§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
begged to move for leave to bring in a Bill to provide for the better securing and regulating the custom of Tenant Right as practised in the province of Ulster, and to secure compensation to improving tenants who may not make claim under the said custom, and to limit the power of eviction in certain cases. At the close of the last Session he was invited to call a meeting of Members of Parliament and other persons interested in the subject in Dublin during 334 the recess, to a conference for the purpose of considering whether some measure could not be adopted on this subject which would receive general concurrence. Such a conference was accordingly held, when the Bill which he had introduced in 1850 was considered, and an agreement was entered into by the gentlemen present to support that measure, with certain alterations that were then determined upon. Since that time there had been various public meetings in all parts of Ireland, which, so far as he knew, had unanimously approved of the Bill, which it was believed would meet the views and objects of the tenantry of Ireland. He therefore felt himself in a position to declare to that House what were the grievances of which the Irish people complained, and lay before them in a substantive measure the remedies to which that people looked forward. He was about to propose a Bill avowedly for the protection of the tenant's rights, but he did not wish it to be considered merely as such; for his view was, that no measure ought to be proposed which would not also respect and protect the rights of landlords, of whom he was one. The rights of landlords were at present in a most unsatisfactory state in Ireland; in some parts there was an agrarian combination which put those rights in abeyance; and generally over Ireland a landlord could not feel himself in a position to enforce to the full extent what he might consider his just rights. The reason of this state of things was, that the rights of landlords were not placed upon a just footing; the people felt that injustice was committed towards them by the authority of landlords, and therefore there was a disposition on the part of the people at large to oppose landlords even in their just rights. He (Mr. S. Crawford) wished to secure the landlord's rights by placing them on a just footing. The grievance now complained of was not new. Sir John Davies, writing in the reign of James I., speaking of the condition of the Irish people under English rule, after the Conquest, described the various exactions levied from the tenant at the will of the lord, all which, he said, made the lord an absolute tyrant, and the tenant a very slave:—And in one respect more miserable than bond slaves, for commonly the bond slave is fed by his lord; but here the lord was fed by his bond slave, and this made the land waste and the people idle; and hereupon, of necessity, came depopulation, banishment, and extirpation, and such as remained became idlers and lookers-on; and this oppression did of force and necessity 335 make the Irish a craftie people, for such as are oppressed and live in slavery are ever put to their shifts.Again, he described the absence of all improvements, and asked, "Who would plant or improve, or build upon that land, which a stranger whom he knew not should possess after his death?" The grievances of which the Irish had to complain had been known to the different Governments of England for many years. This question had long occupied the attention of the Legislature; no fewer than ten Committees of that House sat upon the Irish land question between 1810 and 1835; and the Irish Poor Law Commissioners, in their Report in 1835, said—We are satisfied that enactments calculated to promote the improvement of the country, and so to extend the demand for free and profitable labour, should make essential parts of any law for ameliorating the condition of the poor. We see that the labouring class are eager for work; that work there is not for them, and that they are therefore, and not from any fault of their own, in permanent want.In 1843 Sir Robert Peel appointed a Commisson to inquire into the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland; and they made a Report, in pursuance of which Lord Stanley, in 1845, by authority of the Government, introduced into the other House a Bill, which, however, never reached the House of Commons. Again, in 1846, the Earl of Lincoln, then Secretary for Ireland, afterwards introduced in the House of Commons a Bill founded upon the report of the Commission, but that Bill was lost by the dissolution of the Government on the retirement of Sir Robert Peel. In 1848 the present Secretary for Ireland (Sir W. Somerville), introduced a Bill, and it was referred to a Select Committee, and afterwards abandoned; and another Bill, which the right hon. Baronet brought in in 1850, was also abandoned. Besides all this, there was the Speech from the Throne in November, 1847, in which Her Majesty—"recommended to the consideration of Parliament, measures which, with a due regard to the rights of property, might advance the social condition of the people, and tend to the permanent Improvement of that part of the United Kingdom.Thus the people were naturally led to expect from the Government and Parliament redress of the evils complained of, but they had waited in vain; they had been deluded and deceived, and the hopes excited had never been realised. What could be the 336 consequence but general discontent? Must not all this excite distrust of the Government, and tend to agrarian violence and want of respect for the laws? He (Mr. S. Crawford) admitted the melancholy and grievous state of the north of the province of Leinster, and the adjoining part of Ulster, and it was right and proper that means should be adopted to put the laws in force, and punish offenders: he had no wish to screen them; their violent proceedings did the greatest damage to the cause he had so much at heart, and prevented him advocating it with the effect he could otherwise do. But punishment alone would not cure the evil, or secure the landlord's rights. Coercion and punishment had been repeatedly resorted to; but outrages suppressed in one quarter broke out in another, and all because the relation of landlord and tenant was not on a just and satisfactory footing. The consequence was a disposition to combine against the law. The people had not a proper respect for the law; and where that was so, there could never he peace or security for property; the most barbarous murders were committed in connexion with the occupancy of land. Yet the Irish were naturally a kindhearted people. All the evils existing at the present day in the social relations of Ireland might be traced to the want of security on the part of the tenant. The law gives the landlord the power to dispossess the tenant on six months' notice; and yet by the practice in Ireland the tenant is compelled to make all necessary buildings and improvements. The small holders of Ireland were idle, because they could not be secured for the expenditure of their labour, and the large holders would not employ labourers, because they would have no security for the money they should lay out on the land. The consequence was that there was no improvement in the cultivation of the soil, rents were not paid, arrears accumulated, distraints and ejectments were resorted to, and then came agrarian disturbance. In consequence of the want of security, the landlords were ultimately compelled, in a certain degree in their own defence, to exterminate the people, because the tenants could not pay the rents; and a clause in the Poor Law Act likewise made the landlords responsible for the rates of holders under them. The impulse of the landlord class, accordingly, was to extermination; and the heartrending scenes of which the House had often heard, had made an im- 337 pression on the minds of the people against the landlords not easily to be removed. The remedy for the evils referred to, he would repeat, was by offering to the tenant security for a return for his labour. What was the cause of the greater prosperity of the north-eastern portion of Ireland, but that there the relation of landlord and tenant was by custom put upon a footing which enabled the tenant to feel secure in making improvements? Sir John Davies, describing the settlement of Ulster in the reign of James I. remarked that the undertakers were bound in their grants to give leases to their tenants for fixed terms at certain rents. The object of the Bill he (Mr. S. Crawford) now asked leave to introduce was twofold: first, to secure and regulate the custom of tenant-right as practised in the province of Ulster; and, secondly, to secure in the parts of Ireland where that system was not applied, compensation to a tenant who made improvements which increased the value of the property—the value of the fee-simple or the rent at which the land would let. The principle of the Government Bills was, that the landlord's consent must be first obtained by the tenant before making the improvements; but such a Bill would not meet the case of Ulster, and was consequently valueless in that province. To show the extent of property involved, he might mention that the area of the Poor Law Union of Newtownards, in which he resided, was 93,000 acres, and the average sum expended by the tenants in improvements was 8l. an acre. He was satisfied that some of his own tenants had expended double that sum; but taking an average of 8l. an acre, the property of the tenants in that union alone amounted in value to the sum of 744,000l. Let them first consider what an immense sum was thus staked on the will of the landlord, and without the security of law. He desired to afford the tenant security for that outlay, and that before he was deprived of possession he should have compensation in proportion to the improvements he had created. His object was to carry into effect the propositions stated by Lord Stanley in his speech in 1846, in which he said that a great portion of the land of Ireland was held by incumbered proprietors, or under strict settlements, and that it was therefore necessary to encourage tenants to make the requisite improvements; and that what he asked Parliament to do was to establish as law in Ireland 338 that which was the custom and law in England; and he said that according to the custom in England the landlord's previous consent was not required. There was a case of "Ludlam v. Mousley," reported in the Jurist last December, an appeal against a decision of the County Court of Derbyshire. The outgoing tenant claimed, according to the custom of the country, to be repaid by the landlord a portion of the expense of some tile and brick draining done without the landlord's consent or knowledge. The latter insisted that the custom only applied to cases where the landlord's consent had been given; but the jury found otherwise. It was then argued, on the part of the appellant, that the usage was an unreasonable custom; but the Judges dismissed the appeal, finding the landlord liable. He (Mr. S. Crawford) was thus able to show that his proposition, enabling the tenant to claim compensation for improvements that were not consented to by the landlord, was not incompatible with the custom of this country. The Bill which he had to submit to the House, enabling a tenant to claim remuneration for improvements, was not incompatible with the rights of the landlord. In the preamble the reasons were stated for bringing forward the Bill, of which the provisions were included under five different heads, relating to the estimation of improvements of the soil, buildings, &c., by which the fee-simple interest of land was increased, the preventing of evictions without payment to tenants of the value of improvements, and other particulars. The Bill in its leading features was the same as a Bill he had brought forward in a previous year. There were, however, some additional clauses to the Bill, for the purpose of giving temporary protection to the tenant from arbitrary eviction. Those clauses were introduced in obedience to a resolution passed at the meeting to which he had before referred. It was far from his intention to say that the Bill was in a perfect state; and he should be willing to adopt any amendments that might be proposed in accordance with the principle of the Bill, and calculated to facilitate its operation. Where a tenant claimed compensation, it was proposed that each party should name arbitrators; the arbitrators to appoint an umpire; but if they did not appoint one, or no award should be made, the matter to be returned for decision to the assistant barrister in all cases under 100l., and in all cases above 100l. to the Judge 339 of Assize. He did not say that such tribunals might be the best; in the Bill which had been introduced by Lord Stanley, it was proposed that a Government Commissioner should be appointed for the purpose of deciding those questions, and it would be for the consideration of the House whether an appointment of that sort should be made, or whether the decision should be left in the hands of the assistant barrister, or Judge of Assize. It was said by some persons that there was no occasion for this Bill, because the country would be regenerated by the sales under the Incumbered Estates Court. A great deal might be done by those sales, but unless they could secure the tenant in the value of the property he had created, those sales would rather be an evil, because the new comers would perhaps pay less respect to the tenant-right than the old ones had done. It was said that this measure was an interference with private rights, but he denied it was so. He maintained that the State had a right to regulate the transactions of landed proprietors in such a manner as the public interest would require. He maintained that the State had, on various occasions, assumed that right. The landlords of Ireland had declared their adhesion to the principle he now contended for, at an important meeting held in Dublin in the year 1847, and which was attended by seventeen Peers and thirty-seven Members of Parliament. The following Resolution was passed:—That in order to encourage the investment of the tenant's own capital upon his land, his right to compensation for permanent improvements should be recognised by law.He called upon the landlords of Ireland not to draw back from the declaration that they had then made, but honestly to carry it out. Let them reflect upon the emigration that was going on—an emigration that, to a certain degree, he rejoiced at; for he must rejoice at anything that would enable the poor inhabitants of that country to get into a better position. Let them reflect on that emigration, and on the fact that the best blood of the country was going away from it. He should wish by all fair means to stop an emigration of that kind, and it could only be stopped by giving the people who were leaving it compensation for the value of their labour. Let them only think of the immense aggregate sum that was carried away by those people. It was computed that 270,000l. had annually 340 left the country within the last few years. He appealed to the Government and to the noble Lord at the head of the Government to permit this Bill to be considered. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had not stated that the Government intended to propose any measure on the subject, and therefore he (Mr. S. Crawford) had the greater claim upon the noble Lord and upon the Government to consider the question. He hoped hon. Members would think that the principle of the Bill should be supported; and as to the details, he was willing that they should be arranged in any manner that would be deemed most advisable. In conclusion, he moved for leave to bring in his Bill.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, that the House, having upon several former occasions given leave to the hon. Member to lay upon the table of the House a Bill upon this subject, it was not his wish on the part of the Government to offer any obstruction to the hon. Gentleman taking the same course on the present occasion. But, in stating thus much, he thought it was due to the hon. Member to say that if his Bill were of the same character as that which had been rejected by a large majority on a former occasion, he (Sir G. Grey) could hold out no hope that he would support the second reading. The hon. Gentleman had adverted to the evils, unfortunately too well known, that were connected with the tenure of land in Ireland. The hon. Member had alluded to the insecurity of the tenants for improvements, and to the vast amount of land that was occupied by tenants at will; he also alluded to the vast quantities of land held in very small lots by the tenants of a landlord who, perhaps, owned a large tract of country—to the system of middlemen—all which, he said, led to bad husbandry, great discontent, and other evils with which they were unfortunately too well acquainted. Now, he (Sir G. Grey) must say he thought that the remedy proposed by the hon. Gentleman on former occasions, and which he seemed to be now about to propose again, was wholly inadequate to meet those evils, or remove the causes that had led to them. The hon. Member had spoken of the necessity of enacting a law to allow compensation to tenants for improvements which increased the value of the land, utterly irrespective of the rent which was paid by the tenant for the occupation 341 of the land. If the hon. Gentleman's views were to be carried out, it was clear that in that remedy must be included an arbitrary determination by Parliament of the amount of rent that was to be paid by the tenant to the landlord for the occupation of the land. They had had repeated discussions upon this subject, and various attempts had been made by repeated Governments to deal with it. These circumstances proved the great difficulty—if not impossibility—of legislating effectively upon the question. The hon. Member had alluded but slightly to the crime and outrage that at present prevailed in parts of Ireland. He believed that the combination which at present existed in a portion of Ireland was a combination to effect by force, by terror, and intimidation, not a compensation to the tenant for improvements effected upon the land, but a reduction of rents. Now, he had no hesitation in saying that such a combination must be met by the strong arm of the law. The hon. Gentleman said, that coercion had been asked for merely for the purpose of securing the landlords' rents. Coercion was not sought for such an object. The Government were anxiously endeavouring by the ordinary existing law to put an effectual check upon the progress of the system of terror and intimidation. Whatever might be the assumed rights of the landlord, this system of terror must be met by the strong arm of the law, inasmuch as it is one destructive of the best interests of the country. If, however, the Government were determined to bring the whole weight of the law to bear against the offenders, they were also entitled to claim the co-operation of all those who were really anxious to improve the condition of the occupiers of the land; and that co-operation could only he effectually given by their combined action with Government. Let the rents be fairly assessed, as between landlord and tenant, and the law enforced with justice and firmness. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the proposal in Sir John Davies's time, to fix the amount of land to be held by the tenant, and the amount of rent, to be paid; but was he now prepared to go to that extent? Mere compensation for improvements would not remedy the evils complained of, and the want of such compensation was in many cases not the cause of those evils. In the north of Ireland he was told of an estate belonging to a nobleman upon which there were 3,000 tenants, not one 342 of whom occupied three acres of land. Owing to the failure of the potato crop, not a shilling of rent could be obtained, notwithstanding which the tenants were unwilling to leave the soil upon which they had lived so long; the landlord was expected to forego his rent, and thus it became a matter of life and death between the landlord and the tenantry. Why, it would be infinitely better for these people to work for wages in that part of the country or elsewhere, or to increase the stream of emigration, of which the hon. Gentleman had spoken with satisfaction. He was only anxious to remove any impression which the hon. Member might entertain that by consenting to his introducing his Bill, he looked forward with sanguine expectations to the ultimate adoption of the measure by Parliament, unless there were material alterations made in it.
§ MR. GRATTAN
said, he wished the minds of English Members to be disabused of the impression conveyed by the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department—that the combination existing in the north of Ireland was a combination to lower rents. He could not attribute the attacks on Mr. Chambre or Mr. Bateson to a combination having such an object. It would be much better to state the fact, if it were true, that houses were pulled down over the heads of their occupants, and that men had gone into houses to set fire to them to force the tenants out. He would ask English Gentlemen whether these were English practices? The Government should know the real cause of the disturbances by means of their law officers, and if they did not apply a remedy they should exonerate the character of the people. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford) did not propose to appoint a set of men to fix an arbitrary amount of rent; but he merely proposed to appoint persons who would decide the amount of compensation to which the tenant was entitled for any improvements he might have made. The right hon. Baronet had not referred at all to the case of improvements effected by the tenants. It was unjust that a person should expend large sums of money for the improvement of the estate occupied by him, and be then turned out of possession without compensation. In no case ought the landlord to be exonerated from giving compensation. A great deal of the evil which existed in Ireland arose from absenteeism. He knew of a property which was worth 343 24,500l. actually sold for 14,000l.; and why? Because it was overrun by a population of idle people. But who was the proprietor of that property? An Englishman, who lived away, and never discharged the duties of a landlord. With respect to the case of the 3,000 individuals in the north of Ireland who had not paid any rent for the last three years, what was the fact? They were small tenants on the Bath estate, which was worth 42,000l. a year, but one of the proprietors of which had never been in Ireland. The tenants occupied not more than two or three acres of silicious soil, out of which they got what they could, and, notwithstanding all the praise which had been bestowed by the right hon. Baronet on absentee proprietors, those poor creatures were in a state of abject misery. The result of the absenteeism of English proprietors was seen in that instance, where in a series of years an able, active, and an intelligent body of men had been reduced to the condition mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. Much had been said about getting rid of the Irish from the land, but there never was a greater mistake. Those whom they should rid the country of were the English absentee landlords. Let them send away the Duke of Devonshire, the Duke of Buckingham, Earl Fitzwilliam, the Marquess of Lansdowne, and Lord Palmerston, and sell their lands to those who would reside, and let Ireland be left free to manage her own affairs. Let them apply to those absentees what Bonaparte said to the late Duke of Richmond when he claimed the territory of Aubigné, "He may have it if he lives on it." He would have all those noble absentees put up to auction. There would be sense in that; but there was a fatal error in exporting ablebodied Irishmen to the shores of America. The evils of absenteeism were most grievous, and many cases of the greatest distress had come under his own immediate observation, arising entirely from the neglect on the part of English proprietors of Irish estates to discharge the duties that it was incumbent on them to perform. When Irish proprietors were reproached as being bad landlords, and when letters were written by a Secretary of State to a journal which had maligned, vilified, and abused every man connected with Ireland in terms of the greatest laudation, it was time that the Irish landlords should come forth and vindicate themselves against those foul aspersions. He would contrast the condi- 344 tion of the estates of English absentee landlords with that of the estates of resident Irish landlords, with the view of showing that while the latter were effectually protected against agrarian outrage, the former were constantly suffering from that species of lawless violence. A vulgar idea prevailed that Irish landlords were solely actuated by a desire to get money from their tenants. So far from that was the case, that he knew of instances where landlords in this country had resorted to measures to get rents which no Irish landlord would ever think of adopting. The Irish people entertained the opinion that it was the object of the Government to get rid of them and make them quit their own country, whether they would or no. It was believed that the Government thought if they could get rid of the Irish proprietors, Ireland would then become tranquil, and submit to the complete control of this country. But there never was a greater mistake. While, through the Encumbered Estates Bill, they were introducing a new set of proprietors of Irish property, the Secretary of State for the Home Department declined to require from those new proprietors any compensation to the tenants who had previously improved those estates, or any fixed rent for the future. What was the working of that Encumbered Estates Act? It was to remove the present race of Irish landlords; and to substitute whom? Tobacconists, shoemakers, and shopkeepers; men without education, without manners, without influence over the people. There never was a worse plan, or one better calculated to bring on a revolution in that country, than to get rid of the resident Irish proprietors, and to substitute for them absentee landlords, or poor landlords, who could become such merely by virtue of having some 3,000l. or 4,000l. at their command, but who could not assist their tenants. While this House was debating and disputing, the Irish people were dying, or were carrying with them to America the hostility which they had towards England, and to nurse feelings of vengeance which they would wreak on a future day. The Bill of his hon. Friend to adjust the relations existing between landlord and tenant was, in many points, a reasonable and a proper one; and he called upon the Government to admit the principle, which was one of justice and one of peace. If they lost the present opportunity, they would leave a wound rankling in the hearts of the Irish nation (for, notwithstanding 345 all the efforts of the Government, they had not yet lost the Irish heart), which the Ministry would have cause to regret to the last moment of their lives. They might yet want all the men whom their harsh and unjust legislation was banishing to another clime. If a foreign army were to land in Ireland they might at present walk for miles and miles without encountering any opposition, for the entire country, especially Mayo and the west, was depopulated; and one of his tenants had stated to him that he had walked a short time since a distance of sixteen miles, not only without seeing either man, woman, or child, but neither dog, cow, nor horse. Was it not a shame—though most of the hon. Gentlemen opposite wore smiling—was it not shameful that the wisdom and intelligence of the English Legislature had placed the Irish nation in such a state as this?
§ MR. HUME
said, he had listened with great regret to the charges which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Grattan) had brought against the Government and against the occupants of the benches on that (the Ministerial) side of the House. He (Mr. Hume) did not see the justice of the accusations; and he certainly did not see the advantages of them. The House would be glad to hear the hon. Gentleman if, instead of urging these charges, he would tell the House what this Motion really meant. Surely there were hon. Members present who were capable of explaining to the House what it was the Irish people wanted, and what it was the landlords objected to. Let the House understand what was really the feeling upon the subject, and not run into matters which did not relate to it in any degree. There was no doubt that this question was of the greatest importance, and excited the utmost interest in Ireland. There had been numerous meetings respecting what was called tenant-right in Ireland, and he had read the reports of these meetings. He had, however, noticed that the discussions in Ireland had been of a very one-sided character. There had been an assertion, not an argument, in this matter; and even the Irish Members who had spoken had not stated at all definitely the principles upon which tenant-right rested. The House of Commons was, however, the fitting arena for temperate discussion; and he hoped that, on this occasion, hon. Gentlemen representing Irish constituencies would enter upon this discussion temper- 346 ately and in a candid spirit. Ireland had long been in a most unfortunate condition, and mainly in consequence of the misrule of the Government. He had been in hopes matters were getting better; and he was not satisfied that there had not been some improvement. The hon. Member (Mr. Grattan) made some most absurd complaints. The hon. Member saw an evil in that result of the operations of the Incumbered Estates Court, which introduced into the class of landed proprietors persons who had been connected with trade, and who had originally had nothing to do with land. But in his (Mr. Hume's) opinion, if there was anything calculated to regenerate Ireland, it was the introduction of capitalists to manage the land. The hon. Member also deplored the emigration that was going on. But he (Mr. Hume) could not see anything but good in the departure of persons who, if they remained in Ireland, could find no work; and it was for their own benefit that they should endeavour to find work elsewhere. As regarded this Bill, he could not approve of it, so far as he at present understood it. He gave the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford) every credit for the most humane desire to serve his countrymen. But the principle of tenant-right, as expounded by the hon. Member, was, in his (Mr. Hume's) opinion, nothing less than the principle of communism. It was a principle which implied spoliation, and would lead to the robbery of all property, he would, however, be glad to hear further from the Gentlemen from Ireland their views upon the question. He was anxious for a full and fair discussion, in order that the House might understand better the exact character of the remedy proposed in this Bill. He had very decided convictions on the point. He was satisfied that the very moment they destroyed property they destroyed society. He objected to the Bill for other reasons. He could not see the wisdom of proposing a uniform system for all Ireland. They had no uniform system for England, nor would a uniform system work in England. They had one system of tenure in Norfolk, and another system in Cumberland; and there should be no arbitrary uniformity in any country. They must trust in Ireland to private bargaining; and the only practicable tenant-right would be in passing laws to remove every impediment which precluded fair and equal dealing between landlord and tenant. But the question 347 had been very imperfectly explained, and he trusted that they would hear something more explicit and explanatory from hon. Gentlemen connected with Ireland than what had been afforded by the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Grattan) that evening.
§ MR. ROCHE
said, that whatever had been the information that had resulted or would result from the present discussion, Her Majesty's Government, at all events, had done very little to elucidate this difficult question. The greatest misfortune which could befall a country was, that it should find itself with a Government who in times of danger or difficulty were either unable or unwilling to govern it rightly; and, judging from the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for Ireland, that country was in such a position. Nothing was more futile than for that right hon. Gentleman to say he would meet the present difficulties of Ireland by that old system of coercion, by that vain attempt at what he called strengthening the law there, or by an alteration in the jury system. By anything so shallow as this, the unhappy state of Ireland could never be settled; and his hon. Friend who had just spoken, had acted much more fairly and candidly, not only with the House but with the country, in calling upon those Irish Members who defended tenant-right to come forward. He (Mr. Roche) was not prepared to approve altogether of the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale; but he did not hesitate, for one, to say that many things might be done in Ireland to settle to a certain extent the unhappy relations between landlord and tenant. In dealing with this question they had first to consider what were the relations of landlords and tenants. These relations were the relations of debtor and creditor, and nothing else. Landlord and tenant ought to deal with one another, and to be dealt with, as debtor and creditor; and the question was, why were not debtors and creditors in connection with land subject to the same laws as ordinary debtors and creditors? The ordinary debtor and creditor law was on a most satisfactory footing. The special debtor and creditor law, in respect to landlord and tenants, was on a most unsatisfactory footing. The result was the evil which they saw in the present condition of Ireland. Whoever heard of paying butchers' bills or bakers' bills with bullet? Yet the agrarian outrages and murders in 348 Ireland were the direct consequences of the system prevailing in regard to the holding land. These relations, within the cognisance of the Government, were disgraceful to the Government. Was the law as between landlord and tenant administered in the same just and and fair spirit as between other debtors and creditors? No; the law on the subject of land was tyrannical, unjust, and unfair. The first great difference was in the law of distress, which allowed a landlord to obtain his rent by most tyrannical means, and put into his hands a power which no one man ought to be allowed to exercise over another. At present rents in Ireland were far too high, and there was a most iniquitous system of rackrent. Now, if the system of distraint were abolished, rack-rents would be rendered almost impossible, for if the landlord was obliged to sue for those rents in the same way as a baker or butcher was obliged to sue, he would not run the risk of letting his land at such high rates. Letting the land over its value, the landlord knew that he would not be able to recover the rent through the ordinary means; and hence the laws which had been passed to secure his artificial rights. Long arrears were a result of the rack-rent system, and the tenant who had long arrears hanging over his head could not be otherwise than a dispirited and unenergetic man. No one would maintain those arrears unless he had a reasonable expectation of getting them; and if the law of distraint were removed, those arrears would become speculative, and would be therefore abandoned. Again, Ireland never could be improved unless the occupying tenants had a more commercial spirit than they possessed at present. They must become more industrious, and that spirit must be met by facilities for commercial credit. Now under the present system of distraint, nobody thought of lending money upon his bill to an occupying tenant, because no one knew, with the exception of the landlord, how the occupier stood in a pecuniary point of view. The consequence was that the tenant-farmers of Ireland were a class of men who, commercially speaking, had no credit at all, and without that credit they could never be prosperous. Let hon. Gentlemen consider what a degrading influence the law of distraint exercised. How could any man entertain a feeling of self-respect when it might be in the power of the landlord, by a single scratch of his pen, to take everything he possessed, not perhaps, in satisfaction of his own debt, 349 but of that of his predecessor on the farm? He believed, then, that if the law of landlord and tenant were assimilated to that existing between other debtors and creditors, a great deal might be done to place the relations of landlord and tenant on a safe and satisfactory footing. It was not a very inviting thing for an independent Member, as he believed he might be termed, to be called on to discuss a subject so difficult as this when Her Majesty's Government set so many bad examples. Governments might make the mistake of doing nothing: which Her Majesty's Ministers were often guilty of with regard to Ireland, or that of which they were guilty still more often—of doing the wrong thing. The Prime Minister, in 1850, put into Her Majesty's mouth an admission that the state of landlord and tenant in Ireland was unsatisfactory and ought to be discussed; but the Government had not acted on that admission. Last year, to be sure, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, in a great bustle, as if he was going to settle the whole business, brought in a Bill, which was allowed to hang up all the Session, till it fell in "the slaughter of the innocents" at the close of Parliament. If Ireland followed the example of the right hon. Gentleman, she would be very tranquil indeed; but the activity which he had exhibited on that occasion was duly the greater contrast to his present neglect. As the representative for fifteen years of the largest agricultural constituency in Ireland, he called on the Government to let them know the worst or know the best—to say they were going to do nothing, or what they were going to do. They had intimated they would not allow this Bill to go beyond a certain stage. What, then, had they got ready on this most important subject? They had refused to state their intentions on this occasion. They felt, and had admitted, their responsibility; but they were trotting off from their responsibility in such a speech as the House had had that night from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, Her Majesty's Government were trifling with this question. The state of Ireland was disgraceful and shocking. The population was diminishing at a fearful state. In 1851, 250,000 of the people of Ireland landed at New York. This was at one port: they could not guess at the numbers who had shipped themselves to the ports of our own American colonies. In a very few years, if this went on, Ireland would be a desert. They would make a 350 desert: and they would call the desolation peace. But those who were left were not bettered by the emigration. They could not put their hands upon any one class in Ireland, and say, that that class was prospering. The commercial class was in a very bad condition. The landed proprietary were by no means in an enviable position. The occupying farmers were even worse off. The fund for the employment of labour had been so diminished that one half of the labour remaining in Ireland was unemployed. Horrible and shocking murders were of frequent occurrence, and in all classes of the community there was suffering and depression. They had heard something of the Tenant League that night. This was a body composed of Presbyterian and Roman Catholic clergy men—men well qualified from their position and calling to judge rightly. These gentlemen were of opinion that much of this ruin, that all the insecurity of life and property, were the consequences of the unsatisfactory state of the relations subsisting between landlords and tenants. The Government were therefore bound not to deny their allegations without very deep consideration. Yet Her Majesty's Government might prove that the Tenant League were wrong; but let them not treat it with perfect indifference. If the Government felt themselves unequal to dealing with the difficulty, let them say so; but let them not, on admitting their own incapacity, at the same time declare that nothing shall be done by others. The conduct of the Government was expressly calculated to provoke and foment agitation. Agitation was injurious per se—was destructive to the commercial well-being of Ireland; but agitation was the only resource of a country when its affairs were inefficiently conducted by its Government.
§ MR. MOORE
would act upon the suggestion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), and would endeavour, categorically, and in as few words as possible, to state to the House what was the evil of which the bulk of the population of Ireland complained. And inasmuch as the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford) was not before the House, he (Mr. Moore) would confine himself strictly to the relation of the wrong, and would not enter at all into the remedy. And to confine himself still more carefully within the sphere of his own experience and observation, he would limit himself to 351 the state of the case in that province and in that county in which he resided, and which he had the honour to represent. About 200 years ago the English people drove the whole Catholic people of Ireland from every other part of Ireland into Connaught, giving them the other alternative of "Hell," which, however, they did not choose to adopt. Since that time the possessors of the soil of that country had scarcely reclaimed an acre of the wilderness to which the people of Ireland had been driven. They had scarcely built a farm-house; they had scarcely constructed a farm-yard; they had scarcely made a fence; they had scarcely dug a drain. The old population, driven by the English conquerors into that country, had, by the sweat of their own brow, by the toil of their own hands, reclaimed a howling wilderness into a fertile land. And since that time, year after year, generation after generation, the landlords had grasped and confiscated the property which the tenant had created; thus generation after generation driving him further into the wilderness, again to dig, again to fertilise, and again to be confiscated. Was not that a great moral wrong? The object sought was to make that moral wrong a legal wrong; or rather to prevent that moral wrong by the creation of a great legal right, by obtaining for the tenant that property which his own toil had created. The question whether the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale would effect the purpose, would be a matter for further consideration. But he (Mr. Moore) was quite sure that every reasonable and feeling man in that House would be most anxious to give any measure introduced for so humane, and good, and just an object, the most impartial consideration. If any particle of partiality was admitted into their minds, it would, he hoped, be in favour of the weak and oppressed—those against whom they had for so many years been legislating.
§ SIR JOHN YOUNG
observed that, as he understood the proposition of the hon. Member, he would vest in the landlords now just so much property as they had when Ireland was desolate and waste 300 years ago.
§ SIR JOHN YOUNG
continued: The only view he had in making a reference to 352 the hon. Gentleman's argument was to repudiate the exaggerated views he had advanced. As to the Bill before them, whether from the shape of the House, from Dr. Reid, or from the low tone in which the hon. Member spoke, he confessed he had only heard one observation of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who moved its introduction. The first part of the hon. Gentleman's Motion was a mere delusion, for it was quite impossible to deal with such a subject by legislation; but Government had not done very wisely in their present conduct, after the course they had taken in former years. For the Mover and for his motives he wished to speak with every respect; but he must say that, from the way in which the hon. Member approached the question, he (Sir J. Young) was hopeless of any solution to it being derived from its means. His Bill would, in effect, transfer from the landlord to the tenant a portion of the property of the land, and it would, like every other Bill on this subject, do more than the Mover proposed to effect. But he was at the same time prepared to admit that the principle of compensation to the improving tenant was one deserving of the greatest consideration; and that the more it was discussed the greater was the chance of its solution and the light that would be thrown upon it. The hon. Member represented the tenant-right of Ulster as a benefit, in the abstract, to the tenant, and as one of the causes of the tranquillity of Ulster. He was prepared to deny both these assertions, and, as one on whose property in Ulster the custom flourished in full luxuriance, he asserted it was an evil to the tenant. Take the case of a tenant leaving a farm let at a high rent. The incoming tenant gave so much money to the man that was leaving; but, if he did so, he lost just so much money—the use of it was entirely lost to the land, and the owner was not only deprived of the principal but of the interest. He would never get one farthing of that money back so long as he worked the farm; but so soon as he was insolvent, and was obliged to leave and go to America and elsewhere, he would receive a proportion of the sum he had paid on entering. Then, when he fell into difficulties, down came the landlord and deducted the arrears, so that the custom was not good for the tenant, but for the inconsiderate, rack-renting landlord, who let his land so high the tenant could not live on it. It might be asked, why the custom prevailed in 353 Ulster? In the first place, the competition for property was greater there than elsewhere; in the second place, the persons who had settled in the north of Ireland in tile fifteenth and sixteenth centuries had introduced the culture of flax and the manufacture of linen, which enabled them to get money which they advanced on the land; and the real secret of the tenant-right was, that the people in the north were constantly making small sums of money which they wished to invest in the land. To extend this practice, instead of being a benefit, would be a mischief to the agriculture and people of Ireland; but that was a perfectly different question from considering the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland. No one was more anxious to have the law remedied; but what he wished was that some learned Gentleman should propose a measure that would give them a firm basis on which to proceed in future. As to the argument of the hon. Member, that tenant-right secured the tranquillity of Ulster, he might as well say that the tranquillity of Scotland was secured 100 years ago by the payment of blackmail. No doubt those who paid it were, in a sense, secured from having their cattle swept off; but would the hon. Member bring in a Bill to perpetuate such a custom? By the present system, the tenant obtained, by the payment of a heavy fine, that protection which the law ought to afford him gratuitously. At present the law did not beget such confidence in the mind of the tenant as to induce him to lay out his money in the improvement of his farm, and this was a state of things that imperatively demanded a remedy.
§ MR. SADLEIR
considered that the hon. Baronet who had just addressed the House misunderstood the nature of the Bill which it was proposed to introduce. He (Mr. Sadleir) did not think, under the provisions of the Bill, there would be any encouragement to an indolent or ill-conducted tenant. The hon. Baronet had shown, in the county with which he was connected, what he considered the vicious working of the Tenant Right. He had put the case of a tenant who, by the sale of his goodwill in his holding, obtained the means of paying his arrears, with sufficient also to enable him to emigrate to America. There was another view, however, of the question—another case which was of frequent occurrence in many 354 parts of Ireland—under the Encumbered Estates Act. It was this: A tenant from year to year holds a highly improved farm; he has expended considerable sums of money, he has drained it, erected farm buildings upon it, and rendered it exceedingly valuable. The estate is put up for sale by the Commissioners, and is sold under the provisions of the Incumbered Estates Act. The tenant is described as from year to year. The new proprietor enters into possession; be serves notice to quit upon the tenant, and possesses himself of all the farm buildings and works, the fruits of the improvements and industry of the yearly tenant occupier. This was a case of great hardship, and be regretted to say that such instances were not singular. They were many. The new owner had the advantage of the industry, and he might perhaps say of the rashness, of the tenant and, as long as the law remained as it was, the tenant from year to year had no security that the value of his improvements would be secured to him. He had never concealed from the Tenant League his conviction, that the proposed Bill fell far short of those legal reforms essential to a sound state of things between landlord and tenant. But he thought that if the principle reflected in the Bill were adopted by the Legislature, it would be an essential improvement on the present state of things. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary plainly intimated that it was the intention of the Government to oppose this Bill; was it possible then, that they meant to content themselves will doing nothing upon this question, which was of such vital importance to the people of Ireland? He appealed to the Government to state their intentions. If they intended to reject this Bill, they ought to do so at once; its continuance on the paper fostered the intense excitement which existed, and would have the most mischievous effects in Ireland; it would tend to increase agrarian crime and outrage. Was it possible, after the various declarations made by Her Majesty's Government when in opposition, and even since they obtained office—after the statements put into the mouth of the Queen in speeches from the Throne, that they were about to allow another Session to pass over without introducing some one of those measures which Session after Session they had admitted to be essential to the improvement of land tenure in Ireland? 355 He was astonished to hear the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) ask for a statement of the evils arising out of the land system. Why, they had blue books upon blue books in their libraries, which contained the fullest information upon the subject. It was the duty of the Government to propose a remedy. It was the duty of the law officers of the Crown in Ireland to introduce those measures which were essential to the reformation of the laws of real property in that country. The practice existing in Ireland was very different from that existing in England. In the former country it is the tenant occupier who risks his money and means, and incurs all the expense, anxiety, and inconvenience of making permanent improvements. This state of things creates in the breasts of the people a passion for the land they have so improved, and creates the notion that the tenant is really a partner in the proprietorship of the land. But the tenant has no security that he may not be turned out to-morrow, and lose all the benefit of his exertions. It is therefore very desirable that some alteration should take place which would leave unchecked the enterprise and industry of the tenant occupier who has the spirit to make those improvements which his landlord is unwilling to undertake. When in a former Session this subject was debated in that House, the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary said it was not an Act of Parliament the people of Ireland required; it was a class of landlords, who, like the hon. Member for Queen's County, would undertake, as he had done in a notice to his tenantry, to be responsible for all improvements they should make. He (Mr. Sadleir) upon that occasion took the liberty of reminding the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) that there would be little need for legislation if they could create in Ireland a race of landlords like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Queen's County. But is it a sound state of law that the tenant should have no security? Is it to be supposed that a prudent tenant-farmer will occupy land in Ireland in the serfish position of a tenant from year to year? He knew that in this country tenants from year to year felt themselves safe, but such was not the case in Ireland. Such was the confusion and complexity of the law of real property in that country, that landlords who believed themselves competent to make leases, and had accordingly granted them, found, when 356 some questions arose, that those leases were utterly invalid. Well, then, before the discussion closes, for the peace of Ireland, and for the sake of those who have purchased land in that country, and for the sake of the Irish tenantry, let us hear that Her Majesty's Government will, in the present Session of Parliament, introduce some measures by which the law of real property will be rendered safe, and the relations of landlord and tenant placed on a more satisfactory basis.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, if there was one reason more pressing than another which should induce Government to legislate on this subject, he thought it was that by so doing they would, at the approaching election, take away one of those popular claptraps which were the means of introducing into that House Members who had very little practical knowledge of the working of the law of landlord and tenant, who held language out of that House most advantageous to the tenant, and who in that House supported Bills which were of a character the House could not agree to. Therefore he joined with the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore), and the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Roche), in urging the Government to do something in this matter. But he must say it was not very encouraging to the Government to hear the very few suggestions thrown out. The hon. Member for Cork, notwithstanding his practical knowledge and the good sense he always displays, only recommends an alteration in the law of distress. If he was correctly informed, the evils inflicted by the law of distress were not confined to Ireland, and the arguments he used were just as applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom. In Scotland, for instance, a distraint can even reach the crop after it has been converted into flour, and is on the road to the market. Another hon. Member complained of the large stream of emigration which was constantly draining the country. He thought emigration was natural to the distresses under which the country laboured; but, as regarded the south of Ireland, he believed that it was slowly emerging from the effects of the storm of agitation which passed over it. The hon. Member for Mayo described the calamities of the country 200 years back; and what remedy did he propose? None at all. Then came the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Sadleir), than whom no one 357 knew better the real evils connected with Ireland, and there were few Gentlemen into whose hands he would rather entrust the drawing up a Bill on the subject; but the hon. Gentleman gave them little assistance on the subject, and he carefully guarded himself from the view taken by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford). Now, the measure proposed by the hon. Member for Carlow, namely, a Bill for giving compensation for improvements, is the only way of dealing with the question in which an honest man can deal with it. If encouragement were given to these Presbyterian agitators to neglect their duties in the north, to carry the flame of agitation over the country, the most mischievous results would ensue. Nothing would content these gentlemen but to make the landlord a copyholder. He considered that there were a few honest men among them, but there were only a few. People did not wish to say these things in Ireland, or to speak their minds. Men had often their eye upon the representation of their county or a neighbouring borough; but as he had not his eye upon his native county, he would speak out, and he would studiously disconnect himself from identification with the provisions of the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale, whom he nevertheless regarded as an honest man. The hon. Member had been invited to a dinner, and came into his (Mr. Osborne's) neighbourhood, but he got into very bad company. He came with those Presbyterian ministers who were preaching doctrines of spoliation. They had been accustomed to deprecate the language used by the Catholic clergy; but he never heard or read of language from any member of that body equally inflammatory to that used by these itinerant agitators. And he shrewdly suspected that the disturbed state of the north of Ireland, disgraced as it was by crime and agrarian outrage, arose very much from the language and conduct of these Presbyterian agitators. He did not hear the whole of the statements of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Crawford); but if his notions on tenant-right were such as were attributed to him in the papers which supported his opinions, the House of Commons would never sanction them, as long as they lived under the dominion of their present constitution, and were opposed to those communistic theories which had found advocates amongst the French people. In truth, the argu- 358 ments put forward by the hon. Member, much resembled in practice the maxim of M. Proudhon,La propriété c'est le vol. Was it not a fact that in Ireland landlords considered themselves very lucky if they got only a fourth part of their income, and they often, to obtain that, had to forgive a whole year's rent? Let them have a sensible Bill, such as, he believed, the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) had then in his pocket. He called on him to produce it. He had devoted great attention and much labour to the subject, and his great ability and practical knowledge well calculated him to deal with it. Being himself in favour of a judicious alteration in the law, he thought it was incumbent on Her Majesty's Government to say how far they were prepared to go, and not to give an encouragement to agitators to hold out delusive hopes.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, as the Government have been appealed to, I will state generally the course they have pursued on this subject. We found when we came into office that Bills upon this subject had been introduced, and we took those Bills for the foundations of the measures we proposed. In more than one Session of Parliament the Chief Secretary for Ireland introduced Bills on this subject, one of which was sent into a Committee. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Keogh), and the hon. Member for Car-low (Mr. Sadleir), served upon that Committee, as did many other Irish Members of great knowledge and experience. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary gave very considerable time and attention to its proceedings; and, with no very ambitious hopes, he bestowed great labour upon it, I was kept informed of the results, and I was told that after many meetings there was an agreement among the Members of the Committee as to what clauses should be adopted and amended. That Bill rather came under the designation of what might be called a sensible Bill; but it did not follow because the Bill was a sensible Bill, that it would be acceptable or give satisfaction to people in Ireland. We were informed that the Bill would be the textbook for agitators: that it was said, "Look at the clauses of this Bill, see how the tenant is robbed, see how injustice is perpetrated. This is the Bill of the Government, and you may see how much they wish to oppress the people of Ireland." That was the sort of language used to- 359 wards a sensible Bill. A great flame having been raised upon this subject, I had an interview with some of the Gentlemen who put forward the rights of the tenant, and took views opposed to the Bill. I went through its provisions. It was quite clear that the clauses did not effect the objects they had in view, and it was equally clear that the first thing they would do would be to collect meetings all over the country and agitate it, and so far from settling the question, or giving satisfaction, the Bill would be regarded as a fresh outrage upon Ireland. It does not follow, however, that it was not a very sensible Bill, because the propositions of its opponents were inconsistent with the rights of property. The hon. Member for Cavan (Sir J. Young) has told us what his views of the question are, and has shown us the working of this tenant-right in the north of Ireland. Now, I very much agree with him. But one of the propositions which found most favour with the Gentlemen who waited upon me was, that a legislative sanction should be given to a custom which had no foundation in law, being merely a matter of arrangement between landlords and tenants. In short, what they proposed amounted to nothing less than taking a portion of the landlords' property, and transferring it to other persons. You may say that many of these tenants had improved their land, and there are certain tenants to whom that description might be applicable; but this wholesale law was to give to the idle and improvident man, who had not paid his rent for years, those advantages to which in equity and justice he had no right whatever. When I saw these claims and these views so strongly urged, it became quite clear to me that no law which we could introduce would be satisfactory, but would rather be the foundation of a mischievous agitation. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) was good enough to send to me some propositions which his experience in Ireland prompted him to make. I read them attentively, and I sent them over to Ireland. They there underwent very much consideration from the Members of the Privy Council, the Irish Government, and the law officers of the Crown. They, however, came, after much deliberation, to the opinion that those propositions in the shape of a legislative enactment would not be conducive to a better relation between landlords and tenants. Under these circum- 360 stances it was impossible for me to bring them forward. Well, then, I came to the conclusion which I stated last year, that in the then temper of Ireland, and considering the objections which had been made to every measure proposed, there would be no advantage in introducing measures into this House or of pressing them to a conclusion since they would only occasion disappointment, and furnish a source for fresh agitation. The question itself, when you come to legislate upon it, is one of infinite difficulty. The hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Sadleir) wishes by legislation to produce a feeling of confidence between the tenant and the landlord. I do not think that confidence can be the creation of an Act of Parliament. It must arise from the state of society—from the good feeling of the tenant, and the sense of justice in the landlord—from the desire of improvement, and the desire to reward it—from the feeling upon the part of the tenant that he will be treated with fairness, if he improves his holding, and pays what is justly due to his landlord.
§ MR. SADLEIR
said, the noble Lord had misunderstood him. It never entered into his imagination that confidence between landlord and tenant could be established by legislation.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I understood the hon. Gentleman otherwise. You cannot by law produce that confidence which ought to exist between landlord and tenant. Look at the case of many estates in England, where there are no leases, but where the landlord and tenant conjointly erect farm buildings of great value, and where perfect confidence exists on both sides. The tenant feels that his landlord will not deprive him of the advantages to which he is justly entitled. Look at the cases more general in Scotland where the lease is more in the nature of a commercial transaction. The tenant has his lease for nineteen or twenty-one years, and he makes his calculation whether he will reap the benefit of any improvements, and he makes them or not accordingly. In both these cases the two parties are satisfied in the trustworthiness of the other. But if you have no such feeling—if you have no such confidence—I will defy any Government or any law to bestow it by an Act of Parliament. Well, then, if you come forward and say farm buildings are an improvement, and it is the custom, if the tenant makes improvements, that the landlord 361 should pay for them, willing or not, I ask, is the landlord to have no voice in the matter? If he is not, let us suppose a case of a landlord who has five farms of ten acres each: he may wish to consolidate these into one farm of fifty acres; and is he to pay for the erection of buildings which, so far from being useful, must only be pulled down? There are thousands of such like difficulties attending all legislation upon this subject. And when you put the two parties to fight and contend on the precise words of an Act of Parliament, where litigation is a sort of pastime, as it is to the people of Ireland, one party will insist that the words are in his favour, while the contrary will be maintained by the other, and you will have constant suits going on as to who has right upon his side. It would cause tenants, instead of improving their land, to embark in continual suits against their landlord. In this state of things I declared, at the end of the last Session of Parliament, that we were not disposed to introduce a Bill upon the subject. It is now said that you should not allow the hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Crawford) to bring in his Bill, and this is urged by those who declare that they could not make out the nature of the propositions which it is to contain. What would be said out of doors if we adopted such a resolution? Not only do the Government refuse to introduce such a Bill themselves, but they will not even allow the introduction of a Bill, and they exclude it without knowing what are its provisions. Let us see the hon. Gentleman's Bill. I do not expect, any more than my right hon. Friend (Sir G. Grey), that the hon. Member's Bill will be a good one; but it is impossible for me to say that it will not contain clauses which may be of great use, as the foundation of some Bill hereafter. This much, however, I cannot agree to—the establishment of tenant-right throughout Ireland. Such an institution established by law would be injurious to the country. Any Bill upon this subject, to effect good, must be of the most temperate character.
§ MR. KEOGH
did not intend to address the House upon the present occasion, as he thought there would be many opportunities for discussing the measure, more especially as he learned that the Government would not oppose the introduction of the Bill. But as the debate had proceeded so far, and as they had been invited to discuss the principle of the Bill, he would 362 state his views of its object and its scope. He thought the House, after hearing the extraordinary statement made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government must be of opinion that the charge of toying and coquetting with this important question, which the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. B. Osborne) had preferred against some Members, was much more applicable to Her Majesty's Government. The Prime Minister had candidly acknowledged that he intended to allow the hon. Member for Rochdale to introduce his Bill, lest, by opposing- it, something might be said in Ireland prejudicial to his Government. The noble Lord said he had frequently attempted to legislate on the subject, but he had now dropped it altogether, because he was indisposed to encourage agitation. He apprehended if, in the year 1852, that was a valid and conclusive reason for the non-introduction of a measure, and the abandonment of a policy after being pursued for years by the present Government, at all events it was a much stronger ground for not introducing this subject at a time when great agitation existed in Ireland on the subject. He (Mr. Keogh) could not forget the course pursued by the First Minister of the Crown in the year 1846, when crime and outrage prevailed in Ireland to an extent far greater over the whole country than existed now in any particular district. In that year, when a measure was introduced by the Government to which the noble Lord was then opposed, for the suppression of crime and outrage, the present Secretary for Ireland proposed that that Bill should not be proceeded with, and assigned as a reason, which was adopted by the noble Lord himself, that remedial measures, more especially one relating to landlord and tenant, ought first to be tried. Who was toying and coquetting with the question then? The question before the House was a Bill for the protection of life in Ireland. It was admitted that throughout the length and breadth of that unfortunate country life was not safe, and property was not protected. The noble Lord, on the 15th of June, 1846, addressed these observations to the House:—However ignorant many of us may be of the state of Ireland, we have here the best evidence that can be procured, the evidence of persons best acquainted with that country—of magistrates for many years, of farmers, of those who have been employed by the Crown—and all tell you that the possession of land is that which makes the difference between existing and starving amongst the 363 peasantry, and that therefore ejections out of their holdings are the cause of violence and crime in Ireland. In fact it is no other than the cause which the great master of human nature describes, when he makes a tempter suggest it as a reason to violate the law:—'Famine is in thy cheeks,Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes,Upon thy back hangs ragged misery.The world is not thy friend, nor the world's law;The world affords no law to make thee rich:Then be not poor, but break it.'Such is the incentive which is given to the poor Irish peasant to break the law, which he considers deprives him of the means of obtaining a subsistence. On this ground I say, then, if you were right to introduce any measure to repress crime beyond the ordinary powers of the law, it would have been right at the same time to introduce other measures by which the means of subsistence might be increased, and by which the land, upon which alone the Irish peasant subsists, might be brought more within his reach, and other mode of occupation allowed to him more than he now possesses" [3 Hansard, lxxxviii. 507.]The noble Lord disliked agitation on this subject now; but when he was in opposition he did not allow the fear of exciting agitation to prevent him from making a declaration so eminently calculated to excite the hopes of the Irish people. The case did not rest here. When the noble Lord came into office, year after year he laid on the table of the House a Bill regulating, or purporting to regulate, the relations between landlord and tenant. That Bill was thrown on the table with the view of something being said about it in Ireland—not with the view of putting down agitation, not with the view of preventing hopes being excited, but with the view of keeping up a mock popularity; and now that the noble Lord saw he could no longer command that popularity, he found it convenient to withdraw the Bill, lest it should excite agitation in that country. But, then, the noble Lord alleged as another reason that five or six of those violent agitators, with whom he professed to have no sympathy at all, whose proceedings he entirely disapproved, came over to London and notified that the measure would not give satisfaction. The Bill was withdrawn, after being read a second time and sent to a Select Committee, because five or six violent and irrational people from the north of Ireland waited on him, and expressed their disapproval of it. Was that a reasonable or proper proceeding to be adopted by Her Majesty's Government? The hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. B. Osborne) had asked why the Members on that side the House did not introduce the measure? 364 Having announced from the Throne that it was a fit subject for legislation, surely it was not the province of independent Members of the House, or of Members sitting in Opposition, to frame a Bill for the law officers of the Crown in Ireland to meet the exigencies which over and over again they had admitted to exist. The hon. Member for Middlesex stated—and a similar statement was made by the right hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department—that the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford) proposed to decrease the rent received from land. He (Mr. Keogh) would argue from that statement, that although the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale had been laid on the table in more than one Session of Parliament, the right hon. the Secretary of State had not made himself master of the details, because on examining them he would find that in express words it was only proposed that the tenant who, by the industry of his hands and the expenditure of his capital, added to the letting value of the property should not be arbitrarily ejected without that compensation which the custom of the country gave to every improving tenant in England. If a tenant, holding from year to year, by the expenditure of capital and labour made improvements under the eyes of the landlord, was it just or fair, when he had so increased the value of the holding, that he should be dispossessed and thrown on the world without the slightest compensation? That was the principle upon which the Bill was founded, and it was the same as that adopted when the Bill was originally laid on the table of that House. If great excitement now existed in Ireland, it had been caused by the conduct of Her Majesty's present Government. Under the Government of the late Sir Robert Peel, it was the constant cry, raised by the noble Lord and the Gentlemen who were now his colleagues, that Sir Robert Peel had forfeited confidence, and omitted to discharge his bounden duty, in not introducing a Bill for regulating the relations between landlord and tenant. The Bill of the Earl of Lincoln was not then sufficient for the noble Lord; his appetite was great, in order to excite hopes among the tenantry of Ireland that when in power he would be prepared, in exchange for support from their representatives, to give a substantial measure of relief on the subject most dear to their interests. The 365 present Government had paltered with this question in every sense. When out of office they had excited the people of Ireland to most extravagant expectations; and in office, when it would no longer serve the purposes of their Administration, they allowed the question, which they themselves had created, to drop to the ground, and now assailed those who, upon their invitation, first became advocates of the measure. The circumstance of disturbances in Ireland had been referred to, and he could assure the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), that no man bore more entire detestation to the commission of those crimes than he did, and he should most unhesitatingly assent to any steps for their repression. But he believed the law now improperly administered in Ireland would be perfectly sufficient; though he would tell the noble Lord at the head of the Government the present law and no law would be sufficient, if everything in Ireland were made a matter of party compromise. The law would be sufficient if everything were done with the view to preserve the peace of the country, and with the object of carrying out substantial measures of relief—not for particular purposes to inflame the passions of the people, or to be a means of propping up the Government, and, when it suited the purpose of the Administration, to betray and fling them away with ignominy and contempt. He would ask why the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland had not addressed the House on this question? When in Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman was not so sparing of his words; and he (Mr. Keogh) asked, why did he, representing an Irish constituency bordering on the district in which tenant-right did exist, now hold back, and, sitting behind the Secretary of State for the Home Department, allow that duty which was his peculiar province to be discharged by another Member of the Government? Why did not the Chief Secretary manfully come forward and state the opinion on this subject which he had deliberately formed, and let the people of Ireland know what they were to expect and what they were not to expect from him on this question?
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he would not have offered a single word to the House at this stage of the measure but for the observations of the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. B. Osborne), who, he was afraid, had said something to lead the House to suppose that he had a specific for this very 366 difficult question. He had only to say with regard to that, that, like some other Members of the House, he had paid a good deal of attention to the subject, and that nearly two years ago he spent some weeks in Ireland for the express and only purpose of examining into the question, and ascertaining, if possible, from intelligent persons of all classes in that country what was the truth regarding it. He had studied with more care than he ever studied other blue books the reports of the Devon Commission; and, having fortified himself by a thorough examination of the question, he formed an opinion, and endeavoured to embody that opinion in a few clauses of a Bill. This Bill was submitted to Irish Members, and by some on both sides of the House it was generally approved. However, it did not meet the views of a large class in Ireland who were moving in relation to this matter, and he thought it better that he, who was not connected with Ireland in any way, should not bring forward a measure that did not meet the approbation of the Members from Ireland, and those whom they represented. He, therefore, took no steps to submit that Bill to the House. He did not think that he should be able, to support in Committee some of the clauses of the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale; yet he would vote for its introduction and second reading, as approving of this one proposition—that the subject was one that required legislation; and, that having adopted the principle, possibly it might be put into such a shape in Committee as would make it useful to Ireland. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had made a very ingenious and dexterous speech, endeavouring to back out of the difficulty on this question. The noble Lord, among other things, told them that a Bill had been prepared, but that persons in Ireland repudiated it as not satisfactory. The noble Lord, however, ought to know that no class of persons whatever believed that that Bill would have been of any service in Ireland. It was repudiated for the simple reason that the clauses of the Bill were so complex, the machinery so involved, and so many notices were to be given from one person to another, that it was impossible to imagine a case in which the noble Lord's Bill could have been of the slightest use to tenants. The noble Lord had sent his (Mr. Bright's) Bill to the Irish Government, and it was disapproved of by them. He (Mr. Bright) would not condemn a Bill 367 on that ground, though the noble Lord did. The noble Lord did not condemn all Bills that were disapproved of by the Irish Government. There was one last Session on which it would have been better if the noble Lord had taken the advice of the Irish Government. But the true state of the case was this: In the Cabinet there were large Irish proprietors, and, without imputing to any proprietor a desire of doing injustice to his tenants, it was easy to understand that after the long continuance of the present state of the law in Ireland, proprietors were alarmed at any proposition coming to them like the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale. The Irish proprietors in the Cabinet, in that House, and out of it, were afraid of a Bill that would interfere with the powers and privileges that a Parliament of landowners for generations past had been conferring upon the proprietors of the soil. That was the point. The question was, could the cats wisely and judiciously legislate for the mice? He did not believe it. He was as much opposed as any man could be to transferring the land from the landlord to the tenant; but a measure of justice was due from the former to the latter, both in Ireland and in this country as well. After the extremity to which Ireland had been reduced, they might have expected some remedial measure upon this subject; but he doubted if it was possible for the noble Lord to get his Cabinet to agree to a measure that should withdraw from the proprietors of Ireland or of this country the property which they asserted they had at the expiration of the tenancy in all that remained on the land, that had been placed there by the capital and industry of the tenant. As matters stood, the law directed that if a tenant expended money on buildings, or in draining, or in improvements of any kind, the improvement became the property of the landlord at the expiration of the tenancy. Now, that was not a just state of the law. He had not the slightest belief that the condition of the tenancy of Ireland could be improved by a violation of the true principles of political economy. He had never consented to a Bill that violated those principles; but the law, as it now stood, violated them most flagrantly; and, were it not that the law had been in existence so long, and that that House was composed of so many who profited by it, it would be seen by every one that such a condition of the law was unjust from the very beginning. The noble Lord at the 368 head of the Government referred to the case of farmers in Scotland, and also, he believed, in England; but there was no comparison to be drawn between them and the farmers of Ireland. It was proved by the Devon Commission, that though it examined 1,100 witnesses in Ireland, there could not be got twenty-one cases in that kingdom in which the landlord had expended money in farm buildings. But the case was very different in Scotland. These were facts that could not be denied by the noble Lord; and were they to have no change of the law in Ireland, because the noble Lord said the evils that prevailed there did not exist in Scotland? Then, when outrages took place, there were, as there ought to be, denunciations of the criminals. But the truth was, that these crimes had been the condition of Ireland for seventy or eighty years back, without cessation of any long period. From the time when Arthur Young wrote, till the period of the Devon Commission, and down to the last copy of the Times newspaper, the same crimes had been enacted in Ireland, and they sprang from the same causes. It was in the eternal decrees of Providence that so long as the population of a country were prevented the possibility of possessing any portion of their native soil by legal enactments and legal chicanery, these outrages should be committed, were they but as beacons and warnings to call the Legislature to a sense of the duties it owed to the country which it governed. In conclusion, should the House refuse assent to the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale, he had only to state that he was ready to co-operate with any of the Irish Members in bringing forward some other measure based upon the considerations he had been urging upon their attention; and if any one of them introduced such a Bill, he should feel it his duty to give it all the support of which he was capable, as he believed there was no question affecting so much as this did the true interests of Ireland.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, that often as he had listened to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester with pleasure, he had never done so with greater gratification than on the present occasion. The hon. Gentleman stated to the House that he had visited Ireland on one occasion for two or three weeks, and that during that time he had applied his great understanding to the condition of the law of landlord and tenant as it existed in that country; 369 that he had mastered the entire question; and had discovered and overcome all the difficulties of a subject which he (Mr. Whiteside) might say for himself and his hon. relative who sat beside him (Mr. Napier) had been the object of their study for a period of twenty years. But some gentlemen could come to a solution of the most difficult and perplexed questions by a rare intuition that did not belong to men of ordinary minds; and if the hon. Member for Manchester had in three weeks discovered a solution for all the difficulties that beset the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland, why, he must embody within himself the wisdom of a Solon or a Lycurgus. Why had the Government not availed themselves of the assistance of the hon. Gentleman? And why did they not more frequently apply to him for aid? Since they did not seem disposed to legislate on difficult questions themselves, why could they not avail themselves of the legislative abilities of the hon. Member for Manchester? He said that cats could not legislate for mice, which was a just and beautiful remark. The hon. Gentleman said, "Irish landlords, in the mass, were unjust and tyrannical to their tenants." He (Mr. Whiteside) represented a portion of the north of Ireland where tenant-right prevailed, and he repelled the calumny; he said, on the contrary, they were just and merciful, and the tenantry who lived under them found them better friends and were treated more kindly than they could be even if they had the good fortune of living under the government of those who held the opinions of the hon. Member for Manchester. He had heard the speech of the hon. Member for Cork with great satisfaction; and he must say, with regard to the law of distress, that it was mischievous to the tenant, and injurious to the landlord. He could say this from practical experience, as he had conducted cases of the landlord against the tenant, and of the tenant against the landlord in relation to distresses for rent. The present state of the law was wrong, and required to be redressed, and he, for one, was ready to devote his humble efforts to make it just and equitable. With reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. B. Osborne), he had said much with which he agreed; and the hon. Gentleman had a right to speak confidently on this question—as he could vouch for it that he was a good Irish landlord and a good farmer; therefore it was that he deprecated 370 all wild interference with the rights of property; and therefore it was that he had spoken on this occasion with a degree of caution and care which he (Mr. Whiteside) did not think on certain other questions his hon. Friend was remarkable for. But he must deprecate his friends near him, and himself, being involved in the task that the hon. Member would cast upon them. He asked why should not his hon. relative, and himself, and other Gentlemen unite their counsels, and make out a Bill applicable to this question? But was that their duty? Was it the duty of the Gentlemen who sat there; or was it a compliment to the Ministers that was tacitly conferred, as if they were unequal to the task, to consign the performance of that task to others? He frankly admitted that the task was a difficult one. He admitted that the law was cumbrous, perplexed, and multifarious—that both landlord and tenant were embarrassed by the number and variety of the Acts of Parliament that existed on the question. But it was not true that they had not endeavoured to correct these manifest and glaring evils. An excellent work had been prepared by Mr. Ferguson, giving a legal view of the entire subject, in order that it might attract the attention of Her Majesty's Ministers, and lead to a just and comprehensive measure. He had listened to the noble Lord with all the respect that his distinguished position entitled him to receive. The noble Lord said it was a difficult subject, and he (Mr. Whiteside) admitted it. But was that a reason why the Minister should shrink from grappling with this question? Was it only with questions that were easy of adjustment that he was capable to deal? Where were the law advisers of Her Majesty's Ministers? One part of the work to be performed was to condense and simplify the law, reducing some 150 Acts of Parliament within the compass of two or three. No doubt, this would be a matter of difficulty and labour, and would require knowledge, care, and diligence. He frankly confessed, however, that he did not expect any such measure from the present Ministry or their legal advisers. But the noble Lord added that the adjustment of this difficult subject might create a flame of agitation in Ireland. If the noble Lord was to shrink from every question that would raise agitation in Ireland, he never would settle any question in that country. But he confessed his surprise was still greater when 371 the noble Lord declared that the good and sensible Bill which he said the Government had prepared had been cast aside, lest it should have been objected to, and have disappointed unreasonable men, who would never be satisfied with any Bill whatever. That was not a statesmanlike view of the case, and ought not to prevent Ministers from dealing with this subject. He would have thought that the noble Lord would have had such just confidence in his own abilities, and the wisdom of the measures that he might have introduced, that he would have persevered till he had added to the laurels he had already gained, instead of bringing before them mere speculative reforms. But he feared that they would spend the Session as they spent the last, in debates on profitless subjects; while those of real practical importance would not be brought forward by Government till perhaps some future Session, if they were then in office, when important questions might be settled; and then, and not till then, they might see the luminous measure which the hon. Member for Manchester had hinted at recorded in the Statute-book as a fresh proof of legislative wisdom and patriotism.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
thought the debate was verging very closely upon party and personal attacks, and that the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Athlone (Mr. Keogh) was not so much directed to the elucidation of this great question as to a party fight; nor had the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) by his speech at all cleared up the difficulty which surrounded the question. There seemed some fatality in their endeavours to improve Ireland, since it invariably elicited such warm feeling; and though the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) said it was not his duty or the duty of his hon. relative to frame this Bill, he must tell him and all the Irish Members that it was the duty of all well-wishers of their country to lay aside all party feelings upon questions immediately affecting the interests of their constituents. He believed, with the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that legislation would do little to create confidence between landlord and tenant—that that must be the consequence of a good feeling between the different parties. In England we are subjected to the same laws that existed in Ireland, yet there was no complaint on the subject. A tenant living upon church lands could only take a lease for seven years; and if he made any 372 improvements on his holding, his reward was, that, at the end of his lease, an additional fine was laid upon him on the renewal of his lease. So it was with regard to copyholds; and if any improvement were made in the law with regard to Ireland, he thought it ought to be extended to England. It was the duty of all who wished well to their country to meet together and to agree upon that which would conduce to the general benefit. Let them imitate the course of the Members for Scotland, who met together, and by each conceding something, had contrived to get through their public business with much profit to their country. He should give his best attention to the Bill, although he had no great hope of its success.
§ MR. LENNARD
said, he objected strongly to the Bill proposed by the hon. Member for Rochdale; and he thought the hon. and learned Member for Athlone had not put the question fairly, when he asked whether a tenant ought not to be compensated for improvements made by him. He (Mr. Lennard) admitted that, if the improvements were made under the eye and with the consent of the landlord, the tenant would be entitled to compensation. In England this state of things is provided for by previous arrangement; but by the present Bill the landlord was to make compensation, whether the alterations had been made with his consent or not. He considered this a great injustice—a great encroachment on the rights of property, almost amounting to confiscation, taking away all discretion from the landlord, and fixing him with a responsibility against his will. He wished the Government had objected to the introduction of the Bill, even for discussion; but as it had not done so, all he could do would he to protest against it at the present time.
§ Leave given.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Sharman Crawford, Mr. Keogh, and Mr. M'Cullagh.