HC Deb 26 June 1867 vol 188 cc560-85

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, it was a measure to improve and regulate the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland — a question in which, the Irish people took the greatest possible interest, and until it was settled that peace and harmony which ought to exist in that country could not be obtained. The question lay at the root of most of the discontent and disaffection, which existed in Ireland, and until some settlement of it was arrived at he was afraid that state of things must continue. He was not so presumptuous as to suppose that the present Bill would settle that question. It would, however, he thought, go a considerable way in that direction. Within the last few months a great deal of literature had been published by Noblemen connected with Ireland on the land question. Lord Dufferin had published a most interesting pamphlet on the subject, and Lord Rosse and Lord Lifford had also published pamphlets, as well as another Irish Peer, who had not given his name, but who had published a pamphlet entitled The Irish Difficulty. In that anonymous pamphlet the noble Lord in question had thought proper to denounce the present Bill, and to speak of it as one of the most outrageous and unconstitutional measures that had ever been introduced in this House, and he expressed his surprise that the hon. Member for Galway, whose name was on the Bill, could support such a measure, and supposed he had only done so knowing that the Bill could never pass. When, however, he (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) found that the Bill introduced in 1852 by the noble Lord the present Chief Secretary for Ireland had been characterized by Lord Lifford as the worst Bill ever brought before the House of Commons, he was not surprised, nor was he annoyed at what had been said as to his own Bill. So far, however, from the Bill being unconstitutional, outrageous, or revolutionary, it was founded in justice and equity, and was in strict accordance with principles known to the law. The first question which was generally asked, when measures of this sort were proposed was, why should there be any special legislation at all on the subject of landlord and tenant — why should there be any exceptional legislation with regard to Ireland? But hon. Members seemed to forgot that from the very first period of our history there had always been special legislation with respect to the law of landlord and tenant. The right of levying distress for rent was founded upon special legislation. Indeed, it was utterly impossible that land could be dealt with without some kind of special legislation or another. The present Earl of Derby, then Lord Stanley, in a debate that took place in the House of Lords in 1845, said, that although he admitted the expediency of legislating for Ireland on the same principles as for England, yet the circumstances of landlord and tenant in Ireland were so widely different from the circumstances in this country that he felt the Government were justified in applying measures to Ireland which they were not called upon to introduce for any other part of the United Kingdom. In corroboration of this, he would appeal to the experience of almost every Irish Member in the House. There was not a single Member for an Irish county constituency who had not stated in his address to his constituents that he was prepared to legislate on the subject of landlord and tenant. He could appeal, further, to the course adopted by the Legislature itself in relation to the Irish land question. Twenty years ago a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into this very subject. Committees had frequently sat upon it, and every Government that had taken office for the last ten years had brought forward Bills upon this particular question. The present Bill dealt solely with the question of the tenure of land, and not at all with the question of compensation to the tenant, except in one small part. The Bill therefore differed from every other measure on the subject which had been introduced into this House. He thought that the questions of tenure and compensation should be kept perfectly distinct. The two evils which the tenantry of Ireland complained of were the want of security of tenure, and of compensation for improvements made by them on their tenancy being terminated by their landlord. The tenantry of Ireland felt that they had no certainty in the tenure of their land, and they wanted a different and better system than that of tenancy from year to year. The main object of the present Bill was to discourage as much as possible tenancies from year to year, and to substitute leasehold tenancies in their stead. A more unfortunate tenancy than that from year to year could not exist for Ireland; for when a man was liable to be turned out of his tenancy at almost any moment, he could have no inducement to make improvements on his farm. Such tenancies were contrary to all principles of political science, and he might almost say contrary to human nature itself. There had been a growing disinclination among proprietors of high rank and position to encourage leases in every way, and to keep their tenants almost as serfs upon the land. This was strong language, and he would not use it unless it were justified by facts. Archbishop M'Hale, in one of his pastorals, said that the systematic refusal of leases, and the fear of being compelled to quit their holdings, prevented the vigorous and successful cultivation of the soil in a great part of Ireland, and led to artificial sloth in the cultivators, and the flight of the population. It was clear from the pamphlet of Lord Rosse, who was Chancellor of the University of Dublin, and whose political opinions were not so sound as his scientific attainments, that it was his policy, and the policy of his order, not to grant leases. His view was that, if Irish tenants had leases, Members might be returned to Parliament unconnected by property with the country. Gamblers may denounce dice, drunkards may rail at intemperance, but Lord Rosse was the last man who should have said this, for he was the great supporter of Mr. Pope Hennessy, who was totally unconnected by birth or by property with the King's County? Lord Rosse defended the opposition of his class to leases by saying that, if they had to contend for their rights, they should be able to do so with their hands untied. As to the rights of Irish landlords, they could suffer little when it was recollected that out of 105 Irish Members sixty-four were returned by the counties. The Bill was simply permissive, and it was also prospective. It would not compel any one to grant leases; but would give every facility for doing so, and would impose penalties on the landlord who chose to let his property from year to year. The first provision of the Bill was that no tenancy in respect of land should be created by verbal agreement, but must be in writing. That was a principle of the Bill introduced by the Marquess of Clanricarde in the other House, and was a principle which was also embodied in the Statute of Frauds. The Statute of Frauds, however, imposed the penalty on the ill-formed man; he would impose it on the well-informed. The Statute of Frauds laid down that in, the absence of a written agreement, the tenancy should be held to be only a tenancy-at-will; but this Bill proposed that it should be deemed a leasehold tenancy for twenty-one years, the length of time, however, being only a matter of detail, and might in Committee be fixed at three years, five years, or any number of years that might appear proper. The tenant, who overheld, however, was not to obtain the benefit of that provision. There were two ways of encouraging the granting of leases, both of which he adopted. The first was, to get rid of all disabilities, the other, to make the tenancies from year to year as cumbersome as possible to landlords, so that they might in self-defence be anxious to grant leases. He proposed that no tenancy from year to year should be put an end to without twelve months' notice to quit—the present practice of six months' notice having been found to be most mischievous in operation. This provision for a twelve months' notice was also contained in the Bill of the Marquess of Clanricarde. The next provision was that in tenancies from year to year half the county cess should be paid by the landlord. The county cess in Ireland was a large and growing charge. While the county rates in England, which he believed did not include highway rates, varied on an average from 1d. to 3d. in the pound in the year, the county cess in Ireland varied from 1s. to 1s. 3d. every half year, or from 2s. to 2s. 6d. every twelve months. Lord Dufferin went still further than this, for he held that, in tenancies from year to year, the whole of the county cess should be paid by the landlord, on the ground that it was only those who had a permanent interest in the land who ought to be called upon to pay the cess. Further, he proposed by this Bill that, in the case of yearly tenancies, the landlord should lose his right of distress for rent. The only ground for giving a right of distress to the landlord was that, in case of a lease, he was bound to give credit to his tenant for a certain number of years; but that reason did not apply to a yearly tenancy. The next provision was that a yearly tenant who was ejected by his landlord should be entitled to compensation for growing crops, and for any benefit arising from any manure which he had laid upon the land, and which might be unexhausted. The principle of that compensation was recognized with regard to cottier tenants in the measure called Cardwell's Act; and in 1859 the noble Lord the present Chief Secretary for Ireland proposed to extend it to all tenants. The last provision with regard to yearly tenancies enacted that where a tenant from year to year had been in occupation of land for five years he should be entitled to compensation for his loss of occupancy or tenant-right. Existing tenancies were exempted from these provisions, but would come under their operation in the year 1870. The Bill further provided that, where a limited owner granted a lease for an insufficient rent, instead of the lease being void as at present, the rent should be raised, and that leases for twenty-one years should be exempt from stamp duty. In order to encourage such leases he had framed the strongest possible clauses to prevent the tenant from subletting without the consent of the landlord; and he had reserved the right to the game for the landlord, and had inserted other provisions for his benefit. The Bill would not apply to demesne lands, or to tenancies under £4. In asking the House to agree to the second reading of the Bill he did not wish them to accept its clauses and details, but simply to affirm the principle that yearly tenancies should be discouraged, and leases as much as possible encouraged. He offered the Bill as a contribution towards the settlement of the land question, which was the source of so much heart burning and discontent in Ireland, and he trusted that as such it would be accepted by the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Colman O'Loghlen.)


said, that he would not have given notice of his intention to move the rejection of the Bill, as he had done some months ago, if he had been aware that the Motion for the second reading would not come on till the 26th of June. It was quite unnecessary to enter into the question of whether leases were desirable or not, because the Bill did not offer a successful solution of the problem. Nor was it expedient to deal with the argument of whether it was proper to legislate for the tenants and landlords of Ireland in a different way to those of England and Scotland, because the time had not come to discuss that point. In moving the rejection of this measure, he wished it to be understood that he was by no means opposed to the extension of popular privileges. He was inclined to grant any such that were just and reasonable; but he did not think that any good would be done in this direction by the Bill of the hon. and learned Baronet. The hon. and learned Baronet had declared that the discontent of the people of Ireland chiefly arose from the present position of the Church and land questions in that country. He (Sir Hervey Bruce) believed this to be an entire mistake. There was one thing of which he was convinced, that no concession of the Church of England in favour of the Church of Rome, or of landlord in favour of tenant, would make the slightest difference in the feelings of the people of Ireland towards this country; for Irish discontent was due to the legislation of England in former years — legislation which for years had ceased—for the repression of the trade, commerce, and manufactures of Ireland. The effects of past legislation would remain for many years before the condition of the country would present any substantial improvement. One cause of the discontent which prevailed was that so many people, attached as they were to their native land, were compelled to leave it on account of there being no employment except on the land, which could not provide employment for the entire population; while another was that persons gifted with oratorical powers induced a susceptible people to attribute their evils to political causes, instead of endeavouring by steady industry to effect their own advancement. It was these influences, and not the Church or land question, which accounted for Irish discontent, and proposals of this kind would be utterly ineffective in staying agitation. This Bill, moreover, would not benefit the tenant farmers, for it would oblige landlords to serve notices to quit on the whole of their tenantry, as the only mode of protecting themselves against twenty-one years' leases; and if it were made applicable to Ulster, that part of Ireland would be placed in a worse position than it now occupied. Much misconception prevailed with regard to the custom of tenant-right in Ulster. It was commonly supposed to be money given by the incoming tenant for improvements; but the fact was this, that the landlord I allowed an incoming tenant to give a certain sum to an outgoing yearly tenant for the goodwill of the farm. It was not, moreover, a consideration for improvements; but for the wasting of the land, for farms in good condition rarely changed hands. The custom was a bad one for the tenant, but a good one for the landlord, who was thereby relieved from the necessity of putting his hands into his pocket on behalf of a distressed tenant who wished to quit his farm. In some cases landlords allowed large sums to be given in this way, while others prevented incoming tenants from being impoverished by excessive payments. Instead of the money being compensation for improvements, it was really compensation for the exhaustion of the soil. With regard to the twelve months' notice to quit proposed by the Bill, he was not aware that tenants were obliged, under a six months' notice given in November, to quit in May, but if such a practice existed the sooner it was abolished the better. He was prepared to vote for the second reading of the Government Bill because he thought it would stop agitation; but he would not agree to the second reading of the Bill under consideration, because he did not think it would even have that effect, He could not comprehend many of the provisions of the Bill of the hon. and learned Baronet. Several of the clauses were unfair and unjust; others were cumbrous and altogether objectionable; and none of them would confer real benefit upon the tenant. The Bill did not go to the root of the matter, and was consequently useless. The only result would be to excite bad feeling between landlord and tenant, and to disturb the harmonious relations which subsisted in his part of the country between the two classes, and which had made Ulster the boast of Ireland. He moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Sir Hervey Brace.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


supported the second reading of the Bill. He thought it was wise as far as possible to promote leases in Ireland, and improve the system of land tenure. As to the objections commonly preferred to exceptional legislation, it must be remembered that equality of legislation did not consist in applying the same laws to totally different sets of circumstances, but in adapting laws to varying circumstances. It was not identity in the letter, but identity of spirit, at which legislation should aim. While unwilling to commit himself to many of the details of the Bill, he was glad that the candid explanation of his hon. and learned Friend (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) had removed difficulties which he might otherwise have experienced in voting for the second reading. With the greater part of his speech he heartily agreed. His hon. and learned Friend had refuted the common fallacy that, because in old times, and under widely different circumstances, leases for long periods and at low rents operated unsatisfactorily, this furnished any argument against ordinary agricultural leases of reasonable duration, and he sought to encourage leases, or agreements equivalent to them, by conferring advantages of several kinds on landlords who let their land on such terms. The proposal that henceforth in cases where no written agreement existed, the law should presume the existence of a twenty-one years' lease was certainly somewhat startling; but the interpretation of the existing law and judicial decisions had already converted tenancies at will into tenancies from year to year; and it was worthy of consideration whether a further step towards greater certainty of tenure might not be taken. His hon. and learned Friend had disclaimed any wish to commit the House to the period of twenty-one years, and he was quite satisfied with the explanation he had given. The principles of the Bill were in many respects identical with those of the measure which he (Mr. C. Fortescue) himself introduced last year, though that dealt both with tenure and with compensation, whereas this was confined to tenure, and would treat all tenants alike, whether they had improved their farms or not. He hoped, at some future day, it would be in his power to promote the object of the Bill of last year, and which he believed to be the only basis on which successful legislation could proceed—namely, by the operation of law to create something like those wholesome customs for the protection of the tenant which had grown up in almost every other country, through the natural play of the relations between landlord and tenant. He could only ascribe their absence in Ireland to its unhappy and exceptional history, and to the false relations which had existed between the two classes. The most promising direction for legislation was to bring into existence such customs, both as to tenure and compensation, and this was the aim of the late Government, their belief being that the measure they proposed would strengthen public opinion with respect to security of tenure; and that whenever a dispute arose it was the landlord as the stronger party, and not as hitherto the tenant, who ought to be placed on the defensive. Its effect would have been to secure, both directly and indirectly, protection for the small tenant farmer, and to bring about systems of letting land more in accordance with equity, and more conducive to the prosperity of the country. His hon. and learned Friend had displayed an admirable tone and temper in advocating this Bill, and he hoped it would promote a settlement of this important and long-vexed question.


said, he was anxious, in connection with other Members of the House, to promote the prosperity of Ireland, the interests of which were so closely identified with those of England. He cordially approved leases; it being obvious that a tenant with a secure tenure was more likely to farm well than a tenant at will. In many parts of England, however, yearly tenancies prevailed, yet the farmers appeared perfectly satisfied, and he could not see why Irish farmers should not make their own arrangements with their landlords and be equally prosperous. In this country, a man taking a farm at Michaelmas could not be turned out till the following Michaelmas, so that he was secure of gathering in his crops; and in Ireland, where he understood the case was different, it was desirable that the same rule should prevail. He could not, however, agree to the clause forcing on the landlord a twenty-one years' lease. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said that that the Bill would probably be opposed for political reasons. Were there not, however, political reasons why it was introduced? He feared that Irish farmers lacked the energy and industry which, characterized English farmers; and, that as long as this question was made a matter of political agitation, they would look to legislation for the promotion of their welfare, instead of trusting to their own exertions.


wished to explain to the hon. Member for Bury and the English Members why it was that contracts with reference to land between owners and occupiers could not in Ireland be left free, as was the case in England, and untrammelled by special legislation. Nothing could be fairer or more reasonable than such a question, and put as it was with observations so just and temperate by the hon. Member, it was entitled to an equally fair and temperate reply, which he (Mr. O'Beirne) hoped he would be able to give. The state of things as they existed, in the two countries, England and Ireland, should be well understood before the reply to the question was given. First, in England, there were immense productive resources, large industrial pursuits, great manufacturing establishments, mineral wealth of immense extent, all affording almost inexhaustible demands for labour, and all in the fullest development that capital could give them. Land, therefore, was only sought for by those whose inclinations led them to desire an agricultural or pastoral life. Such was the present state of England; but in Ireland what did they find? An almost total absence of all the means of subsistence except from land—absolutely no other resource, no other support for life, except the produce of the soil. The hon. Member would, therefore, at once see that the great element necessary to form a fair basis for a fair contract was absent. There was no equality whatever between the parties by whom the contract was to be made. As the tenant could not exist without the land, and had therefore no power whatever to make a bargain with the owner of that land, the possession of which was vital to him, he had no alternative, he must accept the landlord's offer of term, of rent, of clauses and conditions be they what they may. So much for the contracting parties, with regard to the commercial value of the contract. But the hon. Member and the House should understand that there was another, and a more serious, influence which operated prejudicially upon all dealings between the owners of the Irish estate and his proposed tenants—an influence so strong as to govern the actions of the landlord, even to the extent of inducing him to submit to personal loss—and that influence was political. The landlord required political power over his tenants; and as permission to them to hold their land upon certain tenures would destroy that political power, landlords preferred to let at a lower rent from year to year rather than at higher rents on lease. He (Mr. O'Beirne) found this state of feeling so ably described in a letter which the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly) had some months since addressed to The Times on the subject, that he would read an extract from that letter to the House, as he believed it was of great moment that English Members should thoroughly understand the question to enable them to deal, as he (Mr. O'Beirne) knew they were disposed to do, justly with the Bill before them. The hon. Gentleman then read the following extract from Mr. O'Reilly's letter:— Lord Dufferin and all other authorities point out that agreements for the occupation of land for some fixed term, in other words, some sort of leases, are essential for the good cultivation of land; and they urge that self-interest will induce a landlord to make such an agreement with a tenant. And so it would had not the law again interfered. The law attaches the suffrage to the occupation of land, and thereby introduces a new and artificial interest for the landlord, who wishes to influence his tenant's vote, and believes he can do this by not making any clear permanent contract with him, but keeping him a tenant at will. His interest under the free action of those economic laws on which we are told to rely would induce him to give a lease, but the artificial interest which legislation has created neutralizes the action of those laws. The true state of feeling was to be found in that extract; it was put forcibly, but most clearly, and in no respect whatever was it over coloured. He (Mr. O'Beirne) fully admitted—and he hoped he might be understood in that sense—he fully admitted that there were very many highly honourable, fair and liberal minded landlords in Ireland; for such men no special legislation was required, but as there were others who took a different view of their rights, who were unfair in their dealings and oppressive to their tenantry, the intervention of the House was necessary to arrest injustice, and to protect those who, from surrounding circumstances, were unable to protect themselves, He had now, he hoped, explained to the hon. Member for Bury the broad differences which existed between the two countries—a state of things which he (Mr. O'Beirne) deeply lamented, but which the hon. Member would see stood in the way of taking the course which he had suggested. He now desired, however, to set himself right with the House upon a matter which was of a somewhat personal nature. Upon the introduction by the noble Lord (Lord Naas) of his Land Bill some months since, he (Mr. O'Beirne) read an extract from the Northern Whig newspaper, a publication of high position in the north of Ireland, which purported to give an account of conduct of a harsh and oppressive character on the part of a landlord to his tenants in the county of Down, and he (Mr. O'Beirne) quoted that case as a proof, if it were true, and an eloquent one, of the great injustice which the present state of the law permitted, if landlords chose to exercise their full power under it. An estate had been sold under the Landed Estates Court Act. It was purchased by a commercial gentleman living in or connected with Belfast. The tenants upon this estate were yearly tenants; they had occupied their farms for generations—it might be said for more than a century; they had expended labour of course to a great extent, and money, also had built houses, put up fences, made roads, and, in fact, had, by their industry, largely raised the value of their holdings. The property was sold upon a rental under the Landed Estates Court, which rental fully set forth the rents paid by each tenant. Well, what happened according to the paragraph in the Northern Whig? Why, the purchaser, as soon as he came into possession, demanded a large increase of rent from every tenant—a rent equal to the then full value of their holdings. The tenants remonstrated, but in vain—they were told they must pay the increased rent or leave their holdings. In reading this paragraph—he (Mr. O'Beirne) named no name; but since then a letter had appeared in the same newspaper signed "John Finley," in which he accepted the character of the landlord alluded to, and asserted that the increased rent he demanded amounted to no more than 6s. 9d. an acre, and he expressed great indignation against him (Mr. O'Beirne) for the statements he had made. Now, he (Mr. O'Beirne) had obtained some of the notices to quit, and he found that in every case Mr. Finley had demanded an increase of rent greatly exceeding 6s. 9d. an acre. He (Mr. O'Beirne) did did not deny the strict legality of those proceedings, but he had cited the case as well illustrating the results of the present state of the law. This being the state of the law, his hon. and learned Friend, by the Bill before the House, proposed to remedy it. He proposed to apply a persuasive power to landlords. He desired to discourage such tenures as these. He desired to do so in the mildest manner. He (Mr. O'Beirne) hoped the House would allow the Bill to be read a second time. It was an experiment which did not certainly go very far; but it might give such fruit, even as the result of its moderate character, as would justify the House in taking a much larger step in the same direction in another session. It was not suggested as a perfect remedy, but rather as a wholesome check, and one which could be most safely tried without the possibility of bringing injury to any class. Any details of the Bill which might seem objectionable could be easily altered upon fair and temperate discussion between both sides of the House in Committee; and he (Mr. O'Beirne) had no doubt that the result of such a measure becoming law would be a highly beneficial one to both landlord and tenant. He therefore gave his warmest support to the Bill, which he hoped the House would read a second time.


said, he should vote for the second reading of this measure, not as a satisfactory settlement of this question, but as a step in the right direction. As he understood the hon. Baronet who moved the Amendment to the second reading, his great objection to the Bill was that it did not go to the root of the question, because it did not give compulsory powers which would meet the just demands of the tenantry of Ireland. He (Sir John Gray) was quite willing to add a compulsory clause as was suggested by the hon. Baronet the Member for Coleraine. Some loose words had no doubt been used by the advocates of tenant right, and these had been taken advantage of to say that the friends of the tenant farmers of Ireland entertained communistic and revolutionary views. But he (Sir John Gray) denied the existence of any communistic views on the part of the Irish tenants, all they wanted was a more secure tenure for their holdings, and protection for their property invested in improving the land. Mr. Caird, one of the best practical agriculturists of the day, had been sent out by the leading organ in this country to inquire into the agricultural relations between landlord and tenant, and their operation upon the tenants themselves. His report was sent to The Times, and was published for the information of the world. Mr. Caird, who also obtained the sanction of the late Sir Robert Peel for his mission, published, amongst many illustrations of the prevailing rule, the details of farm lettings, showing the relations existing between the landlord and tenant upon the estate of the Duke of Bedford. On that estate, it was the universal practice to put the farmhouse and farm buildings in a state of perfect repair. The drainage of the land was kept in perfect order; the farm steadings, fences, and gates were supplied and kept in repair; and the landlord made all the farm roads. That was the condition in which, as a rule, the English landlord offered a farm for the occupation of his tenant. In Ireland there was no farmhouse that the tenant could dwell in. There were no farm steadings to shelter his cattle, no drainage, and only such rude fences as one tenant handed down to another. The landlord made no roads upon the farm, but he offered the tenant the bare naked land, and charged as much rent for it as the English landlord charged for the farm in the condition he had described, and who, at his own cost, put the holding in a condition which enabled the tenant, without any expenditure of his own in the way of permanent improvements, to carry on the operations of agriculture in the most successful way. If things were managed in Ireland as in England, the Irish tenants would not have to come to that House for compensation, but they were managed very differently. Not only did the Irish landlord let his land entirely without improvements; but if the tenant improved, his improvements were confiscated by law, and he was left at the mercy of the landlord. What the Bill of his hon. and learned Friend sought was to give certainty of tenure to the tiller of the soil, and thus, in some measure, to extend to the other parts of Ireland the system of tenant-right which prevailed in the province of Ulster. The pride of the land holders of Ulster was that they did not hold their land by any tenure so vulgar as purchase, they held them by royal charter, and one of the conditions of their charters was, that the land should not be let to tenants at will, or on any uncertain tenure, but either in fee-farm or by long leases. In lieu of these long leases the habit grew up to give what is called "the Ulster tenant-right;" that is—the right of continued occupancy by custom, and the right to sell the "good-will" or occupancy to the best bidder, if an eligible tenant. The Irish Members had probably a right to conclude that the Bill of the noble Lord (Lord Naas) was not intended to pass this year; and he therefore trusted he would tell the House what the Government intended to do with regard to the tenant farmers of Ireland. The question of land tenure in Ireland was largely an English as well as an Irish question. The disturbances in Ireland were mainly caused by the relations existing between landlord and tenant. The landholders of Ireland numbered about 8,400 individuals. The number of occupying tenants had been variously stated. One version gave 608,000 as the number of separate holdings. Lord Dufferin maintained that a large number of these were duplicate or triplicate holdings, and gave it as his opinion that the number of agricultural farmers did not exceed 441,000. If they multiplied the number of tenants by their families, that gave an aggregate of 2,250,000. What was the effect of maintaining this system, which benefited 8,400 landlords, upon the Imperial taxes? The people of this country were obliged to vote this year £800,000 to maintain the police force of Ireland, the chief purpose and object of which was to sustain the landed interest of Ireland. ["No, no!"] Were not most of the coercive laws that had been passed required in consequence of the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland? Parliament had been obliged to suspend the Constitution again and again, to enact special laws of repression, and maintain a special system of police—a little army of themselves—in order to keep down agrarian disturbances. In 1846, when the Corn Laws were repealed, Sir Robert Peel relieved the landlords from the expense of maintaining the police, and transferred the expense to the Imperial Treasury. His acquaintance with Ireland showed him that the Fenian movement might be traced to some extent to the relations between landlord and tenant. ["No, no!"] Was it not true that Mr. Butt, late a Member of that House and recently the legal advocate of the Fenians, had showed that Fenianism arose out of the land tenure grievances? An hon. Gentleman had reminded them of the expenses of the standing army, but he (Sir John Gray) could not bring them into his argument, because the army must be kept somewhere—in Ireland or in this country. The only objections he had to the provisions of the measure was that it did not go far enough. There was no provision for protecting by compensatory clauses the property of the tenant, and this he considered a great defect. He hoped that before the debate closed the House would have a distinct statement from the Government that it was intended by them to grapple with the causes of disaffection which existed in Ireland; and he further hoped that the provisions of this Bill would be made to extend those customs which existed between the Protestant landlords and their Protestant tenants in the North of Ireland, to the landlords and those Roman Catholic tenants who were to be found in the West, East, and South of Ireland.


said, that if he wished to account for the miseries of Ireland he should invite attention to such speeches as that of the hon. Member who had spoken last, and also ask the House to consider that hon. Gentleman's political antecedents. That unfortunate country had suffered much from the hon. Member's proceedings. The hon. Gentleman declared that the want of legislation touching the relations of landlord and tenant was the cause of Fenianism, and he wished the House to believe that the great mass of the Irish farmers were connected with that treasonable movement which was hatched in America. It was difficult for him to state in Parliamentary language how complete a misrepresentation was made by the hon. Gentleman of the true state of the case. In the name of the vast majority of the tenant farmers of all classes and creeds in Ireland he most distinctly and emphatically denied the truth of the imputation thus thrown out, and regarded it as a most unworthy libel upon a body of his countrymen, who had shown their morality, their loyalty, and their sense of religion by wholly abstaining from having anything to do with that unprincipled and infamous conspiracy, and who only wished to be allowed to carry on their peaceful avocations undisturbed by the machinations of foreign emissaries. The hon. Gentleman had also spoken of Ireland as being degraded by an enormous amount of crime; but that was another misrepresentation, because, as a matter of fact, crime in that country was considerably less prevalent than in England. If there had, indeed, been a state of agitation in Ireland, had the hon. Gentleman himself no hand in producing that lamentable state of things; had he not been for years mischievously employed in every agitation which could scare away capital, paralyze trade, and destroy commerce; had he not been an active advocate of that movement for the repeal of the Union which every sensible man must have known to be a delusion—a delusion, however, which had been as profitable to those who promoted it as it had been ruinous to the country? The only part of the hon. Member's speech in which he could concur was his statement of the real nature of tenant-right in Ulster, and his correction of the erroneous idea commonly entertained on that point. In Ulster, the sum paid to the outgoing tenant represented as nearly as possible the sum he had himself paid when he entered upon his holding, and it merely recouped him that amount. The hon. Gentleman seemed to imagine, most mistakenly, that Protestant landlords treated their Roman Catholic tenants differently from their Protestant tenants; and he wished to coerce them by legislative enactment into dealing with their Roman Catholic tenantry in the South and West of Ireland in the same manner as was done in the North. But how could it be enacted that the landlord should pay the outgoing tenant in the South or West of Ireland what he had paid on coming in, seeing that in those parts of the country the tenant had paid nothing? The principle which regulated these matters in England and Scotland was that of mutual arrangement between the parties. In spirit, though not in the letter, the same principle was applicable to Ireland; and he denied that there were any artificial or legislative obstacles in existence in that country to prevent landlords and tenants from entering freely into voluntary arrangements with each other. It had been said that one reason why there was a difficulty in the making of such voluntary arrangements in Ireland was the enormous competition for land; and yet, most inconsistently with that assertion, it was also alleged, that owing to emigration and other causes, there were not enough people in that country to cultivate the soil properly. A lease might be a very good thing, and he did not wish to be understood as at all disparaging it; but if they insisted by Act of Parliament that every tenant should have a lease to-morrow, they would not necessarily promote the progress of agriculture. The real progress of agriculture in Ireland had commenced entirely since the system of long leases had been altered. Any system of leases which did not discriminate between the sober, industrious, prudent, and intelligent farmer and his neighbour, whose character was quite different, would be impolitic and mischievous. He warned the House against hastily assuming that any scheme advocated by popular demagogues would be a panacea for all the ills of Ireland. Prosperity could neither flow from declamation, however eloquent, nor from arbitrary proceedings for transferring the land of the country from one person to another. The men whose opinions on that question were really worth entertaining were good practical farmers and men of experience. One excellent feature of that measure which he regretted to find associated with so much that was objectionable, was the proposal that all the contracts entered into should not be verbal, but written.


cordially supported the second reading of the Bill. He could not admit that no person was entitled to express an opinion upon the question of the land tenure unless he was practically acquainted with the subject as a landlord. In the course of a long professional career it had been his duty to make himself acquainted with the Irish land question, and he supported the second reading of this Bill, because he looked upon it as a not unimportant step towards the settlement of a question which, if not speedily and satisfactorily solved, threatened danger not only to the peace and prosperity of Ireland, but to the best interests of the Empire at large. He could not recommend that this measure should be left upon the table, as a suggestion to the Government, because, in his opinion, all hope of a settlement of the question by the Government was at an end. No measure could satisfactorily settle the Irish land question which did not confer upon the tenant security of tenure, and as the noble Lord, himself a landholder, admitted, fixity of tenure could be conferred without any interference with the legitimate rights of property. He also maintained that the agrarian disturbances which had from time to time broken out in Ireland resulted from the relations subsisting between landlord and tenant in that country, and quoted passages from a letter which he said was written in 1844, by the late Sir M. Barrington — a man intimately acquainted with the subject—to Sir Robert Peel, in which the writer stated that almost every one of the outrages which had taken place in Ireland was traceable to the system of forcibly evicting the peasantry from their holdings. He controverted the statement that Fenianism had no connection with the land question, asking whether the young men in towns who joined the movement were not the sons or nephews of the adjoining farmers; and whether the funds for its support had not come from the exiled Irish peasants? He, moreover, informed the House that the result of the inquiries which he had made among persons of all classes in the disaffected districts in Ireland had led him to the conclusion that the peasantry largely sympathized with the Fenians. It was, he knew, said that the movement was socialistic and infidel in its tendency, and, besides, that it was entirely of foreign growth. [Lord NAAS: "Hear, hear!"] But there were thousands of men in Ireland, natives of Ireland, and respectable, well conducted men, who, though they had not really committed themselves to the conspiracy, heartily sympathized in the movement, because, despairing of the aid of Parliament, they looked to a violent remedy of that kind for the grievances of which they complained. The circumstances of Ireland, with regard to the relations of landlord and tenant, were entirely different from those of England, and therefore exceptional legislation was necessary; and the whole of the question of land tenure as regarded Ireland was one mass of exceptional legislation. In England a tenant could not be evicted for non-payment of rent, unless there existed an agreement in writing; but, in Ireland, a tenant at will could be evicted, not only for non-payment of rent, but even for non-payment of rates. He supported the measure, because, although it was a small one, it would show to the tenants of Ireland that their interests were not altogether overlooked, and, instead of entertaining treasonable designs, they would be led to look with confidence to the action of the Legislature.


, while stating that he was not hostile to the granting of moderate leases in Ireland, and that no one was more opposed to the arbitrary eviction of tenants, which was, he believed, a thing of rare occurrence in that country, declared it to be his intention to support the Amendment. He objected to the Bill, he said, both for the sake of the landlord and that, of the tenant. It would, he thought, if passed into a law, be productive of much irritation, and he could see no good reason why landlords and tenants should not be allowed to make their own bargains, as in England. The only answer which was given to those who contended that they should, was that the competition for land in Ireland was so great that legislative interference between the owner and occupier was required. But how was that state of things to be remedied by compelling the landlords to grant leases for twenty-one years? Indeed, he should very much like to hear — without any affectation of ignorance on the point—what it was hon. Gentlemen opposite meant by the settlement of the land question in Ireland? The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dungarvan had, in his opinion, made a speech which was of a very dangerous and communistic character. ["Oh, oh!"] It was a speech in favour of fixity of tenure; but the hon. and learned Gentleman did not inform the House whether he would confine his proposal on that head to a twenty-one years' lease or give a permanent right to the fee simple of the land to the tenant, subject to the payment of certain amounts by way of rent-charge. It was urged by those who supported the Bill that the people of Ireland were disloyal and discontented for two reasons — because of the position of the land question, and the maintenance of the Established Church. He, however, emphatically denied the assertions that the great mass of the Irish people were either disloyal or discontented. But even for argument sake, if he admitted they were, how, he asked, was a law obliging landlords to grant twenty-one years' leases to their tenants to make them loyal and well affected? He regretted, he might add, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had made the observations to which the House had just listened in reference to that most mischievous rebellion which had lately broken out in Ireland; and speaking from an experience which, owing to his official position, was still greater, perhaps, than that of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he could not subscribe to the truth of the assertion that the movement sprang out of either the land or the Church question in that country. What was Palled tenant-right had nothing whatever to do with the organization of the Fenian conspiracy, and it had never been put forward as a cause of it by any one of the Fenian leaders. The clauses contained in the first part of the Bill provided that in every case except one — where there was no written agreement between landlord and tenant — the law should presume that the contract amounted to a twenty-one years' lease. Consequently, if a tenant got into possession of land under an arrangement that he was to have a five years' lease, the man, if the agreement was not put in writing, would have, the benefit of a twenty-one years' lease under the operation of the present Bill. Such a proposition was most extravagant and could not be tolerated for one moment. The only case in which such a construction of law was not to apply was that of a tenant over-holding after the expiration of his lease, unless left in undisturbed possession of his farm for two years after such expiration. The result would be that if a landlord allowed a tenant to hold over for two years, because he did not wish to turn him out immediately, or because he happened to be abroad, the tenant might turn round on him, and insist on holding on for twenty-one years. Now he (the Attorney General for Ireland) asked whether such a provision was consistent with either honesty or justice? The consequence of such an enactment would be that the moment a lease expired, the landlord would immediately serve a notice to quit on the tenant, and in that case the tenant was more likely to suffer than the landlord. With respect to terminating a tenantry from year to year of agricultural land, the law in England and Ireland, requiring a six-months' notice, was at present the same; but by the present Bill it was proposed to alter the law in Ireland, and to require a notice of twelve months. This was proposed to allow in certain cases the tenant to get the benefit of the crop he had sown. Surely, the tenant when he entered on occupation was aware of the terms on which he was to rent the land? And if he wished for any additional advantage he ought to have had the matter put down in writing. There were a variety of other petty annoyances proposed in the Bill in order to force landlords to give leases; but he was sure that the House would not sanction such a course of proceeding. One of the most strange enactments was that a tenant, in addition to compensation for his growing crops and unexhausted manure, should have compensation for any loss or injury he might sustain by being deprived of the possession of his land in case he should have been in possession for five years. He could not conceive that a more vague or extraordinary ground for compensation could be proposed, and he was sure that if such a provision, were to become law, it would open a wide door for litigation, Again, it was proposed that all tenancies from year to year existing on the 1st of January, 1870, and created before the passing of the Bill, should be liable to all its extraordinary enactments. The effect of such a provision, if carried, would be that many notices to quit would be served before the arrival of the year 1870, and the Bill would not, in that way, operate for the benefit of the tenants. The fourth part of the Bill proposed to give leasing powers of a most extraordinary character; for it would enable a man who obtained another's estate by wrong to grant a lease of it for twenty-one years, which would be binding on the real owner, unless the latter, within the period of six months after recovering his estate should give notice that he would treat the tenant as a yearly tenant only. As he said before, the object of the Bill was to force landlords to grant leases; but he trusted that the House would not sanction this endeavour to do indirectly what was not attempted to be done directly, and that it would not allow the Bill to be read a second time.


observed, that the object of the Bill was simply to promote in every way the certainty of contracts between landlords and tenants. That was the principle of the English law, and the law of every other country in the world. The noble Lord the Member for Tyrone, who opposed the Bill, did so because he said it was an attempt to regulate contracts. That was an expression which was liable to two explanations. One to regulate the terms of the contract, which this Bill did not do; and the other to regulate by law the form of the contract, which it did do, so as to make it clear; and, where these contracts had not been entered into, the object of the Bill was to let the law step in, and construe an uncertain contract favourably to the weaker party. The Attorney General for Ireland suggested that if a man came into a farm with a verbal agreement for a lease of five years, the tenure would by the present Bill be turned into a lease of twenty-one years. The short answer to that suggestion was that an educated man would get the agreement put into writing; and the Attorney General, moreover, forgot that the law at present is guilty of as gross an injustice, only in the reverse way—namely, against the tenant. The Attorney General also commented on the clause giving compensation for loss or injury by reason of an occupier being deprived of the possession of his land; but that provision was not of so very horrible a nature, and was really copied from the Railway Act. The universal sense of mankind was in favour of certainty of contracts. This certainty was obtained by their being put in writing, and the Bill proposed to carry this object out in respect to tenancies in Ireland. He was ready to admit that the cases of injustice and hardship arising from the uncertainty of tenure in Ireland were not common; but when one such case occurred, it had the effect of spreading widely a feeling of uneasiness, and of discouraging the proper cultivation of land in Ireland. It was very commonly asked, why should the Legislature interfere with contracts between landlords and tenants in Ireland? but it should be borne in mind that the Legislature, having attached the suffrage to the occupation of land, had given the landlords a direct interest to refuse leases, in order they might be able to influence the votes of their tenants. In a place near his county twenty-five notices to quit were served after a contested election; and, although the landlord denied that they were given from political feelings, he admitted that twenty-four out of the twenty-five tenants had voted against him. The Bill would tend to promote that certainty in contracts with regard to land which the law favoured in regard to other matters, and would not interfere in any way with the right of the landlord to fix the price at which he might be willing to let his land.


thought that after the mild and reasonable Bill of the Secretary for Ireland, the Bill of the hon. Baronet was extraordinary and unreasonable. This Bill compelled landlords to grant long leases, or inflicted upon them certain pains and penalties. An erroneous notion prevailed as to the number of leases in England. In East Norfolk, with which he was connected, only one-fourth of the land was held under lease, the other three-fourths being held almost entirely by tenants-at-will, without any claim for compensation in respect of improvements which they effected. He held his land under six different owners, and had no lease and only one written agreement, while, in all cases, he was subject to six months' notice to quit. He did not say that was a pleasant situation in which to be placed. He would much rather have a lease—he had always upheld leases; but the absence of one did not prevent him effecting permanent improvements, and farming the land to the best of his knowledge and ability. He believed that the law in England and Ireland on the question of landlord and tenant was identical, or, if there was any difference, it was in favour of the tenant in Ireland. The landlords of England were, it was true, most kind and liberal to their tenants; but, at the same time, there were instances of injustice in England as well as in Ireland. They were, however, few. What did they do? The did not turn Fenians, there was no universal discontent; but they endeavoured to bring public opinion to bear on these exceptional cases of injustice, and asked the landlords not to let them occur again. A good deal had been said of the protection which covenants gave to the tenants; but, really, they were a protection to the landlord. In Ireland the incoming tenant who took a farm found nothing on it. The outgoing tenant could sell off his straw, hay, and manure at the full market value; but in England he was obliged to leave them on the farm for the benefit of the landlord or the incoming tenant, receiving only two-thirds of the value. He protested against the extension to other parts of Ireland of the Ulster tenant-right. Nothing was more injurious to the occupier of land than having to pay a certain sum on taking possession of a farm, not for improvements—of that he approved — but simply for goodwill. The sum thus paid in Ulster was frequently £10 per acre. That was just about the sum required to stock a farm. An Irish farmer, therefore, paid double, and got the same return for his £20 per acre that the English farmer expected for his £10 per acre. Ireland, which was naturally a pastoral country, was in the days of protection made a great com and potato growing country. A market was reserved in England for its damp and inferior corn but, now, that market was open to all the world, the Irish had lost it. They found it more profitable to put their land in grass, and employ it in the production of cattle. Therefore, as a matter of course, the population which had been maintained by potatoes was no longer wanted, and he really thought that for simply pastoral purposes the population of Ireland was even now rather more than was required.


pointed out that there was a great difference between the mode of dealing with land in Ireland and England; in the latter country the landlords made all the improvements, but in Ireland the tenants were called upon to make them. He did not object to the second reading of the Bill; but what he desired was, that proprietary rights should be exercised in conjunction with the rights of the tenant, to obtain a living from the soil. There was no way of redressing the evils of Ireland so effectually as by granting long leases. Under the present system tenants had neither security of tenure, nor compensation for improvements when ejected. Legislation should be directed to encouraging the granting of leases. He was not an advocate for exceptional legislation for Ireland, unless when necessity required. Yet when there was a departure from the practice in England; and the State contributed from £600,000 to £800,000 a year, the entire cost of the Irish constabulary, kept up for sustaining class interests and landlord-made laws, ["No, no!"] he felt that that payment by the State might be made conditional on leases existing. Let the constabulary charges be paid by proprietors in those districts in which leases were not granted. It was the absence of leases that caused the necessity for the employment of so large an amount of constabulary. There was another mode of taxation — namely, the succession duty, which, if levied on a scale different from the present, would largely tend to encourage the granting of leases. Suppose every inheritor was dealt with as a stranger. Let all pay the 10 per cent succession duty where there was no lease. He would take all expenses possible off property, the owners of which performed their duties to the tenantry.


moved the adjournment of the debate. He believed that if the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland were more assimilated to those of England it would be better for the country; but the misfortune was that it was always considered necessary to manage the estates by means of agents, which led to the commission of the greatest acts of injustice. The whole of Ireland did not produce within one-third of what it ought to do under the present mismanagement, owing to the carelessness of the landlords. In this manner the most serious evils were perpetuated, and the best interests of the country were endangered. This was a question in which the country at large was interested; and no Government would do its duty to the State if they did not try every means in their power to ameliorate the condition of the people in that country.


explained that he had arranged with the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, who had been in the House all day, but had just left, that the division should not be taken tonight.


stated that a similar tenure was found in some parts of Scotland as existed in Ireland. The tenant who goes from year to year had to take in heather-ground and build his own house, yet he was liable to be turned out. He wanted to see the parts of this Bill relating to yearly tenancy applied to Scotland. He believed the other parts of the Bill would be useful for Ireland.

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.