§ MR. NAPIER
said, he rose to move for leave to introduce a series of measures, having for their object the adjustment of the relations between landlords and tenants in Ireland—namely, "A Bill to facilitate the Improvement of Landed Property in Ireland;" "A Bill to provide Compensation to Tenants for the improvement of their holdings in Ireland;" "A Bill to facilitate the making of beneficial Leases and Agreements for Compensation for improvement of Lands in Ireland;" and "A Bill to simplify, consolidate, and amend the existing Laws which regulate the relation of Landlord and Tenant in Ireland." When he considered the difficulty and importance of this great question—when he reflected on its bearing upon the interests of Ireland, on the spirit in which the measures he asked leave to introduce might be received by the people of Ireland themselves, and how great and eminent statesmen had touched this question with a trembling hand, and left it still unsettled, he honestly confessed that he approached the subject with the utmost diffidence, and must ask the House for its kind indulgence while he endeavoured to state his views upon it. At the outset he readily admitted that he was greatly indebted to those who had heretofore endeavoured to grapple with the subject; because, although, some wilfully, and others reluctantly, had abandoned it, yet he had been greatly assisted by their labours; but he must also be permitted to add that he conceived the difficulty surrounding the question had been very much enhanced by de- 306 lay; for when concessions were to be made —provided they were just and wise concessions—the sooner they were made the better. For what had been the result of the delay that had taken place in the settlement of this question? In the first place, the pressure upon the agricultural interest of Ireland, the reality of which, however they might dispute about its causes, was denied by none. The effect of that pressure had naturally induced some persons to entertain the most extravagant expectations as to what legislation could do with the view of relieving them from their distress; and again it had enabled other persons to take advantage of the discontent of the people to inflame them against the laws, and to raise expectations which they did not honestly believe could be fulfilled. Now, if others acknowledged as the most competent had attempted to deal with this question, and had shrunk from it, it might perhaps be considered as presumptuous in him to suppose that he was able to do what was thus left undone. He did not now come forward for the purpose of catching transient applause; on the contrary, his sole desire was to propose something which was so obviously practicable that it would be likely to be carried through that House, and prove successful. It happened that shortly after he entered Parliament, Mr. Sharman Crawford had brought in one of his Bills before the House; and it was but just to say of that gentleman, in passing, that, although he differed from him on many of his views respecting this question, yet he did think it was owing very much to the perseverance with which he pressed the question on the public and the House, that it had now become a matter for Parliament to dispose of—that it had become the duty of the Legislature at length to settle the question for the peace and welfare of the country, and, therefore, it was that he had been led to prepare the measures he was about to propose. In the year 1848, Mr. Sharman Crawford brought the question before the late Parliament; and in 1849, he (Mr. Napier) heard from the lips of one who was now no more, but one who understood Ireland well—he had heard from the lips of the late Sir Robert Peel these words:—"I see every reason why Ireland, if her position in respect of tenure could be improved, should be most prosperous." In the opinion of that great statesman, therefore, the prosperity of Ireland depended upon the improvement of her tenure. Hav- 307 ing had numerous communications with various persons in different parts of Ireland upon the subject, he (Mr. Napier) felt that it had become his bounden duty either to assist in the great object of effecting the settlement of the question, or to make the effort himself. Whilst the late Government were in office, therefore, he did what he could for that purpose; and he got two friends to prepare a complete digest of the existing state of the law in a clear and condensed form. When that statement was prepared, it was sent to many members of his own profession; and it had been commented upon in terms of the highest approval by one of the ablest lawyers in Ireland—a man well acquainted with the subject itself, and the father of the Irish bar—he meant Mr. Robert Holmes. Mr. Holmes wrote to Messrs. Vance and Ferguson:—13th May, 1851.Gentlemen: I have received the book which you were so kind as to send to me—your work on the 'Tenure and Improvement of Land in Ireland,' &c. I deferred acknowledging the gift until I could in some degree appreciate its value. I have now read it, and I consider it due both to you and myself to declare that I have derived from the perusal the greatest satisfaction and most useful information. It is a work which exhibits industry and research, professional knowledge and talent, judicious treatment and suggestion, practical good sense, temperate stricture, and benevolent purposes in an eminent degree, and a rare union of brevity and comprehensiveness, on one of the most important and interesting subjects which can in these times engage and fix the attention of every class in society, and which demands the prompt and decisive interference of the Legislature. That your valuable work may have the influence which it ought to have with those who possess the power of giving effect to its wise recommendations, is the sincere wish of, Gentlemen, your obliged and faithful servant,ROBERT HOLMES.Discussions afterwards took place in that House upon the subject, and in one of the debates the hon. Member for Cavan and the hon. Member for Middlesex suggested that some person professionally connected with Ireland should endeavour to settle this question. The Government of the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) having paid great attention to this subject, at length brought in a measure with regard to it. The noble Lord was disappointed, however, in any expectation he might have formed of its giving satisfaction, and withdrew it. He said it with the greatest deference, but he must say this with regard to Ireland, that he had always thought it was a wrong policy 308 to try and frame measures to catch any mere passing popularity—to please those whose province and interest it was not to be pleased with any measures that were proposed—but that, on the other hand, they should do that which they believed to be equitable and right, and trust that in the end what was based upon a sound and just principle would commend itself to the people, and that the good sense and judgment of the community would adopt that which careful deliberation had led them to propose. Now a code of laws, that was intended to regulate and adjust the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, must provide for the demands of the past, the requirements of the future, and the exigencies of the present transition state of that country. He might add, also, that a code of laws such as a British Parliament might be expected to pass affecting property, must keep within the great landmarks of property, and that no right of property universally acknowledged should be tampered with or violated. Moreover, the law should be made to harmonise with our commercial policy, as he (Mr. Napier) understood it now to be established, though he was somewhat surprised to find it was thought by the authors of that policy that the principle of free trade needed the protection of a declaration on the subject on the part of that House. What we had to deal with was the present existing state of Ireland: and, taking all circumstances into consideration, it seemed to him that the present was a peculiarly fitting opportunity for the settlement and adjustment of the relations subsisting between the owner and occupier of the soil in Ireland. Agricultural property there was so greatly rising in value, that according to the information he had lately received, a great competition existed for the land, and some sales had been effected at thirty years' purchase, and others at twenty-five. The prosperity of Ireland was not an isolated question; for with the prosperity of Ireland were bound up the security and strength of the United Kingdom. He did not wish to present her—he had never desired to see her coming forward—in the attitude and spirit of a mendicant, and he had always felt a glow of shame when he thought of the greatest nation in the world being placed side by side with a country which seemed to be at all in a mendicant state. Ireland had undoubtedly great resources, but he thought the first and material thing she required for her advancement and pros- 309 perity was security for life and protection for property; and those objects would be assisted by the enactment of really just and fair laws; and the next thing he thought she required at this moment was the adjustment of the long- vexed land question. Ireland was an agricultural country; they could not expect that manufactures or commerce would make great way there until there had been a large advance in agricultural improvement. The adjustment of the land question was therefore a great question for Ireland first, and secondly, for the British empire at large. The adjustment of the land question had relation not merely to present exigencies, but also to past difficulties. He had now, however, only to deal with that portion of the question which was connected with the law of landlord and tenant; and he believed that if they could but see life secure, property protected, and the land question equitably adjusted, an improved cultivation of the soil would follow, and they would witness among his countrymen more of mutual forbearance and of common co-operation for their common welfare. He should then have no fears for that country; Ireland must improve and grow largely in prosperity. With regard to that portion of the subject to which he had now to address himself in the adjustment of the land question, it was attended with two classes of difficulties, which ought to be considered separately for the purpose of understanding the nature of the remedies which it was proposed to apply to them. These were the permanent difficulties and the temporary difficulties. With respect to the permanent difficulties, they had heard numerous discussions and various theories as to what caused these permanent difficulties. One theorist would tell them that they were owing to the priests; another that they were caused by the parsons. One would attribute it to the landlords, another to the tenants. One would charge it upon the Government, and upon English legislation, another upon Irish neglect; whereas the truth was that all these several causes had contributed their quota towards producing the general result. But, for his own part, after carefully and attentively considering these various causes, he felt that there could be no question that the policy which had been adopted in earlier times, and had been since long pursued by England towards Ireland, had most severely aggravated the evils under which that country had suffered. The extent to which the 310 system of tenure at will prevailed was not less an evil in the days of Elizabeth than in those of Victoria; and whoever read the pages of Sir John Davies would find that he had emphatically insisted that the application of the English land tenure to Ireland was essential to save the occupants of land in that country from the great and increasing misery, the prostration to which the uncertainty of their tenure in their holdings exposed them; and Edmund Spenser had written in exactly the same spirit; yet, up to the present time, the vast proportion of the land there was occupied by tenants-at-will, having no security whatever for their industry or their enterprise, and consequently in a position befitting the idle or the improvident man, but altogether unsuited to the honest and industrious cultivator. Often neglected by the absentee proprietor, ground down by the middleman, living— if living—from hand to mouth, utterly uncertain and insecure in his holding, the occupier of land lived wretchedly on the potato, and when the first storm arose— when the first calamity occurred at all beyond the ordinary condition—wholly foundered. In this way the whole structure of society had become vicious; and in a country where they ought to have had a well-organised state of society, they found that civilisation made small progress, that the people did not improve, and that difficulties and disasters were of periodic recurrence. The commercial policy of England towards her sister country had largely tended to produce this most unhappy result. In 1785 he found Mr. Pitt thus describing the effect of that policy upon Ireland:—That which had been the system counteracted the kindness of Providence, and suspended the industry and enterprise of man. Ireland was put under such restraint that she was shut out from every species of commerce;—she was restrained from sending the produce of her own soil to foreign markets, and all correspondence with the colonies of Britain was prohibited to her, so that she could not derive their commodities but through the medium of Britain."[Hansard, Parl. Hist. xxv. 317.]That the English system "had debarred Ireland from the use of her own resources, and made her subservient to the interests and the opulence of this country, without suffering her to share in the bounties of nature and in the industry of her citizens"—a system "which counteracted the kindness of Providence, and suspended the industry and enterprise of man." Again, 311 also, in 1799, Mr. Pitt, speaking on the question of the Union, repeated the same sentiments, and declared that "Ireland had long felt the narrow policy of Great Britain, who, influenced by selfish motives, had treated her with partiality and neglect, and never looked on her prosperity as that of the Empire at large." What had been the result of that policy? Why, that Ireland, with her commercial and manufacturing growth thus stunted, had been compelled to remain a purely agricultural country, and, from the enormous and reckless competition for land which had hence arisen, a most vicious state of society had developed itself—of difficulties and misery among the occupiers of the soil, of incumbrances among its proprietors—a state of society most graphically described by the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland in his evidence before the Committee of 1824. A large proportion of the incumbrances and settlements on Irish estates dated their origin from the latter end of the last and the beginning of the present century; and were based, in a very material degree, upon a fictitious value of land arising out of the circumstances of the time, such as the infinite subdivision of the land, the undue competition, the system of subletting, and the artificial value of land and produce consequent on the state of prices before the conclusion of the war. But recent occurrences having stripped things of that false aspect which they had assumed at the period he referred to, the whole system was found to be rotten and unsound; and having been cleared away by the sufferings of the last few years, an open space was made for a new arrangement, which he hoped they would endeavour to aid him in turning to account for remedial purposes. There were various other matters connected with the country to which he might advert as explaining its position; such as the political influences brought to bear upon owners of property on the one side and the other. For instance, of the two parties in the country, one was corrupted and the other coerced, and all the evils arising out of this state of things were inherited by the landowners of the present day, who ought not to be blamed for the evils arising out of the vicious system that had been thus entailed upon them. At a subsequent period the intervention of Parliament was invoked to provide a remedy, and a series of Parliamentary Committees investigated the subject. A Committee of the House which 312 sat in 1819 appeared to have arrived at the Conviction that man in Ireland was a nuisance, and that the main question was how to get rid of many, and, therefore, amongst other remedies for the existing evils, they recommended emigration; and, again, in the years 1823 and 1827, other Committees recommended similar temporary remedies and nostrums. But he had perused a report from another source on the same subject, to which he would direct the attention of the House. It was a report emanating from some members of the Society of Friends. In the year 1827 the excellent Mrs. Fry and her brother, who had conceived a deep interest in the subject, visited Ireland; they examined every county, and made the most minute inquiries into every element of her condition; and the result was, that they prepared a kind of report on the subject for the Marquess of Wellesley, and a better state paper on Ireland never was produced. They stated that what they found in Ireland was a want of employment, a defective administration of justice, and a want of education, prevalent throughout the country; and they added, as a remarkable feature, that scarcely anything was made the most of, and that everywhere the country presented the spectacle of a fine and fruitful land with utterly inadequate cultivation. They expressed their conviction that, if sufficient cultivation was applied to the soil, by the adequate employment of the people, any failure of the potato crop— under existing circumstances so terrible a calamity—would be amply and most beneficially met by a regular supply of the more suitable and far more nutritious description of food, wheaten bread. They considered, they said, that employment would be a far better remedy for the distressed people of Ireland than emigration, although to a limited extent this latter remedy also might be useful; and they insisted, as a grand remedy, upon the effectual alteration of the system under which high nominal rents, low wages, and insecurity of tenure, afflicted the country; and they also recommended (for this was before the Relief Bill of 1829) the establishment of equality of civil rights, adding that the less distinctions of religion were insisted on in civil polity, the greater would be the probability of the establishment of a state of things leading to permanent tranquillity. Had the suggestions made by these able and benevolent persons been acted upon at the time, he would venture 313 to aay—not scrutinising the design of the Almighty in the dispensations which had befallen the country, nor causes over which men had no control—he would venture to say, humanly speaking, we should have been spared calamities which Ireland had in late years endured. In 1830— after emancipation, and when the Roman Catholic prelates of Ireland had published a manifesto that they had got all they desired, and that now all parties ought to unite for the common good of Ireland— another Committee sat on Irish affairs, which reported that one-fourth or one-fifth of the population of Ireland were out of employment, and that it was the imperative duty of the Government and of the Legislature to take into consideration the most effectual means of diminishing this amount of non-employment, of introducing into Ireland a sounder economical and social system, and of regulating on more rational and useful principles the relations between landlord and tenant. Nothing, however, was done. Another Committee sat a few years afterwards, who reported that there would absolutely not be a sufficiency of labour in Ireland if the soil were adequately cultivated, and recommended most emphatically that some measures should be adopted for giving tenants for life powers of leasing and charging the inheritance for permanent improvements. Still nothing was done. Mr. Crawford was at this time pressing his Bills in Parliament, but without result; but in 1843 Sir Robert Peel suggested that a Commission should be appointed, of respectable and well-informed persons, to inquire into the whole subject, to ascertain what precise differences there were between the tenures of England, of Scotland, and of Ireland, and maturely consider the result of those inquiries, and the steps which they appeared to suggest. Upon that Commission, at the head of which was Lord Devon, were his hon. and valued Colleague near him, also the hon. Member for Perry, the late Under Secretary and the present Under Secretary for Ireland. That Commission was appointed in February 1843, and made its report in 1845. He was aware that much obloquy had been cast upon that Commission, and many strong observations made upon the manner in which they were said to have taken their evidence; but he must point out that upon its appointment the late Sir Robert Peel said, that by it he did not intend to excite any expectations that there would be the slightest interference 314 with property, the maintenance of the rights of property being the great characteristic of social improvement and progress of civilisation, and any attempt to interfere with it constituting the severest blow that could be given to industry and the accumulation of wealth. Accordingly, that Commission proceeded with its inquiry, subject to the conservation of the rights of property. There were 1,117 witnesses in all examined before it, of which number 117 were proprietors, 451 were farmers, 219 land-agents, and 44 were professional men. The Commission went through every county in Ireland, seeing with their own eyes, and hearing with their own ears. They were personally connected with every province in Ireland, some of them having property in every province. They were honourable men, and men well acquainted with the country. The views of such men, he conceived, furnished a basis on which Parliament might then have proceeded, and might still proceed, with security to all the just rights of property, and with satisfaction to all the just claims of industry. These gentlemen stated that the testimony was uniform as to the unimproved state of certain districts, as to the want of employment, the poverty and hardships of the agricultural population, and they recorded, as their decided opinion, that the agricultural improvement of Ireland was one of the first and most important steps towards the amelioration of the state of Ireland, and the establishment of its prosperity. They particularly and feelingly adverted to the condition of the unfortunate labourers, whom they described as being badly housed, badly fed, and badly paid for precarious labour; and they commended their patient endurance of their sufferings, as entitling them to the best attention of the Government. They recommended the allotment system, the repair of the cottages, and other measures for the amelioration of the labourer; and they spoke also of the impediments in the way of that agricultural improvement which would give employment to the labourer. But the labourers had no political influence; they were neglected, and the disasters which succeeded the failure of the potato were the result of that neglect, and formed a sore penalty on those who had neglected them. Among these impediments to the improvement of the soil, the Commission adverted to the small number of owners in fee in Ireland as compared with England, there being only 8,000 in Ire- 315 land, while there were 200,000 in England; and they spoke of the large amount of property locked up in the settlements to which he had adverted, and which resisted every attempt at improvement. It was while the resources of the country were thus shackled that the landowners and tenants of Ireland were called upon to run with others in the race of unrestricted competition. Whatever might he the opinions entertained as to the principle of unrestricted competition, its partial application must he more injurious than its complete and entire application. The effect of the encumbrances was to sever the rights and duties of proprietorship. The encumbrances were Be great that the rental of the property now in the Encumbered Estates Court, if paid up punctually, would not amount to more than 5 per cent on the amount of the encumbrances. The result of such a state of things was, that the owners of these large properties, with a rental of nearly a million and a half, received nothing, and thus had all the duties but none of the rights of their property, whilst the encumbrancers possessed all the rights without being burdened with the performance of any of the duties, They were, for instance, exempted from contributing to the support of the poor, and even, in the case of augmented rates, the result of famine or distress, the nominal owner had to bear the whole burden. The Commission then proceeded to describe many of the remedies which were obvious, such as providing facilities for the sale of land, giving proper powers of leasing and charging for improvements, the encouragement of leases with moderate terms, the effecting of permanent improvements by the landlord, a Bill to provide a registry for agreements, and affording an opportunity for the tenant to improve where there was no express agreement; and they advised also that the Bank of Ireland should have the power, which the Bank of England possessed, of lending money on landed security, whereby a large amount of money would be released, and made available for the improvement of the soil; and also they suggested that permanent improvements should be done by the landlord, rather than by the tenant, adding that some legislative measure was necessary to give efficacy to agreements, and provide for cases which could not be otherwise settled. The measures which he (Mr. Napier) contemplated proposed to give facility for the employment of capital, and remove the restric- 316 tions upon the use of it; to enable leases of moderate terms to be made; to give efficacy to the agreements of parties, and also to deal with the cases of those parties who might not themselves have entered into express agreements. The Commission also provided for the registration of agreements, and in order to furnish opportunities for improvement, the landlord should be empowered to execute the improvements suggested by the tenant, charging 5 per cent on the outlay. Mr. Burke, in his Essay on the Penal Laws, noticed that improvements on the land in Ireland were not made in general by the landlords, whereas in England and Scotland they usually were. The Devon Commission also noticed the fact, observing, however, that from the number of small holdings in Ireland, it would be impracticable for the landlords to carry out that system as it was in England and Scotland, where the farms were generally large—of 50 or 100 acres or more—and furnished with buildings and other conveniences. The Committee on Receivers, of which he was Chairman, and of which Sir Robert Peel was a Member, investigated much on this subject, and the startling fact was then disclosed that nearly 2,000,000l. of the rental of the country was placed under receivers—a system under which everything that was bad in the habits of the population was fostered and encouraged. The result was most striking. There were millions of acres in the country uncultivated, millions of unemployed people in a state of the utmost wretchedness, and millions of money lying at a low and unproductive rate of interest, and in the Bank of Ireland a large capital unable to be advanced. Reverting to the state of Ireland, as set forth by the Devon Commission, it appeared from the report that in Ireland two-thirds of the population were agricultural, while in England there was only one-fourth—the produce per acre was one-half only of that in England. Let them not delay the remedy for such a state of things as he had described. There was also another report which had been lately issued by the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends, who had contributed so largely to relieve the recent distress of Ireland. From this admirable report, which gave the details of what they had done during that period in Ireland, it appeared that in that year of tremendous destitution, when all the world was sympathising with Ireland, there were places where ample means of relief which had 317 been furnished could not be brought into operation from the faulty and vicious state of society which existed, and which furnished no agency to carry out the charitable intentions which these benevolent persons had in contemplation. All this surely called for some remedy, if legislation could by any possibility effect it. He (Mr. Napier) had applied his mind to endeavour, at least in some degree, to remedy the evils he had indicated—to enable improvements to be made by the cultivation of the soil and the employment of the people. Several measures had been tried for this purpose, and there were various models in existence which might have been resorted to to guide them to a proper choice of a remedy; there was the Montgomery Act of Scotland; the Act of 1845, the Landed Estates Improvement Act, passed by the Government of the late Sir Robert Peel; the Act of 1846, under which two millions of money were lent for drainage in Britain; and the Land Improvement Act, passed in the first year of the Government of the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell), which had grown out of the Act of 1846. What had occurred to him was, that farming must now of necessity be placed under totally new conditions. It was admitted on all hands that farmers must, under the present system, be more educated men than hitherto—that they could not go on in the mere routine of ignorant cultivation. It was admitted that there must be industry, skill, and capital applied to the soil; and he found, too, that the effect of recent circumstances and recent policy had been very materially to alter the course of cultivation and produce in Ireland, and to alter it in such a way as might be ultimately beneficial. In the Times newspaper of September 5th, 1850, there had appeared a very striking article as to the altered conditions of the proprietor and the farmer. It described, that under the new state of things, the proprietor must merely be considered as a man possessing so much property, and that while, of course, he was bound to contribute his quota to the necessities of the country, no special burdens were to be cast upon him; at the same time, the farmer must become a man of more capital, more knowledge, and ready to avail himself of more skilful labourers, and of every new improvement, without all which it was impossible he could succeed. He remembered, too, that Sir Robert Peel, when he introduced his measures for a change in the commercial policy of the country, inti- 318 mated his opinion that probably there would be a reduction of about one-third in prices of agricultural produce; and he added, that if there were any part of the United Kingdom that would suffer from that reduction, it would be Ireland, on account of its being an agricultural country. The right hon. Baronet had undoubtedly been quite right in the reason of that anticipation; and not only did he (the Attorney General) find it true as comparing Ireland with England, but on comparison of one part of Ireland with another. In Belfast, for example, where the commercial, manufacturing, and agricultural population Were commingled— where there was an increased number of consumers, and facilities of markets, and of exportation and the like, the capital that accumulated there, and the busy activity of the whole neighbourhood, enabled them to bear up nobly and to get on prosperously. But, if he went to those parts of Ireland where there were no such facilities for communication with other districts having good markets—where there were no works of commercial enterprise going on—where the agricultural body was in a backward state —where the landlord had no capital, and the tenant was ignorant—it was very hard to call upon them to enter upon the race of unrestricted competition. It was the duty of Parliament, by wise legislation, to encourage them, to endeavour to alleviate the condition of those agriculturists, and stimulate their industry. Under the 9 & 10 Vict., c. 101, two millions of money for England and Scotland, and one million for Ireland, were placed by the late Sir Robert Peel at the disposal of the Enclosure Commissioners and the Commissioners of Public Works, to issue as loans to landed proprietors for the purpose of improvement; and this in some degree, where it came into operation, enabled them to meet the altered circumstances. The people of Scotland speedily availed themselves of the advantage thus put at their disposal; but in Ireland, owing to their not having the money to make the advances in the first instance as required by the Act, they were unable to avail themselves of it; and it therefore became necessary, in the next Session of Parliament, under the Government of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) to pass a measure to give effect to the intentions of the Legislature. Accordingly one of the best and simplest Acts for Ireland was passed into law, and that Act he had taken as the basis of the first Bill which he now 319 proposed—namely, the Land Improvement Act. The sum advanced altogether, under the law to which he had referred, was two millions sterling—namely, 1,500,000l. by the first Act, and afterwards 300,000l, and 200,000l. The amount of loans applied for under these Acts—principally for the purposes of drainage, and in some few cases for subsoiling and other works—was 4,082,591l.; and of this, 1,839,843l. were sanctioned, and 1,287,884l. actually issued. It was supposed by some persons that these loans were in reality gifts; but he could assure the House that England got back the money. He found by a return that the amount of rentcharge due under these Acts, to the 15th of November, 1852, was 190,151l.; and the amount paid on account of the same was 183,150l.; and the reason that the remainder had not been paid up was chiefly to be attributed to the circumstance that the officers entrusted with its collection had not given a proper attention to their duty. That showed the punctuality of payment on the part of those to whom the loans were advanced. The drainage which had been performed under this Act had contributed very much to the improvement of the country. It had, to a considerable extent, substituted for cereal crops, green and root crops, which particularly required thorough drainage, and it had led to the introduction into the country of the manufacture of tiles, which were now actually made in Ireland and carried into Scotland. Under this Act, indeed, the most important benefits had been conferred upon the country. There was one case which had come to his knowledge, of a gentleman whose estate was encumbered and who was entirely at the mercy of his creditors, but who got his creditors to consent to allow him to apply for a loan under this Act. The loan was obtained, and expended on the land under the inspection of the Board of Works. The result was, that the gentleman's tenants had been enabled to pay their rents without abatement, that they were now in a prosperous condition, that the gentleman himself and his property had both been saved, that he had now a surplus in his hands, and had been enabled to deal with his creditors like an honest man. There was also the case of a gentleman in the south of Ireland, who applied under this Act for a loan, and one of whose tenants was so opposed to drainage that he at first actually threatened him with an action at law if he attempted to drain any part of his farm. The gentle- 320 man, however, persevered with his improvements, and that very tenant had recently called upon and thanked him for what he had done, stating that the effect of the drainage was such that he had been enabled to pay his rent without difficulty, and that he was, now contented and prosperous. That showed the resources of Ireland, if properly developed. In many instances the product of the soil had been nearly doubled by drainage. Money advanced, therefore, under the Act would be employed for the material good and general benefit of the country, and he begged the House to observe the collateral effects of the system. Every acre drained employed many labourers, and in several cases where the tenants had the land drained for them, the drainage was accepted in lieu of an abatement of the old rent; showing that it was considered equivalent to at least twenty per cent. If, then, by other modes of proceeding, drainage could be made accessible to tenants of all classes, as well as to proprietors, it would be a great boon to Ireland. He (Mr. Napier) was not there to ask money from Parliament for that purpose, though in his opinion such money would be usefully employed; but he was there to ask the House to agree to a measure which would enable tenants,' as well as proprietors of land, private individuals as well as public bodies, to enter on a system of thorough drainage, by empowering them to do so by their private enterprise, if they had means of their own, or, if they were not able to provide the money themselves, to enable them to obtain it from private parties, and by giving facilities to the Bank of Ireland to make advances for that purpose. To effect this the cost would be made the first charge on the land; it would be, moreover, placed under the preliminary control and inspection of the Board of Works in that country. The mode in which it would be placed under that control and inspection was this: the party wishing to drain would have to send in a memorial to the Board containing a specification of the nature of the improvements proposed to be made, the value of those improvements, the return expected, and so forth. In every county of Ireland there were competent persons in connexion with the Board of Works—not paid officers, but persons acquainted with agriculture, and perfectly competent to decide upon, the value and character of improvements of this nature. These persons would go at once to the spot with the memorial in their 321 hand, and examine the lands and test the accuracy of the statement set forth in the memorial; and then, unless they should be of opinion that the projected improvements would increase the value of the land more than 6½ per cent, the application would be refused. The expense of this process would vary from 5s. to 15s. per cent. If the application was acceded to, the money would be expended under the superintendence of the Board of Works, and the improvements to be made would be minutely marked upon the town-land maps of the valuation survey of Ireland. These maps would be preserved for future reference, and the means of registry would be by this means effectually furnished. Another important improvement under the existing Acts had been introduced by one of the Devon Commissioners—he alluded to the drainage of mountain pastures at a cheap rate. The working of that Act had given great satisfaction in Ireland. A proof of this was, that 2,000,000l. had been advanced for improvements, and 4,000,000l. had been applied for in the course of a few years. Power was given in the Act to the Commissioners of the Board of Works to adjudicate on the increased value of land, in cases where the landlord and tenant could not agree as to the increased value of the land consequent on the improvements; but it was a further proof of the value of the measure that only four applications had been made to them on the subject. In fact, the improvements had left no room for dispute. That Act had been made the basis of the Bill which he now asked leave to introduce. The difficulty in such cases was, first, how to distribute equitably the burden of the improvements between a tenant for life and his successors; and, second, how to adjust matters between the landlord and the tenant. A tenant for life might have only a partial enjoyment of any improvement he might make; and it was only just that those who came after him should pay their proportion of such improvements. What he proposed to do was this—he provided that the money so expended should be made payable in twenty-two yearly instalments, so that every tenant for life would pay exactly as much for the improvement as corresponded to the time during which he enjoyed the estate. This appeared to him to be a great improvement upon the Montgomery Act, which called upon the tenant for life to pay the whole charge in the first instance, and then to throw three- 322 fourths of that charge upon his successor, for it might happen that the tenant for life might live long enough to exhaust the whole improvement himself. It was further provided that the money for these improvements might be obtained from the Bank of Ireland and other private sources, because, after the improvements were certified by the Board of Works, the certificates might be assigned to the parties advancing the money, which certificates would constitute a first charge upon the land. The effect of this would be to enable those who had money of their own, or who could get it from the Bank of Ireland, to carry out fully and fairly, in every part of Ireland, the system of drainage, and subsoiling, and those other improvements calculated to increase to a large extent the productiveness of the soil; to employ to an increased extent also the industry of the people; by so doing to diminish pauperism and the poor's rate, and advance the happiness and civilisation of the whole country. By means of a staff of great experience, the Board of Works would he enabled to give its supervision to these improvements, and in so far a great and beneficial object would be effected for Ireland. It was now quite certain that agriculture, as such, could not get on without green crops; but without draining, green crops, and particularly flax, which was a crop of the first importance to the industry of Ireland, could not be profitably raised; and drainage could not be undertaken in that country without a facility for obtaining advances of money being furnished. The flax raised in Ireland was not more than one-third of what was required for the present consumption of the country, and yet millions of acres were lying useless. By means of drainage, however, Ireland might not alone supply the wants of her own inhabitants, but also those of the inhabitants of other countries. Ireland would also find out, by the experience which these improvements would involve, the sort of cultivation that was best adapted to her soil and her resources; and so, by an interchange with other countries, would conduce to the general welfare of mankind. This Bill was framed for the purpose of promoting that object with the greatest ease; and he hoped, therefore, it would receive the support of the House.
The next measure to which he should come was one of very great importance— indeed he attached more importance to it himself than he did to any of the others. 323 He meant the Bill to facilitate the making of beneficial leases and agreements for compensation for improving land in Ireland. He found that in Ireland there existed somewhat about sixty statutes conferring special powers upon persons in the position of tenants for life, upon corporations, and public bodies—such as boards, governors of charities, &c.—to make leases for particular objects. Sometimes the tenant for life had the power of making leases of from three to fifteen acres; sometimes, in ecclesiastical tenures, the rector had the power of making a lease for a year, a bishop for twenty-one years, and so on. The Bill he proposed to introduce recognised the principle as laid down by the Devon Commission, and by a Committee of that House that sat in 1848—that a person having a limited interest in an estate should have the power of leasing the land to the best advantage: it reduced the powers under one uniform principle; and by so doing simplified the process of their application. The Montgomery Act, passed for Scotland in the reign of George III., recognised these powers, though in a limited form; but other Acts had been passed since for that country, expanding the principle, and enabling parties to grant leases for proper terms on certain specified conditions. In the present circumstances of Ireland it was highly desirable to carry out the cultivation of the soil in all its forms to the fullest extent possible; it would be far better to arrange at the beginning of a tenure the question of outlay and expenses, than to leave it for a scramble at the end. In Scotland the tenant obtained leases of 19, 31, and even 99 years. What he wished was to carry out the principle in Ireland. He was of opinion that, as they applied the principle of free trade to the produce of land, it had become Imperative upon the Legislature to remove restraints upon the use of the land itself. In the Bill before the House he had specified the classes—including all the parties, corporations or governors of charities—tenants for life, and those who exercised special powers in connexion with the land; and what he wanted to accomplish was this, that, although he quite approved of the proper use of landed property for family purposes, yet he desired that those purposes should be carried out in a manner consistent with the beneficial cultivation of the soil. Instead, then, of having a large number of inconsistent and anomalous statutes on the subject of 324 leases, and of the inconsistency of regulating the term by the character of the depository of the power, to regulate the term of the lease by the uses to which the land was to be applied, and the nature and object of the improvements. Thus, for agricultural purposes, it was proposed to grant leases for 31 years; for the improvement of waste lands, leases of 61 years; for the working of mines, leases for 41 years; for private buildings, leases for 99 years; and for public edifices and public purposes generally, leases of 999 years. The necessity of the latter tenure was proved by an instance which had come to his knowledge of two model agricultural schools and farms having to be abandoned in parts of Ireland where, perhaps, of all others it was most required, because the promoters of the plan could not obtain leases long enough for the purpose. What he wanted was not an ignorant and impoverished agricultural population in that country, but a people both educated and employed. The tenant for life was now prevented from making a lease, except for the brief periods and for the special purposes stated, by want of power. That power, however, was proposed to be conferred by the Bill; for it stood to reason that the parties enjoying the tenancy for life should also possess the power of doing all that was needful—consistent with the strict observance of the honest purposes of family settlements—for the improvement of the property, and for the general good of the community. To all those persons and corporations particularised it was proposed to give the power of making such leases, for the purposes stated. There were other provisions in the Bill, setting forth special cases for leases, with such clauses as were best calculated to carry out the objects in view. The terms of such leases were accordingly set out in the Bill—whether for agricultural leases, or for other purposes—to save the trouble and expense and risk of tedious covenants set forth in each particular lease. One clause in the measure, however, might, he was bound to admit, be deemed open to discussion—namely, that which proposed to enable parties to agricultural leases to make the question of rent a subject of variation, according to the value in the general valuation survey of Ireland. His reason for adopting this was confirmed by a communication sent to him by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland—a nobleman who took the deepest interest in everything 325 that concerned the prosperity of that country—referring to a remarkable case in Scotland, the particulars of which that noble Lord had been furnished with by a gentleman in connexion with the transaction. Being himself connected with the working of the Montgomery Act in Scotland, Lord Eglinton had supplied him with this case as an illustration of the mode in which property had been improved in that country, and as a lesson for Ireland. It referred to an estate in Scotland, which consisisted of 1,170 acres, and which was divided into twelve farms or tenancies. The tenants had been tenants at will, and after the Act of 1819 regulating the currency, in common with several tenants in Scotland they had fallen into arrear with their rents. In 1826 a gentleman—the gentleman who furnished the statement to Lord Eglinton—was asked to take charge of the property in question, but he declined to do so as the tenantry were so poor and so much in arrear. In 1830, however, it was again pressed on him, and he then consented to try the management on condition that the tenants were got to take leases. It was, therefore, arranged that the tenants should take leases for a term of sixteen years, the rent to be regulated every four years by the prices of produce; and the leases were taken accordingly in 1832. They were then induced to join with the landlord in tile-drainage, he contributing 3,349l., they contributing, as their quota, to the extent of 2,255l. The rent for the years from 1843 to 1848 was settled at 1,715l. 7s. 4d.; in 1848 the leases expired, and they were, as is the custom in Scotland, to be then set up to public competition. But all the old tenants again took their former holdings, though the property had been revalued at the prices of produce in 1848, 1847, 1846, and 1845, and though the rent had, notwithstanding, been increased 24 per cent, being then 2,121l. And further, during the last fifteen years of their tenancy under these conditions. their rent was not, in the case even of a single tenant, a single day, or a shilling, in arrear. When the draining commenced, this gentleman proposed that a committee of tenants should decide what period ought to remunerate for the improvement; and it was unanimously agreed on by them that five years would be sufficient and satisfactory from the sinking of the drains. In 1848, therefore, those tenants who had been in arrear in 1832, were in comfort- 326 able circumstances, and their rents paid to the last farthing; and, moreover, they resumed their tenancy at a rise of 24 percent on the former rent of the estate. The fact was, that by the co-operation of the landlord and tenant, in attending to the due cultivation of the soil, both parties benefited; there was no scrambling, confusion, or recrimination; and this state of things was brought about by a sensible and just agent, who appreciated the capabilities of the property, and who resorted to those means of improvement which were the means which God would ever bless, namely, the industry and virtue of the people. The gentleman who sent this statement to Lord Eglinton had said that he could not see why a similar result should not be produced in Ireland. He did not see it either, if, as that gentleman said, they only laid themselves to it. Some parts of Ireland were, no doubt, peculiarly situated as respected the introduction of improvements; but in most places the greatest natural facilities existed; and if all parties co-operated, he could not see why success should not equally crown their efforts. By enabling the landlord, when tenant for life, to grant beneficial leases and regulate the rent by the prices of produce, it might be effected. This was a simple and intelligible view, and perfectly comprehensible to all parties. The experience of this Scotch case was, therefore, a good lesson, of which he felt he ought to avail himself. There was, however, another curious fact which had forced itself also on his attention in connexion with this question. In the examination of the Rev. Mr. O'Sullivan before the Lords' Committee in 1825, it was stated that there was one townland of the county Tipperary from which there had not been a single inhabitant brought under the provisions of the Insurrection Acts, and that in this townland the rent had always been regulated by the prices of produce. It was these facts that had induced him to continue this clause, which he hoped would be found one not the least beneficial of the Bill. With regard to drainage in Ireland —especially drainage with subsoiling—it was very difficult to settle the compensation, as it was not easy to ascertain what subsoiling had been done, unless a man was on the spot watching its progress; but when the landlord and the tenant joined together for that purpose, it could be done cheaply, it could be done effectively, it could be done without contest, 327 and would be of the greatest advantage to the country as the means of pulverising the soil and increasing the quantity of produce as well as the quality. There were other provisions in the Bill with respect to leases under powers; but to show the injurious operation of the former law, he would merely quote one instance. In the town of Ballycastle, in Antrim, the tenants took leases under trustees, for lives renewable for ever. These leases were only executed by one of the trustees of the estate, the other trustee not being in the country; but the agent for the property was so well known that the tenants reposed the utmost confidence in him. Some of the tenants spent from 700l. to 800l. upon solid buildings and other improvements. Subsequently the estate came under the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery, as the property of a lunatic, and then it was discovered that one trustee had not executed the leases. On reference to the Master, the Court of Chancery held these leases, therefore, to he invalid, and an action of ejectment was accordingly brought against the tenants. The Solicitor General for Ireland and himself were of counsel for the tenants, and they succeeded in defeating the ejectment by a point of law—at least of locking it up in Chancery; but the unfortunate tenants were within an ace of losing their property. The provision he proposed in the Bill to meet such cases would amply provide that such bonâ fide leases, would be perfectly valid as regarded the tenants. There were other provisions, also, of a remedial nature; and then came a second class of provisions, having for their object to enable parties empowered to grant leases, to make agreements for improvements on the lands which might be already in lease. He believed hon. Gentlemen connected with Ireland would bear him out when he said that there were several towns in that country where, by reason of the defective powers relating to leasing, improvements could not go forward. He had known places where extensive manufactories would have been established only that by reason of the property being in tenants for life, they could not sufficiently demise it for such purposes. One case he knew of, in which a person who desired to build a factory close by a turf-bog, because of the supply of fuel, could not do so in consequence of the tenant for life being empowered to grant him only three acres of land, which were wholly 328 inadequate for his purpose. The result was that he went to another neighbourhood, and there established his manufactory. As things stood, the effect of this was to lock up the resources of the country, without doing a particle of good to any person. The provisions of the Bill would give power to persons, empowered already to grant leases, to make beneficial leases, and to make collateral agreements for purposes connected with the improvement of the country. The improvements contemplated were the cultivation of waste lands, the formation of farm roads, thorough draining, irrigation, the removal of rocks and stones, the-erection of boundary fences and internal fences, enclosing not less than ten acres, and other improvements of that nature; and he held that the Legislature was bound to fix a certain number of years for the periods applicable to each of these classes of improvements. In order to do this, he had fixed a certain number of years as what he would call compensation periods; because, he believed, experience had shown that within a certain period of time the tenant making an outlay for improvements was compensated for that outlay. He did not propose to take a short period; but in places where the tenants had the advantage of skill and ability they would gain a quicker return than those who were, as he might call them, unlearned. Accordingly he had in the Act inserted provisions by which these special matters were to be regulated. Thus he expected persons would be enabled to make beneficial leases, and enter into specific agreements for any particular class of improvements. Nothing was more desirable than to have means at hand by which mutual agreements could be made and enforced. It was most important in such a case that there should be a connexion between the landlord and tenant, for, if they were placed in collision, an injury was inflicted upon the whole community. The great object of the Legislature ought to be to promote, as far as possible, their common welfare, by showing them that they had a common interest. The Bill would provide for a decree and an appeal to the Judges of Assize when parties were dissatisfied, for there was a power of recovering compensation in case the tenant was dispossessed before the expiration of the period during which he ought to enjoy the land, in order to reap the benefit of his improvements. It might be said that it was a very hard ease to make the tenant 329 for life pay the whole compensation, and that he ought to have some contribution from those who succeeded him in the possession of the property. The tenant for life, however, had the alternative of not disturbing the possession of his tenant. If, then, the tenant was allowed to remain in possession during a period which would compensate him for the particular class of improvements he might have made, he had no ground of complaint; and if the tenant so remaining in possession paid his rent the landlord could not complain. He (Mr. Napier), therefore, thought the sound principle was to say to the tenant for life, "Don't you attempt the injustice of dispossessing a man who has made improvements before the period has elapsed during which he may get compensation; but if you do dispossess him, you are bound to compensate him yourself." If, however, the tenant did not pay his rent, it was manifestly unjust to allow him to retain possession of the property; and in such case no claim for compensation would be allowed. But when a tenant was dispossessed under circumstances he had no reason to anticipate, then he was to have compensation. If he abided by his contract, paid his rent, and made improvements, he would be secured by the proposed law, and the contract could be carried out. With respect to a power of setting-off for exhaustion of the land, a tenant would receive full compensation for real improvements, but against that compensation a set-off would be open for exhaustion and bad cultivation of the land. Every protection was given to the tenant for so much as he had expended in improvements, and the provisions for that purpose would be found to have been drawn up with the greatest care, and with the view to do substantial justice to all classes of tenants and landlords—but he would candidly say that his sympathies went much more with an industrious tenant than with an improvident landlord. He regarded the industrious tenantry as a class of men entitled to every consideration, and who ought to receive every protection that could be afforded them by legislation; and he had endeavoured to protect them, as far as was consistent with justice and the rights of property. He hoped that by removing restrictions upon the beneficial cultivation and enjoyment of the land, the tenant would be enabled to make improvements by contract and agreement—they would secure to the tenants full legal protection 330 —that they would give to the tenants every shelter and security the law could give them, while at the same time the just rights attached to property were fully secured to the landlords. He had now disposed of two Bills, the first of which enabled proprietors to improve their land; and the other enabled them to make beneficial leases and agreements with tenants for the profitable cultivation of the land. In framing these Acts he had endeavoured to create a machinery which in its working would be found to promote the best interests of Ireland. With respect to the case of mortgagors, powers were given to enable persons in possession to make leases and agreements—a step which, while it would preserve the necessary safeguards for every creditor, would increase the value of the heritable estate, and would remove impediments to proper cultivation. He would now refer to the admirable report of the Society of Friends, in which two things were recommended—the freedom of making contracts, and facilities for enforcing them. This led him to submit the next measure he had to offer to the consideration of the House—a Bill for consolidating, simplifying, and amending the existing laws which regulate the relation of landlord and tenant in Ireland so as to enable those who had made contracts to secure their enforcement. This Bill stated as its basis, that the relation of landlord and tentant should rest on contract. At the present time a struggle was going on between the old feudal principle and the commercial spirit of the nation; and the question which arose was, was the old strict system of feudal rights to continue, or were contracts to be founded on principles more consonant to justice and to common sense? It was the object of the present measures to meet the difficulty. Contracts, indeed, might he express stipulations, or of such a nature as would grow out of the relations of parties. He thought it the duty of the Legislature to make a sort of model contract, to state what contracts ought to be, and to make provisions for enforcing contracts according to the exigencies of the case. He knew it would be said that such contracts could not be very well made in Ireland, because, with regard to land, parties were not on equal terms. He admitted that where undue competition existed for land, there were more than ordinary difficulties in the case. Nothing, in his opinion, was more calculated to increase this kind of competition 331 than that of leaving parties to suppose, that though convenient to make an offer, they should never be obliged to abide by the terms. The surest way to cure the mischief flowing from such a state of things, was to have a law that contracts for land could be enforced against both parties—there was no other law which would tend so much to promote among the people of Ireland punctuality, honesty, and morality. The endeavour had been made to carry out the second view expressed in the admirable report of the Society of Funds—namely, after making provision for perfect freedom of contract in agreements between landlord (and tenant), to provide facilities for carrying these agreements into execution. By the new Bills he had disposed of about 200 statutes; and thus the whole subject having been brought to a focus, it was hoped the law would work in a beneficial way. After going into Committee, it was intended to schedule all the old Acts, and parties would find in the new Acts all the information they could require as to their respective rights. With respect to the law of assignment, that was dealt with in the Bills; and with regard to subletting, that question was also considered. As to the subdivision of land, one of the greatest evils under which Ireland laboured, that was duly provided for. There could be no doubt of the old system being in a state of change. Small holdings or farms were found not to answer, and very great changes had occurred in this respect of late years. In the year 1841, the number of farms from 1 to 5 acres was 310,375. In 1851 the same class of farms numbered only 88,083; showing a reduction of 222,000 of this amount. In 1841 the class of farms from 5 to 15 acres numbered 252,758. In 1851 the number was 191,854, a reduction of upwards of 60,900. In 1841 the number of farms from 15 to 30 acres was 79,838. In 1851 the number had increased to 141,311. In 1841 the number of farms of 30 acres and upwards was 48,623, and in 1851 the same class of farms had increased to 149,093. It appeared, in truth, that of the small holdings under 15 acres one-half were gone. This was sufficient evidence of the change which was going on; but, at the same time, there was another circumstance which he could not speak or think of without deep and solemn concern, that with the small holdings the small holders had gone too—that nearly a million and a half of 332 the people were swept away. It was indispensable that the subletting evil should be cured, otherwise drainage could not be carried out. Provision was made in the Bill for a local register of deeds; and the rights and reservations connected with mines and forests were condensed. Provisions were also made with respect to the waste or burning of land: the great object of the present Bills was not to punish, but to prevent the mischief. The practice of burning was so injurious, that in Roscommon, where such a process had taken place, the land had been deteriorated in value very considerably compared with adjacent land of equal quality. In the new measures power was given, by application to a magistrate, to stop this mischief. Formerly punishment was inflicted after the injury was done, but by the new law it was competent for parties, if they suspected injury by waste or burning was about to be done, to apply to a magistrate, who was empowered to issue a stop order. If, however, it should turn out that the tenant thought he was by such order prevented from doing that which he had a right to do, and was justified in doing, then the tenant was empowered to apply either to the assistant barrister, if in the county, or to a Judge of Assize, or to a Superior Court, to have the magistrate's order annulled. The present law, which required that a party aggrieved should go to a Court of Equity for the purpose of getting an order to stay waste, did not prevent waste from going on while the application was in progress. That difficulty would be obviated when a landlord was entitled to have a stop order, and the provision of the Bill on that subject would, he thought, be found useful and valuable. As to the duty of tenants to repair, that question was considered, as also was the question of the condition of the labouring classes. It was expedient, in order to effect improvement in the condition of the labouring classes, that they should have decent cottages and small allotments. Formerly the labouring classes were under the control of the grinding middleman— 2,000,000 of people were in the condition of mere nests of insects, which the middleman chose to assume the right to trample upon. It was necessary that proprietors should now look after their labourers, and see that they had cottages so constructed as that they might live in a room different to that tenanted by the pig or cow. He was delighted to state that several landed 333 proprietors had taken a great interest in the improvement of the comforts and the elevation of the Irish labouring classes, and had followed out the recommendations of the Devon Commission. In order to induce landlords to pay attention to this subject, it was proposed to deprive the landlords of the power of recovering rent if proved that they neglected to repair a certain class of cottages. Summary power was however given to get possession, when the labourer was dismissed. Then there were provisions with respect to rent. When it occurred that parties violated the conditions of their lease, instead of, as before, going for redress to the Superior Courts, it was proposed to give a remedy by a simple plaint, by way of civil bill. It was provided that the receipt for rent should specify the gale for which the rent was paid; or, if not, that the rent should be considered as paid for the gale which was due on the last gale day. The real contest between the landlord and tenant related, generally speaking, to what was the state of the recent account; and when that was adjusted the other questions in dispute were easily settled; but by the provisions he had inserted parties would be enabled to go to a court of justice and get a settlement cheaply and speedily. As to the law of set-off, that should be the same as for any other debt. With respect to the law of distress, there was great difference of opinion before the Devon Commission about it. Many thought it not wise to abolish the law of distress; but in Ireland that law, from the peculiar circumstances of the country, had been attended with great abuses and great hardship. In some cases it was difficult for the landlord to use any other remedy than the law of distress for his rent; but though he had devoted the best ability he possessed to the framing of clauses, it would be presumptuous in him to expect, where interests so large and so various were involved, that he had satisfied all parties. But he could assure the House that it was in no party spirit the measures had been framed—that he had been anxious only to do justice to all parties; and he invited suggestions from every quarter, and every suggestion calculated to make the measure more equitable and practicable—come from what quarter it might—should have full consideration. With respect, then, to this remedy for rent, what was proposed was this:—but, first, he should remind the House, that with respect to the present law of distress, a 334 landlord could distrain for six years' rent. Nothing could be more unmerciful towards a tenant than for a landlord to allow the rent to run on for such a period. If tenants got into arrear, then litigation ensued —vast expense was incurred—the relations between tenant and landlord were permanently soured, and both parties were set against each other, to their mutual injury. To do away with this state of things, it was proposed to limit the right of distress so that no distress should be made in virtue of any warrant for arrears of rent duo more than a year and a half from the date of the warrant; and that no distress should be made for a sum less than 5l. Parties, on making an affidavit of the amount of rent due—which was not to be less than the specified sum—might get a special warrant, but that warrant would not enable him to recover more than the rent of one year and a half. When there was a dispute whether the rent was due or not, the fact would be ascertained without the necessity of encountering the tedious and vexatious procedure, from which advantage was scarcely ever derived. There was no doubt it did no service to a tenant to afford facilities to evade a distress; but if the Legislature considered it right to give the tenant power to make a contract with his landlord, it must give the necessary powers to enforce that contract, though they could not by Act of Parliament make either good landlords or honest tenants. Supposing the law of distress he now proposed should be adopted, he next provided easier proceedings in ejectment, by which that remedy would be much simplified. Constant confusion had arisen as to the parties entitled to receive notice of ejectment. He proposed that all parties in actual possession and all such other parties as had availed themselves of the local registry of leases, should have the right to be served with such notice. He had abolished all those fictions which were remnants of feudal times, and had adopted a system consistent with the advanced state of civilisation. Every day, as society improved, as education advanced, and as public opinion was brought more and more to bear upon the laws of the land, that rule of simplification would, and ought to, become more and more adapted to the growing exigencies of the country. Then, again, there were provisions applicable to deserted tenancies. It often happened that tenants abandoned their land and went off to America. It was hard upon the landlord, under these 335 circumstances, that he should not he able to regain easy possession of his property. He had introduced a provision to give the landlord an easy remedy in that case. Sometimes it happened that when a tenancy was at an end, and a writ of possession executed, the tenant forcibly came hack again. The present form by which he could be punished was antiquated and operose. A provision to meet this evil had likewise been introduced. He had now gone through, as briefly as the nature of the question would admit, the whole of the case relating to the making of leases and agreements for improvements of land in Ireland, and the mode of enforcing them; and he hoped that the Bills he proposed to introduce would constitute a complete code upon that subject. He again begged to acknowledge the great assistance he had derived from the friends whose names he had already mentioned, and he hoped the scheme would facilitate the combined efforts of both landlords and tenants for the improvement of the land and the employment of the people.
He now came to his fourth and last measure, which was a Bill to provide for compensation to tenants, in the absence of express contract. If they had only to deal with the future, he could rest satisfied with the three Bills the provisions of which he had already explained to the House. But they had to deal with a vast number of tenants who held from year to year, especially in the north of Ireland, who had made improvements on the land. The claims of those persons required attentive consideration. It was not his intention to interfere with or to prejudice the tenant-right which prevailed in Ulster. It was not considered judicious to do so; in fact, with regard to the tenant-right of Ulster, it was not capable of being reduced to a fixed law, because the right was varying in its practice. There was nothing, in fact, to prevent any landlord in any part of Ireland from introducing the same practice that prevailed in the north of Ireland. It was a mode of dealing which had grown up from the necessity of the case, such as the existence of small farms, and the habit of landlords not to make the improvements. The tenants, therefore, improved the land themselves; and it was only just to consider whether those tenants could not have the benefit of those improvements also secured to them by some legal enactment. Preceding Governments had attempted to deal with that part of the law of landlord 336 and tenant. A Bill on the subject was committed to the charge of the noble Earl now at the head of the Government, when he was Secretary for the Colonies in 1845, which was read a second time, and referred to a Select Committee. After going through the Select Committee the objections made to it were left for the consideration of the Government, and the Bill was then dropped. In the next Session another edition of the Bill was introduced by Lord Lincoln, and by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham). Both those Bills dealt only with the question of compensation to the tenant; and while they differed from each other in the mode of ascertaining that point, they agreed in this, that they were both prospective. The second Bill was not passed. In 1848 the late Government introduced a Bill upon the same subject, which was referred to a Select Committee, where it underwent considerable discussion, and it was again introduced in 1850. Now, having been a Member of that Committee, looking at the provisions of those several Bills, and considering that they emanated from different sections of the House, and having also heard the discussions in Parliament upon that question, he thought he could pretty fairly estimate what was the extent to which Parliament would go upon the subject. He adverted to these circumstances for this reason, that he would candidly and honestly avow he was himself willing to go to the utmost extent consistent with the just rights of property, to secure the greatest advantage to the industrious tenants, and to give them a fair and legal security for what they conceived to be covered and secured to them by a moral obligation. But the condition in which he (Mr. Napier) stood in that House was different from that in which hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side were placed. They might propose what might appear to be useful to themselves as a means of gaining popularity, but he was bound to propose what he considered practicable. He felt he was bound in this matter— officially bound—to protect all the rights of property, and not to propose anything which he believed contrary to those rights. Knowing, therefore, the feeling of the House of Commons on the question, he felt that he ought not to peril an equitable measure by endeavouring to propose what he knew would not be carried, nor to introduce such clauses as would tend rather to obstruct than to promote useful 337 legislation. He had stated that that Bill did not interfere with the tenant-right of Ulster; hut he thought that it honestly carried out the view of the Devon Commission, because it did not interfere with the just rights of landlords, nor did it interpose any difficulty in the way of the tenants. Where the parties did not choose to make their own agreement, he proposed to enable the tenant—if the landlord would not stir in the first instance—to make improvements beneficially connected with the soil, and to propose, on his part, that he would execute them. It enabled the landlord, however, to make himself the execution of these improvements, on the report of the Board of Works, as proposed by his first Bill, and thus to supersede the necessity of the tenant undertaking them. He knew that a strong feeling prevailed in England on this point, that tenants from year to year ought not to have the power of forcing improvements on their landlords. But when it was considered that the Devon Commission had recommended such a concession—that on two occasions Bills had been introduced embodying that principle—one of them by the noble Earl at the head of the Government, and another which had only been stopped by the then Government going out of office; namely, that in Ireland, where the landlord had the option of taking upon himself the making of the improvements, the tenant should, in case the landlord refused, make the improvements himself, always giving to the landlord the security of an inspection by the Board of Works, he did not think that there was any good ground for the landlord to complain of this provision of his Bill. The landlord having the opportunity of either making the improvements himself, or of inspecting those made by the tenant, furnished a basis for compensation to the tenant for the improvements so made by him. There were provisions in the Bill prescribing the mode of ascertaining the amount of compensation, which, consisting of details, would be better explained in Committee. As to the immediate effect of this measure, he would not venture to make any prophecy, though his own opinion was, that perhaps the power thus given to the tenant might, in some cases, be abused; but, finally, his belief was, that the tenants would come in under agreements with their landlords in accordance with the second Bill he had explained to the House, and that the result would be most advantageous to both par- 338 ties; that additional inducement would be given for the improvement of the soil, and great advancement in the general system of cultivation in Ireland. He now came to a part of the Bill which had given rise to a great deal of controversy; and that was with regard to what was called the retrospective clauses of the Bill. On the one hand it was said that, if a tenant had done that which a good tenant ought to do, in beneficially cultivating the land, or making other improvements for farming purposes before the passing of the Bill, he ought to be compensated for them. On the other hand, it was said that if they once admitted retrospective legislation on this point, they could not know what consequences would follow. The subject was one which he had most anxiously considered, and having weighed every argument with the greatest care, he confessed he had come to the conclusion that retrospective improvements ought to be provided for. He thought so, inasmuch as it was confined to that class of improvements specified under the Lands Improvements Act, which landlords had been able to make by means of loans of public money, which showed that they were of importance as connected with the beneficial cultivation of the soil, and of immense importance as regarded the welfare of the population. At various periods the people of Ireland had been visited by famine, from the failure of the potato crop and other causes— famines of which he hoped they might never witness a repetition; but it was only by using the just and available means which God had put in their power, that they could hope to avert them, and to advance the civilisation of the people. He thought, therefore, that where a tenant had made such improvement, he should be secured in possession for a compensating period as if he had got, at the time of beginning to make these improvements, a lease to cover such a period. After coming to that conclusion, he had been greatly fortified in it by what he had found in the Poor Law Act of 1849—one clause of which, after reciting the importance of encouraging such improvements, went on to direct the valuator not to include in his valuation any of those agricultural improvements specified in the Land Improvement Act, which had been made seven years before the time of valuation. In the General Land Valuation Act a similar clause was introduced. The Bill of 1850 confined the retrospective clause to cases in 339 which the property was under the value of 10l. But he could see no principle upon which a property worth 20l. should be placed in a worse condition than a property of 10l. The fact showed that in the opinion of the Legislature it was quite possible to ascertain when and what improvements had been made, and it further showed that the law was necessary for the purpose of justice, and was founded upon grounds of policy. In his humble judgment, the tenant was entitled to compensation (if ejected on the title) for the period not yet expired, and he had accordingly introduced provisions to carry out that principle, guarded so as fully to secure the rights of both parties. Another case had been forcibly put with respect to improvements made at a time when prices were so high that the tenant was enabled to pay a higher rent; and it was said that the tenant should have the power of surrendering his farm whenever he pleased, and of then forcing compensation from the landlord for the unexpired period of his tenure; but, with every desire to favour the honest and industrious occupier, he must say he could not reconcile such a demand with the great principle of the rights of property on which all civilised society must ultimately rest. It seemed to him that any attempt to carry out this proposal by legislative enactment, which he could not see his way at all clearly to do, must interfere with the adjustment of rent between landlord and tenant which it was so desirable to leave to mutual contract. It was true that in the working out of these relations there were evils to be found which were inseparable from all general systems, but they were evils which he did not think the Legislature could rectify by stepping in further between the owners and occupiers of the land. If, however, he had failed in providing a remedy for any particular evil which might be removed, and if any hon. Member thought he had not done full justice in any special case, he would be delighted to give his most candid and careful consideration to any clause that might be framed to remove these imperfections, and to recommend it to the House, should he think it deserving of support. If he thought he could not introduce such clauses, of course those hon. Gentlemen who suggested and framed them would be at liberty to lay their propositions before the House. But when he found Mr. Sharman Crawford declaring before the Devon Commission, stating that 340 the great object which he had in view was to secure practically a continuance of possession to the improving tenant; and in answer to a question put to him, that he was of opinion the adjustment of rent was a thing which could not be done by any compulsory enactment; and when he found the hon. Member for the county of Cork, in a pamphlet he wrote on the land question, stating that he looked on compulsory legislation on such a subject as a delusion of a most mischievous description, he quite agreed with them, believing, as he did, that these were cases in which the Legislature could not advantageously interfere. He had done as much as could be done, so far as he could see, to protect and secure the tenant; but he could not approve of a law to enable the tenant to compel compensation from the landlord by surrendering his farm when he pleased. He had endeavoured to encourage the tenant to continue his improvements to the end of his term, and not, as was too often the case, carry them on for a short time and then withdraw; and it would be seen that the regulations for the outgoing tenant had been framed with that view. The law of emblements was rendered a little more liberal than it was made in the law of 1851, and some alterations had also been made in respect to fixtures. The remaining parts of the Bill referred to the procedure in civil-bill courts, and to the conditions under which compensation for the improvements of tenants from year to year was to be enforced. The quantity of details unavoidably noticed fell far short of the entire of the provisions actually embodied in these Bills, which he now must leave for future discussion in Committee.
Such, then, was the outline of the code which he proposed for the adoption of the House, and the acceptance of such proprietors and tenants in Ireland as might not desire to sacrifice any of those rights of property which formed the basis of civil society. Subject to these rights, and so far as their just limits would allow, he had endeavoured to meet the exigencies of Ireland in a liberal and generous spirit. In preparing this code, and in considering every suggestion submitted to him, he knew he had added many an hour of toil to a life of no ordinary labour. Every suggestion which might hereafter be offered, from whatever quarter it might come, would be accepted and considered in the same spirit in which these measures had been submitted to the House. He 341 knew the recompense too often bestowed on those who preferred the moderate and equitable adjustment of extreme opinions and conflicting claims to the gratification of narrow prejudices, but who considered the common weal and the interests of all as paramount to the selfish demands of any class or party. The man who was clamorous about rights and negligent of duties would depreciate his labours; the grinding middleman would dislike, and the factious or fraudulent tenant would heartily condemn them—for all this he was quite prepared. Enough for him, if by this code he had provided a freer course for industry, and had raised up an obstacle to injustice. If he should afford the means of developing effectively the resources of a land which God had blessed but man had blighted, the recompense would be to him an exceeding great reward. They might ask him, indeed, whether he hoped that by any measure of legislation they could bring peace and prosperity to Ireland? And he should answer, that they could not, except in so far, indeed, as their legislation might be a portion of that appointed agency which He could bless whose gracious touch could make the very act of ministering to the wants of the multitude the occasion and the means of increase and abundance. The voice of mercy had resuscitated Ireland— the flush and flow of returning life reanimated her frame; but still was she bound in the grave-clothes in which severe policy and sore affliction had enwrapped her: loose her and let her go.
Motion made and Question proposed—
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to facilitate the improvement of Landed Property in Ireland by Owners of Settled Estates.
§ MR. CONOLLY
said, he was sure that the House generally must participate in the pleasure which he himself felt at hearing such a speech as that which they had been fortunate enough to have addressed to them by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, and which he admired not only for its tone and temper, but be cause it was ennobled by the highest sentiments of public policy. Great as was his respect for the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and great as was his wish to see the question brought before the House conducted to a proper conclusion, he had no idea that it would have been put by him on so clear and on such an eminently working footing. He did hope, therefore, that the House had given and would give every 342 attention to the measures submitted to them, and that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be assisted and sustained by all sides of the House in the moderate and judicious course he had proposed.
§ MR. SERGEANT SHEE
said, that he had listened with the greatest attention to the very able speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, and must tell him that he was very much mistaken, and would do great injustice, if he thought that the Members who had been returned by Irish constituencies to that House, would, as he had insinuated, seek to obtain popularity in Ireland by any attack upon the rights of property. He (Sergt. Shee), for one, had undertaken to call the attention of the House to a Bill for the regulation of the relations subsisting between landlord and tenant in Ireland, but he could never have been induced to take that stop if he had been of opinion that there was one word in the Bill which tended to touch or trench in the slightest degree on the just rights of property. He was disposed to give to all the suggestions contained in the speech of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland a most candid consideration, and he thought that there was much in the measures the right hon. and learned Gentleman had introduced worthy of being favourably entertained, and he was resolved to avow his approval of that which might appear to him worthy of the approbation and adoption of the House. As to three of the Bills which had been laid before the House, however he might be inclined to differ with the right hon. and learned Gentleman on some of their details, he believed that there was much in every one of those three Bills deserving of the attention and the adoption of the Legislature; and though he could not hope to be able, by any assistance he could give to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who was so well acquainted with the details of the complicated law in Ireland, to lighten his labours, he could assure him it would not be from any want of hearty good will on his (Sergt. Shee's) part that he was not successful, and that he would not, from any party or factious motive, hesitate to do him full and entire justice on a question which ought not to be a question of party at all. Having said thus much, he felt bound frankly to state that the last Bill which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had brought forward, was not calculated in his (Sergt. Shee's) opinion to give the slightest satisfaction in 343 Ireland. The first part of that Bill which related to prospective improvements was but a second edition of the Bill introduced by Lord Stanley in the House of Lords, in 1845; and of the two Bills of Lord Lincoln and Sir William Somerville. Of all these measures the one which gave most dissatisfaction in Ireland was the Bill which had been brought forward by the present Prime Minister; and he (Sergt. Shee) felt assured that the proposition of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, which seemed to be but a renewal of that measure, would be received with the same dissatisfaction. As to that part of the Bill which related to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman called retrospective compensation, he felt convinced that that also was unlikely to be received with favour by the Irish people. He would not enter into a lengthened discussion on that point, because he hoped to have on an early day an opportunity of addressing the House upon the subject. He was of opinion that the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was defective in another point. It made no provision for the security of the vast amount of property accumulated in the north of Ireland. It left it altogether unprotected. Nay, more; it did worse, because, when the House had been called upon to consider a Tenant Right Bill, and when the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland had brought the result of his consideration of the subject under the attention of the House, and yet made no provision for the Tenant Right in Ulster, he, in fact, said it was a right which ought not to be recognised, and which the landlords would be justified in disregarding. He (Sergt. Shee) would not discuss the various details of the Bill until it was laid before the House, but he felt assured that, so far from giving satisfaction, it would create dismay and consternation, if it did not cause disturbance, in what had hitherto been the most prosperous part of Ireland.
§ MR. GEORGE
said, he rose with extreme reluctance to address the House for the first time. He felt that the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland had brought to the consideration of that all-important subject all that legal skill, extreme industry, and right feeling could supply to settle the conflicting claims of two classes whose interests ought to be identical. He did not mean to pledge himself to all the details of those measures, as there might be questions connected with agricultural matters worthy of considera- 344 tion by and by; but the right hon. and learned Gentleman had stated most fairly and candidly that he was perfectly ready to listen to suggestions on all matters of detail, and to submit his measures to the judgment of those persons on both sides of the House who were best informed upon the questions under discussion. He should not have stood up, therefore, had it not been for some observations of his hon. and learned Friend who had just sat down. The hon. and learned Gentleman said he was not the man to do anything to trench on the rights of property. He confessed he was glad to hear that statement, because he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had charge of the original Bill of Mr. Sharman Crawford, in which were two clauses introduced by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sergt. Shee) himself, which, in his humble judgment, were utterly incompatible with the free rights of property. He thought that any attempt to force perpetuity of tenure, or to fix a compulsory value of rents, was utterly subversive of all the rights of property; and, therefore, if he was to draw a conclusion from the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement, it would be that he (Sergt. Shee) had determined to abandon those clauses to which he alluded in the Tenant Right Bill. Sure he was that no Parliament—not composed of landlords merely, but of fair, honest, honourable men—could ever agree to them. This was not the time for entering into details, but he should have thought himself wanting in his duty to his constituents if he had not taken this the earliest opportunity of stating his opinion that the measures now introduced would give general satisfaction in Ireland. He hoped no attempt would be made to add to the Bills clauses which would destroy, in all probability, their good effect, and mar the success of this latest effort to give peace and contentment to that country.
§ MR. KIRK
said, he wished to make a few observations on the importance of these Bills to Ireland, and to state that this question of landlord and tenant involved the internal peace and tranquillity of that country. It had been said that Ireland was the chief difficulty of every English Ministry. And why? Because its annals were annals of agrarian crime, arising out of disagreements between landlord and tenant. It was, therefore, most desirable for all parties to unite to promote the good of Ireland, to promote her peace and prosperity, grounded as that prosperity must ever be 345 on her internal peace. He felt, and must acknowledge, a deep obligation to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the code of laws he had just proposed, as well as for the manner, spirit, tone, and temper with which he had introduced them; and he, for one, should never offer the slightest degree of factious opposition to the measures now under discussion, but he must say that one important element, the settlement of the rent, had been left out. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland had alluded, at the conclusion of his address, to that district of Ireland which had been the scene of agrarian outrage. When, in 1846, the Legislature repealed the Corn Laws, and. when concurrently it pleased God to bring on Ireland the potato blight, it was impossible that the rents previously contracted for could be paid. For a long time the occupiers in Ireland—in the north of Ireland more particularly—had made all improvements, not merely on their farms, but public roads and buildings. There was not a road or a bridge, a courthouse, gaol, or bridewell, but what had been constructed by the occupiers of the soil, the landlords not contributing a shilling unless when occupiers. That time they had high prices, caused latterly by the operation of the Corn Laws, and previously by the operation of the wars of the French Revolution. Prior to 1845, the usual course for settling their claim for improvements was for the tenant, when leaving, to agree with another person for a certain sum of money as compensation for the improvements, then to take this new tenant to the landlord, and satisfy him of his sufficiency. Thus the sale was completed, and the outgoing tenant compensated; the landlord had his property in the soil; the tenant his in the improvements. This system had worked very well, but when the potato blight and the Corn Law repeal came, it was impossible for occupiers to pay their rents. Since that there had been a system of combination and conspiracy extending itself over a great portion of the most peaceable part of Ireland, and stretching on, as he believed, even into England. When the landlord refused to lower the rent, the dread expedient was resorted to of shooting the agent. What had not been granted to remonstrance was conceded to terror, and this in the surrounding properties as well as in those in which such extremities had been proceeded to. The rents were lowered. Now, in none of these Bills did he see any 346 proposition to meet this grievous and unfortunate state of things. As a merchant and a free-trader, he should be ashamed of himself to argue for a compulsory valuation of rents; but he thought these measures should include a clause providing, where the landlord and tenant could not between themselves agree upon the price of the land, that then permission should be given to the tenant to resign his holding to the landlord, and get from him the value of the improvements he had made upon it, subject to proper restrictions. This would completely destroy all cause of agrarian crime. He wished the right hon. and learned Gentleman would turn his attention to this point, and exert himself to produce security for person and property in Ireland; and he trusted and hoped that the admirable observations made by Her Majesty at the close of Her Most Gracious Speech would be duly attended to, and that a just and generous policy towards that country would be the governing rule of the Administration.
§ MR. F. GREVILLE
said, he thought the House and the country were much indebted to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, for the admirable spirit in which he had introduced those measures, as well as for many valuable provisions which they contained. But, at the same time, he (Mr. Greville) agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Sergt. Shee), that the last Bill which had been introduced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not give satisfaction to the tenantry in Ireland. It should be remembered that there could be no comparison made between the position of the tenant class in Ireland and in this country. In England the improvements in land were almost universally carried out at the expense of the landlords, while in Ireland they were almost as universally the work of the tenants. For these improvements the Irish tenantry naturally looked for compensation when they were ejected from their holdings; and their claim in that respect, ought, he thought, to be acknowledged by Parliament. Emigration from Ireland was continuing upon as large a scale as ever, and the only hope we had of preserving the population—-that population of which we might yet stand in need, and which had always stood faithful to this country in times of danger—was to do that which would secure the tenant in his application of capital to the land, and retain him at home.
§ LORD NAAS
said, he did not rise for the purpose of prolonging a useless discussion upon points of detail, which it would, at that moment, be impossible for them to consider in an efficient or satisfactory manner. But he wished to take that opportunity of correcting a mis-statement which had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Sergt. Shee), when he had said that the fourth of these Bills—namely, that for giving compensation to tenants in Ireland—was similar to the Bill upon the same subject which had been introduced by Lord Stanley, in the House of Lords, in the year 1845. He (Lord Naas) affirmed, on the contrary, that there was no similarity whatever between the two Bills, with the single exception that they had both been framed for the same object. Their details were entirely different, and the machinery by which their end was to be attained was equally dissimilar. The machinery of Lord Stanley's Bill was of a very complicated character, and such as it would be very difficult to work out. It proposed that Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners should be appointed for the purpose of determining whether the improvements contemplated by the tenant should be considered as improvements or not, and it would render the tenant liable to ruinous litigation before he could begin any improvement. There was nothing of that kind in the present Bill. There were no preliminaries whatever, and it would be perfectly competent to the tenant to commence his improvements at once; and any litigation which arose at all must arise when the landlord proposed to eject the tenant, at the end of his tenancy. The improvements could thus take place within a week after the first steps were taken by the tenant. That created a very important difference between the two measures. He was not surprised to learn that hon. Gentlemen opposite expected to find in the Bill an attempt to legalise the tenant-right of Ulster. Ha was perfectly prepared for that; but he could not sit down without expressing his opinion—an opinion entertained, he believed, by almost every Gentleman who had calmly considered that question, and was acquainted with the circumstances of the north of Ireland, that it would be simply impossible to import into an Act of Parliament the tenant-right custom as it existed in Ulster. That custom varied on almost every estate. It was founded on ancient usages, which differed in different parishes; and it would be im- 348 possible to embody it in any system of legislation without dealing separately with nearly every farm. He believed, too, that any legislation which would have for its object the legalisation of the tenant-right system would deprive the tenantry in the north of Ireland of the advantages which they at present derived from that system, and that by any effort to settle the question by legal enactment they would be losers to an enormous amount. He would not detain the House any longer. He had witnessed with great satisfaction the kind and liberal spirit in which the proposals of his right hon. and learned Friend had been received, even by those Gentlemen who differed from him; and he was sure that in future discussions on the Bill they would all approach the question with a sincere and honest wish to provide to the utmost of their power for the improvement of the condition of the people of Ireland.
§ Leave given to bring in the four Bills, which were each read 1°.
§ House adjourned at half after Nine o'clock.