§ [Progress 4th April.]
§ Bill consideredin Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 3 (Compensation in absence of custom).
in moving the Amendment which came first, and which 1285 stood in the name of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who was absent from his seat for a moment, said, he proposed to alter the words of the Amendment not in a manner different from the intentions with which the Bill was framed, but so as to clear up the doubts expressed by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) and other Members in the course of the discussion last night. The Amendment as it stood on the Paper ran thus—after "compensation," in line 4, to insert "for the loss sustained by him in quitting his holding." It was objected by his hon. and learned Friend, and was perhaps felt by others, in connection with language of his own, much too concise for its purpose, that under this Amendment the loss was to be assumed, and nothing was to remain but to allow the landlord to come in and make objection. It would be perfectly satisfactory to the Government to amend the words proposed to be inserted in this manner—"for the loss which the Court shall find to have been sustained by him in quitting his holding." This would show that the matter was to be the subject of judicial cognizance. If Gentlemen would have the kindness to refer to Clause 12, they would find it was required that the tenant must state the particulars with respect to which compensation was claimed. That, taken in connection with the words now proposed, would show that amount of loss must be made out, and not taken for granted. He now begged to move the insertion of the words.
In page 3, line 4, after the word "compensation," to insert the words "for the loss which the Court shall find to have been sustained by him in quitting his holding."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, although he was not in any way connected with Ireland, he trusted he might be permitted to say a few words on the subject, and he desired, in the first place, to assure the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that he was not one of those owners of property to whom he had alluded last night in a manner that was, he must say, scarcely called for, and of whom he said that they had not made the least endeavour to ascertain the views which were held upon that question in other parts of the kingdom. It was not 1286 given to many men to possess those transcendent qualities for which the right hon. Gentleman was so justly remarkable, and he might say, without hesitation, that the attention, trouble, and skill which the right hon. Gentleman had brought to bear on the question entitled him to the thanks both of Parliament and the country. At the same time, however, he must beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman that even amongst Gentlemen who sat on the Opposition side of the House there were some who had endeavoured, with what success it was not for him to say, to arrive at what they believed to be correct and right views on the subject.
said, he was not aware of having used the words attributed to him by the hon. Gentleman. He said "No adequate endeavour."
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he thought the exact words used were—Men of property who make not the least endeavour to learn and appreciate the point of view from which these subjects are regarded by the rest of the kingdom.If he was incorrect in attributing those words to the right hon. Gentleman he should gladly withdraw what he had said.
said, he did not think he used those precise words. His impression was that he said "no adequate endeavour;" but undoubtedly if he used that expression he was very sorry for it.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
frankly accepted that explanation. They had endeavoured, whether their views were erroneous or not, to arrive at what they believed to be correct conclusions. He observed with regret, if not in that House, certainly out of its doors, that a fashion had rather sprung up of putting aside at once all English expressions of opinion with reference to this Irish question as English, and therefore necessarily and naturally wrong. He protested altogether against a dictum of that sort, and he must say that, having regard to the application of Irish views and customs in Ireland, and the state of that country, the conclusion was forced irresistibly on his mind that, if English views and customs had been adopted there a little more, Ireland would probably have found itself in a more fortunate state than that in which it now was. He did not wish it to be supposed 1287 that in making those remarks he was actuated by any want of sympathy whatever for the. Irish people. No man in the House felt a warmer or more sincere sympathy with the people of Ireland than he did, and he looked at the present state of the country with sorrow and pain; with sorrow, because he foresaw, as far at least as it was permitted him to judge, that no real or permanent amendment could be made in the condition of the people without going to the root of many of their prejudices; with pain, because he knew that in Ireland the prejudices of the Irish people were dear to them indeed. Having said thus much he wished to add a few words on the subject immediately before the House. He was scarcely prepared at first for the change in the Amendment of which the right hon. Gentleman had just given notice. He did not think the Amendment was satisfactory; and on a point of such importance as that they had a right to an answer and a more explicit answer than as yet had been given to those who asked what the loss for which compensation was to be given really was. Compensation for improvements was an intelligible proposition, and was also just and fair. As to compensation for improvements, interruption to the due course of husbandry, or inconvenience to the tenant from a change of farms, no one would be disposed to go further than he should. But what was the "loss" to be here estimated? Not the loss of capital, skill, or labour expended on the farm, or the fruits of that which the tenant had sown but had been prevented from reaping. Every man on both sides of the House was anxious that the tenant should receive large and liberal payment on this score. But on what ground were they asked to go further? It was true that he lost the privilege and enjoyment of the benefits arising from holding the farm. The privilege was one which, in Ireland, was very much sought after; but was that what they proposed to give compensation for? He could conceive no more monstrous proposition than this—that for the future in Ireland the landlords were to be compelled to compensate the tenant for the loss, or rather the non-continuance of a privilege which he might have been enjoying for years, and which emanated, in the first place, from the landlords 1288 themselves. You might just as well be called upon to compensate a man who applied for a farm in the first instance and was refused, and with this additional reason—while the actual occupier had benefited by his holding and by the profits he had drawn from the farm during a number of years, the applicant who never got the farm had had no opportunity of deriving any benefit whatever. He would suppose a case in which A was in possession of a farm, and B and C wished to have it; A naturally desired to retain the enjoyment of the profits he derived from his holding, and B and C were anxious to step into them with as little loss of time as possible. If B got the holding, A and C were both disappointed, and A, who had enjoyed the occupation for a number of years, was recouped to the amount of seven years' rent; while unfortunate C, who never had it, got nothing at all. Independently of all considerations of justice, this appeared to him to be a most extraordinary proposition, especially considered as one by which it was proposed to regenerate Ireland.
§ MR. WALTER
said, he wished, at this interesting stage of the Bill, to state to the Committee the reasons why he should feel himself unable to assent to the proposed alteration of this clause without some qualification, which hitherto had not been offered. He would frankly admit that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had improved his proposed Amendment; but, although the new phraseology made the meaning of the Amendment more clear, it did not obviate the objection he entertained to the Amendment as originally proposed. It would be admitted on all hands that the course which the Government was now taking with reference to the 3rd clause was an advance on its original demand; and that was the reason he objected to it. He wished it to be clearly understood he did not object to this Amendment because it recognized, more distinctly than the clause as originally worded did, the right of the evicted tenant to compensation for loss sustained in consequence of eviction. Last night he voted against the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), because it appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman wished to exclude from the Compensation Clause 1289 all considerations of the loss sustained by eviction as a separate item of calculation. Without implying any recognition of what was called right of occupancy—the existence of which he entirely denied, he would fully admit that a tenant on being evicted without just cause was entitled to compensation for the loss he sustained; but he wished to explain what he meant when he denied the right to any compensation founded on what was called right of occupancy. The right of occupation must mean one of two things—it must mean either a permanent, or a temporary right to occupy a certain property. A permanent right of occupation could exist only under an arrangement entitling the holder or his successors to a tenancy for ever; and any other kind of occupation must necessarily be limited by the term assigned to it. Such a thing as a right of occupation coupled with a tenancy from year to year was a contradiction in terms, and no Act of Parliament could make it otherwise; for no Act of Parliament could make the English language mean the contrary of that which was its natural meaning. Therefore, he could not for a moment admit that this clause, either as it originally stood, or as it was now amended, conferred on tenants any such abstract right as the right of occupation; but he would admit that even a yearly tenant, who sustained loss by being evicted without just cause, was entitled to have that loss taken into consideration. He objected to the proposed alteration, because he did not think it was competent to the Government, when it brought in a Bill containing a clause for assessing damages, to make an advance upon the scale which it first proposed. It appeared to him that on this occasion Government was somewhat in the position of a plaintiff in an action for compensation for damages sustained by a railway accident; the plaintiff came into court with a claim which he thought was just and sufficient, and, although it was competent for the defendant to endeavour to reduce the amount of the damages, it was not competent for the plaintiff, after he had stated to the court what damages he thought sufficient to meet the justice of the case, to make an advance on that amonnt. Therefore, he must consider that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had set a rather bad example, because 1290 after having put them in possession of his Bill, as his tenants, he had, in fact, raised the rent and thereby created a disturbance; and it was to that he objected. It was true that the right hon. Gentleman by a subsequent Amendment, which, of course, must be taken in connection with the clause, had altered his sliding scale; and it was curious to observe what the alteration really amounted to. The right hon. Gentleman had increased the number of gradations in the sliding scale from four to seven, and he had graduated the damages in what he thought was a more just and equitable manner. A sliding scale was a pretty tiling to look at, but in the case of the Corn Laws it did not bear the test of practical experience. The amended sliding scale ranged from £70 to £200. Taking the maximum amounts—as one must do in order to test the principle, the amount proposed to be given for a tenancy above £20 and not exceeding £30 in annual value was not to exceed five years' rent or £150. In the next grade, the tenant whose rent was between £30 and £40 was to receive a sum not exceeding four years' rent or £160. Then the tenant whose rent was above £40 and did not exceed £50 was to receive a sum not exceeding three years' rent or £150. Therefore the tenants in the first and third grades he had named would receive £150, and a tenant in the intermediate grade would receive £160. He could not understand the object or reason of that arrangement, and he so far agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire as to think there was some awkwardness in attempting to define too strictly this right to compensation. Although they had been told that the tenant had no alternative but the workhouse or America—which reminded him of a proverb in vogue at the time of the Commonwealth, when a man was told to go to Connaught, or another place that need not be named—he did not admit that this was the case entirely, and he could conceive the case of a tenant evicted, who might the very next month get a better farm than that which he had left. In such a case how could any court measure the amount of damage to be received by the tenant? What length of time was to be allowed in order to ascertain whether the tenant had bettered himself or not? You could not keep 1291 the matter hanging over the head of the landlord for seven years before he could know the amount to be paid; and this showed the awkwardness of attempting to define these things too strictly. If it had been frankly stated that the Government proposed to insert a clause which should have the effect of giving an equivalent been to the landlord in consideration of the alteration and of the separation of the terms to be paid in compensation, he should have no objection to the Amendment; but as this was not stated he must take the Amendment to be an encroachment, and therefore he objected to it. For these substantial reasons, and in the absence of any declaration on the part of the Government that they meant to reduce the amount of the compensation from, say, seven years to five years, or something of that kind, it was impossible for him to vote for the Amendment the Government proposed, He must take this opportunity of expressing the great satisfaction with which he heard the declaration made by the Prime Minister last evening, which afforded a ray of hope for an improvement in the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland. The prospect held out was that of a better state of things in twenty years, and that was something for which, they could not feel sufficiently grateful. If hon. Members spoke their minds more freely on this subject it would be better for them all; and he wished to take this opportunity of saying that, unless the effect of this Bill was to provide what the French called a pont d'orbetween Ireland and America it would do little good indeed. One subject had been shirked on both sides of the House, and even the Prime Minister had abstained from giving any opinion upon it, and that was that the very root of the evil was the excess of the agricultural population of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition had carefully guarded himself against being supposed to look favourably upon the emigration now going on from Ireland? What was really at the bottom of this whole question? Was it not, as we had been told by Irish Members, the frightful competition for the land? An hon. Member from that country described the poor tenants as "miserable creatures." What was the meaning of such terms—"frightful competition for land," and "miserable creatures," as applied to 1292 the unfortunate Irish tenants? Was it not that there was a greater number of poor people of that class in Ireland than the country could properly support? He did not mean to say that if we were to cut up the pasture into cabbage gardens, and reproduce the miserable system of living upon potatoes, which was really the curse of Ireland, the country would not maintain a population of 8,000,000 or 10,000,000; possibly, if the people lived on cabbages, the country might support 20,000,000; but was that argument to be advanced in the House of Commons? Were we to treat the country as if it were in an uncivilized state, and as if the great mass of the population were content to live on vegetables which they could raise by means of a few weeks' labour in the year? This would be contrary to the decrees of Providence and the order of nature. It was clear that no large population should attempt to live on so precarious and uncertain a crop. Surely, there had been warning enough in the terrible famine to teach the people better things? Until we could convince the Irish of the folly, of the worse than folly of clinging to the land merely with the view of getting a miserable subsistence out of it, we should do no good whatever by Land Bills. He hoped that one effect of the passing of this Bill would be that it would throw upon the landlords the responsibility of not using the rights they now possess to evict tenants without providing them with means sufficient to secure for themselves a better home in a more prosperous country. This was the chief good he hoped for from the operation of this Bill.
said, he was desirous to make an observation, not so much upon, the speech of the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) as on the general tone of the debate. He did not mean to complain of the course that was taken; but he had no doubt that many votes were given last night in the minority, and many were forborne to be given in the majority, by Gentlemen, not because they approved of the Amendment then before the Committee, but because of their predisposition against other parts of the Bill. Now he wished to observe that the same latitude which was given to the attack ought to be allowed to the defence. If the Government, on every Amendment which af- 1293 firmed the principle of compensation for disturbance, were to enter upon a long discussion as to the scale of that compensation which appeared to them proper, progress in the Bill would be impossible. Consequently it would be better that, like men of business, they should discuss each point as it arose. The present had really nothing to do with the sliding scale. The House voted last night substantially that the loss for eviction was to be taken into account, and the degree in which it should be taken into account would remain to be considered when they came to the scale, and then the Government would state clearly and distinctly the principles on which they meant to proceed. At present the Government could only endeavour to meet the objections honestly entertained and ably stated last night.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, the right hon. Gentleman had taken the unusual course of criticizing the motives of those who last night voted in the minority. ["No, no!"] He said that he believed many hon. Gentlemen voted in the minority last night, not on the merits of the question then before them, but because they looked upon it as a portion of something else that was afterwards to be brought forward. He ventured to protest against anyone—be he Prime Minister or private Member—coming down to this House, after a long discussion and an important Division, and finding fault with Members of Parliament for the votes they had given. [Mr. GLADSTONE: I found no fault.] The right hon. Gentleman pointed his observations especially towards the hon. Member for Berkshire. Now, he would venture to say, in spite of the right hon. Gentleman, that the hon. Member for Berkshire's obervations were perfectly germane to the matter; for the Government, by their Amendments to the different clauses of the Bill, had so complicated matters that it was perfectly impossible for anybody to discuss any one of the Government Amendments without having in mind the consequential Amendments bearing on the point. He, therefore, held that the hon. Member for Berkshire was perfectly justified in the observations he made in reference to the proposed sliding scale. While the hon. Member for Berkshire was proceeding in the course of his speech some hon. Members appeared to take exception to his line of 1294 argument, as though the hon. Gentleman was not confining himself to the Amendment before the House. He would, therefore, be obliged if the Chairman would state what was the particular Amendment before the Committee.
stated that the Amendment was to insert in line 4 of the clause, after "compensation," the words "for the loss which the Court shall find to have been sustained by him in quitting his holding."
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he thought that hon. Members had some right to complain that the Amendment printed in the Business Paper was not the Amendment to be put from the Chair; because it was impossible properly to consider the Amendments of the Government, if alterations in the Amendments proposed were made without due notice, and without Members being aware of what they were. He agreed with the hon. Member for Berkshire that the Amendment now proposed to be introduced into the Amendment given notice of by the Chief Secretary for Ireland was a slight improvement; but he maintained that they must consider not one Amendment alone, but the whole scope and tendency of all the Amendments. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) that, as the Bill proceeded, they found Amendments introduced by the Government having but one object, and that was of perpetuating and stereotyping the worst and most mischievous evils of Ireland in regard to the existing relations between landlord and tenant, and, still more, between the tenantry and the peasantry. He objected to the particular Amendment under discussion, because he looked upon it as the first of a class of Amendments to the Bill, which, as proposed to be amended by the Government, would not prove as permanent, efficient, and remedial a measure as on the second reading they all hoped it would be, and because he believed, on the contrary, that it would have the effect of keeping the agricultural condition of Ireland and the relations between the various agricultural classes in their present unsatisfactory state.
§ MR. OSBORNE
said, he was not going to trespass long on the wonderful patience of the Chairman of the Committee, who had sat undisturbed listen- 1295 ing to a perpetual discussion on the second reading of this Bill, but would confine himself, if possible, to the precise clause before the Committee. However, before adverting to that subject, he must point out to the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Manners), who in private life was most amiable and devoid of all party spirit, but who never got up, even at ten minutes past three o'clock in the afternoon, without proving himself to be a most decided party man, that if, according to the noble Lord's admirable way of conducting business, the Chairman was at the call of any hon. Member to read every five minutes the particular words of an altered Amendment, they would not be able to get through a Turnpike Bill in the course of the Session. His noble Friend must feel on calmer reflection, that such a course of proceeding would be not only undignified and un-Parliamentary, but, if he might use the word, simply ridiculous. What was the Amendment which had created so much warmth? It was simply an Amendment, which at first proposed to insert in the clause the words, "for the loss sustained by him in quitting his holding," and it was now suggested to alter it by making it read, "for the loss which the Court shall find to have been sustained by him in quitting his holding." Two matters were involved in that Amendment. He admitted that "the loss sustained by the tenant in quitting his holding," were most important words, and they were discussed a great deal last night; but the principle had been long before the House. They had heard Gentlemen speak of the marrow of these Irish Land Bills; but the way in which Parliament had been playing at shuttlecock with the matter had made the demands of the peasantry become greater year by year. In twenty years they had had thirty Land Bills, only three of which had passed. Could they, then, be surprised, after all parties in the House, as one after another they came into power, had been alarmed by the fear of disturbance of occupancy in connection with a Land Bill, and after all the hopes which had been excited in Ireland, that now the Irish people were calling for something more than mere compensation for improvements, and that the marrow of the Bill was now looked on in Ireland to be, first, security for tenure, and next, restriction of arbitrary 1296 eviction. Why did he support the second reading of this measure? To him there was no ambiguity in the words of the Bill, and he defied anyone who voted for the second reading to say that he did not feel in his conscience that he was voting for the new principle of giving the tenant a right to a certain occupancy. He did not believe that his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University (Dr. Ball)—the acutest lawyer that Ireland had, and the man everyone would be the first to retain if he had an equity suit—could come down here and say that he had voted for the Bill in ignorance that it contained this principle. Not satisfied with that, his right hon. and learned Friend wanted them to believe that his respected Leader, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire—that that poor innocent voted for the second reading of the Bill quite ignorant that it contained a clause giving compensation for disturbance. This might be very Parliamentary—it might be good for the amusement of a night—but he wanted to know what the people on the other side of the water must think of it. What was described as a novel principle, the Member for the University of Dublin and all Members connected with Ireland knew was a very old principle. It was universal in the South of Ireland. The right of occupation was so far recognized that no man ever thought of getting rid of a small tenant without paying his passage, perhaps to America. He would not now discuss the scale; but, however it might be regarded from the English or Scotch point of view, however it might be regarded by some as unsound in theory or, possibly, perilous in its provisions, he still maintained, from accurate knowledge of Ireland, and from his experience in farming largely, that this Bill, or something like this Bill in this particular clause—and the measure would be worthless without it—was not only a necessity for Ireland, but was unavoidable. No Land Bill would give any satisfaction or hold out any hope to the Irish people without such a clause; and yet hon. Gentlemen got up, and thought by talking out this question, they would be able to crush it. There was some danger involved in this question. They had been putting it off for twenty years —holding out hopes in regard to it, 1297 especially when out of Office.["Hear, hear!"] Yes; they had seen wonderful changes in the views of right hon. Gentlemen when in and out of Office, and, not the least wonderful, they had seen all the elements of political economy flung overboard by the right hon. Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), and he doing penance for his former sentiments. It was quite extraordinary what effects the disturbance of occupation had produced on right hon. Gentlemen. He rejoiced to hear the speech of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night, for it showed that he had not only been attending to the finances but to the peace of the country, and he said that this Bill, so far from being what it was represented, contained elements of being a Peace Preservation Bill. They heard of new principles; but he had heard those new principles from every Minister on coming into Office. Why, the famous Bill of 1852, the joint production of three great Conservative statesmen—Sir Joseph Napier, Mr. Whiteside, and Lord Mayo—contained a clause giving the tenant the right to compensation for twenty-five years retrospectively. [An hon. MEMBER: That was the blot of the Bill.] The hon. Member for the county of Wicklow (Mr. Fitzwilliam Dick) was one of those Gentleman who at that time sat with his knees in the back of the Prime Minister, and he remembered his sonorous cheer even at this time of day; and it was rather stealing a leaf out of the book of the Liberal party. And what was the fate of that Bill? The noble Lord (Lord John Manners) was a party to that Bill, and at that time he (Mr. Osborne) was very near coming over himself, and joining the hon. Member for Wicklow. The principle of that Bill was sanctioned not only by that Government but by three successive Ministries, and by great majorities of the House of Commons; but it was put to rest in the House of Lords. For eighteen years they had been sleeping upon it, and then they seemed surprised if the people of Ireland, like Oliver Twist, asked for more. He was only surprised, considering the indifference with which the subject had been treated, that there had been so little agitation in regard to it. The hon. Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin)—and he congratulated the county Members of England that they 1298 had got one of their number who spoke so well and thought so profoundly—talked of looking at this question from an English point of view, and wanted that English institutions should be introduced into Ireland. He did not agree with his hon. Friend. The Irish institutions were excellent for their purpose, though no doubt they would be all the better for a little more English money. On this point he would quote to the House an extract from a speech delivered many years ago on this importation of English customs into Ireland. The speaker said he believed it was the greatest fallacy to talk of Ireland having an identity of institutions with England. Surely they had given Ireland enough of those institutions, and more than enough. Hon. Members asked for identity of institutions, while the primary and most important of all these institutions differed from England. The greatest curse to Ireland was the identity of these institutions with England, and the sooner they got rid of them the better. That was a speech made many years ago; but it showed a more intimate knowledge of Ireland, expressed in more eloquent language, than he had ever heard. It was the speech of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. Freedom of contract was a myth in Ireland. It was as little applicable to Ireland as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer now found political economy to be. The small holder had no freedom. The poor tenant was ready to offer everything, and they must protect that man. It might be contrary to the principles of political economy or other economies; but such was the state of Ireland that they must legislate for the protection of the small tenant. Ireland, he said, was a country for small not large tenancies, and he never wished to see the consolidation of farms; but he wished to see Ireland on the road to prosperity, and he would support this or any other Ministry that brought in a Bill framed in this spirit, and would support them all the more that it was to be opposed in a spirit which he thought was not likely to give satisfaction to the people of Ireland.
§ DR. BALL
said, he was rather glad of some allusions made to a former debate by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne), because it would enable him to do justice to the right 1299 hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to whom he was afraid, speaking hastily, on a former occasion, he had done some injustice, and in reference to whom he might have been understood to suggest that his original speech did not apprise the House that the Bill contained the principle of damages for eviction. He had since read over the speeches both of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Prime Minister, and he would tell the House how the case stood. On the second reading his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland in his speech used, in reference to this clause, the phrase "compensation for the loss of occupation," and undoubtedly described capricious eviction as intended to be followed by pecuniary consequences and pecuniary results. He (Dr. Ball) happened, in the order of speaking, to follow, and ventured to express the opinion, which he still retained, that, though that might have been the intention of the framers of the Bill, it was not carried out in the words of the 3rd clause. The language he originally used was, that when the clause directed to have regard to compensation for improvements, other than permanent, and loss sustained by a tenant in quitting his holding, the clause pointed to every conceivable circumstance of inconvenience except the mere fact of eviction. No contradiction to that interpretation was given; but when the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government came to reply he evidently felt that there was some ambiguity existing, for he then stated that he would consider how he could sever compensation for improvements from damages for eviction. He admitted that the right hon. Gentleman, when thus intimating his intention to bring forward an Amendment, had used the words "damages for eviction." If, therefore, his (Dr. Ball's) words conveyed the suggestion that the Secretary for Ireland in his speech had put forward one view, and another in his Amendment, that was an incorrect suggestion, and not in accordance with what had occurred. The objection, however, which he (Dr. Ball) entertained to the principle put forth, whether propounded in the speech or contained, in the Amendment, remained the same. The alteration made by the Prime Minister no doubt met one serious objection made to the Amendment as it 1300 originally stood; but it did not meet the objection founded on principle. The words as they now stood would indicate to the mind of the Judge that there was no necessary connection between the numerical standard of value and the fact for which compensation was being given, so as to make these always indissolubly connected. He conceded that to the Government, and admitted that the Amendment in its present shape was a decided improvement. But his main objection to the proposal remained; and if he had erred in his original interpretation, and in the course which he was now taking, he must say that he was fortified by the speech last night of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer; for, while the Prime Minister had plainly used the words "damages for eviction," and the Secretary for Ireland, not being a lawyer, had not used the precise phrase, but had used other words having precisely the same meaning, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had practised at the Bar and was thoroughly acquainted with legal terms, stated in the plainest way that the Government did not give damages for eviction, and proceeded to state what it was that the Government proposed to give compensation for. [Mr. GLADSTONE: He said they were the same thing.] He (Dr. Ball) did not admit that they were the same thing, and consequently claimed the Chancellor of the Exchequer as agreeing with the views which he himself entertained. The words of the right hon. Gentleman were—We have not, however, treated eviction as a wrong, nor have we given damages for eviction. We have given compensation—which is of course the same thing as damages, one being the Latin and the other the English form of the word—to any person for any loss he shall sustain in quitting his holding. But we have not imposed an arbitrary fine.Surely that statement was not consistent with other declarations of the Government, to the effect that what they were giving was not so much compensation for loss sustained, as a sort of fine to prevent capricious evictions—a penalty founded on the very fact of the termination of the tenure? It might be said that this was a subtle distinction; but the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer all proceeded in the same subtle direction, and in his reasoning, from first to last, 1301 he particularly guarded against its being supposed that an act of eviction per sedemanded a pecuniary fine. He contended that the words now used, making the loss sustained by quitting a subject of compensation, applied, as a matter of fact, to mere termination of occupancy. To that principle he could never give his assent. But his position was strengthened by what he had heard, namely—that a provision was to be introduced in connection with the 3rd clause, suggesting twenty years as primâ facie the period of their duration. That was an additional objection to bringing forward the Amendment now before the Committee. If the restraint on contract was to be temporary, what was required was to produce an immediate pecuniary result—to allow the tenants to remain for a period, to assist them to emigrate, or in some way or other to benefit their condition. If that was the motive, why not leave the words as they originally stood in the clause—namely, having regard to other than permanent improvements or the loss sustained by the tenant in quitting his holding. Leaving the words in that form the Government would not thus have been ostentatiously putting forward a new principle governing the relations of landlord and tenant. Even if the principle had been there all the time it would have been concealed, and its deleterious character neutralized by other ingredients. To borrow a classical allusion, the right hon. Gentleman might originally have had a sword in his hand against the landlords, but it was sheathed in myrtle. The barrister or Judge acting under the section, as it originally stood in regard to improvements and the ambiguous phraseology as to loss for evictions, would have given a pecuniary amount corresponding to the aggregate values of all these considerations, and the mind of the recipient of the money would not detect lurking in it the principle that was now brought forward so ostentatiously. It was not to be supposed that the Judge would have given less on the old words than on the new words. Whatever maximum the standard might be, it was shown that it was not intended to be inflexible even as connected with eviction or disturbance. This showed that the Judge would still have the opportunity of bringing all the considerations together to produce the result of pecu- 1302 niary benefit to the tenant. The same object of pecuniary benefit would have been attained without bringing forward in this manner the dangerous principle expressed as damages for eviction; and all this was done, not to assert a great political or economical principle, but for a temporary purpose, which another mode of producing the same pecuniary compensation would have equally effected. What useful object was attained in bringing forward this principle so ostentatiously, and stripped of every disguise? He maintained that it endangered the safety of the measure, and would excite feelings against it in "another place." By way of illustration, let him refer to what had occurred last year, when an abstract principle was put forward without any disguise. The Irish Church Bill was introduced with the Preamble containing this abstract proposition, that the surplus of the property should not be applied to the maintenance of religious worship or of ministers of religion. That declaration on the face of the Bill was utterly unnecessary for every purpose of legislative enactment; and what was its ultimate fate? That single abstract proposition occasioned conflict, even among Members of the right hon. Gentleman's own party in the House of Lords; and in the Preface to his Book lately published by Earl Russell, he selects that very passage for comment, and says of the majority of 78 who expunged that passage from the Bill, that by them and by their expunging this restriction on the application of the surplus a great treasure had been saved out of a shipwreck. What might be the effect again? The right hon. Gentleman persisted in forcing on the House this abstract Resolution, without qualification or mitigation, openly avowing a principle which was directly opposed to the Report of the Committee presided over by the Marquess of Clanricarde, on which Earl Grey, two Cabinet Ministers, and two ex-Chancellors sat. Yes, it would be found that the principle now put forward was neither more nor less than a declaration of hostility to a Report drawn up by Lord Kimberley, and unanimously signed by these great men. Its assertion in the Bill, undisguised and unqualified, was calculated to challenge a collision with the authors of that Report. He urged the Prime Minister to reconsider his determination to insist 1303 upon this Amendment, standing in this plain form, unsurrounded and unqualified by anything else, and to restore the words of the clause as they stood originally.
§ MR. W. H. GREGORY
said, they had often seen men employed in throwing dust into other people's eyes; but the right hon. and learned. Gentleman (Dr. Ball) had been engaged during the whole of his speech in throwing dust into his own eyes—a curious reversal of the ordinary process. On the occasion of the second reading of the present Bill the right hon. and learned Gentleman said he would support this particular clause under discussion if its intention was described as a scheme for the "payment for disturbance in an agricultural plan," but that he would have nothing to do with it if it was called "compensation for eviction." There was no difference between the two things except the difference in phrase; and, for his part, he maintained that if the clause was omitted they might as well throw Bill and Amendments into the fire. Now, what was the real objection to the clause? Did anyone think that the tenant ought not to have some compensation for his expatriation or the workhouse? The real meaning of the opposition to this clause, no matter how it might be disguised, or attempted to be disguised, was that hon. Members were afraid of anything like this principle being acknowledged, lest it might be quoted against them with regard to England, Scotland, and Wales. It was not tenderness for the Irish landlord, but tenderness for themselves. He had no fear of the kind, but would be one of the first to advocate such an application if the circumstances of England, Scotland, or Wales demanded it as imperatively as he conceived the circumstances of Ireland to do. It was asked what benefit this clause would confer upon the tenants, to which he would reply that not only would the tenants, when actually evicted, benefit by the clause, but its operation would have a tendency to put an end to the numerous forms of tyranny which bad landlords were enabled to practise under cover of a "notice to quit." He knew instances in which, under a threat of a notice to quit, tenants were obliged to make their purchases in the shops of their landlord, to cut his corn, to dig his turf 1304 and potatoes. The clause would put a stop to that kind of tyranny. That, in the first instance, the right hon. and learned Gentleman knew the meaning of the clause perfectly well was clear from what he said as to his accepting the principle of compensation for the "disturbance of an agricultural plan." Surely no one could imagine that any agricultural plan of any duration could be carried out on a small plot from which a peasant managed to raise a few potatoes. The larger farmer might have a plan. To be logical, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would on eviction give compensation to the large farmer who might not require it, because he might have a plan; but he would deny it to the poor man of a few acres, to whom it would be a matter of life and death, because he could have no plan. Surely such an argument was too subtle in the first place, and too absurd in its consequences to be accepted by the House. He (Mr. Gregory) regarded this clause as the cardinal and pivot-point of the Bill, and hoped the Committee would pass it in its integrity.
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, the alteration which the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had proposed in the clause would render it unnecessary for him to move an Amendment of which he had given notice. He must say, however, that he should have preferred to have seen the word "any" in the Amendment, before the word "loss," in preference to the word "the," as that would have given the Court a more extended power in calculating the amount of compensation to be awarded. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to accept and act upon this suggestion.
§ MR. DELAHUNTY
believed that the question of compensation for disturbance of occupying tenants-at-will to be the vital part of the measure. Without that the Bill would be worthless, and if it did not embrace that clause it ought to be withdrawn. As representing a very important constituency, and as a practical man, he begged to say that, unless hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House combined to make the Bill worthy of a concession to Ireland, they would only aggravate the evils under which that country was now suffering. No man had had more experience with respect to the tenantry of Ireland than 1305 himself, because he had been intrusted with the management of 700 or 800 holdings in the counties of Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny, Queen's County, Cork, and Wexford. In all his experience of the management of property he had always had this feeling—that whenever he could get a fair rent for the land he had to let, he would be perfectly satisfied to give a tenant the longest term of holding he could, because the securing of such a tenant was an inducement to improvement. That was the way in which every landlord should act. Ireland, to be prosperous, must be governed with equal laws as compared with England in other respects than as far as the land only was concerned. As matters now stood the Irish people had only the land to depend upon, and the question which the Committee were discussing was not whether they should try to bring back trade and manufactures to that country, but to regulate the laws under which there was a scramble for the land. Unless, however, England should make up her mind to deal with Ireland in a different spirit, the day would come when Ireland would be separated from this country altogether. [Ironical cheers.] He told them that would be so, and he gave them fair warning. He wanted a lasting and real Union, instead of a false and hollow one. The population of Ireland at the time of the Union was, according to its area, almost as much as the population of England; for the area of England, as compared with Ireland, was as twenty to twelve, while the population of Ireland, compared with that of England, was as eleven to twenty. Now, however, the population of Ireland, under the same comparison, was only as five to twenty-two, in consequence of the persistent misgovernment to which she had been subjected, and to the attempts which had been made to destroy her manufactures and her prosperity, leaving her only her miserable land; and surely it could not be a blessed Union which had brought about such a result. The farmers of Ireland did not exceed in number the shoemakers and bootmakers of that country, and they were only about twice as many as the washerwomen. Depend upon it, England must find out some other way of governing Ireland than furnishing her continually with Coercion Bills. In making these remarks, 1306 it must not be supposed that he did not give every hon. Member in that House credit for being anxious to serve Ireland. No one, he knew, was more anxious to serve her than the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman had taken the right course for displacing the grievances of which Ireland complained; but if he disposed of the land this year, he would have to deal with the manufacturing question next Session, and there ought, therefore, to be no impediment thrown in the way of his carrying this measure through Parliament. He (Mr. Delahunty) should be glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) imitating the example of the Prime Minister in endeavouring to promote the prosperity of Ireland; if he did so, the right hon. Gentleman might depend that he would have his knees at his back as well as those of the hon. Member for Wicklow (Mr. Fitzwilliam Dick). He was sorry, however, to find that the right hon. Gentleman, in a speech which he made at Aylesbury, in 1868, had spoken of the famine as having been a great blessing to Ireland. ["No, no!"] At all events, the right hon. Gentleman was reported to have said so. And as the right hon. Gentleman was present, he could contradict the statement if he chose. In the course of that speech, which was addressed to the right hon. Gentleman's constituents at Aylesbury, he declared that "Ireland contained more inhabitants per square mile than any other country in Europe," which was not true, for England contained more in proportion. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Irish had been reduced to a condition in which they were without shelter, almost without food, and almost without clothing; but that since the famine they had had better shelter, more food, and better raiment. Some one in the crowd then called out—"Three cheers for the famine!" to which the right hon. Gentleman replied—"You have given three cheers before, this for things that have not done so much good as the famine." If that was not saying that the famine was the best thing for Ireland—why, nabocklish !He wished to impress upon the House that they could rule Ireland with a silken thread if they chose; but no effort of coercion or injustice would 1307 prevent that country from breaking her bonds whenever she could, and the day would not be far distant when she would do so if she was not treated as an integral portion of this country, like Yorkshire. If the people of Ireland had lost their platforms for labour, and if the population of that country had been brought down to 8,000,000 less than it should be, it was the fault of this country, and this country ought to see what it could do to give employment, and peace, and prosperity to the Irish people.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
Having listened with great pleasure to the speech of my hon. Friend the junior Member for the city of Waterford (Mr. Osborne), I should have been sorry to have stood in the way of the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for that city (Mr. Delahunty), who has expressed to the House many sound and excellent sentiments, especially in reference to this Bill. But I rise now for the purpose of noticing what has fallen from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball), and I should be sorry not to express my sense of the extremely fair and candid way with which he has dealt with former expressions on the subject of this Bill which have fallen from my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government and myself. What he has said has been marked with great candour, and I think it very much clears the issue between us today, because it gets rid of the imputation of inconsistency, or change of tactics on the part of the Government, which, as has been now fully admitted, is entirely without foundation. My right hon. and learned Friend admits that the Government have from the first, in framing this clause, attempted to provide compensation for loss of occupation on the part of the Irish tenant, independent of the question of improvements; whether my right hon. and learned Friend chooses to call it payment for the loss of occupation, or damages for eviction, or any other equivalent phrase, is to me an entirely indifferent matter. If my right hon. and learned Friend can agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on that subject I shall be quite content. The Chancellor of the Exchequer's criticisms were nothing but verbal, and he entirely agrees with his Colleagues, as, indeed, he showed last 1308 night in the proposals made by the Cabinet to the House. My right hon. and learned Friend noticed a phrase which fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as though it were inconsistent with our interpetation of this clause, when he said that the clause imposed no arbitrary fine on an evicting landlord. But, surely, that means that there is no one absolute sum laid down by this clause which under all circumstances would impose a fine upon the landlord and represent the payment to the tenant. The Chancellor of the Exchequer meant that that amount would be left to the discretion of the Court, which would judge according to all the circumstances of the case under this clause and under the Equities Clause, which will be found in another portion of the Bill. The question, however, between my right hon. and learned Friend and ourselves is this—whether or not this Bill should contain, over and above the compensation for improvements, any compensation for the loss of occupation or damages upon eviction; and my only quarrel with my right hon. and learned Friend would be that he did not from the first take that decided line against the principle of compensation for the loss of occupation that he has now taken up. But our position is now, by universal consent, clear and distinct. We contend now, as in reality we have always done, that under the circumstances—the exceptional and dangerous circumstances—of Ireland, a mere system of compensation for improvements would not meet the necessities of the case; that when we have to deal with a bad and false system, which has to a great degree checked and prevented the improvements of the tenantry of Ireland, such a mere provision of compensation for improvements would be insufficient, and that the best and fairest mode of getting that security for the Irish tenant, which is the great object of the Government, is the proposal contained in the Bill. But my right hon. and learned Friend finds fault—and I think upon very strange grounds—with the Amendment upon the clause now offered on the part of the Government. He objects to the proposed form of the clause because, somehow or other, it makes the principle of compensation for the loss of occupation more distinct and apparent than it was before. But we are not ashamed of that principle; 1309 we have never concealed it, and we do not wish to conceal it. We did include under the scale, along with the question of damages for eviction, the consideration of certain improvements, not the most important and prominent, which were always outside the scale, but minor improvements which were intended to be within it. Further consideration has shown us that the clause, as originally drawn, was in this particular a mistake; we have come to a very distinct conviction that a scale with a maximum was totally unfit to be applied to the question of the value of improvements, and we have preferred to treat that separately, and to leave the court to its discretion under the scale with respect to damages for loss of occupation, dealing with each case according to its own circumstances. My right hon. and learned Friend regrets that that principle is not now to be wrapped up, as he says it was, in the original clause. He says we have now an undisguised compensation for the loss of occupation. Well, we did not know that it was disguised before—at all events, it was disguised to very few eyes indeed; but if it be now more clear and open, I can only congratulate ourselves the Committee upon the fact, because that was our intention at starting. Availing himself of a graceful classical allusion, my right hon. and learned Friend said that at first the sword was shrouded with myrtle, whereas now it was bare. I will only say that, if this clause is a sword, I prefer that it should be bare and open to the eyes of the world. But, for my own part, I do not call it a sword; I regard it rather as a shield on the part of the tenant—a defensive weapon, which cannot be used for attack; and viewing it, therefore, as the best protection for the tenant-farmer of Ireland which, under the circumstances of the country, can be safely placed in his hands, I confidently recommend the clause in its present form to the Committee, and I trust the Committee will now come to a division upon it. There is no principle involved in the question we now have to decide, which was not discussed and decided last night; and, under those circumstances, I think the Committee will agree with me that it will be far better, for the progress of business, to come at once to a decision upon it.
I cannot enter into 1310 the wish which has just been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Chichester Fortescue), that this discussion should now close. I must be allowed to say that I think we all of us have great reason to complain of the difficulty which the Government have placed us in. The right hon. Gentleman himself last night told us that this was a novel principle; the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), who sat behind him, said it was something more than novel so far as the retrospective part of it went. But let that pass. It was argued that this Bill was to be a means of applying a penalty for arbitrary or capricious eviction. The Government, in the first instance, brought up a clause with this principle, whatever it may be, mixed up with improvements. I can see the difficulty, and. I can well understand why that was so brought up. They will not admit a right of occupancy—they shrink from that; they have not the courage and the manfulness to do that openly, and they therefore endeavour to do it by a sidewind. They attempted, in the first instance, to cover it by the word "improvements;" and now, when they find that it is necessary to conciliate certain parties who will not be satisfied with that, they strike out improvements, and we are left to arrive as we can, or, what is much nearer to the truth, to leave it to litigant parties in Ireland to find out by expensive litigation what it is that they are to be compensated for. That is the position in which we are about to leave the people of Ireland. No two persons who have spoken in this debate are at all agreed as to what the "loss" will consist of. The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last night said it was altogether illusory, while the Secretary for Ireland seems now to find fault because a right hon. and learned Gentleman on this side (Dr. Ball) has not been able to define it. I should like to know what the loss is if it is not the right of occupation, unless, indeed, it is loss on account of improvements or some such matter. The Government say it is to be a penalty for capricious and wrongful eviction; but I think they are bound to lay down some guide for the courts of law in Ireland as to what is to be called caprice and what is to be called wrongful eviction. It is very easy to use tall talk, and to speak of capricious and 1311 wrongful eviction; but when you come into a court of law, and have a money value put upon it, it is not so easy then to arrive at exactly what it means, and the courts of law in Ireland have had no help from any debates in this House. But is this the only difficulty in which we have been placed? We first had a clause with this novel principle, as it has been called, excluding greater improvements, but including everything short of building and reclamation, and a certain money value was attached to that by the Government. A great deal has been said about the loss sustained by Irish tenants and the wonderful improvements they have made. I should very much like to know, Sir, how it is that after the improvements have been cut out of the clause the compensation to be given to the tenant is very much higher. How is it that he is to receive more for not having effected improvements than for having effected them? That, Sir, I humbly confess, appears to me to be a very strange procedure. It is introducing a very novel principle, and I say that, before making such a proposal, the Government ought thoroughly to have made up its mind what it really intended to do. Instead of doing that, however, it has been patching up the clause bit by bit, until we do not exactly know where we are standing in the matter. There is no hon. Member who can give a definite opinion as to the meaning of it. We are told that the compensation is to be for capricious evictions. But what, let me ask, is capricious evictions? If such a scheme is carried out, I can foresee nothing but endless litigation and confusion among tenants. One speaker, who has recently addressed us, has told us that Government is only getting into the path of Irish improvements, and has hinted that this Bill is but the forerunner of many other so-called improvements. I wish the Bill had been more definite, so that it could have been understood; but I cannot foresee, and no one whom I have asked can tell me, what will be the effect of any one of these clauses.
§ SIR GEORGE COLTHURST,
differing from several landlords on his own (the Liberal) side of the House, desired to express his opinions before the Committee divided. He supported the second reading of the Bill because, after perusing it and hearing the statement of 1312 the Prime Minister, he felt satisfied that, if it were not carried through the House in all its integrity, it would yet be passed in the spirit in which it had been conceived and introduced. But after agreeing to the second reading he was surprised to find on the Paper two Government Amendments, which altered the whole complexion of the Bill. One of these gave compensation for occupancy separately from compensation for improvement; and the other proposed the omission of the 16th clause, which was more or less a been to landlords, for it empowered them to give a thirty-one years' lease, subject to the approval of a court, giving the tenant subsequent power to make a claim for permanent building and improvement of the land. The latter was a vague term, and was not altogether a boon; but still he should have been glad if the clause had been left, and he should have, by all means, to contract himself under the provisions of the Bill. By striking out the 16th clause, the Government had taken away almost every privilege which a landlord possessed under the Bill, and by the alteration of the 3rd clause it was sought to impose pains and penalties upon him for doing what he liked with his own. It was a very strange fact; but before the Amendments of the Chief Secretary for Ireland were upon the Paper, he saw in the Dublin Freeman's Journal a statement from a correspondent in London that the Amendment now before the Committee was to be moved by the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray), and that the Government Amendment to the 16th clause was to be moved by the hon. Member for the King's County. That appeared rather suspicious. His (Sir George Colthurst's) opinion was that Government would have adopted the better course had they allowed the Amendments to be moved by those who first put them upon the Paper. He could not support the clause even as amended by the Government. He believed the Government were attempting a grievous wrong upon the Irish landlords. He trusted that while the Bill was in Committee the Government would not adopt any other Amendments which might be placed upon the Paper by those who called themselves "the Eleven of Ireland." He trusted that the innings of those gentlemen would be a short one. If the Government pursued the 1313 course they had embarked upon—if they adopted Amendments which interfered with the rights of property, their Bill, instead of giving stability to the Empire, would only bring ruin and disaster.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, that as the provision now under discussion was the most important in the Bill, he thought the Committee had a right to expect from the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary for Ireland a clear and distinct statement of the reasons which had induced them to adopt the principle that simple occupancy was entitled to compensation. This movement on the part of the Government, according to one view of the case, meant that evictions were so often resorted to by the landlords that it was absolutely necessary to afford security to the tenants. Although the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory) had said that, upon occasions of this sort, Englishmen only endeavoured to throw dust in the eyes of Irishmen, he, as an English representative, stood up for what he believed to be right and just on behalf of the Irish landlord as well as the tenant. He therefore demanded from the head of the Government what his intentions were in introducing the clause under debate? With regard to the argument based upon evictions, it was a somewhat remarkable fact that the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners in Ireland declared that evictions were much fewer than they used to be, and that in most parts of the country they had entirely disappeared. From another authentic document it appeared that the number of evictions in all Ireland was very small, being one in 1,200 holdings in Ulster, one in 4,269 holdings in Munster, one in 3,245 holdings in Leinster, and one in 2,694 holdings in Connaught. That being the case, he should like to know whether the argument of evictions was a sufficient argument for having recourse to such an extreme Amendment? Let them put it in any way they pleased, it was an interference with the rights of property. Unless such a procedure could be justified upon some stronger ground than had yet been mentioned, he maintained that the Committee would be doing a grievous wrong in sanctioning it, and all who failed to oppose it would be guilty of a dereliction of duty. It was this very principle of interference with the rights of property, which he 1314 held that the Bill contained, that had prevented him voting for its second reading; and that was the reason which made him object to this clause. The right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) had already quoted part of a speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the subject, and in another passage in that speech the right hon. Gentleman said—I have sat on several Committees of this House to investigate this question, of the land in Ireland, and it has never been my fate to hear a single case of grievance or ill-treatment of a tenant alleged, with dates and circumstances, so that it could be verified. I sat on a Committee with the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland; he will recollect we heard many witnesses against the landlords, but there was not one fact adduced to bring the charges home."—[3 Hansard, cxc. 1488.]That was the language which had been made use of in that House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he therefore called upon the head of the Government to give them his reasons for adopting the extreme proposal embodied in the Amendment. He had said that there were not many evictions in Ireland; but he would go a step further, and declare that what evictions had occurred upon the small holdings had proved beneficial rather than otherwise to Ireland. He himself knew of an estate which had no less than 5,500 tenants in the year 1837, but which number was reduced to 1,500 at the present day. That was certainty a large decrease, but no hardship had been inflicted. All the tenants were compensated: their passage paid to other places, should they have wished to emigrate, or comfortable cottages provided for them as labourers on the estate. This diminution, instead of being detrimental, had proved otherwise. He had no hesitation in declaring that the estate, with its reduced number of tenants, was in a far better condition, and doing far more for the good of Ireland, than it was when it had the larger number of miserable tenants or squatters living upon it. But what were the Government going to do by their clause? They were going to enable men who had money to evict their small tenants for a certain consideration, and thus get rid of them. He did not mean to say that even that would do any harm to Ireland; but let the Government look the position in the face, and do not let them turn round afterwards and say—"It is not what 1315 we intended." There was a party in Ireland—he might as well name them, they were the priests—whose business, duty, and wish it was to keep up the small impoverished holdings, because they made money out of the miserable people. It was not, however, for the benefit of Ireland that these small holdings should be perpetuated. A more miserable state of affairs could scarcely be imagined than to see a number of these small squatters taking possession of the land; and if a penalty hung over the landlords for dispossessing them, those that could not afford it must allow them to continue in the impoverished and wretched condition they had been in for generations—they would go on multiplying and subdividing, and they would impede the progress of the country. Only those who had had practical experience of Ireland could really tell how undesirable such a condition of things was. He himself had been in Ireland during the famine of 1846–7. At that time crime was very rife, but it was stamped out with an iron heel, Government at that time being determined to show the Irish people that they would be just as well as merciful; and in consequence of the executions and other punishments which then took place, Ireland had remained tranquil for twenty years afterwards, and had increased in wealth and social and political influence. ["Oh, oh!"] He did not forget what had happened recently; but it was not necessary for his purpose that he should now advert to it. He held, however, that if they did what was just and right to tenant and landlord alike that they would not have to deplore such occurrences. The men who honestly, manfully, and courageously did their duty were not the men who were shot. Those who were murdered in this way were rather the men who could not make up their mind to pursue a straightforward and bold course—to do their duty in fact. He hoped the Committee would not adopt the Amendment, for he did not believe it would do what the Government anticipated, but would work irreparable mischief.
§ MR. SAUNDERSON
said, the question deeply affected him as an Irish Member, and in its success or failure his future prosperity was involved. He would like to ask the Committee what course the Government ought to pursue 1316 in order successfully to legislate for Ireland in her present condition. All men were agreed that there was one part of Ireland where life and property were both sacred; and all men were further agreed that there was a necessity of something being done to put an end to the unhappy state of affairs which prevailed in the other parts of Ireland. This being so, it was clearly the course of the Government to strive to satisfy that part of the country which remained discontented, and this could only be done by dealing with the land. Hon. Gentlemen from the North of Ireland were aware that what was called a novel principle in the Bill was old in Ulster; and though the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Dr. Ball) had made the sudden discovery that a new principle had started into being in the Bill, for his own part he had always been under the impression that a provision for the security of tenure was in the measure, and he believed that if that principle were taken out of the Bill it would be of no value to the Irish people. The Government had only three courses to pursue in order to satisfy the claim made by the Irish people for security of tenure. One course was to establish perpetuity of tenure; but he was opposed to that, because it would place the Irish landlord only in the position of the recipient of a rent-charge. The next course was to establish the Ulster custom throughout Ireland; but he thought it would have been most fatal to spread the Ulster custom all over the land. Such a proceeding would cause dissatisfaction to those who did not happen at the present moment to be tenants, and would give an unwarrantable been to all those tenants who lived in Ireland under the old customs. Then there remained the course which the Government had pursued of making it an expensive amusement to evict for any other reason but non-payment of rent. As regarded the Bill generally, he did not mean to say that it was a logical Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not consider it a very logical measure. He (Mr. Saunderson) had listened with great commiseration to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on the previous evening. That speech reminded him of what he had often seen in the hunting field. He had frequently seen a well-bred, plucky horse, with too much load on its back, 1317 galloping over deep, sticky ground till it was brought suddenly up, and remained dismally wagging its tail to notify that it had had enough of it. That was the position in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to be. He had heard it objected that there was no certainty that the propositions of the Government would insure peace and prosperity to Ireland. Without pretending to be a prophet he might say that, in his belief, the measure would, at any rate, give satisfaction to one class in Ireland; though it would not give satisfaction to the Cork Farmers' Club, it would satisfy the great majority of the reasonable tenants of Ireland. He knew something about these Farmers' Clubs, and could state that they were got up by political demagogues for their own ends. Ireland was divided into two classes—the reasonable Irishmen and the unreasonable Irishmen; and both those classes were represented from time to time within the walls of that House. The reasonable Irishmen would receive the present measure in the spirit in which it was offered. They would accept it as an honest effort on the part of the House of Commons to do justice to Ireland in answer to reasonable demands. The unreasonable Irishmen, on the other hand, were men to whom Providence had not given that mental hook on which it was possible for an Englishman to hang a just inference. The Members of the Legislature would not be able to satisfy them, for they legislated against them and not for them, and by the help of Providence they would put their heel on them. In conclusion, he expressed a hope that the proposal of the Government would be accepted by the Committee.
If my right hon. Friend (Mr. C. Fortescue) thought that any impatience was manifested for the termination of the debate, that impatience was owing to the sentiment that more light would be thrown on the nature of our proceedings, and that more practical discussion is likely to arise on the point at which we shall next arrive than on the point we are now engaged in debating; because, when we come to consider the measure of compensation to be given for eviction, we shall arrive at a stage next to that which we virtually achieved last night. The right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) has put the pointed question to me, whether I will 1318 not explain to the Committee what we mean by loss to the tenant. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) has also referred to the subject, and argued it with a candour and fairness to which we are far from being unused in this House. Sir, I thought when I was listening to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that our debate was more verbal than substantial. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says he is willing to recognize losses attendant on eviction; but not to recognize the principle of placing a fine upon eviction itself. He says we have no right to look upon eviction alone, but in connection with a loss of a positive kind. I am not aware that in the proposition there is anything to which I demur. It is not the abstract act of eviction that we wish to put down. We cannot adopt the doctrine of the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot). It was only a secondary point in his argument that facilities should be given for hanging. The real point of his speech was, that facilities should be given for eviction, and that eviction was the measure on which the happiness of Ireland was to be wrought out. The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to an instance which had occurred on an estate well known to him, where 5,500 miserable tenants had been reduced to 1,500, and where happiness now reigned over the smiling scene. I do not pretend to be able to reconcile our arguments or our proposals with the views of these Gentlemen, and I avow at once that they are wide as the poles asunder. We object entirely to these forced consolidations of estates, and to the carrying out of a system in disregard of the fact that there is a population upon the land, and that the rights of that population to a subsistence, where they are willing to discharge their duties in labouring for it, ought to have an equitable consideration. The loss is the point we have endeavoured to explain. I cannot explain it better than it was explained by the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Kavanagh). What is the greatest of all loss to a man? To lose his improvements is something, to lose his future profits is something; but what is the greatest loss to a man? To lose his daily bread—to lose his means of livelihood. That is the loss in respect of which he ought to be protected. If, 1319 having the means of livelihood, on being put out of his holding he finds himself in a country where, under his present circumstances, he cannot obtain other means of livelihood; if, as the hon. Member for Carlow says, his only alternative is emigration or the workhouse, I say he has suffered the severest loss a man can sustain—a loss which we in England have a difficulty in considering, because, happily, we live in a state of things which presents no real analogy to that which prevails in Ireland. When we think of loss it may be loss of profit—but in Ireland it is the loss of livelihood—the right to live. I shall only take two points, because I do not wish to detain the Committee beyond the absolute duty imposed upon me by previous speeches. It has been said that we cannot take cognizance of loss beyond mere charitable loss, and that lies at the root of much objection to these cardinal provisions. Now, that is not the law of this country. In 8 & 9 Vic.c. 18—a sufficiently well-known Act providing compensation in case of railways—in the 121st section we find provisions which deal with tenancies where there is no greater interest than a tenancy of a year, or from year to year—and that is a description of tenancies which I hope hon. Gentlemen will keep in view, because that is the main and cardinal class of tenancies with which, in this section, we have to deal. What, then, is the provision of that Act? It is this—If a person be required to give up possession of any lands so occupied by him before the expiration of his term or interest therein, he shall be entitled to compensation for the value of his unexpired term or interest in the land.That is the something I have described as being of a merchantable character. That all will admit to be a loss. But you stop there, and you cannot understand a loss beyond that; and, happily, in England it does notfrequently happen. But the law made provision for loss beyond that. Because the tenant is not only to receive compensation for the value of his unexpired term or interest in the land, and any just allowance which may be made by the incoming tenant, but he is also to receive compensation for any loss or injury he may sustain. So that even the English law has recognized this principle of loss over and above the merchantable loss. [Mr. GATHORNE HARDY: To what Act do you 1320 refer?] That is the Land Clauses Consolidation Act of 1845. But I hold in my hand—for I wish to close as soon as I can the discussion on the subject of losses—and I am content to sum up the whole argument of the Government in a passage I will read from a speech spoken by Lord Russell twenty five years ago. It was spoken before those 300,000 evictions that have marked the annals of Ireland since the famine—which 300,000 evictions unfortunately, but feebly, represent the aggregate of suffering that has been caused by the power and threat of eviction if it was not carried to extremity. This is the passage I will read to the House, and I adhere to every word of its impressive language. The speech was delivered in this House on the 15th of June, 1846. Lord Russell, on that occasion, said—However ignorant many of us may be of the state of Ireland, we have here the best evidence that can be procured, the evidence of persons best acquainted with that country—of magistrates for many years, of farmers, of those who have been employed by the Crown—and all tell you that the possession of land is that which makes the difference"—What difference? not between wealth and poverty. No, but the difference—"between existing and starving amongst the peasantry, and that therefore ejections out of their holdings are the cause of violence and crime in Ireland. In fact, it is no other than the cause which the great master of human nature describes, when he makes a tempter suggest it as a reason to violate the law— "'Famine is in thy cheeks,That, Sir, is a too true description—that is, as to the state of the law which we ask you to put an end to.Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes,Upon thy back hangs ragged misery.The world is not thy friend nor the world's law;The world affords no law to make thee rich:Then be not poor, but break it.'[3 Hansard,]xxxvii. 507–8.]
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Sir, I did not intend to say one word in the course of this debate, having occupied the attention of the Committee for some time last evening. But the language which has just been used by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government seems to me so likely to mislead not only those in possession of land, but those not in possession of land, and others also in distress, not only in Ireland, but in this country, that I venture to say a few words in reply to what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. I admit, with the right hon. Gentleman, the right to life subsistence in the coun- 1321 try; but the provision is fixed not on the landlord as regards his tenants, nor upon the master as regards his servants, but upon the State itself; it has been for the first time laid down by the right hon. Gentleman that when a landlord removes his tenant from the place he has occupied for any cause but non-payment of rent, if that man shall fall into difficulties, or circumstances in which he cannot readily obtain his daily bread, an obligation is laid on his landlord to provide that daily bread, to place him in a position little less satisfactory than that he occupied before; that he is to provide him with subsistence, which is the duty of the State if he is destitute; and so a burden is laid upon the landlord such as was never laid on him before. There are between 500,000 and 600,000 peasants in Ireland working for their daily bread. They are at times working for farmers who are unable to maintain them during the whole course of a year. Are they to be told in the solemn and dangerous language of the right hon. Gentleman that by those who disturb them in their occupations, when not able to provide them with labour as the means of earning their daily bread, that payment is to be made to them, or that otherwise they are guilty of some great moral offence. [Mr. GLADSTONE: I never used the word.] I am arguing on the language of the right hon. Gentleman. My reason for rising was that the language of the right hon. Gentleman extends far beyond the measure before the House. It is language like that we have complained of in former instances, which goes forth to the country and raises expectations which are wild, vague, and visionary; and which tells certain classes that it is not to themselves that they are to look, but that, in their trouble, they are to look to the State for legislation to place them in a position to which they have no title—a title which has never been recognized by any State on the face of the earth. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, and he tells us when a man is dispossessed of his property—not by his landlord, but by a third party coming in to interfere between him and the landlord—that a liberal compensation is to be given. Various circumstances are to be taken into consideration. Why was that clause put in that forcible way into the Lands 1322 Clauses Consolidation Act? Because it contemplates an interruption, not by the landlord but for the benefit of the State; and that a man should not in such cases be removed without the most liberal and ample compensation. But in what respect does that apply to the case now before the Committee? I quite admit that the landlords of Ireland—who I believe have, as a whole, well discharged their duty—when they have found that it would be beneficial to the interests of property and for the country, have removed some of their tenants; but I believe it has been generally for the benefit of the tenant as well as the landlord. I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that a crowded population should dwell upon land where they cannot obtain sufficient employment to supply their wants. It is far better that they should be removed to a country where there is room for exertion, than that they should remain to depress others to the same condition as themselves. I did not, as I have said, intend to take part in this debate; but I must once more solemnly protest against the language used by the right hon. Gentleman. I trust it will not have the effect that I should anticipate from it; I trust that in the East-end of London it will not be supposed that those who may be deprived of their daily bread have a right to entertain angry and vindictive feelings against the masters who have been obliged to discharge them. I trust that the peasantry of Ireland will not suppose that they were dealt with unfairly by this Bill, because no provision is made in it for their perpetual employment—a conclusion to which the language of the right hon. Gentleman undoubtedly would lead. I trust that he himself will speak with greater moderation; and that in his desire to pass a Bill which he has much at heart, believing it to be for the welfare of Ireland, he will not raise expectations which cannot by possibility be satisfied, and which, once made, cannot, without great difficulty and greater danger, be disappointed.
§ MR. MOORE
said, he would not detain the Committee long; but as the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) had declared that he had never heard of a single case of eviction in Ireland well authenticated, and quoted the Chancellor of the Exchequer in favour of his opinion, he wished to 1323 refer him to some Papers connected with the relief of distress in Ireland in 1848. He would cite one case, which was alluded to by Sir Robert Peel in the House of Commons, as illustrating the character of the evictions which took place at that time. Sir Robert Peel said—I shall read to the House what is the Report of a military man on the case—a person employed by Government, and in whose statements apparently the utmost confidence may be placed; and I doubt whether in any country calling itself civilized, a case of more grievous injustice ever occurred. Major M'Kie, in his Report to the Poor Law Commissioners, stated, that—'It would appear from the evidence recorded, that the forcible ejectments were illegal; that previous notices had not been served; and that the ejectments were perpetrated under circumstances of great cruelty. The time chosen was for the greater part nightfall on the eve of the new year. The occupiers were forced out of their houses with their helpless children, and left exposed to the cold on a bleak western shore in a stormy winter's night; that some of the children were sick; that the parents implored that they might not be exposed, and their houses left till the morning; that their prayers for mercy were vain; and that many of them have since died. I have visited the ruins of these huts (not at any great distance from Mr. Blake's residence); I found that many of these unfortunate people were still living within the ruins of those huts, endeavouring to shelter themselves under a few sticks and sods, all in the most wretched state of destitution; many were so weak that they could scarcely stand when giving their evidence. The site of these ruins is a rocky wild spot, fit for nothing but a sheepwalk.'"—[3 Hansard,xcvii. 1009.]Sir Robert Peel, in the course of the debate which ensued, said that the obligations of the House were due to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Scrope) for not allowing a ponderous volume to consign these facts to oblivion, and for having invited the House to express its opinion upon them. Thousands of similar cases had occurred in Ireland; he, therefore, hoped they should never hear it suggested again that no well-established cases of eviction had occurred in Ireland.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, that a speech by Earl Russell on the Crime and Outrage Bill in 1846 having been quoted by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, it was only fair that hon. Gentlemen opposite should listen to the opinions of another Member of great distinction on the Liberal side of the House. This right hon. Gentleman said—We maintain a large army in Ireland, and an armed police, which is an army in everything but in name, and yet we have in that country a condition of things not to be matched in any other 1324 civilized country on the face of the earth, and which is alike disgraceful to Ireland and to us. The great cause of Ireland's calamities is, that Ireland is idle. I believe it would be found, on inquiry, that the population of Ireland, as compared with that of England, do not work more than two days per week. Wherever a people are not industrious and are not employed, there is the greatest danger of crime and outrage. Ireland is idle, and therefore she starves; Ireland starves, and therefore she rebels."—[3 Hansard,xcv. 984–5.]He would give a further quotation from that authority. [Cries of "Name," and "Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite did not appear to like the quotation, and the right hon. Gentleman had actually twitted those upon the Benches opposite to him with talking upon issues different from that which was before the Committee, and with thereby delaying the passing of this measure. But while the senior Member for Waterford (Mr. Delahunty) was indulging in the rhapsody to which the Committee had listened, not referring to a single clause or word in the Bill, there was not a Member on that side of the House who had ventured to stop him; and, therefore, the complaint of the Prime Minister ought to have been addressed to his own supporters. The same right hon. Gentleman, whose remarks he had already quoted, went on to say—I do not believe that the Bill for regulating the relations of landlord and tenant, as recommended by the hon. Member for the county of Limerick, will restore prosperity to Ireland. Such a measure may be passed with great advantage; but if it be intended by a Bill with this title to vest the ownership of the land in the present occupiers, I believe this House will never pass it; and if it did it would prove most fatal to the best interests of the country."—[Ibid.985–6.]He had been asked who was the speaker. It was the right hon. Gentleman who now filled the office of President of the Board of Trade; and he (Sir George Jenkinson) very much regretted that he was not present to justify and support the words then spoken by him. After the speech of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, there was no doubt that every Irish landlord would consider that, unless he gave a tenant a thirty-one years' lease, he must undertake to provide for him for the rest of his life.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, opinions had been attributed to him during the debate which he had never expressed.
I am sorry it should be necessary for me again to rise 1325 after the unnecessary statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford. I should be prepared, if this were the place and the time, to question the wisdom of that statement; but the right hon. Gentleman has spoken of my observations in relation to other classes, as to whom I had not said a single word. What fell from me was entirely confined to the case of occupiers of land, and not one single syllable of that which the right hon. Gentleman objected to was my own; it was the language used by Earl Russell in the debate of June 15, 1846, and that language was used in the presence of some who now sit here. The person who followed Earl Russell in that debate, and who played the same part which the right hon. Gentleman plays today, seems to have taken a very different view of that language from what was taken by the right hon. Gentleman when he followed me just now, drawn forth by the urgency of the case. The person who followed Earl Russell on that occasion was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli); and, instead of finding all that dangerous and explosive matter in the speech which I have quoted verbum verbo, his only reference that I can find to the general character of the speech is that contained in these words—Sir, the noble Lord has treated this subject with an eloquence habitual to him when he touches on the subject of Ireland—the case now before us."—[3 Hansard, lxxxvii. 517.]That was the comment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire; the comment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford we have all heard and perfectly recollect.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I am in the recollection of the Committee when I say that I never alluded to the speech of Lord Russell at all. I never made a comment upon what was quoted by the right hon. Gentleman. What I commented upon was his own statement, that a landlord in disturbing a tenant in his holding in Ireland was preventing the tenant from obtaining his daily bread; and that he was thus responsible for the disturbance, and was the person who ought to pay for it. The language quoted by the right hon. Gentleman from Earl Russell, as to which I said nothing, was of a perfectly general character, and 1326 referred to the wrongs and miseries of Ireland; but the language of the right hon. Gentleman to which I referred applied not only to the case of "occupation," but to all cases in which one person was supposed to deprive another of his daily bread.
I must say that I am entirely at a loss to know what word or syllable fell from me in the course of my statement to which the right hon. Gentleman can refer. I must accept his assurance, however, as to the way in which he understood me, and I beg to assure him, on the other hand, that I never dreamt he had referred to anything I myself said—though I say again that I adopted the words of Earl Russell, to which reference has been made. My argument was entirely to this point—that there was a loss entirely independent of and beyond the question of profits of occupation, as they are understood commonly in England, and that that loss in Ireland, under the circumstances of the country, was the loss of livelihood. But I said no single word as to the liability of the landlord to find a livelihood for his tenants; that liability is, in my mind, to be read and understood exclusively in the light of the clause of the Bill. Therefore, I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to believe and to rest perfectly satisfied that whatever dangerous doctrines he may think he has discovered are entirely limited to the provision we have proposed in the Bill.
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, he could scarcely at any time in its history find words in which adequately to express his opinion of the course taken by the Government in regard to this Bill. And his astonishment and difficulty were deepened when he heard the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government state that the hon. Gentlemen who formed the minority on the preceding night did not know why they voted as they did. He ventured to say, on the other hand, that if the votes had been taken by ballot many hon. Members who voted in the majority would have voted in the minority, and the right hon. Gentleman might have discovered that some of his Colleagues did not agree with him as to the course he had taken. He had risen, however, merely to urge that as the clause would only operate against good landlords, by compelling 1327 them to compensate all tenants, however good or bad they might be, it would simply result in harm to Ireland. Whatever the tenant might have done, the landlord would be called upon to pay. He had that morning received a letter from a Fermanagh landlord, which was the prospective first fruit of the Bill, and illustrated what he meant; but, before referring to the document, he must, on behalf of the landlords of Ulster, distinctly repudiate the views expressed by the writer. The letter enclosed for his perusal a circular which the landlord addressed to his tenants, accompanying, in each case, a notice to quit. He set forth that his tenants paid their rent well and behaved as well as he could wish; but self-preservation being the first law of nature, he must sever his connection with them. If he did not take this step—the landlord went on to say—he should be driven to have recourse to the law courts, and he was certain no tenant on his estate would wish to see him brought into the present courts of quarter sessions, to be at the mercy of assistant-barristers and pettifogging insolent attorneys, and to be the laughing-stock of insolent galleries. He would not let land to be subject to the operations of the new Act; and, though he parted with his tenants sorrowfully, he had the satisfaction of knowing that the separation was not of his own seeking, but was forced upon him by the conduct of the present Government. He would keep the land in his own hands, and so avoid much of the trouble and responsibility that would be entailed upon him by the Government Land Bill. Of course, inquiry should be made as to the sanity of landlords who would serve their tenants as this particular one had; but, at the same time, it must be admitted that many such notices to quit would result upon the passing of this Bill; and, this being so, he wished hon. Members to weigh well his statements, and to pause before assisting at the infliction of a great wrong upon Ireland.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 293; Noes 182: Majority 111.
§ MR. CORRANCE
moved, in page 3, line 4, after "compensation," to insert— 1328To be paid by the landlord for any loss sustained by him on quitting his holding, and for improvements made by him or his predecessor in title, as the Court may think fit, so that the sum awarded shall not exceed five years' rent, or extend to any holding valued under the Acts relating to the valuation of rateable property in Ireland at an annual value exceeding fifteen pounds.The hon. Member said he had offered to the Bill in its passage through Committee no factious opposition, but it had now reached a somewhat new stage. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech, threw aside political economy and took his stand upon the ground of broad political necessity, and he (Mr. Corrance) was content to argue the question upon this ground. In the right hon. Gentleman's mind political economy generally seemed to stand for a set of practical rules that could not be departed from, and they generally existed as a bar to even the fair consideration of anything that was proposed for the benefit of the people of England. The truth was that political economy had many enemies, but its worst enemies were its friends. Now, the question was this—was the condition of Ireland so different from that of other countries that we must have a special law to meet, to some extent, the existing conditions? If this was conceded, and he did not deny it, in the minds of most men there was the belief that there should be a line of demarcation at which compensation should cease, and he found proofs of this in the remarkable speech delivered by the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer). He asked that hon. and learned Member whether, when the present proposition was before him, he could refuse his assent at all events to the general principle embodied in it? The case stood thus—that in the minds of those who agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Richmond there was a line dividing two different classes of men, in one of which classes the freedom of contract should not be done away with. The other class was composed of men who were called miserable and dependent; men to whom the right of free contract could not be given; because, practically, any contract that they entered into would not be binding upon them, though it would be binding upon their landlords. The question was in what position they should be left, and it was said that they should be brought 1329 under the protection of this Bill. His own opinion was that it would be better, both for their landlords and for themselves, if they could receive some protection from a court of law. But then came the question, what limit they would fix to the application of this principle. The proposal in his Amendment was that the line should be drawn at £15 yearly value. Mr. O'Brien's evidence before a Committee was—I fully believe that if it could be accomplished, without doing injustice to the tenant, it would be desirable to get rid of the tenant-right custom altogether.Mr. Bence Jones, in reference to the compensation proposed in the Bill, said—Then the making only one class between £10 valuation and £50 is very unjust to landowners. A £50 valuation in my district would imply a farm of nearly 100 acres, and a wholly different class of tenant from a £12 or £15 or £20 tenant. Where the land is better the practical result is the same—less land is of equal value. A 100-acre farmer is a man with good and large stock, worth much money, a man as well able to protect himself as any other class hi the community. The loss of his farm is neither a greater or less loss to him than it is to an English or Scotch farmer.Let the House consider for a moment what an extent of ground would be covered by adopting the limit of £15. Of holdings under £15 there were no less than 428,915, out of a total of 526,513, which would leave only 97,600 persons who would be able to make free contracts. If they did not wish to prevent free contracts altogether what narrower limit than this could they wish to confine it to? It would be proposed that £50 should be taken as the limit; but this would include 3,000 tenants in Ireland who would be capable of making free contracts. He believed that it would be found impossible to maintain the compensation at so high a rate as a maximum of seven years. He had thought it better to take the limit of five years. His contention throughout had been that the burden of compensation would fall upon the tenant and. not upon the landlord, who would recoup himself at the expense of the incoming tenant, and he hoped that the proposition which he had made would receive the advantage of intelligent criticism.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE,
whilst acknowledging that the hon. Member for Suffolk (Mr. Corrance) had made no factious opposition to the Bill, submitted to him that he was raising several important questions by this 1330 Amendment, which would come on for consideration in due course, but for the consideration of which this was hardly the proper time. The hon. Member desired to abolish the scale, and to substitute for it one maximum of five years' rent, and to limit the provisions to holdings not exceeding £15 value. The time, however, to consider the scale would be when the scale itself was before the Committee. The hon. Member had supported the Government in their proposition that a tenant should be compensated for the loss sustained by quitting his holding, and he would remind him that nothing could be more unwise than for Parliament to give with one hand and take away with the other. He hoped the hon. Member would not so alter the principle to which he had already agreed as to limit its application in Ireland.
§ MR. BRUEN
supported the Amendment of the hon. Member for Suffolk, because he believed that a sliding scale would be very prejudicial to small tenants. The compensation which a landlord would be obliged to pay would act as a fine upon him for having a particular class of tenant, and it would, therefore, be to the landlord's interest to get rid of such a man. All Irish tenants were liable to fall into arrear with their rent, and whenever one did so a landlord would take advantage of the opportunity to get the land into his own hands. It would, therefore, be a cruel thing to the small tenants to make it to the interest of the landlords to get rid of them whenever misfortune occurred to them. He knew one estate on which during the last twenty years the payment of £13,000 of arrears of rent had been forgiven, and the tenants had been allowed to remain in their holdings; and on another estate £20,000 had been forgiven within the last twenty years, and yet the tenants had not been turned out. A great number of them were small holders, and he asked whether, if the proposed clause had been in operation they would have been allowed to continue in their occupations? He did not think that landlords would evict all their small tenants immediately; but disagreements would arise from time to time which would end in eviction; and it seemed to him that the only way in which that could be avoided was by having one uniform scale of compensa- 1331 tion which should stop at a certain point. The line must be drawn somewhere, and where it should be drawn was for the Committee to decide.
§ MR. SYNAN
opposed the Amendment on the ground that it would offer a direct inducement to landlords to consolidate farms. His hon. Friend (Mr. Bruen) should, therefore, have opposed the Amendment instead of supporting it. From 1847 to the present time the number of holdings in Ireland above £15 had increased; those under £5 had decreased; and the Amendment would have the effect of hastening a process which had been going on slowly during the last twenty years, so that in the course of another quarter of a century there would be no small holdings in Ireland. The small holders were those who could not take care of themselves, and, therefore, required the protection of this Bill; but if it were intended to extinguish them, nothing could be more expeditious than the Amendment of the hon. Member for Suffolk. The adoption of the Amendment would make the Bill very unpopular in Ireland, and prevent the object the Government had in view.
§ MR. DENT
said, he hoped the Amendment would be withdrawn. He had not found it very easy to vote for the principle of allowing compensation to tenants who had not made any improvements, and had only been brought to support that proposition by a consideration of the extreme difficulty of dealing with the small holders of Ireland. He, however, concurred in the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) that there must be a limit to the amount of compensation, and that it should only be given in cases of tenancy-at-will.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
also hoped that the Amendment would be withdrawn, as he had an Amendment upon the scale of compensation upon which the whole question could be discussed.
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, he thought that hon. Members had entirely misconceived the spirit of his Amendment, which involved a much more important principle than seemed to be generally thought. In his opinion, the Committee ought to state at this stage of the Bill how far the application of this clause was to extend. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Synan) had objected to the Amendment on the ground that it 1332 would tend to diminish the number of small holdings. Now, he maintained that small holdings were a great misfortune, and that Ireland would continue in a state of misery and degradation until they were to a certain extent got rid of. On this point he would refer the hon. Gentleman to the Reports of the Poor Law Commissioners, and in particular, to that of Mr. O'Brien, who said—I fully believe that if it could be accomplished, without doing injustice to the tenant, it would be desirable to get rid of the tenant-right custom altogether.If the Committee thought this great principle could be better discussed at a subsequent period he should be very glad to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
moved, inline 5, to leave out from "regard being had, &c." to "holding" in line 8, both inclusive.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, that at that time he could not bring forward the Amendment of which he had given notice, and he begged, therefore, to move to report Progress.
said, he hoped the hon. Baronet would not persevere in his Motion; but that he would allow the Committee to proceed to the consideration of the scale of compensation to be awarded.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, his objection was to the scale itself, which he believed to be unjust, for it admitted a liability which he denied; and he understood it had been arranged that they were not to commence this discussion until Thursday. He had postponed his Amendment in consequence of that understanding.
protested against the Motion, as what the hon. Baronet desired to do could be discussed when his right hon. Friend (Mr. C. Fortescue) brought on the question of compensation to be awarded according to the scale.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, he thought the Prime Minister had no right to use his immense power in trying to stifle the opinions of private Members. They had not yet had a fair discussion on the principle of this clause. He hated and detested the Bill; he had a strong feeling against it as a landlord, 1333 yet he had not voted upon the second reading, nor had he raised a word against it in Committee. His Amendment went to cut out the scale altogether, and he must therefore, insist upon his Motion.
§ Motion negatived.
§ MR. BOWRING,
in moving the substitution of the words "which shall in no case exceed," for the words "not exceeding," in the 13th and following lines, said, that great changes had been made in the Bill since it was first introduced. It was now arranged that two distinct compensations should be awarded to the tenant, one for improvements and one for disturbance. As the Bill originally stood a maximum of compensation was fixed as a starting-point, but the onus of beating it down to a lower point practically rested with the landlord, as the words "not exceeding" were generally held to imply that the specific sum following those words should be granted, in default of proof to the contrary. He quoted instances in support of this view, and said that it was now only reasonable, in consideration of the additional advantages conferred on the tenant by the Bill as amended, that the views of hon. Members opposite should be to some extent consulted, and that the tenant, and not the landlord, should prove his case. He moved that words should be substituted in the 13th line, so that the 1st section of the clause would read that, in cases of £10 rental and under, the compensation "shall in no case exceed" seven years' rent.
said, he thought there was a fair ground for agreeing to this Amendment, in the fact that by the 10th clause it was required that the tenant should distinguish the particulars of his claim. But there was another reason for this. The words "not exceeding" were in many cases interpreted to be a mere formality, and it was presumed that the whole sum was to be given, and that was contrary to the intention of the clause. They were ready to insert the words proposed and they could commence next day with the number of years.
LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
taunted the Government with their inconsistency. The Government were now admitting a new principle which they had previously denied in reference to this Bill.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, the Government did not accept the Amendment on the ground of a new principle in the Bill.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.