§ (Mr. Chichester Fortescue, Mr. Attorney General for Ireland, Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland.)
§ SECOND READING. ADJOURNED DEBATE.
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [17th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, though desirous of simplifying the method of securing to tenants compensation for outlay made in permanent improvements, is of opinion that, in any measure relating to the Tenure and Improvement of Land in Ireland, it is expedient to maintain the principle affirmed by the Act of 1860—namely, that compensation to tenants should be secured in respect of those improvements only which are made with the consent of the Landlord; and that the provisions as to the Improvement of Land in Ireland contained in the Measure of Her Majesty's Government would operate injuriously on the position of holders of small farms in that Country,"—(Lord Naas,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, that when listening to what fell from his hon. Friend the Member for Galway county (Mr. Gregory) in withdrawing his Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Bill, he was surprised to hear him state that, while his own Bill was most unobjectionable and efficient, the Bill of the late Government was highly objectionable and almost revolutionary. There were many things which he approved in the Bill of the hon. Member, and it was founded on the same principle as the Bill now under consideration—namely, that it was just and ex- 1470 pedient that the general law of the land should be put on a righteous footing, leaving, at the same time, to parties the freedom of individual contract. He therefore could not conceive that those who approved the principle of the Bill of the hon. Member for Galway could disapprove the principle of the Bill of the late Government. In consequence of an answer given by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to a question asked the other day, declining to take charge of this Bill, he and the Members of the late Government, in communication with the leading supporters of the measure, had come to the conclusion that it would be unwise and futile to continue during the present Session the attempt to carry the Bill, and therefore he would move that the Order for the second reading should be discharged. He was not, however, prepared to make that Motion in perfect silence, for he had something to say as to the Resolution moved by the noble Lord as an Amendment to the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, and also with respect to something which had been said with respect to the character of the Bill by a noble Lord in another place. The present Bill proceeded on a principle different from that on which former attempts at legislation on the subject had for many years been founded. The Bills introduced in former years were founded on the principle that the tenant should have the right of calling on the landlord to execute required improvements himself or to consent to their execution, and if the landlord refused assent, the tenant, subject to the adjudication of some tribunal or authority, was to have the right to make the improvements in spite of that dissent, and charge the landlord for them. The Bill of Lord Derby in 1845 contained compulsory powers of that nature, and notwithstanding the violent opposition of many distinguished Members of his own party the principle received the support of the Earl of Devon, the head of the Irish Land Commission. The Resolution proposed by the noble Lord the present Chief Secretary for Ireland properly applied, therefore, to former Bills, and not to the Bill of the late Government, which was founded on a different and more practical principle—namely, that it was right that the general law of the land in Ireland should be put on a wise and just foundation, and brought into accordance with the facts of the case and the 1471 dictates of natural equity. The Bill created by law implied contracts between landlord and tenant in the absence of special contracts to the contrary, and proposed to introduce into the law a custom, as it were, of the country, regulating the relations between landlord and tenant, on a principle analogous in character to that which prevailed in England. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members meant no doubt that this Bill would go beyond any customs prevailing in England, and he admitted that that was, as it ought to be, the case, for in England the strict letter of the law between landlord and tenant was tempered in a thousand ways for the benefit of the tenant—by the hereditary ancestral confidence between landlord and tenant, by the action of an efficient public opinion, by the wealth and power of the body of tenants, and, above all, by important agricultural customs prevailing over the country. None of these things were to be found in Ireland, where they were most wanted. Under these circumstances, the late Government proposed the present Bill with the view of introducing into Ireland for the protection of tenants something in principle like the customs which prevailed in England, though applied to more permanent improvements, and to put the general law on a more satisfactory footing, leaving at the same time perfect freedom of contact between man and man. He believed that this Bill would go far to ensure to tenants their just rights. With such a conviction the Government had introduced the Bill. It was their belief that sooner or later such legislation must take place. It was with surprise that he had heard the Bill described elsewhere by an high authority connected with Ireland, as founded on a principle almost sufficient to create a revolution in that country, because it was one invariably put forward by those who sought to make the people rise against the Imperial Government—namely, the principle of the redistribution of land. Such vague and excited language could hardly be answered by argument, but could only be met by protest and by explaining the nature of the Bill. It was his firm conviction that those were not revolutionists who proposed remedial legislation for Ireland, and that what had a revolutionary tendency in Ireland was the disposition to resist every attempt to put the tenant on a fair and right footing. He had stated last winter upon a pub- 1472 lic occasion in Dublin that it was not enough to take strong measures to put down Fenianism, but that it was the duty of the Legislature to dry up the sources of sedition, and to cut away the elements of discontent and disaffection, while enforcing the law for the preservation of order. Though circumstances compelled them now to propose the withdrawal of the Bill, the Government were convinced that it was founded on the principles of wisdom and justice; and he believed that some such measure must be introduced and passed if good relations between England and Ireland were to be maintained. It was further the conviction of the late Government in introducing the present Bill that by such legislation they would not only conciliate the feelings of the people in Ireland towards the Imperial Government, but also the feelings of that great Irish colony which exercised so much influence on another Government beyond the Atlantic. It was well known that nothing stood so much in the way of cordial relations between England and the United States as the hostility of the Irish colony in America to the English Government; and the House might depend upon it that every sincere attempt made to conciliate the people of Ireland would act on their countrymen in America and tend to improve the relations of England with a nation in reference to which it was most important to be on a friendly footing. These were the ideas with which the Bill was introduced, and in withdrawing it he reserved to himself perfect freedom as to introducing it again in the next Session. Those with whom he had the honour of acting would consider, when the proper time arrived, what it would be their duty to do on this subject for the interest of Ireland. That would depend mainly on the course taken by the present Government, with whom now rested the responsibility, and whose conduct with reference to this great question would be looked to most anxiously. He would now propose that the Motion for the second reading and the Amendment be withdrawn.
said, he should only say a few words, as he had on a former occasion addressed the House at great length on the subject. His principal object in moving the Amendment to which allusion had been made was to elicit from the House an opinion as to the principle on which legislation with respect to this subject should proceed. In terms, the Amendment was 1473 almost precisely the same as a Resolution moved in the Select Committee of last year, and accepted by Her Majesty's then Government. That Resolution was submitted to the Committee by himself, with the full concurrence of the then Secretary for Ireland and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford. His Resolution contained a principle from which he thought the House ought not lightly to depart; and if legislation could be submitted to the House not antagonistic to that principle, very useful legislation, he thought, might be founded upon it. Looking to the course which this question had taken for many years, and the failures that had taken place, he felt that until some principle was laid down by the House on the subject it would be fruitless to expect any legislation at all upon it. He was far from thinking that considerable inducement to improvement might not be held out by legislation—he had never held any other opinion than that; but he did think they ought in any legislation upon this subject to consider what they were likely to pass, and he did not think they were likely to pass through that House—certainly the other House would not pass—any measure by which compensation would be given for improvements effected on property not only without the knowledge but contrary to the wishes of the proprietors. Now that principle was to a certain extent departed from in the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. By the 29th clause the landlord would be placed in this position, that if any improvement was about to be made to which he objected he would be obliged to interfere, and say to his tenant, you must sign a certain contract or you must not go on with it. He did not believe that the Bill, if passed, would be largely taken advantage of; but to whatever extent it was brought into operation it would certainly be to the disadvantage both of the landlord and the tenant. The great object of legislation should be to endeavour to bring about a better understanding than was said now to exist between landlord and tenant. His object in moving the Resolution was to show that the Bill would, in a great measure, interfere with the interests of the landlord; but he believed it would interfere still more with the interests of the tenant, and he thought it would be extremely difficult to get over that objection. He believed that a better feeling was springing up between landlords and tenants, and there was no disposition on the part of 1474 landlords in general to prevent tenants from making improvements under special contracts, or to grant them compensation for such improvements. Where the tenant had any desire to improve, in ninety-nine cases out of 100 he was not only permitted to do so, but obtained direct encouragement from the landlord to do so. Surely the persons most interested in the improvements being made were the landlords themselves. His right hon. Friend had stated that the customs which prevailed in England with regard to compensation to tenants were altogether unknown in Ireland; but he forgot that in a great portion of Ireland—the province of Ulster—the custom of tenant right existed, and was more generally recognized than anything of the kind known in England. Now he was informed if the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman passed it would very much interfere with the custom that prevails in Ulster. With regard to the future of this question it was impossible for him to give any pledge to the House. He was as desirous as any Member could be to support or introduce any measure that might have for its object the securing to the Irish tenantry compensation for improvements really beneficial to the land. He quite admitted that many cases of injustice were committed, and he should be most happy if he could see his way to some legislation in order to prevent them; but any measure, of which the tendency was to create litigation and create ill feeling between landlord and tenant, would have a far more disastrous effect on the tenant than upon the rights of the landlord. He could assure the House if it were possible to undertake a measure which should provide the securing of compensation for bonâ fide improvements made in land without interfering with what he believed to be the just rights of property, it should have his most hearty concurrence; and if the present Government could contrive such a measure they would feel it their duty to submit it for the consideration of the House.
said, he thought the noble Lord was perfectly right in not holding out any expectations on this subject unless he felt a reasonable assurance that he would be able to realize them. He must, therefore, commend the fairness and frankness of the noble Lord, who did not at present see his way to the production of a measure such as he described.
I did not say that. I 1475 said I should have been happy if I could have seen my way to such a measure.
said, he did not pretend to quote the language of the noble Lord. He was very glad the noble Lord did see his way, although he understood him to say he did not. ["No, no!"] At all events, the noble Lord could give them no pledge; but if he believed he did see his way to any measure of improved legislation on this subject, it was his duty to tell the House that he meant to propose it. At all events, the noble Lord said he did not think it possible to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion on this subject unless on the basis of some principle which should be pretty generally assented to; but the noble Lord had not enunciated on his own part any such principle, and had given them no light whatever as to the principle which, in his opinion, should form the basis of a measure. The Bill of his right hon. Friend (Mr. C. Fortescue) on the other hand did stand on a principle perfectly distinct and clear—that of supplying in the law of Ireland that equity and justice on this subject of which in the present state of the law there was great lack. The noble Lord had referred to what was known as Ulster tenant right; but he ventured to say nothing was more contrary to equity and justice than that in any country the courts should, in a hard and naked manner, refuse to recognize any right or title whatever in the tenant and cultivators of land to compensation for any description of improvement which he might have been the sole means of effecting. That was a state of the law neither compatible with wisdom nor justice. It was hardly compatible with pure humanity. Let him compare the state of things in Ireland with that of England. In England improvements were largely, constantly, and, as a general rule, effected by the capital of the landlord, yet the humane and happy state of the law, not satisfied to depend on the landlord, embodied and enforced to a very considerable extent the principle of compensation to tenants for improvements made without the consent of the landlord. ["No, no!"] He affirmed this as a matter of fact. He affirmed it from knowledge and experience. ["No, no!"] The custom, he granted, prevailed variously in different parts of the country. ["No, no!"] What said Lord Derby on this subject. He said—In England the right was secured not only by law, but by the custom of the country, which was 1476 equivalent to law. That right was capable of being pleaded in a court of law, and compensation was awarded for improvements made not only with the consent of the landlord, but if made without asking his leave for a single one of them. That custom, which had the force of law in England, applied to various improvements and outlays of a very limited duration. In certain parts of the country the tenant was entitled to compensation for using bone-dust as manure, though that might not produce an effect upon more than two or three crops. Nothwithstanding that, however, and even though the landlord should not have sanctioned the expenditure, he would be compellable, by the custom of the country, to make compensation. Take another case of a more exclusive character—that of drainage. In a great part of the south of England, where there were large quantities of copse wood and faggot wood, nothing was more common than to drain with that faggot wood. The tenant—even the tenant-at-will—never asked the opinion of his landlord whether he should drain a particular field—he drained it. The work might last twelve, fifteen, or twenty years; but it was not permanent, though durable. And yet, without asking leave of the landlord, the tenant being a tenant-at-will, and being ejected by his landlord, would summon him for compensation, and the custom of the country would compel him to pay the tenant. But that was neither the law nor the custom in Ireland; and he asked their Lordships to apply that by law in Ireland which by custom bad the force of law in England."—[3Hansard, lxxxi. 1140.]That declaration was made by Lord Derby when he spoke as the organ of Sir Robert Peel's Conservative Government in 1845. He was himself distinctly aware of cases in which sums of money had been paid as compensation to tenants-at-will for improvements of land which the landlord had in no respect approved, and to which he had given no consent in any terms whatever. He referred to this in illustration of the strong contrast that existed between the state of the law in the two countries, which established, he thought, the great necessity for legislation on the subject. The noble Lord (Lord Naas) said the custom of tenant right existed in a considerable part of Ireland; but one great objection to the Bill of his right hon. Friend was that if it came into operation it would interfere with that custom. [Lord NAAS: I said I had been so informed.] But, judging as well as he could from the authority of Lord Dufferin and others, as to the custom of tenant right in Ulster, it was by no means so perfect as to constitute a desirable normal state of the relation between landlord and tenant; and it would, in his estimation, form no objection to a general measure, remedying a gross and glaring mischief if it did at the same time modify that system of tenant right which already existed in some parts 1477 of Ireland—it should rather be an additional argument in its favour. He certainly should be very glad if the noble Lord, seeing his way on this subject, should be able to produce a Bill that was likely to bring about a material improvement. There had been so many abortive attempts to deal satisfactorily with the question that every fresh attempt exciting a great deal of expectation, and its failure producing corresponding disappointment in Ireland, he should be glad if, notwithstanding the discouraging tone of the noble Lord's speech, the Councils of the Government, for it was only by the Government that the subject could be treated in a thoroughly satisfactory manner, should result in the production of a satisfactory measure. The noble Lord had failed to state any principle of a determinate character on which he intended to proceed. The principle of the Bill of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) was founded upon justice; and, in the absence of any measure being propounded by the Government, it would be the duty of the House to consider whether attention should not be solicited to a measure similar to that of his right hon. Friend, which he (Mr. Gladstone) should have been glad to see passed during the present Session. Meanwhile, his right hon. Friend reserved to himself the right of introducing a measure next Session with similar provisions and having a similar effect.
said, he was very unwilling to enter into this debate, but it was impossible for him to remain silent after some statements which he had just heard from the right hon. Gentleman. The ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer had endeavoured by means of rhetorical management to convey an impression as to what the noble Lord (Lord Naas) said, totally different from the fact. He confessed he was a good deal surprised at what had fallen from the late Secretary for Ireland with reference to his own Bill—showing, at all events, that the subject was not quite so simple as had been represented by the right hon. Member for South Lancashire, and winding up with the somewhat curious declaration that the question did not concern Ireland only, and the peace and contentment of the whole United Kingdom, but it also materially affected our good relations with the United States. If this was really a Bill of such grave import, involving our friendly relations with the United States, he must confess 1478 his astonishment that it should have been brought forward at a time when the discussions on Reform occupied the whole attention of Parliament, and when it was scarcely possible, even apart from the change of Government, that it could pass during this Session. The ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer had endeavoured to fasten on the noble Lord (Lord Naas) an opinion which he certainly did not express. His noble Friend said he should be very glad to see his way to the settlement of this question, and the right hon. Gentleman tried to fasten on him the admission that he did not see his way. That might be a rhetorical mode of dealing with the subject; but it was not quite fair play. On a question of such enormous difficulty they could not expect—it would not be fair to ask—the noble Lord to give a distinct pledge to the House as to what the Government, who had only just acceded to office, would do six months hence. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that the Bill of his right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary for Ireland was clear in principle, and supplied a fearful lack of equity and justice in Ireland; but, after all, the principle was not announced; and that was the whole question. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had, curiously enough, referred to a speech delivered by Lord Derby some twenty years ago, with reference to the custom which he said prevailed in this country, to give compensation for certain improvements without the consent of the landlord; and he endeavoured to deduce from it an analogy for which he had no sufficient authority. But the right hon. Gentleman should have remembered that all these matters had been investigated by a Committee which sat three years afterwards, and of which he (Mr. Henley) was a member. Where was the candour of the right hon. Gentleman's statement? The custom did prevail in different counties, with respect to drainage improvements and manures, but the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to apply that to the state of things in Ireland with reference to buildings. To show the disingenuousness of the statement, buildings were the chief thing for which compensation was looked for; but, in point of fact, there was no such right either by custom or law in England in regard to buildings. The agricultural tenant in England was placed on the same footing as the tradesman—he might put up a building with the consent of his landlord, 1479 and if he did he must be paid for it or he could remove it. What had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman was calculated to convey a wrong impression to the people of Ireland. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman was not a candid statement. This was a very difficult question; and he (Mr. Henley), for one, had always wished that the law on the subject should be the same in both countries. He could, not pretend now to give an opinion on the subject of this Bill, for it was some time since he had looked into it, but he could not sit still without protesting against the statements of the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, which he repeated were very much calculated to mislead.
§ MR. CLIVE
said, he would put it seriously to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, whether he could show that an action would lie against any landlord in this country for compensation for alleged unexhausted improvements—in the shape of drainage, for example. There was no doubt a custom, in certain parts of the country, that uncompensated improvements might be recovered from the incoming tenant; but was there any mode of compelling the landlord to compensate the tenant for improvements in drainage? He had a good deal of experience on the subject in three different counties in Ireland. He was a large employer of labour, and had a very numerous tenantry, and he must be allowed to say that the statement which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) was entirely at variance with the facts. He did not believe that Lord Dufferin would have agreed to that part of this Bill which related to improvements effected without notice to the landlord. The evidence he had given on the subject was of a contrary tendency. He sincerely hoped the noble Lord would, in any measure he might introduce, avoid that part of this Bill. As to the present measure drying up the sources of sedition, that might be a good oratorical expression, but in the present instance it had no meaning whatever.
§ MR. SULLIVAN
contended that the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland were in a most unsatisfactory condition, improvements made by the occupiers being, in many cases, confiscated by landlords. With regard to a remark of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henley), he thought that the late Government were not open to the observation that they 1480 had brought in this Bill so late in the Session that it was impossible that it should pass. He would remind the House that the Bill was introduced as early as the 30th of April, and that but for the opposition offered by the noble Lord the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, a decision would certainly have been obtained on it more than a month since. The principle laid down by the noble Lord in the Amendment which he moved to the second reading was, that a tenant should not be entitled to compensation unless his landlord had consented to the improvement—a condition which would render the Bill nugatory—indeed useless. A measure, based upon such a principle, could never be accepted by the Irish people as a settlement of the question. Even Lord Derby, in 1845, suggested the application of the English agricultural customs to Ireland. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) had been charged with applying this suggestion to buildings when reference was made by Lord Derby only to drainage and similar works; but the fact was, that his right hon. Friend made no mention of buildings; he simply quoted Lord Derby's words as they stood. The Bill of the late Government did unquestionably amply secure the tenant in getting compensation for money laid out in buildings, and no Bill would be worth anything that did not do so. At present the state of things in the two countries was widely dissimilar; for, whereas in England improvements were chiefly made by the landlord, in Ireland they were generally undertaken by the tenant, and it was quite clear that even Lord Derby's opinion was in favour of entitling the tenant to compensation in all such cases. His right hon. Friend was not open to the imputation of disingenuousness preferred against him by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley). The Bill, indeed, had been opposed on the ground that if it passed landlords would compel their tenants to bind themselves not to exercise the right it gave them; but if the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland were in such a condition as that objection implied, then he must say that the sooner Irish farmers gave up their occupation and betook themselves to another country the better. He was convinced that, though the Bill was about to be withdrawn, its principle would sooner or later be adopted by Parliament.
§ SIR FREDERICK HEYGATE,
as the representative of a district where tenant 1481 right was the custom of the country, said, he could not be regarded as antagonistic to the extension of that system to the rest of Ireland. There was a great difference, however, between Lord Derby's Bill of 1845 and the present measure, for in the former notice of an intention to carry out improvements was required, Commissioners were deputed to inquire into their propriety, and the landlord had the opportunity of objecting. Lord Derby's Bill, therefore, practically required the consent of the landlord to the improvements. In the Bill brought in by the late Government, and now about to be withdrawn, the consent of the landlord was dispensed with altogether. The passage which had been quoted from Lord Derby's speech in 1845 mentioned the variety of customs prevailing in different parts of this country, as an English landlord had no knowledge of the description of compensation which had been alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone). In the county in which he resided, compensation was given to the outgoing tenant merely for seeds sown, manure put in, and the general state of the land. The noble Lord was quite right in declining to pledge himself to deal with so complicated a question. In the North, the tenant possessed a kind of goodwill in the farm, which acted beneficially to all parties, and he already occupied a better position than that in which the Bill would place him, and would view with jealousy any attempt to fix his relations with his landlord by statute. He supposed the Bill had been brought in with some idea of stopping the emigration from Ireland. He deplored the emigration which was going on, but it could not be arrested by measures of this character, for wages were rising in every other country, and it was not to be supposed that the holder of a small farm would remain in a state of semi-starvation in his native land when brighter prospects invited him across the sea. Indeed, the ratio of emigration from the North, notwithstanding the existence of a form of tenant right, was last year greater than ever, and small holdings were gradually being converted into large ones. The hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill), in a previous debate, had justified this Bill upon the ground that the circumstances of Ireland were very extraordinary. He also said that the rent demanded in Ireland was a great deal higher than that paid in England; but he seemed to forget that the Irish acre was 1482 larger than the English acre; and, perhaps, he did not bear in mind that in Ireland the landlord paid half the poor rates. He also said that the condition of the Irish farmers was so miserable that it was necessary there should be exceptional legislation for them. He (Sir Frederick Heygate) had been over a great part or the country, and was speaking from his own experience; and he believed that, except where the holdings were exceedingly small, the occupiers, as a rule, were well off and contented, as was proved, indeed, by the fact that there was hardly an instance of a tenant farmer having taken part in the Fenian movement. The true remedy for emigration consisted in the extension of trade and commerce, which was steadily going on; and he objected to the Bill as infringing the rights of property, and as antagonistic to those laws of supply and demand which could alone regulate the populousness and prosperity of a country. He was very glad that this Bill was to be withdrawn.
§ MR. BRADY
observed, that since the operation of the Incumbered Estates Act, the land sold under it had been surveyed, and also let, according to the measurement of the statute acre, and therefore the correction of the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Stuart Mill) was uncalled for.
§ MR. J. STUART MILL
explained, that he had made no comparison of the value of land per acre in England and Ireland. Either, therefore, he must have ill expressed himself, or the hon. Baronet must have attributed to him remarks made by some other Member.
§ MR. BRADY
said, he thought that the discussion which had taken place upon the withdrawal of the Bill of the late Secretary for Ireland would be received in that country with feelings of the deepest regret. The agricultural interest in Ireland would view that withdrawal as the death-knell of their hopes; especially when they received the accompanying information that the noble Lord the present Chief Secretary for Ireland had declared that he did not intend to bring forward any measure on this important subject next year. [Lord NAAS: I never said anything of the kind.] The noble Lord certainly stated that he was not prepared to say he would bring forward any measure on this subject in the next Session—that if he thought he could frame a measure that would meet with the approbation of the House generally, he should be willing to undertake the 1483 task; but, feeling such a result to be almost hopeless, he declined to give any pledge on the subject. Every Englishman who visited Ireland must admit that the state of that conntry was not to be paralleled by any other civilized nation on the face of the earth. He (Mr. Brady) was surprised that the unfortunate tenantry could pay even their present rents. The land was badly cultivated, and did not produce one-half that it could be made to do. The cause of all this was the insecurity of the tenure in that unhappy and misgoverned country. He had been informed lately, by a man of undoubted veracity, of the following facts:—The individual in question was the holder of a small farm of twenty-five acres, having received it from his father, who had been fifty years in possession. Immediately on the death of his father, the son set to work to improve the land, and having laid out the little money he was possessed of in effecting that object, he thought he was all right, but not so; for in less than three years his rent was raised 5s. an acre; and, within comparatively short periods of time, he subsequently received three other notices, each one informing him of a further rise of rent, and all in consequence of the valuable improvements which he had made by his own labour and money, wholly independently of the landlord. Now he (Mr. Brady) believed that to be a very general practice in Ireland. Surely such a state of things would not be tolerated in this or any other country; and he hoped that the present Government would see the necessity, on the grounds of justice as well as of common humanity, of directing their attention to the unsatisfactory state of the relations between the landlords and tenants in Ireland, with the view of proposing a remedy for this evil, which, so long as it existed, would be the fruitful source of misery, discontent, and disaffection in the sister country.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he did not understand it to be the opinion of the late Government that to give tenants compensation for improvements made without the consent of the landlord was calculated to remove any existing evil, or to improve the agriculture of the country, or that the Bill would do more than exhibit to the world that Parliament was acting from fear of those who had taken up the question of tenant right as nothing more than a professional agitation. Political exigencies apparently induced the late Govern- 1484 ment to bring forward the Bill, but he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had thought fit to speak in its favour. It was true, indeed, that he sheltered himself under the authority of Lord Derby, by quoting the opinion of that noble Lord, and that he seemed to guard himself against expressing concurrence in it. He attributed the different customs which prevailed in this matter to the difference of circumstances; for a custom was the embodiment of the interests of the particular locality where it existed, and, instead of regulating the relations of landlord and tenant by Acts of Parliament, the wisest policy was to allow customs to spring up spontaneously, adapted to the wants of each district. He hoped that many Members on the other side of the House would sacrifice party obligations, and would co-operate with him in opposing measures of this kind, to which the Liberal party had mistakenly committed themselves; and he contended that, even if such a Bill passed, it would be inoperative, for Irish occupiers did not possess the capital necessary to enable them to take advantage of it. This measure had been taken up by the Roman Catholic priesthood as being a most efficient means of agitation.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he wished to offer some observations in respect to the customs regarding landlord and tenant supposed to prevail in England and Ireland. In 1848, after communicating with Lord Derby, he had moved for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the customs regarding the tenure of land, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) was a Member of the Committee. The question of custom having been again raised in the course of this debate, and having ascertained that there was a great demand for the evidence taken before the Committee he had referred to, he (Mr. Newdegate) should certainly take an opportunity of moving that that evidence be re-printed. So far from anything like an uniform custom prevailing throughout England, hon. Members would find that the custom in England varied in almost every county, but the characteristic of English agricultural customs was this—that they had all originated in contracts between landlord and tenant. It was proposed to legislate upon this subject for Ireland. No analogy would be drawn between the customs in England and the legislation now proposed for Ireland. He was in a condition to state 1485 that so far from the people of this country departing from the system of contract, with a view to the enlargement of the custom, the disposition of the tenantry now was to revert to the practice of direct and specific written contracts of agreement with their landlords, instead of relying upon custom. In respect to what were called "emblements," an Act was passed in 1860, which placed the agricultural tenant in the same position as a trading tenant. By that Act the tenant might erect a building if he pleased, and might remove it before the expiration of his term, or of his lease; but any claim for compensation respecting it must depend upon his agreement with his landlord. He referred the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) to that Act, to the Report of, and to the evidence taken before, the Committee of 1848, which would show what the law and custom of England and Wales were in respect to land tenure.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he would take advantage of a few minutes left him to say a word or two in reference to a subject which was admitted to be of the very greatest importance to the Irish people. Now, so far from the measure proposed by the late Government being a wild or revolutionary scheme for handing over the property of the country from one class to another class, it was, in his opinion, one of the most moderate and the most Conservative measures that could be conceived. He would not attempt to enter into its details, for the time would not admit of such analysis; but he would simply state that its main scope and object was to facilitate the making of contracts between landlord and tenant, and to bring about, by inducement rather than to enforce by compulsion, the granting of leases to the tenantry of Ireland. What was required above all things in that country was the protection of a lease, inasmuch as it was admitted on all hands that the vast body of the Irish tenants held their land by the worst because the most precarious of all tenures—tenancies at will; and the main object of the measure was to induce landlords to grant such leases as would of themselves afford a fair protection to the industry of the tenant. Surely, that was not a wild or revolutionary proposal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Henley) represented the Bill as if it proposed that the tenant could raise all manner of costly buildings in opposi- 1486 tion to the desire of his landlord, and then insist on compensation. That was not the intention of the Bill. The Irish Members who had taken an active part in promoting the question, and bringing it to its present stage, were not unwilling that buildings of an important character should be made the subject of special agreement between landlord and tenant; but as to ordinary improvements, including drainage, which was most required in a humid clime, the object of the Bill was to enable the tenant to make them without let or hindrance—to place no restriction whatever in his way. If, however, such improvements were not proved to be of such a nature as to increase the yearly value of the land, no claim for compensation could arise. The object was to unloose the energies of the Irish farmer by offering him every possible inducement to exertion. And what would be the necessary result of a system of freedom and protection such as the Bill sought to establish? No benefit alone to the tenant, but to the owner, the estate, the community, and the country. And this was the revolutionary scheme which aroused the fierce opposition of the party opposite! Why, instead of aiming a deadly blow at the whole measure, did not the noble Lord (Lord Naas) allow it to go into Committee, in which he could have proposed what he believed to be necessary precautions against any attempt at the confiscation of landlord property? Why did he not rather seek to improve than to destroy the Bill of the late Government? The measure was brought in quite early enough for the purposes of legislation; but the noble Lord and his Friends sought the destruction of the measure not only out of hostility to its liberal concessions and justice, but in their desire to embarrass the Government. That was not statesmanship. The speech delivered by his right hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) was in the highest degree creditable to his good feeling and good sense. There was not a word in it that would not be endorsed by every man who knew anything of the real state of Ireland, or who was not blinded by class prejudices. It was idle to pretend that the disaffection which existed in Ireland was not traceable to local causes; and of all the causes which led to a sense of insecurity, to a feeling of discontent, and to periodical outbursts of disaffection, the state of the relations between tenant and landlord was the most marked 1487 and the most active. When the right time came, which it would probably do before the Session was over, he would be able to prove that one of the wisest measures which any Government could pass was one for the security of the tenant—for giving him that interest in the soil which would compel him to defend the peace of the country against every attempt to disturb it. A good land Bill would be a measure of the wisest and soundest policy, Conservative alike in its character, and objects, and in its results. The question could not remain where it then was. It should be settled, and that speedily. If, to use the cant of the day, disaffection was to be "stamped out," it could be only by passing laws which would content and satisfy the people; but until a policy of justice and conciliation was established, it would be impossible to bring about real tranquillity or real happiness in the country—in a country, the state of which was discreditable to England, to which for sixty-six years it had been surrendered, and by which it had been ruled with complete and almost irresponsible authority. What were the present Government about to do? Let them have the courage to deal boldly with this fundamental question. Vague assurances would not suffice. A distinct policy was what would alone suit the occasion, and meet the emergency of the moment. Before the Session closed the Government should make up their minds as to the course they were determined to take; and instead of indulging in phrases which might be interpreted differently at both sides of the House, and which Would bewilder the people of Ireland, they should speak out in language clear, simple, and easy of being understood. The late Government had a policy, and the Bill now about to be withdrawn through no fault of theirs was an illustration of that policy of wisdom and conciliation; and if the present Government desired to hold office, and hold it with honour, they should legislate in that spirit, and in no other.
§ MR. ACLAND
said, he should be extremely sorry that the Government would have their difficulties increased by its going to the world that there was a law prevailing in England which they were unwilling to extend to Ireland. The general law of England and Ireland in this respect was the same—namely, that the freehold of the land belonged to the landlord, and in the absence of any special arrangement, either from the peculiar cir- 1488 cumstances of the contract or from custom, that the improvement of the land at the expiration of the tenancy belonged to the landlord. Mr. Pusey's anxiety always was that English tenants ought to be put into a better position in order that English agriculture might prosper. In dealing with this question for Ireland, it would be well to consider how far the circumstances of England and those of Ireland were the same, and whether it was practicable to apply the general principle of the English law to the present state of circumstances in Ireland. The object of this Bill was to facilitate and encourage the formation of contracts between those on the spot who knew their own circumstances and how to deal with them. On that ground he should have been disposed to support the Bill. Ireland could not claim any advantage on the English law which the latter did not possess.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) had treated the noble Lord opposite with perfect fairness. The right hon. Gentleman said that the noble Lord had not laid down any principles upon which the question should be dealt with; while in real truth the noble Lord had stated most distinctly that the tenant ought to be secured compensation for the improvements, due regard, of course, being had to the rights of the landlord. As an English landlord, he had been much surprised at what the right hon. Gentleman had stated upon the supposed authority of Earl Derby. But the words used by Earl Derby did not bear the interpretation put upon them by the right hon. Gentleman. The question really was whether the Irish tenant was to be entitled to compensation for improvements made either with or without the consent of his landlord. He should strongly oppose the passing of a measure introducing such a principle into England; there were, however, exceptional circumstances in Ireland which might render it beneficial to give the tenant a power of making improvements in defiance of the opposition of his landlord. He thought that the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth met this necessity very fairly, and he regretted that it could not become law during the present Session. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire had acted unfairly towards the noble Lord opposite when he endeavoured. 1489 to fix him with opinions which it was well-known were most unpopular in Ireland. He must, however, press upon Her Majesty's Government the necessity for dealing with this question themselves, and dealing with it immediately, for if they declined to do so they would raise great distrust in Ireland, and Irish Members would feel compelled to oppose them. The people of Ireland expected that this question should be settled, and settled it must be. Her Majesty's Government should not defer the matter until next Session, but should in the course of the present Session, if not lay a Bill relating to the subject upon the table, at all events lay down some practical principle upon which the matter should be dealt with.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, that the principle of the measure was simply that in the event of the parties not entering into a specific contract the tenant should be entitled to compensation for the improvements he had made upon the property.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
called attention to the flagrant misrepresentation which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire with reference to what fell from Earl Derby in 1845 on this subject. Hon. Members frequently made statements in that House, and when they expected to be answered they were in the habit of leaving their seats. The right hon. Gentleman had followed that example in the present instance. All he would say was that the right hon. Gentleman had entirely misrepresented the real meaning of Earl Derby.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.