Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [14th April],
That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was, to leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'
§ Question again proposed, That the word "now," stand part of the Question.
§ Debate resumed.
MR. SERJEANT DEASY
said, that he could not disguise from himself that in the then state of public business and of the thermometer, the discussion was not likely to produce any practical result in the course of the present Session; but as the subject must come before them again, he would venture to state to the House his reasons in favour of the measure. The only question then before the House was whether they would affirm the principle of the Bill, and that principle he understood to be that when a tenant had, with the sanction of his landlord, by his own labour and capital effected permanent improvements, he should not be deprived of his holding without compensation for them. He admitted that the Bill contained exceptional legislation, and it was said that there ought to be no exceptional legislation; but in Ireland there were exceptional cases relating to the tenure of land, which made exceptional legislation necessary; and athough in the great majority of cases he believed the landlords of Ireland were disposed to be just and generous to their tenants, cases of abuse frequently arose out of the irresponsible power they possessed, which rendered the application of a remedy necessary. When he thus asked the House to adopt an exceptional measure of legislation for Ireland he was not without high authority for his application. In proof of it he would refer to the Report of the Devon Commission, which recommended a law to give compensation to tenants for their improvements. He 1803 had also the authority of the present Prime Minister, once an Irish Secretary, and who contrived to occupy his time very fully with the duties of his office, and who gave his consent to a Tenants' Compensation Bill under the Administration of Sir Robert Peel. Every Government since then had brought forward a measure adopting principles of the same kind with the present measure. He would refer especially to the Bill introduced by Mr. Napier, the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and could not but regret that the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman had not passed into a law. He would also quote the testimony of Mr. Simpson, a Scotch gentleman who had gone to Ireland opposed to the tenants' compensation; but after five years experience there he had become a convert to the system. He would also refer to the addresses of the Irish Members to their constituents. He did not intend to inflict upon the House a reflection of those speeches, though they were thought very interesting at the time; but he might state that with the exception of the Members for the city of Dublin, and perhaps the county, there was not an Irish Member or candidate who did not express his approbation of some sort of legislation which would carry into effect, at least, the principle of this measure. Surely, where the Irish Members and candidates were so unanimous, this House would pause, and be thoroughly convinced that this principle was erroneous before they refused to give their assent to it. The House had already given a second reading to another act of exceptional legislation in the case of the Sale and Transfer of Lands Bill. That was an exceptional measure to liberate the property of landlords; he asked them to adopt this other exceptional measure, which was intended to liberate the capital of tenants. But he need not refer to exceptional measures now before the House. There was an exceptional measure which had been in operation in Ireland for more than a century, known as the Timber Act, and which did give compensation to tenants for planting trees, the preamble running thus:—Whereas it is indifferent to the landlord whether a tenant abstains from planting trees, or obtains some species of profit from them.He really thought that some such preamble ought to be adopted as the preface to this Bill. But then it was said that such a measure was opposed to the principles of free trade, and that these measures ought 1804 to be left to the operation of contract. Well, but he did not propose to legislate against contracts; he only proposed to give the sanction of law to what was now only a moral obligation, and, as such, was frequently violated. Besides, it ought to be remembered that the tenants were a dependant class—that the land was limited; that the landlords few and the competition considerable; so that the landlords were able to command their own terms. In the case of the English Factory Acts the House had legislated, not only without regard to contracts, but they had prohibited contracts from being formed; and they did that under the impression that those parties were dependant. But he did not ask this measure only as a tenant's measure. The landlords themselves were deeply interested in the measure; for the injustice of the landlords had led to injustice on the part of the tenants. Illegal combinations were formed to meet oppressive evictions, and this was a danger that was likely to increase, and none were so likely to suffer as those landlords who refused to act justly towards their tenants; and hence many landlords had expressed to him their hope that some measure would be found which would afford a fair adjustment of the question. The times were exceedingly favourable for such an adjustment; times were good. The coffers of both landlords and tenant were tolerably full, and they were in a temper to have the question equitably settled. If they allowed another state of things to arise—if they waited till a period of disturbance should compel their attention—the difficulties would be materially increased. He would next come to the particular objections to the measure. It was said that it encroached on the property of landlords, and verged on the principle of confiscation. He did not believe it was open to this objection, though he was not responsible for its phrases, nor he believed was his hon. Friend (Mr. Maguire) who introduced it. He must say, that those who advocated a measure of this kind ought not to be insulted by not being allowed to prepare the Bill they were to support, and having a ready-made one thrust into their hands; but, dealing with the measure as he found it, he contended that it did not encroach on property, for it gave no claim to compensation, except for such improvements as added to the permanent value of the estate. However, if the language was not sufficiently precise it could be corrected in Committee, and was no objection 1805 to the principle of the Bill. After all, it did not carry compensation further than was proposed by the Bill of the last Government. He admitted that the Bill was open to the objection taken to it—that it gave compensation for retrospective improvements; but the same objection applied to every Bill that had been introduced since 1852, and he especially referred to the measure and the speech of the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who said that having maturely weighed the arguments for and against the principle, he had come to the conclusion that retrospective improvements ought to be allowed. In the same way the Bill of Mr. Serjeant Shee provided for retrospective compensation; and though that clause was excluded on a division the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton supported the clause. He was sorry the noble Lord had since seen reason to change his opinion. He now asked the House whether the present state of this question was creditable to the House and to the successive Governments of this country? For years past this House had again and again solemnly declared that the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland was unjust: was it creditable to them that that unjust law should still be maintained; or would they now, after raising the reasonable expectations of the people of Ireland, dash them to the ground, and say they would do nothing? Or would they not rather bring in a Bill of their own, do what was just, and then discourage all farther agitation on the subject? He hoped these considerations would have weight with the present Government, and that by the next Session at least they would be prepared to settle this question. He begged to say one word more upon the bearing of this question on the decline of the population; that population was decreasing, and he feared it would still decrease considerably. The time might come, if it had not come already, when they would regret that sheep and oxen had taken the place of men on the hills and in the valleys of Connaught and Munster. He referred to the remarkable speech of Lord Elgin at Glasgow, which spoke not only of the emigration of Irishmen to the United States, but to the bitter hostility against England with which that emigration was accompanied. He believed that the present state of the existing law had contributed powerfully not only to the emigration but to the hostility. Thousands of the people of Ireland had gone to America because they knew that in that country the fruits of their industry would be secured to their 1806 children. Believing that the Bill would be a step to establish a like security in Ireland, he should support the second reading.
§ MR. DOBBS
said, that on looking over the Bill he could not, acquainted as he was with the north of Ireland, avoid seeing the object of it. The object of it was clearly to bring within the control of the law a custom peculiar to the north of Ireland, and to extend that custom over the whole of Ireland. As neither this Bill nor any similar Bill could do that without interfering with the rights of property, and without transferring the property of one man to another, he felt it was his duty to give it his decided opposition. In the north of Ireland where the so-called tenant right prevailed, landlord and tenant generally lived on good terms. The former got a fair rent for his land, and the tenant was able to live comfortably, and provide for his family. Under such a state of things, when a tenant wished to part with his farm, there were generally a number of persons anxious to get it. Such was the competition that the tenant, though a mere tenant from year to year, generally got a considerable sum for his interest in the farm from the person who wished to get it. To such a transfer the consent of the landlord was necessary, who, out of the sum paid by the incoming tenant, received whatever arrear was due to him. The consent of the landlord was indispensable, and the incoming tenant must be a man of good character and solvency. The custom was beneficial to the landlord as well as to the tenant, and had prevailed in that part of Ireland for a very long time. The state of things would have gone on without any attempt to legislate with regard to it, if a phrase which had worked much mischief in Ireland had not been invented some twenty-five years ago. Some persons had invented the phrase of "tenant right"—a gross misnomer, for there was no such thing as tenant right. The custom to which he had referred to was not a right but a mere custom, and had arisen out of the goodwill that existed between landlord and tenant. The phrase tenant right had proved a mischievous one, because it led tenants to believe that there was a right in the case, while there was no such thing. That custom was directly pointed at in the 6th and 8th sections of the present Bill, and the object of the Bill was to legalise it and to extend it to other parts of Ireland. And bow was it sought to do this? By transferring the property of the landlord to the tenant. The Bill con- 1807 tained a recital that improvements on farms in Ireland were made by the tenant—a rather startling recital, inasmuch as it had no foundation in fact—and then proceeded to legalise the custom referred to in the recital. One of the clauses assumed that improvements were the property of the tenant, and then provided that no tenant who had made improvements should be evicted unless he first received compensation for them. [Mr. MAGUIRE: Read on.] And that no tenant should be entitled to make any demand for improvements unless increased value had been given by them to the farm. Within the last nine years property had been sold in the Incumbered Estates Court to the amount of £20,000,000, under the belief that the purchasers had obtained the fee simple of the property. Those purchasers would find that under such a clause as that to which he had referred, a tenant from year to year could not be dispossessed unless he first received the marketable value of his interest at a fair compensation for his improvements. He denied altogether the assertion of the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Bill would produce peace between landlord and tenant. There was litigation in every line of it, and the result of it would be to produce litigation between landlord and tenant. Every claim for compensation might go before an assistant barrister—if above £100, before a Judge of assize. He would suggest that this Bill and all of the same class should be withdrawn, as tending to increase the bad feeling between landlords and tenants. There were amendments of the law required which he would gladly sanction; but they might be made without infringing on the rights of property. There was no analogy between timber or emblements, and those improvements which were incapable of valuation. He had at heart the prosperity of Ireland as much as hon. Gentlemen opposite, but he differed from them completely on this question, and would strongly recommend that the Bill should be withdrawn.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, that, while giving the last speaker credit for good wishes towards his country, he must deny that he had given an accurate account of the state of things in the north of Ireland. When the hon. Member asserted that there was no right in the tenant to compensation for improvements, he presumed the hon. Member meant no legal right, for a customary right there certainly was. The case of purchasers under the Incumbent Estates Court had been referred to. The Bill, 1808 however, would not affect such cases as those of Mr. Pollok, who was one of the largest purchasers under that Court, who would never have to pay compensation for improvements, because he made all the improvements himself. The hon. Member did not seem aware of the custom in the other parts of Ireland than Ulster, and was astonished at a recital which declared that permanent improvements were made by the tenant. Did the hon. Member suppose that the houses of the tenants in other parts of Ireland were built by the landlords? In no other country in the world were the relations between the landlord and tenant the same as in Ireland. In England the permanent improvements were all made by the landlord, and had been so made for 100 or 200 years, while in Ireland it had not been possible for the landlords to find the requisite capital. All that he asked was, that the tenant who made landlord improvements should not be dispossessed without compensation. The civil law recognised such a right in the tenant, and he desired to see the principle of the feudal law modified by the principle of the civil law on that point. He believed that the effect of a law giving the tenant a claim to fair compensation for improvements would be to force landlords into making equitable agreements with their tenants. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, when he addressed the House, would inform them whether there was any country in the world in which the same system as to landlord and tenant prevailed as that which existed in all the provinces of Ireland, Ulster excepted. His firm belief was, that the passing of such a Bill as the present would lead at once to the investment of capital in the improvement of Ireland, and to a great development of its resources. Without the assistance of the Government, it would be impossible to pass the Bill. All that he asked was, that they would during the recess earnestly consider the question. If they took the question up and settled it, they would gain an amount of popularity which they could not acquire by any other measure they might propose.
§ MR. S. B. MILLER
, though he gave the hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan credit for sincerity in bringing forward the measure, nevertheless thought that it was one rather calculated to retard than to promote the true interests of the tenantry of Ireland. He was not opposed to the principle of compensation to tenants under certain circumstances, but he was opposed 1809 to the principle of compensation provided for in the Bill. A landlord selected his tenant because, among other reasons, he thought he would improve by his skill and labour the farm which he let to him; yet by this Bill the landlord would be bound to compensate the tenant for the labour he had expended on the farm. It also provided, that after the passing of the Bill all improvements made by the tenant, with or without consent of the landlord, were to be deemed the property of the tenant. He was at a loss to understand on what principle of justice a tenant could claim compensation for improvements made against the wish of his landlord. Was there anything in past legislation to justify such a principle as that? The Emblements Act had reference to improvements made with consent of the landlord; but this Bill had reference to improvements made by the tenant against the consent of the landlord. The litigation to which it would give rise would be endless. He was not opposed to all compensation to the tenant, but he was an advocate for the utmost freedom of contract between the tenant and the landlord. He would let them make their contracts as they might think fit, and then he would not allow those contracts to be disturbed by any parties. In the north of Ireland consent was the basis of the tenant right, and consent and contract should be the basis of any system of compensation. He could not, however, support any proposal for retrospective legislation upon that subject. He would merely provide that tenants should have the means of entering into arrangements with their landlords for prospective improvements; and he was sure that a measure framed for that purpose would meet the concurrence of the House generally, and would be productive of great advantage to Ireland. On the other hand, if the House passed any measure such as this they could not take a more fatal step to the interests of the tenants of Ireland. It would lead to a system of extermination and to endless litigation.
§ MR. WALDRON
supported the Bill. There was only one case in which the tenant would have the power of putting the machinery of the Act into operation, and that was when the landlord sought to obtain possession of his property by ejectment. He thought that when that step was about to be carried out the tenant was entitled to compensation for the improvements which he had effected. If the tenantry of Ireland were protected to the 1810 extent that they were in England and other countries he had no doubt that they would be very well contented with their station. He denied that the question was entirely an Irish one: it was one which deeply affected the interests of the empire. It appeared by the returns of the Emigration Commissioners that from 1841 to 1854, no less than 200,000 of people had emigrated from Ireland. In 1855, 78,000 persons emigrated; and in 1856, 71,724. Surely the departure of such an immense number of persons from Ireland must have an effect upon the material wealth of the country which their labour and industry were calculated to support. He contended that if that emigration had not taken place the Chancellor of the Exchequer, instead of having a deficiency, might have had a surplus at this moment to deal with. This Exodus he attributed in no small degree to the want of such a measure as this. He appealed to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Attorney General, to assist them in carrying this measure, the principle of which had been admitted by the noble Lord at the head of the Government.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, the merits of the question had been already so well stated that he would not have trespassed on the House had it not been that he was returned by a constituency that had made great exertions and greater sacrifices than any other for the cause of tenant right, while his colleague had expressed himself adverse to the measure. He would fully corroborate the statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire), that the question was one which interested every man in Ireland, no matter what his occupation might be. Interested in commerce himself, and representing those who derived their prosperity from commercial and trading pursuits, he said, without hesitation, that they were as deeply interested in the question as those who were directly engaged in land. It required no laboured proof to show that if the farmer and land-occupier suffered, the merchant and manufacturer suffered also; and that if trade and commerce languished the produce of the soil was depreciated with them. England derived the greatest advantages as well from the superabundant produce of Ireland, as from the development of the prosperity of the country itself; and it was therefore of Imperial interest that the productiveness of Ireland should be developed to the uttermost. But was that so? The latest returns showed that the value of the 1811 agricultural produce of Ireland amounted to £20,000,000 a year; but all authorities coincided in saying, that with proper cultivation this might easily be doubled. And why were not these additional capabilities developed? The answer was simple—because the landlord had not the power and the tenant had not the motive, and the consequence is that this enormous wealth—this £20,000,000 a year—lies buried beneath the soil, of use to no man, feeding no man, paying neither rent nor taxes, and there it will remain until the day of final doom, unless you secure to the man whose skill, industry, and capital can alone bring forth this new wealth an interest in it. The hon. and learned Member for Carrickfergus (Mr. Dobbs) has stated that the effect of the present Bill would be to transfer the property of the landlord to the tenant; and that if it were in operation the former could not, under any circumstances, derive advantage from any improvement which might take place in the times, or in the value of land. I will ask the hon. Member to consider for a moment, what is the effect of the existing law on landlord and tenant, and to compare it with the probable effects of one which would secure to the occupier the value of his improvements. The present law invests the landlord with the whole property of the soil, on the expiration of the period of tenantcy, no matter how much the tenant may have increased the value of the land. And what is the result? Except, in rare instances, the tenant fears to expend his labour or capital in permanent improvements, lest he should be turned out, or his rent increased on the termination of his lease; and, consequently, he tries to draw the utmost amount of produce from the soil, with the smallest expenditure of labour and capital; he has no motive for draining, fencing, subsoiling, manuring or building. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Deasy) has ably pointed out the difference between the English tenant and the Irish tenant. In England, the landlord makes the greater portion of the permanent improvements, in the way of building, draining, and fencing, and the tenant has only to till the soil. In Ireland, on the contrary, the tenant has to do all this, or they remain undone; and, consequently, what is saved from the capital and labour of the English tenant, is robbed from the Irish one, and becomes unjustly vested in his landlord. The Irish tenant, therefore, improves only for his own time; and as the expiration of his lease approaches, he ceases all improve- 1812 ments, and, by over-cropping, impoverishes the land to such a degree that it takes years of expensive cultivation to restore its productive powers. And who benefits by this? Not the tenant; for he drags on a miserable existence, paying the rent of twenty acres, whilst he only raises the proper produce of ten; and, in seasons of dearth, not being able to make any reserve, he is unable to pay any rent at all; and, in place of being a valuable member of society, becomes a burthen on it. And how fares it with the landlord?—he receives rent whilst harvests are abundant and prices good; but, let a reverse come, and he gets nothing; and if he takes possession of his land, he finds it in a state of comparative barrenness, and has to let it, probably at a reduced rent, to some new adventurer, who, by the existing laws, is obliged to follow in the course of his unfortunate predecessor. And what is the effect on society, and on the empire at large, by the state of things I have feebly attempted to describe? Let the records of the Incumbered Estates Court tell of the ruin of the landlord; and the well-filled workhouse, the emigrant ship, the churchyard, and I may add, with sad truth, the prison, the convict-ship, and even the gallows, bear their sad testimony of the effect of your Land Laws on the poor peasant, whilst the diminished demand for manufacturers at one of your best markets must convince the English merchant, in the manner which he can best understand, that the well-being or otherwise of Ireland is a matter of considerable importance to him; whilst the increasing difficulty which the Government meets with, in finding those stalworth forms, with which your armies were once so easily recruited, must at least convince your Minister at War, and your generals, that there must be something wrong in the policy which compels them, in time of greatest need, to hire foreign mercenaries in their stead to fight your battles, whilst the flower of the land, that was once, and might be still, your best recruiting ground, are forced to seek the shores of a distant, perhaps a hostile land, adding to its strength, and bearing with them, in their heart's deeply-embittered feelings, against the laws and the Government which drove them from the land that an Irishman loves so well, and which may yet lead to be repeated again by a future British Monarch, what was once wrung from a former one, when Irish valour and Irish vengeance, for oppressive laws, turned the tide of victory, for once, against the 1813 British Arms at Fontenoy—"Cursed are the laws which deprive me of such subjects." Let not the present period of abundant harvests and high prices blind us to the fact, that the cycle is revolving, and that blight and bad harvests may come again, and with them their attendant train of miseries to all. But let us, on the contrary, encourage the agriculturist to expend his capital and skill on the soil—convince him that he shall receive the benefit of his investment, and, my life on it, in seven years you will have the produce of the country increased by ten millions; and even if such another visitation, as devastated Ireland in 1847 and 1848, should come, the landowners will not be driven to the same dreadful straits, and the people will have enough in reserve to save you the reproach of having the inhabitants of the country—that ought to be the brightest jewel in the British Crown—become, again, a burthen to themselves, a hideous deformity to humanity, and beggars to the whole world. They only asked that the Bill should be allowed to go into Committee, when the details could be discussed, and what was really objectionable struck out. No one denied the necessity for legislation on this question—the ablest statesman of the most opposite politics had admitted it—the Devon Commission insisted on it—the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland—the Attorney General of Lord Derby's first Administration—had introduced Bills upon it. No result had followed; and, if his hon. Friends had not brought forward any Bills, but had merely asked the Government to provide a remedy for an admitted evil, would it not be clearly their duty to do so? If the question were likely to suffer in the present hands, were not Her Majesty's Government bound to take it up themselves, and to facilitate the development of the resources of an important portion of the empire? The title of this Bill was erroneous. It was not a Bill for scuring tenant right, but for the security of property. Give to the poorer classes of Irishmen a vested interest in the homes they have created and the land they have reclaimed from the wilderness, and you will secure to yourselves the best customers for your manufactures, the best supplies for your markets, rendering you independent of foreign markets; and the brain and bone and sinew and capital, which are now carried to more propitious shores, will be devoted to the soil to which they naturally belong, adding to the wealth 1814 and power of this great empire, strengthening the authority of the Government, and advancing the happiness and prosperity of the subject.
§ MR. BRADY
said, he trusted that an attempt would not be made to render the discussion upon this Bill, which was purely of a social nature, a party matter, as it appeared to be made by the speeches of hon. Members who represented the north of Ireland and those from the other divisions. He could not but express his surprise that the hon. and learned Member for Armagh (Mr. S. Miller) should assert that the Bill would retard progress in Ireland, especially when he remembered that the present Lord Chanceller of Ireland, when a Member of that House, had himself recognized the importance of some legislation upon the subject by introducing a Bill with regard to it. Its importance had, indeed, been admitted by all the most eminent statesmen on both sides of the House, and he found that so long ago as 1847, Her most Gracious Majesty in her Speech from the Throne was advised to say:—I recommend to the consideration of Parliament measures which, with a due regard to the rights of property, may advance the social condition of the people, and tend to the permanent improvement of that part of the United Kingdom.That paragraph in the Speech of Her Majesty clearly indicated an opinion on the part of her then advisers that the social condition of the people had been retarded by the state of the laws for regulating the relations between landlord and tenant. Such as those laws had been, however, in 1847 they were still, for not one measure had been passed since for placing those relations upon a more satisfactory footing. All the agricultural improvements in Ireland during the last 100 years had been effected by the industry and capital of the tenants. The landlords had made no improvements whatever. The value of land in Ireland had been almost tripled within a comparatively short period by the tenants. In fact, no country had ever, under similar circumstances, made such improvement. In England agricultural improvements were the result of the conjoint operation of landlords and tenants. It was therefore evident that the tenantry of Ireland had been much calumniated by those who asserted that they were indolent and unenterprising, If this Bill, which would protect Irish tenants from the rapacity of their landlords, were passed, Irish tenants would prove by their agricultural improvements that they were 1815 quite as alive to their own interests as the tenants of any other country not oppressed by the evils of Irish landlordism. He hoped that Her Majesty's Government would endeavour to make a final and satisfactory settlement of this question.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he should give his vote for the second reading; but at the same time there were many details in the measure to which he could not agree. In so far as it was a tenant's compensation Bill he should support it. Though much that was visionary and impracticable had gathered round the question of tenant right, yet there was no doubt that the relations between landlords and tenants in Ireland were very different to the relations which subsisted between the same parties in England; and if they attempted to apply the same laws to Ireland in this respect as were applied to England, they would fail. There was a strong claim on the part of tenants in Ireland to compensation for improvements. For many years the landlords of Ireland had allowed the tenants to expend their capital in improvements which would remain on the land long after they were gone; and the question was, if a natural and equitable claim, which they undoubtedly had, could not be made a legal one. No retrospective improvement so limited by law, as was proposed, could cover the amount paid on the estates with which he was connected. He thought, therefore, that the claim made by the tenants was a most equitable one. With respect to the future, the proper course was to give to the landlord every possible facility for making these improvements himself, and of charging his successor; but in case he failed to do so, to give the tenants the power of making them, and charging the landlord.
§ LORD FRANCIS CONYNGHAM
said, he could not let that opportunity pass without identifying himself thoroughly with the case of the Irish tenant. He felt strongly on the measure, and believed it to be his duty to testify to the strong feeling entertained by him on that subject. The question had been often debated, and he therefore would not further detain the House than by stating that he would warmly support the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Dungarvan.
§ MR. KIRK
said, that no doubt in former times great improvements were made in Ulster, but he regretted that of late things had not gone on so well as previously, many evictions having taken place. He 1816 thought that they ought not to interfere with the custom and tenure of the land, but that they should give to those tenants who were evicted the fair compensation to which they were entitled for the improvements which they had made—of course not at their cost, but at their prospective value. Everybody who went to Ireland was struck with the wretched hovels in which the peasantry lived; but the reason was plain. What security was there if a tenant built a good house, that he should remain long in it? No leases were granted, which would account for the deterioration of the farmhouses. Not only in a political but in a social point of view, something ought to be done to secure to the tenants the value of the improvements they made. It was said that there was a great oppression on the part of the landlords. He did not wish to say anything against the landlords as a class, but there could be no doubt that a great many tenants were evicted from political motives. Indeed, some of those cases had been so gross that they had formed the subject of inquiry before the assistant barrister. He did not believe that this state of things would be changed by any Reform Bill, because landlords would always exercise an influence over their tenantry. He was only anxious that tenants making bonâ fide improvements should be compensated; and he could not help thinking that the 14th clause of the Bill of 1853 contained all that was necessary to promote peace and comfort in Ireland as well to the landlord as to the tenant. He certainly thought that the landlords should at all times be allowed to consolidate farms; but when tenants were evicted for that or any other purpose, they ought to be compensated for their improvements. On those grounds he supported the second reading of the Bill, which to a great extent must be held to be a solution of the difficulty.
§ MR. BLAND
said, that in answer to the hon. Member for Carrickfergus (Mr. Dobbs), he must say that this was no transfer of property from the landlord to the tenant, but that the law as it now stood was a transfer of the just rights of the tenant to the landlord. The hon. Member for Armagh had objected to the retrospective action of the Bill; but the hon. Member would recollect that that principle was introduced by the Lord Chancellor for Ireland, who was well acquainted with the people and its laws. He should recollect also that the Game (Ireland) Bill, now on 1817 the table of the House, had a retrospective effect to the disadvantage of the tenant. The hon. Member for Carrickfergus therefore objected to the retrospective effect of a Bill when it was to the disadvantage of the landlord only, not when it was to the disadvantage of the tenant. This measure was not required for good landlords. All legislation was to correct what was bad in mankind, and it was for the purpose of checking the minority of landlords in Ireland—those who were harsh and oppressive—that this law was required. He asked the Attorney General for Ireland to consider the necessity of dealing with this question in a fair and liberal spirit, and to allow this Bill to be read a second time. His hon. Friend would not be able, probably, to go beyond the second reading this Session; but he thought it ought, at all events, to pass that stage.
§ MR. COGAN
bore testimony to the fact that the interest of the people of Ireland in the question was not in the least abated; and it would redound to the credit of the Government and the happiness of the people of Ireland if a satisfactory settlement could be arrived at. He feared, however, that the present Government was as much disposed as the last to trifle with the question. He thought that question might be settled in a reasonable and moderate manner. The claim of the tenants for unexhausted improvements was, he thought, one to which the House might accede; the unsettled state of this question was a great evil, as it paralysed enterprise and prevented the devolpment of the resources of the country; and this Bill would not interfere with the just rights of a good landlord; it would merely prevent injustice on the part of a bad one. Having confessed that evils existed, it was the duty of the Government to take up this question, which be admitted could not be settled by a measure introduced by a private Member.
§ MR. BOWYER
desired to make a few remarks on the principle of this Bill, viewing it as a principle of jurisprudence. It was said that the principle of the Bill was subversive of the rights of property, tending to socialism, and, in fact, transferring the property of the landlord to the tenant; and it had been argued that the very principle of tenant right was opposed to the principles of the civil law. But this was by no means the case. According to a passage in the Institutes of Gaius, it was a principle of the civil law that the owner of the soil could not claim the benefit of 1818 erections made bonâ fide on his land, without paying the tenant who had built them a reasonable compensation for the labour and expense of such erections. But it was said, especially with regard to the retroactive part of the Bill, that it gave to one man what belonged to another. There were, however, in the legislation of the country, precedents of legislation which might be described in the same way. In the first place, he might refer to what were called Estate Bills, which gave the tenant for-life, not previously possessing it, the power to lease for periods extending beyond his own life, and thus of dealing with the interest of the remainder-man, and virtually diminishing that interest. By the 11 & 12 Vict., c. 36 (the Scotch Entail Act), that House had dealt with the absolute and unbarrable entails which previously existed in Scotland. Finding that such entails were injurious to the public, and that it was desirable to give a power of alienation, Parliament, by the Act to which he referred, gave the present holder of the estate, with the assent of the three next remainder-men-in-tail, power to bar the entail and sell the estate, thus enabling those four persons to alienate the interests of all the remainder-men-in-tail beyond. That took legal rights from one set of men and gave them to another. That was a sufficient authority for saying that Parliament might take away the rights of one man and confer them upon another without manifesting a tendency to socialism or invading the rights of property. The greatest writers on this subject differed as to whether the rights of property depended on natural or municipal law. Let him suppose that private property was the creature of municipal law. That law must be varied according to the exigencies of society; and therefore, if modifications of the rights of property were required by the exigencies of society, that was a sufficient justification for the Legislature to carry them into effect. But suppose the right to private property was founded on natural law, then, if it were shown that the municipal law of a country was not in accordance with natural law, that was a sufficient ground for the Legislature to alter the municipal law so as to make it accordant with the natural law, and no change of the rights of individuals effected in making such a change could be called confiscation. Now, he thought it was one of the clearest rights of property that the house built by the tenant upon the land, or the improve- 1819 ments effected there by him, should belong to him. The landlord had a right to have his property, but he had no right to have back more than his property, to the wrong and disherison of the tenant, who had a clear right to the results of his own toil and expense. The principles of natural law were, therefore, in accordance with those of this Bill—compensation to the tenant for the additions he had made to the annual value of the land; nor could he see that a measure which had for its object to make the municipal law in accordance with the natural law could be called a violation of the laws or rights of property.
said, that he should support anything like reasonable compensation to the tenant, but thought it rather a matter for arbitration than legislation.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, that he conceived it to be his duty, as representing a constituency which especially elected him on the ground of his being the advocate of the Irish tenant, to rise in his place and aver that the wishes of the large mass of the people upon this question were fixed and unalterable. Some few weeks ago there was a question before the House relating to the talookdars of Oude. Then, indeed, the Ministerial benches were crowded; but now, when the question arose as to the talookdars of Ireland, no interest seemed to exist upon the Ministerial bench, its only occupying tenant being the right hon. Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside). This might appear right to some hon. Gentlemen, but he (Mr. O'Brien) must confess that it astounded him to observe that the affairs of men separated from that country by some 10,000 miles excited more interest, attracted more attention, than those "mere Irish" who were on that day disregarded by Her Majesty's Government? It was said that a dissolution was imminent. Well, let it come. In England they would have a reform test, which must prove gratifying to English country gentlemen. Instead of opposing Whigs, they would have to contend with what he called a Liberal, but perhaps they a revolutionary party. Well, but in Ireland what would be the cry?—the cry of protection to the tenant. They on the Ministerial benches might imagine it had died out; but on the hustings would be indicated the falsity of that opinion. For his own part, despite of any unpopularity that might arise from the declaration, he was there to declare that he would be glad to support any measure tending in this 1820 direction. He was a young man, and, however anxious to continue a Member of that House, he trusted he was sufficiently devoid of selfish feeling to sacrifice his own prosperity to the interests of those tenants who had sent him to Parliament. Before he sat down he would appeal to the Attorney General for Ireland to make an explicit statement as to the intentions of the Government upon this great and vital question.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, that although this question had been so often discussed, and always without arriving at any practical result, yet the fact that so many Members from Ireland had joined in the discussion demanded from him the most serious and respectful attention. It must have been remarked that most of those who had addressed the House in support of this measure had in their speeches dropped almost entirely any reference to this particular Bill, and had confined themselves, he thought wisely, to the advocacy of general principles, which had, however, little reference to this measure. This Bill was termed a Bill for the compensation of tenant farmers, but it had been generally discussed as if it were one to secure tenant right. As reference had been made to the Devon Commission, it behoved the House to consider what that Commission really was. Sir Robert Peel appointed that Commission at a moment when Ireland was in a condition different from which it happily was at present. It had taken a great mass of evidence, and had condensed its substance into a Report, which he had before him. Had any hon. Gentleman shown that the recommendations of that Commission supported this Bill, or that the recommendations which the Commissioners really made had been slighted by successive Governments, or that the state of the tenantry in Ireland was worse now than then? The greater number of the recommendations of that Commission had, in point of fact, been carried into effect. Acts had, for instance, been passed, as they suggested, enabling estates held on renewable leases to be converted into freeholds, and giving a tenant for life power to charge the land for certain improvements; and although they entered into a statement of their views with respect to the compensation to be given to tenants in Ireland for improvements, he could assure the House that there was nothing in the Report to warrant the statement that the Devon Commission sanctioned the principle of a retrospective 1821 compensation. They recommended the establishment of a system of agricultural instruction throughout the country, which they believed would be of the most signal advantage. He denied the assertion often made that the tenant laboured under the same evils now as he did at that time. It had been asked whether it was just that the tenant should lose all right to compensation for buildings erected on or for other improvements done to the farm at his own expense and labour? Hon. Members, however, appeared to forget that by the Act of 1851, which was one to improve the relations existing between landlord and tenant, and had special reference to tenant's fixtures, any tenant erecting any farm building, from the time of the passing of that Act, with the knowledge and consent of his landlord, such erections were to be deemed the property of the tenant, subject only to this condition, that the landlord shall have the right of pre-emption, the subject to be assessed by impartial referees. Therefore, the assertion that the landlord might take those erections from his tenant and appropriate them to his own use was not founded in fact. It was said that Irish landlords were prevented from granting leases to improving tenants, and that small portions of estates could not be sold. Now, a Bill of a very important character having reference to these subjects had been submitted to the House when the present Government were in office in 1852. It was called the Leasing Powers Bill. That measure proposed to give a power to the landlords which they did not heretofore possess to make leases or contracts with their tenants after certain improvements had been made by the latter; but the popular party from Ireland, as they were called, resisted the passing of that measure and it was rejected. Now, he was of opinion that for a good improving tenant no lease could be too long. He also concurred with certain hon. Gentlemen opposite in thinking that the present position of landlord and tenant in Ireland was indefensible from its great complexity. The Bill that had been introduced by his right hon. Friend the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, for the purpose of consolidating and amending the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland, cost a great deal of labour, time, and money. Well, that Bill was likewise refused by the Gentlemen from Ireland, although it had gone up to the other House, and had been revised by a Committee of the House of 1822 Lords. The hon. Members composing this co-called popular party, said, "No, we will not have that Bill, nor the Leasing Bowers Bill, nor the measure enabling landlords to make new contracts with their tenants, unless you agree that our Bill, called the Tenant Right Bill, shall also pass into a law." The last-named Bill was consequently retained in order to furnish political capital to certain orators on the hustings. That same subject was discussed in relation to England, and he believed the right hon. Gentleman the Speaker had sat upon Mr. Pusey's Committee to inquire into it. Much useful information was collected by that same Committee. He had before him the valuable Report of that Committee, and he found amongst other things discussed, was the practice that was said to prevail in parts of the country by which the compensation agreed to be given by the landlord to the outgoing tenant was actually paid by the incoming tenant. That same custom existed in Ulster, and as he was a Conservative he should not be disposed to meddle with it. The Committee in their Report having stated the principle now voluntarily acted upon, proceeded to observe that any attempt to establish that principle by a general compulsory provision would be attended with the greatest difficulty; they thought it, therefore, better to rely for the general adoption of the system upon the general arrangements that existed between landlord and tenant. The Report recommended the distinction in the law between trade fixtures and agricultural implements and improvements to be entirely removed, and such distinction had been removed accordingly. Now, he did not think that that Report was to be disregarded in the present case. A witness, in reply to questions as to the effects produced by the practice of the incoming tenant paying to the outgoing tenant the amount of compensation due by the landlord to the latter, stated that beside encouraging imposition between the outgoing and the incoming tenant, it tended to prevent good cultivation, because it locked up the capital which the tenant should invest in the cultivation of the land; and that the landlords frequently bought up the compensation on that account. That witness was manifestly opposed to the very principle that existed in Ulster, and which was lauded by so many persons. There were two other witnesses examined, who showed themselves thorough champions of the tenant-right principle to its fullest extent. One of them 1823 was asked by his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire whether, if an improving tenant engaged a farm at 20s. per acre which rose in value from £6,000 to £12,000 by the expiration of his term, the outgoing tenant ought to receive the whole of the improved value. "Yes," replied the witness, "the outgoing tenant ought to get the whole £6,000, and the landlord nothing but his original 20s. per acre, because he had done nothing to increase the value of the estate." Here was an example of the working out of this problem in England, and the report and evidence to which he had referred clearly proved the extreme difficulty of dealing with this question in the manner which hon. Gentlemen now proposed. Several hon. Members had adverted to what had been said and done in 1852 by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Napier), the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Now, he thought that his right hon. Friend might very fairly be allowed to speak for himself upon this subject. It was never proposed or contemplated to make the landlord liable to any money payments, in consideration of former improvements made by the tenant upon his farm, the landlord having never been consulted in relation to them. His right hon. Friend said, that as he had confined himself to the class of improvements specified under the Lands Improvement Act, improvements carried out by means of loans of public money, he thought that where the tenant made such improvements he should be secured in the possession of his farm for a compensating period of time. That principle was provided for by the Bill of his right hon. Friend, and he (Mr. Whiteside) could not help thinking that those who resisted the passing of that measure could now only with a very bad grace rely upon its principle. There were four descriptions of improvements provided for by the Bill of his right hon. Friend; first, new buildings or the enlargement of existing buildings for agricultural purposes; second, the reclamation of bog or waste land; third, the clearing away of rocks or stones; and lastly, boundary roads or fences. Drainage works were also originally included, but were afterwards abandoned. These improvements were to have been compensated by "compensation periods." In turning to the 14th section of the Amended Bill, he saw the same principle substantially recognized and provided for. The question thus remained unsettled up to the present time. He asked the 1824 House now to consider how the arguments they had heard so forcibly urged could be maintained in the face of the alteration that had been effected by the agency of the Incumbered Estates Court. It appeared that £20,000,000 of property had changed hands by means of that Court. The modus operandi of the sales was this: The tenants all received notice of the fact of a sale being about to take place, and each was called upon to state the nature of his claims, whether they were founded upon a lease or a contract. Any objection made by the tenant was entered in a particular book. The Commissioner heard the case, and pronounced his opinion upon it. The rental was settled, and the purchaser purchased his estate upon the faith of that rental, and upon that understanding every other question was settled. The great advantage of the system was not only in the certain amount of the rental itself, and in the Parliamentary title, which was indefeasible, but in the fact that with that rental there was a complete settlement of every disputable matter between the tenants and the incoming landlord. He would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Attorney General, if he were present, whether he would venture to say that that principle upon which so many purchasers had acquired their property in Ireland could now be departed from, and whether hon. Members could be so inequitable, so imprudent or unstatesmanlike as to put their hands to any measure which would have the effect of unsettling or disturbing that settlement made under solemn Act of Parliament? There was at present a rental of £200,000 a year in the Court for sale under the operation of the law. Purchasers were now paying for property in some counties in Ireland as high as thirty-four years' purchase, although for the same property a few years ago, twelve or fifteen years' purchase would have been considered a large price. Now, if it were at all surmised by the purchasers that it was contemplated by Parliament to enact a measure which would empower an inquiry to be made into all cases of disputed claims in respect to past improvements effected by tenants, the value of such property would drop down at once ten or fifteen years' purchase, to the serious injury of both landlords and tenants. The hon. and gallant Member for Westmeath (Colonel Greville), it was reported, had paid a very large sum the other day for the transfer of a certain property he had 1825 purchased in the Incumbered Estates Court. He (Mr. Whiteside) would ask him, how he would relish the operation of a law which would call into existence perhaps some hundreds of cases of arbitration regarding claims for improvements, not only effected by his present tenants, but by their grandfathers and great-grandfathers, and that the value of those compensations should be added to the purchase money which he had already paid? Under the Bill which he had had the good fortune to submit to the House lately, not only the owners of incumbered estates, but also the owners of unincumbered estates, would have the right of conferring a sound Parliamentary title upon the purchasers of any portion of their property. When he was lately in Ulster, he asked a banker there what he thought of the general state of the tenants at that time. That gentleman answered him by saying, that a few years ago the man whose bill he would not discount for £10, he would now be glad to accommodate by discounting his bill for £100. Well, but that was in Ulster, a part of Ireland that was to be shut out from the operation of this Bill. He asked hon. Members in solemn seriousness, whether it was worth their while to enact the measure for the remaining portion of the country, when it was obvious that the effect of it would be to invalidate every title that had been already given under the Incumbered Estates Court, and would shake the confidence of all those who were inclined to invest money in the purchase of land in Ireland? A Scotch gentleman delivered an able lecture on last Friday, in the rooms of the Dublin Society, upon the value of property in Ireland, in the course of which he did him (Mr. Whiteside) the honour of referring in complimentary terms to his Bill relating to the transfer of land in that country. Although the lecturer observed that the land of Ireland had increased tremendously in value of late years, it was still only about half the price in was in England or Scotland, and he strongly recommended others of his countrymen to go over at once to Ireland and purchase property there, that the country generally was most prosperous, the landlords received high rents, and the tenants were enabled to pay high wages for their labour; but he said they need not go to Ulster where they could not buy cheap. Now, while upon this subject, he (Mr. Whiteside) could not avoid observing that not one word had been said throughout this 1826 discussion on behalf of the poor labouring man. The gentleman in his lecture described the country as tranquil and the people civil, courteous, and industrious; and he said that the new proprietors paid much better wages to the labourers than they had formerly received, and that nothing gratified an Irishman more than to have a plough and a pair of horses put under his charge, with good wages. He (Mr. Whiteside) asked whether it would be advisable to risk such a happy state of things, and to disturb the settlement of the Parliamentary titles by such a measure as this? He considered that this Bill was one which no one could carry out practically. In clause 1, it was declared that all buildings and other improvements made at the cost or labour of the tenant, or had been purchased or inherited by the tenant from his predecessor, should be taken to be the property of the tenant. There was here no limitation whatever as to time, nor no exception made in regard to the purchasers under the Incumbered Estates Court. Why, it would be utterly impossible to carry out such a law—it was most unjust and mischievous. Its principle was totally opposed to that which had been proposed by the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Even if it were possible to carry out such a principle, the machinery proposed in the Bill, if put in operation, would prove most mischievous to the tenant himself. Moreover, many of the south parts of Ireland were not in the state represented. In the south of Ireland there was lately sold the Thomond estate; and he was told that on the occasion of the sale, many of the sturdy tenants with their short coats appeared in Court, and purchased a considerable portion of the property with their own moneys, honestly earned, and saved carefully and judiciously for the sunny day when they could purchase the fee simple of their own farms. Now, that fact proved that there was more money in Ireland than they at first supposed. Well, but hon. Gentlemen might ask him as to his intentions for the future as regarded this subject. The question was easily asked by gentlemen who first framed a Bill to suit their own purposes very well when standing upon the hustings. If they presented a Bill, carefully framed, which did not attempt to recognise the retrospective principle, but which would provide for the voluntary agreement between landlord and tenant, then he should say he would be happy to consider such a measure, and if 1827 possible to assist in carrying it into a law. He was of opinion that the law should be consolidated. He concurred with hon. Gentlemen opposite in thinking that the landlord should have the power of making leases to his tenants under all circumstances. If, too, they could point out any mode practically by which full justice should be done to the tenant without infringing upon the legitimate rights of the landlord, any such measure that would remove the disabilities that at present existed, and that would enable the parties to make and conclude contracts together, he (Mr.Whiteside) should be happy to concur in its adoption; but if they asked him to assent to a Bill involving the retrospective principle, it would be both uncandid and delusive in him to buoy them up with false hopes, and to tell them that that could be done which, in his conscience, he believed could not be done. The subject, no doubt, was one of great interest; and if, on further consideration, the Government found, after the Land Estates Bill became law, that any measure could be framed which would simplify the existing law, and at the same time remove all the obstructions complained of, they would certainly endeavour to consider such a Bill; but if hon. Members were really patriotic men, seeing that Ireland was gradually advancing to a high position of prosperity, seeing that she was stronger and richer now than ever she was before, and that there was every likelihood of her being a great and a flourishing kingdom, they would shrink from adopting any measure that would be at all calculated to unsettle existing relations, and thereby to check those advances which so happily manifested themselves in every part of that country. He believed that Ireland was now only commencing her career of prosperity; it was now only entering upon a career which would hereafter result in a great and glorious success. If he believed that the present Bill would have the effect of promoting that success, he would at once and cordially support it; but believing the very reverse, and that it could not be carried practically into law, he felt conscientiously bound to oppose it, while tendering his assurance that if any one practicable remedy could be applied to the evils connected with the existing law, he should be only too glad to avail himself of it.
§ MR. HENCHY
The right hon. Gentleman had said in effect that Conservatives approved of the things which existed; but there were many abuses which existed, and 1828 on that side of the House they, not being Conservatives, were for correcting those abuses. The right hon. Gentleman had said that Irishmen abroad were free, and their object was to make them free at home. As to getting the dormant money out of the thatch and the stocking, there was not enough to purchase the farm, but only to improve it. In the south and west of Ireland there were many penal clauses in the leases by which tenants were compelled to give certain days' labour to the landlord, particularly in drawing turf, which was very objectionable. He gave his hearty support to the measure.
§ COLONEL GREVILLE
said, he had not changed his opinion on the subject of tenant right. The right hon. Gentleman (the Attorney General for Ireland) had alluded to him as having purchased a large property in Ireland lately, and asked him how he should like all the tenants on that estate to come in and demand compensation for improvements that had been made in former times. Now, it was not proposed by any one to give tenants the power to do that. It was only in cases of eviction that the tenants were to have such a right to demand compensation; and to that he (Colonel Greville) thought there was no objection.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
replied. He said, that he was neither the father nor the mother of the Bill. He was only its foster-father and dry nurse. It had been introduced by Mr. Moore, who was no longer a Member of that House. He (Mr. Maguire) did not stick for the wording of the Bill. Many good Bills were emanating from Her Majesty's Government, and he trusted that they would add to those good measures a Bill for protection to the Irish tenant. He was no party man. He hoped that the present Government would remain in office for some time, for it was no harm that the late occupants of the front benches were made to do penance. Let them bid for support. Let them bid for him. He wanted nothing from them personally. He should give his support to that Government which brought forward measures that would benefit his country. He was gratified at the discussion which had taken place on his Motion. It was a fair and manly one, and he was not ashamed to go to a division, no matter how small the numbers that might be found on his side.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 200: Majority, 135.
§ Words added.1829
§ Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.
§ House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.