HC Deb 31 March 1852 vol 120 cc439-75

Order for Second Reading read.


after presenting 109 petitions from different parts of Ireland in favour of the Bill, moved the Second Reading of it. He said that the principle of the Bill had been so much mis- represented that he felt it necessary to say a few words explanatory of it. He felt a deep responsibility on that occasion, for he stood there—not to carry out any crotchet of his own—not the advocate of any sect or party—but the messenger of a nation. He was entitled to say that he was asking for the second reading of a Bill to the principle of which a nation had assented. The number of petitions which had been presented in favour of the Bill from all parts of Ireland, justified him in making such a statement; and he must say that he could not but feel some pride in the reflection that he was in the remarkable position of presenting to the consideration of the House a measure against which not one single petition had been presented. Regard being had to the singular importance of the question, this was a position which he believed to be almost wholly without precedent. The Bill was introduced so far back as the 13th February, so that ample time had been given for consideration of it. The preamble of it stated, that the practice in Ireland had been to let land to tenants at will, or on short leases, without suitable buildings, and without making allowance to the tenant for any permanent improvement of the soil. That statement was supported by all the evidence brought before the House with regard to the Law of Tenant Right, and by Ferguson and Vance in their collection of Statutes relating to Ireland. It was because the tenant was obliged to erect suitable farm buildings and offices in Ireland that legislation was necessary in order to secure the interest of the tenant. The landlords were not in a position to even make the necessary improvements; and the tenants had to rely on the honour of their landlords for the value of any improvements they might make. In Ireland the land was the principal source of the subsistence of the Irish people. Their existence depended on the application of their labour to the soil, and some fair protection should be given to the Irish occupier for the labour and capital he might expend in improvements. The preamble went on to recite that the custom of Tenant Right had existed in the north of Ireland for many years. The Bill did not provide that the custom should be enforced in other parts of Ireland. It only proposed that in those parts in which the custom prevailed, the valuation should be made according to that custom; but it placed the onus of proving the custom of the district on the tenant. The first clause enacted, that all improvements of the soil or buildings made by the tenant, or inherited by him, by means of which the annual letting value of the fee-simple should have been or should be increased, should be deemed to be the property of the tenant, subject to the regulations afterwards provided for in the Bill. That was the principle of the Bill, the Tenant Right custom being merely an incident of it. The Bill also provided that the value should be assessed according to the custom of Tenant Right where it prevailed, but where there was no such custom, by award. For the security of landlords there were provisions to the effect that no landlord should be required to pay compensation if he was willing to continue occupation to the tenant at the same rent, and that no claim for compensation could be made unless increased value had been given to the farm by the labour and capital of the tenant. There was also a clause which laid down the rules by which the arbitrators were to be guided in their decisions. The principle of the Bill was in strict accordance with the Civil Law and with the Law of Scotland on the subject of improvements made by the tenant. The Tenant Right custom in the north of Ireland had arisen partly from the condition of the plantation of Ulster by James I., and partly by consent from a sense of equity. It had been acknowledged by landlords, and tenants had been permitted to sell their interest, but of late years a considerable depreciation had taken place in the value of the privilege. His object was to make the Law of Ireland similar to the Law of England with reference to Tenant Right, and that when the tenant claimed compensation, the onus of proving that it was the custom of the district, should fall upon him. The Bill would have a retrospective operation; and he should say he could conceive nothing more monstrous than to give compensation for future improvements, and at the same time to throw overboard all improvements that had hitherto been effected. He believed his measure was framed in perfect conformity with the opinions which were alleged to have been put forward by the noble Lord (Lord Naas) the Secretary for Ireland in the speech he had lately addressed to the electors of Coleraine. If that speech had been correctly reported, it would afford a complete groundwork for the present Bill. The noble Lord had expressed a hope that the Government would endeavour to deal with that question, and to "provide compensation for improvements, which he believed to be the object contemplated by Mr. Crawford's Bill." The noble Lord further said that "he should be the first person to support a law which would secure to the industrious tenant and his descendants the money he had laid out on his farm;" and he then proceeded to state that "he could not believe that a law which gave no security or compensation to the tenant was a just one—that a law should be passed which would prevent the landlord from taking advantage of the money laid out by the tenant—that no man should reap where another had sown—and that the object of the Government should be to hold out to the tenant-farmer encouragement to invest his capital and labour in the laud." Now he (Mr. Crawford) considered that those principles were identical with those on which his Bill proceeded. It was the business of the House to decide on the principle of the measure on that occasion, when it was proposed that it should he read a second time. If that principle were then sanctioned by the House, he should, if it were thought desirable, be ready to submit the details of the Bill hereafter to the consideration of a Select Committee; and, if the Government should wish to introduce a measure upon the same subject, he could have no objection to postpone the Committee on his Bill until the Government proposal had been brought under the consideration of the House; or he should even be prepared to have both measures referred to a Select Committee. He thought the House should acknowledge that that was a fair proposal on his part. One point which was open to a good deal of consideration was the tribunal to which disputed cases under the Bill should he referred. That was a matter involved in great difficulty, and with respect to which much difference of opinion might be expected to prevail. He proposed that the first step should be taken by arbitration, and that, if arbitration should fail, all claims under, 100l. should be referred to the assistant barrister and a jury, while all claims for more than 100l. should be referred to a Judge of Assize and a jury. But he did not hold himself finally committed to such an arrangement, and he should he prepared to give his best consideration to any other proposal that might be made for the settlement of that point. He would next pro- ceed to advert to some of the other clauses of the Bill. The 10th Clause would provide for the adjustment of all contracts made previously to the repeal of the Corn Laws; and he thought it only fair that contracts made before that great legislative change should be open to a fair revision. But that clause was not essential to the Bill; it was merely an adjunct to it. There were two other clauses to which it was necessary he should refer—he meant the 13th and the 14th Clauses, which had hot originally been embodied in the measure, but which were additions to it that he had accepted at the pressing solicitation of gentlemen deeply interested in the question. The 13th Clause would afford security against evictions for a limited period; and the 14th Clause would make provision for an equitable adjustment of arrears of rent. After all they had heard of the manner in which vast numbers of persons in Ireland had been turned out of their homes in sickness, in infancy, and old age, and left to die by the ditches, he did not see how any person, animated by feelings of humanity, could resist a proposal for checking the recurrence of such scenes. But there was also a provision in the measure for rendering the tenant liable to the payment of rent while he remained in possession. He did not regard that question as one which merely affected the interests of landlords and tenants, for in his opinion it affected the interests of the community at large. Land was essential for life, and the application of land should be kept in the hands of the State, which should regulate it with regard to the public welfare. It had been said that that Bill would produce litigation and annoyance to landlords, without conferring any substantial benefit on the tenants. But he entirely differed from that statement. He considered that the landlord's rights could never be safe unless the tenant's rights were justly protected. He would secure for the landlord his land, while he would secure for the tenant the value of his improvements. The Bill would provide no compensation except for value given. He believed that the rejection of the measure would hold out a premium to agitation, and would lead to an increase of agrarian outrages; and although he detested violence, he could not help feeling that the crimes which had disgraced a portion of the agricultural districts of Ireland had been promoted by the refusal of that House to effect a settlement of that question after having for years ac- knowledged the evils and the injustice of the present system. For his part, in endeavouring to deal with that subject, he had been impelled solely by a desire to do justice to all parties interested in the matter, and to promote the happiness and prosperity of his country.


seconded the Motion.

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


said, it had for a long time been his opinion that there was no subject better entitled to the consideration of that House than the question which then engaged their attention. It was most desirable that they should encourage a beneficial cultivation of the soil in Ireland, and promote the industry and stimulate the energies of the people of that country, as far as legislation could effect these objects. That subject should be approached in a dispassionate spirit; and he could not help expressing a hope that the candid and temperate manner in which it had been introduced by the hon. Member for Rochdale would be imitated by every speaker who might follow him on either side of the House. He was deeply conscious of the great difficulties which surrounded the question, but he thought that he would himself at no very distant period be able to bring forward a measure which would offer, as he believed, a fair solution of those difficulties, which would consolidate and simplify the whole code, regulating the relation of landlord and tenant in Ireland, and which would promote, as far as legislation could promote, the prosperity of the inhabitants of that part of the United Kingdom. He had, from the first, been an advocate of the principle of granting the tenant compensation for unexhausted improvements, on the principle that "what a man sows, that shall he reap." And it should be remembered that in Ireland improvements were usually made by the tenant, which in England and in Scotland were in general made by the proprietor. It was manifest that the tenant who improved the soil ought not to be deprived of the fruits of his labour by any act of arbitrary caprice. He had been much struck by a statement of the late Mr. O'Connell upon that very complicated question. Mr. O'Connell had observed, that— In everything that is said about the alteration of the law of landlord and tenant in respect of improvements, we are speaking of a subject which requires great caution and cool deliberation, in order to work out the details, so that one mischief may not supersede another; and we should take care that there be as few objections in point of justice and equity to the new system as possible. The Devon Commission had carefully inquired into that subject, and, in the following passage, they had stated their views with respect to it:— Although it is certainly desirable that the fair remuneration to which a tenant is entitled for his outlay of capital or of labour, in permament improvements, should be secured to him by voluntary agreement rather than by compulsion of law; yet, upon a review of all the evidence furnished to us upon the subject, we believe that some legislative measure will he found necessary in order to give efficacy to such agreements, as well as to provide for those cases which cannot be settled by private arrangement. We earnestly hope that the Legislature will be disposed to entertain a Bill of this nature, and to pass it into a law with as little delay as is consistent with a full discussion of its principle and details. We are convinced that in the present state of feeling in Ireland no single measure can be better calculated to allay discontent, and to promote substantial improvement throughout the country. Now, he thought it very unfortunate that there had not been attached to the Devon Commission some person specially charged with the consideration of that question, and who should, at the earliest possible moment, have brought forward a measure for effecting a settlement of it. The Report of the Commission had naturally excited the hopes of the tenantry; and nothing could be more prejudicial to the industry and the tranquillity of a country, than to awaken in the public mind expectations which were never to be gratified. Every one must be prepared to admit that a settlement of that question ought to be delayed as little as possible. His hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford) had announced that they could not hereafter have the benefit of his services in endeavouring to effect such a settlement; and he could assure his hon. Friend that, when they remembered his earnest and disinterested labours in that course, his high public character, and his useful and beneficent life as a landlord and a private gentleman, they would all part with him with sincere regret. The many attempts that had hitherto been made to deal satisfactorily with the question had failed; and he thought that the measures which had been introduced for that purpose had been liable to one great objection. In his opinion, no measure upon the subject could be successful that was not simple in its details. The necessity of giving a variety of notices, and of appealing from one Court to another, would, he believed, produce perpetual irritation between landlords and tenants, and would only serve the purposes of factious and designing persons, who thought it their interest to keep the country in a state of perpetual disturbance. For his part, he felt persuaded that the inconveniences which would arise from a complicated and perplexing machinery would be productive of more mischief than even the abuses of the existing system. His hon. Friend (Mr. S. Crawford) was no doubt desirous that they should then enter into a full discussion of his measure: and he (Mr. Napier) should, therefore, proceed frankly to state the objections which he entertained to it in its present form. The principle of compensation for unexhausted improvements was admitted by everybody; but he believed that the general framework of the measure which would substitute the will and the power of Parliament, in place of voluntary contracts between landlords and tenants, was not conformable to the views and opinions of that House, and could not possibly obtain its sanction. That was a conclusion to which he had been led by the discussions which had already taken place upon the subject. He hoped that they would not deal with contracts for the occupation and cultivation of the soil in a manner different from that in which they dealt with all other contracts, and that they would not subject the arrangements between landlords and tenants to restrictions at variance with that unfettered action which it had of late been becoming more and more the tendency of their legislation to recognise as the best principle which could be adopted in all business transactions. One of his objects in framing the Bill which he proposed to introduce would be to give larger powers to the holders of property, so that those who possessed bat a limited interest in the soil might be enabled to enter into more extensive contracts for its beneficial cultivation than any which they could at present form. He would allow that beneficial cultivation to be conducted in accordance with the law of the land, and so to be in conformity with that freedom which it had been the tendency of all their recent legislation to promote. At present different landed proprietors possessed different powers for the letting of their lands; but he would give to all owners of the soil, whether they were pri- vate individuals, or lay societies, or ecclesiastical corporations, a uniform power with respect to the granting of agricultural leases. He (Mr. Napier) had lately read a very admirable speech made by the Duke of Newcastle, in which that noble Duke, in referring to the relations between landlord and tenant on his own property, stated there were in the office the heads of an agreement, fairly and equitably drawn up as between landlord and tenant, which any tenant could come in and sign as regarded beneficial improvements. In the same way the hon. Baronet (Sir A. B. Brooke) who represented Fermanagh, had also another equitable form by which the compensation paid to improving tenants was regulated, and so far everything went on in peace and harmony. He admitted the law might and could do a great deal, but it was impossible to make a good landlord or a good tenant by Act of Parliament. The co-operation of all parties in Ireland was absolutely necessary to the final adjustment of this question; and he doubted not if they all did their duty by the country, as well as to legislate for it, rapid advancement and prosperity would be the consequence. If this question should be satisfactorily arranged, as he hoped it would before many months, then by all classes doing their duty, by exciting the people to industry, and by stimulating their energies instead of inflaming their passions, who could define the extent of the prosperity to which the country might attain? In cases where the landlord was in a position to enter into settlements with his tenantry—as in the instance of the owner in fee and the occupier—he thought the parties should be left to themselves, and no legislation introduced. But then came a case of difficulty—that of the limitation of property. The difficulty was, that whilst it was most important that property should be so continued for family provisions, yet it should be so regulated as not to interfere with the beneficial cultivation of the soil by a system of leases and contracts. He found in the Report of the Devon Commission the following opinion expressed by that body: "In many well-regulated estates no leases are given; but, as a general system, we think it more for the benefit of the landlord and tenant that moderate leases should be granted." He (Mr. Napier) said that was sound sense; and, therefore, landlords who had not the power of making leases at present ought to be enabled to make them. Now, as regarded the usage called tenant- right in Ulster, as at present practised, he (Mr. Napier) had the highest authority—that of Judge Perrin and Mr. Holmes, both of whom went the Northern Circuit for many years—for saying that it was not known as a legal custom; and one of the reasons why he objected to this Bill was because it sought to perpetuate a vicious system of compensation. If they could obtain a fair and free compensation between landlord and tenant for improvements of an unexhausted nature, it would be all the better; at the same time he should say he would not touch or interfere with any existing custom or usage by Act of Parliament. Advances had been made on the faith of that custom. It was a matter of usage and contract, and he, therefore, would not interfere with it. To the first clause of the Bill introduced by his hon. Friend (Mr. S. Crawford), he should object. That clause sought to enact "that all improvements of the soil, and all works of every description which should be effected by the labour of the tenant, should be held to be the property of such tenant." In that principle he (Mr. Napier) could not agree. In his opinion the tenant-farmer was as deeply interested in maintaining the fixed rights of property as any other individual; for, after all, the rights of property were the basis of all civilisation; and if they infringed on the rights of property they infringed on the rights of industry—for property was the accumulated gain of industry. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Crawford), in introducing the Bill, had referred to the Scotch law on the subject. Now, let them see what was the state of the Scotch law. It was a general feeling in Scotland that, by giving the tenant a lease for nineteen years, the landlord ensured to him an opportunity of repaying himself for whatever outlay and improvements he might make in his holding. His (Mr. Napier's) objection, amongst others, to the present Bill was, that it pointed out no period in which these improvements might repay themselves. He denied that the tenant was entitled in perpetuity to the absolute benefit of these improvements. What he should recommend was this—let them well consider the nature of the improvements, and then, by a proper scale of computation, endeavour to measure the number of years requisite, to compensate the tenant for his outlay and improvements. When he spoke of improvements, he more particularly referred to improvements in the soil, than improvements on the soil— such, for instance, as sub-soiling, draining, and improved cultivation. He believed, in all cases in Scotland, as also in England, there was a certain period fixed and made applicable, and within which the tenant might reimburse himself for his outlay, but beyond which the tenant could have no further claim on these improvements. He wished to see secured to the tenant that certain period of possession during which he could be placed in the enjoyment and occupation of his holding, and thereby enabled to reap the fruits of those improvements and outlays; and if any interruption should intervene to his possession, then the value of the number of unexpired years of his tenure should be fairly ascertained, and full and due compensation awarded. That appeared to him a plan so just that no righteous landlord or honest tenant would object to it. He objected, that by the Interpretation Clause and other clauses in the Bill now before the House, existing contracts would be interfered with; and he maintained that it would be most impolitic and unjust so to tamper with the fixed principles of property. The Preamble of the Bill stated, that by custom "a right of continued occupation is enjoyed by the tenant in possession, subject to the payment of the rent to which he is liable, or such change of rent as shall afterwards be settled from time to time by fair valuation." Now, he did not recognise the two principles embodied in those words, one of which was fixity of tenure, and the other compulsory valuation. By the 4th Clause, a tenant being served with notice to quit, or notice of ejectment, or notice of increased rent, or if a tenant at will, claiming a reduced rent, might serve on his landlord a notice of his claim, and offer arbitration. Now, supposing that a tenant had forfeited his lease by violating the conditions—say against subletting—which was considered to be injurious to the interests of the country, yet all the right of the landlord was, notwithstanding, to be superseded by the present Bill. Then an appeal from this arbitration was allowed to a barrister at quarter-sessions or to a jury; and if a landlord were served with claims by a number of his tenants, he might have to go to quarter-sessions to meet several hundreds of cases. What property could stand that? By the 7th Clause the arbitrators were to allow the tenant value for buildings he had erected, although those buildings might have been erected and sublet in contravention of the lease; and thus the landlord would be compelled to pay the tenant for the violation by the latter, of his lease. Arbitration, though at times very useful and very wise, was not always applicable as between landlord and tenant. Each appointed as his arbitrator some individual who sympathised with him or his class; and when they could not agree, they generally decided in "splitting the difference," as the phrase went, but seldom succeeded in doing justice to either landlord or tenant. In a little book which he held in his hand, called the "Tenant-Right Catechism," he found a very remarkable case—the case of a Mr. Berwick who was stated to have lost 1,485l. by a holding. He paid for the interest of the holding the sum of 1,000l.; for improvements, 800l.; which made 1,800l. He sold his "tenant-right" for 315l., which deducted from 1,800l. left 1,485l. as the gross loss. But, according to a different calculation, made on the true facts, instead of having lost 1,485l., he gained during his tenure 295l. As to cases of eviction, he could not deny that many things occurred that would be bitterly regretted by all feeling and Christian men. He perfectly concurred with his hon. Friend (Mr. S. Crawford) that the Legislature was bound to provide just compensation to the tenant in all cases of unexhausted improvements, and that the tenant should have a fair opportunity of enjoying the fruits of these improvements. Yet he would not be induced to go outside the limits of the fixed laws of property, in order to accomplish that object. He believed they now had it in their power to benefit to a great extent the agricultural interests of Ireland. The subject, no doubt, was a difficult one. He had applied his mind to it for years; and though he believed he had been able in the end to arrive at a safe and satisfactory solution of the difficulty, he yet felt himself at present unwilling to say more. That unwillingness arose in this way. At the commencement of the present Session, it was his intention to have submitted a measure to the House, and to have solicited the assistance of the House in carrying it through, with regard to the question of landlord and tenant; yet now, owing to his present position as a Member of the Government, his opinion was that the measure should be brought in under the sanction and responsibility of the Government; because it was right that the Government should have a full opportunity of considering this important subject. In the pre- sent period of the Session Her Majesty's Government could not be expected to complete any measure of so important a nature. But he might say he had shadowed forth an outline of what the measure should be. The first duty in framing a Bill on this subject would be to consolidate more than one hundred Statutes which referred to the tenure and occupation of land. The second would be the full and complete investigation of all the remedies that had been suggested on both sides, with a view to final and equitable adjustment between the landlord and tenant; and the third would be as regarded those cases in which the parties on both sides agreed—a power of agreement never to be overlooked—and where they did not, nor could not agree, then for the law to step in and declare what should be a fair, and just, and reasonable arrangement. He was sorry to have trespassed so long upon the attention of the House; but the question was one of great importance. He would take the liberty of reading an extract from a report furnished by a very respectable member of the Society of Friends in Ireland (Mr. Pim), in which some very strong objections were urged against the extension of the principle of Tenant Right, as proposed by the hon. Member for Rochdale:— The Ulster Tenant Right depends merely on the good feeling and sense of justice of the landlords, joined with the fear that an infringement of what the tenants have esteemed their rights might produce serious disturbances. It does not effect perfect security in Ulster, and it appears to us impracticable to adapt it to the rest of Ireland. To give the tenants a perpetuity at the present rents, or at a valuation, would be to violate the rights of property, by confiscating the future interests of the landlord for the advantage of the tenant. Such injustice can never be expedient, and so long as the present laws remain in operation it does not appear to us that it would effect any good end. To give the tenant a legal right to compensation for improvements, subject to all the restrictions and limitations which have been proposed, would only be an additional complication of the law, harassing and vexatious to the landlord, and delusive to the tenant. The remedy which we propose is freedom. All dealings connected with the land are best determined by private contract, and legislative interference in such case is hurtful; but the present system is one continued series of interferences. For the removal of this Interference the assistance of the Legislature is required; but all legislation on this subject should be permissive and enabling, not compulsory. If all parties connected with land be placed on a footing of complete mercantile equity—if perfect facility of forming and enforcing valid contracts be given them—the arrangements which their mutual interests will suggest will ensure the greatest benefit for themselves and for the public. He had now stated the great outlines of the measure which he contemplated, and which went as far as he thought would be advisable in regulating the contracts between landlord and tenant. There was no exertion he could make, no industry he could supply, no information he could obtain, which he would not use with the greatest diligence, in order to have the question brought to a satisfactory issue. These simple measures would do more good, and tend more to promote the prosperity of Ireland, than all the nostrums which might be propounded during the next half century. While he would struggle to make the law a terror to evil doers, he would endeavour to maintain the rights of property, and protect the industrious tenant. This was his prayer—that God would bless Ireland, so that yet, by a gradual and certain process she might acquire a place among the nations of the world. He hoped yet to see her happy and prosperous.


said, that in the name of justice, mercy, and fair play, let the law be a terror to all evil-doers, but let the House remember that all the evil-doers in Ireland were not confined to the Ribband lodges. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland said that they could not make good landlords by Act of Parliament, but they might prevent landlords from being mischievous by Act of Parliament. Though he had listened with great pleasure to the commencement and greater part of the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he was sadly disappointed with the conclusion, because, if ever he had heard a speech which contained a good reason for going into Committee to consider the details of a measure, it was the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. In the present unhappy state of Ireland it was of the utmost importance that the principles lately proclaimed by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland at Coleraine, and repeated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) that afternoon, should take the form of an Act of Parliament; but after the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman he did not know how the country was to be governed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had said it was necessary there should be a change of the law. That was said out of office; but now the noble Lord (Lord Naas) and the right hon. and learned Gentleman were in office, they did not come forward to propose it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had hinted at what he meant to do on this subject, and one thing was, to increase the power of the landlords: that might be a very good thing in itself, but he (Mr. Roche) would say that that would not touch the present evil. What he complained of was, that the landlords did not do what they were now enabled to do. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman had not changed his mind of late, why did he not at one introduce his measure? It was idle to say, "Wait for the next Session of Parliament, and see what measure we will introduce," because the Government might not be in office next Session, and then what would become of their Bill? All the right hon. and learned Gentleman had said of Mr. Berwick's case might be quite true; but that very case was exactly the case that ought to be submitted to the arbitration clauses of the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale. With regard to Lord Dungannon's tenants, what objection could there be to go into Committee on this Bill, so as to devise means for muzzling such tenants as those of that nobleman? He believed that all the social evils under which Ireland laboured, were to be attributed to the defective relations between landlord and tenant. Let the House look at the present social state of that country. First, there was a frightful decrease of the population; then there were agrarian disturbances, and safety neither to life nor property; and, lastly, there was an overwhelming accumulation of taxation. All could be traced to the unhappy state of the question of landlord and tenant. As to the first, he did not wish to bring into the consideration of it the question of the famine. He believed that the effects of that famine might have been mitigated by a good system of legislation; but it had not pleased Parliament to apply such a system. He would, however, put the famine out of consideration—it was over, and still the frightful decrease of the population went on. In 1851 there entered the port of New York alone 250,000 emigrants from Ireland. The Irish did not emigrate in families, but in sections, and he believed that the number he had mentioned represented in fact 1,000,000 of persons, and that, before many years had passed, the whole of the 1,000,000 would have left the country. All this arose in consequence of the insecurity of tenure in Ireland. Then, as to agrarian disturbances, it was patent to every one that the dreadful murders that were committed arose out of the existing state of landlord and tenant. The House ought to apply itself to the cause of such an evil, and try to remedy it. Much had been said about the rights of property, but more might be said about the rights of human life. There was nothing in the Bill before the House that tended to improve the rights of property. No one could deny that the enormous taxation now raised in Ireland was to be traced to the insecurity of tenure, because the ratepayers had been driven out of the country by the oppressive nature of the existing laws. No measure would give satisfaction in Ireland which did not give the tenant full value for his improvements. And as to the accumulation of taxation, did any one believe they could stop it by any other means than by bringing the only capital they had—the capital of the tenant-farmers—and the land together? At present there was a large amount of capital in the savings banks that might be applied to the land, but proper legislation on the subject was required for the purpose. To one part of the Bill, that of providing compensation for improvements, the right hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to agree. Let the House, then, go into Committee upon this Bill. If they did, there might be other parts of it upon which they might agree; but, if they refused, the people of Ireland would say the declaration of the noble Lord at Coleraine, and of three of the right hon. and learned Gentlemen in that House, on this question, were a mere sham.


said, that if there were any difficulty greater than another on this question among those hon. Members from Ireland who sat on his side of the House, it arose from the feeling that the Government had not solved the dilemma in which Ireland was placed by bringing in a Bill upon the subject. His hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Crawford) had, in common with many other hon. Members who advocated this question of tenant-right, inflicted what the great daily organ of public opinion called an annual "craze" upon the House; but he had done so, not with a view of obtaining popularity, or for any interest connected with tenant-right, but from a deep and earnest conviction that to this question much and many of the calamities of Ireland were to be attributed; and his hon. Friend having brought forward this Bill, he (Viscount Castlereagh) thought it was the duty of the Government to allow the hon. Gentleman's Bill to go into Committee. He had rejoiced to hear the admirable, conciliatory, most kind, and he might say most affectionate speech, towards the people of Ireland, that had that day been delivered by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland; and the address lately delivered by the noble Lord (Lord Naas) the Chief Secretary for Ireland to his constituents at Coleraine also held out great hopes that the Government were prepared to settle this great question in a manner satisfactory to the country. But still it appeared that the Government measure was to be deferred and delayed. Like many other things which the present Government had taken up, they had consigned it to the dim region of the future. The Mokanna of the Treasury Bench, who had just promised to legislate on this subject at some future period, was only rivalled by the Lady of Mystery, the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He was afraid that by staving off this question, they wished to cashier the Bill of his hon. Friend (Mr. S. Crawford). He himself would not be bound to all the details of his hon. Friend's Bill, for he saw many objectionable parts in it; but what he said was, that if the Government acknowledged its principle, and wished to deal fairly with the Bill, they would allow it to go into Committee. This was not only a tenant question, it was a question very deeply affecting the landlords of Ireland also; and he trusted that the Government would lose no time in bringing the matter to a satisfactory settlement on their behalf also. He appealed to the territorial squirearchy of England, and asked them to prove their sympathy with the interests of agriculture by helping to place the Irish farmers in a right position. The mode of letting land in England and Ireland was very different. In England the landlord raised the farm-house, the byres, the fences, and kept them in repair; but in Ireland the tenant was obliged to do everthing of this kind, and if, after occupying his farm for ten years, his landlord blamed him for not effecting any improvements, and called him an idle fellow, the tenant would reply, "Very true; I have got a little money; but what security have I, if I lay it out on my farm, that I shall ever get any of it back again when I am obliged to quit?" Until this question was placed on a better footing, there could be nothing but discontent and heartburning among the tenantry. He did not wish to introduce any acerbity into that debate, which he regarded as a presage of better times for Ireland; but he said if the measure to be brought in by the Government was not laid upon the table, if the House was not to be informed what the Mokannas of the Government intended to do, then it would be the duty of the Irish Members to support the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale. He hoped, therefore, that the Session would not be allowed to reach an untimely close without some certainty being held out to them on this subject. The Bill of his hon. Friend was the bird in the hand, which, although perhaps not of the finest plumage, was better than two of the Government's in the bush. He assured the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he did not wish to take a course hostile to the Government; but he felt that, under the existing circumstances, his duty to his constituents was to vote for the second reading of this Bill.


made an earnest appeal to the English Members of the House to allow the Bill to advance into Committee. He could afford them the most complete proofs of the necessity for passing into law some sound and well-considered enactment, by which the landlords of Ireland might no longer be sanctioned in that destructive course which many of them had pursued. He himself had had considerable experience of Ireland, and in travelling through many parts of it he found the land undrained, uncultivated, and unfenced. He maintained that there must be some cause which was capable of being manifested to explain why such a state of things existed. He agreed with the noble Lord who had just sat down, that these evils had their origin in the tenant-farmers of the country having no security for any outlay they might make. There were certain bad and heartless landlords existing in Ireland who took advantage of the industrious and provident wherever they found him, and hurried him into a common ruin with those who had been wasteful and unthrifty, dispossessing him of his holding, and then selling that land to the highest bidder which he had made valuable by his industry. Could any one, then, make it a matter of astonishment that such a race of tenantry existed in Ireland, or that no improvement had taken place there? To him it seemed but the natural working of cause and effect. He was most happy, for one, to join his humble voice in calling on English proprietors, for their own interest, to consider what enactments might be de- vised to direct the flow of capital towards the improvement of the land, and not to allow it to remain a waste and a howling wilderness. He had travelled recently through the west of Ireland, and seated on the box seat he had asked the driver to explain to him the cause of the very improved appearance of a large tract of country. The man said that the proprietors had given leases, and hence the occupying tenants felt they had an object in improving their lands. He, however, was of opinion that mere leases would not necessarily guarantee such results as those he had witnessed. Capital, also, was necessary, and unless some enactment was passed giving compensation for unexhausted improvements, he was firmly convinced Ireland would remain as it had been for the last two centuries—untilled and uncultivated, with a tenantry dissatisfied, and the landlords living on the rack, for the only chance that seemed to be open to the tenant of bettering himself was by the death of the landlord. He quite agreed with the noble Lord (Viscount Castlereagh) that the present measure in some of its details might be amended; but that was no objection to their proceeding with the Bill in Committee, and he earnestly trusted, therefore, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite would have no hesitation in giving his assent to the adoption of that course.


Perhaps I ought to apologise to the House for presenting myself so soon after my first introduction; but there are some peculiar circumstances connected with this Bill which may justify my intrusion. I can bear personal testimony to this House, of the deep, intense, and all-absorbing interest which the people of Ireland feel at the present moment in the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale. In the greatest agricultural constituency in Ireland, which bears the same analogy to Ireland as Yorkshire does to England, the whole question at issue, during the recent election, was the question now before the House. In every part of that great county, and in every meeting that was held throughout it, attended by thousands of persons, the one question absorbing the minds of the people was that of tenant right. In Ireland there will be the very deepest feeling of disappointment, from Coleraine to Cork, if this Bill is not allowed to be read a second time. It appears on all hands, and it is most satisfactory to find from the speech of the right hon. the Attorney Gen- eral for Ireland, that there is no difference of opinion as to the principle of this Bill. It is admitted on all hands that the principle of compensation to the tenant for his unexhausted improvements—the very words of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland—is a sound and indisputable principle; and so far as I understand this Bill, there will be nothing more established by its being permitted to be read a second time. I shall not at present detain the House by going through every clause of the Bill, to each of which the Attorney General for Ireland has objected. There were, however, two clauses to which he seemed most to object, one of which declares that all improvements that may appear on the land shall be presumed to be done by the tenant; and another, which has a retrospective effect, giving to the tenant the benefit of all past improvements made by himself. Now, these are matters of detail, which can, if necessary, be amended in Committee. I do not mean at present to express my individual opinion on those two clauses. I am as open as any Member in the House to consider them both in Committee. But as to one of them, I would remind this House, and especially those Members for English constituencies, that although in England it may be usual and fair to presume that improvements upon the land are effected by the landlord, such being the uniform practice in England, that there is no such practice in Ireland, where as a general proposition, improvements are not effected by the landlord. Now, I have not ascertained, from the speech of the Attorney General for Ireland, whether he does or does not object, on the part of the Government, to the second reading of this Bill. It would be desirable to obtain explicitly the information, whether the second reading is objected to or not. It is a simple question, and can be plainly answered, "yes" or "no." And, secondly, I have not collected from the Attorney General for Ireland when it is that he intends to introduce the third Bill which he has alluded to, for compensation to the tenant. There were three measures propounded on the part of the Government—one was for a consolidation, or codification, of the laws between landlord and tenant, to which, if properly framed, there could be no possible objection; the second, a Bill to regulate and simplify the future remedies between landlord and tenant, which would also be a desirable matter; and, third, the Compensation Bill, for unexhausted improvements. Now I would suggest, that this third Bill for compensating the tenant for his unexhausted improvements should be introduced at once, immediately after the Easter recess: because, without at all doubting the assurances we have received from the right hon. Gentleman, it has been already surmised that it is just possible that before next Session of Parliament there may be a new Government in office; and it is also possible that before that period shall arrive, we may, by judicial changes in Ireland, be deprived of the services of the right hon. Gentleman, and possibly of the Solicitor General also. Then what guarantee should we have for all these excellent declarations of good intentions on the part of the present law officers? They will all pass away and go for nothing; and the future law officers will not be bound by them, but will be quite at liberty to come forward and say, "This is an exceedingly difficult question to deal with, involving a great amount of complexity, and perhaps it will be better to let things go on as they are, than to attempt to legislate on the subject." Now, I do say, that if it involves ever so much complexity, it is better to encounter it, than to let things go on as they are in Ireland. I am quite sensible of the difficulty of legislating properly on this subject, but I am equally satisfied that it is not a matter of impossibility. The right hon. Gentleman himself has admitted that it is not impossible, for he says he will introduce a measure on the subject. Now, I would hope to have some idea of what that measure will be. It would be very desirable to know at present. I should like to know also how this Bill proposes to deal with the tenant's admitted right to compensation? and how any question of compensation can be legislated upon, excepting by some such measure as is now proposed? There must be some mode of ascertaining this compensation. It must be done by some description of valuation, because if it were never to be ascertained except by express contract between the parties, we do not want any legislation upon the subject. In that case the parties would legislate for themselves. But if there were to be cases in which the amount of compensation will not depend upon contract alone, then it must of necessity be ascertained by some mode of Valuation. There was some suggestion thrown out to this House, that arbitration would not be a satisfactory mode to settle the amount of compensation. But, at all events, it must be by some sort of valuation that the compensation is to be ascertained. An Act of last Session, the principle of which approached perhaps nearest to the present measure, entitled tenants in England or Ireland, who may have erected any farm-buildings or fixtures upon the land, either to remove them, or have them valued for the landlord. The principle adopted in that Act was precisely the same as that of the present Bill. Under that Act each party, landlord and tenant, is entitled to choose a referee, and the two referees are to appoint a common umpire, by whom the valuation is to be made. Now, this question of compensation to the tenant-farmer of Ireland is not a question of today, or of this Session or last Session, or of this century or last century. It is that which has always been; for many centuries past, the great and paramount question in Ireland. The uncertainty of the tenant's holding has always been the cause of the desolation of the country. Every remedy, save that of giving to the Irish tenant-farmer some security of tenure, or some right to compensation for his industry and outlay, has been tried, and tried in vain. The plantation of Ireland, with English and Scottish immigrants, has been tried over and over again, from the reign of Henry II. up to the present day. The rooting out of the Irish people has been tried over and over again; but the simple remedy has never been tried, of endeavouring to fix them in their own soil. Let that remedy be tried in any form, either by enabling the industrious tenant to acquire a permanent interest in the land; or by entitling him to compensation for his outlay, and there would soon arise such an improvement in the country as would appear fabulous for me to attempt to describe. Now, I do not at all object to the principle of the Attorney General for Ireland, on the other branch, if I may so call it, of this debate, the facilitating of contracts between landlord and tenant. The more contracts are facilitated and adopted, the better it will be for all parties. But I would go greatly beyond the principle of the right hon. Gentleman. I would facilitate all transfer of land to such an extent, that there should be no difficulty whatever in effecting them; and so, that all charges upon land should be as simple as bank notes or bills of exchange, and as easily negotiated and transferred. There are no difficulties whatever in accomplishing this object, save those that arise from technicalities and embarrassments, interposed by law. There are no persons in the community so deeply interested in carrying out such facilities to the utmost extent as the existing landowners, who now monopolise the land of the country, and whose property would become doubled and trebled in value, in the course of a few years, if this principle of facility of transfer or free trade in land were adopted. Therefore, there is, perhaps, no difference between the Attorney General and myself on this subject, excepting, perhaps, that he may not be prepared to go so far as I do in facilitating all contracts relating to land. However, to come back to the question. The principle of this Bill is admitted—the principle of compensation to tenants for unexhausted improvements—which is the sole principle it involves. Are the Government prepared to state now that they will oppose the second reading of this Bill, which does not bind any Member of this House to adopt its details? I know there is another portion of the Bill which relates to the custom of tenant right; but the principle of that custom is to a great extent included in compensation for improvements. Although there may be a little variation in different estates in Ireland, yet this Ulster custom is one that has prevailed from generation to generation, and from century to century: and it goes so far back that it is a disputed matter whether or not it originated in the reign of James I. It is admitted to have existed from a very remote period, and the custom is simply this: That the tenant who holds land to which the custom applies, shall be at liberty to dispose of that land to an incoming tenant, to be approved of by the landlord, subject to a fair rent. Now, it is said that this is not a legal custom. [Mr. WHITESIDE: Hear, hear!] If it were, there would be no necessity for legalising it; but it is a perfectly just custom, and it would be a monstrous thing for any landlord to oppose the operation of that custom. It is not a custom that applies exclusively to any particular districts of Ireland. In substance it extends to all the four provinces; and any person who has the slightest doubt about the correctness of my statement, may satisfy himself at once upon the subject, by going into the library of this House, and inspecting there the head Tenant Right, in the index to the Re- ports on the Devon Commission. He will there find that the practice has existed upon some estates in almost every county in Ireland; that a landlord, to whom a large; arrear of rent is due—two, or three, or four years—permits the tenant to let in another person, who comes forward and pays the landlord the arrears of rent: and he will also find there many instances of the money having passed through the landlord's own hands, who deducted from it his arrears of rent. In many cases of tenants at will, the landlord has accepted from an incoming tenant a large portion of the principal paid by him for the goodwill of the farm; and it would be monstrous to maintain that he could, on the following day, I serve the tenant with a notice to quit, and eject him at once. There is certainly nothing unreasonable in proposing to legalise such a custom. It is quite consistent and perfectly in accordance with the Constitution of England to legalise it. It is a similar custom, but without that important ingredient of the landlord having pocketed a large portion of the arrears of his rent, to that which constitutes the sole foundation of all the copyholds of England. Any person who will read Blackstone's Commentaries, or Wright's Law of Tenures, or Reeve's History of the English Law, will see at once that the copyhold custom was in its origin similar to that which is sought to be legalised by the tenant-right farmers of Ireland. That copyhold custom was in effect legalised by the statute of Westminster, the first which limited the time of prescription to the reign of Richard I.—a period which did not at that time exceed about eighty years. Whereas now, in order to maintain this tenant-right custom, the Irish tenant-farmer would have to attempt to establish that the custom had existed in the year 1189—a period but a very few years subsequent to the first coming of the English into Ireland, in the reign of Henry II. It would thus appear that English copyholds were founded upon ancient custom, confirmed by subsequent legislation. I would show, from other instances and analogies, that according to the Constitution of England, the legalisation of this Irish custom would be just and right. So much for the tenant-right custom, which depends upon the admitted principle of compensation for improvements, and upon the additional circumstance that it is accompanied by the payment of a large sum of money, a great portion of which usually finds its way into the landlord's pocket in the form of arrears of rent. It would certainly be a grievous thing and a great disappointment to the tenant-farmers of Ireland if they found that, the principles of this Bill being admitted, it has not been allowed to go to the second reading. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochdale has undertaken to allow it to remain on the table until the Government shall have an opportunity of introducing their measure. It is upon such a measure of legislation as this that the whole welfare of Ireland depends, and has always depended. It does not, as I understand its provisions, confer upon any tenant a right to hold the land against his landlord. It merely provides for legalising the custom of tenant-right, and for the tenant's right to compensation for unexhausted improvements, giving to the landlord an option to continue the tenant at a fair rent, in case the landlord shall not pay the amount of compensation. But even if it did go farther than that, it would be a matter of detail, which could be altered in Committee. It provides that the tenant shall not be turned out on a minute's notice, without receiving compensation for his outlay. Now, if the Legislature could be induced to pass a measure of this character, we should hear no more in Ireland of those horrible outrages and agrarian disturbances which have so long been connected with that land. If there were any permanent interest given to the tenants of Ireland, or any mode of compensation for unexhausted improvements, there would not exist that system of Ribbandism which, unfortunately, has taken hold—a strong hold—of some districts; which in some places has received sympathy and support from a portion of the Protestant, Presbyterian, and Catholic population, and which in those districts, has set at utter defiance all the terrors of the law, and all the exertions of the local clergy. And I believe that my right hon. Friends the Attorney and Solicitor General for Ireland will bear me out in the statement, that that abominable system is based altogether upon agrarian discontent. Now, all I ask on the present occasion is, simply that a Bill giving satisfaction to the farmers of Ireland, and the principles of which are admitted on all sides, shall be read a second time. If not, it is of no use to be speaking here in this House about discouraging agitation. If every one of us were to leave this House and go to our respective districts in Ireland, we could not allay agitation. It is all very well for Gentlemen to profess a feeling in favour of the principle of tenant-right and compensation for unexhausted improvements; but now is the time to prove the sincerity of that feeling by giving some practical support to a measure which asserts some just and admitted principles, and does not commit the Government to any of their details. Sir, I may have trespassed too long upon the House, but the subject is one that would not be exhausted even by many days' debate, much less in a short discussion. It involves great and awful considerations to my country. I am aware there are other hon. Members anxious to address the House within the very limited time allowed for this debate; and, thanking the House for the indulgence with which it has favoured me, I sit down with the intention of supporting the second reading of the Bill.


said, he regarded it as discouraging to the prospect of an adjustment of this long-agitated question that the present was the fifth, if not the sixth Bill which had been ineffectually submitted to Parliament with that view within the last five or six years; and he deeply regretted that this fresh effort of his hon. Friend (Mr. S. Crawford) should be likely to end in a still further postponement of a remedy. But concurring, as he did most entirely, in the justice of the great principle on which the measure was founded, of securing to meritorious labour the fruits of its own exertions in the creation of permanent improvements, he found it impossible to support a Bill in which that valuable principle was so overlaid with novel and unreasonable details as to disentitle it to the sanction of the House, or to the cheerful acquiescence of the country. With respect to the observations which the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford) had made upon the Ulster Tenant Right, he believed that his hon. Friend was quite mistaken in supposing that it was now regarded with indifference by the people of that province. It was impossible for any one who observed the benefit conferred upon the north of Ireland by that system not to wish to see it extended to the rest of Ireland; but he must confess that he feared lest in the attempt to extend and legalise this principle or custom, which was now carried out by the general feeling of the landlords of the north of Ireland, it might be deteriorated by the process of subjecting it to a cold and formal definition. His hon. Friend had said, that Tenant Right was now less valuable than at a former period, but he (Sir E. Tennent) questioned the accuracy of that statement: and he had then in his hand a paragraph from the Newry Telegraph, in which it was stated that the Tenant Right of a farm of seventy-seven acres in the county of Armagh had lately sold for so high a sum as 1,780l., or upwards of twenty-five years' purchase; and he knew an instance in the county of Down, in which the owners of an almost uncultivated field, although unwilling to part with it, refused to transfer it for eighteen years' purchase, although it did not present a trace of improvement, but had become an eyesore from neglect. He doubted, if Tenant Right became so accurately defined, and its claims so cautiously weighed, as was proposed by the present Bill, whether the tenant in the one instance would have got anything like twenty-five years' purchase for his improvements; and whether the occupiers in the other instance might not be impeachable for waste, rather than in a condition to refuse eighteen years' purchase for a field of rushes and ragweed. He differed entirely from the opinion of the hon. Member for the county of Cork (Mr. V. Scully), that the details were so separable from the principles of the Bill, that the House, although disapproving of the details, might agree to the second reading: and there were some of these provisions of the Bill to which he was desirous to invite the more particular attention of the House. In the first place, there was one passage in the Bill which, however be might hesitate to accept it on the ground of inaccuracy, he could not but admire on the score of courage. It required some nerve and boldness to fix by Act of Parliament a definition in political economy; and that too on a point, the settlement of which had for nearly a century and a half exercised all the penetration and baffled the ingenuity of almost every writer upon the science. And yet his hon. Friend the hon. Member for Rochdale had attempted, in the second clause of his Bill, a definition of what constituted the philosophy of rent. That which had puzzled all political economists was at once solved by his hon. Friend in the following terms:— The words 'fair rent' shall be taken to mean the landlord's just proportion of the money value of the gross produce (according to the market price of such produce) which the lands in the occupation of the tenant, according to their quality and circumstances, are capable of yielding under a fair system of improvement and culture, after allowance has been made for all labour, and the in- terest of all capital expended by the tenant in cultivating the land and maintaining the condition of the premises, and for all taxes, rates, and public assessments of any kind charged on such premises, and payable by the tenant. He admitted that a definition of some description was indispensable to the scheme on which the whole measure was founded and proceeded; but he found it impossible to read that definition without perceiving that from its vagueness and uncertainty it was calculated to add to rather than to obviate the obscurity of the very term which it attempted to elucidate. A "fair rent," it declared, was to be a "just proportion" of the price of produce after certain deductions. But a "just proportion" was a term quite as undefined and uncertain as a "fair rent," and would equally require a fresh definition for itself. What was to be the ratio of that proportion? What was to be the test of its justice? and by what standard were the rural arbitrators to decide what might be a just or an unequal proportion, under varying circumstances? Again, the "money value of the gross produce" was itself an uncertain quantity, subject to the fluctuation of markets, and affected, as the Bill admitted, by the capabilities of the land when operated on by "a fair system of improvement." And then there were still to be deductions for the labour, and the interest of the capital expended by the tenant in the cultivation of the land, and for the public rates and assessments, all of which would vary from year to year. But by what test was the preliminary decision to be reached as to what was a fair system of improvement? and, without arriving at that, how were the arbitrators to fix the sum which should represent its cost? He saw as clearly as his hon. Friend the necessity for some such definition of what was rent—a definition indispensable to the very first movements under his Bill, should it ever become a law; but he feared that his hon. Friend did not apprehend as strongly as he (Sir E. Tennent) did the danger that a provision which laid down data so uncertain and elements so variable as the basis of all its operations, was likely to complicate the confusion which it sought to avoid, and to aggravate the discontent which it was its object to allay. There was another feature in this proposal which would, he feared, be productive of inconvenience and irritation to an extent that could not have been contemplated by the hon. Member who brought it in. He (Sir E. Tennent) referred to all those pro- visions which, in defining the right of the tenant at will to dispose of his interest to another, ignored altogether any regard for the views or feelings of the proprietor in the selection of the new tenant, and compelled his acquiescence on one solitary condition, namely, that the new comer should be solvent; or, as it was defined by the second clause, a man "able to apply labour to the cultivation of the land, and capital to the payment of the rent." But in the choice of the party with whom he was to enter into such intimate relation, the owner of the soil was absolutely excluded from all power or interference. The new tenant proposed to him might be an individual distasteful or personally objectionable; he might be a man whom it would be inexpedient to introduce among his tenantry, or dangerous to locate upon his estate; but no objections could be made to him on such grounds, however notorious—for by the 11th Clause, the point of his solvency once established, the outgoing tenant might give him possession of his land; and, in the event of objection by the proprietor, the tenant was empowered to abandon his farm, and demand from the landlord the full value of his Tenant Right, and compensation for any inconvenience he might be put to in dispossessing himself of his premises. He could not but regard the enactment of a power such as this as something not only quite inconsistent with the respect due to the feelings and the interests of a landed proprietary, but as a transfer of powers from the landlord to the tenantry, such as was utterly incompatible with the rights of property in these countries. But this proposal, vexatious as it might be, would be but trifling in comparison with the unsettlement of property and the disturbance of contracts such as was contemplated and gravely proposed in other portions of the Bill. For instance, it was intended that the tenant at will might at any time convert his tenure into something equivalent to a lease by the simple operation of raising the question of compensation for improvements, and appealing to an arbitration, the recorded award in which should by the 8th Clause have all the force and effect of a lease for fourteen years, during which the proprietor could on no pretence remove him so long as he paid the "fair rent," to be settled for him by his arbitrators. Nor was this all; as a tenancy at will might by the 8th Clause be converted into a lease, so a lease by the 11th Clause could, by a similar pro- cess, be converted into a tenancy at will. For if the rent in the opinion of the occupant were too high, considering the prevailing prices of produce, he had only to appeal to the arbitrators, who might direct an abatement, and, if that should be refused by the proprietor, the tenant might not only surrender his lease, but demand compensation for his loss and inconvenience in transferring himself to some other estate. Another, and an equally startling proposal, was contained in the 13th Clause, which proceeded on the ground that arrears of rent due to the landlord were an impediment to the improvement of the land, and an inconvenience from which the tenant should be speedily relieved. The Bill, therefore, enabled the latter to plead the failure of his crops, and the increase of local taxation, and to demand of the arbitrators an inquiry into his liabilities and his capacity to pay; and the arbitrators were empowered, having as Usual dictated what ought to be a "fair rent" for the future, to write off the arrears, or any portion of them, and to regulate the payment of the residue by periodical instalments. Were a law such as this to pass, we might expunge from our familar phrases the term "property in land;" possession of the estates the proprietor might Still retain, though in a limited sense, but his title would be effectually dissociated from every idea that now entered into the attributes of property; and, as a basis for settlements, as a security for charges, as an investment for the savings of industry, land itself would speedily cease to be of value in the eyes of the people of England. It was impossible that a measure involving such results could be sanctioned by the House; and, while he heartily assented to the sound principle to give effect to which this movement first originated, he could not too sincerely regret that the Bill for that purpose should have been overlaid by other matters so unsound and objectionable as to disentitle it as a whole to the concurrence of Parliament. Coupled with these expressions of disapprobation, and the announcement of his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland, of the Bills now in preparation by the Government for the settlement of the question, the House would not be unprepared for the Motion with which it was his intention to conclude, that the second reading of the Bill should be postponed. The noble Viscount the Member for the county of Down, while he disappoved of the Bill of the hon. Member for Rochdale, had still avowed his wish to see it pass through the ordinary stages of legislation rather than wait for the Bill of the Government, on the principle laid down by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland. The noble Viscount had taunted the Members of the Government with their mystery upon this matter, and their reserve as to the time at which such a Bill would be laid on the table—


begged to correct the hon. Member. He had not taunted the Members of the Government, as stated by him, but had merely, as he had a right to do, complained that they had given the House no information on the point.


said, he understood the noble Viscount to taunt those on that side of the House.


I rise again to order. The hon. Gentleman accuses me of uttering a taunt, whilst I most distinctly have denied that I meant to use a taunt. I think, therefore, with the greatest deference to the House, that that word should not have been used again.


said, that of course the noble Viscount must be the best judge of the intention and meaning of the words which he had used; those to whom they were addressed could only judge of them by their import and their tone; but he (Sir E. Tennent) heard those by whom he was surrounded addressed twice by the noble Viscount as the "Mokannas of the Treasury Bench;" and when this was accompanied by the expression of a wish, on the part of the noble Viscount, that rather than wait for an indefinite period, he wished to proceed with a measure of which he, nevertheless, disapproved, he (Sir E. Tennent) thought it impossible not to draw the inference from the words of the noble Viscount, that he thought there was a reserve on the part of the Government as to what were their intentions. He was now in a condition to state to the House that the Bills which had been announced by his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland were now in such an advanced state that they would be laid on the table at the earliest possible moment. Anticipating that they would elicit as much satisfaction as the Bill of his hon. Friend (Mr. S. Crawford) had encountered disapproval, and that while they would be regarded as affording protection to the just right of the tenantry, they would also prove acceptable to the proprietors of land in Ireland, he begged to move as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

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

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


said, there really was not time to discuss this question. Many friends of his wished to address the House—hon. Gentlemen who, since they were elected, had not had an opportunity of expressing their opinions. Until the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lisburn (Sir E. Tennent) had, probably animated by some ancient hostile feeling, alluded in terms of bitterness to the observations which fell from the noble Member for the county of Down (Viscount Castlereagh), he (Mr. Keogh) felt bound to say that the speech of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland was most conciliatory, and that no asperity had been thrown into the debate. His noble Friend the Member for Down said that the conduct of the Government reminded him of Mokanna on the Treasury bench. This the hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Tennent) said was a taunt. Now, in his (Mr. Keogh's) opinion, the only inference to be drawn from the remarks of his noble Friend was, that the celebrated prophet were a veil, and that the Government were a similar habiliment, and with that veil they intended to shroud intentions full of mystery—a purpose which might serve the objects of the Government, and which was very well calculated for a general election, but which would not prove satisfactory to the people of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Lisburn (Sir E. Tennent) told the tenant-farmers, his constituents, that he approved of the principle of this measure, and he demonstrated his approval in this House by arguing against its details. The hon. Gentleman had evidently prepared a speech which was intended for delivery on the House going into Committee, but which he incontinently fired off on the second reading of the Bill. He (Mr. Keogh) trusted the farmers of Lisburn would bear in mind the words of the poet, and apply them— There, ye wise saints, behold your light, your star; Ye would be dupes and victims, and ye are. He asked the House to sanction the prin- ciple of the measure. He asked them to entitle the tenant to demand fair compensation for the increased value which he had given to the land, for his labour and his capital. English landlords made improvements, as a matter of course. They fenced, they drained, they ornamented, they let their farms like furnished houses. To those English gentlemen who had not had the advantage—or perhaps he should say the disadvantage—of visiting his unfortunate country, he might state that Irish landlords made no such improvements; that they pitched their tenants in upon the naked soil, extracted from them their labour and their industry, and, when their lease was expired, sent them away without compensation. [Mr. WHITESIDE intimated his dissent.] Yes, the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland came from a more favoured portion of the country; but he (Mr. Keogh) spoke of the west and the greater portion of the south of Ireland, and there he knew that no such compensation was given, and that the unfortunate tenantry dragged out a miserable existence. He had been lately travelling through the west of Ireland, and had seen thousands of the cabins of the poor levelled to the ground—their former occupants having died through hunger, or had emigrated to a foreign land. Was it for the interests of England that the Irish people should be thus crushed to the dust? They talked of the danger of invasion, and of the weakness of our national defences. Was it for the interests of the country that a system should be allowed to continue under which they had found within ten years, not an increase, but a decrease, of the population, to the extraordinary extent of 2,000,000. He believed the late Government had trafficked with this question as one of political capital—but he besought the present Government not to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, but at once to grapple with the great and important subject. The principle of the present Bill had been admitted, and therefore he thought common justice ought to ensure its second reading. He exhorted Her Majesty's present Attorney General for Ireland to bring in the required measure, and by that means secure the attachment, the gratitude—he need not say the allegiance—of the Irish people. He might rest assured that he could confer no greater blessing upon that long-oppressed and long-impoverished nation.


said, he would ask if it was ever known in Parliament that a Member of the Government should state that he approved of the principle of a Bill, and that another and subordinate Member of that Government should subsequently get up and move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months? Such conduct was intolerable. He thought that hon. Members who refused to do justice to the tenants would meet with their due reward by not being returned to that House again. Ireland was devastated, and the people had evinced much more sense than the Gentlemen on the Treasury bench. He warned them, however, to beware of what they were doing. It had been said that the Irish Brigade had been the means of placing the present Government in office. He would not say whether he thought that was true or not; but this he could say, that the Irish Brigade would soon unseat them, if they did not take care. The resistance of the Government to this measure, without their bringing forward one of their own, would, he was sure, excite great indignation in Ireland; and if Parliament were sitting in College-green in place of Westminster, there would be hundreds of thousands of people at their door giving vent to that indignation; but, fortunately for the House, there was the impassable barrier of the English Channel between them and the people. If the Government rejected this Bill, he assured them they would rue it at the next general election.


said, he regretted that a debate which had been commenced under such favourable auspices should have been embittered by what he must deem an inadvertent expression on the part of the hon. Member for Lisburn (Sir E. Tennent). He was favourable to the principle of the Bill. He wished the tenants should be compensated for improvements, and he could not otherwise, honestly speaking, avow any other intention than that of voting for the second reading. He concurred in the observations of the noble Lord the Member for the county of. Down (Viscount Castlereagh); he agreed entirely in his views. Whatever fell from that noble Lord was always entitled to respect, but more especially on the present occasion, when he not merely did not make a speech to, obtain or keep a seat, but when he had sacrificed a seat to the sincerity of his own convictions. He could not go further without expressing his deep satisfaction at the luminous statement, the wisdom and the sincerity, manifested in the speech of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland; and if the Government took up the measure in that spirit, he did not despair of seeing this question at length brought to a satisfactory solution. He warned the Government, however, against holding out any false hopes to the Irish people. If the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland would give a distinct promise that he would lay a Bill on the table on this subject, immediately after Easter, he (Mr. B. Osborne) would advise his hon. Friend (Mr. S. Crawford) not to persevere with this Bill; but unless some such assurance was given, he would feel bound to vote with the hon. Member for Rochdale. He would conclude by saying, that it was the duty of the Government to bring in a measure on the subject.


must say, with great respect, that the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, was bound to give his vote without reference to any assurance from the Government, according to his conscientious opinion of the Bill. He (Mr. Whiteside) rejoiced to sec so many Gentlemen belonging to England and Scotland present at that discussion, and he should like to hear them give their honest opinions on the principles of this Bill. What was the principle of the Bill? It was not that which had been stated by the hon. mover of the Bill (Mr. S. Crawford). Was the Bill to remedy the distinction that was taken between agricultural and manufacturing fixtures? It was not. Was it a Bill to remove the difficulties arising from mortgages? It was not. The hon. Gentleman had introduced his Bill on certain statements which he had never referred to in the Bill. He (Mr. Whiteside) denied that the custom of Tenant Right had been determined as a matter of law by any legal determination, and if there was such a custom, it would be half of the law. The existence of such a general custom would render the Bill unnecessary, and the introduction of the Bill proved that there was no such general custom. With regard to the clause in reference to compensation, there was no time specified in the Bill as the period from which compensation should be given; and, so far as the Bill had provided, it might be from the time of the flood. The free-traders, who had established a free trade in the produce of the soil, would not recognise free trade in the soil itself. It was said that they the Government opposed a reasonable and just settlement of the question; but was that a just argument to apply to a Ministry who were only a few weeks in office? The Bill was not opposed by them for the reasons stated by hon. Gentlemen, but because it was incomprehensible in its provisions, impracticable in operation, and unjust both to the landlord and the tenant. It would encourage extravagant expectation, and was the production of an association—the Tenant League—that sought to interrupt the peace and blast the prosperity of the country. Agricultural customs in England had been spoken of; but they were clear and comprehensive, as stated in the report upon them. But the provisions of this Bill were widely different. There were three principles embodied in it. The first was fixity of tenure—next, compulsory valuation—and the next was, that the tenant might, irrespective of the will of the landlord, sell his interest in the soil, dividing with him the proceeds of such sale. Customs and usages had been spoken of as sustaining the provisions of the Bill. But such usages were not recognised by the Statute Law of the Realm— were not sanctioned by immemorial custom, nor were they at all in accordance with the rights of property. He denied that the system proposed for adoption by this Bill, was similar to the systems in operation in England and Scotland; and he must express his astonishment at the sentiments which had been uttered by the noble Lord the Member for the county of Down (Viscount Castlereagh). The county and province from which the noble Lord came, could not be in its present flourishing condition, if by the conduct of the landlords there was no security for the tenants. He could refer to a case where, in the Encumbered Estates Court, thirty years' purchase was given for an estate near Enniskillen. However, the noble Lord did not say the principle of the Bill was even satisfactory to him. The Government had not had time to introduce any Bill upon the subject, but he had no hesitation in saying that the Government would introduce a measure for the purpose of consolidating and simplifying the law between landlord and tenant, and such a measure as would be creditable to the House and valuable to the country. Such a Bill the Government would bring in as soon as they could introduce it, and they hoped it would give satisfaction to every class of the community.


thought it was intended by this Bill that the contracts with regard to land should be arbitrarily settled, without giving the landlord any voice in the matter, and he, for one, would not consent to be thus trampled upon. If he had time to go through the details of the measure, he could show that the object of the Bill was to have a valuation in favour of the tenant, and against the landlord. The object was to take the whole power out of the hands of the landlord, and make it a one-sided question. If compensation was the question on which they were going to divide, he could tell them that they were all agreed that every encouragement should be given to an improving tenant in Ireland.

And it being Six of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House till To-morrow, without putting the Question.