§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
Sir, in rising to propose the second reading of the Tenants' Compensation Bill, I most earnestly solicit the indulgence of the House; for not only do I feel most profoundly the magnitude and importance of the great question with which I have to deal, but I am painfully conscious of my own inability to do it justice. And, Sir, this consciousness is enhanced when I recollect that the ablest, the most influential, and the most eloquent men have associated their distinguished names with this question—that statesmen and Ministers, and great party leaders have taken it up—and that, on the two last occasions on which it was brought forward, it had the advantage of the commanding ability and legal authority of Mr. Sergeant Shee, the then Member for Kilkenny, and the brilliant eloquence and lucid statement of my hon. Friend Mr. Moore, then Member for Mayo. Under those circumstances, it is my duty, even on behalf of those interests which I this day represent, to endeavour to enlist the kind sympathies of this assembly in my favour. Sir, I do not in the least exaggerate when I describe this question as one of the greatest magnitude and importance; for it involves interests affecting not a county, a province, or even a kingdom— but an entire empire. By the mere title of the Bill, it may seem to be an exclusively Irish measure, but in reality it is an Imperial Bill, for Imperial objects; because 1047 I think it will not be doubted for a moment that whatever affects one portion of the empire, injuriously or beneficially, must affect the other portions of the same empire in the same manner, The peasantry of Kerry or Connemara, Tipperary or Tyrone, cannot be plunged in misery and suffering without injury to the trade of Manchester or Glasgow, to Paisley, to Liverpool, or to Leeds—without a sympathy being felt in the transactions of the Stock Exchange, or in the business of the Bank of England. It was so in 1847, and for three or four years after; and were the same state of things to occur again in Ireland, the same results would again follow in England—namely, increased taxation, a monetary crisis, failures, bankruptcies, and universal depression, Having thus barely indicated the interest which England cannot avoid feeling in whatever greatly concerns the welfare and happiness of the people of Ireland, I think I may now proceed to show that the measure which I this day advocate is one that most intimately concerns the people of that country, There is no one proposition which commands more universal assent than this—that upon the condition of a people depends the greatness, strength, and stability of a country; and in no instance does this principle more clearly apply than in the case of Ireland. Now, Ireland is an almost exclusively agricultural country, and upon the condition of the people must depend the condition of the soil, as upon the condition of the soil must also depend the condition of the people. It should be the object of a wise and humane Government to adopt such laws and promote such a system as would equally act upon the soil and the people, the people and the soil—as would increase the productive power of the one, and ensure the happiness of the other. But, in the first place, is Ireland an agricultural country, and do her people mainly depend upon agriculture for their support? Ireland is an agricultural country, in the general sense of the term; and though one province of that country is remarkable for its manufacturing energy, still, for argument's sake, it may be fairly described as a purely agricultural country. By the census of 1831, it was found that exactly two-thirds of the population depended exclusively on agriculture; and in 1841, when the population was nearly 2,500,000 larger than it is at present, out of a population of 8,173,000, no less than 5,400,000 wore exclusively devoted to agriculture, and though 1048 a striking change has been effected by the famine, and its consequences, the proportions are not now very different from what they were in 1841. At any rate, one thing is quite clear—that the great mass of the population of those provinces depend almost exclusively upon agriculture, and that whatever commerce or manufactures exist in these three provinces, either owe their origin to, or in some way depend upon, the produce of the soil. I will even go further, and assert that the manufacturing industry of the north of Ireland — in the existence of which I, as an Irishman of the south, cordially rejoice—languishes when the farming and labouring classes are plunged in misery and distress, and flourishes when they are prosperous, It was so in 1847, and would be so again under similar circumstances. It is, therefore, quite clear that whatever affects the condition of the agricultural population of Ireland must affect the prosperity and happiness of the entire people of that country, and also greatly affect, either injuriously or beneficially, the empire at large. The condition of the agricultural population was so deplorable in 1847, when the potato disease blighted the food of the people, that a complete social revolution was the necessary result. The cause of that social revolution was, that the foundation of the social fabric had been long insecure; and the moment they—the people —gave way, down came the whole structure, involving the loftiest pinnacle and the proudest tower in the same common ruin with the lowliest and humblest portions of the same fabric. And the same result would be witnessed again to-morrow, if the same causes existed. Since then there have been some attempts, wise and well-intentioned attempts, at reconstruction; amongst which may be classed the passing of the Act for the sale of Incumbered Estates, of which measure I have been a cordial supporter; but, however much I may approve of that necessary measure, and however much I may appreciate the other attempts which have been made, I hold that they all had this one radical defect—they did not go deep enough— they dealt rather with the superstructure than with the foundation of the social fabric. Those foundations are still insecure, as insecure as they were proclaimed to be for years before 1847; and if the same storm were to sweep over the land to-morrow, that desolated it in that fearful year, it would be found that there was neither strength nor stability sufficient to 1049 resist its fury. Under those circumstances I hold that, in a moment of calm like the present, it would be wise in the Legislature to consider how it could best guard against the recurrence of a state of things so disastrous, not to one portion of the empire, but to the whole, which would not only involve Ireland in ruins, but effect injuriously the sister countries. I hold, Sir, that the great social evil of Ireland is the want of a sufficient motive for industry, and an abiding and all-pervading sense of insecurity. The great incentive to human energy, the hope of reward, does not exist, and that energy is paralysed by the uncertainty of enjoying its results. As a general rule, of course admitting of considerable exceptions, the land in Ireland is held not on laese, but from year to year, or at will; the tenant being thus dependent, for his farm, for the fruits of his industry, for the support of himself and his family, and for his own and for their provision for the future, upon the will and pleasure of his landlord. This state of things is alone sufficient to produce that sense of insecurity to which I refer; and it does not require the numberless instances of wrong and injustice which are every day inflicted upon their class, to convince the occupiers and tillers of the soil that they must live under a perpetual apprehension of danger. It has been alleged before, and it may again be alleged to-day, that there are two great sources of evil in Ireland; and that the misery and poverty of that country are owing, not to the tenure by which the occupier holds his land, but to a surplus population, and the smallness of the farms. It is well that these two imaginary evils should be explained away before we approach that which is real and substantial. Now, I have always maintained, perhaps as much from instinct as from reason and calculation, that at no time has the population of Ireland been in excess of the resources of that country, provided those resources were fairly developed. I have never advocated that miserable quack nostrum of emigration, by which the life-blood of the nation has been drained from its veins and its arteries, and that which should be its strength and its energy lavished upon other, and sometimes hostile countries, I have not done so, because I felt that the real want of Ireland was employment for her population and not emigration. This question has been frequently referred to Select Committees of this House, one of which in particular reported that if the soil 1050 of Ireland were adequately developed, there would not be a sufficiency of labour found in the country for that object; and it recommended, not the quack nostrum of emigration, for which there was a temporary frenzy, as for all empirical medicines, but such a change in the laws as would free industry from its shackles, and stimulate the energies of the people. In reference to this question of a surplus population, Sir Robert Kane, in his valuable work, The Industrial Resources of Ireland, quotes Mr. Blacker, a gentleman who possessed extensive knowledge of landed property, and who had written an admirable paper on the management of property in Ireland, which had obtained for him the gold medal of the Royal Dublin Society. When that essay was written, the population was not very far from eight millions and a half; yet Mr. Blacker proved that that population, monstrous and extensive as it appeared to the advocates for emigration, was by no means too great for the resources of the soil. Referring specially to the county Armagh, and basing all his calculations upon the data obtained from the population and resources of that county, Mr. Blacker proved that the soil of Ireland was capable of being made to produce double its then productions, and even treble; and that not only was it capable of supporting its then population, of over eight millions, but double and even treble that population. Now I do not mean to pin my faith to this statement of Mr. Blacker, even though it was relied upon by so eminent an authority as Sir Robert Kane; but if the soil of Ireland could be made to support double the population which existed upon it in 1845, there surely is no excessive population at this day, when it is over 2,000,000 less than it was then, and that it is only necessary to relieve the tenantry from undue restrictions, and in their industry from all shackles, in order to render that country so productive as not merely to ensure the happiness and prosperity of its people, but to add materially to the strength, energy, and greatness of the whole empire. Now, with regard to the assertion that the poverty of Ireland arose from the smallness of its holdings, I am prepared to show the House that a most important change has taken place with reference to the size of farms, and that if the small size of farms were the real evil it no longer has an existence. Now Ulster is confessedly admitted to be the most prosperous of the four provinces of Ireland, and yet in Ulster the total number of farms, 1051 in 1841, was 234,000, with an area of 3,400,000 acres of arable land; while in Munster the number of farms was but 162,000, with 3,874,000 acres of arable land, and of the gross number of farms from one to eight acres, Ulster had fully one-third; and of these from five to fifteen acres, while Munster had but 61,000 Ulster had within a fraction of 100,000. It is plain, from these figures, that the distress in Munster was not traceable to the size of the farms at the time, but that some other cause lay at the root of the evil. Mr. Blacker deals with the question, how could a man who farmed but five or eight acres of ground continue to live and pay rent, by asserting that he could live as comfortably and pay as high a rent as any large farmer whatever, provided he followed a proper system of cultivation, such as he recommends. But I have now to show that the difficulty of small holdings no longer exists. The total number of farms in 1841 was 685,309; the total number in 1851 was 570,000, or a gross reduction of 115,309. The particulars exhibit a still more interesting result. Of the 310,000 farms from one to five acres which existed in 1841, but 88,000 existed in 1851—showing a reduction in this class of farms of no less than 222,000. Of those from five to fifteen acres, 252,000 existed in 1841, whereas not more than 191,000 existed in 1851—showing a reduction of 60,000 of this class of farms. But a change still more remarkable has occurred, the number of farms from fifteen to thirty acres has been nearly doubled—from 79,000 to 141,000; and the farms from thirty acres upwards have been increased three-fold—that is from 48,000 to 149,000. Therefore, it is quite clear that the two great obstacles which some people regarded as barriers to all improvement, have no longer any practical existence; and, after what I have stated I cannot imagine that any gentleman will venture to get up and assert that the cause of the misery of Ireland is its surplus population, or the smallness of its holdings. I therefore come to the real evil—namely, the dependent condition of the tillers of the soil. As a general rule, the tenant-farmers of Ireland hold their land, not by lease, but at will; and this tenancy may be determined at any moment by the act of the landlord. At any rate, tenancy by lease is the exception, while tenancy at will is the rule. Many reasons have been assigned why leases have not been given in Ireland. Before the passing of the Irish Reform Act there were political rea- 1052 sons why no leases should be given. The landlord, being a keen politician, and generally holding political opinions different from those of his tenant, did not wish to arm that tenant with a weapon to be used against him or his party. This motive no longer existed in appearance, but it does in reality. It is true the franchise no longer depends upon the possession of a lease, but upon occupation and payment of rates; yet the landlord does not give leases for this reason, that he desires to retain his tenant in a position of the most absolute dependence, in order that if he requires his services at the polling-booth, he may have him at his complete disposal. This, I contend, is not the position in which the most important class in the community should be placed. The cultivators of the soil, on whose industry the prosperity of the country mainly depends, should have the fullest security for the fruits of their industry and their enterprise, which should be protected from the tyranny of a tyrannical landlord, the vengeance of a vindictive landlord, or the avarice of an avaricious landlord. As a general rule, the tenants of Ireland are not secured from tyranny, vengeance, or caprice, simply because the law places them at the mercy of their landlords. I may be asked by English or by Scotch gentlemen, whether tenants in Ireland are really sacrificed to motives of vengeance, avarice, or caprice. I answer that they have been, and that they are sacrificed to such motives. I need not go back very far for instances in proof of my assertion. I shall not go back further than the year 1857, nor shall I state anything merely of my own knowledge, but only refer to cases which have come before courts of justice, and the facts of which have been deposed to on oath; and relying on those cases, I would appeal to English gentlemen, and ask where would they find a parallel state of things to that which is practised in Ireland, and which, though hold to be strictly legal in the courts of law of that country, must be held as vicious and abominable in the judgment of every honourable man. I assert that the law, which should be the expression of the wisdom and justice of man, and which ought to reflect the eternal wisdom and justice of God, is made the instrument of oppression and wrong; and that that law is as capable now, as it was at any time, of filling the land with mourning and desolation. The first case to which I refer will sufficiently exhibit the 1053 complete dependence of the tenant, and the despotic power of the landlord. In this instance there was no question of religion, a matter somewhat rare in Ireland, for landlord and tenant were of the same persuasion, both being Protestants. The case was that of Jones v. Bateman, tried before Mr. Moody, Assistant Barrister, at the April Quarter Sessions, of 1857, in Mac-room, Co. Cork. The plaintiff was Mr. Jones, one of the ablest and most intelligent magistrates in the county, and, generally speaking, a very just and honourable man. The defendant, his tenant, was a Mr. Bateman, a shopkeeper in the town of Clonakilty. The tenant excited the ire of his landlord by voting at an election for poor-law guardians for a Mr. Callanan, who, for certain reasons, was obnoxious to the landlord. The consequence of that vote was a notice to quit, which was quickly followed by an action of ejectment. Bateman, the tenant, swore to this effect:— "I almost drained my purse to the bottom in the improvement of this land, between ditching, fencing, running walls, and fertilizing with man and horse every day of the year." The plaintiff's attorney admitted the defendant had been a good tenant, and had paid his rent punctually; but that the landlord had reason to be dissatisfied with him, and was compelled to get rid of him as a tenant. Upon this case the Judge remarked—" This man appears to have been a very good tenant; but if Mr. Jones did not like it, he was not bound to keep him." And he adds, "Mr. Jones appears to me merely to exercise his right." Here, no doubt, a Solon spoke; and if the Assistant Barrister who thus expressed himself were the Lord High Chancellor of Ireland, he could not have laid down the law more clearly. But, I ask, is this a law which a Judge should have to proclaim from the bench of justice? A case lately occurred in England which excited a great deal of sympathy in Ireland. Indeed, some of the advocates and supporters of the tenants' cause in that country felt almost inclined to thank God that a case of flagrant oppression had occurred in England, inasmuch as it would carry the question of protection for the industry of the tenant home to the people of this country, and make them feel what the wrongs were from which thousands of tenants in Ireland constantly suffered. The case I refer to was that of Mr. Breedon Everard, of Leicestershire. The landlord by whom that gentleman was evicted is the Earl of Stamford. 1054 I shall not allude further to that case, which is well known to the Members of this House; nor is it necessary, as I understand the noble Earl has already done public penance by settling the matter with his tenant. This case excited very general sympathy in Ireland, and was the subject of much comment, and the strongest indignation; but scarcely had it appeared in the public journals in Ireland when a somewhat similar case occurred in that country. The tenants were, no doubt, of a very different class, but the wrong was still the same. Mr. Everard was a man of means, who, by his social position, was entitled to mix with the gentry of his county, and who had spent thousands on his farm; the Irish tenant was a mere frieze coat, who could not afford to lay out £100. But there was still a more marked difference in the cases. In England, the landlord gave all the means of cultivating the soil; he provided a dwelling-house, barns, outhouses, and offices—in fact, the necessary fixtures; but in Ireland the landlord did nothing of the kind, and, as a general rule, the tenant had to do everything. I mention this to show why we demand a law for Ireland, which is not asked for in England. The case I refer to is that of Richard Manning, a farmer in the west of the county Cork, and tenant of Captain Hoare. It appears, from the sworn statement of the bailiff, on the trial of the ejectment, tried last November in Bandon, that the landlord—on one day walked over the estate with the bailiff; and when he came to Manning's farm, he said, "this farm is rather small; would it suit you?" Bailiffs in Ireland are no more modest nor less acquisitive than in other places, and this bailiff at once acquiesced in the wish of his employer. The consequence was that an ejectment was served on Manning—an honest, industrious, and improving tenant, who had built a substantial slated house on the farm, and whose family, for four generations, had lived on the same ground. I shall now, with the permission of the House, read an extract from the report which appeared in the newspapers at the time, and which will afford a very just idea of the case:—Court—And, God bless me sir, why is it that he is to be turned out of his land, if he owes no rent, and is an honest man, and improving tenant?Mr. Russell—(the agent)—I really cannot tell, unless it is to increase the rent. I am acting on instructions.Mr. Gregg—Mr. Russell is not to blame, he is perhaps discharging an unpleasant duty.1055The Court—I can only say that it appears to me to be a very harsh proceeding.Mr. Downing—Please your worship, I believe that this is a painful duty to Mr. Russell; the only reason that he can suppose to justify this inhuman proceeding is that "Darby O'Drive," in the person of the worthy Dan Horgan, has offered to increase the rent from £26 to £30 a year. I now offer, on the part of Richard Manning, whose ancestors, for more than a century, have been born, lived, and died on this spot of land, to pay this moment in Court the half year's rent which fell due on the 29th September, and to pay the increased rent of £30 from that day henceforward.After a pause, during which there was perfect silence,Mr. Russell—I really cannot accept the terms, my directions are to evict the defendant. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"]As a finish to this case, I beg to add the agent's description of the tenant who was thus sought to be flung upon the world. He described him as "an honest industrious man, who only owes the September rent, and is ready to pay that." Owing to some technical informality, Manning was saved from eviction on that occasion. On an appeal to the Judge at the last assizes in Cork, a certain letter, giving authority to the bailiff to act, was necessary to be produced; and as it was not ready in court, the Judge (Mr. Baron Greene) would admit of no delay, remarking that the case was not one in which he ought to travel out of the rule laid down. So Manning holds on for a few months longer, until the law is fully complied with. The next case to which I have to refer is one in which the religious element enters, and involves the very worst form of persecution. It was tried in June last, before Mr. Major, the assistant barrister for Monaghan. The tenant in this case was John Byrne, a Catholic. Byrne had for his landlord a gentleman whose religious feelings were of that warm and ardent nature not unusual in Ireland, especially where religion is at all of an aggressive character. Colonel Lewis, this religious landlord, established a school of his own on his estate, and employed a person of the class known as "Scripture-readers" as teacher; and although there was a National School, supported by the State, in the parish, the Colonel insisted that his tenants, Byrne included, should send their children to his school. But this honest man, although having nine children, six of them girls, and being completely at the mercy of his landlord, declared that he would not violate his conscience, or peril the religious faith of his children, by Bending any of them to this school. The 1056 consequence of this conscientious refusal was a notice to quit, followed by an action of ejectment. Notice was also served on another tenant for the same cause, but proceedings were abandoned in consequence of some informality—frequently a useful friend to the Irish peasant. The landlord's agent was examined by the attorney for the defence, and from that evidence I beg to read a few passages. He states that Colonel Lewis came in for the lands in 1854. He is asked "are you aware that there is a house on the land?" He answered "Yes."—"Do you know who built it?" "I do not."—"Was it built by defendant or his father?" "I cannot say."—"My client refused the year's rent —did he?" "No, he did not."—"Did he offer it to you?" "He did, and I refused to take it."—"We offer you that rent once more in open court—will you take it?" "No, I cannot."—The agent admits that Colonel Lewis built a school of his own, and appointed as teacher a "Scripture-reader" of the name of Wallace. Then comes this question—"On your solemn oath, sir, do you not know that this ejectment arose out of Colonel Lewis's wish to have Byrne's children go to his school?" Answer—"It has grown out of it." The examination is thus continued—"Byrne said he would give up his land sooner than send his children to a school where their religious convictions were likely to be tampered with?" Answer—"I suppose so." The Colonel had summoned a meeting of his tenants, and another tenant, named M'Quillan, also spoke out; and the agent admits that he also had been served with an ejectment. Here is the language in which Mr. Major, the able and respected assistant barrister, is reported to have dealt with this case; and I may remark that that gentleman's sympathies are as much with the landed class, which I believe he personally represents, as with the tenant class: —Mr. Downey did not pretend there was any motive for dispossessing this man and his family, except for his not sending his children to the school established by the plaintiff. That the defendant was called on to do so there could be no doubt. He did not mean to interfere with Colonel Lewis's rights, though he would say it was scarcely a prudent course. Indeed he could hardly bring himself to believe it possible that any gentleman, nay, any Christian man, having no grounds of complaint against his tenant, on whose moral character no blot rested, would hurl a man and his family upon the highway, who paid the rent up to the very day."1057 I ask the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Walsh), who is about to resist my demand for some protection for the tenant's industry, what he can say to cases of this kind, or to the law which sanctions them? This case is by no means a solitary one, for I assert—and I challenge the assent or denial of my hon. Friends from Ireland to what I assert — that there are Colonel Lewises and John Byrnes in every county in Ireland. The hon. Baronet who is to oppose this Motion knows something of the county Kerry, which, as he is aware, is not very remote from the district described in the letter I have just read; and what will he think—what will the House think—that one or two landed proprietors of that county will not allow a marriage to take place on their estates without their consent, or that of the agent, being first obtained? Notwithstanding the mutual inclination of the sexes towards that holy state—no one can attempt to marry without first having obtained a certificate of licence at the agent's office; the penalty of disobedience, of yielding to those common feelings of human nature, being cither fine or eviction, in case one of the parties marrying was a refractory tenant, or eviction of the parents, if they had sanctioned the marriage. Arbitrary fines are levied for the infraction of arbitrary rules, or for the slightest offence against the laws of the estate; and I know, of my own knowledge, where fines, levied on tenants, have been extorted from the pocket of the agent or the desk of the landlord, by sheer dread of public exposure—and that within a few days. I now turn from Kerry to Donegal. The tenants of the north of Ireland are not in the same position as those of the south, having the custom known as tenant-right to protect them, and being entitled, under that custom, to sell their occupation as well as their improvements to an incoming tenant, provided the landlord consents to accept such incoming tenant. There are, however, many cases of great hardship in the north as well as the south. For instance, those respectable persons in Donegal — not Catholics, but sturdy Presbyterians — excited the ire of a nobleman who was formerly a Member of this House, and who, for aught I know, may have advocated the principle of tenant right, which was at that period a popular question. The nobleman to whom I allude is the Earl of Leitrim, formerly Lord Clements. It appears that the town of Milford, the property of the Earl of 1058 Leitrim, was, not very long since, a mere collection of hovels, but is now, owing to the energy and industry of a few people, one of the prettiest country towns in Ireland. Amongst the most improving and enterprising of the tenants were two respectable persons, Lavins the father, and Lavins the son. The father, as was publicly stated, expended something like £1,400 in buildings and other improvements, which money he laid out on the faith of the tenant custom of the district, and having full confidence in his landlord —I mean the late Earl. The son, Lavins the younger, being a man of enterprising spirit, came over to this country, and realized some money here; but desiring to return to his own country, and being anxious to develope the resources and capabilities of the town of Milford by his enterprise, he expended about £900 in buildings and in other improvements, which were calculated to benefit the estate as well as promote his own interest. Then there was the rev. Mr. White, the Presbyterian minister, who built a house at a cost of £400, and at his own expense—in which house nine of his children were born. Yet, within the last year, the Earl of Leitrim, who, when in this House, may have gone into the lobby in favour of tenant compensation, burst through this ancient custom of the north, violated every right but legal right, turned out these three respectable men—these three industrious and improving tenants—and confiscated their property, amounting to nearly £3,000 in value, the result of their energy and industry. There are some who suggest some excuse for this act of injustice; but I maintain that no man, whether sane on all points or not, ought to be entrusted with such despotic power—a power which is too often wielded as a sword to strike, and not used as a shield to protect. The destinies of the Irish people ought not to be surrendered without protection to men who can crush them as easily as they could trample upon sea-weed. I say, let there be protection for the industry of the people, and Ireland will bloom like a garden—secure to them the full enjoyment of the result of their labour and their outlay, and there will not be a single square foot of reclaimable land which will not eventually be brought under cultivation by the magic power of human industry. I hold the tenant custom of the north to be based upon justice; but so long as it is a custom, and not a law, it is liable to be broken through; and so long 1059 as men are entrusted with undue power over their fellow men, and liable to be led away by human passions, so long will they be ready to violate not only the laws of man, but of God. Is it not, I ask, a horrible mockery in these days, that, while yon are innovating, regulating, and interfering in behalf of all other interests, there is to be no legislative protection for the mass of the people of Ireland and for the fruits of their industry? Let me beg of the hon. Baronet (Sir John Walsh) to go with me from Ireland to India, from Cork and Kerry and Donegal, to Bengal, Madras, and Bombay, I hold in my hand a document presented to Members of this House on the part of the East India Company, in which they defend the character of their administration, and describe the improvements which they have made in their Indian possessions. Hero is what they say as to their attempts to improve the tenure of the Bengal ryot:—What the Government had in its power to do, for alleviating the operation of the existing system, it has done. It takes systematic measures for the education of zemindars who are wards of Government. It has made imperative on the landlords to give to every tenant a written engagement specifying the amount of rent and the conditions of tenure; and it has made these engagements legally binding.I now quote, from a subsequent page, a passage, describing a state of independence enjoyed by the Madras ryot which is not demanded on the part of the Irish peasant:—Under this system the land is not made over to great landlords, but the actual cultivator, the peasant himself, is regarded as the proprietor of the soil, subject to the payment of the Government demand. He has the option annually of increasing or diminishing his holding; and, in the words of the Madras Government in their last general Report,' has all the benefits of a perpetual lease, without its responsibilities, inasmuch as he can, at any time, throw up his lands, but cannot be ejected, as long as he pays his dues.' He also receives assistance by remission of assessment in unfavourable seasons.The following passage describes how things are managed in the North West Provinces:—In a few of the districts, the term of settlement has expired, or is on the point of expiring. On resettlement, the assessment is liable to revision, and may be increased if the net produce of the land has augmented, but not proportionally to the increase of the net produce; and a pledge has besides been given, that a liberal consideration will be allowed for ' improvements attributable only to the efforts of the tenant himself, and especially with regard to such as are of a comparatively recent date.'1060 I shall only trouble the House with one other extract from the "Memorandum," and would merely wish that the ryot of Bombay might be meant to mean the tenant farmer of an Irish county:—The other great improvement was the establishment of the rule that no ryot should be required to pay an additional tax (or rent) for his land, in consideration of increased value derived from improvements made by himself. If, therefore, a proprietor, by labour or outlay of his own, sinks wells, constructs tanks, or plants valuable trees, he enjoys not for the duration of any settlement, but in perpetuity, the full benefit of the increased value which he has given to the land; an assurance which no private tenant in any country, even of Europe, has obtained.The result of what I have read is simply this—that while the cultivators of the soil in India are entitled to compensation for their improvements; and while those improvements are not to be made the occasion of an increased tax, or rent, the Irish tenant has no claim for compensation, and his own improvements subject him to an increased rent. There is full protection for the wretched ryot of India, but none for your own fellow-subjects in Ireland. The fact of this protection being given to the cultivators of the soil of India is highly creditable to the Company, and, in my opinion, blots out many of their sins; but that the present state of things should exist in Ireland is a damning scandal to the Imperial Parliament. Perhaps that might be called rather strong language; but I am one of those who have a habit of calling a spade a spade, and I again assert that any law which sanctions or connives at tyranny, oppression, or fraud, which your law in Ireland does, is a damning blot upon your legislation. I, though a private Member, have been compelled to bring this great and important question forward for discussion; and other hon. Members have done so before me—why? Because successive Governments have abandoned their duty with respect to this great question—because they have merely toyed and played with it, shuttle cocked it from one to another, or sought to make political capital out of it. But I tell her Majesty's present Government that there is a spirit rising in Ireland which will compel them, or their successors, to bring in a measure on the subject, and force them to carry it through every stage in this House, and to guard it against shipwreck in its passage to the House of Lords—which will compel them to see that it reaches even to the obtainment of the Royal Assent. What I ask in this Bill is simply this—that where 1061 improvements have been made by the tenant—not fanciful improvements, but improvements such as are suited to the farm, increase the producing power of the soil, and increase its letting value—the tenant shall not be robbed of the fruits of his industry, but shall receive compensation for such improvements according to a fair consideration of their value, in case he is turned out of his farm, or compelled to give it up. This is the demand that is made in the Bill which I ask the House to read a second time. This principle of compensation for improvements such as are suited to the holding, and substantial in their character, has been admitted by several governments, and has been sanctioned by repeated majorities in this House. The Devon Commission reported in favour of compensation for useful improvements, and gave it as their opinion that there was much reason for believing the statements made to them in all parts of the country, that the want of protection for such improvements, or of a legal claim for compensation for them in case of eviction, was sufficient to paralyse the energies of the really industrious tenant. I hold in my hand extracts of a speech made upon this question of compensation by an authority on such subjects, one who is certain to command the respectful attention of the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland. The statement made in this speech was that, not of a revolutionist, or a communist, or an invader of the rights of property, as I suppose the hon. Baronet may be inclined to represent myself. In 1845, Lord Stanley, now the Earl of Derby, introduced a Bill into the House of Lords, as a member of the government of Sir Robert Feel. It was a measure proposing to give compensation for certain improvements made by the tenant. Lord Stanley justified the introduction of the Bill on the ground that there was a totally different state of things in Ireland from what there was in England or Scotland. Here is his Lordships' description of the state of things in Ireland.Every-tenant farmer on taking a farm in England, and, I believe, in Scotland, looks, as a matter of course, to the landlord to place the farm before he enters upon it in tenantable repair; that is, in regard to the fences, the drains, the dwelling-house and building's, and, in short, in regard to all those things which, in England are considered as the necessary accompaniments to a farm. But in Ireland the case in reference to all those various matters, is not only dissimilar, but exactly the reverse." [3Hansard, lxxxi. 218.]1062 And here is his Lordship's description of the reverse of the social medal:—The universal practice in Ireland being that all buildings, including even the dwelling-house, all fences and drains, which in England are put in repair by the landlord, are expected to be done by the tenant, and if not, they are not done at all.1 do not mean to say that this description is of universal application, for I know many landlords who have provided farm buildings and other necessaries for their tenants; but as a general rule it is applicable to the state of things in Ireland at this day as it was when spoken by Lord Stanley in 1846, and on that ground I this day call upon the Government, of which that noble Lord is now the head, to take up this question and finally settle it. I may now cite an eminent authority on a point of the highest importance, and with respect to which I know there is in this House a very wide difference of opinion—I refer to the question of retrospective compensation. I shall quote the deliberate and almost judicial opinion of one who now holds the exalted office of Lord High Chancellor of Ireland, and who, as Mr. Napier, commanded the respect of every Member of this House. Now, the principle of this Bill embraces compensation for improvements which have already been made, as well as for improvements which are yet to be made; and I may rely my defence of the retrospective operation of the Bill upon the saying of an hon. Friend who reduced the whole argument to an axiom — "compensation for future improvements may be a matter of expediency, but compensation for past improvements is a matter of justice." Now what did Mr. Napier say with respect to the retrospective operation of the Bill which he brought in in 1852, as the official organ of the Government of Lord Derby? Here are his words: —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." [3 Hansard, cxxiii. 338.And, in another passage, Mr. Napier objects to the limitations of Sir William Somerville's Bill to cases in which the property was under the value of £10, and he says—"He could see no principle upon which a property worth £20 should be placed in a worse position than a property of £10. Now, I contend that this deli- 1063 berate opinion is a complete defence of the retrospective operation of this Bill. Remember that Mr. Napier had every motive to shrink from the avowal of this principle, if he conscientiously could, and that for this expression of opinion he risked the support of many of his Friends. But he was driven to it by the weight of authority and the force of conscientious conviction; and certainly Mr. Napier was not one who would willingly invade the rights of property, or peril the interests of the landlord class. For my part, I believe he was most anxious to benefit landlord and tenant, by an equitable adjustment of the rights of both. Now, I contend that the claim of the tenant who has improved, far surpasses any claim which can be urged in behalf of the tenant who is yet to improve. I would not consider that the tenant who improved his farm by buildings and other permanent improvements, deserved any particular credit for his enterprise, if he expended his capital and his labour under the protection of the law, because he would have the law to appeal to at any time in case wrong was attempted to be done to him. But it is quite different with the tenant who has improved in spite of the law. In spite of the existing law, illustrations of which I have quoted, the industry and energy of the tenantry of Ireland, of those even who hold their farms at will, have triumphed over every sense of insecurity; in spite of that law they have effected substantial valuable improvements, they have increased the productive power of the soil, and have added to the wealth of the State—and yet they have no claim to compensation for their outlay and their labour, and arc liable at any moment to eviction at the caprice of their landlords. I am neither revolutionist nor communist, and I have not the slightest wish to invade the rights of property. But I desire to protect the property of the tenant as well as the property of the landlord. What is the property of the tenant? The House which he has built with his own money, with his own capital, his own savings— that I hold to be his property, and not the property of the landlord. I hold that the property which the labour and industry of the tenant created on the soil, or in the soil, by which the letting value of the land has been increased, should give him a just claim for compensation in case of eviction. My demand in this Bill is this, that if the tenant has increased the productiveness of the soil, he should not be deprived of the 1064 possession of his farm without receiving compensation for the fruits of his industry. And in answer to that demand, let me not be answered by the mere cry of "the rights of property!" I beg of the House not to imagine that this question will die out. I can give a proof of the feeling upon this question. There is at this moment, as there has been for years, a strong feeling in Ireland in reference to the present Church establishment in that country; yet there have been few or no petitions presented to Parliament this year, or last year, for the reform of that establishment, as in former years—and why? Not because the grievance is less felt—not because opposition to it is not ready to spring forth; but because the people are anxious to settle this great social question of tenant-right, although every other question should for the time be left in abeyance. And is it not full time that this great social question should be settled? Does the Government wish to see a further reduction of the population of Ireland? Has there not been enough of national blood-letting already? Has not America been sufficiently strengthened by the immigration of those who carry with them abhorrence of this country, its government, and its laws? I have seen letters from persons who had been driven to America by the tyranny of your British law, written to relatives or friends in Ireland, and these letters breathed a spirit of the deadliest hate against this country and its laws. It was by the operation of your laws that these people had been turned out of the homes of their fathers and from the birth-place of their children; it was through the operation of these laws that they were driven as wanderers from their native shores; it was owing to these laws that many a brave man and fair woman was whelmed in the sea, and mouldered away in its depths; it was through the operation of those British laws that thousands of men and women, who ought to be the strength and stay of the country, were flung upon the quays and streets of Liverpool, or wandered as squalid beggars, to the shame and scandal of England, upon the highways of the great Republic. I ask, is this country never to be in danger again? Is it even perfectly safe at this moment? If I mistake not, a right hon. Gentleman near me (Mr. Horsman) alluded a few nights since to the uncertainty of the relations between this country and a neighbouring State. Well, upon whom are you to depend in the hour of danger? 1065 it wise to diminish a population which has so often proved its strength in battle, from which you fill up the broken ranks of the 18th and the 88th? If the law is not altered, and if it is allowed to remain in its present state, the drain of emigration will still increase. It has at this moment only received a temporary check from the commercial panic in America; but no sooner will a better state of things return than the stream of Irish migration will increase in its flow, and deepen in its volume. I ask a change in the present law, not alone in favour of the tenant, but also in favour of the landlord, for I hold that their interests are in reality identical, and that whatever improves the condition of the tenant must also benefit the landlord. I seek no favour for one class at the expense of another, but on the part of the people of Ireland I ask Parliament for an alteration of the present law. I believe that the passing of a good Bill would restore confidence between landlord and tenant, prevent litigation, and greatly diminish crime. Unfortunately, owing to the law as it stands—owing to the law as it is pro claimed from the tribunals of the land— there is a sympathy felt by certain classes in favour of the agrarian criminal when he made to pay the penalty of his crime; and this very symptom of the deep-rooted social disease which lies at the heart of Ireland ought to startle the attention of the statesman. But lot Parliament alter the law, let Parliament render the law just, and every man's hand would be against the wrong-doer. Let there be fair laws, which all may respect, and the people themselves will become the best peace-preservers, the strength and security of the country. I shall only add, that any Government that deals vigorously and honestly with this question will deserve and will receive the heartfelt blessings of a grateful people. I now beg to move that this Bill be read a second time.
§ THE O'DONOGHUE, in seconding the Motion, observed, that from what he had heard during the debate on the Motion for abolishing the Irish Viceroyalty, he was inclined to hope that the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill would not be seriously opposed. During the course of the debate to which he referred, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton, and the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, assigned as their reason 1066 for voting against the proposition that it was at variance with the wishes of the Irish people; and he hoped that those right hon. Gentlemen and their followers would be actuated by the same conciliatory spirit in dealing with the question now before the House. The object of this Bill was to place the relationship between landlord and tenant in Ireland upon an equitable basis. The attainment of such a result had become an object of paramount importance, for the question of tenant-right had for some years past occupied the public mind of Ireland to the exclusion of almost every other topic. The interest it excited among the people of that country had been exhibited by large and influential meetings in various parts of the country, by innumerable petitions to Parliament, and by the return of many Members to that House, whose highest recommendation in the eyes of their constituents was their advocacy of such a measure as that now proposed by the hon. Member for Dungarvan. He would venture to say that if a dissolution of Parliament were to take place at this moment every gentleman who sought to represent a county constituency in Munster, Connaught, or Leinstor, would find it necessary to declare himself in favour of tenant-right. Indeed, all classes in Ireland were agreed upon the necessity of legislating on this subject, and he had never met with a single person who thought there was anything objectionable, communistic, or impracticable in the principle of this Bill, which was intended to give tenants a legal claim to compensation for such improvements as might have increased the letting value of their holdings. Previously to years of famine little or no progress had been made in agricultural improvement throughout the greater portion of Ireland; but after that mournful epoch the farmers, as a class, became sensible of their defenceless position, and began to demand a measure of tenant-right. Both rich and poor suffered during the awful days of the famine; the rich, in the temporary diminution of their incomes, and the poor, by starvation, eviction, exile, and death. The events of that period, he believed, brought about a most extraordinary and unfortunate social revolution. In former times a man's importance was estimated in proportion to the number of his tenants or dependents; but in these latter days—at all events in Ireland—that man was considered the most prosperous and enviable whose broad acres 1067 were tenantless, and whose followers consisted only of a ploughman, shepherd, and the other few labourers indispensable for purposes of agriculture. Indeed, it appeared that in Ireland men were regarded as inconvenient and unprofitable animals. It was the duty of a Government to deal impartially with all classes of its subjects, and the tenant farmers of Ireland now called upon Parliament to extend to them such protection as would raise them to a position of independence. They asked Parliament to legalize the principle of compensation for improvements effected by themselves, and thus not only reward them for past days of toil, but to animate them by such a sense of security to redoubled exertion for the future. He regarded this Bill as a social and political necessity for Ireland—a social necessity, because without the enactment of such a law it was impossible that that feeling of security which was the essence of happiness should ever gladden the fireside of the poor; and a political necessity, because in the present relation of landlords and tenants it was perfectly impossible for the latter to act in accordance with the dictates of their own judgment. The power of eviction had been carried to an unwarrantable extent in Ireland, yet successive Administrations had looked listlessly on. The three predominant passions in Ireland for some time past had been and still were the acquisition of land, the enlargement of farms, and the diminution of poor rates. The removal of the population had been considered the one thing necessary for the accomplishment of those ends, and this object had been effected either by eviction, or by withholding from the tenant-farmers all inducements to remain at home, and so eventually driving them to emigration. The Incumbered Estates Court, which had been established subsequently to the famine of 1847, had opened a new field to speculative capitalists, and in the first instance a large amount of property was sold at very low prices. The purchasers found their tenants little skilled in agriculture, and that the more profitable course would be to cultivate the land themselves, or to introduce new tenants possessing more skill and capital than those on the estates. Accordingly, the tenants were evicted, and had their choice of three evils —starvation, the workhouse, or compulsory emigration. The same system was still continued, and the recent purchasers of land had no justification for their conduct, 1068 because they could not plead, like the purchasers in 1849, that Ireland was overstocked with inhabitants, and that the interests of the country required a diminution of the population. He submitted that it was the paramount duty of Parliament to enable the people of Ireland to live prosperously in their own country, and he trusted that, with the view of checking the mania for land speculation and for enlarging farms, they would give their assent to this Bill, which would make every man, who evicted an industrious tenant, except for non-payment of rent or other reasonable cause, pay for so doing. The unbridled power of eviction had filled Ireland with desolation, and had led to many disasters. It was at the root of that feeling of distrust which marked the intercourse of landlord and tenant in Ireland, and had been the cause—and would, if uncontrolled, continue to be the cause—of agrarian outrage and crime in that country. He did not think that the Bill would at all interfere with the action of the Incumbered Estates Court. If there were insolvent proprietors, whose estates must be sold, he did not see why the State should not purchase them and lease them to the tenants. This might be a novel doctrine, but he thought it was one upon which the Government might safely act.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
SIR JOHN WALSH, in rising to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said that the hon. and learned Gentleman had commenced his speech by laying down several general positions, in which he (Sir J. Walsh) entirely concurred. It was quite true that the question was as much an English as an Irish one. It was quite true that the prosperity and improvement of Ireland had of late years been marked and rapid, and the hon. Member must admit that this agricultural improvement had taken place under the state of law he desired to change. From these general axioms, the hon. Member proceeded to bring forward a number of individual cases of alleged oppression on the part of landlords to their tenants. The hon. Member had travelled from Kerry to Donegal, from Cork to Leitrim, and had challenged him (Sir J. Walsh) to give an answer to each of these cases. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, would be can did enough
to admit that it was impossible for him, unacquainted with the circumstances of these evictions, or with the justification the landlords or their agents might have for their proceedings, to answer the hon. and learned Gentleman with regard to them, He must, therefore, decline to accept the challenge of the hon. Member, and content himself with observing that a few ex parte statements got up from different parts of the country, and probably capable of being-contradicted, were not a sufficient ground on which to found one of the most important changes in relation to property which ever had been attempted in this empire. He would just remind the House of one case two years ago which had excited a good deal of eloquent denunciation, but which turned out on inquiry to be wholly unfounded. A Scotch gentleman, of the name of Pollok, had purchased a large estate in the Incumbered Estates Court. He proceeded to expend considerable sums of money in its improvement. But his mode of management did not meet the ideas of the tenant-right men in his neighbourhood. Petitions were presented to this House against his cruel and oppressive proceedings. Heart-rending pictures of the misery he had caused were made by hon. Members with all the pathos of Irish eloquence. He was denounced as a more remorseless tyrant than Cromwell himself. But shortly afterwards, his (Sir J. Walsh's) hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire made a very clear statement in defence of Mr. Pollok, by which it appeared that, so far from being an oppressor, he had been a benefactor to the county in which his estates were situated. He had indeed managed them rather in the Scotch than the Irish fashion, and had converted a number of wretched cottier tenants into good thriving labourers; but the population had been increased instead of diminished, and the general condition of the tenantry greatly improved. This case, of itself, would make him (Sir J. Walsh) extremely cautious in too hastily assuming the full accuracy of the statements adduced by the hon. Gentleman, with regard to which there had been no opportunity of affording any explanation. It appeared to him that there had been one very important omission in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan. In the course of his speech the hon. and learned Member had drawn a fearful picture of the condition of the tenantry of Ireland; he had gone over a great variety of topics, but he
had forgotten to allude to the provisions of the Bill which he held in his hand. He never once alluded to them. It might have been the India Bill, or any other Bill, for aught the House knew. The hon. and learned Gentleman had not told them how he proposed to carry out his plan. That omission he would endeavour to supply. First of all, he would remind the House that the hon. and learned Member had made a very spirited attack on the Government of the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton, and by implication on Her Majesty's present Administration, for the manner in which they had tampered or played with this question; and he complained that they had misled the House by the mode in which they had treated the subject. On looking back to what had been done by the Derby Government in 1852, and by the Government of the noble Lord opposite, he (Sir J. Walsh) was inclined to think that the only way in which they had tampered with the matter was by doing a great deal too much in endeavouring to meet the views of the hon. and learned Gentleman and the other advocates of tenant-right. He (Sir J. Walsh), as a decided opponent of what he regarded as the vicious principle of tenant-right, considered that the fault lay in the other direction, and that both Governments were liable to the charge of having attempted too much—and attempted it against their own convictions—for the purpose of finding some common ground on which they might be enabled to bring the question to a settlement. Mr. Napier, the Attorney General for Ireland, in the first Government of the Earl of Derby, had introduced a Bill which many persons thought went an extravagant length. It involved the principle of retrospective compensation to tenants—a principle which he (Sir J. Walsh) had always considered to be utterly unjust and indefensible. Mr. Napier had honestly desired to carry that principle into effect, but being an acute lawyer as well as a just man, he had found it necessary for the protection of property to encircle the Bill with a number of limitations and guarantees. The consequence was, that the measure was extremely distasteful to those hon. Gentlemen who professed the opinions of the hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan. The Bill, however, passed through the House of Commons, but being met with decided opposition in the House of Lords it had fallen through in the course of the Session. In the year 1854 very little had been done in
the House of Commons with reference to that question. But in the year 1855 an attempt was made by another Administration to effect its settlement. The Tenant-right Bill of that year had fallen into the very able and judicious hands of Mr. Serjeant Shee. The hon. and learned Gentleman, as a man of business, of very considerable legal knowledge, and of great tact and discernment, did not attempt to carry the extreme measure previously proposed by Mr. Sharman Crawford. He started from a lower point, and resolved on taking as the basis of his legislation the Bill which had passed through that House in the year 1853. He asked for the support of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and the noble Lord stated with his usual frankness that the principle of the Bill was one which did not meet with his entire concurrence, but he showed a disposition to admit that there might be special grounds for adopting an exceptional system of legislation in Ireland in reference to that question. The result was, that he gave an apparently reluctant acquiescence to the introduction of the measure, and he then offered to take it up with certain modifications as a Government Bill, and to endeavour, with those alterations, to carry it through the House. But poor Serjeant Shee found himself upon that occasion deserted by his own Friends, while he on his part declined to accept the modifications suggested by the Government; and as the offer of the noble Lord was not accepted, the measure was abandoned. In the year 1856 the question was taken out of the hands of Mr. Serjeant Shee, who was cashiered from his post as leader, in consequence of a Resolution adopted by a great tenant-right meeting held in Ireland, which repudiated the compromise he had sought to carry into effect. The subject had then been consigned to the able and eloquent, but as he (Sir J. Walsh) believed, the less judicious advocacy of Mr. Moore. That hon. Gentleman had brought forward in the year 1856, not the measure of compromise adopted by Mr. Serjeant Shee, or the modification of that measure proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, but the Bill of Mr. Sharman Crawford in its integrity. The House divided most unexpectedly on the second reading of that Bill at about one o'clock on a Wednesday, without any discussion of its principle; and the result was that the Motion was carried by a small majority, which, however, under the circumstance,
afforded no adequate test of the opinion of the House. But the right hon. Gentleman who filled the office of Secretary for Ire-and at that period (Mr. Horsman) afterwards stated in reply to a question from Mr. Stafford, that he should feel it his duty, as the representative of the Government, to oppose the Motion for going into Committee on the Bill; and the measure was afterwards withdrawn by Mr. Moore in a state of extreme anger. Since that time the subject had barely been kept alive; a Bill had been introduced, but not persevered in, last Session; and it might be said that, substantially, it had not been brought under the consideration of the House until the hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan had introduced the present Bill. Now, it appeared to him (Sir J. Walsh), that a measure of such importance ought to he carefully considered by the House, and that it ought to be openly and decisively either rejected or adopted. He did not think that the question could be left in its present state of intermittent agitation, which resembled the gout or the rheumatism, or some other irritating chronic malady, which never assumed an active form, but which in that condition very injuriously affected all the relations of property in Ireland, disquieted the minds of the tenantry, and disturbed the repose of the landlords. It was with that conviction that he, as a member connected by property with Ireland, and taking a considerable interest in the prosperity of that country, although not himself an Irishman, ventured to ask the House to come to some practical decision upon that subject. What was the principle of the Bill? What was the real question they had then to consider? Its professed principle was that compensation for improvements should he given to tenants in Ireland; but he could not help thinking that it was a measure of a much more comprehensive character than those words would imply. One fault the measure certainly had not; it was not open to the charge of diffuseness. Considering the destruction of property to which, in his opinion, it would lead, it was remarkably concise. It contained but nine clauses, six of which, as they merely related to the machinery by which the scheme was to be carried out, would more fairly be considered in Committee than by the House. The main principle laid down appeared to be contained in the first and eighth clauses. The first section began thus:—
For the purposes of this Act, all improvements in the soil, and all buildings, and all works of every description, by means of which the annual letting value or fee simple interest of the premises shall be or shall have been increased, and which shall be or shall have been made at the cost or by the labour of the tenant, or purchased, or inherited by him from his predecessor, shall be taken to be the property of such tenant, subject to the rules hereinafter provided.
Then there was a proviso that the tenant should be compensated for any loss or injury he might sustain by dispossessment, which would of course subject the landlord to a kind of action for damages at the will of the out-going occupier. But let the House mark the extent of the words he had just quoted, comprising all improvements of the soil "which shall be or shall have been made at the cost or by the labour of the tenant, or purchased or inherited by him from his predecessors." Now, all improvements in the soil resulted from the application of labour and capital. Land, until labour or capital had been expended upon it, was valueless, or nearly so. The principle embodied in this clause would negative any right or interest possessed by the owner of the soil as such in the added value conferred upon it by the application of the only agents which did in fact give it any value. Now, he (Sir J. Walsh) was not going to mount up to the first principles of human society, nor to enter into a theoretical discussion upon the nature of property. He would content himself with asserting that the laws, the institutions, the whole social fabric of the British empire, were founded upon a directly contrary principle—namely, that the owner of the soil had, independently of any application of labour and capital of his own, a right to participate in the improved value of the soil, derived from his property in it. The principle of this Bill would, in fact, sweep away all property in land. He did not mean to say that the Bill carried out this theory to the full extent; for it would, as a sort of concession to the landlord, allow him to receive a species of rent-charge on the property of which he was a nominal owner, but a strict interpretation of the words of the clause would fairly affirm the principle that the increased value of the soil belonged solely to the persons who had caused that increase by their labour and capital, and that no part of it belonged to the landlord. This inference was inevitable. The eighth clause provided that any tenant who chose to sell his interest might at once bring the question to issue with his landlord, and force an immediate ad-
justment of his claims to compensation. The simple effect of these two clauses would be, that landlords, as distinct from occupiers, would no longer exist in Ireland; that, as in the case of the tithe commutation and similar arrangements, there would only remain a set of persons having no interest in the improvement of the soil, and who would be no way connected with it except by drawing a rent-charge. The landlords would be holders of rent-charges and nothing more; their connection with the soil would in all other respects be severed. That was the true character of the Bill which the House of Commons was then asked to adopt. He wished to ask English Members whether they were prepared to pass a measure which would effect so great a change on the most important of all the relations of property?
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he believed the hon. Baronet had entirely mistaken the eighth clause, and he would ask him to look at the words of that portion of the Bill.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
His argument had such special reference to the first clause that he did not think it necessary he should dwell at any length on any other portion of the Bill; and he had, besides, to observe that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dungarvan, would have an opportunity of replying to him, and of correcting any errors into which he might have fallen. He believed it could not be denied that the first clause bore the interpretation he had put upon it, and that clause fully justified the description he had given of the general character of the measure. He would next ask English Members whether the passing of such a Bill for Ireland would not afford a strong ground for introducing a similar Bill for this country? This, therefore, might be regarded as a first blow aimed at the destruction, through out the three kingdoms, of that property which the law, which immemorial prescription, which all our customs and ideas, affixed to the ownership of the soil. According to our ordinary notions, there was a partnership between the landlord and tenant, and each participated in the benefits resulting from the profitable cultivation of the soil. This Bill, however, would entirely sweep away such a principle, and would change the whole face of British society. What was the case in England and Scotland? In the latter country, especially in the course of the last twenty-five years, cases had occurred perfectly analo- 1075 gous, as far as he understood them, to those which had been brought forward from Ireland, with this exception—that he believed the improvements effected by the Scotch tenants had been much more extensive, and the consequent benefits to landlords much more positive, than any which had resulted in the sister country. Whole tracts of land, particularly in the north of Scotland, had been reclaimed from a state of barren desolation and made cultivable within the last twenty-five or thirty years, and from being worth a few shillings were rendered worth from 20s. to 30s. per acre, and this had been entirely effected by tenants on nineteen or twenty-one years' leases. At the expiration of these leases, as a matter of course, without being charged with any oppression, cruelty, or invasion of the just rights of their tenantry, the landlords relet this land at a considerably increased rent, and received the benefit of the whole labour of those tenants. Now, this system had existed among a very sagacious people, not at all in the habit of labouring for others without proper remuneration, and yet we had not heard of any demand for tenant right in Scotland. In Scotland, land was generally held on leases for a considerable term of years, while in a large part of England (though the custom varied in different localities) it was held by tenants at will. No tenant-right agitation, however, prevailed in England; the occupiers were perfectly content with the present system. Why, then, was such a demand made in Ireland? No doubt there was a distinction between the state of the two countries. Hon. Gentlemen unacquainted with the sister kingdom might, however, suppose that there was a general feeling of insecurity among the occupiers of land there. Unquestionably, the tenant holding at will might be dispossessed at any moment, but the question was, under what circumstances, and how often, such a power was asserted by the landlord. Now, having some practical knowledge of the state of landed property in both countries, he believed that the Irish occupier, although a tenant at will, had a much greater hold on his lands, a much stronger prescriptive claim, sanctioned by custom, to be continued on his lands, than in England. If cases of forcible eviction were more frequent in Ireland, it was because the small tenancies were far more numerous, and also because tenants at will attempted, in Ireland, acts which they never would dream of in England. He believed that 1076 the prospective right of the tenant to his farm was more generally recognised and more rarely invaded in Ireland than it was in this country. This was his firm belief, and he might, if necessary, mention many facts to confirm it. The hon. and learned Member had cited the high authority of the late Mr. William Blacker, in favour of the views he advocated, but he did not refer to the evidence given by that gentleman before the Colonisation Committee of the House of Lords in 1849, when, after the potato crop had failed, he contradicted all the opinions which he had previously advocated in the work referred to by the hon. and learned Member. Mr. Blacker was at one time an enthusiast in favour of small farms, and maintained Utopian opinions as to their capabilities and resources under a good system of cultivation. When, however, he was called upon to give evidence before that Committee, which was presided over by Lord Monteagle, he said his whole theory respecting small holdings and all his calculations, were based on the supposition that the potato would continue to be the staple food of the country, and that the instant the potato could no longer be relied on for subsistence, all his previous calculations became erroneous, and that, as a matter of course, one-half of the population of the country must be in want, could not pay their rents, and could not live in comfort upon the soil. The fact was, that the failure of the potato-crop imposed a tremendous strain on the owners of property in Ireland, and it was in consequence of the changes in the tenure of landed property which then became inevitable, that the dissatisfaction arose among the Irish tenantry, in which the tenantright cry had its immediate origin. He (Sir J. Walsh) had stated that tenants in Ireland had still a stronger hold of the land which they occupied than that which was possessed by the same class in this country; and in confirmation of that statement he might appeal to the practice which prevailed almost universally among them of disposing, as they might think proper, of their holdings in their wills, of rendering them liable to the payment of jointures. Mr. Blacker, in his evidence before the Committee of the House of Lords on Colonization in the year 1849, bore the strongest testimony to the existence of a habit among the Irish tenants of subdividing and of transmitting according to their own inclination the land which they held. He observed that the subdivision of hold- 1077 ings took place from this cause chiefly, and that it generally occurred without any outward or visible sign; all the members of the family might live together; but still the subdivision existed, and could hardly be avoided, and he added, that if landlords in Ireland had sometimes used the cotter system for electioneering purposes it was rather because they had found the land subdivided than that they were ready themselves to effect the subdivision. Indeed, it was not at all likely that any landlord would pursue the suicidal policy of sub. dividing his property for the mere purpose of obtaining Parliamentary influence. This, then, was one of the causes of the almost constant war between landlord and tenant. There was, and there must be, a disposition on the part of the landlord, to avoid these incessant subdivisions which, unless there were a certain degree of authority and influence exercised by him, as Mr. Blacker had justly pointed out, would inevitably lead to the confiscation of the land of the country. Was it then the interest of the gigantic monopolist proprietor alone to prevent this fractionising of the land? He contended that it was equally the interest of the community and of Ireland itself; and that the present and future progress of that country was retarded by the inveterate desire of the tenants to revert to small holdings. As a necessary consequence, there was induced a low, poor, unprogressive, degraded state of civilisation. In the very nature of things, a swarming population of millions, composed of small cottier occupiers, must be a low population in the scale of nations. It could never elevate itself. It wanted the element of progress, and he was quite certain, in opposition to the views which had been so strongly advanced by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, that a very largo proportion of the amendment and progress which had been so distinctly observable in Ireland since the great calamity of the potato disease, was owing to the pressure of the superabundant population in many districts being taken off by the safety valve which emigration had afforded, and moreover that all parties had benefited considerably by the change. The hon. Gentleman opposite, with the animated eloquence of an Irishman, had drawn a pathetic picture of starving crowds landing upon the quays at New York. On the other hand he (Sir J. Walsh) had seen letter after letter from emigrants declaring that they were never 1078 so happy, comfortable, prosperous, and well off in Ireland as they were in America, Their relations, too, whom they had left behind them, had equally experienced relief. They said, "We can now improve our farms, we have an interest in our occupations, we are no longer ground down—not by the oppression of the landlord, but by the multiplicity of mouths." He had found that both parties— those who emigrated and those who stayed at home—had been equally benefited; he thought also the landlords had greatly benefited; that they had now an opportunity given them of carrying out improvements on their farms upon which they could not otherwise have ventured to embark; and that the relief which had been afforded by this partial emigration, had been most extensive and most real, and was the cause of those prospects of improvement which were not merely drawing, but had to a great degree been lately realized in Ireland? He considered that emigration, as far as it had proceeded, was a positive benefit, and that it would never be carried too far; that an Irishman, generally speaking, was extremely reluctant to quit his country, and that he seldom did quit it, unless he failed to possess the comforts there which were to be had elsewhere. In the country to which he emigrated, he found himself much more comfortable; and this be (Sir J. Walsh) regarded as an instance of the beneficial effects of that principle of free trade in labour to which, he must say, he was now an entire convert. The demand and supply of labour adjusted themselves, if they were left to themselves; and he was quite convinced that the interchange of labour between Ireland and America bad been most beneficial to both; to the landlords, to the emigrants, and to the population which was left behind. The next point to which he should refer was the presentation of petitions to the House from the people of Ireland in favour of the principle of which the hon. Member for Dungarvan was the advocate—-a point upon which much stress had been laid, as tending to establish the fact that a considerable amount of agitation prevailed in the sister country in connection with the question of Tenant Right. An hon. Gentleman, not then in his place, had, it was true, laid upon the table a small slip of paper, which was said to be the representation of the ardent wishes of a particular locality in Ireland upon the subject, and other hon. Members had also 1079 presented petitions in favour of the Bill before the House, but he (Sir J. Walsh), nevertheless, was of opinion that the agitation which was said to exist was by no means so general as the hon. Member for Dungarvan seemed to suppose, while it was his firm belief that any which did exist would soon die away. The Irish people were doing well. Ireland itself was improving. The tenantry were making great progress. Tenants and landlords had every disposition, in the great majority of cases, to work cordially and satisfactorily together; and he believed that in a great many parts of the country the people cared very little indeed about the question. The House must remember, however, that the hon. Gentleman opposite, and those by whom he was supported, had a sort of vested interest in the agitation of the question of tenant right. They, as representatives of a certain popular party, had always been its advocates. [Cries of "No!"] The hon. Gentleman to whom he alluded seemed to dissent from that statement, but it appeared to him, without casting any imputation upon those hon. Gentlemen, that having advocated the principle at the hustings, and many of them having had their return assisted by the sympathy which prevailed between them and their constituents on this subject, if that feeling of sympathy became less vivid or warm, pro tanto, there might be a certain diminution of that thorough cordial agreement between hon. Gentlemen and their constituents which had existed in former years. "Tenant right" had been for some time a catching cry at Irish elections, and it might perhaps he necessary, but not casy, for hon. Gentlemen to apply themselves in future to the agitation of questions more attractive than that of tenant right. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well, as it appeared to be somewhat painful to hon. Gentlemen, he would not then pursue the subject further. There was one point, however, which he felt that he could not too forcibly impress upon the House, and that was, that the principle embodied in the Bill under discussion was altogether subversive of the rights of the landlord: that it, in fact, proposed to convert him into a mere rent-charger; and that the utmost he could with truth say of his property, if the Bill passed into a law, would be, "Well, this once belonged to me." It followed, therefore, as a necessary consequence, that the interest which the landlord took in the improvement and amelioration of his estates 1080 would be at an end. If he continued to have any love for improving his property, it must be the mere abstract love of agricultural improvement. He might still delight in going through a well cultivated country. If hon. Gentlemen visited Norfolk, Suffolk, or Lincolnshire, their eyes would be gratified by a great display of the best style of farming, extensive fields of turnips, and all the other evidences of profitable and scientific agriculture; and he presumed that the pleasure which an Irish landlord would henceforth enjoy in looking at his own estate would be something of an analogous character. It would be gratifying, no doubt, to see that Michael Kelly had done so much. he would feel a regard for Michael Kelly, and would be happy at seeing him cultivating his farm so well; but though this might be the source of pleasure to the landlord, it would be rather too much to expect of him that he should make large sacrifices, invest his capital, or do anything else from which he was not likely to derive any adequate and proper return. What he wanted to point out to the Irish people was this: that in all countries the landlord was not a mere sleeping partner, a mere recipient of rent, the mere looker-on whilst the tenant was improving, but was an active partner in improvements. His interests were necessarily united to those of the tenants in the improvement of the land. A class of tenantry, particularly like the Irish, who cultivated very small farms, and were not at all advanced in the practice or science of agriculture, were dependent upon their landlords for improvements, and the moral influence of the landlord, the example of the landlord, nay, he would go further, and say the control of the landlord, was an integral and necessary part of that agricultural improvement which the Bill assumed to originate solely with the cultivator of the soil, and to be confined entirely to the occupier who immediately tilled the ground. All experience showed that to be the case, and they could not go into a single county either in England or Ireland without finding that it was from the landlord, in the first place, that improvements emanated. No doubt the tenants were the hands and followed them up; but the landlords were the heads, and it was always with them that every improvement and beneficial advance in agriculture, as in other matters, originated. All this, of course, would be utterly destroyed if the Bill upon the table were agreed to. All that influence which 1081 a higher, a superior, and better-informed class exercised over the classes below them would be swept away, and a population would be called into existence which would be always tending downwards to those sub-divisions which multiplied the numbers, but which sank the social scale of individuals. All those beneficial influences which the mixture of classes necessarily created in a great nation like the Irish would be utterly destroyed; and this deplorable result would be brought about by the present most revolutionary Bill. He was persuaded that no Englishman who took this Bill in his hand, road it, weighed its provisions, and understood its effects, would ever give his vote for it. He was convinced that it was not a mere question of tenant right, such as was proposed by the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Mr. Napier. It was not a question of tenant right such as was proposed, though rather reluctantly, by the noble Lord opposite. It was a question which involved the entire confiscation of the rights of the landlord and the property of the landlord, and a revolution in the laws which effected landed property, and, as he believed from the bottom of his heart, that a revolution of this nature, so far from being beneficial to Ireland, would retard the advancement of that country in the career of that improvement in which she was now progressing, and throw it back into the vicious state of society from which it was now emerging. He begged to move the Amendment of which he had given notice, that this Bill be read a second time upon this day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
§ Question proposed, that the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, he could assure the House that, if he for one moment thought the results which the hon. Baronet who had just spoken seemed to anticipate were likely to flow from the adoption of the principle of the Bill under discussion, he, for one, should vote against it; but, believing, as he did, that the operation of its principle would be to secure the rights of the landlord, while it afforded a great protection to the tenant, he should give to the second reading of the Bill his cordial support. And what, let him ask, was the principle which the measure sought to establish? Why, it was one 1082 precisely the same as that which was contained in a Bill which had been introduced by Mr. Napier, the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, in 1852, and which was to the effect "that it would tend to the improvement and better cultivation of land in Ireland, if provision were made by law for securing to the tenant and the occupier of the soil in that country the due benefit of the expenditure of the capital and labour made by them upon the land in their lawful possession." That was the principle which had been set forth in the preamble of Mr. Napier's Bill, which had been adopted in the measure which had subsequently been introduced by Sir J. Young, founded upon the result of the labours of the Committee of 1852, and which had, upon six different occasions, received the sanction of the House of Commons. To that principle there was not, he believed, a single leading statesman in Parliament who had not given in his adherence. It was enunciated by Lord Stanley, in 1845, at that time the organ of Sir R. Peel's Government in the House of Lords. A Bill, containing it, was introduced by the right hon. Member for Carlisle, Sir James Graham and Lord Lincoln, in the House of Commons, the following year. It was found in the Bill of the Whig Government which succeeded. It entered into the Bill which resulted from the labours of the Committee of 1853, the preamble of which ran almost in the very-words which he had quoted from Mr. Napier. That Bill passed the House with acclamation, and now, in 1858, the Bill, which had been sanctioned on principle by so many successive Parliaments, was again before them for discussion. By that principle, therefore, ho, for one, was prepared to abide, notwithstanding that there were many of the details of the measure before the House which he entirely disapproved of, and which he should be glad to aid the hon. Baronet opposite in so amending as to render the operation of the Bill as conducive as possible to the best interests of both landlord and tenant. He should not follow the hon. Baronet through all the observations which he had made, in reference to the various clauses of the measure, but he could not refrain from remarking that the hon. Baronet seemed to him to have very much misrepresented some of its provisions. The hon. Baronet had declared himself to be a convert to the great principle of unrestricted competition, of which he had at one time been a most determined opponent; and he trusted he 1083 should, before long, find him a convert to the principle which the hon. and learned Member for Dungarvon invited the House upon the present occasion to sanction. By one observation which had fallen from the hon. Baronet, he had, he should confess, been very much taken by surprise. It was to the effect that there was to be found in this country a greater number of instances of eviction and of oppressive conduct upon the part of the landlord than in Ireland.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has entirely misconceived the purport of my remarks upon that point.
§ MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
continued: He regretted that he had misapprehended the hon. Baronet's meaning; but he might, at all events, assure him that his own experience had made him cognizant of certain facts which indicated the existence of a state of things which had, he believed, no parallel in this country, and which were a disgrace to any landlord. It had been his habit, while in office, to trace out, as far as possible, the causes of crime in Ireland and the result of the experience which he had thus acquired had been to impress him strongly with the conviction that, in the great majority of cases, crime had its origin in the unsatisfactory nature of the relations which subsisted between landlord and tenant in Ireland. He might add that, upon investigating one case to which his attention had been called, and in which a conspiracy had been entered into to commit a serious crime, he had found that the gentleman who had been the object of that conspiracy had been accustomed, year after year, to serve notices to quit upon every one of the tenants upon his estate and insist on the formal delivery of possession. The question, however, which the House had to consider was, whether the Bill under discussion, whose object was, as had been stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Dungarvan, in his able and effective speech, to place the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland upon a more satisfactory footing than that upon which they now stood, was based upon principles of abstract justice. The principle which it involved had, at all events, received the sanction of successive Parliaments, and had in its favour the decision of a Committee, of which he, as well as the noble Lord opposite (Lord Naas) were members, and which had brought to bear upon the 1084 question submitted to its consideration an amount of labour and ability which had, he believed, rarely been equalled. For his own part, he had no hesitation in declaring it to be his opinion that the principle of the Bill, assuming that principle to be such as he had stated, whether regarded upon the ground of abstract justice or viewed through the medium of economic science, was one which the dictates of a sound policy called upon the House of Commons to adopt; one, by assenting to which, Parliament would be doing no more than abstract justice to the tenant, while it would in no respect be sanctioning the confiscation of the landlord's interests—a step to which he, for one, could never give his support. Ireland was now, fortunately, peaceful and prosperous; and the present was, therefore, a period peculiarly favourable for the enactment of a measure for placing upon a satisfactory footing a question, the unsettled state of which had hitherto been the fertile source of crime in that country, for whenever an epidemic of crime, so to speak, had broken out among the Irish people, it almost invariably arose from the disturbed condition of the relations of landlord and tenant. He had just alluded to his own experience in support of that view; he might add, that during the three years which he had been in office there had been only three executions for capital offences in Ireland, and the commission of those offences might, in each instance, be traced to the cause which he had indicated. The previous history of the country served to corroborate the opinions which he had entertained upon that particular subject. He held in his hand a pamphlet which had been written a few years ago, and addressed to the late Sir Robert Peel by Sir Matthew Barrington, the Crown solicitor for Munster, a gentleman of great ability, posoessing a considerable amount of landed property himself, as well as the advantage of forty years' experience as Crown solicitor, to guide him in coming to a just conclusion upon the question of which he treated. Well, in that pamphlet, all the agrarian outrages which had been committed in Ireland since the year 1760 were attributed to the insecurity of the tenure by which the tenants in that country held their land. The outbreak of the Levellers in Munster in 1760; the disturbances created by "The Hearts of Oak;" "The Hearts of Steel," and the "Peep-o'-Day" in 1763 and 1764; by the "Right Boys" 1085 in 1786, and the "White Boys" in 1806 —all, according to Sir Matthew Barring-ton, might he traced to a similar origin. Allusion had been made to the unwillingness of the Irish peasantry to aid in the discovery of the perpetration of outrages, and Sir Michael Barrington attributed that unwillingness to an idea on the part of the peasantry that a disturbed and unsettled state of the country was the best security for the preservation of their wretched and precarious possessions. Upon the ground of abstract justice, and also for the safety of life and property there, it was desirable that the principle of compensation to a tenant for permanent improvements should be recognized. There was another authority to which he might refer upon this subject, Mr. Hancock, an agent for very extensive estates, a man remarkable for his intelligence and acquaintance with the circumstances of Ireland, was examined before the Devon Commission, and he was of opinion that tenant right was beneficial to the whole community—to the landlord, to the tenant, and to society at large. In the pamphlet which he had already referred to, Sir Matthew Barrington mentioned the circumstances of a district in Kerry called Glenbeigh, which had been transformed from an asylum for all the robbers and murderers of the country into a peaceful and orderly locality, which change was solely attributable to the attention, encouragement, and assistance which they had received from their landlord, Lord Headley. That was the case when leases were granted to tenants, who were thus made secure in their holdings, and induced to effect improvements, which otherwise they would have done only at the risk of immediate eviction or increased rent. It was, then, very desirable for all parties that this question should be settled, and although it was true that the agitation for tenant right was not now so strong as in 1852, yet the desire of the people of Ireland to obtain it was not at all abated. The Devon Commission had reported that the results which would follow the enactment of a tenant compensation law would be vastly beneficial. At present tenants could not be expected to effect improvements at the risk of being turned out of their holdings or mulcted in increased rate. Landlords might not be so bad as in the days of Swift, or even later, but the tenant's rights ought not to depend upon the chances of a good-natured landlord. If a measure were passed giving the tenant a right to compensation 1086 for all permanent improvements effected by him, it would, far from injuring the landlords, conduce to a regular payment of rent, and would stimulate the occupiers to greater exertions to increase the productive powers of the land. Having been a member of the India Committee, and of the Tenant Right Committee of 1853, he had been struck by the evidence given in the former, which proved that the condition of the Indian ryots, for whom so much commiseration had been expressed, was superior to that of the Irish peasant. The ryot was certain of his land as long as he duly paid the tax, and if he erected any buildings, or dug a well, or effected any improvement which increased the productive power of the land, he was not called upon to pay the tax upon the improved value. The Irish tenant, however, who made any improvement, ran the risk of being turned out of his holding, or required to pay rent for the improvement he had himself effected. Another point connected with this subject was the effect which the passing of a tenant-right measure would have in rendering the people of Ireland more independent in the discharge of their political rights. Many complaints had been made of the undue influence exercised by Roman Catholic and Presbyterian clergy upon their flocks, but that influence was necessary to counterbalance the undue influence exercised by landlords over their tenants. When the one ceased, the other would no longer prevail. Upon these grounds he should support the second reading, believing that a measure based upon the principle of this Bill would be a great benefit to Ireland and the empire generally. He desired finally to repeat that he declined to consider the detailed pro-visions of the Bill until the measure was in Committee, and by his vote he intended only to support the principle he had stated.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I am anxious to state at this period of the debate the course which I intend to pursue. As the vote I am about to give will differ from that of my right hon. and learned Friend who has just announced his intention of supporting the second reading of this Bill, I wish to explain the grounds upon which I shall take that course. My right hon. and learned Friend has said that this Bill is founded upon a principle to which all parties in this House have at various times assented—the principle that compensation shall, under certain circumstances, be granted for certain improve- 1087 merits made by tenants. But, Sir, it appears to me that my right hon. and learned Friend has misconceived and misunderstood the leading principle of the Bill which we are now asked to read a second time. The leading principle of this Bill is not the simple principle to which my right hon. and learned Friend has adverted, and to which I and others in this House have at different times agreed. The leading principle of this Bill is contained in the first clause, and it appears to me to be something the effect which has been described by the hon. Baronet opposite, to transfer the property of one set of persons to another and a different class. I must observe that the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the second reading of this Bill has entirely abstained from explaining to the House what are the principles which the provisions of his measure is intended to enforce. If my memory is accurate, when he obtained leave to introduce the Bill he did not then explain the elements it was to contain. Neither in the speech which he has made to-day, eloquent and stirring as it was, nor in the speech of the hon. Member who seconded the Motion— a speech which we all listened to with great admiration—a speech full of talent, full of matter calculated to impress the mind of the House, in neither of those speeches was there any description given of the particular provisions by which the hon. Mover intended to apply the principle of compensation to tenants for improvements effected by them. He dilated on other points, in respect to which it appears to me his arguments are not altogether consistent with each other. The hon. and learned Gentleman deprecated the amount of emigration which had taken place from Ireland, and which he described as the effusion of the life-blood of the country; but, on the other hand, he congratulated the House upon the increase which had taken place in late years in the size of the farms in that country. He showed us that the number of small farms had materially diminished, and that of larger holdings had increased. But, I ask, how could that advantageous change have been brought about except by emigration? It is obvious that, unless the holders of small farms disappeared in some way, either by emigration or by the more afflicting course of the calamity with which Ireland was visited, it would have been impossible to bring about a consolidation of farms. The hon. Member who seconded 1088 the Motion appeared to deprecate that influx of capital invested in land in Ireland which has been the result of sales under the Incumbered Estates Act, and he considered the effect of the Bill before us, if carried, would be to discourage that influx of capital, and would render people less desirous of purchasing estates and land in Ireland. I do not agree with the hon. Member in that conclusion, and it appears to me that the purchases of land which have been made, whether by English or Scotch, or to a still greater extent with Irish capital, have already led to a great improvement in the condition of Ireland, and must, by creating a class of small proprietors, tend to continue to load to progressive improvement and ultimate development of the resources of that country. Now, as to the principle of his Bill. There is one principle which I have always maintained to be a fundamental principle in regulating transactions between man and man—that those who have mutual relations should be left to deal with each other as they please, and that any law which tends to restrain the freedom of either party in their mutual transactions is most objectionable. At the same time I have always admitted, and am ready to admit again, that there may be and perhaps are in the condition of Ireland circumstances which render a departure from that principle advisable and expedient, but I have always maintained that such departure ought to be limited and regulated by provisions which should, as far as possible, prevent us from inflicting injustice upon any one. A retrospective enactment, which transfers from the landlord to the tenant that which by law has hitherto been the property of the former, which both parties know and have always known to be his property, an Act which does this is, I conceive, most unjust and ought not to be allowed. No improvement in any country can be founded upon injustice. The moment you depart from those truths upon which the security of property is based, depend upon it, however much you may be tempted by momentary or temporary considerations, you will inflict a fatal blow upon the interests of the country which you think you are serving. Now, that to which we agreed on a former occasion was, that there should be a prospective compensation, that that compensation should be limited to improvements which should be visible, tangible, and capable of distinct and clear valuation; that is to say, 1089 compensation should be limited to buildings, to roads, fences, and such things. There were other provisions connected with the arrangements regulating the mutual relations of landlord and tenant, which it is unnecessary now to mention; but the Bill which we assented to was so different from that which we are now called upon to read a second time, that I should despair, upon going into Committee upon this Bill, of the possibility of converting it into a measure to which I could feel myself at liberty to give my assent. To read a second time a Bill, the main and fundamental principle of which appears to me to he at variance with justice, would not, I think, be dealing with the forms of this House in a proper manner. I am unable to give my consent to the second reading of this Bill; but in voting against it, I do not intend to vote against the principle which my right hon. and learned Friend has contended for, and which he said would guide him in supporting the Bill. I am far from being disposed to say I would not assent, as I have on former occasions assented, to a Bill which, under proper regulations, should provide compensation for tenants in certain cases for certain improvements; but such a sweeping confiscation as the clauses of this Bill would bring about, such a sweeping transfer of property I cannot consent to, and therefore I think it would be trifling with the House, if I were to agree to the second reading of a Bill which I do not believe is capable of being converted into a measure consistent with justice and propriety.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
said, the right hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) had misconceived a statement he had made. He had not meant to say, that evictions were more common in England than in Ireland, but that tenancies at will were common in this country and evictions not uncommon, but that they did not excite so much feeling here as they did in Ireland.
said, that in reference to an allusion made by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, he wished to explain that he had not deprecated the introduction of capital into Ireland, but the perpetuation of a system which encouraged speculators to give exorbitant prices for land, which compelled them to rackrent the tenants under them in order to make a profit.
§ MR. HASSARD
said, he thought, when a measure was proposed which was so contrary to the principle of free trade, it was 1090 incumbent upon its mover to show either that great advantages would follow from its adoption, or that there were great grievances which it would remedy. Neither of those points had been proved. The public interests would not be served by the measure, for the occupying tenants of Ireland were too poor to effect permanent improvements, such as the erection of farm steadings and the drainage of land. The character of the holdings in Ireland might be judged by the following statistical facts taken from the Official Directory for l856. There were 30 per cent of tenants holding from five to fifteen acres; 23 per cent from fifteen to thirty acres; 20 per cent under five acres. In the aggregate there were 74 per cent of all the holdings in Ireland under thirty-eight acres. With those facts before them, he did not think that there was any great likelihood of a large expenditure of capital on the part of the occupier in the erection of buildings or other permanent improvements. So far, therefore, from any benefit arising from the passing of such a measure as this, he believed that it would inflict a positive injury upon the country, as it tended to induce the tenant farmers to lock up their available capital in improvements on their holdings, instead of investing it in stock and implements. Besides, the provisions of the Bill would lead to constant disputes between landlord and tenant. When labour was cheap, there was perhaps a reason why improvements should be carried on by the small holder. But labour was now scarce and highly paid, and therefore improvements could no longer be made by them. He did not deny that the tenant farmers of Ireland had suffered a good deal of hardship, but he thought by a very simple extension of the powers given to the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, by which the fund in their possession might be made available for improvements, the amount borrowed remaining as a burden on the land in the shape of an annuity, every desirable improvement might be carried out, while there would be no disturbance of the relations now existing between the owner and the occupier of the soil. If the tenant had to pay the interest for outlay, he would take care that it was profitable; while the landlord would see that it was done in a substantial manner, as he would ultimately have to pay for it. It might be said, that such a scheme would be frustrated by the landlord giving notice to quit to any tenant demanding an im- 1091 provement. In order to meet that, he thought that all tenants not declared to be otherwise by written contract, should be constituted by the provisions of an enactment, tenants for three, four, or five years, according as the House might fix.
§ MR. CAIRD
said, he should support the second reading. He did not think the rights of property would be endangered by the second reading of the bill, because in Committee hon. Members would have an opportunity of altering the present clauses or of introducing others that would prevent the possibility of such a circumstance happening. There were various kinds of property, and he considered the property of the tenant was as much entitled to protection as the property of the landlord. Land was comparatively valueless without the application of capital and labour, both of which were entitled to the respect and protection of the House. It had been said that a Bill for the protection of tenant-right in England could not be tolerated for a moment, but he begged to remind the House that there was in 1848 an agitation for tenant-right in England. A. Bill was brought in by Mr. Pusey, and a Select Committee inquired into the subject, and reported that the distinctions which were attempted to be drawn between certain improvements connected with land were not tenable. The great difference between the English and Irish farmer was this, that in the former country the landowner made the improvements, whilst in the latter it was thrown on the occupier. The argument drawn by the hon. Baronet from Mr. Pollok's eviction of his tenants having turned out beneficial to the district had no force against tenant-right, for in no case had Mr. Pollok evicted a tenant without giving him the most ample compensation for improvements. He contended also that the case of Mr. Pollok was an exceptional one, and formed no rule, for where was a capitalist to be found who carried out such vast improvements as he did? He would not enter into the question of confiscation of property, as that had been already fully and ably discussed, but he would ask the House to look at the question as it affected the population of the country. They often heard complaints of the difficulty of raising men for the public service; but he believed there could not be devised a more effective mode of procuring a noble race of men, from whom the public services might be recruited, than that of encouraging the system of small farms in Ireland. He was 1092 quite willing to admit that under some circumstances small holdings were not desirable, but it should be remembered that the soil of Ireland was much more fertile than that of England and Scotland. He had gone over hundreds of farms in Ireland, and he maintained that farmers there cultivating with their own labour and that of their families farms of from five to fifty acres of good fertile land were in a far more comfortable position than the peasant labourers of England and Scotland. If, instead of these small farms, they had extensive grazing farms, substituting perhaps one large grazier for 100 small farmers, they might get their rent better paid, but they could not, of course, expect to find the same amount of population ready for the service of the State when required. It might be thought that the amount of agricultural produce was lessened by the system of small farms, but this was disproved by statistical returns; while, with regard to pauperism, it was a singular fact that in England every twenty-second person was a pauper, in Scotland every thirtieth, and in Ireland every eightieth only. He contended, therefore, that on various grounds the small farm system in Ireland deserved the support of the House. While he supported the principle of the Bill, he had no doubt that there were faulty clauses in it; but these could be amended in Committee, and therefore he would most cordially vote for the second reading.
said, that he would not trespass upon the time of the House at any length, but he felt bound to offer a few remarks on this very important question. If he thought the proposal made by the hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan in the Bill now before the House was calculated to secure for the Irish tenant compensation for bonâ fide improvements without infringing on the rights of property he should be the first to give it his support; but he believed it would be found, on examination, that the Bill would not do the one while it would inevitably lead to the other; that it was doubtful whether it would really secure compensation to tenants, while it was clear that it would infringe most directly the sacred rights of property. Nothing had struck him more, in the course of the debate, than the curious way in which the various speakers who supported the Bill had carefully avoided explaining or even alluding to its details. The hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan made an excellent speech, 1093 and in an effective way entertained the House with his views of the position of the tenantry of Ireland. The hon. Member for Tipperary (The O'Donoghue) followed much in the same strain. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, the Member for Ennis (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald), traced the source of agrarian crime in Ireland to the unsatisfactory condition of the relations between landlord and tenant. But in making those statements they failed to prove that the provisions of the Bill would remedy any of the evils of which they complained. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite certainly went a little further than the speakers who preceded him, and attempted to compare the object and provisions of this Bill with certain Bills introduced by his distinguished friend the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland. But his comparison began and ended with the preamble. He never compared the principles, the provisions, or the details of the respective measures, and he failed to show that the objects of the Bills, or the mode in which they were to be carried out were at all similar. The attempts at legislation in former times on this question were not very encouraging. He found that almost every Government that existed of late years had tried their hands upon it. During the last twelve years, Bill after Bill had been introduced on the subject. A Bill was brought in in 1845 by Lord Stanley; in 1846 by Mr. Sharman Crawford; in the same year by Lord Lincoln; in 1847 by Mr. Sharman Crawford; in 1848 by Sir W. Somerville and Mr. Crawford; in 1849 by Mr. Pusey; in 1850 by Sir William Somerville and Mr. Crawford; in 1852 by Mr. Crawford; in 1852–53 by Mr. Napier, and one by Mr. Shee; in 1854 four Bills were introduced; in 1855 by Mr. Shee; in 1856–57 by Mr. G. H. Moore, and now, in 1858, there was the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan. This was enough, he thought, to show the difficulties with which legislation on the subject was beset. But he asked the House seriously to consider what really were the provisions of this present Bill; he was satisfied that, if they found it would infringe upon the rights of property, it would never receive their sanction, as he was also satisfied it was not desired by the great body of the Irish people. The first clause of the Bill provided that all improvements of the soil and all buildings, and works of every description, which were made at the cost of the tenant, or pur- 1094 chased or inherited by him from his predecessor, "shall be taken to be the property of such tenant." Here he was able to recognize an old familiar idea (once common in the north of Ireland, and maintained at public meetings by speakers of great ability), that the landlord had only a right to the value of the land as it originally existed in its wilderness state, and without any improvements upon it. This principle had been distinctly laid down, some few years ago, at many an assembly in the north of Ireland. It was embodied in one of Mr. Sharman Crawford's Bills; and he believed it to be recognised, to the fullest extent, in the first clause of the Bill now before the House. This shows the dangerous and sweeping nature of the measure; but, having laid down this principle, the clause proceeded to enact that no tenant having made any improvements and paying such rent as might have been agreed upon, shall be evicted without having received from the landlord or the incoming tenant the value of his improvements. Here they had the great principle on which the Bill rested. Clauses of a most objectionable nature follow. It was provided, for example, that on a tenant being served with a notice to quit, or notice of ejectment, or notice of increased rent, he might serve on his landlord a notice of his claim, and propose an arbitration; so that if a landlord wished to get quit of a tenant for nonpayment of rent or any other cause, the tenant was to be permitted to set up a claim for alleged improvements, made even 100 years back—to show that a fence, or a road, or a drain had been made by him or his predecessor, not by the landlord, and so demand compensation for them. But the Bill went further than that, because, by the 8th clause, it was provided that the tenant, if refused liberty to sell to a solvent tenant, might give notice of surrender, and obtain compensation. This clause deprived the landlord of the right to choose his own tenants. It put an end to the landlord's rights over the tenant, and gave the latter power to dispose of what was the landlord's if he could prove that the man with whom he wished to deal was a solvent man. The question of a man's solvency was a difficult one to determine, and he thought that the Bill, ingenious as it was, hardly provided sufficient machinery for so delicate an inquiry. Then, by the 9th clause it was enacted that, if a tenant was unsuccess- 1095 ful in his claim upon the landlord—if he failed before arbitrators, or a judge and jury, he was to have the opportunity of knocking down any of the buildings on the land, buildings belonging to the landlord, and leaving to his landlord a heap of ruins. [Mr. MAGUIRE: Read the whole clause.] The clause was as follows:—If any tenant shall have erected buildings on the premises in his occupation, and if such tenant shall have made claim, and compensation shall be refused by the landlord, or by the award of any arbitrators or by the decision of any court or jury on the grounds of the buildings not being suitable to the premises, it shall be lawful for the tenant to pull down and sell or carry away the materials of such buildings, and such tenant shall not be liable to any penalties or action for waste or dilapidation for his so doing, provided he leaves the premises in the same condition as before the erection of such buildings.He thought the words of the clause fully bore out the construction he had put upon it. He firmly believed that if they wished to inflict a curse upon the tenantry of Ireland they could not do it more effectually than by passing such a Bill as this. What would be the effect of this measure becoming law? Why, it would be answered by thousands of notices to quit from half the landlords of Ireland. His opinion was that the landlords of Ireland, many of whom were men of intelligence and capital, would become the farmers of their own land rather than submit to have their rights taken away from them in this manner; and his belief was that, the measure would lead to a greater dispossession of the tenantry of Ireland than had ever yet taken place. In discussing this question with a view to legislation, three great objects ought to be kept steadily in view. First, the Bill should be, in its operation, entirely prospective; secondly, such compensation should be offered to tenants as was proposed in the measure of the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland—that is, by extending the period over which the tenant's interest should run for such a period as to enable him to recover the capital he might have laid out, and thirdly that improvements should, generally speaking, be made with the consent of the landlord, and he should have an opportunity of making them himself if he thought fit. The great object should be to make the relations between landlord and tenant as much as possible a matter of contract, properly registered and accurately defined. By keeping in view these great principles, judicious legislation might be effected; but it would be 1096 impossible to do so by means of the Bill now before the House. But, though it might be possible to legislate in this spirit, he did not think that the state of Ireland at this moment was such as to call imperatively for legislation on this subject. There never was a time when there was greater competition for land. In that part of the country with which he was connected there was not a farm offered for which there were not twenty competitors, and the greater number of these men were able and willing to discharge all the duties of good tenants; and he was bound to say that land let by the year, fetched nearly as much as land let on lease, provided the owner was a man of good character in the country. He thought it was unfair to argue this question from isolated cases of hardship and oppression on the part of landlords. He did not pretend to say there were not among the landlords of Ireland men who acted harshly to their tenants. In all classes of society there were persons who laid themselves open to animadversion, and many of whose acts it was impossible to justify. If he chose he might take the other side of the question, and quote hundreds of instances in which tenants had been guilty of the greatest fraud and misconduct, and in which landlords had sustained great loss and damage from their tenants. But it was not fair to argue the question on such grounds. Should the present Bill pass into a law, what could the House do to those who had purchased land in the Incumbered Estates Courts? They, encouraged by the security which Parliament offered, bought land with all the improvements that had been made upon it; but the effect of this Bill would be to take away from these purchasers the value of all such improvements. It would be a direct breach of faith with those who had bought property under the In-cumbered Estates Court, to the value of £15,000,000, for the instant effect would be to take away half the value of those properties. He might point out many other objections to the measure; but he trusted he had said enough to show its injurious character. The present Government had shown no indisposition to listen to the just claims of the tenantry of Ireland. They had over and over again supported measures having for their object the securing to the tenants the money laid out in bona fide improvements; but they had always said that this object was best attained 1097 by endeavouring to make all matters between landlord and tenant, matters of contract, and that legislation should be principally entered upon with the object of making those contracts binding and secure. The measure before the House, however, contemplated nothing of the kind. It was a Bill which, if carried, would be destructive of the security of property on the one hand, and of the very existence of the tenantry on the other. It was a Bill which he could not believe many of its supporters could wish to see in its present shape carried into law, and it was a Bill which the British House of Commons would never entertain. He did not believe that there was a man in Ireland of sufficient intelligence to read and comprehend the Bill, who either desired or expected to see it carried. But he thought that the persons who submitted to the House of Commons such a proposal as this did injustice to their cause, and incurred a heavy responsibility by leading, the House and the country to form an erroneous opinion of the wants and wishes of the Irish people.
said, he should move the adjournment of the Debate, as there were many hon. Members who wished to address the House.
said, he hoped the House would come to a decision, or, at all events, that the hon. and learned Member would proceed to address the House till the usual hour of adjournment.
said, he could not do justice to the subject in the time that remained of the sitting (it was now a quarter past 5 o'clock), and therefore he should persist in his Motion for an adjournment. He trusted that the Government would be able to give him a day for the adjourned debate.
said, he was afraid he could not give the hon. and learned Member any assurance of the kind.
§ Debate adjourned till Wednesday 9th June.
§ The House adjourned at half after Five o'clock.