§ MR. MAGUIRE
Sir, the question which I have now the honour to submit to the House is one in which every Member of this assembly ought to feel a deep interest. It is true, it does not concern the independence of Poland, the unity of Italy, or the national development of Greece. But it does concern the welfare and happiness of Ireland, the honour of Parliament, and the strength and power of the British Empire. Some English Members may possibly imagine that they have not a very deep interest in a question which mainly concerns Ireland and the condition of its people. But, when rightly understood, I venture to say there is not an English Member, if he really consider the intimate relations between his own country and Ireland, who will not find that his own constituents are interested in this question, and that they are influenced, either injuriously or beneficially, by the condition of Ireland, So long as the Union exists, it is impossible to sever the interests which link the two countries together, or that the people of Ireland can suffer grievously without the people of England being affected in some degree. Take an instance in point. When the famine raged in Ireland, and disease born of famine slew its thousands in every county of that kingdom, there was scarcely an interest in England which did not suffer—merchants, bankers, traders—all found their trade injured and their resources embarrassed by that Irish calamity; and there was not a counting-house in London or Liverpool which did not feel the influence of the distress that desolated 1318 Cork or Connemara. I freely admit there was at that time no lack of voluntary Christian sympathy; but what I assert is, that there was not an interest in England which did not also experience an involuntary sympathy with the sufferings of Ireland. On the other hand, when Ireland is prosperous and when her people are free from suffering, England benefits thereby; for there is not in the world a better customer for the merchandise and manufactures of England than Ireland has been. Therefore, it is the interest of England to assist in placing the people of Ireland in a condition of prosperity, comfort, and independence. I truly believe there is not an Englishman in this House who would not desire to see Ireland happy and contented. I go further, and express my belief that there is scarcely an Englishman of anything like intelligence or good feeling throughout this country who would not wish the same. Englishmen frequently ask what is the real cause of the misery of Ireland—what is the cause of that chronic poverty and wretchedness which is the reproach of England and the astonishment of the civilized world? There are some who perhaps attribute it to the religion of the majority of the people of Ireland, and there are others who set it down to the existence of a State Church; but these are very short-sighted views of the case—for the misery and poverty of Ireland are traceable to quite another cause. Any man who seriously considers what Ireland is, will soon begin to understand the source and cause of the evil. Ireland is essentially an agricultural country. In England you have commerce, manufactures, trade, as well as agriculture. But if there be commerce, manufactures or trade in Ireland, these depend directly or indirectly upon the one great interest—agriculture; and upon the agriculture of Ireland the vast mass of her people depend, not merely for their prosperity, but for their very means of existence. And thus it is that if you want to trace the cause of the poverty and misery that exist in Ireland, you must see in what condition are the tillers of the soil; and in what relation they stand to the soil itself. Sir, the true cause of the evil lies in the precarious hold which the tillers of the soil have of the land they cultivate. This is the true source of that misery which we deplore; and it is to prove this to the House that I now desire to engage its attention. No doubt, English Members may think it 1319 strange that there should be any greater necessity to interfere between landlords and tenants in Ireland than there is to interfere between landlords and tenants in England. But the answer is conclusive upon that point—the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland are essentially different to what they are in England. As a rule, everything in the way of permanent improvement—in fitting the farm for the occupancy of the tenant, and for his proper working of his holding—is effected in England by the landlord; whereas in Ireland the rule—to which, however, there are many noble exceptions—is that the landlord does nothing, the tenant everything that is done. This is the cardinal difference between the state of things in the two countries, and this is the ground upon which all interference is demanded or justified. I shall proceed to show, on the most indisputable authority, the truth of this proposition. And no higher authority can I refer to than the Devon Commission, who were appointed in 1843, who inquired into the condition and laws of Ireland in 1844, and who reported to Parliament in 1845. But there are other authorities, upon whom the Government relied in 1860 for their justification in interfering between landlord and tenant in that country. In March 1860, the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Cardwell), then Secretary for Ire land, used these words—The first question that anybody will naturally ask is—'Why is it necessary to deal with the land of Ireland in a manner different from that of England or Scotland?' That question has been repeatedly answered in this House in language of the highest authority. Those who are familiar with the works of Arthur Young, of Mr. Burke, or of Mr. Mill, know that in their successive generations those practical and philosophic writers have drawn a broad distinction between the state of land in Ireland on the one side, and its state in England and Scotland on the other……Every Minister and every Member of Parliament who has handled this subject, from the Earl of Derby in 1845, down to the hon. Member who last brought it under our notice, has expressed in the most emphatic terms the necessity of dealing with it for Ireland, in a manner specially adapted to the circumstances of that country." [3 Hansard, clxvii. 1554.]This difference between the circumstances of the two countries constituted the basis for exceptional legislation for Ireland. As such, it was relied on by Her Majesty's Government. This difference is clearly set forth in the following extract from the Report of the Devon Commission, to which the attention of English Members is requested:— 1320It is well known that in England and Scotland before a landlord offers a farm for letting, he finds it necessary to provide a suitable farm-house, with necessary farm-buildings, for the proper management of the farm. He puts the gates and fences into good order, and he also takes upon himself a great part of the burden of keeping the buildings in repair during the term; and the rent is fixed with reference to this state of things. Such, at least, is generally the case, although special contracts may occasionally be made, varying the arrangements between landlord and tenant. In Ireland the case is wholly different…. It is admitted on all hands, that according to the general practice in Ireland, the landlord builds neither dwelling-house, nor farm offices, nor puts fences, gates, &c., into good order, before he lets his land to a tenant. The cases in which a landlord does any of those things are the exceptions. The system, however, of giving aid in these matters is becoming more prevalent. In most cases, whatever is done in the way of building or fencing is done by the tenant; and in the ordinary language of the country, dwelling-houses, farm buildings and even the making of fences, are described by the general word 'improvements,' which is thus employed to denote the necessary adjuncts to a farm, without which in England or Scotland no tenant would be found to rent it.That was the statement and the state of things which justified Lord Derby, Lord Aberdeen, and every other Minister and Statesman, in attempting to grapple with the subject of the tenure of land in Ireland; and that being as a rule, the state of things in 1863, it is my justification for asking for the further intervention of the Legislature. What I desire to obtain for Ireland is such full and adequate protection for the industry of the Irish tenant, and for the enjoyment of its fruits, as will stimulate his industry to the utmost, and thereby add to the wealth and prosperity of the country. Let us now see what the Devon Commissioners say upon this important subject—what, in fact, was the result of the evidence which they obtained throughout Ireland, and from all classes of the people. In page 156 of the Digest, drawn up by the Commissioners, they say—The want of some measure for tenants' improvements has been variously stated as productive, directly or indirectly, of most of the social evils of the country.And, in the following passage, they afford an explanation of the problem, which seems so difficult of being understood by those who do not understand the position of the Irish tenants:—It has been shown that the master evil, poverty, proceeds from the fact of occupiers of land withholding the investment of labour and capital from the ample and profitable field that lies within their reach on the farms they occupy; that this hesitation is attributable to a reasonable disinclination 1321 to invest labour or capital on the property of others, without a security that adequate remuneration shall be derived from the investment; that no such security at present exists in regard to the vast mass of cases, including tenancies from year to year and leases with short unexpired terms; that the characteristic tillage of the country is laborious and unprofitable; that the introduction of the more profitable courses of cultivation must be impracticable until the requisite preparatory improvement of the soil shall have first taken place.What is the necessary result of this want of security for the enjoyment of the fruits of the tenant's industry or outlay—of the property which he has created on and in the land of another? The Commissioners state that the small tenant will not expend his labour in improving the land, nor will the large farmer expend his capital in its improvement, because he apprehends, that if he happen to hold his farm from year to year, or at will, he may be either turned out of the holding which he has improved, or his rent may be raised to such an extent that he will have to pay the full value of his own improvements; or, if he hold by lease, on the termination of his lease he may be got rid of, or his rent so raised as that he loses all interest in his outlay, and his farm, on which he expended his capital and his energy, sold over his head to another person. If this be the case—and the Commissioners say it—who can wonder at the state of things which exists?—who can be surprised at the poverty of the people, at the wretched condition of their dwellings, or at the imperfect condition of the agriculture of the country? Give the people of Ireland security for their industry, and you will affect a marvellous change in the appearance of the country, and in the condition of its inhabitants. You will change their dwellings, their raiment, their food. You will, in a word, make the Ireland of the future the very opposite of the Ireland of the past, and the Ireland of the present; for there is no country in the world which offers a better and surer field for the investment of capital and industry in the improvement of its soil than Ireland does. Let us see what the Commissioners say upon the value of substantial security—The most general opinion is, that if a substantial security were offered to the occupying tenant for his judicious permanent improvements, a rapid change for the better would take place—a change calculated to increase the strength of the Empire and the tranquillity of this country; to improve the food, raiment, and house accommodation of the people; to remove that paralysis of industry which the sworn evidence of nearly every tenant and numerous landlords examined on the subject 1322 has proved to exist; to call into operation the active exertions of every occupier of land upon his farm; to add about five months in each year to the reproductive operations of farmers and labourers, which are now passed in idly consuming produce, accumulating debts or, for want of better employment, perhaps in fomenting disturbance.Lest it might be said that the state of things desirable by the Commissioners accurately represented the state of things in 1844, and not the state of things in 1863, I may mention that I received a letter a few days since from an extensive seedsman of Cork, a gentleman with whom I am well acquainted, and who has, as he states, accounts with more than a thousand farmers of the South of Ireland; and in this letter, which was volunteered, not asked for, the writer (Mr. Thomas Jones) represents the condition of the land, and the position of the tenant at the present moment. It gives you the actual state of things in 1863—83, Grand Parade, Cork, June 16th, 1863.I do think that a Tenant Compensation Bill will, and must pass—that is, a bona fide one for solid and permanent improvements in the way of draining, fencing, farm roads, farm gates and piers, and farm buildings to a proper extent, as to the size and requirements of the number of acres in the farm, for the country is in a disgraceful state for the want of them. Men of capital will not take land even on a thirty-one years' lease, as it is a positive fact that ninety-five out of every hundred farms in the South of Ireland want all the above requirements, and the land almost invariably is worn out. Therefore, it will, at all events, take nearly half this term to put a farm in proper working order; and landlords, as you are aware, will not, or cannot, make the necessary improvements. If a tenant will make the improvements out of his own pocket, you know that at the end of his term out he walks, or has to submit to such an advanced rent as he cannot pay, and not a shilling allowed for his toil and capital in making property for his landlord. Begging your excuse for troubling,I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,THOMAS JONES, Seedsman.John Francis Maguire, Esq., M.P.There are many landlords, no doubt, who deal kindly with their tenants, and delight in seeing them prosperous and contented; but, as a rule, the feeling of the people is, that if they improve their holdings, they do so at their own risk, and that in doing so they are rather improving the property of their landlord than advancing their own interest. I have a further evidence of the existence of this feeling, I presented this evening thirty-five Petitions from one Irish county alone, with 12,000 or 15,000 signatures—not merely of poor farmers, or persons ill humble position, 1323 but of professional men and of the trading classes. Among the names attached to those Petitions were those of two Roman Catholic. Bishops—prelates who thoroughly understand the condition and feeling of the agricultural classes. The petitioners say that the present state of Ireland is one of severe suffering and distress—That the great and permanent cause of this deplorable condition, aggravated though it be by three successive bad harvests, is to be found in the unsettled state of the land question.That the extensive and increasing emigration, from a people already reduced in numbers, deserves the serious attention of Government; and it would be wiser to make the young and able-bodied happy at home, than to compel them, by want of employment, to carry their energies and discontent to a foreign, and perhaps, at a future time, an unfriendly country.And they therefore pray your honorable House to inquire into the state of the land tenure in Ireland, with a view to the adoption of such remedial measures as the subject may require.That Petition expresses the opinion of all the Catholic Bishops and priests of Ireland, and of the tenants of the country, Protestant and Presbyterian, as well as Catholic. It is the opinion also of shopkeepers and traders and professional men—all of whom are interested in the good cultivation of the soil, and the prospects of the farming classes. If the same state of things existed in Ireland which exists in England, no Irish Member would think of asking for special legislation; or if the tenants of the other provinces of Ireland possessed the same security wich the tenants of Ulster enjoy, there would be no demand and no necessity for any interference by Parliament. The difference between the North and the South is, that there is security for the occupiers of the soil in the North, and that there is none in the South; and if the cause of those agrarian outrages, which bring a blush of shame to the brow of the Irishman who loves his country, be searched to the bottom, it will be found to consist in this want of security. In Down and Antrim the tenant is protected by the custom of tenant-right, while in Cork or Tipperary he has no protection at all, save when he has a lease. Tenant-right may be thus briefly described. Whether the tenant in Ulster, wherever this custom exists, holds at will or by lease, he has the right of selling to an incoming tenant his goodwill, or tenant-right, in which improvements and occupancy are combined. This he can do whether he quits of his own 1324 accord, or is evicted for any cause. The landlord is sure of his rent, for he has the first claim on the purchase of the tenant-right, and the tenant not only has the best possible security for his outlay of capital, but the surest protection, in the sale of his tenant-right, or good-will, against the poverty and ruin to which the peasant in Tipperary, or any of the Southern counties, is reduced by being driven from his holding. In the one case, the tenant has money in his pocket; in the other, he has no alternative save the workhouse or emigration. For in the South, save in rare instances, no such custom as this tenant-right of the North exists; and any man who holds from year to year may be turned out at any moment, without a farthing of compensation; and the tenant with a lease may have the rent raised upon him at the termination of his lease, or his land may be given to another, on whom he would have no claim for his improvements. Call it tenant-right, or call it certainty of receiving ample compensation in case of eviction, I care not which; but afford some such protection to the tenants of Ireland, and you will give them what the tenants of England enjoy—security for the enjoyment of the fruits of their labour, and encouragement to expend their capital, their skill, and their industry upon the land. Let the people of Ireland obtain this security, and Parliament will get rid of many an appeal from a mendicant country, whose poverty and misery are to be traced, not to the character of her people, but to the evil influence of a bad system of land tenure. Surely it cannot be wrong to desire to see and to endeavour to obtain for Munster that which exists in Ulster—that which the landlords of that province would not venture to tamper with, for the very good and sufficient reason which I shall proceed to give. I quote from the evidence given by Mr. Hancock, of Antrim, an extensive land agent. He thus describes the value and the justification of this tenant-right—I consider tenant-right beneficial to the community, because it establishes a security in the possession of land, and leads to the improvement of the estate, without any expenditure of capital on the part of the landlord. It likewise affords the best security for his rent, as arrears are always allowed to be deducted from the amount the occupier receives for tenant-right. It is very conducive to the peace of the country, for almost every man has a stake in the community, and is therefore opposed to agrarian outrages as well as riots…. In fact, it is one of the sacred rights of the country which cannot be treated with 1325 impunity; and if systematic efforts were made amongst the proprietors of Ulster to invade tenant-right, I do not believe there is force at the disposal of the Horse Guards sufficient to keep the peace of the province; and when we consider that all the improvements have been effected at the expense of the tenant, it is perfectly right that this tenant-right should exist,I especially call attention to the last words of that evidence, in which tenant-right is justified on the ground that all improvements have been effected at the expense of the tenant. I turn to the Report of the Devon Commissioners, and I find in their statement the very same justification for the claim of tenant-right in the South of Ireland. "In most cases," say the Commissioners, "whatever is done in the way of building or fencing is done by the tenant." Again, they say—It is admitted on all hands, that according to the general practice in Ireland, the landlord builds neither dwelling-house, nor farm offices, nor puts fences, gates, &c., into good order before he lets his land to a tenant.Therefore, in natural equity, the tenant should be allowed to sell his good-will in the South, just as the tenant in the North is entitled to dispose of it under the custom of tenant-right. Referring to the sale of the "good-will," the Commissioners have this significant passage—"In the North, where it is permitted, agrarian crimes are rare. In other places, where it is resisted, they are of common occurrence." I shall allude further on to this subject of agrarian outrages. Now, turn to the evidence of an impartial witness, Professor Low, of Edinburgh University, who, in his text book on the Domestic Animals of Great Britain, thus alludes to the husbandry and stock in Ireland. He says—But when we speak of defects in the husbandry of Ireland, we must remember that the removal of them is not always within the reach of common remedies. The evil may be seen, but the source of it may lie in the condition of the people, the state of property, and the relations between landlord and tenant.Referring to the absentee drain—which is an additional reason why Parliament should be tender to Ireland, and should seek to foster the industry of her people by wise and generous legislation—the Professor says, "At this hour a larger tribute is thus imposed upon the industry of the country than any conqueror ever imposed upon a subject colony." And he thus concludes—One effect results from this destitution, that there is no barrier between the tenants and the demands of the receiver of rents. In England 1326 the habits and condition of the people are opposed to an excessive exaction on the industry of the farmer. The English yeoman will not take land at all unless he has the means to live, and to obtain a fitting return from his capital in trade. The Irish peasant must take the land in order that he may subsist, and is compelled to share his pittance with another to the uttermost residue that will permit himself to live. Hence the rents in Ireland are larger, in proportion to the means of payment, than any country in Europe. While this defective relation exists between the landlord and tenant—while the disposable produce of the land is expended out of the country which it should enrich, and away from the poor man whom it should employ—while the land is parcelled out in order that excessive rents may be wrung from those that till it—while the pecuniary claims of the landlord or middle men are more directly answered by means of peasants content to subsist on the scantiest pittance, than by the industry of tenants possessed of means to improve the land—we must expect that the resources of the country will be imperfectly developed, and that poor and wretched husbandmen, as well as miserable breeds of sheep, will possess it.Professor Low has justly asserted that the rents in Ireland are larger, in proportion to the means of payment, than in any country in Europe. Although during the recent years of distress several landlords have lowered their rents, I know of too many cases where, on the contrary, rents have been screwed to the highest pitch, and tenants have consequently been reduced to the fare of the dog and the hog. A short time ago—not a month since—a laudatory notice of a dinner given by the tenants of a certain estate to the agent appeared in the Irish newspapers of the South; but in a few days after a letter appeared from one of the tenants, in which there is this passage. I, of course, suppress names, for there is no occasion for their mention—Mr.—, in proposing the health of our young landlord, called on the agent, Mr.—, to represent to him the urgent necessity of giving us a reduction in our rents, or we would be soon smashed, as we are paying about three times Griffith's valuation for our land. I earnestly beg, sir, that you will insert this, in the hope that it may meet the eye of our young landlord, whose kindness we have no reason to doubt, were he to know our wretched condition.It may be said that the operation of the Incumbered Estates Court was of great advantage to Ireland, inasmuch as it effected the transfer of property to the amount of more than £25,000,000, and introduced a new race of landlords. A change of landlords has not in all cases been of benefit to the people, for bad as some of the old ones were, there are some of the new who are worse. No doubt, many of the new proprietors are men of means, station, and of large and liberal 1327 minds—men who honestly desire to discharge the duties which they have assumed with their new position, so as to promote the prosperity of their tenants, and to advance the general interests of their country. I know numbers of such men in my own city—prosperous traders—merchants who have brought wise and liberal views to the management of property. Unfortunately, however, there are others, who have made their money in a grasping, sordid way—by jobbing, by usury, perhaps by oppression and extortion—and who have got possession of bits of land: I say God help their tenants, for they have need of His help. Such men are quite incapable of appreciating the dignity of the landlord's position and the solemnity of his responsibility; and having invested their money in land as a mere speculation, they have no object but to exact as much from their wretched tenants as they possibly can. They do not know the tenants they purchase, and they only keep them as long as they can squeeze the last farthing out of them. I will give the House a simple illustration of the fraud and villany to which the helpless tenants are sometimes exposed. My authority for this fact is an hon. Member of this House, who mentioned the property and the names in question. A property was lately sold in two parts in the Encumbered Estates Court. The purchaser of one part—he was a man of some station—said to the tenants—"I have bought this property; and if you don't make up for me a sum at the rate of £10 an acre, which will enable me to pay off the entire of the purchase-money, out you must go." What option had the unhappy people? None. They had no alternative save to agree to the demand, to retire to the next workhouse, or to emigrate—and so they submitted to the extortion. They raised the money how they could—by scraping together all they could get, by selling or by borrowing; but they paid the £10 an acre, and enabled their new landlord to pay off the balance of his purchase-money. It was a "dodge" which Barnum might have invented, and which any rascal might carry out. What did the other landlord do? He asked the tenants what they paid. They said "£3 an acre." He asked if they were able to pay that rent. They said they were. He then asked them if they were willing to take leases at that rent, and they said they would gladly; and the leases were at once given. Now, when a man of some station—as the first-mentioned of these two purchasers—could 1328 do such a thing as this, what is to be expected from men without position, character, or self-respect—of men whoso whole object is to screw so much per cent out of the wretched tenants? I now, Sir, approach a subject of great delicacy—agrarian murders and their cause. It is one of peculiar delicacy, but one from which I cannot shrink. Let me first set myself right, so that no one can affect to misrepresent my motives or opinions with respect to the commission of these grave and terrible offences. No one abhors such outrages more sincerely than I do, nor is any one more anxious that the law intended for their punishment should be sternly enforced. The man who raises his hand against his fellow-creature and sheds his blood, let him be punished with the severest penalty of the law; and let him who commits a minor offence, also answer to the law which he has violated. But we must not be content with punishing—we must also try to prevent the commission of crime. And while we enforce laws of repression, we must likewise inquire into the causes of crimes, and endeavour by removing the cause to do away with the effect. I assert it has been conclusively proved that they are never committed where due regard is paid to the rights of industry, which are the rights of property of the tenant. These outrages are not of recent origin; they date from before the Union, and they have their source in disputes concerning the tenure and occupancy of land. A special commission was held in Maryborough in 1833—thirty years since; and the Judges who presided at the commission were—Chief Justice Bushe, one of the most dignified and eloquent Judges that ever adorned the Irish Bench—and Baron Smith, a learned and able man. Chief Justice Bushe, in his opening address to the Grand Jury, used these words—At the end of more than sixty years we are still struggling with insurrection in the third generation of those against whom those laws were pointed.And he adds—It is not the province or within the power of such laws as judges and juries can administer, nor do those laws affect to annihilate such an evil as this. What may be its remote causes or effects—whether its roots strike deep, and threaten higher or more widely extended mischief, and, if so, what course or system is best calculated to eradicate it, are questions awful and grave—they belong to the statesman and the legislator, and not to us in this court of law, whose duty it is to repress crime by enforcing the existing laws.1329 Thirty years since, those words were used, and we still deplore the existence of the same class of outrages, while we have done little to eradicate their cause. What say the Devon Commissioners on this subject? In page 319 of the Digest I find these words—In the Northern counties the general recognition of the tenant-right has prevented the frequent occurrence of these crimes. Even there, however, if the tenant-right be disregarded, and a tenant be evicted without having received the price of his good-will, outrages are generally the consequence.The opinion of most of the Ulster witnesses examined upon the point appears to be, that any systematic attempt to destroy the tenant-right would be attended with much danger to the peace of the country.I now proceed to quote a very different authority, but one to which the utmost respect should be paid—that of the Society of Friends. The members of that body in Ireland were intrusted with the administration of relief, in food and money, to the value of £200,000, in the famine time; and nobly and heroically did they discharge that trust—for not a few of their number fell victims to their zeal in the cause of humanity. Those funds and that food were contributed partly by their own body in England and Ireland, and to a large extent by America. At the close of their labours, they published the account of their transactions in a most interesting volume; and in the report drawn up in their name by their Secretary, Mr. Jonathan Pim, there is the following passage on the subject of agrarian crime. The volume was published in 1852. The report says—Experience has abundantly shown that it is not sufficient to endeavour to repress crime by the terrors of the law; it is also necessary to search out the proximate and remote causes, and, by removing temptations to crime, to diminish its amount. Far be it from us to extenuate the enormity or to palliate the guilt of these dreadful outrages; yet, they have exciting causes, which should, if possible, be removed. The objects of these agrarian disturbances are various, but they always imply a contest between the landlords and the tenants…Throughout a very large part of Ireland such outrages are as little known as they are in England. We are convinced, that if a good system of laws for the regulation of real property had existed, so large an amount of agrarian crime would never have disgraced our country.There is another authority to which I may refer, and which establishes the direct connection between the evils of the land system and those offences against the person, A Committee of this House sat in the year 1852 to inquire into the necessity of passing some new law which would more effectually 1330 deal with this class of crimes; and their concluding recommendation in their Report was in these words—That the attention of the Legislature be directed to an early consideration of the laws which regulate the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland, with a view to their consolidation and amendment, and especially to consider the practicability of such legislation as might provide adequate security to tenants for permanent improvements, and otherwise place the relation on a satisfactory basis.Here, then, we have it clearly proved that poverty and misery and crime are the results of a system of land tenure which either affords no inducement to improve, or which makes industry penal. The Government attempted to redeem the promise so often made to the cultivators of Ireland, and to carry out the recommendations so repeatedly and strongly pressed upon the Legislature; and in March 1860 they brought in Bills to consolidate the law of landlord and tenant, and they also introduced what may be called a Compensation Bill. Those Bills the Irish Members attempted to improve, by seeking to render their provisions more liberal and their inducements more attractive. I myself moved a clause which was supported by some fifty Members, nearly all of whom were Irish, and which, I believe, would have assisted to render the measure somewhat successful. We were beaten by the Government, who said that if such Amendments as we proposed were carried in the Commons, the Bill would be rejected in the Lords. We still accepted the measure, although we despaired of its working any good result. We could not refuse to accept even the smallest instalment of justice for those whom we represented, and whose cause we desired to promote; but we warned the Government that the measure would prove inoperative. What was the result? According to Returns laid on this table, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Devizes and myself, that prediction has been justified to the letter. I hold those Returns in my hand, and what do they prove? Why, that not a single tenant in Ireland has been led by the miserable inducements offered by the Act of 1860 to avail himself of its provisions. The Returns embrace every county in Ireland, and cover the whole object and scope of what may be termed the Compensation Act. How many applications have been made under its clauses by landlord and tenant? The answer from every part of Ireland is in the same emphatic word— 1331 "none." No applications—no orders—no "annuities"—no decrees—in fine, the Act of 1860 has been wholly and entirely inoperative, as we predicted it would be. Its machinery is too complicated, its inducements are too limited, and the conditions are too restrictive and deterring; therefore it has not been availed of in a single instance. So far, by this Return, I have proved my case. The measures of 1860, intended as a final settlement of the claims of the Irish tenant, have been found to have been wholly inoperative. The next question then arises—is there a less or a greater necessity for legislation in 1863 than there was in 1860? I assert, with the utmost confidence, there exists a far greater necessity for legislation now than there was then. Ireland has passed through a fearful crisis since that legislation was attempted; and though I do not by any means despair of my country—I should have a very poor opinion of the Irishman who did—still no one can deny that the condition of that country is such as to demand the serious attention of Parliament and the care and consideration of the Government. Ireland has actually gone back instead of advanced. A few figures will establish this fact beyond the possibility of doubt. Some time since my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) asked me how was it that Ireland paid for the enormous quantity of foreign corn brought to her shores. I gave him the answer then, that she paid it out of her capital; but the answer is to be found in a pamphlet written by Dr. Hancock, in support of the Government, and at the desire of Lord Carlisle. It is addressed to General Larcom, and printed by the Queen's Printer. It appears from this Government pamphlet that Ireland lost in live stock, from 1859 to 1862, to the value of £4,160,000; in other words, she was compelled to sell her live stock to that amount to pay for foreign-grown food. In 1853—nine years since—she had 133,000 more cattle than she has at present. In 1854—eight years since—she possessed 267,000 more sheep than at present; and in 1858 she had 258,000 fewer pigs than in 1852. Dr. Hancock is compelled to admit that these figures conclusively establish a serious decrease in wealth. The Government stock on which interest is paid in Ireland, amounted in 1857 to £42,217,000, and in 1862 to £38,081,000—showing a decrease of £4,126,000. This decrease, says Dr. 1332 Hancock, is sufficiently great to cause anxiety. There were still between £14,000,000 and £15,000,000 of deposits in Irish Joint Stock Banks, and I may remark that on this fact I place great reliance, for, according to the Castle pamphleteer, the great bulk of the depositors are the tenant-farmers of Ireland. But even here there is also a serious decrease, to no less than £2,250,000, which, as Dr. Hancock stated, "indicates a great deterioration in the wealth of the farmers since 1859." In two years—1861 and 1862—the circulation of Irish notes decreased by £1,274,000. Added to this loss of the capital of the country, there are the enormous losses sustained by the farmers in their crops since 1859. Dr. Hancock estimated those losses as follows:—From July 1860 to July 1861, at £4,544,000; from July 1861 to July 1862, at £10,360,000; from July 1862 to July 1863, at £12,107,000—making a gross loss of about £27,000,000, or twice the rental of the country. These figures, which are altogether taken from a pamphlet published at the instance of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, prove this—that if legislation were necessary in 1860, when his Excellency assured us we were marching on the high road to prosperity, it is far more necessary now. Another indication of the state of the country is the amount of its population. There is no parallel to the state of the Irish population in the history of the world. England has had the undisputed administration of the affairs of Ireland for the last sixty-three years; and how stands its population at this moment? Why, Sir, there are about 400,000 less people in Ireland in 1863 than in 1811. In 1811 the population was 5,937,856, and in 1861 it was 5,764,543, showing a decrease in the fifty years of 173,313 persons. If we add 230,000 for the number that have left since the census of 1861 was taken, we shall have 400,000 less in 1863 than in 1811, or more than half a century since, during which Ireland has been an integral portion of the British Empire, and under the control of the English Parliament and Government. The decrease since 1841—or a period of twenty years—has been 2,410,581. As Mr. Caulfield Heron says in his pamphlet, "The mind fails to grasp fairly these gigantic figures." I ask, is this amazing reduction of the population a proof of good government—or, rather, is it not a proof that there is something wrong, 1333 and that Parliament ought to intervene? I ask for inquiry, in order that the interference of Parliament may he more effectual. During the last forty years somewhere about 4,000,000 of the population of Ireland have been driven abroad—to England and Scotland, to Canada, to the United States, and to Australia. It has been asserted as a fact—and I have no reason to doubt it—that the largest nationality in the United States at this moment is the Irish. To estimate properly the decrease in the population of Ireland—in that which in every other country in the world is regarded as an element of strength and power, let us take the proportions of a few independent kingdoms:—Switzerland, 2,510,000; Saxony, 2,225,000; Norway, 1,600,000; Denmark, 2,780,000. "A great kingdom," says Mr. Caulfield Heron, "could be formed from the population which Ireland has lost in twenty years of misery and degradation." Mr. John Stuart Mill is a very high authority with the Gentlemen on the Treasury bench, and is often quoted by them and their followers. Remember it has been attempted to show that this enormous loss of the population has been for the benefit of Ireland. But Mr. Mill, in his work on Political Economy, which is the text-book in every university in Europe, says—When the inhabitants of a country quit that country en masse, because the Government do not make it a place fit for them to live in, that Government is judged and condemned. It is the duty of Parliament to reform the land tenure of Ireland.Dr. Hancock, the Castle pamphleteer, remarks on two points in a manner highly significant. He says, that should more favourable seasons return, and should a better understanding prevail between landlords and tenants, so as to secure a further increase in agricultural wages and greater stability in farming profits, it might be expected that the emigration from Ireland would assume a similar character and proportion to the emigration from England and Scotland. And he also remarks that it is a matter of grave inquiry, why the farmers of Ireland should lend such large sums of money to the banks at a very low interest, to be employed in large towns, and much of it in London, instead of spending it upon agricultural improvements in their own country. The fact is, the means of salvation exist in Ireland if Parliament will only have the courage to grasp them. There is capital in abundance. There are more than £14,000,000 deposits 1334 in the banks—there is money in the thatch—money in the stocking—money in the box—money hidden away—money which the people are afraid to show or admit they possess—money which they retain ready for flight, but which they obstinately refuse to invest in the best bank of all, the land of the country. There are some who imagine, that should Ireland lose many more millions of her population, it would be no permanent loss, because Englishmen and Scotchmen would take their place. To those who hold the opinion, that if Ireland lost one race of Celts, she would gain another race of Celts, or that her loss would be supplied by the sturdy Anglo-Saxon race, I would recommend to their consideration the observations, on this head, of an intelligent writer in the Spectator newspaper, who uses these words—Re-settled sounds very well; but who, with land in America granted gratis under the Homestead Law in farms of 160 acres to every naturalized applicant, is going to take worse land at £2 an acre? If an Englishman moves, he may as well go to Ohio or Melbourne as Tipperary; and though Scotchmen take more kindly to Ireland, they are too thrifty to multiply fast. But even were it possible, the depopulation of Ireland would be the most dangerous of catastrophes. The Empire would lose not only men as good as any remaining, not only the best recruiting ground for recruiting for her army, but an clement of marvellous value in the aggregate national character.The writer in the Spectator goes on to say that besides these considerations "one has heard of such things as justice and mercy, Christianity and civilization;" and he winds up by saying—Our duty is to reconcile Ireland, and make it a part of the Empire as much as Scotland; and it is not to the credit of the Liberal party that they refuse to inquire into the facts because they are exaggerated, or remove great grievances because presented in an excited, irrational way.Sir, I can only hope that I have not made myself amenable to such criticism—that I have not exaggerated facts, or represented grievances in an excited, irrational way. I only seek that Parliament may legislate for Ireland in a wise and generous spirit, or, if Parliament desire fuller information before attempting to legislate, that it will grant the Commission of Inquiry for which I ask in my Motion. I deeply love my country, and ardently wish for her prosperity; and if Parliament will only legislate for her in a wise, a generous, and a conciliatory spirit, I believe that Ireland may become the right arm, the strength, and even the pride of England, instead of being, as she is now, and has been too long, her reproach and shame in the eyes 1335 of the whole world. The ground is clearer for legislation now than it was twenty years ago. The minute sub-division of the land into small farms has greatly disappeared as a few figures will prove. The number of holdings from one to five acres in 1841 was 310,000, while in 1861 it was only 85,000, or a decrease of 225,000. Those between five and fifteen acres in 1841 were 252,000, and in 1861 but 183,000, showing a decrease of 69,000. This gives a gross valuation of holdings between one and fifteen acres of about 300,000. On the other hand, the number of holdings between fifteen and thirty acres rose from 79,000 in 1841 to 141,000 in 1861, showing an increase of 78 per cent; and those of thirty acres and upwards rose from 48,000 in 1841 to 157,000 in 1861, or an increase of 109 per cent. The gross number of farm-holdings in 1841 was 691,000, and in 1861 it was 568,000—the reduction within the last twenty years amounting to 123,000, or 17 per cent. Therefore, I am right in asserting that the ground is clearer for legislation in 1863 than it was in 1841. A writer in The Daily Telegraph, who lately wrote of Ireland in a spirit not usual to that journal, described her asThat hopeless sister of ours, sitting mournfully by the wayside, her bright eyes dim and dull with weeping, her warm heart numb with grief;declared that she must and shall be saved if the whole resources of the Empire had to be concentrated upon the task. Now, Sir, I do not demand that the whole resources of the Empire should be concentrated upon the task. I, an Irishman, expect nothing of the kind. I simply ask for wise and liberal legislation. The writer says there is hope for Ireland. Why? Because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has lately addressed a few kind words to her. The right hon. Gentleman said that money should be advanced to Ireland upon adequate security. Now, loans for reproductive works are, pro tanto, most admirable things, and I trust that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will redeem the promise he has shadowed forth in that respect. But what is most wanted for Ireland is that the arm of industry should be unshackled—that the tenants, be they small farmers or large farmers should be encouraged, by liberal inducements, to take their money out of the bank, out of the box, or out of the thatch, and invest it in the improvement of the soil, so that they may live like 1336 Christian men in a free country, making all fertile and beautiful about them, instead of leaving the land swampy and barren as it is in too many instances. Agriculture suffers much in Ireland from the great want of drainage. Of one kind of drainage, indeed, namely, by absenteeism, we already have more than sufficient; but, for want of a different kind of drainage, the land is so saturated with rain, that this undue moisture frequently kills the seed, and destroys the hopes of the husbandman. The ill-drained state of her soil is one of the reasons why Ireland cannot gather in and save her crops as early as England. But induce her people to drain and cultivate the soil well; and if these two things be accomplished, they may to a certain extent defy the elements, although they should take their chances for unfavourable harvests as their brother farmers of England and Scotland. There is a vast work to be done, and it can be done alone by the people; and what I ask you is, to strike the fetters from the arm of industry, that is now paralysed by want of security, and give freedom to those who are as willing as they are able to do the work. Do not traduce the character of the Irish peasantry. When they go to other lands, they are able to push their way in the world—they thrive and prosper. Let one fact—which ought to be written in letters of gold—be told in refutation of the slanders uttered against a frugal and industrious race—that the Irish emigrants sent home to their relatives in Ireland in little more than a dozen years £12,000,000 out of their hard earnings. Let them have the same motive for exertion at home, and this calumniated race will do as well at home. See them in a foreign land. Do they shrink from toil or from danger whether in war or in peace? Are they backward in the use of either the spade or the bayonet? These Irish exiles are the strength and the hope of other lands; why not make them the strength and hope of their native country? In their own country they cannot put forth their energies—the law will not permit them—it discourages and droops their spirits—they have no protection for the investment of their labour and their savings in and upon the land. I do not depreciate Irish landlords. There are many good, noble, and generous; there are others not so—there are some bad—capricious and regardless of the welfare of the people confided to their care, Irish landlords may be kind and generous, 1337 but they sometimes act from passion and evil impulse; and I say that the class who, after all, are the great base of the social fabric ought not to be left dependent on the mere will of the best landlords in the world. I may be asked why I do not bring in a Bill to remedy what I consider to be an evil? I have not the presumption to do so. That duty belongs to the Government. I have shown that the measure of the Government has, upon trial, proved an utter failure. I therefore appeal to them to grant a Commission to inquire what is necessary in order to raise the condition of Ireland to a level with that of the rest of the Kingdom. Or, if they will not consent to an inquiry, and if they are satisfied to act on the information of which they are in possession, let this be done—let the Chief Secretary, acting on behalf of the Government, call to his aid the Attorney General for Ireland, who thoroughly understands the wants of the Irish tenants, and what would best develop their industry in the improvement of the land, and placing before him the legislation of 1860, say, "Come, in the name of God, let us see what we can best do to serve and benefit your poor country." Let them promise me that they will seriously re-consider the Acts of 1860, and I shall be ready to withdraw my present Motion. But one thing or other we ought to have. For my part, I shudder with apprehension at what another year may bring, if we are afflicted with another bad harvest in Ireland. There will be general bankruptcy among all classes, and England cannot escape from injury. Lord Devon, in his preface to the digest of the evidence taken before his Commission, referring to remedial measures for Ireland, asks, "And what citizen of this United Kingdom can venture to think, that he has not a deep interest in the solution of these questions?" I ask the Government to take up these questions for the good of the country, the honour of Parliament, and the glory of their Queen. If they do not do so, and if we are further afflicted, despair will go hand in hand with misery, and the people will be driven, not in thousands, but in hundreds of thousands, from the shores of Ireland. At the present moment, sixty-three years after the Union—there exists in Ireland misery which is a disgrace not only to England, but a scandal to humanity and civilization; and I now call upon the Government and Parliament of England to endeavour to wipe out this terrible reproach, and to consider the condition 1338 of Ireland in a wise, a liberal, and a generous spirit. The hon. Gentleman then moved the following Resolution:—That, inasmuch as the measures of 1860, intended as a final settlement of the claims of the Irish tenant, have proved, by Returns laid upon the Table of this House, to have been wholly inoperative; and, inasmuch as the present condition of Ireland requires the special attention of Parliament, with a view to the adoption of wise and salutary laws, which may stimulate industry, and protect the enjoyment of its fruits, an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into and report upon the state of the agricultural classes of Ireland, and to suggest such improvement in the relations between Landlord and Tenant as may seem necessary and expedient.
§ MR. BAGWELL
, in seconding the Motion, said, that of all the numerous subjects which cropped up from time to time in that House there were none so distressing to Irishmen, and so worthy of the deep consideration of Parliament, as that which had been brought under their notice by his hon. Friend the Member for Dungarvan. In that House they were within an eleven hours journey of a country which was as different from England as any one part of the civilized world could be from another. Here in England everything was flourishing; capital abounded, and always found profitable employment; while in Ireland, a country governed under the same Sovereign, there was a diametrically opposite state of affairs, and a state of things existed which could not be matched in any country in Europe. Things had arrived at such a point in Ireland that it was time for statesmen to take the matter boldly in hand; it was no longer possible to go on with a shilly-shally policy, or to govern the country by setting one class of its inhabitants against another. It was time for the rulers of the Empire to consider the subject with the view of seeing how they could preserve both landlord and tenant, for both were in imminent danger of ruin if things went on as they were. He should not go into statistical information, but should speak from his practical knowledge of the land question, which he might venture to say was greater than that of his hon. Friend the Member for Dungarvan, whose mission had chiefly been in towns. Now, the tenure of land in Ireland was not altogether precarious. On some estates in that country the same families had lived from generation to generation; though in other parts, especially those which had 1339 changed owners under the operation of the Encumbered Estates Court, that was not the case. His hon. Friend had said that in England the landlords made all the improvements; but in a country let out in small farms, as Ireland was, it would be quite impossible for the landlords to execute all the farm buildings on their estates. But from the South of Ireland they must look to the North, and see whether they could not have the tenants as well provided for by the introduction of a bold system of tenant-right, such as that which prevailed in Ulster. To a great extent tenant-right existed in the South of Ireland, but not in the same way as in the North, where it was regarded as a land law. Though holding office under the Government when it was introduced, he was of opinion at the time that the Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman then Chief Secretary for Ireland, and now Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Cardwell), would be a failure. No Chief Secretary had laboured with betterintentions than his right hon. Friend; but his total ignorance of Ireland had prevented him from doing the good which otherwise he would have effected for that country. Where there was a hostility to landlords, gentlemen in the position of landed proprietors must labour under great difficulties in the endeavour to discharge their duties. But it must be admitted that on some estates in Ireland there was a system of annual notice to quit. Could anything be more intolerable, more degrading to the tenant, more likely to drive a man to desperation, more likely to take away his self-respect, or better calculated to render him hostile to his landlord and to the laws of the country? He was happy to say that tenant-right was gaining ground among the landed gentry in Ireland. It had lost its terrors, and was no longer regarded as a confiscation of property. That day one of the largest land agents in Ireland had told him that he saw no objection to going even as far as retrospective tenant-right. Emigration from Ireland was going on to an enormous extent, and he had seen a very suggestive letter on that subject from a most amiable ecclesiastic, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel, in which it was stated that a large portion of the small farmers in Ireland were in so distressed a position that they could hardly hold on, even if they got their land for nothing, and that the best of the people, physically and morally, were flying from the land of their birth as if it was 1340 smitten with the plague. That was the language of no mere demagogue, but of a man who had done more than any other person in Ireland since the days of Father Matthew for the improvement of the people. The right rev. Prelate had said in a letter, that for want of some such security as this, the best of the people of Ireland were leaving their country. Within the last few years, and in the face of such a state of things, the taxes had been doubled in Ireland, whilst they had been reduced one-third in England. Did this look as if the two countries were under the same laws? He admitted that that unhappy state of things was in a great measure to be traced to those dreadful murders which were perpetrated in Ireland, and it was hardly possible to expect a blessing on the country while that system of bloodshed continued. But that was itself an evil for which it was the duty of a wise Government to devise a remedy, and, like a bold physician, to cut away the proud flesh and promote a healthy circulation in the body. He trusted, that as so long a time had elapsed since the Devon Commission, and as circumstances had so greatly altered, the Government would accede to the Motion of his hon. Friend, who, he hoped, would hardly be satisfied with the revision of the Act of 1860.
§ Question proposed.
§ MR. BRADY
said, that the subject was deserving not only of the consideration of the Government, but of every individual with a heart anxious for the welfare of the country; but he had no faith in Royal Commissions, which were generally issued for the purpose of shelving important but inconvenient questions. The state of Ireland would brook no delay, for from his own knowledge he could say, despite any assertion to the contrary, that Ireland had gone back, and was in a worse position than she was thirty years ago. There was one thing that caused embarrassment, and was not thoroughly comprehended by the people of this country. That was tenant-right. People imagined that the tenant desired to have entire control over the property of his landlord, and ultimately to get hold of some portion of it; but that was a great mistake. Never was there a greater bugbear held up to alarm and delude the people of this country. The real fact was that nothing could be more in accordance with the interests of the landlord than the existence of tenant-right. 1341 When the tenant was uncertain of his tenure, and was threatened with eviction, he endeavoured, by the process of sweating, to obtain from the land before he was dispossessed the labour and capital expended by him in its improvement; but where the tenant-right system was in operation in the North of Ireland, it was not the tenant's interest to take out of the land what he had put into it, because he would get from an incoming tenant what he had expended upon its improvement. As long as the tenure of land was so insecure as at present, they could not hope that the people would advance, or that the country would become tranquil, peaceful, and orderly. It would be contrary to human nature if such a happy state of things were to be seen under the circumstances at present existing in Ireland. Reference had been made to the murders committed in Ireland; but he would remind the House that more murders were committed in England in one week than were committed in six months in Ireland. No man could attempt to justify the murders committed in Ireland, but it should not be forgotten that they were caused by circumstances which could not exist in this country. Give the people of Ireland security of tenure, and their natural qualities would be developed, and the claims upon them would be met by the commercial punctuality they had ever shown their willingness to display. Let them raise the people of Ireland in their own estimation, and make them feel that they were working for themselves; and they would render them industrious, prosperous, and happy, and confer lasting blessings upon the country.
§ SIR EDWARD GROGAN
said, he should regard it as a very unfortunate circumstance if the Motion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan were adopted by the House. Ireland had suffered most severely from a succession of bad harvests, and that was at a time when it was peculiarly desirable that the minds of the people should not be disturbed by expectations which could never be realized, and which would only foster an agitation for transferring the property of one class to another. The hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell) had stated that some landlords in Ireland were in the habit of serving their tenants every year with notices to quit. But the fact was, that although a few such cases might occur, they were only exceptions, and very rare exceptions, to the general practice of landlords. No doubt 1342 many of the Irish tenantry were at present in a very distressed condition; but no complaint was made that the landlords had by their harshness aggravated the evil, and that absence of any complaint afforded a conclusive proof that the landlords did not abuse their rights and powers. They were not now disposed to resort to those wholesale evictions which had to some extent been formally practised; they knew that their welfare and the welfare of their tenants were closely identified. It was true that the principle of tenant right was largely recognised in the north of Ireland, and incoming tenants actually paid their predecessors in many instances much more than the land was worth. The result was, that they commenced their farming operations with little or no capital, and that they were thus unable to effect the most desirable improvements. It was not to the absence of tenant-right that the misery of Ireland was to be attributed. There were other causes of the evil; and among those causes must be specially enumerated that system of murder which stalked in midday through the country, while no honest effort was made by the tenantry to arrest and punish it. Men of capital were thus deterred from settling in Ireland, and the first thing to be done for the improvement of the country was to put down that frightful scandal. Tenancy at will prevailed in this country as well as in Ireland; and, indeed, the laws which regulated the tenure of land in the two kingdoms were identical; and yet there were no complaints of the relation between landlords and tenants in England; and the reason was that in England landlords and tenants knew their respective positions; if the Irish peasant would only exhibit in his own country the same indomitable industry and zeal which he manifested on a foreign soil, the same eagerness to advance himself by every legitimate means, while extending a generous aid to his friends, he would speedily raise himself in the social scale. But, unhappily, he was surrounded by too many unfortunate associations, which taught him to believe that midnight violence and secret associations could overbear the law of the land; that by these he and his friends could rule the country as they thought best, without regard to the wishes or the interests of others. His hon. Friend (Mr. Bagwell) complained that the Bill of 1860 had proved inoperative. But it had done so because Irish Members 1343 persisted in forcing upon the Government Amendments in the same sense as the present Motion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan. He did not hesitate to say that the hon. Gentleman and those who supported him were destroying the interest of the very class they wished to serve, by exciting the fears of the landlords, who held the power in their own hands. Legislation could never make a people industrious or self-reliant; but advice, assistance, and example might go a long way. The most useful lesson that Parliament or Royal Commissions could impress on the people of Ireland was that "honesty is the best policy."
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that during his long experience in the House, he had continually heard Irish Gentlemen discuss Irish questions until he was quite incapable of understanding them. He would, however, make one suggestion to the Secretary of Ireland which he thought was an important one. The word "tenant-right," uttered in Englishmen's hearing, raised in their minds an immediate and involuntary feeling of disgust. They were tired of it, as the proposition appeared to be to take away a man's power over his own property. He would suggest a different course. Men often talked about the law of primogeniture, and sometimes they did not know what was meant by it. That law meant that a man might do what he pleased with his own property; but if he omitted to make a disposition of it at his death, the law stepped in and made it for him. That was exactly what he would do in the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland. He would allow the landlord and tenant to make whatever contract they pleased—the landlord might demand what he pleased, and the tenant might consent to give what he pleased—but if they omitted to make an agreement, then he would have the law provide an agreement for them, and settle what the outgoing tenant should receive, and what the incoming tenant should pay. Thus there would be no misunderstanding of individual rights on either side. At present, no precautions of that nature had been taken except in the landlord's favour. If the Secretary for Ireland would endeavour to frame a law to carry out the view he had suggested, he would do much to put an end to the miseries of Ireland, and would do more to promote peace and comfort in that country than all the talk that had been uttered in Parliament during the last thirty years. Irish Gentlemen 1344 were eloquent and talked much about Irish distress, ill-treatment, and the tyranny of landlords. The hon. Member for Dungarvan was influenced by the best intentions, and he had made out a strong case, but he had suggested nothing. The hon. Gentleman said "Inquire." Why, they had been inquiring for the last sixty years. What was wanted was a Secretary for Ireland capable of making a law for Ireland; and if the right hon. Baronet would sit down at his table and do that, he would add great honour to a name already immortalized.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
lamented that the subject of Irish distress had been so often brought before the House; but he desired to remind them that the question of agricultural distress in England had frequently engaged their attention in times past, that Commissions and Committees had been repeatedly appointed to inquire into the causes of that distress, and that it was only after the passing of a certain law in 1846 that complaints of agricultural distress in England had ceased. If the Government would deal boldly with the difficulties which he admitted did exist in connection with the question of landlord and tenant in Ireland, there would also be an end to the reiterated complaints that were now made upon that subject. Among the causes of the distress that existed in Ireland, he believed that the existence of cottier tenants was one—a class of tenants that had almost disappeared from England, owing to the existence of a Poor Law for two centuries and a half. The late Sir George Lewis, whose death all lamented, in a work he wrote in 1835, attributed the disturbances in Ireland to the absence of a Poor Law and the consequent necessity of a class of cottier tenants. Some English statesmen desired to see the same system of land cultivation that existed in England prevailing in Ireland, and large farms become the rule. But if they desired that, they must be prepared to see a still larger diminution in the population. The last census showed the population of Ireland to be 5,700,000, and Mr. John Stuart Mill calculated that the soil of Ireland could not properly maintain more than four millions; so that to reduce it to the state of England would require a further emigration of 1,700,000 of its inhabitants. Surely no one could desire such a remedy! Those who talked lightly of diminishing the population of Ireland had no right to be surprised at the declaration of the hon. Member 1345 for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), that every Irishman who emigrated to America carried with him an enduring hatred to England. It was sometimes doubted whether a land lord would eject a good tenant and take advantage of his improvements, and in past times the thing did not often happen; but recently a change of ownership had taken place in respect of much of the land of Ireland, and many owners had bought it as a commercial speculation from which to de rive as much profit as possible, In such cases the tenant did require protection, He had heard of the case of a gentleman who was chairman of the Tenant-right Association of Louth, who purchased some land in that county, and immediately proceeded to raise the rents 20 per cent, and to give notice to quit to all the tenants. Such a case showed the necessity for some legislation. No course could be better than that proposed by the hon. Member for Dungarvan. The failure of tenants to pay rent arose from the bad harvests, and the bad harvests were the consequence of want of drainage. If Lord Aberdeen's Bill had passed, the land would have been drained, the corn might have ripened, and the rents would have been paid in full. He did not think that the principle of terminable annuities, which was embodied in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell), passed some few years ago, came up to the reasonable expectations of the improving tenant; for who would build a decent house upon a terminable annuity of twenty-five years? He believed, however, that with very little alteration that Bill might be made to meet the existing evil. There bad been agricultural distress in England, but the father of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had taken it in hand, and put a stop to it. Could not the right hon. Baronet follow in the footsteps of his father, and by a short and simple measure provide a remedy for the great and lamentable distress in Ireland?
§ SIR GEORGE COLTHURST
, after re questing the usual indulgence of the House to a Member who addressed them for the first time, said, the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire), in a speech of much power and great moderation, bad brought forward this much-vexed question of the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, and had made use of the argument, that inasmuch as the measure of 1860, which had been intended as a final settlement, was not successful, further legislation in 1863 was necessary. To his (Sir 1346 George Colthurst's) mind, the legislation of 1860 went, far enough, and could go no further without interfering with the rights of property. The dealings between landlord and tenant ought to be based upon mutual good feeling and reciprocal interest. Irish landlords ought not to be dealt with in a different manner from English landlords, nor ought a third party to be brought in to dictate bow the Irish landlord and his tenant were to go on. He had lived for many years in the county with which the hon. Member for Dungarvan was also well acquainted, and he did not think that there existed in that county that feeling of distrust and dissatisfaction which the hon. Gentleman had alleged. On the contrary, the tenants there were all satisfied that their landlords would deal with them with justice and liberality, and when bad times came, as unfortunately was the case for the last three or four years, that their landlords would act towards them in a kindly spirit, If the Motion of the hon. Gentleman were for the perpetuation of small holdings, be could understand it. But the fact was, small holdings bad been no benefit to the country and their occupiers would have been far better employed as labourers than in trying to live upon a farm which neither time, capital, nor energy could improve. No one could deplore more than he did that the tide of emigration was flowing so fast from the shores of Ireland, but it was small farmers chiefly that were leaving; and why? Because they found that upon those small holdings they could not possibly subsist in bad times. The hon. Member stated that these small tenants had a great deal of money in bank, and that if they were encouraged by legislation, they would take it out and apply it to the improvement of their holdings. [Mr. MAGUIRE: I said the tenants. I did not specify any precise class.] But the hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell) said the tenants in his part of the country were so badly off they would not keep the land if they got it, for nothing, He did not think these two statements consistent with one another. He trusted the House would not assent to the Motion, as its effect would be to do a great deal of mischief, by exciting hopes which could never be realized.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) said that this subject had no novelty, that sixty years had been employed in questions of this nature, and he urged me to add to the honour of the name 1347 I bear, by attempting to settle this. This is a matter of considerable difficulty. I am bound to say that I was under the impression that the legislation of 1860 was considered by all parties as calculated to promote the welfare of Ireland. It is perfectly true that the measure has proved inoperative; but undoubtedly at the time it was produced it was thought by those who took part in its discussion, and by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell), calculated to be of some service to the country. With reference to this debate, I am ready to admit, as many hon. Members have done, that the hon Gentleman who opened the debate treated the subject with considerable ability, and with that frankness and honesty of purpose which are always sure to engage the attention, if not the sympathy, of the House; but, at the same time, I concur with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield that he gave us no specific reasons for adopting the Motion which he has submitted. He said that the question was one of the greatest magnitude, that it was not one which affected foreign nations, but was intimately connected with the well-being and power of this country. Sir, it is truly a question of that character; and when the hon. Gentleman said that all of us take an interest in the welfare of Ireland, he said what was true of all, and of none more than myself. But when the hon. Gentleman stated that while some attributed the present distressed condition of Ireland to the existence of the Irish Church, and some to the union, he attributed it to the position of the land question, I am bound respectfully to dissent from his conclusion; because he raised an issue which he was unable to prove, and because he failed to advance a single argument which should induce Parliament to disturb—for it would have the effect of disturbing—the existing relations between the owner and the occupier of the land. Now, I readily admit that it is of the greatest advantage that we should obtain the best information with regard to the condition of the agricultural classes in Ireland. We should recollect that the weight which they bring to the national balance is such that too much attention cannot be given to anything that may tend to encourage the application of capital, skill, industry, and enterprise to the cultivation of the soil, and to improve the relations between landlord and tenant. But will the Motion of the hon. Gentleman attain that end? I very much question whether the hon. 1348 Gentleman, who complains of the existing legislation, will succeed in his attempt to better the arrangements between landlord and tenant, or that he will gain his point by inducing the House to assent to the Motion. He wants Her Majesty's Government to issue a Royal Commission—"to inquire into and report upon the state of the agricultural classes in Ireland, and to suggest such improvement in the relations between landlord and tenant as may seem necessary and expedient." And the hon. Gentleman, in support of his Motion, has laid upon the table thirty-five Petitions, signed, he says, by 15,000 inhabitants of the county of Cork, who are all impressed with the necessity of the measure. But it is a remarkable fact that the first speech from the hon. Baronet the Member for Kinsale (Sir G. Colthurst), coming as he does from that county, and the owner of considerable property in it, should entirely refute the argument of the hon. Gentleman, and should declare that as regards the relations between landlord and tenant in the county of Cork they are in a satisfactory condition. That is a remarkable difference of opinion between two hon. Gentlemen, the one of considerable position in this House, and the other in his own county. But these Petitions are not exactly such as I should have wished to see in order to induce this House, consisting for the most part of men who are landed proprietors, and therefore interested in the question, to attach weight to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. No doubt persons of the highest position are among those who signed the Petitions. The hon. Gentleman informed us that it was signed by two Roman Catholic bishops in the county of Cork, and by all the Catholic clergy of the county also. I do not doubt they have opportunities of knowing what the state of that country is, and that many of them have been actively engaged in the works of charity among the poor; but surely they are not exactly the persons we should like to see coming to this House and asking for the interference of the Legislature between landlord and tenant. Why do not the landlords themselves come forward? I should like to know what would be the feeling exhibited in the county with which I am connected if the Bishop of Lichfield and his clergy came forward and asked the State to interfere between such relations. Would they not be told that they had better attend to their spiritual duties, and leave the relations of landlord 1349 and tenant in the county of Stafford to those who know much better than they could possibly do that in which their own interests were intimately wrapped up? One of these Petitions were presented in March 1863, by the Member for Meath, and that Petition, after laying before the House the distressed state of Ireland, went on in these words—That while Ireland possesses every advantage of climate and soil calculated to constitute her a happy and prosperous nation; that while her people are industrious and frugal, the present system of land tenure giving no security to tenants for the value created in their holdings by labour, risk, skill, and capital, has locked up every source of industry, has produced progressive and rapid decay, has lessened the population in this county by 51,000 in less than twenty years, and exhibits us to the world as the most miserable and wretched of the nations of the earth—our labourers without work, our artisans without occupation, and our shopkeepers and traders without customers. That being convinced that all these evils mainly arise from the present system of land tenure, we pray your hon. House to take the matter into your immediate consideration, and pass a law which will encourage tenant industry, develop the resources of the land, and save the nation from ruin.I maintain that is not at all the case. I agree there is a vast amount of distress in Ireland, and that the present system of land tenure is not what it might be; but to say that Ireland exhibits to the world a picture of the most wretched nation on the face of the earth is surely not correct. I can conceive nothing more disheartening to a people struggling under three successive inclement seasons than to he constantly told that they are growing in misery, that they are going to be utterly ruined, and cannot possibly be saved. The proper way to deal with a people suffering under the dispensations of Providence is to endeavour to instil some spirit into them by telling them that they may not have another affliction, and that prosperity will return, calling upon them to show an energy and perseverance that would enable them to cope with the difficulties of their position, I admit to the hon. Gentleman that there is no more important subject to deal with than that affecting the relations of landlord and tenant. With reference to this question, I have taken some trouble to inquire into what the Roman and the Continental law says on the subject, and, if the House will allow me, I will briefly state the results The Roman law contemplated as a fact the almost universal existence of a specific convention between the landlord and tenant; and if the tenant made valuable improvements which increased the revenue of the farm, 1350 he was entitled to compensation. The right of eviction existed, but there accrued to the tenant a right of action against the landlord if the former did not obtain the stipulated use and enjoyment of the land, From a general review of the Roman law and of the Continental law may be deduced the following leading principles upon the subject of the rights and obligations of landlord and tenant. I do not allude to England. Now, the law, as regards England, was amended by 14 & 15 Vict., c. 25. Up to that time the right of the agricultural tenant, with respect to fixtures erected for purposes of husbandry, was not considered in the same light as the right of a tenant in regard to fixtures put up for purposes of trade or manufacture, which are now removable, unless the landlord elects to take them. The leading principles I deduce from the Roman and the Continental law are:—1. As a general rule the tenant is entitled to compensation for substantial improvements bonâ fide effected by him on the landlord's estate. 2. That he may remove at the expiration of his lease improvements which the landlord declines to purchase, provided he leaves the estate in as good a condition as before the removal. 3. The value of the improvements by tenant is never to be estimated at a larger amount than the actual outlay itself. 4. That the tenant forfeits his title to compensation by omitting to pay his rent; and that whatever might happen the landlord was entitled to his rent. But, in Ireland, I will admit to the hon. Gentleman, the case has been different. There have been frequent attempts at legislation on this subject. We all recollect some time ago two notable instances of legislation on the subject—one by Mr. Serjeant Slice and the other by Mr. Napier, when Attorney General to Lord Derby's Government. Serjeant Shee's Bill was very different from that of Mr. Napier's. They both professed to promote an improved system of agriculture by securing compensation to the immediate authors of improvements. If Serjeant Shee's Bill had gone no further than that. I should have given it my support, because I think the tenant entitled to fair compensation for the permanent improvements he makes on the estate which he holds from the landlord, provided the application of that outlay is not expended at the termination of his lease. But the provisions of Mr. Serjeant Shee's Bill were objectionable, because revolutionary. What did he Propose? 1351 To give the right of continued occupation of land to a tenant subject to the payment of rent:—so that a tenant simply by retaining adverse possession for a certain number of years against the landlord would in the course of time gain a proprietorship, and the land itself would gradually be transferred from the proprietor to the lessee. No one could agree to that. No Landlord, and very few respectable tenants, could agree to that. He gave compensation, which in principle transferred the property in the soil itself from the proprietor to the lessee. Such were the provisions of Mr. Serjeant Shee's Bill. It was rejected, and never could become law in the Parliament of this country. What was the Bill of Mr. Napier? As far as its provisions relative to improvement were concerned, there was no objection to them; but there was such complicated machinery for carrying out its provisions that it was felt it could not work. We have, then, of recent date, two attempts at legislation, both of which have failed to meet the approval of Parliament. My right hon. Friend the present Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Cardwell), after much and earnest consideration with the Government of the day, introduced a Bill to which I shall presently allude, which, according to the hon Gentleman the Member for Dungarvan, held out a miserable inducement to the tenant. That was the only attempt at successful legislation for many years. Now, what are the grounds of complaint? The hon. Member for Dungarvan, in a most temperate and frank manner, stated his views to the House. He opened the debate in a manner it was almost pleasing to listen to, so characterized was it both by ability and fairness. But what are the alleged grounds of complaint in Ireland? I have, looking to the different Petitions addressed to the House, taken care that my statement shall be correct. It is said that the tenant is not secured in the value of his improvements arising out of his skill and capital, that want of security prevents the improvements in which he would otherwise embark, and defeats the enterprise of the tenant. The hon. Gentleman alluded, in the course of his remarks, to the sales that had taken place in the Encumbered Estates Court. The rents, he said, were screwed up; three times the value was demanded, and in one instance he said the landlord had asked his tenants whether they would have their rents increased to £3 per acre. The hon. 1352 Member almost held that gentleman up as the representative of the general practice. ["No, no!"] I understood the hon. Member to say that this landlord asked his tenants whether they would pay £3 per acre for land, that being an increase on what they previously paid. [Mr. MAGUIRE: No, no!] I should he sorry to misstate anything, and I have no desire to say one word calculated to misrepresent what has fallen from the hon. Member. I understood him as holding that landlord up as forcing his views on his tenants, and he said that the merchants and traders who came to Ireland were infinitely worse. [Mr. MAGUIRE: No, no!] Another position maintained by the hon. Member was, that the present relations between landlord and tenant check industry, and retard the development of the material prosperity of the country. The hon. Gentleman drew a comparison between the English tenant and the Irish tenant, and said most truly that the Irish tenant entered on his holding in a position far more disadvantageous than the English tenant; because the latter, finding his farm in order, at once commenced reproductive labour, while the Irish tenant, immediately heenters on his farm, has to expend a large amount of capital which is not reproductive. We all know that many ways have been suggested of settling this question. Some have proposed the arbitrary measure of making the landlord give the tenant the fee-simple of the land ["No!"]; and others have recommended that public works should be undertaken, on the ground that the expenditure of the public money would relieve the tenant from the distress under which he labours. I think, however, that the House of Commons has universally condemned the attempt to give relief by such plans, and I should be sorry to see them re-introduced into this House for consideration. There have been meetings in several parts of Ireland of a recent date on this subject, not only in the county of Cork, but in the county of Meath. Recently, an agitation was got up at Mullingar; but it is not right to discuss this matter in the violent way in which some persons in Ireland handle it—for the very violence of the language employed is calculated to delay the beneficial operation of the measure I have before referred to. For instance, in Mayo, nothing could exceed the violence of the language made use of. In December, I recollect seeing an announcement of what was called a "No Rent" movement. Now, 1353 nothing could be more injurious than to induce tenants to believe that by joining in such movements they could succeed in getting rid of rent. The meeting at Mullingar, in Westmeath, was a remarkable one. All the Catholic clergy attended; but the landlords of the neighbourhood, when circulars were addressed to them, absolutely declined to take part in the proceedings. Lord Castlemaine wrote the following letter:—I am in receipt of your communication of the 12th inst., and in reply beg to state that I must decline signing the enclosure, as I think the meeting in question can be productive of no good, is only calculated to promote an agitation at variance with the true interests of the people, and to divert their thoughts from that individual industry which can alone lead to the prosperity of a country.That is the proper way to meet an agitation got up as that was. If Lord Castlemaine bad given his concurrence to the proceedings, one might have supposed that there was something serious in the matter; but when the landed proprietors decline to take part in the agitation, we may well believe that the circumstances of the case are not so serious as some persons would lead us to apprehend. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Act 23 & 24 Vict., c. 153, which he said held out a miserable inducement to tenants. Now, I can see nothing of that kind in that measure. The Act is divided into four parts, the first relating to landlords' improvements, the second to leasing powers, the third to tenants' improvements, and the fourth to general provisions. By certain clauses in that Act the tenant, if he chooses to lay out money in improvements on his land, is entitled to what I consider a most fair compensation if he is turned out. He gives notice to the owner or his agent of all the money he has spent, and he is allowed by the landlord an annuity of £7 2s for every £100 for a term of twenty-five years. It is perfectly true that the Act has been inoperative; but the House should recollect that vast sums of money have been spent for the improvement of land in Ireland. Under the 10 Vict., c. 32, advances have been made for the improvement of land in Ireland to the amount of £362,000; and a Return has been laid on the table of the House showing that a vast amount of money—£3,548,403,—has been spent in Ireland on improvements, of which £2,075,893 were for arterial drainage, within the brief period of thirty years. I think that clearly proves, that while Parliament has declined to deal with the present question in the manner 1354 desired by the hon. Member for Dungarvan, it has not been indifferent to the condition of the occupiers and owners of land in Ireland, or unwilling to advance the interests of the country. The hon. Gentleman said that nothing has been done on the Report of the Devon Commission, but he made no mention of the vast improvement which has taken place since that Commission reported. There could be no more notable proof of this than that which is afforded by a Return in respect to the holdings in Ireland. It is a great misfortune for a country to have an enormous number of small holdings, each consisting of a trifling parcel of land, which entitles the occupier, as he thinks, to the character of a tenant farmer, whereas he would be in a far better condition as a farm labourer; and the changes which have taken place in respect to the occupation of land since 1841 are most remarkable. In the number of holdings from one to five acres there has been, between the years 1841 and 1861, a decrease of 224,967, being at the rate of 72 per cent; while, on the other hand, in the holdings of land above 30 acres there has been an increase, between the years 1841 and 1861, of 109,208. In 1841 there were 48,625 holdings above 30 acres, and in 1861 the number had increased to 157,833, I think that these Returns show the immense improvement which has taken place in the tenure of land in Ireland, and which must tend to benefit the agricultural classes and promote the general prosperity of the country. The hon. Gentleman went into the question of emigration; but as that subject was fully entered into last week, I will not trespass on the attention of the House by following the hon. Gentleman upon that point. There can he no doubt there has been a vast diminution of the population by means of emigration, which still continues to a great amount; but I am not one who regards that diminution of the population with unmixed regret. I believe that the persons who leave Ireland for the Colonies, or America, acquire there for themselves a position which they would never have obtained in their own country, owing to its enormous over-population, and have been able, in a period of twelve years, to send a vast amount of money to Ireland. For these reasons, I do not think the Government would be acting fairly towards owners and occupiers if they acceded to the Motion of the hon. Member. I believe that these repeated discussions are not calculated to 1355 do good to those whose interests the hon. Gentleman unquestionably has at heart. The debate the other night most conclusively showed, that taking the population per head, the Irish are more leniently treated in regard to taxation than the rest of the Empire. Well might the hon. Member for Galway exclaim—O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona nôrint, Agricolas.The fact is, that such a discussion might tend to induce a Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider whether he could not do away with exceptional taxation in favour of Ireland, and place the people of both countries on the same footing. In my opinion, the course which the hon. Gentleman has taken is not calculated to promote just and legitimate relations between landlord and tenant, on which the security, strength, and wealth of the country mainly depends. He has said truly that we are all interested in Ireland. Her enterprise and industry form the broad basis of national prosperity. In Ireland, it is well known that the agricultural class is of paramount importance; and although, in the name of the Government and on public grounds, I feel bound to resist the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, I will not yield to any one in my earnest desire to further, by wise legislation, whatever may tend to benefit that interest and to give free scope to the material prosperity of the people of Ireland.
said, the Resolution before the House contained two propositions so true, so simple, and so moderate that the House must of necessity stultify itself if it refused to vote an Address to the Crown. The assertion in the first proposition, that the legislation of 1860, which professedly had for its object the improvement of the condition of the occupiers of land in Ireland, had been a failure, was abundantly supported by official Returns and by the observation of all who had any connection with or any knowledge of Ireland. The second proposition declared, though not exactly in these words, that it was the duty of Parliament to take measures to develop the resources of Ireland and guard the just rights of the people, and thereby to secure their happiness and contentment. The Government admitted the propriety of legislation on this subject when, in 1860, they undertook to bring in a Bill dealing with the relation of landlord and tenant, and so did Parliament when they assented to the proposal of the Government. Therefore, when it had been 1356 shown that the measure then passed was inoperative, it was clear that Parliament stood in exactly the same position as they did three years ago in regard to this question, and that they had their work to do over again. Government ought to erase the abortive Act from the statute-book, and set about procuring information which would render any future legislation something more than a means of wasting time and raising groundless hopes among the Irish people. If, however, the Government refused to do anything, then he was justified in attributing to them either indifference to the distress and sufferings of Ireland, or incompetency to discharge the functions intrusted to them. There were many who believed that a Government not assisted by an exclusively Irish Parliament could not administer the affairs of that country successfully. It was also thought that the Government, not being Irishmen, did not feel that natural love for the Irish people which would of itself prompt wise and beneficent legislation. That inference was drawn from the fact that they had never applied any real remedies to the evils which they affected to deplore. The Government had done nothing to check the tide of emigration which threatened to leave Ireland pulseless; and it was even conjectured by some that this was owing to a desire to see the population reduced as low as possible. There were a few who deemed the Government simply incompetent; but he could not admit the incompetency of those who had never really tried what they could accomplish. They might do much for Ireland if they would only carry out the wishes of the people; but they had hitherto disregarded those wishes, and only carried out their own views; and the result was, as described by the Attorney General for Ireland, that Ireland was in a miserable, an impoverished, and distressed condition. He asserted that the Government was responsible for the present depressed state of the country. The evils which afflicted Naples, Turkey, or Poland were always attributed to the defects of the Neapolitan, Turkish, or Russian Governments; but it was odd, that when mention was made of the distress of Ireland, it was denied that the Government was responsible for the effects of its own acts, and the whole blame was thrown upon Providence. He believed that the great majority of his countrymen would join him in laying the charge of the miseries which affected Ireland at the door of 1357 the British Government, Ireland had been invariably governed for the benefit of the landlord class. The landlords were allowed to do what they liked with the land, no matter what became of the occupiers. If a landlord took it into his head to evict a whole country-side, the Government provided him with an armed police, and with soldiers, if necessary, and all the instruments of the Saw, to enable him to carry out his wicked purpose. That had been done in innumerable instances. It had been done recently in Donegal, and there were few landlords in Ireland who might not, if they pleased, follow the example of Mr. Adair. The occupiers were treated as if they had no claim whatever on the land—as if they were sent into the world merely for the purpose of making, not simply rent, but as much rent as the landlord chose to exact. It was no less an authority than John Stuart Mill (who had already been quoted by the hon. Member for Dungarvan) who said that the land of every country belonged to the people of that country, and that the individuals called landowners bad no right in morality or justice to anything but the rent or compensation for its salable value; and that when the inhabitants quitted their country en masse, because they felt that the Government would not make it a fit place for them to live in, the same Government was, ipso facto, tried and condemned. Justice required, he added, that the actual occupiers should he entitled to become in Ireland what they had become in America, the proprietors of the soil which they cultivated. The truth was, that under the existing system of Government the Irish people had no confidence, no feeling of security, and they would continue to fly from the country unless they saw some prospect of a better state of things. Their impoverished condition was an admitted fact, and the cause of it was to be found in the exorbitant rents which were extorted by the landlords, and in the circumstance that more than one-third of the whole rental was spent out of the country. The people had learnt, by long and sad experience, that their claim to live upon the land, and to enjoy a moderate share of happiness, would not be allowed to weigh for one moment against the claim of the landlord for his rent; consequently, they felt the uselessness of attempting to grapple with a power which had already overborne thousands of their brethren, and therefore sought to escape to other parts of the world, where 1358 the rights of humanity were permitted to take precedence of the claims of landlords. Owing to certain causes, the price of pork and butter had recently fallen considerably. Pork and butter were the two staples, the sale of which had enabled the small farmers to pay their rent. What was the result? The House had been told by the hon. Baronet the Member for Kinsale (Sir George Colthurst) in his first speech, that the small farmers must go—and why? Because they were unable to pay the exorbitant rent which they had hitherto been paying.
§ SIR GEORGE COLTHURST
explained, that what he had said was, that if had times continued, the small farmers must go, because it was impossible they could live upon small plots of land.
The hon. Baronet meant because they could not pay the exorbitant rent which bad hitherto been extorted from them. [Sir GEORGE COLTHURST: No!] That, at all events, was the inference he drew from the statement of the hon. Gentleman. In his opinion, the natural way of redressing the grievance would be for the landlords to reduce their rents. Of course, however, that would not be thought of, because it would lead to a diminution in the incomes of the landlords. No account was taken of the income of the occupiers. Did it never occur to the Government, when they saw the people eating nothing but potatoes, drinking nothing but water, or occasionally a little sour milk, and dwelling in wretched hovels, that having paid away their last farthing in the shape of rent, they were necessarily unable to provide themselves with the ordinary comforts of life? Food was cheap, clothing was not necessarily dear, and yet multitudes of the Irish people were half starved and clad in rags, because all their money had gone to satisfy the demands of their landlords. The Government had been truly described as a complicated machine for the collection of rent. The land of Ireland was in a state of stagnation. How long was that condition of things to continue? He felt certain, that if that House were under the control of the Irish people, the law of landlord and tenant would he totally changed in six months. Mr. Caulfield Heron said, "Emancipate the land; give the tenant security for his improvements." In addition to that he said, "Give the tenant security of tenure, and give him also security that the landlord will not compel him to pay too great a rent." He was sorry, although he confessed 1359 it did not take him much by surprise, to hear it announced that the Government did not intend to assent to the Motion of his hon. Friend. He was convinced that Ireland was at present beaten in the struggle for existence; that her system of land tenure was at the root of her evils; and that, until something was done towards placing the law of landlord and tenant on a sound footing, her people would have very little confidence in the British Government or the British Parliament, but would think it their best policy to leave the country as fast as they could.
§ MR. O'REILLY
wished to make a few remarks in answer to the speech of the Chief Secretary. That right hon. Gentleman said he should oppose the Motion, because its tendency was to confiscate the rights of a class. [Sir ROBERT PEEL dissented.] He would, of course, bow to the right hon. Baronet's correction, although he had taken down his words at the time, and did not think there could be any mistake in the matter. Nevertheless, as the right hon. Baronet now denied having used them, be was bound to accept that denial. The Motion was one for inquiry; and how a Motion for inquiry could be justly designated as hostile to the rights of any class, it was difficult to conceive. The right hon Gentleman next observed, that if the Irish tenants were as industrious in Ireland as they were in America and other countries, they would naturally be as prosperous. From that, however, he drew a conclusion precisely the opposite of the right hon. Baronet's. The man himself did not change by merely changing the sky over his head, as the old Latin poet said; but there must be something in the circumstances of his country when he was unable to render his industry as available at home as it would be in a foreign land. But in what had fallen from the Chief Secretary there was much that was valuable and worthy of being well noted by the people of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman informed them that he had long and carefully studied Roman law and the law of France, of Prussia, and almost every European country, and he had found that in all those States, as a general rule, the tenant was entitled—1st. to compensation for any solid improvements which he made on the property of his landlord; 2nd, that he was entitled to remove those improvements at the expiration of his term if they were unpaid for; 3rd, that the value claimed for improvements should never exceed the original outlay upon them; and 1360 4th, that any claim for improvements should be forfeited if the tenant did not pay his rent. These were the four conclusions which the Chief Secretary had drawn from his study of the legislation of Europe; and all he could say was, that the people of Ireland would be perfectly contented if the right hon. Gentleman would embody the four principles which he had so lucidly stated in a measure for the benefit of that country. The Chief Secretary having admitted that the tenant was fully entitled to compensation for his improvements, it was to be hoped that he would introduce a Bill to secure it for him. A case mentioned by the hon. Member for Dungarvan appeared to have been misunderstood. That hon. Member stated the case of a property purchased by two gentlemen in the Encumbered Estates Court. The one purchaser inquired of the tenants what rent they paid. They replied £3 an acre. He then asked whether they were content with that, and they answered "Yes." He further asked them, "Would you accept leases?" They said, "Yes, thankfully." And the conduct of that landlord met with the highest approval from the hon. Member for Dungarvan. But another gentleman, who purchased the other half of the property, and paid twenty years' purchase for it, afterwards went to the tenants and insisted on their paying £10 an acre, a considerable portion (about a third or a half) of the purchase money, without giving them any leases; and the conduct of that landlord received the reprobation of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, as he believed it would receive the reprobation of the House. Economic science taught that it was impossible for legislation permanently to fix the price of any article at a lower rate than it would bring by the natural action of free competition in the market. He therefore admitted that any attempt by legislation to fix the price for the use of land at a lower amount than it would fetch in the open market would necessarily fail. But another principle, equally recognised by economists, was this—that it was perfectly possible, by legislative action, to increase artificially the price of an article. All legislation tending to create monopoly, gave a factitiously-enhanced value to an article, although it could not bring its price lower than the natural standard. An extravagant price could not be permanently given for an article by a solvent purchase; but if the law stepped in and gave the seller 1361 of one particular article an advantage over the seller of every other article, in respect to the recovery of his debts, enabling him to receive the full satisfaction of his claim before any other creditor could obtain a farthing, then he said the law artificially enhanced the price of that particular article. They all knew that was the case with regard to land, and that rent had a priority over every other debt of the tenant. The law of distraint conferred an additional advantage on the landlord, for it gave him a power not only over the property of his debtor, but over the property of any other person if it was on the land. The state of the law in Ireland at present was such as to produce an artificially high price for land. In England the proprietors were, for the most part, wealthy, and had not the same inducements to demand an enhanced price for their land; and there were other laws, which, although in a less degree, operated in the same direction, such, for example, as those which prescribed that certain taxes should be paid in the first instance by the occupying tenant.
§ MR. CARDWELL
Sir, I am happy to bear my cordial testimony to the temperate manner in which the subject under discussion has been introduced to our notice by the hon. Member for Dungarvan. I must, however, say that I cannot help concurring in the remark made by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) to the effect that the hon. Gentleman submitted no practical suggestion nor indicated any measure in the direction to which his Motion tends. He has, indeed, been for many years an honourable and consistent supporter of what is called tenant-right; but there can, I think, be no doubt that the measures which have been advocated on that point—tenant-right, fixity of tenure, or whatever it may be called—amount in many instances to a violation of the settled rights of property,—a transfer of the property in land from him whom the law now recognises as the owner to the occupier, upon conditions which would make the landlord little more than an annuitant upon his own estate. If, indued, the hon. Member for Tipperary (The O'Donoghue) is to be taken as the opponent of the school who advocate those views, the landlord is not to be an annuitant on his property for any fixed or steady amount, but for a precarious amount, fluctuating with the exingencies of the occupier; and the Government of this country is to be classed with those of Russia or Turkey, 1362 because it maintains the law by which the rights of the landlord are now protected in Ireland. Now, I think it is the duty of the House, in dealing with this question, not to forget what took place in 1860. No doubt one proposition then before the House was that the law should he altered in the sense to which he had adverted. To that proposition the Government gave a very intelligible and respectful refusal. They said they could not be parties to an arrangement of that kind, and that if a proposal were made to give retrospective compensation for improvements which a tenant bad already effected without an agreement with his landlord, they would decline to accede to it. They further said, that if it was intended in future to take from the landlord the controlling power over his property, and settle without his consent the amount and extent of the improvement for which the landlord should become chargeable, they would decline to agree to such a proposition. There were, however, much more legitimate demands made upon the Government in 1860—they were asked to look upon the beneficial operation of what was called the Montgomery Act in Scotland, as well to the effect of the laws in force in this country, which were not yet in operation in Ireland. Having taken into their consideration the leasing powers conferred by the Settled Estates Act of 1856, the Government by the Act of 1860, applied exclusively to Ireland, extended the powers of charging the reversion for improvements effected by the life-tenant, and great additional facilities were afforded to limited owners to grant agricultural leases. One further provision was made to meet a want which was stated to be the peculiar want of Ireland. It was stated that in Ireland improvement is effected by the tenant, not, as in England and in Scotland, by the landlord. Accordingly, a third provision was made, by which—in addition to the power of charging the reversion for improvements if effected by the landlord, and to the power of giving improvement leases to improving tenants—the tenant-at-will might agree with the limited owner and charge the reversion for improvements effected by the capital or labour of the tenant. No one has suggested a single proposition which was omitted to be taken into consideration in that year which was consistent with the rights of property. Is it intended now to propose anything which is inconsistent with the rights of property, and 1363 which will transfer the whole or any part of the land of Ireland from those who are to those who are not entitled to it? The hon. Member for Dungarvan has told us of all the circumstances which show a decline in agricultural prosperity during the last three years. I do not know what conclusion he draws from these premisses; but do they not afford a solution of the fact that no capital is forthcoming for the improvement of the land? There are documents which show that the loss of the tenant farmers in Ireland during the last three years had been equal to two years' rental of the whole of Ireland. Are those the years when the spirit of improvement can be active? In 1845 an Act was passed to enable landlords in Ireland to apply to the Court of Chancery to authorize expenditure on improvements, and from that time to the present not a single application has been made. If ever there was a time when there would naturally be a lack of activity in the application of capital to the improvement of land in Ireland, it must be such a period of unprecedented distress as that through which Ireland has unfortunately lately passed. The hon. Member for Dungarvan closed his able speech by a spirited renunciation of any desire to receive aid from this country, and declared his desire to be that we should remove the fetters from Ireland and set free her industry. The answer to that appeal is plain. The people of Ireland have in their power the same statutory provisions which have been turned to so large account in Scotland, and contributed so much to the improvement of that country. They have in a cheaper form, through the Landed Estates Court, all the powers which the Lands Improvement Act confer upon the landed proprietors of this country. They have by statute larger leasing powers than are enjoyed in this part of the kingdom. They have a special arrangement to meet the special want of Ireland—namely, improvement to be effected by the capital or labour of the tenant; and we call on them in Ireland to do what we have done in England and Scotland, not to allow these statutes to lay idle in the statute book, but to give them vitality by calling them into action. I cordially agree that the interests of landlord and tenant are identical, and I believe that both must look to a sound and wholesome state of the law, which shall be applicable to both. The question now before us is the appointment of a Commission. There can be no doubt that, if appointed, all those heartburnings 1364 and jealousies which made their appearance on every hustings, and tended to check improvement, would be immediately and promptly revived. And, let me ask the hon. Member for Dungarvan, to what end? Can he believe that any measure touching the rights of property would ever receive the sanction of this and the other House of Parliament? Can it, then, be useful to stimulate hopes which you cannot gratify, and expectations which you know must be disappointed? Let any one who sees an improvement can be made in the law communicate with my right hon. Friend, or introduce a Bill into this House. I am quite sure it will receive the most respectful attention. I do not believe that Parliament will ever sanction a measure which touches the rights of property; and as I am sure inquiry will lead to vain and delusive hopes, I trust the Motion will not receive the sanction of the House.
§ MR. SCULLY
complained, that the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary had misled the House, by treating the question as one of tenant-right or fixity of tenure, instead of what it really was, tenants' compensation. The Government had resisted fixity of tenure, and would, no doubt, resist it, although it had been carried into law in Prussia and other countries; but that was a proposition which had never been seriously contended for in that House. The late Lord Chancellor of Ireland (Mr. Napier) had framed a retrospective clause, but it was one which would be applicable only in very remote contingencies, and, as far as he could judge, was not objectionable. As to the Act of 1860, he had denounced it at the time as a bread pill, and the right hon. Gentleman wanted them to continue the use of that innocuous medicine. The proposal of the hon. Member for Dungarvan was exceedingly harmless, and even that he seemed ready to yield, if the Chief Secretary for Ireland would only promise to take the subject into his consideration with a view to legislation. But the right hon. Baronet would do nothing of the sort; he did not think the subject even worth consideration. He himself advocated this measure in the interest of the landlord. He disagreed entirely with the hon. Member for Tipperary (The O'Donoghue), in treating the matter as if the landlord and tenant had entirely antagonistic interests. He treated the matter as one entirely of justice, and for no consideration of popularity would he consent to treat it in any 1365 other way. In Mr. Napier's Bill of 1852 there was a moderate retrospective clause; but that Bill, though it passed the Commons, did not succeed in the Lords, on account, as it was said, of the late period of the Session at which it was brought up Next year, Mr. Phillimore induced the House of Commons to reject the retrospective clause, and the Bill was then abandoned. If he were asked to suggest what should be done, he would say, re-introduce that Bill, even without the retrospective clause. It would be better than the useless Bill passed by the right hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell). It was by no means difficult to legislate justly, if the House would only apply itself seriously to the subject. The Irish landlords were not consulting their own interests in not advocating fair legislation in favour of their tenants; but he hoped the right hon, Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland would follow the example set him by his illustrious father, in the bringing-in of liberal measures, when he came to that period of life when he could exercise a sound judgment.
said, he had for many years been in the habit of employing forty or fifty Irish labourers on his property, and his experience led him to believe that there was not a more orderly, more industrious, or a more provident race than the Irish labourers who came over to this country. He felt it his duty to bear that testimony to the excellent character of those men.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, that all the Irish Members who had spoken on that debate, with but one exception, supported the Motion of his hon. Friend; and every Irish Member who had spoken, without exception, bore testimony to the decline of Irish prosperity; but the two English Members who had spoken from the Treasury bench, not only opposed his Motion, but differed from him as to the decline of that prosperity. From the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary they had heard a repetition of the statement so often made by him of the vast improvement in the state of Ireland. But he submitted to the House that Irish Members ought to be better acquainted with the condition of the country than the right hon. Baronet and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The latter was an accomplished gentleman; but he had gone to Ireland and failed. ["No!"] He had brought in a Tenant Bill, and it had failed. 1366 The right hon. Gentleman himself had ventured to prophesy that every tenant farmer would take advantage of his Bill; but not a single tenant farmer had done so. They had in Ireland a Government who were not acquainted with the wants and wishes of the country. There were in Ireland a number of antediluvian Whigs, who impiously pointed to Providence when persons talked of a decline in the prosperity of the country. It was no wonder, that under such an administration Ireland was unable to contend with the difficulties that surrounded her, The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary, when speaking of the decrease of the population, said it was not with unmixed sorrow he viewed that decrease. He believed that feeling was shared in by the right hon. Baronet's Colleagues, and the language be had used was a delicate Parliamentary way of conveying to the House that the Government felt some little satisfaction at the circumstance. The Government which made such a declaration to a free assembly like the House of Commons ought not, as they did not, receive the confidence of the people of Ireland, and were not worthy of the support of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy had misunderstood a portion of the speech of his hon Friend the Member for Tipperary (The O'Donoghue), who had said that when the attention of the rulers of this country was called to the complaints of the people of other countries, they blamed the Governments of those countries; but when their attention was directed to the condition of the people of Ireland, they attributed it to Providence. The Motion of his hon. Friend was a fair and temperate one. It was recommended by all the Irish Members: no good reasons had been given why it should not be adopted, and be should give it his cordial support.
§ MR. M. DUNNE
thought it was a matter greatly to be deplored that in considering these questions they always looked upon it as a matter concerning tenants only. There was no doubt that the tenant had a right to the first advantages; but the landlord should also have his share. There was also a third party concerned, and that was the nation generally, as the nation would gain from a just arrangement between landlord and tenant; but no arrangement could be come to without difficulty, and there was no doubt that if Government should take the matter into its own hands, they would succeed in making some equitable 1367 arrangement. Unless some support was afforded by Government, Ireland would never be able to compete with foreign nations in agricultural products, and it would ever remain, as it was now called "a green isle."
§ MR. BLAKE
Before entering on the few topics on which he intended to touch at that lengthened period of the debate, and late hour of the night, he felt anxious to express his regret that the hon. Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy) should have spoken in such unjust terms of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster as to characterize his administration in Ireland as a succession of failures. The right hon. Gentleman had, to say the least, done quite as much as any Chief Secretary who preceded him for many years, so far as he could recollect. He had, introduced some good measures, which it was not his fault did not pass; and the Poor Law Amendment Bill, containing many useful clauses, was brought in by him, and became law soon after he left office. He (Mr. Blake) was in opposition to the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the whole time he was in office; but frequently bad occasion to communicate personally with him on Irish affairs, and had always found him able, honest, and apparently anxious to do his best to advance the interests of Ireland. The land Bill he had proposed was a very inoperative one, and it was to be regretted his name was not associated with a measure calculated to do more good to the Irish farmer. The Chancellor of the Duchy, as well as the Chief Secretary for Ireland had objected, in the course of the present debate, that the hon. Member for Dungarvan and others who hail spoken had not stated in explicit terms what they wanted for the Irish tenant. He thought it had been made pretty clear on many occasions—that what the advocates of the tenant required was, that the cultivator of the soil not protected by lease, should, if dispossessed, receive a fair compensation to the extent that he had improved the letting nature of the land. Now, that was the whole gist of the question, and nothing could be conceived more advantageous to the landlord, as well as the tenant. The Chief Secretary had stated, that even if the hon. Member for Dungarvan carried his Motion, it would not do much towards enabling him to accomplish his real object; and in that he fully concurred with the right hon. Baronet, as he believed if the Commission corroborated every word that 1368 had been said that night on behalf of the tenant farmers of Ireland, the latter would be just as far off as ever from any real prospect of relief. In proof of this, he need only cite the Devon Commission—what useful results had followed from it to the unfortunate farmers of Ireland, although it pointed out in forcible and feeling terms the deplorable state they were in, and the necessity of something being done to ameliorate their condition? No, under existing circumstances, there was no hope to benefit Ireland through the instrumentality of the House of Commons; and his hon. Friends the Members for Dungarvan and Tipperary might have spared themselves the trouble of making their able and truthful statements about the condition of Ireland, as no detail of Irish suffering, no matter how affecting and well founded, would induce that House to deal out the justice asked for, merely to benefit the people of Ireland; and it was painful to be obliged to add that there were none who seconded the cruel and infatuated course the Government seemed resolved on pursuing in this vital matter more than the majority of Irish Members in the House. But if considerations for Irish interests could not move the Legislature to do what was right, motives of self-interest (the very strongest, generally, that can animate the human heart) should prompt England to adopt the step pointed out to arrest the further progress of Irish misery. He would ask them to do so as Imperial legislators, having only in view what was really for the advantage, honour, and safety of the great Empire whose affairs were intrusted to them. Previous speakers had shown the millions who had been obliged to leave Ireland to seek in foreign lands that reward for their industry denied them in their own. It was estimated that every person in Ireland on an average used three pounds worth per annum of British manufacture, and contributed one pound a year to taxation. Now, this four pounds per head was lost to England on every native of Ireland who went to America; and besides this, from the falling-off in the population, the land of Ireland did not produce so much as formerly, and England had to send gold to foreign countries for corn, of which, only for the depopulation of Ireland, a good part might be raised there, and the money retained and spent at home. But he would tell them more startling truths still. He knew they would not be well received; but he would not be doing his duty to his country, or to 1369 those who sent him to represent them, if he did not give expression to what he believed to be the fact. Owing to the unsatisfactory state of the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, and the hopelessness which the unfortunate people felt of obtaining any just measures to remedy the evils under which they groaned, there was not at that moment in any part of Europe, even including Poland, a greater feeling of disaffection towards a Government than generally existed throughout Ireland just now. [Cries of "No, no!"] Many of those who cried "No!" knew he was only telling the bare truth; but they wished to shut their eyes to it, and probably would do so until the disaster would be past remedying, and Ireland lost to England. A few nights before in that House an hon. Member had said that every emigrant who left Ireland carried in his heart a deep-seated feeling of resentment against England. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, in reply, uttered what, no doubt, the Treasury Bench considered a very smart saying, "that it was all the better for England that those of the Irish who entertained such sentiments should carry their disaffection elsewhere." The right hon. Baronet had made many blunders about Ireland since he came there, but that expression was the very greatest of all. He would ask the House to bear with him for a few minutes whilst he would endeavour to prove to the Chief Secretary, and to them, how woefully mistaken he was in supposing that it was for England's advantage that Irish disaffection should be take itself elsewhere. There was no argument that touched Englishmen more keenly than anything that affected their pockets or stomachs, and he expected he would be able to show them that both were then suffering by "Irish disaffection having be taken itself elsewhere." He need not tell them of the millions lost to the English manufacturers by one of their chief sources of supply for cotton having been closed against them, and one of their best markets for the sale of the manufactured article being also closed by the disastrous war which had been so long raging in the United States. It would be difficult for him to enumerate the thousands of artisans in the manufacturing districts who were rendered destitute from the same cause, and who were only kept alive by charity. Now, who was it who fought the battles of the Northern States? For the most part Irish, or the descendants of Irish, who 1370 showed themselves ready to shed the last drop of their blood for the country under whose protection and laws they had prospered, and there was no circumstance which contributed more to prolong the war which was proving so disastrous to England than the facility for obtaining Irish recruits; and when the Federal armies were thinned by disaster, what recruiting cry proved more potent than even the faintest hope held out of a war with England. Twice, that war-cry had been raised by the American Government, the last time hardly three months ago; and on each occasion thousands of Irishmen flocked to the standard under which they hoped to humble the power which showed itself so indifferent to their welfare. True, with gallantry and devotedness, equalled perhaps, but never excelled, the Irish regiments perished almost to the last man; but there were still enough of disaffected Irish left in America to prove, that should ever a rupture with England occur, how mistaken the Chief Secretary was in supposing she gained by Irish disaffection betaking itself elsewhere. Let them cross the frontier and enter Canada, and judge of the effect of a British Colony receiving its quota of Irish disaffection. The Home Government had lately made a great effort to induce the Canadian Parliament to raise a large militia force as a protection against an American invasion; but the Parliament, yielding to the pressure from without, could only be induced to Vote supplies for ten thousand men, a force utterly inadequate for the purpose intended. The Irish element in Canada was known to be a very large one, and there were good grounds for believing that it was largely composed of disaffected Irish, who successfully employed themselves to frustrate the objects of the Imperial Government to arm the population to resist an invasion from the United States. These two instances would suffice to show how unwise and unstatesmanlike was the idea of the Chief Secretary for Ireland as to the advantage of "Irish disaffection betaking itself elsewhere." But to return to Ireland itself—he could assure the House that the people were so thoroughly convinced that any change should be for the better, that if they were only afforded the opportunity of throwing off the yoke of England, the British Government could not hold their rule for a quarter of an hour. [Loud cries of "Oh, oh!" and other signs of dissatisfaction.] Hon. Members might cry "Oh, oh!" as much as they liked, but let the 1371 British army from any cause be withdrawn in considerable number from Ireland, or a foreign force landed there, and there would be an almost universal rising in the country to annihilate the British power. If, one month before the Indian mutiny had broken out, a Member had risen in that House to tell them that there existed in Bengal and other parts of India a tenth part of the hatred for England that afterwards showed itself, he would be laughed at, as he (Mr. Blake) then was; but he solemnly and seriously warned the Government and the House, while there was yet time to avert the danger, that there did not exist in our Indian Empire at the period to which he alluded, or at the present moment in Poland, a stronger feeling of disaffection to the ruling power, or a more earnest desire to throw off the yoke of a Government than now prevailed amongst his countrymen. [Interruption.] He much regretted this, as he would much prefer, if England passed just laws, remedied grievances, and showed a real disposition to act right by the people, to live under her rule, and be united to so great an Empire by the bonds of amity and mutual interest. The Government and House now disregarded his warning and derided his statements. Let them take care, however: grave dangers lately menaced them, and should England be ever placed in a difficulty, and that the state of things in Ireland remained unredressed, his words would be remembered by the House, and regret felt, when perhaps it would be too late, that his advice was not followed. If the Government wished to keep Ireland, if the landlords desired to retain and obtain additional security for what they had, he implored of them to consider well before they went further in their fatal error of treating with indifference and contempt the appeals made to them on behalf of an industrious, well-disposed, but suffering people; and, as a commencement, grant the inquiry asked for by his hon. Friend, and adopt the remedial measures which might be suggested. By doing so landlords might rely that their properties would be enhanced, and their lives free from danger, and the Government would be certain to have allied to England by the strong ties of gratitude and mutual interest a prosperous and happy sister, no longer a reproach and a sharp thorn in her aides but a pride, a mainstay, and a source of strength.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I quite concur with my right hon. Friends, who have done justice to the general tone of 1372 moderation which has prevailed among those who have supported the Motion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan. But I must complain of the injustice done us by the hon. Member for Tipperary (the O'Donoghue), who says that inasmuch as the world condemns the Government of the late King of Naples because his prisons were crowded with victims confined there without trial or condemnation, and inasmuch as the world condemns the conduct of the Russian Government which seized men and sent them arbitrarily to Siberia or to serve in the Russian armies, therefore the English Government must be equally condemned because it has pleased Providence to inflict three bad seasons upon Ireland. Now, I confess I think that is rather a hard and an unjust imputation. In fact, when hon. Gentlemen are pleased to say that the English Government is answerable for that distress which we all admit and deplore as at present existing in Ireland—if they take that view of the question, they ought also to give the credit to the English Government for that prosperity which, as everybody admitted, existed in Ireland before those bad seasons began. We all recollect, that until that period, persons who went to Ireland came back full of praises and admiration of the great progress and improvement which were taking place in that country. Statistics showed that up to that moment there had been great material improvement there; and if the English Government are blamed for the temporary distress, at all events, they ought to receive praise for the previous prosperity which existed—particularly as the distress is owing to causes utterly unconnected with, and independent of, the action of the Government; whereas, on the other hand, the progressive improvement may be justly attributed to the enlightened and just policy pursued by the Government with regard to that country. Now, what is the duty of the Government with regard to any part of the dominions of the Sovereign, and how can the Government increase and promote the prosperity of a country? Not by forcible legislation—not by interfering in the transactions of men. The object of a Government ought to be to remove obstacles, to give freedom to industry, to give security to life and property, to leave the buyer and seller, the hirer and letter, to settle their own bargains, unshackled by law and uninterfered with by the Executive. The 1373 British Parliament has done all that it can properly do fur the security of property in Ireland, and, generally speaking, property in Ireland is as secure as in any part of the kingdom. In spite of those unhappy agrarian outrages, life is more secure in Ireland than in any part of the kingdom, because it is well-known that crimes of violence are much less frequent in Ireland in proportion to the population than they are in England. If, therefore, a moral condition of a people is at all to be attributed to the action of a Government, I think the English Government may, on the whole, take pride in the moral and social condition of Ireland, But, apart from the influence of the bad sea son, whence arises the distress which is now complained of? Gentlemen point to emigration as indicating the misery of Ireland. Now, I remember the time when everybody said that the great cause of Irish distress was the over-population; and this was justly said, because the population was greater than either the capital of the country could employ, or than the soil could properly support in the condition in which they ought to be. What was the cause of that over-population? Did it spring from any action of the Government? It was chiefly owing to the system which had prevailed for a great length of time by which a large extent of land was let to individuals for the period of three lives or sixty-one years who did not mean to occupy it. These persons never went near the land. They took these leases for the purpose of sub-letting it; and the land was let and sub-let from one under-tenant to another until at last the unhappy occupier had no relation whatever with the owner of the soil, and was greatly tyrannized over by the middleman. This also was the cause of the great population; the subdivision of holdings went on in proportion to the increase of families; there was nothing to check it; and the consequence was that when these leases expired the grandson probably of the man who granted them found his land covered with a population which he had not brought there, which had no connection with him, and which was far more numerous than was necessary for any purposes of agriculture. Thus there was no sympathy between the owner and occupier, no relation existed between them; and in many cases, no doubt, great inhumanity was committed by persons who on the expiration of these long leases endeavoured to reduce the population 1374 to a point which the land could hear. Well, that, state of things has gradually vanished, and the population has decreased very largely. Is that a calamity? A calamity to whom? To the nation? I say no, because a redundant population is no source either of wealth or strength to any country. Then, is it a calamity to those who have emigrated? I say again no, because they have gone to countries where they have got remunerative employment, and where their condition is better than it was in the country from which they went. Is there any proof of this? Why, in one year—the year of the distress—the Irish emigrants in the United States—all honour to them for so doing!—remitted a million and a half sterling to their friends and families in Ireland, to enable them to maintain themselves throughout the distress, or to follow them out to America. I say, Sir, that emigrants who are capable of doing this must be far better off than they were before they abandoned the country of their birth. No doubt, it is painful to sever ties which are coeval with our birth. No doubt, it is painful to leave home and sometimes to leave family. But allow me to say that the sentiment is not universal, because I have myself seen a party of emigrants intending to go to America, parading the road with a band of musicians, announcing themselves as American boys, and apparently happy to go. While therefore, no doubt, there are many cases where it is painful to leave home, that is not a universal feeling, because many persons feel that in leaving for America or the Colonies they are about to better their position, they are glad to go, and they hope to be able to remit to their relations the means of following them, or of maintaining themselves in greater comfort at home. Well, then it is said that the great object ought to be to retain these small cottiers. Sir, I contend that that is no good object. Heaven forbid that any violent means should be taken to compel them to go! As long as they are here, and willing to remain, every encouragement should be given to them; and a proprietor who upon abstract principles, or from interested motives, turns them off his land, does an act which, some day or other, he will deeply regret. But, there is no advantage to the country, in those persons remaining. Their remaining, indeed, impoverishes the country and prevents all agricultural improvement. ["No!"] The same system prevails in 1375 France. The condition of the French is very similar to that which some persons apparently would like to see the Irish peasantry come to. Land in France is held by a great multitude of proprietors, who hold small plots. The consequence is general poverty. ["No!"] The peasantry are reduced there to the lowest level. Their holdings, small as they become by the law of equal division, are generally mortgaged. They are not even clear owners of the small bits of land which they hold; and thus they are in constant difficulties and are obliged to borrow money. I say that is not the condition to which it is desirable to reduce the occupiers of our soil. I make this assertion on general principles. But I contend further that the method by which hon. Gentlemen would arrive at the result is one inconsistent with every notion of right and of property. And, depend upon it, that no change is desirable in itself, no change can be justified or can be advantageous, if it is founded upon a violation of the natural rights of property. Gentlemen talk in the easiest way possible of the manner in which owners of land should be compelled to make such and such arrangements with their tenants, and should receive only such rent as other people adjudge them entitled to. I say these doctrines are Communistic doctrines, totally at variance with the whole fabric of social organisation to which, in this country, we attach so much value, and upon which the interests and prosperity of our country depend. Let the owner and the tenant settle their own affairs. Give to each full liberty to do so. What right has any tenant to come to me and say, "I will make improvements, whether you think them improvements or not, whether it is convenient or advantageous to you or not that they should be made; and then, when I quit my tenement, you shall pay for those improvements, whether you like them or not?" That is language totally subversive of all the fundamental principles of social order; and that is what is called "tenant-right." For myself, if that be so, I am for landlord-right. I say you should leave the landlord and tenant to make arrangements between themselves respecting land, as you leave the buyer and seller or the hirer and letter of any other commodity free to act. In the Act of 1860, which was brought in by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, we went as far as I think it was possible to go consistently 1376 with the principles of justice. We gave facilities which we thought desirable under that Act; but we would not go to the extent that your tenant-right gentlemen wished us, because to do so would have been to make the tenant, in some cases, joint-owner with the landlord; in others, owner altogether of that which does not belong to him, and to which, under no circumstances, can he have a claim. I very much regret that that Act is not being carried further into execution than is stated to be the case. But could you expect it? What was the intention of that Act? It was to enable the tenant to make improvements of the holding in his possession. But what improvements can a man make who has only five, or ten, or fifteen acres? He has not the capital requisite for the purpose. All he can do is to dig out the stones and make his land fit for the plough. Well, no doubt, even that would be an improvement. But have the last three years been seasons in which it was likely that the great majority of the Irish tenants—men who appear by the Returns to hold but very small portions of land, and are necessarily very poor—would be likely to take advantage to any extent of the provisions of that Act of 1860? Why, we are told they have been so distressed that they could not live on the land, even if they had it rent free. How, then, can you expect they would take advantage of that Act to carry out any great improvements? No doubt if it should please Providence to vouchsafe to Ireland better seasons, we shall then see some action—and probably a very good action—resulting from that Act, I would beg Gentlemen not to blame the Government for circumstances within the domain of geology and meteorology—not to blame the Government because there are not coals in Ireland to an extent sufficient to support manufactures, or because the Irish climate is generally wet, and in some seasons peculiarly so. We do what we can to enable men to make advantageous bargains one with the other; and we resist those inducements which are held out to us to interpose between man and man, to prescribe what terms they ought to make with each other, and to give to one man rights which the law of reason, of nature, and of man equally withhold from him. We say, let us remove all obstructions to commerce, even to the extent of allowing foreign goods to come into competition with the natural 1377 products of Ireland; but do not let us interfere in the transactions of men. Let them regulate their own affairs as best may seem to them; and I am quite persuaded that is the only course on which the welfare and prosperity of the kingdom can rest.
§ COLONEL GREVILLE
said, the Government had now admitted what they had before denied, that there had been three seasons of great distress in Ireland. He asked the House what was to be thought of a Minister sent to govern that country, who, till the present year, had systematically denied the existence of distress? He did not think justice had been done in the discussion to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancater, who went to Ireland with the intention of devoting his ability, which was very considerable, to the service of the country, and who went, in the Bill of 1860, as far as the Government could be expected to go. At that time, the hon. Member for Dungarvan waived all claim to a retrospective clause. If it had since failed, it was not the fault of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it He was of opinion, however, that the request for a Commission at this time was a fair one, and therefore he would support the Motion.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
asked permission of the House to say a few words, and only a few words, in reply. The Chancellor of the Duchy had described his Motion as being without any specific object. No representation could be more erroneous. He asked for inquiry into the condition of the agricultural classes of Ireland, with a view to future legislation. He had also given the Government an alternative—if they would not grant an inquiry, or if they had sufficient information—which they really had—then they were asked to consult with their Attorney General as to how they could best amend the legislation of 1860, which had proved to be a failure. Surely, no proposition could be more distinct, and clear, and definite than that. He reminded the House, that in successive Sessions, when he brought forward the question of Irish distress, he had been invariably charged by Members of the Government with making false, or exaggerated statements. I suited the purposes of the Government now to admit the existence of that distress, in order to excuse the failure of the Act of 1860. No doubt, if there were happily a 1378 good harvest this year, the Government would claim credit for it. They were always ready to go into partnership with Providence. It was natural for an Administration to seek extraneous support when it contrived to exist by the suffrages of the Opposition. It had repudiated Reform, ridiculed the Ballot, and turned its back on its own supporters. But if Providence vouchsafed a bountiful harvest to Ireland, no doubt they would take credit for it, and say to the people of that country, "See what we have given you." He was delighted to witness the exhibition of vivacity and energy on the part of the noble Viscount that night; but in speaking of Irish emigration his impulse carried him a little too far. The question was not why four millions had already quitted their country, but why those who remained behind were anxious to go too. No doubt, they wanted to become as well off as their fellows in America; but why not pass a law to make them equally comfortable at home. The noble Viscount was accurate in his assertion that the time had gone by when the wail of the emigrants filled the heart with sorrow. They left with joy, because there was only despair for them at home. Now-a-days young women—the future mothers of a sturdy race—rejoiced in the prospects awaiting them, and in the fine clothes they assumed on the eve of the journey; and young men exulted in the feeling of independence with which they set out for the land where probably they would handle a musket either in a war against England, or in the bootless strife at present dividing that country to which they were soon to belong. But where was the limit to be? Was it to be five millions or four, or two millions. Were they all to go? If such was to be the spirit in which legislation for Ireland was to be carried on, then he did hope that the day might speedily come when the present Government would find themselves "in the cold shade of Opposition." The noble Lord had spoken o the exodus as a bad thing for landlords, but a good thing for the nation. But how what was an evil to individuals could be a benefit to a nation, he could not understand. The interests of landlord and tenant were identical; but as long as landlords were told by the Government "Do not yield anything," of course they would not, and so long there would be bitter warfare between the two classes. He only 1379 asked for inquiry, and he had submitted his proposition in as moderate terms as he could command, and the decision he left to the wisdom of the House.
§ Question put:—The House divided:—Ayes 49; Noes 128; Majority 79.