, and Chinese landlords, which it seemed they were, they must really take the consequences of their own acts. There was a proverb, that as you made your bed so you must lie, and as they had got themselves into this difficulty, he thought that they could not come with a good grace to the House of Commons to get them out of it. The hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Lucas) had spoken of what he called "revolutionary principle;" hut he (Mr. Drummond) thought that that principle was equally apparent in this Bill and in the Bill of the Attorney General for Ireland. According to the law of England, whatever fixtures were on the land belonged to the landlord; but the "revolutionary principle which these Bills would carry out assorted that they belonged not to the landlord, hut to the tenant. If Ireland was an exceptional case, then he maintained there ought to be an exceptional law and exceptional machinery which should cease together with the evils which had rendered them necessary, He had always said that they ought to leave out the word Ireland in Acts of Parliament, and that every Act should equally apply to Ireland and England. He hoped that English Gentlemen would set their minds to see that justice was done in this case, and that a remedy should be found for the evil before they came out of Committee. He trusted that they would not he deterred from doing their duty by any 1559 fear or threats, for if the best Bill in the world were drawn up, it would, doubtless, be described as Draconian legislation, and intended to exterminate the Celtic hordes, to make room for the Anglo-Saxon in Ireland. The state of the law between landlord and tenant was such that it appeared to him that something must soon be done to place matters on a more satisfactory footing. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Meath (Mr. Lucas) had told them that a period of seven years would be insufficient to afford the tenant in Ireland an opportunity of compensating himself for his improvements. But he (Mr. Drummond) had seen cases in which parties had been repaid in two years for their outlay in drainage works. He admitted, however, that it would be impossible to lay down upon that subject any general rule which would be fully applicable to all cases. He should be anxious to see some cheap machinery established by which the poor man could obtain ready and easy justice in any misunderstandings between him and his landlord. He trusted, therefore, that the Committee would enter on their labours with a determination to arrive at some practical conclusion upon that subject, and that they would not suspend their judgment until they thought they could realise the vain expectation of pleasing all the different parties whose interests were involved in the case.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, he thought it was important that Gentlemen connected with Ireland should know that the English Members were prepared to enter into the proposed inquiry with unprejudiced minds. They would recollect that there were two sides to the question; and while they would be anxious to give to tenants a fair compensation for their improvements, they would take care to do no injustice to landlords. It appeared to him that that discussion was in a' great measure an unnecessary one, as Her Majesty's Government had in a spirit of the utmost fairness agreed to refer to the same Select Committee the Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) and the Bills of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland. With regard to the question of compensation, it would no doubt be necessary to take into consideration the time which the tenant might have had for obtaining compensation for himself. In his own case, he had found that he had usually repaid himself in four or five years 1560 for his outlay in works of drainage; and unless there were something very peculiar in the case of Ireland, he did not see how those Gentlemen who represented the tenant interest in that country could complain of the compensating period of seven years being too little. He was anxious to see a fair tenant-right established in this country as well as in Ireland; but, in advocating tenant-right, he did not mean to advocate a confiscation of property.
§ LORD NAAS
said, he should have been perfectly content to have left the subject in dispute on that occasion in the hands of the House, after the able and lucid statement of his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. His right hon. and learned Friend had gone through the details of the Bills proposed by the Government, and of the Bill brought forward by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee), and had completely proved, as he (Lord Naas) thought that those two Bills were antagonistic and incompatible, and that they could not possibly both be passed at the same time into law. After what had occurred, it had become necessary that his right hon. and learned Friend should have stated positively and decidedly his opinions upon that point. His right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary for the Home Department had agreed the other evening that the two Bills should be referred to the same Select Committee; and he (Lord Naas) did not disapprove of that arrangement. He believed that the Bills, although antagonistic in principle, might be discussed with advantage by a Committee of that House impartially selected. He should feel confidence in such a Committee, and he should look forward to its inquiries without dread, because he believed that its decision must only tend to confirm the course which had already been taken on repeated occasions by the House with respect to the Bill which had been brought forward by Mr. Sharman Crawford. The present Government had felt it their duty to pursue that course in the last Session, when they had moved the rejection of the measure on the second reading. Their objections, not only to the extreme danger of the principle, but also to the details of that Bill, remained perfectly unchanged. He had in the last Session stated those objections as fully and as frankly as he had been able, and he, therefore, did not at that moment feel it necessary to repeat them. The hon. Gentleman the Member 1561 for Meath (Mr. Lucas) seemed to insinuate that the course taken by the Government on the subject was not a fair one, because those Members of the Government who had opposed the Bill last year would go into the Committee with prejudiced minds and with their opinions unchanged. But he (Lord Naas) believed that every member of the Committee would enter on the inquiry with decided opinions upon the subject, for that was no new question, but one on which almost every Member of that House must already have made up his mind. He repeated that he should have been quite willing to have left the merits of the two Bills to the consideration of the House after the statement of his right hon. and learned Friend; but many of the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Member for Meath were of so novel and extraordinary a character that he felt compelled to take the earliest opportunity of noticing them. He should really feel sorry that the claims of the tenant-farmers in Ireland were to rest on the statements which had been made by the hon. Gentleman; for he believed that never in that House had statements been made which would lead an unbiassed mind to arrive at more incorrect conclusions with respect to the real state of the land question in Ireland. He believed the hon. Gentleman had, from the beginning to the end, entirely mistaken the real state of that question; and with his allegations, as a whole, he (Lord Naas) entirely disagreed. The first part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman was devoted to an elaborate argument to show that the state of Ireland was improving. On that point he was happy to say that he was entirely of the same opinion as the hon. Gentleman. Prom all he had heard and seen, he had come decidedly to the conclusion that the darkest hours in the history of Ireland were past, and that there was taking place in that country, not merely a gradual improvement, but a great and a rapid improvement was spreading over the land. He saw proofs of that gratifying change on all sides—he saw proofs of it in the diminution of the poor-rates, in the better prices obtained at present for agricultural produce, in the decrease of crime, in the wholesome system of emigration at present going on. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Yes; he called it a wholesome system of emigration; and however much they might all regret the calamities in which the "exodus" had its rise, they should not forget that the people were all 1562 going to lands where their condition would be greatly improved—that they were leaving misery and wretchedness behind them, and were passing to wealth and plenty— that they were leaving potatoes and salt and water for bread and beef and beer— that they were leaving an old country where they had to pay rent for land, for a new country presenting a boundless field for their enterprise; and, above all, that they were leaving habits of indolence for habits of industry, He believed that there was hardly one of the emigrants who had not greatly improved his condition by his change of country. While, therefore, he regretted that so large a number of people should have felt it necessary to leave their native homes, he could not but rejoice at the immense increase of comfort which awaited them in other lauds. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Meath seemed to say that the tenantry in Ireland owed nothing to their landlords as regarded improved modes of cultivation, and that, in fact, the landlords had only acted as a clog and impediment to any improvement.
§ MR. LUCAS
said, he wished to explain. What he had said was, that the landlords generally in Ireland had acted as impediments to improvements. But he had not laid down the proposition to the unlimited extent which had been stated by the noble Lord. He was aware that there were some good landlords in Ireland, although they formed exceptions to the general character of their order.
§ LORD NAAS
The hon. Gentleman admitted that there were some good landlords in Ireland. But he also declared that in general the landlords in that country were a clog to its industry. [Mr. LUCAS: Hear, hear!] The hon. Gentleman evidently adopted that statement. Now he (Lord Naas) was not afraid to meet the hon. Gentleman upon that point. To whom was owing the improvements which of late so much assisted the tenant-farmers? In point of fact, these improvements were all owing to the exertions of the landlords in their anxiety to teach the tenant the best means of improving himself. The improvement in Ireland was mainly attributable to the Agricultural Association, initiated by one of the best and purest patriots the country ever possessed, Mr. Peter Purcell. Who were the proprietors of the model farms? Who but the landlords of Ireland had expended within the last few years 2,500,000l. under the provisions of the Land Improvement Act, and often for the 1563 improvement of the tenants' land, and not of their own? He (Lord Nass) did not stand there to deny that there were good and had individuals amongst the landlords of Ireland. But, as a class, he asserted that they did not merit the wholesale condemnation passed upon them by the hon. Member for Meath; and he further asserted, that the tenantry of Ireland would admit that they had derived great and solid advantages from the leniency of the landed proprietors. The Bill which the hon. Gentleman had advocated professed to aim at securing to the tenant compensation for his improvement; but the argument of its promoters was that the reason why Ireland had not kept pace with this country in the career of agricultural improvement was because the rent of land in Ireland was too high. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman in his speech avowed the same opinion, and his object, as well as the object of the Bill which he advocated, was to reduce the rents; and the avowed attempt of the society with which the hon. Gentleman was connected was, in point of fact, to do no more than to lower the rents paid by the tenantry of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman cited instances of a very extraordinary nature, and went through a long list of management of properties in the county of Kilkenny, where he said these properties had been managed by griping landlords. [Mr. LUCAS: No, no!] Yes, but they would be griping landlords to have acted in the way represented by the hon. Gentleman, for they turned out tenantry without compensation who had reclaimed land from a state of wilderness. Well, in his (Lord Naas's) opinion, no man could justify such proceedings as these; but he contended that such was not the general practice—but that, on the contrary, it was the exception to the general rule. Improving tenants were not so easily found in the present day, that they should be so treated. He had lived in Ireland all his life, and yet could not recollect one instance of such conduct from a landlord to a tenant as had been described by the hon. Member for Meath. He could cite numerous instances in which the tenantry went off, leaving the lands in a deteriorated state, and the landlords very much out of pocket. Another of the charges which had been advanced was that of calumniation of the tenantry of Ireland by the Legislature of this country. So far from the Government of this country calumniating or despising the Irish tenantry, the course which the right hon. and learned 1564 Attorney General for Ireland had taken in bringing in these Bills for the benefit of the Irish tenant, was a full and sufficient answer. His right hon. and learned Friend had given the tenantry of Ireland in these Bills that which they had long demanded, and which, two years since, they, as a body, never expected they would receive. All the information which reached him (Lord Naas) from Ireland in reference to these measures of his right hon. and learned Friend was most satisfactory, and numerous letters had been received by him, stating that the tenant-farmers entertained a warm hope that the measures would be carried. So long had that class of the Irish people been deluded and disappointed by projects —which though sometimes admitted, could never be carried—that they were now pleased at the substantial measure which had been brought in by the Government itself, and which—whatever its details— would ensure to the improving tenant certain compensation for the improvements made by him. Having said thus much in reply to the observations of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lucas), he would now proceed to call the attention of the House to the question more immediately before them—namely, whether they should refer these Bills to a Select Committee. He could not conclude without expressing his opinion as to the differences that existed between the Bill of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, and that of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny. The Bill of the Attorney General went on this principle, and on this alone, that compensation to the tenant should depend solely and entirely on the improvements made by him. That was a sound and wholesome principle, and gave every encouragement to improvement consistent with the rights of property. But the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny affirmed a different principle—it legalised the tenant-right prevalent in Ulster, and threw entirely overboard the question of improvements; because it must be remembered that tenant-right did not depend on improvements. They could lay down no law as to the value of the tenant-right, because its value varied in every parish; and although the tenant-right might or might not be of greater value where the tenant had made improvements, yet it did not always or necessarily follow that the improvements would raise the value. The Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny distinctly laid down the axiom 1565 that everything found on the land that could be termed an improvement, whether it was made by the existing tenant or by his predecessors, was to be taken and treated as the property of the tenant, leaving, in fact, to the landlord nothing but his right to the land in a state of nature, or as it came from the hands of the Creator. But his right hon. and learned Friend's Bill, professing only to deal with the actual improvements made by the tenant as the tenant's property, was by far the more just and equitable measure of the two. Again, the Bill of the hon. ami learned Gentleman (Mr. Serjeant Shoe) would also give the tenant the right at any moment to bring his tenancy to a conclusion, and enabled him to take the initiative in compelling his landlord to submit to an arbitration with respect to improvements, and sundry other matters, which would be little short of communism, or a transfer of the property of the landlord to the tenant. Therefore he (Lord Naas) preferred the Bill of his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. The hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Lucas) had stated that the landlords of Ireland owed to their tenants no less a sum than 5,000,000l. sterling annually as compensation for improvements—
§ MR. LUCAS
said, he must beg to correct the noble Lord, He (Mr. Lucas) had given the House his own estimate of the aggregate amount of the property created in Ireland by the improvements of tenants; but as to the equity of the matter between the landlords and the tenants He had not expressed an opinion.
§ LORD NAAS
Even upon that qualified statement of the hon. Gentleman he believed that he was borne out in what he had said, because the plain meaning of what the hon. Gentleman stated was, that the landlords owed their tenants 5,000,000l. annually for property now in the possession of the landlords which belonged to tile tenantry. Well, the rental of Ireland in the year 1846 amounted to 3,000,000l.; now, he believed, it was reduced to under 11,000,000l. So that, in point of fact, the hon. Gentleman proposed to take from the landlords of Ireland almost one-half of their rental. That, he need not say, would be a most gross and flagrant violation of the rights of property, and nothing more nor less than the transfer of the property of the landlord to the tenant. At the same time, he (Lord Naas) was free to admit that the claim of the tenants of Ireland to 1566 compensation for their bonâ fide improvements was perfectly irresistible; but he considered that it was impossible that the same legislation could be adopted for Ireland as was established for England. No matter how plausible the statement might appear in theory, it was impossible that they could have similarity of legislation in England and Ireland, widely differing as the countries did in many matters of a social and political nature. The systems of County Rate, Criminal Administration, and Poor Law Relief differed much in both countries; and in his opinion, particularly as regarded the Poor Relief, Ireland had the advantage. He was, therefore, willing to meet hon. Gentlemen opposite; and he thought He should be able to show them that the remedy propounded by his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland was that which should be adopted, He hoped-indeed, he felt convinced—that the subject they were then approaching would be dealt with in a way so as to confer lasting benefit on the agricultural people of Ireland. All his (Lord Naas's sympathies were with the tenantry, amongst whom he lived for a longer period than most hon. Gentlemen; and he there-fore hoped that this question would be dealt with so as to secure to that tenantry the fruits of their industry, their enterprise, and improvements.
§ VISCOUNT MONCK
said, he agreed that the time had come for legislation on this subject; and although he admitted that the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland was a decided advance, yet, looking at the great progress hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial benches had recently made on other subjects, he thought that they might have proceeded a few steps further with regard to the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland. The only true and just principle, in dealing with this question, was to give a light of property to the tenant for any additional value which by his industry or his capital he conferred upon the land. The fault of the Bill of the Government was, that it admitted this principle in respect to buildings and machinery, but not as to all other improvements. Extend the same principle to ail improvements, and he for one should be satisfied. The Irish Timber Acts (5 Geo. III.) gave the tenants a legal right in the timber planted by themselves, 'that was a case entirely analogous to that of tenants' improvements, and why should it not be followed; There was the greatest coin- 1567 plexity in the forms which a tenant would have to go through before he could establish his claim; and although the effect of the Bill might be to make the tenant in many cases insist upon a written contract with his landlord on the subject of improvements, nevertheless he held that it was the duty of that House to provide security for the rights of the tenant where no such contracts existed.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, he thought they had gained much useful information in the progress of the discussion. Amongst many other things he had learned that English gentlemen imported into Ireland knew much more of its wants than did the hon. Gentlemen he saw before him, and who were warmly and naturally attached to that country. After all the discussion that had taken place, he (Mr. Whiteside) could not help thinking that the Bills of his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland were good Bills. They specified the objects and pointed out the improvements for which compensation would be allowed. They were prospective and retrospective, and provided for two matters absolutely necessary—implements and fixtures. Therefore, he thought they were entitled to take credit for the preparation of these Bills, inasmuch as if they were compared with the Devon Commission they would be found not merely to contain the recommendations and suggestions of that Commission, but also to go beyond them. He objected altogether to the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee), as being impossible in theory, impracticable in execution, unwise in detail, and wrong in principle. He could not praise the fertility of fancy of that hon. and learned Gentleman, who, in quitting the dry details of Westminster Hall, did not display more of the inventive faculty than to adopt and introduce the Bill of Mr. Sharman Crawford; which Bill, by the way, had been twice previously rejected by that House. The hon. and learned Gentleman, to be sure, had given them a statement, commencing with the feudal ages, and embracing Lombardy and the entire Continent, as also the plantation of Ulster. But in the few practical observations which he made, he left the real question entirely untouched. Notwithstanding the censure that had been heaped upon the landlords of Meath and Ulster, it should be recollected that when an attempt was made to rescue the representation from them, the laborious and loyal tenantry ral- 1568 lied round them, and preserved to them their political independence. He trusted that would never be forgotten to that tenantry. He could undertake to say that a more excellent class of landlords than those of Meath could not be found in Ireland; and the prices which land in that county realised gave proof of the excellent feeling that existed between landlord and tenant. He felt convinced that no Committee would adopt the theories of hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side. But he had no doubt the consideration of the question in Committee would be attended with beneficial results, and he should rejoice if the result should be the permanent improvement of the Irish tenantry.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, he would suggest that after the discussion that had taken place, and considering the hour (it was near six o'clock), the Bill should be then read a Second Time, and committed.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed to a Select Committee.
§ And it being Six of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House till To-morrow, without putting the Question.