§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [18th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."140
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. GEORGE
said, that, in resuming the discussion on this measure it was advisable that he should remind the House that the Bill before them consisted of three distinct parts, and with regard to the last part of it, relating to the consideration of the different Acts having reference to leasing powers, no great difference of opinion existed. The other portions related to the question of compensation to tenants for improvements, that part being again divided into two distinct parts, one relating to compensation for prospective improvements; and the other, and, in his opinion, the most objectionable, to compensation for retrospective improvements. In 1852 he had stated his willingness to consider favourably the question of future improvements; but he had never consented, and never would consent, to the retrospective clauses, having always regarded such clauses as a gross violation of the rights of property and of existing contracts. He wished shortly to call the attention of the House to the position in which the Government stood with reference to their Bill. It would be recollected that when the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) brought forward his Bill in 1852, he declared that he would not have brought it forward if he had thought it interfered with the rights of property. That Bill was the one known as Mr. Sharman Crawford's, but at the period in question he had pointed out that the hon. and learned Member had proposed to add to that Bill two clauses of a most objectionable character, and essentially destructive of property. These clauses related to what was called perpetuity of tenure, and to the compulsory valuation of land. If these clauses had become law they would have converted every man's fee simple in Ireland into a mere rent charge on the property at the good will and pleasure of the tenant. As the Members of the Government had acted on the silent system with regard to the present Bill, he must assume that they were favourable to it, and to the objectionable retrospective clauses. After the declaration made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, and also that of the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland, it was impossible they could sit on the Treasury bench unless they were prepared to support the measure. A conference had been held on this subject almost immediately after the election 141 of 1852, attended by a large number of the Irish Members, and at that conference the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Keogh) moved that they were prepared—To hold themselves perfectly independent of, and in opposition to, every Government which would not make it part of its policy and a Cabinet question to give to the tenantry of Ireland a measure fully embodying the principle of Mr. Sharman Crawford's measure.The hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) on that occasion likewise said—I stand here prepared to sacrifice all expectations of power, place, or pension—to fling to the winds all considerations of advantage and emolument—provided I can successfully aid in carrying out to its fullest fruition this great project, worthy of the nation.The hon. and learned Gentleman, he must admit, said, that he would not pledge himself to support Mr. Sharman Crawford's Bill in all its details, but that he would support its principle. So the matter stood till 1852, when the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) introduced his four Bills on the subject, one of which was greatly analogous to the present Bill relating to leasing powers. He admitted that in one of the Bills the right hon. and learned Gentleman had introduced clauses that were retrospective, as well as clauses that were prospective. He, however, did not vindicate that course. In fact he had never voted for a single clause having a retrospective effect. Those Bills, with the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, were referred to a Select Committee, and the first step taken by that Committee was to reject the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, on the ground that it was a Bill subversive of the rights of property. The Landlord and Tenant Bill, the Tenants' Compensation Bill, and the Leasing Powers Bill had been referred to the consideration of the other House; and more than one of their Lordships had given expression to their opinions with respect to certain provisions contained in those Bills. Upon the 28th of February, 1854, Lord Campbell, upon the question that the House should go into Committee on the Bills, had stated that he considered—The retrospective clauses contained in them entrenched upon the rights of property. That a person might have bought land under the In cumbered Estates Act with a Parliamentary title, and 142 with no claim upon it which was not set out in the conveyance."—[3 Hansard, cxxxi. 30.]The noble and learned Lord had followed up these observations by stating that the effect of such clauses would be to drive capital from Ireland, and had characterised them as "nugatory, unjust, and absurd." He found also that the present Lord Chancellor had, upon the occasion in question, observed that he looked with trepidation upon the retrospective legislation proposed in the Bills. Notwithstanding the many objections which had been urged against them, however, the Bills had been referred to a Select Committee of the other House of Parliament, and the Leasing Powers Bill, subject to a protest from Lord St. Leonards. They had subsequently passed, with certain modifications, in the shape of a clause providing that in the cases in which a tenant had erected houses upon the farm which he occupied, he should have a right to obtain from the landlord compensation for the fixtures which they might happen to contain upon his giving up possession. In his opinion the fixture clause was a nugatory boon to the tenant; but be that as it might, the other House of Parliament had rejected altogether the Tenants' Compensation Bill, and had given their assent, with the modifications to which he had just alluded, to the other two Bills. These two measures, thus passed by the House of Lords, had been sent down to the House of Commons, but no step whatever had been taken by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) to procure the enactment of the Bill which he had in the preceding Session introduced. And what was the course which the hon. and learned Gentleman had taken with reference to the question of tenant right during the present Session? One would have supposed that the course he would naturally have adopted would have been to take the two Bills which had last Session received the assent of the other House of Parliament, and to endeavour to pass them into law. But, instead of adopting that course, the hon. and learned Gentleman had appropriated almost word for word the Leasing Powers Bill of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, and had, besides, taken the Bill, not that which the House of Lords had approved of, but that which had been rejected by a Committee of that House, composed of several Members connected with both the late and the present Government. Now, Her Majesty's Ministers had 143 been over and over again entreated to state what course they meant to pursue with reference to the Bill of the hon. and learned Serjeant; and that was a question to which he trusted they would receive an answer that evening. To the clauses of that Bill up to the 14th—which were of a prospective character—he entertained no very decided objection, but to the clauses from 14 to 17—which were retrospective in their nature—he was entirely opposed. To the clauses after Clause 17 he should be prepared to give a favourable consideration; but to the retrospective clauses of the Bill he could never give his assent. The 14th section of the Bill set forth, that if any tenant, or those from whom he derived at any time before the passing of the Act, should have executed any improvements of the description named in the Bill, thus adding to its letting value for agricultural purposes, such tenant would be entitled to compensation. Another portion of the Bill provided, that every tenant in Ireland, no matter what might be the nature of his tenure, or what contract he might have entered into with his landlord, might, within twelve calendar months, prefer a claim for compensation for improvements to the assistant barrister, who was bound to ascertain the amount and nature of such a claim. Now, was it, he (Mr. George) should ask, desirable that those tenants who held land upon leases perhaps 100 years old, and with respect to which a solemn contract had been entered into with their landlords, should have it in their power to entail endless lawsuits upon him within the next twelve months? The consequence of the enactment of such a provision would be that there would be a vast amount of litigation, of swearing and counter-swearing, such as had never been witnessed in Ireland before. Independent altogether of the wrong which they would inflict by sanctioning the violation of solemn contracts, the retrospective clauses in the Bill before the House would lead to the worst possible social results, and would tend to drive the landlords of Ireland from their estates by the hardships and inconvenience which they must eventually entail, and he thought that any lawyer would be scouted who ventured to maintain such principles. He should, therefore, hope that Her Majesty's Government would communicate satisfaction to the mind of every man who possessed property in Ireland, by stating that the clauses to which he referred would not receive their support. He thought it 144 was the more desirable that they should give that assurance, inasmuch as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny, in asking for leave to introduce his Bill, had held out a threat to the Government, to the effect that if they wished to secure his support, and the support of those with whom he acted, they must be cautious as to the course which they should take with reference to the measure. Now considering the distinguished position which the noble Lord at the head of the Government occupied, and remembering also that he possessed property in the country which was intended to be subjected to this species of legislation, let him not be restrained by any unworthy fear of losing the support of any political party, but, while displaying a perfect readiness to give every legitimate encouragement to improvement by conceding a fair and reasonable amount of compensation to tenants for their prospective outlays, boldly and at once declare his own fixed determination and that of his Government to be no parties to the unjust principle of transferring the property of one man to another which was involved in the 14th clause of this measure. The hon. and learned Serjeant had mixed his most objectionable enactments with several good ones, apparently in order that in the scramble he might carry the whole; and, probably, he was also desirous of prejudicing the great Conservative party in Ireland by representing them as unwilling to serve the tenantry of that country. His (Mr. George's) withers were, however, unwrung on this question, because he had always advocated fair and equitable compensation for prospective improvements, and he also approved of the consolidation of the heterogeneous mass of existing statutes dealing with the relations of landlord and tenant. He must also solemnly protest against the time which had been chosen for reopening this question. Ireland had now rallied, he was most happy to say, from the misery and depression in which she had been sunk, her prosperity had returned, peace prevailed among her people, and crime had been largely diminished. Her population would, therefore, be much better employed in their industrial pursuits than in the agitation of a question which the hon. and learned Member had raised by a sort of side-wind and mixed up with several measures of a totally different character. And here he (Mr. George) must, in as strong language as the forms of that House would 145 allow, condemn one part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Horsman) the other night, in which that right hon. Gentleman, who was about to proceed to Ireland to take an active part in its Government, described the normal relation between landlord and tenant in that country as one of mutual hostility, and animadverted on the injustice inflicted on the tenantry by their landlords. If such were the deliberate opinions of the right hon. Gentleman, he certainly must visit Ireland before he could properly understand its real state. He denied in the most solemn manner the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, and believed there never was a period in the history of Ireland in which the relations between landlord and tenant were so friendly as at present. He hoped that when the right hon. Gentleman had been longer in Ireland he would see reason to change his opinion, which was hurtful to the feelings of ninety-nine out of every hundred Irish landlords. He should certainly not support the second reading of this Bill; and desired it to be understood that he did so, not because it contained a Leasing Powers Bill, nor because it made compensation for prospective improvements in Ireland, but because there were interpolated into it several clauses which were subversive of property and of solemn contracts which had been entered into.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, that he laboured under considerable diffidence in addressing the House on this subject, because he felt that he was not qualified to discuss it either on its social or economical grounds. The House had heard the strong appeal made by the last speaker, who had told them that the measure before them was so inconsistent with the principles of justice and equity that—to use the hon. Member's choice expression—any lawyer would be scouted who ventured to maintain the principles. Now, he (the Solicitor General) would venture to say, pace tanti viri—that the principles of this measure, both in the prospective and retrospective clauses, were consistent with equity and justice; and, on these grounds, he should ask the House to assent to the second reading of the Bill. He should, after what had been said, hardly have ventured to appeal to the House if he could not have asked them to agree with his conclusions, which were supported by the opinion of Sir William Grant, no mean judge of equity and justice; by Lord Eldon, 146 no weak conservative of the rights of property; by Lord Redesdale; and by the universal consent of all writers and expositors of equity and natural justice. If in the social condition of a country in which land was let, deprived of all the necessary accessories for the cultivation and improvement thereof, the land parted from the landlord in that condition, was it expected that the tenant should employ it profitably? He supposed the answer would be that the tenant was to employ it profitably and reasonably, and for this it was essential there should be certain accessories to be supplied by the tenant. There was then an expectation on the one side, and a belief entertained by the other, that the one would supply to the land all that was requisite for its beneficial occupation, and that so supplying it he would be permitted to use it for the purposes of such beneficial occupation. He should now endeavour to show the House, on the highest legal authorities in this country, that if one party, knowing that another entertained a particular impression, belief, or expectation, leading him to lay out money on the improvement of land, stood by and permitted that expenditure to be made, without correcting this impression, and warning the party that he was not to entertain this natural belief, the individual so standing by would not be allowed to dispossess the person whom he had encouraged by his silence to lay out money in improving the land, and would not be allowed to enter into the enjoyment of the profits of the tenant's labour and the results of his expenditure. Well, was not that the principle involved in this Bill? Was it not the fact in Ireland that in nineteen cases out of twenty a landlord expected the tenant would do something for the improvement of the land, and stood by while it was done; and then was it not consistent with justice for the law to assume a tacit understanding on his part that the tenant was to enjoy the results of these improvements? Such doctrines as these had been the A B C of equity in this country for a considerable time, and if parties proceeding against their tenants in Ireland could be compelled to proceed in a court of equity, they would be met at once by the legal apophthegm that "he who seeks equity must do equity," and they would not be allowed to dispossess the tenant until they had given him satisfaction for the expenditure he had incurred. He would call their attention to the language of Sir William 147 Grant in a case very nearly resembling that embodied in the principle of this Bill:—If a landlord enters into an arrangement with the tenant relative to improvements,"—the House should remember that such an arrangement might be either express or implied, might be made either by contract or by looking on and permitting a thing to be done upon a certain evident understanding and belief which you do not take the pains to remove—If a landlord enters into an arrangement with a tenant relative to improvements, and completely sanctions them, &c., I doubt whether that does not fasten an equity upon the landlord, precluding him, when these improvements are made under his authority, from saying there is an end of the lease. Such an arrangement, though without a specific agreement, would imply one, as it would be so contrary to good faith to encourage a tenant in so positive and direct a manner to proceed in particular improvements, and then deny him all benefit, that I think equity would interfere, and hold it an implied term, that the tenant should have the fair benefit from the improvements thus made with the concurrence of his landlord.Lord Eldon was still more explicit:—This Court will not permit a man, knowingly, though but passively, to encourage another to lay out money under an erroneous opinion of title, and the circumstance of looking on is in many cases as strong as using terms of encouragement,—a lessor knowing and permitting those acts, which the lessee would not have done, and the other must conceive he would not have done, but upon an expectation that the lessor would not throw an objection in the way of his enjoyment.So that a contract was produced in the eye of this great Judge, this great master of equity and natural justice, if the lessor permitted, without warning, that to be done which he knew the tenant could not be expected to do unless he entertained the belief that his enjoyment would not be interfered with. This, in Lord Eldon's opinion, created a right in equity against the landlord. He went on to say:—Taking the repairs to be substantial and proved, the case fails in a material point, that, in order to give a person a larger interest in the property than he derives under the instrument making his title, it must be shown that with the knowledge of the person under whom he claims he conceived he had that larger interest, and was putting himself to a considerable expense, unreasonable compared with the smaller interest, and which the other party observed, and must have supposed to have been incurred under the idea that he intended to give that larger interest, or to refrain from disturbing the other in the enjoyment.These passages and decisions might be cited not unfavourably against the opinion 148 of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. George). Some hon. Gentlemen might think that these Bills were founded upon some novel principle, upon some new, strange, and unheard-of rule required by the necessities of Ireland, but not sanctioned by the English system of jurisprudence, and not to be found in any of the ordinary systems of the administration of justice. So far from that being the case, however, it would be found that the principles of this Bill were in strict accordance with the rules established in that great exemplar of jurisprudence and equity, the civic law of Rome, and it had been adopted in many of the systems of jurisprudence of European nations. With regard to the application of the retrospective clause there was no doubt some difficulty, but that difficulty, he submitted, was much less in the present case than generally existed where the Legislature was called upon to pass a statute having a retrospective operation. It was undoubtedly a general principle of equity that you should be bound by any of those contingencies which, at the time of acquiring your property, you had reasonable ground to presume existed. Now, whoever had purchased land during the last five, six, seven, or eight years—for in the year 1845 the principles he was now advocating were to their full extent brought forward by the present Earl of Derby, as a Member of the Conservative Government of Sir Robert Peel—must have done so with the perfect knowledge of the agitation upon this particular question, that these demands were generally made on behalf of the tenantry of Ireland; that it was a matter then pending, and (if he might adopt a legal expression) at that time sub judice; and therefore such purchasers were by no means without a fair intimation that some such principle as was now under discussion would ultimately be adopted by the Legislature. If a man bought lands at the time they were in the occupation of a tenant, and he found that the rent paid by the tenant was very inadequate to the actual value of the land, and that it had upon it commodious buildings, good roads, and other facilities, would not any intelligent person at once come to the conclusion that, taking into consideration the small amount of rent paid, the various improvements must have been made by the tenant and not by the landlord? Undoubtedly, if a man had let land within the last ten or twelve years, since this agitation commenced, and he was so circumstanced that 149 he must know that any prudent man would expect to be compensated for his improvements, and if he sought in a court of equity to defeat the tenant, he would be met with the argument that the tenant had considered he had a claim to be compensated for his improvements, and the House would observe that the Bill before it always placed these parties in this situation, for the equity of the Bill did not arise until the landlord sought to charge the tenant. The moment the landlord sought to enter into the enjoyment of the fruits of the tenant's labour the equity of the Bill arose. The tenant was not the aggressive party, for his claim only arose on the landlord seeking to charge him with his improvements. They were the shield with which he defended himself, and not the sword of aggression with which he attacked the landlord. On these grounds he considered that the Bill was founded upon principles of equity and justice, and therefore deserved the support of the House.
§ MR. MALINS
said, he could not allow the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General to pass without entering his solemn protest against the doctrines he had enunciated, for, unless he (Mr. Malins) had spent all his life in vain, he was justified in saying they were opposed to every principle established in the courts of equity. But he was the more astonished when he heard the hon. and learned Gentleman quote the opinions of Sir William Grant and Lord Eldon in favour of those principles, for he was convinced that if those learned Judges could have heard their authority cited in favour of such doctrines they would have started with amazement and affright from their graves. He must confess that nothing could more surprise him than to hear his hon. and learned Friend, himself a distinguished equity advocate, state that natural justice required that where a landlord had permitted his tenant to expend money in improving his property he should be prevented from recovering possession at the expiration of the lease, and cite the opinion of those eminent Judges as his authority. [The SOLICITOR GENERAL: No, no!] What, then, he asked, were they discussing—a definite question, or an uncertain theory? When he spoke of landlords and tenants, he spoke of persons having some knowledge of each other's rights; the landlord knew when his property would fall in, and the tenant when he would have to give it up; and for his hon. and learned Friend to say that, because a tenant, having 150 a full knowledge of this circumstance, laid out money in improvements without the consent of his landlord, the landlord would be deprived of his right of entry, was opposed to every principle of common justice, and compelled him to express his astonishment at hearing such a doctrine advocated by the hon. and learned Gentleman. He challenged the hon. and learned Gentleman to attempt to propound any such erratic doctrine in a measure for England, and warned the House against paying the slightest attention to it. The particular case alluded to by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and from which he quoted the opinions of Sir William Grant and Lord Eldon, was one of a peculiar character, where a landlord had knowingly allowed a tenant to spend money on improvements under an erroneous impression of his right, and afterwards sought to reap the benefit of those improvements. That it was which these eminent Judges held to be against natural justice, and not for a landlord under ordinary circumstances to enter on his property on the expiration of the lease. But the principle of the Tenants' Compensation Bill was, that if a tenant made improvements without the consent of his landlord, he thereby acquired the right to an indefinite possession till the landlord should have compensated him for his improvements. The cases which his hon. and learned Friend had cited were decided upon the principle of natural justice, and referred, as he had previously stated, to the case in which a landlord, knowing that his tenant was under a misapprehension as to the term of his lease, permitted him to expend his money in improvements, and in those cases equity would interfere for the relief of the tenant. He would proceed to consider how the principle of the Bill affected the case of mortgagor and mortgagee. In Ireland, when the interest was in arrear, a receiver was appointed, but in England that was not the case. In England, the legal title being in the mortgagee, the law allowed him to enter into possession of the property, subject to the equity of redemption appertaining to the mortgagor—that was, until he was paid the money due to him, when the property again became vested in the mortgagor. In that case the courts of equity allowed the mortgagee, while in possession, to expend money to a moderate extent in lasting improvements, and repayment of that money had to be made by the mortgagor, but the rule of law was that a mortgagee might not improve the mortgagor 151 out of his estate; that was to say, that he was not permitted to expend such a sum as the mortgagor could not repay, but the principle of the present Bill would totally upset that state of things. The present Bill enunciated a principle for the first time heard in this country. It laid down the rule that the landlord could no longer assume possession of his property at the expiration of any lease which he might have granted; in short it established the principle that a lease should no longer mean a term of years, but that it should imply the indefinite period until the landlord had repaid the tenant the money which he had laid out on the estate without his consent. Now, he wanted to know why the relation between landlord and tenant should not be allowed, like all other business relations between man and man, to rest upon contract. The law in England had always recognised that principle; and why, if the tenant chose to expend money in improvements, should not the law say to him, "Take care that you obtain a lease of such a duration as to make it worth your while to make improvements; or, if you have not made such a lease, take care that you enter into a contract with your landlord for the repayment of the money you expend?" It appeared to him that by consenting to the present Bill the House would be, without any necessity, interfering to protect those who were well able to protect themselves, and would be introducing a principle fraught with danger. If such a principle were applicable to Ireland it certainly was to England, and he would challenge his hon. and learned Friend to lay upon the table of that House an English Bill involving such a principle. The hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. George) had principally addressed himself to the retrospective action of the Bill, and most certainly he was of opinion that the operation of the Bill would in that respect be most unfair. He would warn the landed proprietors whom he had the honour to address to pause before they gave their assent to such a principle, which would set all contract between landlord and tenant at nought. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General had said that agitation upon this subject had been going on for about ten years, and that persons who had let or purchased property had therefore been prepared for a measure like the present. He had never heard such a doctrine as that of purchasing under notice of agitation. Such a doctrine as that laid down by the hon. and learned Gentleman 152 was, he thought, repugnant to natural justice and dangerous to the rights of society, and he blushed for the day on which he heard such a principle propounded, and propounded by an English lawyer, that lawyer being one of the legal advisers of the Crown.
§ MR. DE VERE
said, he trusted that the present Bill would not be treated as a party question. He hoped that it would rather be considered upon a broad basis, and not as it affected county and county, one class or another. It had been objected that this was not an appropriate time for bringing forward such a measure; but to him it seemed peculiarly so. This was a period of profound peace in Ireland; but experience ought to have taught us that such a peace was not always permanent, and that we ought to take advantage of it for social reforms, which, in a state of agitation, were almost impossible. One of the main causes of the unfortunate condition of Ireland was the relation between landlord and tenant, and he thought the Bill of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Serjeant Shee) an excellent remedy. Let them compare the case of a poor tenant who went into the occupation of land in Ireland with one similarly placed in England. In Ireland he went into the occupation of a farm without agricultural dwellings and drains, or roads, or fences. He could only improve the farm by the expenditure of his little capital. He looked around and saw those who had invested their capital deprived of the benefit of it, and he said he would not be guilty of such imprudence. He would keep his capital in his pocket, and pay a rent proportioned to the improved value of the farm. But if he did expend his capital, the result would be that the benefit would go not to him, but to his landlord. How would the case be in England? He would find the farm as a farm ought to be, and no expenditure was needed. The law for England and Ireland was the same, but the custom unfortunately was different. The custom of England was created by public opinion; whereas in Ireland there was no public opinion, rightly so called, that public opinion which is based upon unanimity of feelings and interests between class and class, who were not in Ireland, as here, interwoven into one great whole. The Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny would effect in Ireland—would operate by law—that which in England existed by custom. The custom of England was, that the tenant should be entitled to the undiminished 153 capital employed on the farm at the end of the period. With regard to landlords, it was his firm belief that they would derive incalculable benefits; they would have a better rent—a better tenantry—a surer rent-roll; tenants would invest their capital instead of hoarding—they now only wanted confidence. Industry would be thus promoted, the whole face of the country would be changed, and the condition of the labourer materially benefited by obtaining ample employment. He would be loath to place his advocacy of this measure on a mere class interest—he believed it would benefit the whole community. He had spoken hitherto only of the direct benefits of the measure, but the indirect benefits would be greater still, and this time of Irish prosperity was the very time of all others to attempt to legislate upon this subject. Who were those who opposed the measure? Amongst its opponents he regretted to see some excellent men and humane landlords; but they were men who fancied that others were as humane and as just as themselves, and who were not aware of the condition of the great body of the people; next, a class of men who were the destruction of the country, who used their territorial rights for political purposes. This evil existed to a fearful extent—and he believed that one of the many grounds of such men's opposition to this Bill was based upon the fear of a diminution of their political influence. He begged the Government to remember that now was the time for pushing forward this measure, not with a mere formal, but with a sincere, hearty, and earnest support. Let them concede in time, and let not the people of Ireland be agitated year after year by this question, which was at the bottom of all the evils affecting the social relations of Ireland. The Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny was certainly not all he could desire, but it contained all that he could see a hope of being carried to a practical issue. Upon these grounds he gave to the Bill a cordial support. He did so not actuated by mere party or political considerations, but to promote what he believed to be the best interests of Ireland. Feeling strongly that the measure would be productive of the most beneficial results, that the fears expressed of its operation were groundless, that the accusation of Socialism against it was unjust, and that it was more dangerous to perpetuate injustice than to make even a serious change in the relations between landlord and 154 tenant in Ireland, he should give his support to the second reading.
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, he had very great objections to the retrospective clause, which was so worded as to be without any limitation whatever. Under the 14th clause, the man actually in possession of the property might be called upon to refund a large sum on account of improvements which might have been effected in the days of his ancestor in the twentieth degree. With that exception, however, he approved of the objects of the Bill, and should give his vote in favour of the second reading. When he considered the evils occasioned by the tenure of land in the sister country, and the manner in which the privileges and influence conferred by property had been abused, he thought they were bound to depart in some degree from the strict rights of the question. But to a clause such as he had mentioned he could never give his consent, and if sanctioned by the House, he thought they would show great ignorance of the principles of jurisprudence.
said, that as far as he understood the measure, it neither emanated from those by whom it professed to have been recommended, nor was it intended for the benefit of those to whom it purported to afford relief. He considered that this Bill, and all other measures of a similar kind, were got up by a certain section, for the purpose of political agitation. He believed the sole effect of the retrospective clause, if it was carried out, would be to transfer a certain amount of property from the pockets of the Irish landlords to those of the Irish tenants; and the clause to which the hon. and learned Member for Leominster (Mr. J. G. Phillimore) had referred, seemed to him designed for the sole purpose of robbing both landlords and tenants, and transferring the amounts of which they were to be plundered to the pockets of country attorneys.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he must beg the indulgence of the House while he briefly explained the views and intentions of the Government with respect to this measure. He was somewhat surprised to find how forgetful the Gentlemen who had spoken on the other side seemed to be as to what had taken place in previous Sessions with respect to this Bill. To listen to the expressions of indignation at the monstrous proposition which it would appear from them was now, for the first time, submitted to an astonished House, one would think that the question of retrospective 155 compensation to the tenants of Ireland had never been heard of before that evening. It surely was not necessary to remind the House that the Bill now under discussion was, in terms, in clauses, and in language, almost precisely the Bill which the present House of Commons passed only two years ago, which was introduced, not by any hon. Gentleman on that (the Ministerial) side of the House given to change, but by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland of the Government of Lord Derby, who carried the retrospective principle much further than any one had advocated that night? That Bill was referred to a Committee upstairs, from which it came down amended, passed the House, and was sent to the House of Lords, where, late in the Session, it passed the second reading, by which the principle of retrospective compensation was recognised. The Bill, however, failed to become law, in consequence of the late period of the Session when it arrived at this stage. Now, what, in these circumstances, was the position of Government with regard to this Bill? In a former Session they endeavoured to legislate on this question, but were unsuccessful; and when, in consequence of their not taking up the matter again, the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) brought in the present Bill, were they to refuse it their support, especially when they considered that it was the identical Bill they had themselves approved, and to the principle of which the House had given its deliberate assent? The Government could not, in such circumstances, withhold their sanction from the measure, and, accordingly, it received their most cordial support. It was now twenty years since a Bill was introduced upon this subject by Mr. Sharman Crawford. Ten years afterwards another Tenant Compensation Bill was brought in by one of the largest proprietors and most exemplary landlords in Ireland—Lord Derby, then a Member of Sir Robert Peel's Government—and he was the first high authority who advocated the principle of retrospective compensation. That was in 1845, and it was the first occasion on which the retrospective compensation principle was brought before Parliament. Then, in 1852, the Attorney General for Ireland of Lord Derby's Government brought in three Bills to give compensation to tenants. On that occasion a division took place on the retrospective clause, which was affirmed by a majority of two to one. Not only 156 was the then Attorney General (Mr. Napier) in favour of the retrospective clause, but he wished it to go back to an absolutely unlimited period. These Bills went to the House of Lords and passed the second reading, but, as he had previously mentioned, it was too late in the Session to proceed with them through the other stages. In the following year the initiative was taken by the House of Lords, where two of these Bills were carried, but circumstances occurred by which their progress into law was again stopped. The hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny then came forward with the present measure, and after all that had passed, he did not see how the House could withhold from it its sanction. The hon. and learned Gentleman took two Bills that had been brought in by one Administration—that of Lord Derby—and then taken up by another—that of Lord Aberdeen—and to which the House had also given its sanction; he combined the two Bills into one, and he now asked the House to consent to its being read a second time. In these circumstances—both the Government and Parliament having sanctioned the principle of the measure, and committed themselves to a settlement of the question at no distant period—he repeated that he did not see how they could refuse to read the Bill a second time. In the Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman there was a prospective and a retrospective clause. With regard to the prospective clause, he apprehended there was no difference of opinion. It was provided that whatever contracts and arrangements were made between landlord and tenant, those contracts and arrangements would shut out the operation of the Bill. It, therefore, was the interest, both of landlord and tenant of Ireland, to make those arrangements between themselves which were invariably made between landlord and tenant in England and Scotland. He then came to the retrospective portion of the Bill, and there could not be a doubt that the advocacy of that clause was attended with considerable difficulties. No one denied it. But, at the same time, he was rather suprised that a Gentleman so learned and acute as the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford (Mr. Malins) should have met the cases cited by his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General as he had done. His hon. and learned Friend stated that the principle of retrospective compensation was in conformity with the natural law of justice and with the practice of the court of 157 equity; but, said his hon. and learned Friend, "I don't ask you to believe that upon my statement; I will give you the authority of two of the most eminent Judges that ever presided on the bench;" and he then mentioned the names and cited the opinions of Sir Wm. Grant and Lord Eldon. But what said the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford? He exclaimed, how astonished would those two learned Judges be, could they be told that the Solicitor General had said that they maintained the doctrine that a man who held under a lease, and was evicted by his landlord, was entitled to compensation? But my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General said nothing of the kind; the judgment to which he referred related solely to tenants at will, and not to tenants holding under lease. Tenants in Ireland holding under lease were extremely rare; nine-tenths were tenants at will. You must look, also, when considering this part of the question, at the condition of Ireland, at the relation between landlord and tenant there, and to all the circumstances which preceded and which caused those derangements which were admitted to exist in that country. If he were told by the opponents of this measure that this legislation was an exceptional legislation, he would reply that the whole of their legislation, as regarded landlord and tenant in Ireland in previous years, had been exceptional. What was at the bottom of all the evils that were felt to exist in Ireland? It was that the proportionate number of landlords in Ireland to the acreage of Ireland was far smaller than in any other country in the world. What again was the cause of that? They must look back to past legislation to answer that question. What could be more exceptional than that legislation by which, merely on account of their religious faith, you debarred seven-eighths of the population of Ireland from the right of being possessors of land? That was a fact which they must not lose sight of when they considered what was the present condition of Ireland. If the state of society in Ireland had proceeded from the operation of natural causes, then they must legislate for it in conformity with the common rules of legislation; but if the difficulties they had met with proceeded from their exceptional legislation, then by exceptional legislation they must provide a remedy. Ireland was purely an agricultural country. What made it so? Was it not your exceptional legislation? Was it not your policy deliberately and intentionally 158 to destroy the manufactures of Ireland in order to serve England? Was it not by that law that you compelled the population of Ireland to depend for its subsistence upon the land? And did you not by another species of legislation deliver over that land to be a monopoly in the hands of a certain few? You thus began by placing society in Ireland on a wrong basis; you placed the relation of landlord and tenant upon a wrong basis, and made the many depend for their subsistence upon the few. What was the result? Tenants were compelled to compete for the land, but landlords were not compelled to compete for tenants; so that the two parties were placed upon an unequal footing. It would be idle and most unjust to say, that the landlord took advantage of this state of things. The landlord under such circumstances did what, according to human nature, every man would have done. The race in the competition for land gave him such opportunities of advantage to himself, that, without any design, he gradually and unconsciously became absolved from all those obligations which landlords in other countries were placed under. It was not necessary for him to build a house or raise a wall, his estate might be a wilderness, still there was a legion of poor miserable beings competing with one another for the high privilege of earning a scanty subsistence upon the land. He would for a moment refer to a statement of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. George), that he (Mr. Horsman) on a former occasion had accused the landlords of Ireland of being guilty of great oppression and injustice towards their tenants. No such expression ever fell from him, and no such sentiment was ever entertained by him. But to return. They must remember, too, that the land cultivated by these competitors was cultivated without capital; while the system of competition engendered imprudence and embarrassment on the part of the landlord, so that the question was not whether assistance ought to be given as a matter of duty on the part of the landlord, but it became one of ability merely. Thus they had in Ireland an embarrassed proprietary and an impoverished tenantry. The result of all this was a total disorganisation of society in Ireland, in which neither life nor property was secure; where there was no encouragement for industry, no motive for exertion, no reward for enterprise. He was speaking of a state of things which existed previously to the passing of the 159 Catholic Emancipation Act, when the tithe war was raging, when the peasant was armed against the proprietor, and when agrarian outrages took place in every district. It was then they had the Arms Act, the Sunset Act, Crime and Outrage Acts, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, districts proclaimed, martial law, and predatory depredators ravaging the whole country. These things had happily passed away, and a change had come over the condition of Ireland. The habits and feelings of the population had improved; the proprietors were exerting themselves in the performance of their duty in a manner which did them great honour. There had scarcely been an instance of a change in any country so sudden, so blessed, and so hopeful as that which had taken place within the last few years in Ireland. That change had opened to them an opportunity and had thrown upon them a responsibility which they could not lay aside, of enacting a measure for establishing, strengthening, and rendering permanent that happy state of things. Sorry, indeed, should he be if any party feeling were allowed for a moment unhappily to interfere. He thought that, as expectations had been raised in Ireland by past proceedings, it was their duty to arrive, if they could, at a settlement of the question. He believed that the majority of the House were disposed to assist in that object, and the Government were also most anxious by every means in their power, consistently with their own opinions, to give every aid in effecting a settlement on this subject. Now the present Bill was, in his mind, liable to certain objections, not very serious, but which, at the same time, unless removed by Amendments, would not justify him in voting for the final passing of the measure. Many appeals had been made to the Government to take up this measure as a Government measure, and they had been told that it was too important a measure to be carried through the House by an individual Member of the House. In some respects that was true, in so far as the Government had greater facilities in appointing days for public business than individual Members, but he could not but feel that the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) had brought to this question a vast amount of information and had bestowed on it great pains. The hon. and learned Member introduced it to the House, supported by his great knowledge, ability, and high professional character, and if any individual Member of the House 160 was fitted to carry the measure through, he knew no one in whose hands the Bill could be more safely trusted than in those of the hon. and learned Member. At the same time, he felt that, if the Government were really in earnest in the support of this measure, and if they could really adopt the principle of it, the settlement of the question was so important that it formed a very fair ground of appeal to them to adopt the measure, if they could, and make it their own. Still they only ought to do so on two conditions—first, that the measure should be in such a shape that they could honestly and heartily approve of it; and secondly, that there should exist a fair prospect of carrying it to a successful issue. He would now state the grounds of objection he had to the Bill. There were certain classes of subjects in respect to which the Bill proposed to give compensation. Now, he held, not on his own authority, but on the highest legal authority, that the classes of subject for which compensation could fairly be asked were improvements visible, tangible, and material, in respect to which evidence could be fairly given, and of the value of which there could be no mistake. The Bill which passed that House, and was carried up to the House of Lords, contained three classes of improvement for which compensation was given—improvements in buildings, in roads, and boundary fences. In the present Bill there were, besides those three classes of improvements for which compensation was given, a fourth class—namely, that of reclaiming waste land, and to the insertion of that he had an objection. Again, by the 14th clause, compensation was to be given for every improvement made before the passing of this Bill. Now he attached considerable importance to the objection urged by the hon. Member for Wexford as to the amount of litigation which might arise if they allowed a man to claim compensation for any improvement, the origin of which ran back to any period of time beyond that which any one in his own experience could recollect. If they passed the Bill in that shape, he felt that the advantages which would flow from it in some respects would be more than counterbalanced by the amount of insecurity, embarrassment, and litigation to which the clause in its present form would give rise; and, therefore, he would suggest that there should be a certain period beyond which the claim for compensation should not turn back, so that the evidence of improvement might at least not be entirely removed from 161 the reach of those who needed it. He should also suggest that the amount of compensation should be limited to a certain sum—say, so many years' rent. There was another class of subjects for which he thought compensation should not be given. He held that a tenant who did not pay his rent was guilty of a breach of contract, and he did not think that compensation should in any case be given to a man who was evicted, because he was guilty of a breach of contract. The Bill in this respect, therefore, would require amendment. Having stated these as the general grounds on which he thought that there ought to be some limitations inserted in the Bill as it now stood, he was prepared to say, that with those limitations the Government would then be prepared to give to the Bill their support. He was quite aware that when he proposed certain limitations of this kind, he laid himself open to the charge that he was making the Bill less liberal, and even less liberal, he might be told, than that which the late Attorney General for Ireland proposed to the House when he was a Member of Lord Derby's Government. He could only say in answer, that what the Government wished to do on this occasion was, to carry the measure to a successful issue, and not to gain popularity by making concessions which they knew would render it impossible for the Bill to be carried out. If it were the object of Government only to please the majority of their own supporters, with whom they entirely sympathised on these questions, it would be much easier for them to say that they would take the Bill as it stood, and adopt it as a Government measure. But if they had done so, they would have been acting an unworthy part, because they would have been taking up a Bill which they knew they had no chance of passing, because in its present shape it ought not to pass. He thought that the application of the principle of compensation, to so large an extent as the present Bill would permit, was highly objectionable, and he could not honestly and conscientiously support it. They must also remember that there were two parties concerned in this transaction. It must not be forgotten that the proprietors of Ireland had the law on their side. They were asked to make great concessions, and they might say that the improvements were made by tenants who were perfectly cognisant of the law and who knew they had no security in making them; and in many instances 162 the improvements were made without their (the proprietors') consent or knowledge, and in some instances embarrassed them in making alterations they desired. It must be borne in mind, likewise, that the proprietor would take his view of the question as well as the tenant, and it must not be expected that the proprietor was to make every concession, and that no concession was to proceed from the party who was to obtain an advantage. Again, while establishing the principle of this measure, they should endeavour to fence and guard its application so as to avoid temptation to litigation. The Government felt that a settlement of this question was most desirable, and they were ready to assist in the settlement of it, not in a shape which would be, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin said, "a sham and a delusion," but just and equitable between all parties. If the House should be generally of opinion that this Bill should be received into the hands of the Government with those limitations which they thought would be likely to insure its success not only in this, but in the other House; and if both sides of the House would agree not to treat this, as a party question—for it never had yet been considered as a party question since the Government of Lord Derby had introduced a Bill with a retrospective compensation clause, and the Government of Lord Aberdeen had taken it up—they might now, he thought, approach a successful settlement of the question. But he could not answer what would be the result if it should be treated as a party question, and if those who had formerly supported this measure should now turn round and oppose it for party reasons. On them, at least, would rest the responsibility if this attempt to close this much-agitated controversy should prove a failure.
§ MR. DUFFY
said, it seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, in the remarks he had just made, had omitted two material elements in his consideration of the question. The present Government were supported in that House by a number of Irish Members, who obtained their seats because they entered into an undertaking with their constituents to support no Government but one who undertook to make a Landlord and Tenants' Bill, involving the principles of Sharman Crawford's measure a Cabinet question. He now asked hon. Gentlemen opposite to make their election 163 between their promises to their constituents and their allegiance to the Government. There was another element still more important. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) found, when forming his Government, that it was desirable to take into it certain Members representing the Irish constituencies. He accordingly appointed to office the two hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite—the Attorney and Solicitor Generals for Ireland—and subsequently gave the office of Under Secretary for the Colonies to the hon. Member for the county of Carlow (Mr. J. Ball.) The hon. and learned Member for Ennis (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) was one of a party of Irish Members, amounting to forty and upwards, who assembled together in Dublin, and came to a resolution to refuse their support, and to stand in opposition to any Government who did not make a Landlord and Tenant Bill, on the basis proposed by Sharman Crawford, a Cabinet measure. Now, he (Mr. Duffy) wanted to know from the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland, if he were now prepared to endorse the statement of his right hon. colleague the Chief Secretary, or was he prepared to throw up his office. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies stood in the same position; but the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Keogh) did not simply stand in that position. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, on the most public occasions, made a declaration, and sealed it with a solemn oath, that he would support no Government who did not make a Landlord and Tenant Bill, on the basis of Sharman Crawford's Bill, a Cabinet measure. He wanted to know from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, therefore, if he were content with the limitation now proposed, or whether he was going to dissolve his connection with a Government who declined to make a Landlord and Tenant Bill, on the basis of Sharman Crawford's Bill, a Cabinet measure. If those hon. and learned Gentlemen had come to the conclusion that those pledges were to mean nothing, they would find it very difficult to maintain before an Irish audience, or before those who were witnesses of the undertaking, that character which it would be satisfactory for the Members of that House to maintain. The measure submitted to the House by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) fell so far short of the wishes of the Irish people 164 that he (Mr. Duffy) was resolved that his support of it should depend upon the fact that the Government would make it a Cabinet measure, and carry it through this Session, and that no legerdemain should be again practised by which the measure would pass from their sight as if it had vanished through a trap-door never to be seen afterwards. He was sorry to see an hon. and learned English Member make himself the advocate in that House of a party opposed to any reform on this question, because, if he had the selection of a jury before whom he would desire to represent the case of the Irish tenants with the certainty of a favourable verdict, it would be composed of an assembly of English landlords who did, without compulsion, what they sought to make the Irish landlords do by law. There were millions of Irish people in that country, and there was not one of them who would not prefer living in Ireland if the country were made fit to live in. The adoption of the alteration which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) had proposed would make the measure a complete farce, and were that course to be taken, he (Mr. Duffy) would infinitely prefer that the landlord and tenant question should be left as it was; and if the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny should further curtail his Bill, he (Mr. Duffy) would decline to vote, pro or con, on the question.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, he would only trouble the House with a few observations at that late hour—eleven o'clock. He thought that, if any hon. Gentleman travelled in Ireland, he would come to only one conclusion, that there was something wrong in the system of tenure. Whether this was the fault of landlords or tenants he would not say, but any one who compared the cultivation of the land in that country with other countries, at all events, would say somebody was to blame. He thought blame attached to both parties—both landlords and tenants. But he thought it would best serve the cause of the latter by not endeavouring to recriminate either on the one side or the other. No doubt faults existed on both sides, in many instances, and it was now desirable that some fair and equitable decision should be come to. On looking at the Bill, he asked himself whether it was calculated to settle the question at issue, and he came to the conclusion that it would not be anything like a boon to landlords or tenants as described by hon. Members. 165 With regard to the north of Ireland—a part of the country where considerable improvements had been made by small farmers at their own expense—he thought the Bill would scarcely affect it; for neither this Bill nor any other Bill would be received as a substitute for that which tenants there already possessed. It was also absurd to think that it would be of any great practical benefit to the small farmer in the south of Ireland, and with regard to the class of large farmers in the south, he had no hesitation in saying that an eligible tenant ought to get from a landlord infinitely more favourable terms than this Bill would give him. He should, however, support the Bill; for the latter portion of it contained most valuable powers for making and carrying out voluntary arrangements. If any Irish tenant came to him and asked him if he would be justified, in prudence, in laying out his capital on the improvements mentioned in the schedule of this Bill, he would recommend him to go to his landlord, and make the best arrangements he could under the latter clauses of the Bill; but he would add, also, that he should think he was a foolish man to lay out his capital on those things at all, because the landlord ought to do it. He saw a daily tendency in Ireland to a better state of things. The landlords were beginning to see that it was their interest as well as their duty to make these improvements on their estates, and he believed any tenant who laid out his capital on that species of improvement would be doing an imprudent thing. Reserving to himself the right of supporting any alteration he should deem desirable in Committee, he was, on the whole, disposed to give his hearty support to the second reading of the Bill in the hope that the question would be satisfactorily settled this Session.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he sincerely regretted that the Government should have permitted one of its members—the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for England—to embarrass the whole question by propounding a doctrine which he would not able to repeat in any Court in Westminster Hall without subjecting himself to a castigation that he would never forget. The House was considering a Bill the object of which was to settle a great social question, by giving strength to covenants between different free agents, and the doctrine laid down by the Solicitor General went to the destruction 166 of the principle of all covenants. The purchasers under the Encumbered Estates Act had hitherto held their land, as they thought securely, under a Parliamentary title, but by the doctrine of the hon. and learned Solicitor General, they were now told that a Parliamentary title meant nothing. He would not further allude to the hon. and learned Gentleman's monstrous proposition, but he trusted the noble Lord at the head of the Government would not again allow the subordinates of his administration to render difficult the settlement of important questions. The other night he had come down prepared to vote for the Government proposition relative to copyright, but the Solicitor General, after making a speech in its favour, gave up the clause in the last sentence of his speech. He would recommend the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland on any future occasion not to go back into history, not to remind the people of Ireland how they used to live in discord, but to address himself to the present more cheering aspect of a united and friendly people, and bury the past in oblivion. He would beseech the right hon. Gentleman not to resuscitate the past evils and discords of Ireland in his future speeches, but to look to Ireland as it happily now was. It surely could not be the right hon. Gentleman's ambition to bring back and perpetuate the social state which he had deplored. He hoped the House would allow the Bill to be read a second time without division. No one had yet moved an Amendment to this Bill, and he would remind the House that this was the third Session in which the question had been brought before Parliament, and that almost all the clauses had received the sanction of the House on former occasions. Public attention in Ireland had been roused. The people looked to that House for a settlement of this subject, and he hoped that the House would not, by rejecting the second reading, render it impossible for any legislation to take place this year. The people of Ireland who were waiting anxiously for the result of this debate, at present put confidence in the House. But if they found that Parliament refused to entertain this subject in a spirit of justice, the time might come when their patience would be exhausted, and the solution of this question would be rendered tenfold more difficult than it was at the present time. The Amendments which had been suggested in the Bill by the Government removed the objections 167 that might be taken to many of its provisions, and, therefore, hoping that the measure would be allowed to pass through its present stage without a division, he should yet reserve to himself the full right in Committee of recommending such alterations in the details as he might think necessary.
SIR JOHN FITZGERALD
said, he considered that the Bill related wholly to Ireland. In that country, when a tenant took land, he was obliged to erect farm buildings upon it at his own expense. When his lease expired there of course arose the question which was now before the House, whether or not he was to receive compensation from the landlord for those buildings which he had erected, and which he must leave on the premises. At the expiration of the lease the land was become more valuable, and no renewal of the lease would be given except at a higher rent. No law at present in existence compelled the landlord to give to the tenant the compensation to which he was entitled; and this had caused, and was causing, the most alarming emigration of the Irish agricultural population. He gave his most hearty support to the measure.
§ MR. KENNEDY
said, there was nothing novel in the principle of this Bill; it already existed in the tenant right of Ulster. If this Bill were bad, it would be a serious restriction on the tenant rights of that province. At present the tenant there could sell his rights for the highest sum he could get for them. As for the landlords of Ireland, there were some as good as any to be found elsewhere; but there were also middling and very indifferent landlords. This Bill appeared to be intended to bring those middling and inferior landlords into the good practices of the better class; and it would have the further effect of relieving a good landlord from the reproach of his bad neighbours.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, as there seems to be so general an agreement as to the second reading of this Bill—["No, no!"] I did not say the agreement was unanimous. But I say, as the great majority of this House appear disposed to agree to it, I do hope the House will determine to pass the second reading this evening without further debate. The course which Her Majesty's Government are prepared to take with regard to this Bill has been fully and completely explained by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland; on that point, therefore, 168 I have nothing to add to the statement which he has made. I differ from those who urge that this is not a proper time for settling this question; I think, on the contrary, that the present moment is one peculiarly favourable for the settlement of it. It is a question which has agitated the public mind in Ireland for many years past—which has given rise to great animosity, if I may so speak, at all events to strong differences of opinion, between different parties. The present moment is, as has been stated, one in which these differences do not run so high as they have done at former periods. It is a moment of general contentment and prosperity in Ireland; and I think that is precisely the time at which you will find the minds of men most disposed to come to a reasonable accommodation upon a question of great national and social interest. Sir, it is perfectly true that this Bill contemplates a condition of things in Ireland different from that which exists in England and in Scotland. But that difference arises not from the fault of landlords or of tenants. I acquit both classes of the blame of bringing about the condition of things which we are seeking to remedy. I concur entirely in what was stated by the hon. Member who has just sat down. Nay, I go further, Sir, than he did. He said there were good landlords in Ireland. I say there are better landlords there than in almost any other country, landlords who do more for their tenants than the landlords of England do, or are required to do. There are, of course, exceptions; there are those who, from their limited means, are unable to afford to their tenants the same amount of assistance that their richer neighbours afford; but I repudiate entirely the wholesale accusations which are made against the landlords of Ireland. Well, on the other hand, people reproach the tenantry of Ireland with being wanting in industry, and with being improvident. That charge is equally unfounded. The tenantry of Ireland, when they receive encouragement, and have reason to believe that their exertions will meet with a due reward, are as much inclined to industrious exertion as the tenantry of any part of the world. Sir, the evils of Ireland are to be traced to the history of Ireland. What is that history? Why, it is the history of civil war; of rebellion; of confiscation; of wholesale and violent transfers of land from class to class; of penal laws; of the 169 exclusion of the largest class of the nation from the ordinary privileges of social existence—of the domination of a small minority professing one religion over a large majority professing another; of laws which aggravated those animosities which political and social inequalities were of course of themselves calculated to produce. Well, Sir, those times are fortunately past; those animosities are, I hope, for ever extinguished, together with the differences which created them, and which have been swept away. But there still remain some effects, even though the causes have ceased to exist, and those effects belong to the condition of things which this Bill is calculated and intended to remedy. In Ireland, up to about half a century ago, from the very circumstances under which the great proprietors derived their titles, land was not held and occupied in the way that it is in England and Scotland. It was let in large bulks by the owners to persons who sub-let it to others; and, perhaps, two or three gradations interposed between the owner and the actual occupier of the soil. But what was the tenure on which the land was occupied? Land was let upon leases of preposterous length; leases, for example, of sixty-one years and three lives. Well, what was then the position of the landlord and the tenant? The landlord was a stranger on his own estate. He had no control over those who occupied the land. He did not even know them—he felt no interest in them—and they had no sympathy with, or affection for, him. In this state of things there was no person who was interested in the improvement of the estate. Why should the owner improve the land? It was taken away from him by a long lease, and no improvement he could make would produce any advantage for him. Why should the middleman improve the land? He had only a temporary tenure, and no improvement, therefore, that might be made would produce any advantage for him. Why should the occupying tenant improve the land? He had no inducement to do so, because he held at the will of the middleman. There was no party, therefore, connected with the cultivation of the land who had a strong interest in the soil. Well, then, when these long leases expired, the landlords, disgusted with the old practice, went to the other extreme; they would not give leases, or, if they were willing to give leases at all, the tenants, accustomed from their childhood 170 to hear of nothing but leases of sixty-one years and two or three lives, refused to ask those leases which in England and Scotland are sufficient to secure improvements. To offer them a fourteen years' lease, or even a twenty-one years' lease, was to offer them what they did not think worthy of their acceptance. Well, then, that generated the state of things which had hitherto prevailed, under which the landlord has done very little for the improvement of the land—I refer to the erection of buildings, and the setting up of boundary fences, contemplated in this Bill—all such things being left to the tenant. Now, so far as the prospective part of this Bill goes, nobody seems to object to its provisions; the part of it which is objected to is the retrospective clause. Well, Sir, one cannot deny that, as a general rule, it is undesirable to interfere between landlord and tenant, as it is to interfere between any other two parties in society who make bargains together. The best arrangement, undoubtedly, is in general to leave parties free to make what engagements they please; and on general principle it is, I admit, objectionable to pass a retrospective clause altering the relative position of those who have acted on a certain understanding. But, on the other hand, I think that, looking at the position of Ireland, considering that land is there frequently held at will—that tenants, in order to a due and profitable cultivation, have been obliged to make outlays which in other countries are made by the landlords, I think an exception, coupled with the conditions proposed by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Horsman), may in this case fairly and properly be made. Now let us see generally how that would work. The enactment, combined with the restrictions and conditions proposed by my right hon. Friend, would give a tenant who was turned out a claim for compensation for any visible and tangible improvement by which he had added to the letting value of the property. Why should the landlord turn him out? He would do so for one of two reasons, either because he had had a quarrel with the tenant, and wished to get rid of one who had become disagreeable to him, or because, seeing that the tenant had improved the value of the land, he thought that after ejecting him he would secure to himself the benefit of his improvements, and let the land to another person at an increased rent. The latter proceeding would be an unworthy 171 one, it is a proceeding to which no honourable landlord would resort, and to which assuredly no landlord whatever ought to be allowed to resort. With regard to the first cause which I have mentioned, even supposing the landlord had had some difference with his tenant, if buildings had been raised which added to the value of the farm, an honourable man would say, "I will turn you out, but I will pay you for the buildings; though I dislike you, I will not apply the capital which you have invested to my own profit." I think, therefore, that, accompanied with the conditions to which I have referred, even the retrospective clause is one which this House might safely pass. Well, then, if this Bill is accompanied with the other Bill which on a former occasion accompanied its progress in Parliament, I do think those Bills will go far to settle entirely those unfortunate differences which have so long agitated certain parts of Ireland. It does not appear to me that they would in any case inflict individual injury, while they would quell the angry feeling which existed in Ireland on this subject. And if these Bills should lead to the establishment of an improved relation between landlord and tenant—if they should lead to the introduction in Ireland of the system which prevails in England, under which the landlord invests his capital in his own property, and makes improvements which are estimated to increase the letting value of his farms—if the result should be to do away with preposterously long leases, and to introduce a state of things in which farms would be let for terms of moderate duration, I think a great improvement would be effected in the social condition of the country. I am, therefore, disposed not only to support the second reading of the Bill to-night, but in the event of the Amendments suggested by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland being adopted, to give my best assistance in its passage through this House, and I should hope that, with the assistance of the Government in another place, the Bill might be passed into a law during the present Session.
§ MR. I. BUTT
said, that the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had argued as if the retrospective clause were a part of this Bill. He could not agree in that view, but thought that the principle of the Bill was that the existing law of landlord and tenant did not afford sufficient protection to tenants who might make improvements 172 on their farms. In voting for the second reading of the Bill, therefore, he did not consider that he was pledged to anything further than the affirmation of that principle. He could not see that the insertion of a retrospective clause should justify the rejection of the second reading. It could not be forgotten that when his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) introduced a Bill having the same object in view, it had such a retrospective clause, and yet that Bill passed a second reading. If in the one case the House agreed to a second reading with such a clause, it might be said that hon. Members were equally bound on the other. After what had occurred—after looking at the question as it affected landlord and tenant in Ireland—after considering what Lord Derby had done in 1845, and subsequently by his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin—he thought it impossible to maintain that legislative interference was not required. There was no ground, then, for resisting the second reading. He was anxious, however, that his vote should not be misunderstood. In voting for the second reading he did not pledge himself with respect to the retrospective clause. After the opinions which at the last election hon. Gentlemen had expressed with regard to the settlement of this question—he had himself said he was favourable to a consideration of it—he thought that if the House were to refuse a second reading to the Bill, they would only add to the mischief which had already arisen. He was ready to go into Committee on the Bill, and if there he found that the subject could not be treated with justice he could refuse his assent to the third reading.
said, he considered the present Bill as far less objectionable than that brought in by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier); but he had opposed that measure at the time, and was therefore perfectly consistent in opposing the one now before the House. He had been perfectly astonished to find the right hon. and learned Gentleman bringing in a retrospective clause, after he had assured him that he never would do so. He (Colonel Dunne) thought that Lord Derby's Government, of which he had been a Member, had acted upon this question with insincerity to those who supported them, and the right hon. Member the Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Horsman) had 173 taunted them on that point with much justice. He admitted the difficulties of the question, but after seeing the temper of the House he would not divide the House on the present occasion, but he would reserve any opposition which he had for the consideration of the Bill in Committee.
§ VISCOUNT BERNARD
said, he was anxious that it should be clearly understood with respect to the 14th clause whether it would interfere with improvements under existing contracts. He should oppose the retrospective clause.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had no right to reply, no Amendments having been made to the second reading.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHEE
said, in explanation, that he desired nothing better than that Her Majesty's Government should reduce their intentions and wishes to clauses upon which he should be in a position to express an opinion when he saw them.
§ MR. GROGAN
said, he should move the adjournment of the debate. He considered that it was most injudicious to interfere with existing contracts. There was only one exception made for the whole of Ireland, and that was grounded upon the fact that the landlords of Ireland were too cruel and hardhearted to be trusted to deal fairly by their tenants. No reason had been shown why the House should agree to the policy of the 14th clause. Every one spoke of the great utility of the Bill when this clause was expunged—but no notice had been given whether it was the intention of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Serjeant Shee) to expunge it. If he refused to do so, in what position would the House be after it had assented to the second reading of the Bill? The clause could not be condemned in stronger terms than those of the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Treasury. He (Mr. Grogan) meant to give the hon. and learned Gentleman an opportunity of stating his intentions, for he would move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ MR. GROGAN
said, with the permission of the House he would substitute the 174 last Amendment for that which he had I previously moved.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
§ MR. CONOLLY
said, he understood that the House were agreed as to the propriety of reading the Bill a second time, and leaving the 14th clause open to any objection that might be raised to it in Committee.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, if he was to understand that the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) left the 14th clause an open question for the Committee, the hon. and learned Gentleman would receive no further opposition from him (Mr. Whiteside). He wished, however, to state that the doctrine of the hon. and learned Solicitor General, speaking on the part of the Government, was the most extraordinary doctrine in reference to property that had ever fallen from the lips of a Law Officer of the Crown. He begged to remind the House that 20,000,000l. of property had been purchased in Ireland on the faith of a Parliamentary title, and that title depended upon the fact that every purchase was concluded between the purchaser, the owner, and the tenant. If it were intended to reopen these purchases they might as well establish a law of confiscation.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, he was not prepared to enter into any compromise on the subject of the proposed elimination of the 14th clause from the Bill, which he believed to be the very essence of the Bill, but he would have no objection to consider the subject in Committee.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford (Mr. Malins) ought to know, though, perhaps, the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) did not know, the difference between the case he (the Solicitor General) had put to the House, and the case which the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford represented him to have put. The case the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford represented him to have put was the case of an express contract between landlord and tenant; but 175 those who had done him (the Solicitor General) the honour to attend to what he said, knew very well that he stated the law applicable to a case where there was no express contract, but where the landlord had looked quietly on and had been tacitly a consenting party.
§ MR. MALINS
said, that the hon. and learned Solicitor General complained that he had not correctly represented what had fallen from him, because he had in the cases which he had cited referred to imputed contracts. He had not understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to be referring to that subject, and, if he did do so, it was clear that he was speaking on a subject not then under the consideration of the House. He had understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to apply those cases to the present Bill, and he thought that, in that case, he had shown that they were not applicable, and, if they were not applied to the Bill, then the hon. and learned Gentleman had been speaking to a subject not before the House.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 163; Noes 50: Majority 113.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2° and committed for Thursday next.