§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. BRYAN
In moving the Amendment of which I have given notice—"That the Bill be read a second time this day six months,"—I cannot disguise from myself that I am incurring a grave responsibility in asking the House to reject this Bill in its present stage, and thus to deprive hon. Members of an opportunity of making in Committee Amendments so as to meet the wishes and expectations of the Irish people. But, on the other hand, I must say that there is an almost universal feeling on the part of that country that the Bill will fail in its object, unless the Government are prepared to receive Amendments of so serious a nature as almost to alter the principle of their Bill. I am sure that there is hardly an hon. Member in this House who does not feel that the time has arrived for a settlement of this question, and that the settlement this time should be final and satisfactory in every respect. At the same time I can assure the Government that after they have heard the objections urged against this Bill by myself and those Gentlemen who act with me, and which I would fain say represent the feelings of the Irish people, I can assure them that if they find that they can meet in 1374 any way the views I have referred to, we shall only be too delighted to withdraw our opposition and go fairly and frankly with them into Committee on the Bill. Parliament must be well aware that there is now a crisis in the affairs of Ireland. [Laughter.] Why should we disguise the fact from ourselves? Disaffection extensively prevails, and in parts of Ireland—in many parts of Ireland I would say—there is no safety for life or for limb. The Parliament of England undertook seventy years ago the management of Ireland, and, Inconsequence undertook to protect all peace-loving subjects; but up to this time you have failed to do so, though I will say that coercion has been extentively used. You have now a golden opportunity of settling Ireland without resorting to force, by passing a good Land Bill, but it must be a sufficient Bill. While on this subject I would begin all respect to remind the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government of an eloquent sentiment I heard him use in the House a short time ago. I think it was in the debate on the extension of the franchise. Now these were the words, as far as I remember—Give to the people with an ungrudging hand; secure their confidence and their love; and it will be more to you than your gold and your silver; more than your armies and your navies.Now, I would humbly suggest to the right hon. Gentleman to apply that sentiment in his dealings with Ireland at the present moment. One of the great faults found in the Bill by the people of Ireland is the partial and local legislation contained in Clause 1 of the Bill; and the House may rest assured that no legislation upon this question will satisfy Ireland that does not give perfect equality to all parts, and one common law in form and in substance. I am very far from wishing it to be understood that I think that in the present Bill Ulster has the best of the legislation; because I cannot discover in this first clause any proviso which hinders the Ulster landlord from raising his rents to any amount which he may choose, and thereby putting an end to the Ulster or indeed any other custom I cannot discover anything in the Bill of that nature. It is a well-known fact that on the different estates in the North of Ireland, there are different customs prevailing. On some estates five years rental is supposed to be a sufficient price 1375 for the occupancy, goodwill, and the improvements. On other estates higher prices prevail. On others again there is, I believe, no limitation; the tenant carries his holding into the market, and sells it to the highest bidder, without any objection on the part of the landlord. With these great diversities the customs will of course be very difficult to prove, and, consequently, I think an immense deal of litigation will spring up. Now, if Her Majesty's Government would define a tenant-right, if they would consent to give a definition founded upon the ancient Ulster custom, as laid down by a very eminent legal authority—I allude to Mr. Butt—[Laughter.]—Hon. Gentlemen may cry "Oh!" but I believe that Mr. Butt is regarded, at least, in Ireland, as a very high legal authority, and with the permission of the House, I will read Mr. Butt's definition of an ancient Ulster custom—A custom which entitles the occupier of land to hold at the ancient and accustomed rent, subject only to variation for change of circumstances, independent of the tenant's improvements, making that rent no longer a fair representation of the value of the original demise, with the right to the occupier of selling the interest to which the custom entitles him.Now, if the Government will frame a definition of tenant-right, founded on something similar to that in the Bill now before the House, I feel that it would give perfect satisfaction in the country. The Prime Minister has said very recently that insecurity of tenure was the bane of Ireland, and it is natural to suppose that in a measure brought forward by him as a panacea for Ireland he would introduce some provision in order to remove that bane. But when I come to look for it in the third section, I find a sort of sliding scale of damages; which, I presume, is supposed to give a certain amount of security to the tenant. But in practice it will be found wanting, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland knows it. The highest scale, I which is that for £10 and under, will entitle the occupier, if he receives the maximum, to an award from the Court of seven years' rent; but that will not hinder the landlord from changing his tenant whenever he choses, because now, without any security and without any local machinery, the goodwill of a farm of that description is worth consider- 1376 ably more, and more can be got for it not only in Ulster, but in Munster and Connaught also. In this respect, therefore, the Bill fails. Again, the landlord has the power, by tendering a thirty-one years lease, to absorb all improvements except those that come under the titles of permanent buildings suitable to the holding, and the reclamation of waste land. But I need not remind the House that a man who holds from seven to ten acres of land floes not as a rule erect very extensive buildings, nor is he likely to reclaim a large area of waste land. Sir, the time is past when the Irish land question can be settled by a scheme for granting leases for thirty-one years. The vicious principle of the Bill is this—that capricious evictions are sought to be removed—not by directly touching the tenure, but by proposing a scale of pains and penalties, with the object of deterring landlords from what is deemed unjust; but the frightful competition for land in Ireland is such that no scale that could be framed by this House would be sufficient to hinder capricious evictions. Another practice that boars hardly on the Irish tenant is the law of distress. The Bill ought certainly to do away with that. Again, the second section of the Bill—that which relates to labourers—is extremely objectionable. I consider it to be an imperative necessity that the labourer should be placed in the position of holding directly from the landlord, and not from the farmer. I can assure the House that of the two I would rather see the tenant left at the mercy of the landlord than the labourer at the mercy of the tenant-farmer. The Bill, as it now stands, assuredly does not fulfil the aspirations of the Irish people, as expressed in twenty-eight influential meetings held in different localities. You may pass it into law as it stands, but if you think that it will quiet the disaffection that prevails, and satisfy the country, I warn you that you grossly deceive yourselves. Possibly, if the I Government adhere strictly to the objectionable clauses, we, who oppose the Bill, may go into the lobby in a miserable minority; but recollect that, although we are few in number, we have with us that Irish people for whom you are attempting to legislate. It is because I am of opinion that if this Bill should pass in its present shape, litigation and consequent ill-feeling would be perpetu- 1377 ated between the two classes of the community which, beyond all others, ought to live in concord and unity; and, also, because I feel that the just demands of the Irish nation must be met, that I oppose this Bill, and that I now move that it be read a second time this day six months.
Sir, it is with feelings partly of hesitation and partly of confidence that I rise to second this Amendment. I hesitate only because I am fully aware of my incapacity to command the attention of the House even for a few minutes; but I am confident because I feel that, as the representative of one of the largest agricultural counties in Ireland (Tipperary), and one that is almost always brought prominently forward whenever a discussion takes place on Irish affairs, and also as the representative of a large body of tenant-farmers in the South of Ireland, I shall obtain at the hands of the House a patient hearing, while I endeavour to give expression not only to the opinions held by that constituency and by those tenant-farmers upon the measure now before the House, but also the conclusions at which I myself have deliberately arrived. It may be said, Sir, that I hold extreme opinions upon the subject. Well, my opinions may be wise or unwise, they may be reasonable or unreasonable, but this, at least, I can say, that they have not been arrived at through the usual channels of agitation, through any pressure or coercion on the part of my constituents, or through what, is perhaps, the commonest channel of all—the fear of losing my seat. As to agitation, I can fairly say that I have declined to take any part in any agitation whatever, and that I have never attended a single meeting, or taken part in any public discussion on the subject since the Government announced their intention of introducing a Bill on this subject. As to coercion on the part of my constituents, I believe that not even one of them is aware of the course which I consider it my duty to take; and as to the fear of losing my seat, if hon. Gentlemen could realize how lightly I for one regard the advantages which are supposed to attach to a seat in this House, they would come to the conclusion that that consideration had little influence on my conduct. The conclusions at which I have arrived are the result of conviction, and of conviction 1378 alone. I am sure I speak for my hon. Friend (Mr. Bryan) as well as myself when I say that we have felt to the full the importance of the step which we are taking, and that we have been fully impressed with the gravity and even the solemnity of the present issue, and the responsibility we have undertaken. We have not decided upon our present course of action without due consideration and reflection. It may be said, and I know it is felt already, that I hold extreme opinions on the land question. I hold, and I do not hesitate to avow it, that there is nothing that will satisfy the people of Ireland save what I would call sweeping legislation. I cannot help being struck and even amused at the manner in which hon. Gentlemen opposite, and those who think with them, in discussing this point of "sweeping legislation," arrogate to themselves the sole right to a crown of martyrdom. One would think on hearing them speak both in public and private—both inside that House and outside, that they were the only landlords in Ireland, and that upon their heads alone all the pains and penalties of such legislation must of necessity fall. I must beg the House to bear in mind that this is by no means the case. There are, I am proud to say, landlords in Ireland who are content to regard this question not from a purely selfish point of view. There are landlords in Ireland who are not content to nail up the old doctrine Ego et prœterea nihil, but who recognize the fact that the tenantry who have been placed, so to speak, by the Almighty under their care, have equal claims with themselves to the rights of citizenship—have an equal right with themselves to live and die in the land in which they were born, and have an equal right with themselves to the full enjoyment of that perfect safety and stability without which there can be no enjoyment of life. I have to apologize for dwelling so much upon my personal relations to this question; but I felt it was due to myself to do so. No man can feel more deeply, more personally, more pecuniarily interested in the result of its discussion than I do. Every shilling that I can hope to possess—every shilling that all those who are nearest and dearest to me can hope to possess—must be derived from Irish land, and from Irish land alone; and yet I say unhesitatingly, that there is hardly any proposition which has yet been 1379 mooted to settle this question to which I would not give my consent, provided that I believed it would secure the peace, the contentment, the prosperity, and, above all, that which I hold before my eyes as the one great desideratum, the loyalty of the people of Ireland. It is my firm and unchangeable belief that the Bill which the Government have brought forward will utterly fail to secure these much-to-be-desired results, I know that there are hon. Gentlemen who sit beside me, and who share to the full my political convictions, who consider it their duty—I have no doubt conscientiously—to go into the lobby with the Government for the second reading of this Bill. But why do they do so? Only in the hope—the delusive hope—that they may be able so to alter, to amend, to extend in one direction and curtail in another, not only the details, but the very principle and essence of the Bill, as to make it an acceptable measure. I freely confess I do not share in that hope. I confess it appears to me to be a delusion. I see on the Treasury Bench perhaps the strongest Ministry that ever governed the country, backed by the strongest majority that perhaps any Minister ever commanded—aided and supported, I believe, also by the majority of the comparatively small Opposition; and I foresee that the hope of being able to recast the Bill in Committee will be delusive. I foresee that this Bill will pass, section by section, through Committee, and that on the third reading those hon. Gentlemen will have to express their disappointment, by accompanying my hon. Friend and myself into the lobby. That may or may not be; but I know what my opinion is, and I have thought it my duty in this marked manner, and at this early stage of the proceedings, to enter my solemn protest against the assumption that this Bill can by any possibility be accepted by the Irish people as a solution of the land difficulty of Ireland. It will be said—and I have no doubt it has been already thought by the right hon. Gentleman and the Ministry—that the tenant farmers of the South of Ireland are unreasonable, in that they decline to accept the relief held out to them under the provisions of this Bill. I cannot think that they are so unreasonable. Can they be called so unreasonable when they say and complain that the old spirit 1380 of ascendancy, which they thought was dead in the land, is not yet laid at rest? when they can say that this Government, which, if it emblazoned anything on its banner, emblazoned the words "equality as regards Ireland," yet deals with their Protestant fellow-countrymen in the North more delicately, more tenderly, and more lovingly than with themselves? I am stating my own opinion—I have been often differed with, and I do not agree with the hon. Mover of this Amendment—when I say I believe the North is far better dealt with than the South. Can it be said that they are utterly unreasonable when they say that the Government has held out with one hand to the North a comparatively perfect system of security of tenure, while to the Roman Catholic South it holds out a labyrinth and network of litigation? Can they not say, then, that the advantage will be all on one side, when they see that the weakest—that is, the poorest—will go to the wall—when they see that the plain statement of the tenant-farmer will be pitted against the specious arguments of the cleverest and shrewdest pleaders? I do not see that they are unreasonable; and although I may not have been directly authorized by my constituents—for, as I said before, they are unaware of the course which I have felt it my duty to adopt—still I will, with the permission of the House, and again apologizing for having perhaps wearied them—very briefly and very lightly touch upon some of the salient points to which they take exception. They complain, Sir, first, that it is an arbitrary and unjust thing that in the open court of arbitration, where a landlord and tenant are at issue—where, we will say, for the sake of argument, the tenant is getting the better of the case—that, even at the very moment when the presiding barrister may be about to give a decision in the tenant's favour, the landlord or his agent can step in and put an end to the whole proceeding by the mere tender of a thirty-one years' lease. They complain that a thirty-one years' lease docs not give reasonable and fair safety to the tenant. They complain that the Bill makes no provision against rack-renting—that it makes no provision against the ruinous system of high bidding and high rents; and they complain above all, as was stated by my hon. Friend, that the 1381 occupancy compensation scale does not place a barrier against arbitrary evictions; and that for these simple reasons—that in consequence of the almost maniacal eagerness for the possession of laud in Ireland, and in consequence of the extraordinary competition for land, it will be the easiest thing in the world for the landlord to evict as before, and to make the incoming tenant pay the compensation to the one evicted. They complain, in short, that the Bill does not give reasonable and fair stability or safety of tenure. They say—and I think they may be pardoned for saying—that, until a Bill is propounded that will give a reasonable and fair system of tenure at fair rents there cannot be a satisfactory settlement of the land difficulty in Ireland. There is a universal cry for security of tenure at fair rents. Well, Sir, right hon. authorities in this House have denounced that as a transfer of one man's property to another. ["Hear, hear!"] I have no doubt the House is not favourable to that proposition; but in my humble opinion a greater bugbear never was invented to strike unreasoning terror into men's minds. But what is there in the thing itself which is really formidable? What is security of tenure? But perhaps I ought to use some other term, because there is some extraneous idea attached to the word which makes it objectionable. I will therefore call it stability of tenure. Now, what is it? Is it not the practical recognition by law of that which, from the very justice of its nature, is at this hour the common custom on half the well and humanely managed estates in the Empire? How many hon. Gentlemen are there who hear me who know of their own knowledge of farms which have been for generations in the same family? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) the other night spoke of this as a theory, and referred to its mischief. Well, Sir, I trust that the right hon. Gentleman may live long enough, and enjoy life long enough himself, to pass a measure embodying that principle through this House. During my short Parliamentary experience of only four years in this House, circumstances have occurred which make that neither impossible nor improbable. No doubt fixity of tenure pure and simple by itself, without any provision, would be the greatest injustice; nobody denies it. But where has fixity of tenure pure 1382 and simple ever been asked for, even at any meeting in Ireland where the wildest agitation has prevailed? Wherever that has been asked for, it has always been guarded by the right of eviction in event of non-payment of rent and in the event of subletting, together with a periodical—say a septennial—re-valuation of the land. That may be a transfer of one man's property to another. I have no doubt, from the high authority on which it has been stated, that it is so; but in my humble opinion, I am not at all sure it is not the proper basis on which all land tenure ought to be held; while, as regards Ireland tinder its peculiar circumstances, I have no doubt whatever on the point. Sir, I have done. I have completed what to me has been a painful task, namely—that of temporarily severing myself from the party to which I have given my uniform support for four years. I can only say, speaking most seriously and most confidently, for my hon. Friend as well as for myself, that we have been animated in the subject which we have taken up by no spirit of faction. What we have done we have done because we believed conscientiously we could not in any other way fulfil our duty to those who sent us here. For my own part I can say that I have felt, and feel now, that it would be impossible for me to give even the semblance of approval to the measure of the Government. I look for a verdict of condemnation or approval only to those to whom alone I am responsible; and I beg—though with sincere regret—to second the Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Bryan.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
said, that any person who had perused the somewhat monotonous and certainly melancholy history of Ireland from the year 1641 to the present time, must have been struck by the constant presence of one phenomenon—that a largo number of the people in Ireland were always ready to support any movement that had for its object the overturning of the settled law and order in the kingdom, 1383 whilst they were to a great extent indifferent as to what, if anything, was to be established in their place. That feeling was usual in all countries amongst what were called the dangerous classes, but in Ireland a large number of those who were ready to act thus belonged to the industrious population who might be called the bone and sinew of the country. In the Great Rebellion of 1641 the Irish gentry rose in defence of the King and order, but when in the field they quarrelled among themselves, pulled different ways, and they did not gain the support of the people. He might appeal on this subject to the hon, and learned Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire), who was lineally descended from one of the political victims of that epoch, Lord Maguire, who was beheaded on Tower-hill for the share he took in the insurrection, and who stated at the place of execution that the failure was mainly to be attributed to the want of unity on the part of the disaffected population. The same chronic feeling of discontent, and consequent insecurity of life and property had continued from that period downwards, and kept Ireland in a state of quasi anarchy. At last the matter was taken up by English statesmen. He believed there were now Gentlemen on both sides of the House who were determined to look the unclean thing in the face, to devise a remedy once and for all, to lay the axe to the root of the tree of Irish discontent, and thus endeavour to establish an era of peace and prosperity. A measure had been framed by a Cabinet not less brilliant than any Cabinet that had ever guided the affairs of this country, and presided over by an individual whom the general opinion of Europe would warrant him in pronouncing the greatest statesman of the age. It was not to be wondered at that the measure produced under such auspices should be wise, comprehensive, and statesmanlike; but unquestionably it had many shortcomings, many omissions. He would not follow the objections either of the hon. Mover or of the hon. Seconder of the Amendment, for he thought that these could more properly be discussed in Committee; but there was one omission in the Bill so serious, and from which he had so grievously suffered, that, if the House would permit him, he would refer to it. In every civilized country limitations with regard to the 1384 sale and transfer of land wore more or less objectionable, but in Ireland they were particularly mischievous. The land was limited in quantity, while the population was very numerous. As the law stood at present, it was no man's interest to develop the industrial resources of the land to the uttermost; and it frequently happened that no man would sow that which he was almost certain never to reap. The property from which he derived his means of living was hold under limitations so onerous, and restrictions so odious, that he would gladly have alienated it at a price much below its value to get rid of what he felt to be an intolerable burden. But he could not relinquish the property, because that would have been to give a premium to crime. The actors who created that evil state of things in his case had long passed from the stage, and their evil works had perished with them, but they had cast a dark shadow over his life. He spoke in the presence of more than one hon. Member of that House, of whose family history, these facts which he had alluded to, formed a part. To inaugurate the expected era of peace and prosperity these restrictions must be swept away; and as we had free trade in corn we ought to have free trade in laud. On the whole the Bill was a good one as far as it went—skilfully drawn, and honestly intended; it might be sifted in Committee, and he hoped it would be carefully worked out. For these reasons he believed he should best perform his duty to his constituents by giving to the second reading his humble but unhesitating support.
SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, he hoped that as he was one of those well acquainted with that part of the country which would give rise to a good deal of discussion, the House would bear with him while he made a few observations. First of all, he agreed with the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Bryan), who moved the rejection of this Bill, on that part of his observations which referred to the way in which the cottiers were provided for. But he did not agree with the hon. Member for Tipperary (Captain White) in his low estimate of a scat in that House. He (Sir Hervey Bruce) looked upon it as a great honour.
begged to explain that he did not say that he held a seat in that House in low estimation; never 1385 was anything further from his thoughts. Tie distinctly repudiated such an expression. What he said was, that he lightly esteemed the personal advantages—and there were personal advantages—connected with a scat in that House.
SIR HERYEY BRUCE
said, he regretted that he had misunderstood the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and he at once withdrew the observation he had made. He felt that the question now before the House was not a party question; he did not intend to enter upon it as a party question, and that he had no party object to serve he would prove at once by stating that it was his intention to support the second reading of the Bill. But it was impossible to read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury in introducing the measure—a speech which he regretted the duties imposed upon him in another place by the right hon. Gentleman's measure of last year prevented him from hearing—without feeling, brilliant as was the language of the right hon. Gentleman, that there was much to regret in the opening part of his speech, in which he gave reasons for introducing that measure. The one-half of that speech was one great indictment against the landlords of Ireland, but bearing more hardly on those who had recently obtained property than on those who had held it longer. He might quote the opinion of a Gentleman whose return to this House both friend and foe would hail as a means of enlivening their often dull debates—he meant the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Bernal Osborne), who said he did not like to hear language used in that House parleying with the assassins of landlords, he (Sir Hervey Bruce) thought that much of the right hon. Gentleman's language might be read as an excuse for those who had brought anarchy and confusion upon that unhappy country, and, he feared, it would tend to prolong the period before they could have peace, He thought before this Bill was introduced the right hon. Gentleman should have endeavoured to tranquillize Ireland—to make life and property secure, and then they would be in a better position to consider the provisions of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman accused the Irish landlords of not attending to their local duties. He did not know where the right hon. Gentleman got his 1386 information; but he (Sir Hervey Bruce) had lived on both sides of the water, and he could say that if the right hon. Gentleman would examine the record of the Petty Sessions or the Poor Law Boards, he would find that the Irish landlords attended to their duties in a far greater proportion than was the case with their English brethren. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that the value of labour was decreasing in Ireland. Here again he did not know whore the right hon. Gentleman got his information; all he knew, after practical experience as an employer of labour was, that during the last ten years in Ireland, wages were steadily increasing. Year by year he was obliged to raise the wages of the labourers on his estate, or they would go elsewhere. And he rejoiced at it. Then the right hon. Gentleman talked of the price of wheat having decreased while the price of oats had increased. But did the right hon. Gentleman suppose that the Irish labourer was so stupid that he did not know the value of wheat as well as the Englishman? He would assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Irish labourer, who in the old time lived on potatoes, now often indulged in the luxury of white bread; and large numbers of bakers carts were now to be seen continually on the road where in his (Sir Hervey Bruce's) younger days there was not one to be seen. The hon. Member for Tipperary had talked of discontent. He was afraid that those whom the hon. Member represented, and to whom he was pledged, would be always discontented until they got that which the hon. Member repudiated in principle, but which he praised in effect—fixity of tenure. Till they got that, this measure, and every other measure, thrown out as a sop from the Treasury Bench, would be held to be so much waste paper, as the people were led to believe that if they only clamoured loudly they would get their demand at last. The right hon. Gentleman had certainly brought in a comprehensive measure, and, in some respects, a good measure; but in many other respects it was bad, and it was only in the hope that it would be amended in Committee that he gave his support to the second reading. The right hon. Gentleman had made no allusion to the causes which had made the demand for land in Ireland so great; nor had he alluded to any means of 1387 bringing back to that country that commercial prosperity of which it had boon deprived by past legislation, and which it could not recover without fresh legislation. He knew political economists would say that a country's prosperity must stand or fall without peculiar legislation; but if Parliament was going to legislate in a peculiar manner with regard to land, why not endeavour to do something to render the people content to live in their own land, instead of allowing that miserable competition for land which was rendering them in a great degree discontented, as past legislation had driven from Ireland all other occupation? Now, with regard to the Bill itself, the first clause related more particularly to that part of the country with which he was connected. He knew of nothing more difficult to define than what was called "tenant-right." In every county, and almost on every estate, a different practice prevailed. In one place a tenant might be allowed to purchase, and give an unlimited price, the landlord looking on and approving. He was not going to say that the landlord committed a grievous wrong on the tenant. He thought that if he was able to turn a tenant out after giving a great price, without giving the tenant something in return, he would be committing a grievous wrong. Again there were cases in which there was only a limited tenant-right. On some estates a certain number of years was allowed. And in many cases, even in Ulster, nothing at all was given. With respect, then, to the Ulster custom of tenant-right, if it was to be extended all over Ireland, as some hon. Gentlemen demanded, he should like some explanation of what really was to be extended, and then hon. Members would be better able to determine what measure of support they would give to that clause in Committee. He would state a case of his own to show the difficulty that would arise under the Bill. Being unable to cultivate his own farm at a profit he had let it to his steward, who had farmed it many years and had not improved its condition. Now what was he to give that tenant who had made the farm worse than it was when he entered upon it. Local custom would not give the occupier tenant-right, but custom elsewhere might do so; and how were they to know what custom was? Then, 1388 with respect to the arbitration clauses, he would ask were they likely to produce goodwill between landlord and tenant. He fearlessly answered no. He supported the Bill—while entirely differing from the principle on which it sought to legislate between landlord and tenant—on the ground that on both sides of the House great expectations had been raised in the minds of the tenants. These expectations had been so raised that some legislation was absolutely necessary. The Earl of Mayo had introduced a Bill which he would not say was better than this, but he was bound to say that on that (the Opposition) side of the House no language had been used which accused landlords of felony, which was calculated to bring them into contempt, or which would make their lives unsafe. The hopes that had been held out on that side of the House were of some legislative measures calculated to better the condition of the people. He gave his support to this Bill, though based on a bad principle—on the ground of expediency. He would repeat that the proposed arbitration courts were not likely to produce a good feeling between the landlords and the tenants. In all countries there was a class of small attorneys looking out for jobs. Many of these gentlemen, knowing little of law, but well versed in quibbles, would endeavour to bring landlords and tenants into the courts, when, if left alone, the parties would be able to settle their disputes without much difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the number of evictions that had taken place, and when the proper time arrived the real number might be ascertained. But it could be shown that the number was comparatively small. He knew that on his estate there had been none for thirty years, except for non-payment of rent, and then only in rare instances. The hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Bryan) had referred to that part of the Bill which related to labourers cottages. Now, in what position would the labourer's cottage half-acre clause place the landlords? He (Sir Hervey Bruce) believed that the labourers required legislation for their interest and benefit far more than the tenants. The tenants, except those who ought to be labourers, were able to take care, of themselves; but he pitied the poor labourer when he 1389 came into the clutches of the tenant. He knew by experience the hard manner in which labourers were treated by tenants. The land was let to the tenants at what they called a high rent, but it was sub-let to the labourer at four or five times that rent. This Bill put the labourer still further in the power of the tenant, and made much greater the difficulty which the landlords now had of getting my control over the condition and comfort of the labourers. He would endeavour to show the difficulty in which a landlord would be placed if the Bill should pass in its present shape. Upon one of his own farms, the rental of which was £60 or £70 a year, the eldest son of the tenant, on his marriage, built a small place in which to live. He (Sir Hervey Bruce) knew nothing of the matter until the place was occupied. Now, it would have been considered a grievous thing if he had turned out that man. But what happened? The father died, and then it was found that the farm had been divided between father and son, and the question arose whether the son or the widow was to have the farm, or whether it was to be divided between them. How could such difficulties be avoided if the Bill contained a clause empowering tenants to give half-acre plots to labourers? It would be far better for the labourers if Parliament turned its attention to putting them under the control of the landlords rather than that of the tenants. If the landlords were able to give half-acre plots a greater benefit would be conferred on Ireland than it had received for many years. Then with regard to the grand jury cess, the landlords with a large number of these small tenants on their estates would be placed in a most disadvantageous position. They would be unable to make any arrangement with the £4 tenants without paying, perhaps an almost fabulous sum, and would have to pay a larger sum every year without any means of redress. He thought the county cess ought to have been dealt with in another Bill, previously to the introduction of the present Bill, and then the landlords might have been able to make equitable arrangements. Then with regard to another part of the Bill—that which allowed tenants to buy from the landlords when the landlords were willing to sell—the provision was very faulty, and he did not sec how it would 1390 work, unless a landlord was the complete and absolute owner of his property. He saw no machinery in the Bill by which a landlord, with an encumbrance on his property, could sell in detail the small portions which tenants might wish to buy. He ought not to overlook an Amendment which had been placed on the Paper, to the effect that if a tenant wished to sell the landlord should not prevent his doing so to any tenant who might appear to be solvent, unless the landlord gave a very good reason or became the purchaser himself. In what position would this place the landlord? On an estate where unlimited tenant-right was allowed he had known as much as forty years' purchase given; and the price was very often from fifteen to twenty years' purchase. A landlord might be offered a tenant who was objectionable in many ways; he might be a Ribbonman, whom the hand of justice could not touch, or he might be a man who had threatened his landlord, and yet he must be accepted as a tenant unless, forsooth, the landlord was willing to give twenty years' purchase to the outgoing tenant. Justice had been appealed to, but he asked for justice for one class as well as the other. He would be the last to advocate the view that any man who had expended his capital upon a farm should be at the mercy of even the best of landlords. He admitted that in some instances advantage had been taken of the tenants by the new purchasers, but in very few. In his part of the country, thank goodness, advantage was never taken of the tenants, and the tenants preferred to live under the good old custom of their forefathers, many respectable and well-doing tenants of his having refused the offer of leases. And though some few had been taken, yet the thirty-one years' lease offered by this Bill was considered a delusion and a snare. If the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment would be but reasonable in their demands they would get a wider and larger measure of justice than by opposing the second reading of the Bill, for the Bill was one which would give to the tenant great and substantial justice, and would only deny the demands of those who would be satisfied with nothing short of the land becoming their own. If the hon. Gentlemen believed that they could obtain a measure which would give the land to the tenants and 1391 turn the landlords out of the country he was sorry for their understanding and that they did not better know the principles which prevailed in tins House, From his speech it seemed that the hon. Member for Tipperary was well aware that what he asked for would not be given, he (Sir Hervey Bruce) hoped that this Bill would pass—but in a modified, a corrected, and an improved form—that it would be made a measure of substantial justice to Ireland, and that the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the down would then tell agitators that Ireland was no longer to be kept in a state of disquietude, and that disturbance and murder would no longer be allowed to continue without punishment. When the right hon. Gentleman did that, and the people understood him to be in earnest, a happier day would dawn upon the country. He (Sir Hervey Bruce) hoped an allwise and beneficent Providence would so guide their deliberations that what they now did might be both just and honest.
§ Mr. BAGWELL
said, the First Minister of the Crown had referred in his speech on the first reading of the Bill to the great measure of last year which dealt with the Irish Church. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would take warning from the little effect which a great measure of justice had had in Ireland when the Irish people considered it faulty in its details. Unless it could be shown that this measure would benefit the people it might fall as short of really benefiting them as the measure of last year had done. He was aware that great pains had been taken in drawing this Bill, and he was certain that the Government had been sincerely anxious to bring forward a measure which would satisfy Ireland and give peace to the country; but he was sorry to say that the Bill was too clover by half, it was so full of details, and so confused altogether, that a tenant could not find his way through the maze of difficulties. There were so many different ways provided for giving the tenants what they wanted that it would be hard for them ever to get at it, or to comprehend the Bill at all. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman had given up the phrase "fixity of tenure," because the people of Ireland had been led too often by the speeches of those high in Office to believe that they were to become the owners 1392 of the soil under that phrase. What the people had long wanted was security. They desired that it should not be in the power of any individual, or number of individuals, to drive them from their homes—that so long as they chose to remain on the land of their birth, and were able to pay their way they should be allowed to do so. They did not want to be told that they were poor and miserable, and would be much better off if they emigrated to America or Australia. If a man chose to go we might give him advice, or help him materially; but we had no right to tell a man he must leave the land of his birth whether he wished to do so or not. The country had come to its present condition owing to people being driven out of it. The Bill proposed to remedy the existing state of things. Lately, the people in the South of Ireland had been asking—"Why not give us the tenant-right of the North?" But I the tenant-right of the North was so mysterious and extraordinary that if the people of the South knew what it was he believed they would be sorry to see it introduced among them, and if Parliament defined tenant-right in the North they would thereby destroy it. The plan he advocated was this—The people wished to remain on the land, and the landlords wished to get their rent out of the land, and these were two fair objects, one quite as fair as the other. Instead of this large and complicated measure he would provide that every man in Ireland holding a farm, whether large or small, of bonâ fide tillage ground, should be entitled to have a lease for thirty-one years, on the basis of the present rents, and when twenty-eight years of the term had run, it should be in the power of either party to propose a new arrangement for a renewal when the first lease should have expired. In case of their not agreeing, the dispute should be settled by a court of arbitration, and at the end of the thirty-one years a new lease should be given for the same period. The tenant would thus have in reality that perpetuity of tenure, which, under the name of "fixity of tenure." seemed so very objectionable. He could speak practically on this Question, for he had managed his own estate in Ireland, among a very varied population, the estate containing various descriptions of land, much of it let to a number of small holders. He had always found that so 1393 long as the tenants of Ireland were led, they were the easiest people to manage imaginable, but they were the worst people to attempt to drive. A large proprietor in Ireland, who was a sensible and clever man, had told him that if the Bill passed in its present form he would have to keep an attorney to collect his rents, look after his estate, and do his business in the court, for it would be impossible for any non-professional man to manage an estate under such a measure. He (Mr. Bagwell) very much agreed with that opinion. The Roman Catholic clergy had in many places been very energetic against the Bill. One of them had said that it must have been drawn up by the devil's attorney; and certainly it was likely to prove a most lucrative measure to the legal profession. Another gentleman of great eminence in Ireland had said that the Bill would empty the farmer's pocket into the lawyer's purse. He (Mr. Bagwell) trusted that the objectionable parts of the Bill would be taken out, that such a plan as he had suggested would be introduced—namely, that every tenant should be entitled to a lease for thirty-one years, renewable for ever. He begged to intimate that he would propose a clause to that effect. The hon. Baronet (Sir Hervey Bruce) had remarked that measures of coercion should have been brought in before this measure. He differed in toto from the hon. Gentleman, and he thanked his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government for introducing his measures of conciliation before he attempted any legislation of a coercive character. When the right hon. Gentleman had succeeded in removing the disabilities under which the people of Ireland were suffering he hoped that he would then be able to take such steps as would effectually put down all those who were found to be opposed to law and order. The class that more especially suffered from the present unsatisfactory state of Ireland was that of the poor farmers. The landlord, no doubt, was occasionally shot; but the poor farmers suffered more generally, and in all the relations of life they were not allowed to act as free agents. The conduct of the riotous and disaffected seriously interfered with the industrious in all classes of life. He hoped, therefore, that when this Bill had been sufficiently amended in Committee to admit of its being passed 1394 into law as a good and acceptable measure, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would be the first to say—"We have done what is right and just for Ireland, and we are now determined, with the whole power of this Empire, to preserve the peace in that country." If the present Government felt that they could not do that they ought either to hand Ireland over to the Irish themselves, and let them govern her, or commit the task of governing her to some other party in the State who were able and willing to undertake the task. In respect to one other feature of the Bill, it appeared to him to be a dangerous proposition to give the labourer power to obtain his half acre of land for the erection of a cottage in the way proposed. In no country was there a greater want of house accommodation for the labourer than in Ireland; but he believed the best remedy for that evil would be found in an enlargement of the area of taxation, throwing all the rating into one union rating, instead of the present limited system. A change of that kind would produce such a state of things that the capitalist would find it remunerative to build cottages for labourers, and there would be no want of legitimate investment in that direction. The provision in the Bill to allow the farmer to give half an acre of land and a cottage to the labourer would inevitably lead to mischievous subdivisions of land amongst the small farmers. They must all know that the half acre of land would be given by the farmer to one of his family. He trusted that that provision would be eliminated from the Bill, and that the Bill would be supplemented by a provision to extend largely the area of taxation in Ireland. In conclusion he trusted the Government would consent to such changes as would make the Bill acceptable to the people of Ireland. In that hope he should vote for the second reading, but if the necessary Amendments were not made, he should support the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Bryan) in an endeavour to have the measure rejected on the third reading.
§ SIR FREDERICK W. HEYGATE
said, he must congratulate the House and the country on the increased attention which had been given by Parliament to Irish subjects within the last two years. Some English and Scotch Members, not content with speeches delivered in that 1395 House, and with leading articles published in the newspapers, had visited Ireland, with the view of ascertaining by personal observation her actual circumstances and position. He hoped they had returned with information which would be valuable to the House, and that their experience was not similar to that of Dr. Twiss, a clever writer, who, describing a visit he had paid to that country in 1775, said—During my stay in Ireland I experienced that kind of intellectual retrogradation by means of which the more I heard the less I knew, as the second answer to a question usually annihilated the information supposed to be acquired by a first.He must at once express his opinion that whatever might be said by the Opposition with reference to this Bill the whole responsibility of the measure would rest on the Government side of the House. When he first read the Bill he was astonished at its contents. It appeared to him to be opposed to the principles of free trade and to the principles of free contract, and to be a Bill which would make everyone in Ireland undergo a process of dry nursing. In the speech which filled so many columns of The Times, and in which the First Minister of the Crown went through the past history of Ireland as a justification for such a measure as the present, the right hon. Gentleman said that, owing to absenteeism. Ireland was in an extraordinary position—a position unlike that of any other country in the world. Now, he (Sir Frederick Heygate) did not justify absenteeism. He thought it was one of the greatest misfortunes to the place which suffered from it; but it must be borne in mind that absenteeism was by no means peculiar to Ireland. It prevailed in Scotland, and even in the small towns of England in consequence of the attractions of the capital. He was not there to defend it. It was, however, a fact that some of the best managed properties in Ireland were the estates of great absentee proprietors, like Lords Lansdowne and Fitzwilliam, and of some of the London Companies. On those estates there was generally a much better state of things, and a more prosperous and contented tenantry, than existed in other parts of the country; and they were afforded a greater security of tenure. It appeared to him, then, that before they took for granted 1396 the statements made on the one side or the other there ought to be a full and fair inquiry into the whole question. He believed in no other country in the world would so sweeping a measure as the present be proposed without full inquiry as to the remedy for the evils complained of. At the same time he was willing to admit that the sister country was in such a condition, and was so indoctrinated with the idea of want of security, that any course from which delay would arise in the enactment of some measure giving some security of tenure was altogether out of the question. The crisis was certainly most serious. The First Minister of the Crown, in the speech to which he had just alluded, said that for some years previously to 1859 Ireland had been improving, but that since then she had been retrograding. Recollecting the Reports of the Poor Law Commissioners and Inspectors, it was with the utmost astonishment he heard that statement. The wages of labourers had risen one-third—indeed, in many cases, they had nearly doubled since then. No one could travel through Ireland without observing that the country had a very different appearance from that which it presented fifteen years ago. Great improvement in the general condition of the country was shown by the increased value of tenant-right in Ulster, by the increased traffic on the railways, and the increased deposits in the savings banks. If hon. Members referred to Thom's Directory they would see the enormous increase in the value of live stock, as well as of agricultural produce generally. It was true that in 1862–3–4 there had been an interruption in this prosperity, but it had been only a temporary one, arising not from a cause which human efforts could avert, but from bad harvests. But, taking the last fifteen years as one period, there had been a steady and continuous improvement in the condition of every class. The right hon. Gentleman said that the number of paupers had increased; but the more humane treatment of the inmates of workhouses went far to account for that fact. In 1860 there were 11,216 children in the Irish workhouses; at present there were 16,024; but, taking the same two periods, the increase in the number of able-bodied male paupers had only been that represented by the difference between 6,060 and 6,132. It should be 1397 further noticed that there had been a gradual rise in the salaries of the officers employed in connection with the relief of the poor. In consequence of the improvement in hospital accommodation, and other such causes, much of the prejudice which formerly existed in the minds of poorer classes against workhouses had been removed. There had been an increase in the expenses of English and Scotch workhouses also; but it must not be forgotten that the standard of living was higher now than it was formerly. The right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to account for the present condition of Ireland on the ground that it had not been legislated enough for—that many subjects had escaped remark in the pressure of Imperial business, and that among those subjects Mere those which related to Ireland. He (Sir Frederick W. Heygate) appealed to the past conduct of the House, whether Session after Session had not been taken up by Irish Bills, and whether every grievance had not been ventilated and where possible, redressed? The jealousy of English manufacturers had given rise to many of the grievances under which Irish manufactures had laboured, and had driven the people to the necessity of subdividing the land. The right hon. Gentleman had charged the landlords of Ireland with having reduced the tillage of land by 400,000 acres, and with having increased the pasturage by 500,000 acres. But there was no room for wonder if that was the case, because such a result was strictly in accordance with the principles of Free Trade which he (Sir Frederick Heygate) had learnt from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman and others who sat on the other side of the House. He had always been told that a country should grow those crops for which it was best fitted by nature; and, therefore, it was only right that Ireland should cease to grow wheat, for which her soil was unsuited, and should turn her attention to stock, that succeeded admirably. Irish gentlemen were now found fault with for doing what Mr. Cobden told them it was their duty to do. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the low price of wheat had inflicted damage upon the Irish producer; but the fact was that owing to the improvement that had been effected of late years in Ireland almost everyone was 1398 now a consumer of wheat or of Indian corn, and, therefore, the reduction in the price of wheat, which she did not grow, was a great benefit to her people generally. He could not read the report of the right hon. Gentleman's most eloquent speech, abounding as it did with unintentional misrepresentations, without feeling that it was his duty to endeavour to point them out, and to correct them. Then he came to the question of evictions, about which a great deal had been said. As an Irish landlord he did not like to stand up and contest point after point as though he were upon his trial, but when statements which had no foundation were made, he felt called upon to contradict them. The Report of the Poor Law Inspectors of Ireland, in reply to questions sent round to them by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, had been published a few days ago. He held that Report in his hand; and it dealt specially with the question of evictions. Mr. Hamilton said—"As far as I can learn notices to quit are throughout this district of rare occurrence." Mr. Robertson, speaking of the district in which Earl Fitzwilliam's estates were situated, said—Considering the number of agricultural holdings in this district there are very few evictions, and they are principally for non-payment of rent. I find also that not much more than half the ejectment decrees that are obtained are executed. Notices to quit are not of frequent occurrence.Dr. Brodie said—Notices to quit are still of frequent occurrence, but are much diminished within a few years past, and not so usually followed up as heretofore.Dr. Roughan, in speaking of Mayo, said—"Notices to quit up to last year have been of very frequent occurrence." That was the only unfavourable statement in the whole of the Report. In speaking of Leitrim, the same gentleman said—"Notices to quit may have been frequent in past years; those have now entirely disappeared." Mr. W. J. Hamilton, speaking of particular districts, said—"Notices to quit are almost unknown." Mr. O'Brien said—As a general rule they are only served either for persistent non-payment of rent or to adjust quarrels among families or neighbours. … It is altogether unusual to follow up the notice by the eviction of the offender from his holding.He might go through the book and make similar quotations, but he would 1399 only refer to the totals that were given. The total average number of evictions actually carried out on notice to quit during the last four years was 284; ditto for non-payment of rent, 603, out of a total of 594,340 holdings. And yet the right hon. Gentleman said that notices to quit and evictions had fallen like flakes of snow over the country.
§ SIR FREDERICK W. HEYGATE
said, he had understood the right hon. Gentleman's observations to apply to notices to quit as well as to evictions. It had also been supposed that rents were excessively high in Ireland, but in a book recently written by Mr. Thomson, who had examined into the question, it was stated that the rents there were lower than in any other civilized country in the world, without exception. Then as to the improvements made by land-lords. No doubt they were not so numerous as might be desired, but the House must not forget the large sums—entirely overlooked by the right hon. Gentleman—borrowed by the landlords for drainage works, which amounted to between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000. He then came to the Ulster custom—and here again the same difficulty had to be encountered for want of an accurate definition of what that custom was. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the custom would not bear legal definition, and he (Sir Frederick W. Heygate) thought the right hon. Gentleman had taken a wise course. The Ulster custom not only varied in every county, but in every district and estate. In some instances it was stated to give to the tenant an unlimited right to sell to his successor, but always subject to the consent and approval of his landlord. In other cases a bargain was entered into by the landlord and tenant, limited to a certain amount, and with other arrangements mutually beneficial; while in the most extreme definition of that custom it involved the right of the eldest son of the tenant to succeed to his father's farm, the occupying tenant having almost the right to deal with the property as though he were in the line of entail, even to the extent of dowering his widow. In that case a large portion of the property was divided among the children or the other relations of the deceased tenant. 1400 On this question of tenant-light there was a great deal to be said on both sides. He had always said that in a country like Ireland, where there was so little security of tenure, a moderate amount of permanent interest in the soil, so long as it did not entirely absorb the capital of the tenant, did good rather than harm; but in eases which frequently occurred, where a farm was put up to the highest bidder and where the money had to be borrowed by the incoming tenant at a high rate of interest, the result was most disastrous, the tenant becoming so embarrassed that he was unable to cultivate and improve his farm. Dr. Knox, one of the Poor Law Inspectors of Ireland, speaking of the Ulster tenant-right, said—In my district, which may be termed the heart of the tenant-right country, the Ulster tenant-right custom—meaning, as stated in the query, payment for goodwill or disturbance, irrespective of compensation for existing improvements—may be fairly described as universal, or nearly so. The practice, however, may be defined as two-fold,—first, as unlimited, where the landlord permits the unrestricted right of sale to the highest bidder; and second, as limited, where the landlord approves, or at least assents to, a sale under the reservation just stated, but limits the price either to so much per acre, or to so many years' rental. On many of the larger and smaller estates also the first plan is in very general operation, and the second also to a considerable extent carried out. Where the limitation of price is carried out some are unsatisfied, considering that, where the sum is fixed at a low rate, the tenant is not sufficiently reimbursed. This practice, however, is not so unpopular as might be anticipated, for, as there are, of course, as many buyers as sellers, the latter wish to get as high a price as possible, but the former to purchase at as cheap a rate as they can.The best way, therefore, that care for the future interest of the tenant could be shown was to compensate him for improvements, and to give him a moderate interest, irrespective of improvements. The abuse of the custom acted as a bar to improvements by the landlord, and instead of being for the good of the country had an exactly contrary effect. It was almost impossible for them to ascertain what constituted this custom. In talking to old people of the custom in certain districts in Ireland, they had said to him—"You are right and you are wrong in your definition of tenant-right. You are right in supposing that tenant-right has never attained this enormous extent; but though you are right in supposing that there was a limit 1401 to it, that limit was that for many years the amount of an unlimited sale amounted to so small a sum that there was no necessity for any other limit." He was therefore surprised to hear the definition that had been given to the Ulster tenant-right by the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. William Johnston). He would, however, be most happy to argue this point when the time came. In considering this Bill they ought to be particularly careful of the influence it would have on public credit. When the famine was laid at the door of insolvent landlords, and it was considered all important to get rid of them, two Acts were passed with the object of bringing fresh capital into the country from England and Scotland—the Incumbered Estates Act and the Landed Estates Court Act. Many persons had purchased property under these Acts, and in doing so they believed they bought the fee simple of the freehold—the actual property in fact. He had moved for a Return to show the amount of property involved in these purchases, but it had not yet been laid upon the table of the House. The amount, however, was enormous. Under the Incumbered Estates Act, which terminated in 1856, property valued at £25,000,000 was sold, and in the ten years ending 1866, during which the Landed Estates Court was in operation, property valued at £11,000,000 was sold through its agency; so that property to the extent of £36,000,000 had been bought under these Acts. Since 1866 there must have been some £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 more; and if the Bill now before the House was passed, depreciating the value of this property, what would the opinion of those who had bought it be of the credit of the Government? Of this not a word had been said, and nothing seemed to have been thought, by the Government. He sympathized with the objects of the Bill; everyone must do so, and no one looking at the state of the country could say it was possible to go on as at present. Only the other day he had been told by an emigration agent in Londonderry that the tide of emigration had been stopped—that whereas at this time last years thousands were leaving the country emigration was now completely paralyzed; everyone was now looking to the Government for the realization of those extraordinary hopes created in their 1402 minds by those who were now Ministers of the Crown. He could not blame the people for holding those hopes, when one word from the Treasury Bench would have checked those anticipations, I and permitted only moderate expectations to be entertained; but the Government sat perfectly still; they were contented to obtain a short popularity at the expense of inflicting endless misfortunes upon the country. The First Lord of the Treasury in the course of his eloquent speech on introducing this Bill had dilated on the woes of the tenants and the woes of the labourers; but he said nothing of the woes of the landlords—of the unfortunate paralysis of credit which afflicted especially both the middle class and the landlords—nor did he offer a single word of sympathy for those unfortunate widows and orphans, the lives of whose protectors had been offered up to the unjust expectations which had been created by a portion of the Irish Press—that portion of the Irish Press which had sapped the prosperity of the country and made life unsafe by the promulgation of the most glaring fallacies. Articles of the character he alluded to were read in every cabin in Ireland, and accepted as the truth. The names of the writers of the articles were not published, and he had often been struck with the inadequacy of a contradiction of any fallacy or misrepresentation they might contain. A reply at a public meeting was not reported by the same journals, and a letter in another journal ready to insert it was not read by the class to which the misrepresentation had gone. The principle of reporting all sides and writing in the leading columns only what the editors believed to be true, was not the principle adopted by the journals to which he alluded, and he had come to the conclusion that this House was the only place where it was possible to contradict a fallacy and obtain a fair and efficient report of the contradiction. One more point with regard to the Ulster custom. He had, always felt that where there was a custom which had been acknowledged for a number of years by landlord and by tenant, it ought to have the force of law; and he believed that if the custom had existed in England, and the question were argued before an English Judge, the Judge would hold that the custom had the force of law already. Surely 1403 that which was recognized by good landlords in Ireland and neglected only by the bad, should have the force of law. With that part of the Bill therefore he most cordially agreed. As regarded the proposal to lend tenants large sums to enable them to purchase their farms, if a middle class of proprietors could be gained by this process, none would be more gratified than he; but he feared this would not be the result. He was of opinion that with a fair tenant-right secured to him the small tenant would be in a better position than if he were himself the owner of the land. The tenants of the Marquess of Waterford would find themselves in a much better position with their rights as tenants secured to them, than they would be in as purchasers with borrowed capital. Besides, where was the granting of loans to stop, when out of 608,864 tenants, 317,457 were under £8 a year valuation? He would commend to the Government the advice of Polonius to his son—Neither a borrower nor a lender be,For loan oft loses both itself and friend,And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.That was perfectly true. What could be more inexpedient and unwise than for the State to step in and become an Irish landlord? The responsibility of working this measure was thrown upon the Board of Works. He should be sorry hereafter to be connected with that Board, because the fate met by many Irish landlords might possibly be the fate of the gentlemen who formed the Board of Works. He would remind the House of the notable scheme of Mr. Feargus O'Connor. He had very recently heard that the last estate of that scheme had been put up in the market, that the capital was all lost, and that everybody who had had anything to do with the scheme was involved in ruin. At the same time he felt a great sympathy with tenant-farmers who wished to become owners of land. Nobody could more desire to see supplied the want of a small proprietary, if it could be secured by satisfactory means. At present, exceptional advantages had been conferred upon landlords, who could borrow money from the State for the purpose of draining their property, and it had been argued that therefore the State ought to assist tenants in purchasing their farms. The two cases were 1404 not, however, precisely analogous, for the State lent the landlord money, after strict investigation, in order that he might effect improvements which would benefit the country generally. With reference to the Bill before the House, he should only remark that he would be a bold man who, in the present crisis, ventured to say "No" to the second reading. At the same time he was fully aware that it infringed the cardinal principles of free trade and free contract. For his own part he would not refuse to give the Government any help in his power in passing a Bill which promised to contribute to the happiness and prosperity of Ireland. He desired it to be distinctly understood that he did not stand there as a landlord who was solely anxious to preserve his privileges in one shape or another, but that he wished to promote the real interests of the country; and a measure which was not based on sound principles, although it might infringe those principles but slightly now, would lead to a much greater infringement in the future. What was the cause of the existing discontent in Ireland? He was inclined to think that it proceeded from causes which had only been temporarily glanced at in that House, and which wore so deep-seated that a Bill going much further than the present one would not touch them. In the first place, Ireland was too small for the population, if all were to depend upon the land for subsistence, and anyone might perceive this in a moment if he went back to the time of the famine. If a Bill like the present had been passed then, what would have boon the result? Why, it would have tended to perpetuate dependence on the potatoe, and would have brought fresh calamities on the country. Another cause of discontent had been glanced at in that House by the Earl of Mayo, who remarked that the Irish were a clever, well-educated people, and that there was not adequate employment for people so educated. Everyone acquainted with the country must have met with attorneys clerks, schoolmasters, and persons employed in the Customs and Excise, who read in the newspapers about the rate of wages and price of provisions in England, Scotland, and America, and who compared the facts with the circumstances of their own position in Ireland. Asking themselves how they came to oc- 1405 cupy such a position, they came to the conclusion that it was owing to the fault of the British Government, and that it was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Government to bring in a Bill to ameliorate their condition. The real remedies for discontent were obvious. First of all, there must be security for life and property, and, secondly, there must be a development of trade; and the one depended upon the other. How could there be any development of trade or any permanent rise of wages when neither life nor property was secure? Look at the unfortunate dealer in eggs, who, because he was said to have dealt more largely than others, was shot. To establish security of life and property was the first duty of the Government, although he did not wish to see them go beyond the bounds of the Constitution in doing so. The development of trade was the only way by which in a country with a limited amount of land the position of the people could be permanently ameliorated. It had often been objected that Ireland had no coal. But coals were carried to Belfast at a few shillings a ton, and, in his opinion, trade might be developed to any extent if there were security of life and property for the industrious population. It was in consequence of trade that Londonderry had increased within the last ten or fifteen years from a population of 14,000 or 15,000 to one of 23,000 or 24,000. Looking to the immense expectations which had been held out, and the impossibility of their being realized, he should be sorry to take upon himself the responsibility of opposing the Bill. In conclusion, he expressed his belief that everyone interested in land in Ireland would make any reasonable sacrifice if he could only see prosperity restored to the country.
§ MR. AGAR-ELLIS
said, the fact that this Bill abrogated that iniquitous law which made tenants improvements the property of the landlord was quite sufficent to induce him to vote for the second reading of the Bill, although he did not approve all its provisions. That, for instance, relating to the allotment to labourers of half an acre of land for a cottage garden would not, he trusted, be pressed by the Government. The clauses respecting the scale of damages for evictions were most valuable, and would make it difficult for landlords to con- 1406 tinue evictions in the manner which they had hitherto practised. He also highly approved of limited owners being empowered to borrow money for the purpose of carrying out improvements on their estates, and to grant leases. With regard to loans of money to enable tenants to purchase estates, he thought there was great danger of bad management; and, while he did not think much use would be made of that part of the Bill, the Government ought to take care to prevent adventurous attorneys and land robbers from speculating for their own benefit under the provisions of the Bill. He was sorry to see that since the Bill had been printed there had been raised in the South of Ireland a cry for the extension of the Ulster tenant-right to that part of the country, and that agitators had unjustly accused the Government of making one law for the Protestants of the North of Ireland, and another for the Catholies of the South. The effect of that Ulstersystem was, in many cases, to place a log round the necks of the tenants, and in his opinion nothing could be more foolish than the wish that the system should be extended to the South. He must take exception to that part of the Bill which related to leases, and particularly the enactment that where a lease had been granted a landlord could evict his tenant without incurring the penalties to which he would be liable in other cases. That was he thought, unfair, inasmuch as it would be taking away with hand that which was given with the other. And he confessed that he regarded with some dislike the making of the authority of a Court essential to a covenant for a lease. In conclusion, he would merely observe that the sooner the Bill was passed the better, for he could imagine nothing more disastrous than that it should be hanging over Ireland any longer, and that the Irish laud question should be allowed to remain unsettled for years to come. He therefore hoped that hon. Gentlemen would unite in the determination to pass the Bill into law, and thereby confer a great benefit, not only upon Ireland but upon England.
§ MR. KAVANAGH
said, he should give his support to the Bill not because he approved of all its details as it now stood, but because he saw in it two essential principles which he had long regarded as affording the fairest basis for 1407 legislation upon this important subject. These two principles were the institution of penalties to prevent capricious evictions, and the securing to the tenant the right of compensation for substantial improvements executed at his own expense. They would, in his opinion, only have the effect of enforcing by law a system which he believed the majority of landlords in Ireland had adopted of their own free will, and would be felt as a restraint only by those who would use their power in a harsh and arbitrary manner. As to the justice of the provisions refering to the right to claim for compensations, he was happy to think they were all very generally agreed, but as to the manner in which those provisions were to be carried out he was of opinion that some very grave objections could be raised. As to the penalties against capricious evictions, he was sorry that some on his side of the House, for whose opinions he entertained the very highest respect, did not agree with him in approving them, and he was bound to add that there was great weight in the objections which they urged. Strictly speaking, he thought there could be no doubt about it, that the provisions as laid down in Clause 3 were a direct infringement of a landlord's just and legal rights, and even the most liberal landlord, who would carry out to the full the spirit of these enactments, might with perfect justice claim to be allowed to be generous and benevolent to his tenants in his own way. These provisions took away all freedom of contract. They took away the right for a man to do as he thought fit with his own, and obliged him to pay over again for what was his own already. Moreover, he could quite foresee that these enactments would tend to lessen the value of land as a security, and that must be an important consideration to those whoso properties were mortgaged. Yet, notwithstanding these considerations, and weighty considerations they were, he, for his part, was willing to yield a power which he thought any landlord, having a regard to a conscientious discharge of his duties, would hesitate to use, and which in unscrupulous hands would be exercised, as he regretted to say it had often been, for the purpose of gross and flagrant injustice. In the annals of the Incumbered Estates Court they had too many instances of the manner in which 1408 unprincipled men, purchasing land as a matter of speculation, had dealt with their tenants. He could not agree with the argument which he had heard so often used, that land should be regarded as any other mercantile property. To him it seemed that, especially in Ireland, there were far graver responsibilities attached to the possession of it; and when they considered that much of the happiness and prosperity of a number of their fellow - creatures were unavoidably affected by the manner in which they discharged this trust, they must, he thought, allow that they should have some higher motives than self-interest or caprice to influence their actions. He had been often asked why men of their own free will took land on a precarious tenure, and so became dependent upon the will of their landlord. His answer was,—"If a man is a small farmer, he has, I may say, hardly an alternative. If he does not get the land he has to choose between it, the poorhouse, and America; he only does what others do when the demand exceeds the supply, as is the case with land in many parts of Ireland." He thought, therefore, it was only right that the Legislature should step in and shield him from those who would take advantage of his necessities. With the large holders the case was different, and any tenants holding farms over a valuation of £100 might very safely be left to take care of themselves. When dealing with large farms in Ireland, the question of large grazing lands arose. There were, for instance, some tenants who occupied such lands, who paid for them as much as £5,000 a year, and who yet never expended sixpence on improvements. Would it not be very hard on the landlord who wished to recover possession of those lands that he should find himself obliged to pay a sum of £10,000 to the tenant? He should now very briefly refer to those points in the Bill which appeared to him objectionable, and he could only say that in venturing to criticize them he did so in no factious spirit. He hoped it might be made a just measure and pass into law, and bring that peace and contentment to Ireland which she so sorely needed. Clause 1 legalized the custom in Ulster of Ulster tenant-right; that was a custom of which he had no practical knowledge; by some he heard it loudly praised; by others as loudly condemned; so far, however, as 1409 he was able to judge, it would seem to him that Clauses 1 and 2 might be with advantage omitted, leaving clauses from 3 to 11, modified, he hoped, in some respects, to regulate the relations between landlord and tenant over the whole of Ireland. The principles upon which these latter clauses were based appeared to him to be fair and equitable, and he therefore was at a loss to see why they should not be generally applied. By the omission of Clauses 1 and 2, it would still remain competent for the contracting parties to make their arrangements according to the customs of their different districts if they were so disposed, and he was inclined to doubt the wisdom of passing an arbitrary law, legalizing a system which loaded an incoming tenant with a very grievous burden, when, by the other portions of the Act, the evicted or out-going man was amply protected from any species of injustice on the part of his landlord. Clause 2 appeared to him to bear too wide and dubious a meaning. Legalizing "tenant—right custom other than the Ulster custom," would seem to confirm by law any scheme of compensation to which any tenant would be bold enough to swear. He would, in passing on, refer to Section 2 of the same clause from line 17 to end, and Section 2, Clause 3. Although the previous part of the section was worded expressly to forbid subletting, these words would seem to convey to a tenant the right to exit up his holding into half-acre plots, and build, or allow to be built, airy description of huts upon them. Now, with regard to agricultural labourers, for whose benefit this part of the clause was especially framed, anyone who knew anything of their condition when holding under middlemen would, he thought, admit that their position was far from enviable; their houses were generally of a miserable nature, hardly tit abodes for animals, and they were themselves ruled with a rod of iron. Besides having to pay high rents for their wretched dwellings, they were themselves, under pain of being turned out, obliged to give their labour to these middle landlords for sometimes less than half the price they could obtain in the market. It would, he thought, be a most objectionable system to encourage. Moreover, if the head landlords were to lose their power of restrict- 1410 ing this sort of subletting on their properties, they might find themselves before long again swamped with a pauper population, and in very much the same state of affairs which existed before the famine. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of this Bill would not object to these words being omitted from the clause, for they would, he feared, as they now stood, be productive of nothing but the most mischievous results. Clause 3 he had already referred to, and although he was in favour of the protection afforded by it against capricious evictions, he thought the scale of damages was too high. Circumstances did sometimes arise, quite irrespective of non payment of rent, where a landlord, for the purpose of maintaining peace and order, was obliged to use his power of eviction. By this scale, in the case of a £10 valuation holding, he would have to pay the tenant so evicted seven years' rent. A holding valued at £10 by Griffiths' valuation would be subject to a rent of about £13, assuming one-third over Griffiths' valuation to be the letting value, which was a sort of general rule; so that, in order to get rid of a really objectionable tenant, a landlord would be mulcted in the sum of £91. He merely suggested it for the consideration of the Government, as he thought ample protection against capricious eviction could be afforded without going quite such a length as the present scale implied. With regard to the other cases—2, 3, and 4—he thought 4 might very safely be left to look after his own interest. After that, all compensation should, in his opinion, cease. He then came to a class of men in independent circumstances, quite equal to deal with landowners at what might be termed arm's length. Going higher still, he came to the case of the large graziers, to interfere between whom and their landlords would be, he thought, a case of real injustice. He now came to deal with the case of securing to the tenant compensation for improvements. The principle, as he said before, was fair and just, but he thought the wording of Clause 4 was decidedly ambiguous, and calculated to raise very difficult issues. In the first place, he must ask whether, under Clause 4, a tenant would be entitled to claim compensation for improvements while he still retains pos- 1411 session of his farm, or was it only on disturbance, or when voluntarily quitting it, that he was to be entitled to make such claim? He imagined that it was only in the two latter cases that he would have this right, for it would not appear just that a landlord should be obliged to compensate a tenant for improvements if he were still to be left in the enjoyment of them; but he thought the clause required alteration to make it more clear, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would explain, with regard to this question, what interpretation the clause was intended to bear.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, there was a misprint or omission in the clause alluded to by his hon. Friend; the words "on quitting his holding" ought to be there.
§ MR. KAVANAGH
said, he was glad to hear tins explanation; but Section A, in the same clause, appeared to be also calculated to raise very difficult issues. It secured to a tenant the right to claim compensation for any sort of improvements made twenty years ago, and for buildings and reclamation of lands since the time of the Flood. Now, he did think it was a hard case to oblige landlords to have recourse to the pages of ancient history to defend themselves from extortion (for he could regard claims for traditional reclamation of land or buildings that must be either picturesque ruins or very dangerous habitations in no other light). These relics of antiquity might have been already dearly paid for, although no proof could possibly be forthcoming, either in hard cash to previous tenants, or by the "predecessors in title" (words which he most strongly objected to) having given up the holding loaded with arrears. The House would further bear in mind that by Clause 5 it was provided—That all improvements shall, until the contrary be proved, be deemed to have been executed by the tenant.Now, he could not imagine it possible to frame any clause more likely to give rise to endless and vexatious legislation than this Section A, and he did hope Her Majesty's Government would consent to the insertion of some reasonable retrospective limit. This clause, moreover, admitted the right of a tenant to claim compensation for so-called improvements made without consent of his landlord, which was, he thought, without some 1412 very clearly-defined qualification, a dangerous principle. The great love that many Irish tenants had now for erecting large houses upon small plots of ground was too well known. The making of fences and subdividing fields was also a very favourite occupation, and both these, although perhaps congenial to the tastes and circumstances of the present occupier, would, in the event of his giving up his present holding, have the effect of deteriorating the letting value of it hereafter. No one could in justice argue that a landlord should be taxed by being forced to compensate a tenant for works executed without his consent, which works would tend to prevent his obtaining the same rent for the farm in a future letting. Her Majesty's Government, in framing this Bill, could not have contemplated endorsing any such injustice. Section B in this clause and Clause 14 seemed intended to qualify this admission. But Section B was useless, for it only referred to works made within two years after the passing of the Act, and required the landlord's written prohibition to the works. It could not, therefore, act retrospectively as the admission of right to claim did, and Clause 14 was too vague in its definition to be, in his opinion, of any practical value. There was now only one more point to which he should venture to cal attention, and that was the case of an ejectment for non-payment of rent. By Clause 8 a tenant ejected for non-payment of rent was entitled to claim for all improvements which, as Clause 5 stipulated, had not been proved to have been made by the landlord. Referring then, to Clause 17 we found that a tenant under such process of eviction was no to be compelled to quit his holding until the full amount of compensation for all ancient and modern improvements had been satisfied. Now, this appeared to him to give a factious tenant a power to defy his landlord to get either his rent or his land. He might refuse to pay his rent, and when served with a notice of ejectment might bring up in array claim for improvements made before the memory of man. He might say that field which might never have had a stone is them were formerly stony, and wast tracts reclaimed by his forefathers; he might claim compensation equal to the fee simple, and until this demand was satisfied hold on his farm, rent free 1413 sublet it, and destroy it for all his landlord could do to the contrary. Now, he quite admitted the justice of securing to the tenant under eviction for non-payment of rent all due credit for the substantial and beneficial improvements he might have executed; but he thought he should be empowered to recover what balance was due to him on that count from the landlord by some other means than that of holding possession without paying rent, and some reasonable limit should be made to the retrospective right to claim for improvements which would place those claims within the possibility of being either proved or refuted. The remainder of the clauses in the Bill, although all of importance, were not of such a paramount nature as to warrant his trespassing longer on the time of the House. Those touching on the purchase of land for the tenants, being of a permissive nature, were not such—if the British taxpayer agreed to them—as he need object to as an Irish landlord. Clause 51, in Part IV. establishing a duty on notices to quit, would, he believed, have a very beneficial effect, and tend to put a stop to that disgraceful practice of serving tenants on each gale day with notices to quit—a practice which until very lately he could not believe existed. He believed that one of the effects of the Bill would be to discourage improvements on the part of the landlord; but the general effect would, he hoped, be to give to the Irish tenant-at-will a feeling of security to which up to this time on some properties he had been a stranger. Would that he could hope that it might bring peace and contentment throughout Ireland; but so long as political agitators continued to trade upon the passions of the people that would, he feared, be a hope which would only be kindled to be quenched.
§ MR. PIM
said, he hoped the second reading of this Bill would be unanimously agreed to. Speaking on this subject, not as a landlord or a tenant, but as a trader, his opinion was that the wildest scheme of the most ardent advocate of tenant-right would, if it settled the land question, be preferable to the state of confusion which now existed. But this was far from a wild scheme, and it gave greater hopes of a satisfactory settlement than any that had ever before boon proposed. Though, however, he trusted that the second reading 1414 would be agreed to, he also hoped that important alterations would be made in Committee. Of the principle of the Bill, he thoroughly approved. That principle was, firstly, compensation for improvements; secondly, compensation for the loss arising from disturbances; and lastly, the recognition of existing customs. But several important alterations were required to make the proposed measure what it ought to be, and if these Amendments were not adopted, he feared this Bill would fail to satisfy the people of Ireland. He did not suppose that any measure that ever was, or ever would be, proposed, would satisfy all the people of Ireland, anymore than a single measure could satisfy all the people of any other country; but he believed that if proper Amendments were adopted in Committee, this Bill would satisfy the moderate and reasonable portion of the population; the unreasonable would be left in a minority, and their agitation would be powerless. Now, one of the objections he had to make against this Bill was that of special legislation. He thought it would be a great mistake if the House agreed to any special legislation, which was to apply to Ulster alone and not also to the rest of Ireland. If they did so, it would not be otherwise than believed by the inhabitants of the other three Provinces that the people of Ulster were favoured—and favoured on account of their religion. The interests of if the Ulster tenantry might be protected without this special legislation. The 6th clause provided that where money or money's worth had been paid for a holding, with the knowledge or implied consent of the landlord, the fact of such payment should be taken as a ground for compensation. That clause would go a long way towards meeting the case of the Ulster tenant-farmers—and if it did not go the whole way, there was no difficulty in making it do so—and a clause might be introduced by which any custom which existed in any part of Ireland might be provided for without the necessity of any special or partial legislation. It was recently stated by a noble Lord (the Earl of Portsmouth), whose estates were in Wexford, that he treated his tenants in all respects as they were treated in Ulster; and, if so, he (Mr. Pim) could not see why the custom should not be recognized 1415 in Wexford as well as in Down or Antrim. The nest point to which, he objected was mixing up the compensation proposed to be given by Clauses 3 and 4. The 3rd clause ought to be confined to compensation for disturbance of occupation, and the 4th ought to be confined to compensation for improvements. If a man had not only occupied a farm, but made various improvements on it, he ought to have a larger compensation than the man who had made no improvements whatever; but even if a tenant had made no improvements, there was no reason why he should not be compensated for disturbance in his occupation. It would be a great discouragement to the improving tenant if he were not to receive more compensation than the tenant who made no improvements; and, therefore, the two kinds of compensation ought to be kept distinct, and the one made additional to the other. One of the most important parts of the Ulster custom was the power of the outgoing tenant to dispose of the interest in his farm, and he thought the tenants in the three Southern Provinces ought to have this right confirmed to them bylaw, which the tenants in Ulster enjoyed by reason of a custom which it was now proposed to recognize as legally binding. The nomination of the proposed incoming tenant should be subject, as it had hitherto been, to the approval of the landlord, but as his objection might be capricious, the landlord ought to be called upon to assign his reasons for objecting. He strongly objected to the power proposed to be given to the landlord, under the 16th clause, to bar the tenant's claim for compensation by the offer of a lease for thirty-one years. Such a mode of settling a difference was a tampering with justice, and he hoped the House would not agree to it. It was believed in Ireland that that clause would empower the landlords at once to force all their tenants to accept thirty-one years' leases, with a view to guard against any claim for compensation at the end of that term. If so, it might prove highly dangerous, for if any large number of landlords availed themselves of it at once—and many persons in Ireland thought they would do so—the consequence would be that the leases would all run out together, and this would, probably, give rise, some twenty-five or thirty years hence, to a new agitation 1416 for the renewal of these leases, instead of having this agitating question settled at once and for ever. If the tenant had a just claim let him be paid, if his claim be unjust let it be refused; but do not attempt to compel a summary settlement of this sort A lease is a contract and it should be entered into between two free and willing parties, not enforced by a landlord upon an unwilling tenant. If one party dictate to the other, the lease cannot be expected to be more binding, than a treaty which the stronger of two States imposes on the weaker at the point of the sword. If both landlord and tenant were free to contract for a lease upon such terms as both might agree to, he believed that leases for thirty-one years would be given and freely accepted, and that they would be very useful; but there should be no compulsion. Compulsion would be tyrannical, and would certainly produce ill-feeling, and be resisted or evaded. The leasing powers which the Bill proposed to confer upon "limited owners" did not go at all far enough. Why were there not powers for giving improvement leases and building leases? He had given notice of Amendments to this effect, and he hoped they would be accepted by the House. He should like to know whether it was intended by the 25th clause to render a lease under the Act valid against all parties whatsoever. There ought to be no doubt upon this point. The Bill contained no provision for doing away with the right of distress, which was one of the most serious evils affecting the relation of landlord and tenant in Ireland, and one that had made the land question much more dim cult to deal with than it would have been if that right had not existed. I was that right which equalized the bad tenant and the good one, the solvent and the insolvent one, in the eyes of many landlords, who, unmindful of a tenant's character, got the largest nominal rent they could, and relied upon the power of distress to secure themselves against loss. That power had been the means of bringing discredit on Irish landlords generally. The right hon. Gentleman the head of the Government seemed to have designed his Bill as means of tuition to lead the Irish people to a system of mercantile contract; and this was an object that ought to be aimed at; but this object would not be 1417 attained unless landlords and tenants were placed, as far as possible, upon a footing of equality, so as to be able to make a fair contract. This never would be the case while the power of distress existed. The second part of the Bill had not received as much attention as the first. He took a warm interest in it, and he felt much regret that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was unable to attend the House to advocate a proposition which, no doubt, was his suggestion. This part of the Bill seemed, to be wanting in clearness. Would the purchaser obtain a Parliamentary title? If so, how was it to be given? Was it by the Board of Works? He thought all the sales should pass through the Landed Estates Court. He thought also that Parliament ought to require all the titles of land purchased under this Act, and towards the payment for which assistance would be given through the Board of Works, to be recorded under the Record of Title Act passed in 1865, an Act in the preparation of which he had taken a warm interest, and under which all estates were recorded unless it was objected to by the buyer. By being thus recorded the titles of these estates would be kept clear, and in case of any legal proceedings being called for, there would not be any cost incurred for searching into title, &c. The proposal for assisting tenants to become proprietors of their own holdings had been objected to on economic grounds, and he would not discuss this part of the question; but on grounds of policy, he believed it would prove most valuable and important. Nothing had so Conservative an effect as the ownership of land. Look to the Continent. The Conservative element in France was to be found in the largo numbers of landed proprietors, and he believed that if the landed proprietors of Ireland were increased ten-fold, the Irish land question would be solved. Every man who became a landed proprietor became from that moment an anti-Fenian, and as desirous of upholding the laws and institutions of the country, as the proudest noble who derived his estate through a long line of ancestors. He, therefore, attached great importance to that portion of the Bill, not for its economical effects, but because he believed nothing would so much tend to give stability to the 1418 institutions of the country, and to form a counterpoise to disaffection. He trusted that the Bill would pass into law, but in an amended form. If it did so pass, though it might not satisfy all the people of Ireland, it would satisfy all those who could be satisfied by any legislation, and if they were satisfied, the irreconcilables would find themselves utterly powerless.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
said, that the Bill might be regarded in two aspects; one as it bore upon Imperial interests, and the other in reference to the interests of Ireland alone. It was in regard: to the first aspect alone that he desired to say a few words. Under the third part of the Bill the State was virtually to be put in the position of the purchaser of land, and this must of necessity cause a fictitious rise in the price of it. But further, it was provided that the Board of Works should advance to a tenant purchasing from his landlord, not; three-fourths of the value of the land, but three-fourths of its price; and whatever sum the landlord and tenant might agree upon that would have to be accepted as the price, three-fourths of which was to be advanced by the Government. Now, in England it was a rule that the amount lent on mortgage should not exceed three-fourths of the value of the property, and great care was taken to ascertain what the real value was, even the rent not being taken as the solo criterion. But every provision of that kind was omitted from this Bill, and there was nothing to prevent collusion between the landlord and the tenant. Nothing could be more objectionable than this part of the measure as it now stood. But this was not all. The Government were to charge the tenant for twenty-two years, with an I annuity of £6 10s. per cent upon the sum advanced by them. Now, the competition for land in Ireland was always great; the anxiety to possess land was a national passion, and under this Bill a farmer would scrape together a quarter of the price of his farm, and instead of laying out that money on the land he would buy, and demand, the loan; but the State would charge him £6 10s. per cent upon the money advanced in the shape of rent, and thus the tenant would be pauperized in the act of becoming a proprietor. This being so, if there came a year of difficulty or failure of crops the rent would get into arrears, and the State 1419 would have to enter upon the farm and place itself in the position of a landlord evicting for non-payment of rent. Thus upon the State and its officers would fall all the odium which was thrown upon the landlord who insisted on his rights. Another point requiring attention was the novel principle embodied in Clause 5. Up to this time the invariable practice had been to require the claimant of any right to make good his claim by substantial proof, and no sufficient reason had been given for such a change as was now contemplated, for under Clause 5, a tenant might make a claim against his landlord, and upon the landlord would rest the onus of proving the negative. If this were necessary, in sonic cases it should be allowed with the strongest possible qualifications. He could not help thinking that penalties for disturbing tenants in their holdings would foster absenteeism and carelessness upon the part of the landlord for everything except the payment of his rent. Besides, what if a tenant were an immoral character, should the landlord suffer for ejecting him? He trusted these points would not be lost sight of in the course of the Bill's progress through Committee. He trusted that the Bill would be as beneficial in its operation as its promoters desired; but to render it just in principle, he believed that considerable alterations and Amendments must be made.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would, before the close of the debate, explain to those who followed him what this Bill had to do with those principles which they were sent into the House to represent. From Catholic Emancipation downwards they had been asked year after year to make concessions to Ireland, and they were always told that the particular concession would secure the tranquillity of Ireland. It was remarkable that no such assurance was given last year in reference to the Irish Church Bill by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, or anybody else who professed to speak for the Irish people. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would give them some assurance of his belief that if this Bill passed the House would really be in a fair way of removing what the right hon. Gentleman called an opprobrium upon the fair 1420 fame of England—but which description he (Mr. Whalley) repudiated. It was rather degrading that all the interests of the Empire should be suspended whilst the House was occupied in discussing what was fair between landlord and tenant in Ireland; but lie should not complain of this if they had reasonable authority for believing that what they wore about to do would pacify Ireland. The first speech he had ever made in that House was in favour of the Motion that the repayment of £3,000,000 which had been lent to Irish landlords for the improvement of their estates should be altogether remitted in consequence of the unprofitable results of those improvements. He had not the smallest doubt that the money proposed to be lent under this Bill would turn out equally unprofitable, and would eventually be presented as a perfectly free gift. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to supply the omission that occurred in his great speech on the wrongs of the Irish tenantry, by a reference to the wrongs of those who had been driven out of the country, of those who had been slaughtered, or who were suffering from the apprehension of being murdered, for their attention to their duties. He called upon the right hon. Gentleman to give them some assurance that the sacrifices Protestants were called on to make would bring about peace in Ireland—something that would enable Englishmen, whether at home or abroad, to think of their country without feeling it deserved that opprobrium which the right hon. Gentleman had cast upon it. It was a part of the distinct policy of the Roman Catholic hierarchy—[Laughter]—yes, it was sworn to by them—to persecute and exterminate the Protestant element among the population wherever they could. That was their duty according to the very words of their oaths, and upon that policy they had acted in all times and in all countries. It did so happen that the course of affairs in Ireland coincided with that policy, although it would be uncourteous to suggest that the system of intimidation and terrorism that was now being carried on was in any degree directly sanctioned by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. There was no doubt that it existed in spite of their efforts. It was a somewhat curious coincidence that in former times, when 1421 the Roman Catholics did contemplate a massacre of Protestants, a similar system of intimidation and terrorism was carried on. If that were so, he thought it was incumbent on the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to take the opportunity of pointing out that this so-called message of peace was not to be sent to Ireland for the purpose of conciliating those who had upheld such a system, and that the keystone of his policy was not to exterminate, drive out, and buy out the Protestant element in Ireland at the expense of the taxpayers of this country. The right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues, for the first time in the history of our concessions to Ireland, took upon themselves the sole responsibility of this special legislation, about which it appeared there was nothing Imperial except the payment of British money to Irish farmers by way of loan. He submitted it was due to the right hon. Gentleman himself and his party that they should divest themselves of the exclusive character they had assumed in connection with this Bill; that they should base it on broader principles and make it intelligible in a more Imperial sense than they had hitherto done; and he hoped, as a Liberal, anxious to support the general policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and for the sake of the Liberal party, who had shown such unflinching allegiance to the right hon. Gentleman, that some definite guarantee would be given that the measure would not only effect the pacification of Ireland, but would also remove that opprobrium which the right hon. Gentleman said still existed upon the character of this country with respect to its government of Ireland.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he was not going to follow the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) through the wide region of space over which his fancy had travelled. He thought it more respectful to the House to address himself at once to the measure before it. He congratulated the House upon a great deal of time and discussion having been saved by the issue having been narrowed down to the point at which they had now arrived. They were not now debating the question whether it was desirable, or oven necessary, to bring in a Bill affecting the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland. That question had virtually been 1422 decided by the action of both sides of the House. Both sides had introduced such a measure on more than one occasion, and both had equally failed in effecting a solution of the difficulty. Had it been otherwise he, for one, might be tempted to take exception to the violation of the doctrines of political economy involved in all such Bills. He was quite aware that the object, a very laudable one, indeed, with which this Bill had been brought in was, if they could, to make bad landlords in Ireland, do that which the good landlords did already. But as it was declared by a high authority, and frequently repeated on the other side of the House, to be impossible to make men religious by Act of Parliament, so it appeared to him that, paraphrasing that truism, they could not create a good landlord by any legislative enactment. He was afraid there would be bad landlords and dishonest tenants to the end of the world, however stringent their legislation might be. Having said so much, he would proceed to discuss the special measure now presented for their acceptance. That measure was two-fold in its object and in the machinery by which that object was to be achieved. The double object proposed was, in the first place, security of tenure for the occupiers of land; and, secondly, the facilitating of the purchase of their holdings by such occupiers. The machinery consisted first of a series of new courts, to be instituted for the purpose of deciding questions that might arise affecting the laud; and, secondly, of a Government loan to enable the tenants to purchase their own holdings. Taking these points in detail, he would shortly state his objections to the measure as it stood. First, with regard to what had been well called the back-bone of the Bill—the Compensation Clause. No one would deny that it was most desirable that a tenant leaving his occupation—especially if he were disturbed by the act of another—should be reimbursed and recouped for the unexhausted improvements he had placed on the soil. He felt, however, that these clauses, as they now stood, might work grievous wrong or injury to one or the other class, if not to both classes, that would be affected by them. In the first place, prospective compensation might be a very fair mode of dealing with those who were fully warned of what they had to 1423 expect; but retrospective compensation might mean a very different thing, and under it claims might arise, and might be admitted, which could not be called either fair or just, especially when there were no means of checking those claims by proper written documents. He feared, too, that the penalty attached in the Bill to a disturbance of those relations in any shape would be so heavy as to make it impossible to carry out the consolidation even of the smallest holdings, where consolidation was most necessary. He was told that consolidation was the very last thing to be attempted in Ireland. It appeared, however, that out of 682,000 agricultural holdings there were 512,000 under the value of £15 per annum. With those facts before them he thought that in the consolidation of those small holdings rested the best chance for the regeneration of Ireland. He would not accelerate that process unnecessarily, nor would he delay it by legislation; but he would leave it to the gradual operation of natural causes, and do nothing that would interfere with, or disturb the operation of, those causes. There was a hard and fast line drawn in the Bill in all that affected the rights of the landlords; but when it came to deal with the case of the tenants, there was no clear process or definite rule laid down by which they were to be guided. The whole thing was left to the arbitrament of certain courts, and in consequence it would be utterly impossible for the tenant to know what his own or his landlord's real rights were; and they might be quite certain that the tenant would put in the strongest light all that belonged to himself, and take little account of the rights which that House would wish to secure for the landlord. There was also a special difficulty with regard to estates acquired under the Encumbered Estates Court Act. To make those who had purchased under that court pay over again for improvements they paid for at the time when the purchase occurred was a direct fraud upon those purchasers. They should bear in mind that the Encumbered Estates Court was not originally created, as the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister had intimated, for the benefit and behoof of the landlords; and he was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman state that the object was to disburden landlords of 1424 certain rights which were no longer privileges, but which had become a burden to them, and that the purchase-money of the lands and the improvements found their way directly into the pockets of the landlords.
§ MR. BRODRICK
begged the right hon. Gentleman's pardon if he had in any way misrepresented him. He took his words down at the time, and they were as follows:—His object was to introduce capital into Ireland—[Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear !]—and relieve the impoverished proprietors of that country from that which was to them not a privilege but a burden.And he went on to say—A price was paid to the outgoing landlords, who ought not to have been entitled to any property in them.The Encumbered Estates Court Act was passed under the idea that capital would be introduced into the country; but certainly not under the idea that landlords would be benefited thereby. The actual result was that, in many instances, property was forced into the market when the market was glutted. Within his own knowledge land was sold for almost a song—in some cases, for only ten or twelve years' purchase; and, in one instance, land was sold four or five years afterwards at an enormous premium by those who had speculated in the court. The money did not go to the landlords, but to their encumbrancers, and, in many cases, the portions of younger children and widows were sacrificed by the Act. He could speak with some authority on the point. When the Act first passed a property he was intimately acquainted with was for sale under the provisions of a Private Act, and so great a glut of land was then in the market that, acting under the advice of experienced conveyancers and land agents, the property was withdrawn for three years to prevent its being sold at a ruinous sacrifice. Therefore, it was not fair to represent the landlords as being the recipients of money under the Encumbered Estates Court. A great injustice, he admitted, was also done to the tenants, but not by the landlords, but by Parliament not foreseeing the consequences of the Act. He was of opinion that the provision in the Bill for 1425 facilitating the acquisition of land by small occupiers was not likely to be very operative, and that as far as it would' operate its operation would not be beneficial. He was fortified by Judge Longfield's authority when he said that I the Irish peasant was peculiarly unfit to: become a small proprietor. He was aware that the system of petite culture had succeeded in other countries, but only where the three following conditions had been present, first—habits of thrift in the peasantry; secondly, an equable climate under which agricultural operations might be carried on; and thirdly, a slow ratio of increase in the population; and he would appeal to lion. Gentlemen who were better acquainted with Ireland than he was whether those conditions existed in the present case. That the Irish peasant was saving and industrious he granted; but he had not the foresight which so distinguished the Scotch peasant. The climate in which he lived rendered the conduct of agricultural operations most difficult. And with regard to his natural rate of increase he might be described as prolific. Nor was the position of small freeholders in that country such as to make it desirable artificially to increase them. There were very few of those small freeholders in that part of Ireland with which lie was best acquainted, and where they, did exist they were not the most flourishing or the most respectable of the community. In Leitrim and Cavan, particularly the latter, there were a considerable number of small freeholders, some of whom could trace their title as far back as the time of Oliver Cromwell. The plots, which varied from twelve to thirty and even forty acres each, were in pretty much the same state as when they were granted originally by him to individual soldiers, and these holdings were still known by the name of "Cromwell's debentures;" but with hardly a single exception they no longer remained the property of the same families. They had been mortgaged over and over again, and where they had remained in the same family the holders had been reduced to the lowest point in the social scale, and there were instances where the owners had mortgaged them and come over to England with the rest of the peasantry and earned harvest wages. The system of small freeholds had not succeeded in Ireland, and it was 1426 a very serious consideration whether they would be doing a service by perpetuating what had been already tried and had failed. He doubted whether it would suit the Irish peasantry to borrow money to invest in that way. Taking the land at twenty years' purchase he would only be able to get 4½ per cent for his outlay, whereas if he rented a farm with security of tenure he would be certain to make 10 per cent. He would now advert to the machinery by which the objects of the Bill were to be achieved. He found that certain tribunals were to be established to which all causes were to be referred which affected the relations between landlord and tenant, and he must say, at the outset, that it was an improper thing to submit to such tribunals the value of land both with regard to its price and rent; because he did not see how they could be dealt with other than by what the President of the Poor Law Board called the "higgling of the market," I which was the only true test of the value of that species of commodity. He still more objected to the method by which it was proposed to ascertain it. Persons who meant to do what was right between each other could settle their disputes by private arbitration; but if not, he was hopeless of anything being satisfactorily, arranged by a public arbitration. They would then have to carry the case into the Civil Bills Court, a most unfit tribunal, to deal with such matters. There would be a great deal of hard swearing on both sides, and in the end they would be as far from the truth as they were at the beginning; and should the Court eventually decide in favour of the landlord he (Mr. Brodrick) would undertake to say there would be the greatest possible dissatisfaction. If they really desired to deal; with the question judicially, it would be far better and cheaper to reduce the expense of procedure in the Landed Estates Court, and to deal with the matter on definite and precise principles, so that the landlords might distinctly know what their rights were and the tenants might know what they had to expect. If this course were adopted the Court would proceed to adjudicate on principles clearly laid down beforehand, and the whole question might be settled by a tribunal whose impartiality would be above suspicion, and it would not be necessary to I allow any appeal from their decision. 1427 He then came to the fourth point—the manner in which it was intended to enable the tenant to purchase his own holding. Looking at the matter simply as an individual interested in Ireland, he could have no possible objection to the mode in which it was proposed to deal with that branch of the question; but when he remembered that he represented a constituency of 11,000 Englishmen, he must say that the proposition to advance 75 per cent of the purchase-money to men who would frequently be but one slop removed from the position of paupers, showed little consideration for the English taxpayer, and was a very serious risk of the public money. It should be borne in mind that the money actually paid down would frequently have been borrowed at usurer's interest; that a man occupying a holding of £100 a year at twenty years' purchase, representing in all £2,000, who paid down £500, borrowed probably at not less than 6 per cent, who had in addition to pay 6½ per cent on purchase money for twenty-two years, would be in a far more disastrous pecuniary state than before he entered upon the transaction; and that, over the whole of Ireland, the Government machinery would be worked to collect for twenty-two years to come these heavy imposts upon individual landowners. How had this machinery worked, as it already existed in part? It happened, fortunately, as some people would think, that the Crown possessed at present very little properly in Ireland; but he would mention a case which would illustrate the, state of things that might be expected. Some years ago there wore certain Crownlands in the parish of Kelglass, in the county of Roscommon, extending over about 300 Irish acres. For years previous to the institution of the Encumbered Estates Court the holders had paid no rent at all to the Government. A very active Minister of Woods and Forests coming into Office, and thinking it desirable to demand from the holders the rent they had so long forgotten to pay, was met by them with the plea that the Statute of Limitations applied—that the rent having been left unpaid for so long a period it could not be had now. And more than that they got an Irish jury to agree with them, and a verdict was found in their favour, which decision was, of 1428 course, immediately set aside on appeal to a superior court. But they drew a second string in their bow; they held that the rent was payable to the King, and that consequently none was payable until the Prince of Wales came to the Throne. Driven from that point also they pleaded that her present Majesty had not administered to the will of her uncle, the late William IV., and that therefore there was no legal hand to receive the money. The result was the Government was obliged to send two troops of dragoons and a posse of the constabulary, who massed themselves on the lands of these people, dispossessing them of their holdings; and afterwards, through the kindness of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, they wore finally deported at the Government expense to America. The lands were then sold to a private individual, and the rents had ever since been paid. Was it in the face of such instances as these that the Government was about to become the landlord of numberless holdings, small and large, throughout Ireland; for, if so, those whoso duty it was to collect the Crown rents would have no easy task of it? There was an important point which the House should consider in relation to the duties now performed by the landlords, but hereafter to be performed by the Government if the measure of the right hon. Gentleman became law. In Ireland, hard and trying seasons had to be endured which imperatively required some allowance to be made by the landlords in regard to the payment of rent, especially among the smaller class of tenants. At present landlords worthy of the name did not press at such seasons for rent in arrear. Now, he would ask, would there be any elasticity of this nature provided by the Government? He was at a loss to see how the Government could relax the inflexible rule under which the tenant was bound to pay so much a year in payment of the sum borrowed? How could it fairly to the British taxpayer forego its rights in seasons of distress, when the crops failed and were lost? The next point was one that had great weight when we were attempting to deal with Irish affairs. Might it not happen that when a tenant was particularly anxious to purchase his holding he might take very unpleasant means to intimate that desire to his landlord and to reduce the value of the coveted property? 1429 Such things were, unfortunately, not only possible but extremely probable in many districts of Ireland. And here he would say that he deeply regretted that the Government did not see their way at the end of last Session to state the general principles of the Bill which they had this Session brought in. No one would have asked for the details, but he certainty thought the House of Commons was entitled to ask what they intended to do, and what they would not do; and he was prepared to say some such statement as that would have spared much alarm and much anxiety; that not only would person and property have been more secure than it had been during several months past, but doubtless some of those who were now lying dead in their bloody shrouds would have been living and moving amongst them. He did not wish to attach the stigma of having directly caused these troubles by intentionally rousing the evil feelings of certain Irishmen to the Government, because there was not a single Member of it who would not have deprecated anything like the lamentable events which had occurred in Ireland of late had it been in his power to foresee them; but he thought he was entitled to complain that nothing had been done to disabuse the minds of the people of Ireland in regard to anticipations which could never be fulfilled, and which they formed in a great measure from the utterances of more than one right hon. Gentleman who now sat on the Treasury Bench. Having said thus much, he might proceed to declare that, in his opinion, the measure in itself was fairly conceived and was not unfair in its principles. He was much afraid, however, of its details, which might, it was true, be amended in Committee. Everything, however, would depend upon the spirit in which the Bill was approached in Committee, and he regretted that the spirit already manifested was not precisely that which he should wish to see prevail in the consideration of a question of this character. He trusted that at any rate they were not to take the utterances of the hon. Gentleman the junior Member for the county of Cork (Mr. M'Carthy Downing) as an expression of the feelings of Gentlemen below the Gangway. It was only within the past week that he had seen an epistle from that hon. Member to his constituency, in which he stated that "what was intended as a noble offering to the 1430 Irish people had been frightfully and unscrupulously disfigured; that he placed his experience and his limited intellect"—he used the words of the hon. Member himself—"at the disposal of the people," with the object—of what?—only with the object "of giving them a hold upon their native soil as near to fixity of tenure as legislation could give them, under the designation of security of tenure." And this was said in the face of the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of his party, distinctly disclaiming the intention on the part of the Government of giving anything like fixity or perpetuity of tenure to the Irish tenant. The right hon. Gentleman showed, in convincing language, how contrary any such action would be to the principles of political economy; but the hon. Member for Cork was about to strive by a sort of side-wind, as he openly informed his constituents, to effect that which the Leader of his party distinctly declined to countenance. If that was the spirit in which legislation upon this subject was to be approached in Committee, he was hopeless of its having any beneficial result. They had been invited to consider this question irrespective of party—they had been adjured, in eloquent and emphatic language, to consider the responsibility which attached to them as a body and as individuals in the decision which they were about to give. He fully responded to that appeal, and he admitted that responsibility as far as he was personally concerned. As he had told his constituents long since, in any vote that he might give upon the present or any future stage of the Bill he should be guided by one object alone—namely, that of doing justice to his own conscience in endeavouring to do justice to the people of Ireland. Less than justice he hoped he hon. Member in that House would wish to be done to the Irish people; more than justice he trusted that none would concede to any threats or any intimidation. Let them, approach this question in a manner worthy of the great interests involved; let them, if possible, forget for a moment the ties of party, and, above all, let them put aside—which was far more difficult, the promptings of self-interest. The House, he trusted, would rise to the occasion, bearing in mind that the future of a great country was in their hands, 1431 and that upon their deliberations depended not only their own fortunes but those of their children, and children's children. Let them legislate in a worthy spirit, having but one object in view—to see Ireland an united, and, because united, a prosperous country; and thus they would discharge the duty for which they had been returned by their constituents, that of promoting to the utmost the safety, honour, and welfare of the Sovereign and all her dominions.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
Sir, I rejoice that the time has come when this Bill is to be thoroughly discussed in the House of Commons; because it appears to me, from the experience of the past fortnight, that no Bill ever needed complete Parliamentary discussion more than this. And I say that, because it is evident, from all that has passed in the country most vitally interested in the measure, from everything that I have been able to discover and study—speeches, letters, and leading articles—it is evident to me, I say, that a very great amount of misconception and ignorance still prevails in Ireland with respect to the practical effect and operation of the Bill. We are told, indeed—and we were told especially to-night by my hon. Friend the Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell)—that it is a Bill scarcely intelligible from its complications, and a great deal more to that effect. But I am ready to contend—and I will challenge anybody to disprove my assertion—that, as compared with every former attempt at legislation on this subject, this Bill is by far the simplest of any that have aimed at a settlement of the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland. I admit it appears to contain complications; but I defy anyone to produce a carefully considered measure upon this subject, framed by a Government which means to carry it, and is desirous to consult all the various interests involved, which shall not appear to be complicated, so many are the rights and contingencies which have to be considered. But if you judge it, in comparison with others which have preceded it, by its machinery, by the means which make it effectual to attain its objects, and, above all, to protect that least protected interest—the tenants of Ireland—I maintain it is by far the simplest and easiest system which they ever had the hope of obtain- 1432 ing from the Legislature. I will not say much in answer to what has been said from the other side of the House, because I am happy to say that much which has been urged is subject-matter rather for a Committee than for the Motion before the House. I rejoice that that is so, and I think it highly creditable to those who sit on the other side of the House. But there was an objection made by one very competent to make it—I mean the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Frederick W. Heygate)—which I think ought to be noticed now, because it is not a matter of detail, but of principle and equity. He raised the question whether we, sitting in this House, are entitled to deal in this Bill with those who have purchased land within the last few years under the Encumbered Estates and Landed Estates Courts, and he maintained if I understood him rightly, that we had no right to do so; that, in fact, it was a breach of the pledged faith of Parliament to impose any now conditions upon the relations between those landlords and the tenants on their estates. That is a matter upon which the House is bound to form an opinion, and to give an answer to my hon. Friend. My answer is this—First of all, I maintain that the conditions which we are about to establish by this Bill, so for from doing any injury to those gentlemen who have purchased under the Landed Estates Court, will be to them an absolute benefit. I am very much inclined to take the relations of landlord and tenant in Ulster as an example in these matters, as I hope my hon. Friend opposite is; and we all know that the relations between landlord and tenant under the Ulster custom, so far from being disadvantageous to the landlord, are positively beneficial to him; while they are, at the same time, a great benefit to the tenant—I mean, of course, in comparison with the unprotected position of those tenants who are not shielded by any such custom. If we apply to the landlords of the rest of Ireland, including those who have recently purchased under a Parliamentary title, any system of legislation analogous to—I do not say identical with—the Ulster custom, we shall do them no injury. On the contrary, we shall not only improve the relations between them and their tenants, but we shall actually improve the value of their pro- 1433 perty. But, secondly, I say that Parliament is not to be shut out from, legislation on a great and vital question of this kind by the fact that certain purchasers have obtained for certain purposes a Parliamentary title, and in this an supported by perhaps the highest authority which it is possible to quote in this House upon such a subject. I have before me the opinion of a man who, upon this subject, can be considered as second to none—I mean the late Judge of the Landed Estates Court. Judge Longfield says—It is sometimes supposed that a change in the law would be unjust to purchasers under the Landed Estates Court. I see no grounds for that opinion. The Act of Parliament which constituted the Court did not give a guarantee against future legislation. To do that is beyond the power of Parliament. What the conveyance of the Judges gives is the perfect right to the land, subject only to the adverse rights mentioned in the deed, and to such obligations as may afterwards be imposed cither by the purchaser or by the authority of Parliament. It could hardly be contended that the purchaser with a Parliamentary title should be exempt from all Acts passed for the relief of the poor, or that the area of Poor Law taxation should not be altered"—(which is very likely to be the case before long),—"and yet such changes might have the effect of giving his poorer tenants a substantial interest in his estate. What the purchaser has a right to insist on is, that no law shall be specially directed against him"—(of course, we propose nothing of the kind),—"and that no rights shall be set up which were in existence at the time of his purchase, but were omitted from the deed of conveyance; but, in common with all the subjects of the realm, he must take, subject to all regulations that may be made by lawful authority, whether they increase or diminish the value of his property. The purchaser, by the fact 01 his purchase, places himself in a new relation to a certain number of persons, which imposes on him some very important duties; and it is for the State to determine whether those duties shall be enforced by law or trusted to his own conscience for their fulfilment.More weighty words than those on such a point it is impossible to have. And now, Sir, before I go further into the merits of the Bill, I should like to say a few words upon the history and progress of this question of land legislation for Ireland—and a very instructive history the House will find it. The House will see that in the course of many years we have learnt a great deal upon this subject. We, upon this Bench, have learnt more now than oven the foremost advocates of the tenants had discovered a few years ago. We have learnt that many difficulties which seemed insuperable were imaginary, that many bugbears 1434 were not worth looking at, that a vast amount of machinery which some thought necessary to work a system, of this kind was not required, and that the nearer we arrived to simplicity and reality in this matter, and the closer we kept to the facts and usages of Irish life, the more likely we should be to succeed. It may be said that there are three stages in the history of this question. The first stage is from 1835 to 1852. In 1835 Mr. Sharman Crawford—a name that ought never to be mentioned in this House in connection with this subject without honour—first introduced the subject into the House; and, for the most part in his hands, the question was carried on until the end of 1852. At that time the subject was treated in a most tentative manner even by Mr. Sharman Crawford himself, and with the idea I have referred to of the necessity of elaborate machinery and safeguards. For instance, in the earlier Bills introduced by Mr. Sharman Crawford and his coadjutors nothing was dealt with except the question of improvements. There was at first no legalizing of the Ulster custom even by Mr. Sharmnn Crawford. Indeed, down to the year 1848 there was no idea of compensation for loss of occupation or dispossession. In the Government Bills of that period which were brought in by the then Lord Stanley (the late Earl of Derby), and the then Lord Lincoln (the Duke of Newcastle), the same or greater timidity was exhibited; but, at the same time, the raised very important questions and sanctioned very important principles. Lord Derby and the Duke of Newcastle sanctioned the principle that improvements executed by tenants ought to be compensated for at their value on the dispossession of the tenant without the consent of the landlord; and during the same period Sir William Somerville, occupying the position I now hold, introduced a Bill which sanctioned, though in a very tentative form, the principle of retrospective compensation. After that came a very important epoch in the history of the subject at the end of the year 1852. At that time a Bill was introduced by Mr. Serjeant Shee which is generally known as the Bill of the Tenant League, and which represented the opinions of the most advanced of the Irish Members of that period. At the same 1435 time, a most important official measure was brought forward from this Bench. It proceeded from the party now in Opposition, and was the well-known Bill of Sir Joseph Napier. That Bill, after being amended and liberalized by a Committee of this House, was eventually carried through the House of Commons by the Government of Lord Aberdeen, under the name of the Tenants' Compensation Bill of 1853. Now, it is interesting to remember the main provisions of those Bills. The Tenants' Compensation Bill of 1853 committed Parliament, or rather the House of Commons, to those important principles which. I hope, are now bearing fruit—namely, that the tenant was to be compensated for all improvements according to their value to the holding without the previous consent of the landlord; and that there should be retrospective compensation. With regard to the Tenant League Bill, it is even more interesting to recall its provisions. That Bill bore in many respects a likeness to the measure now under the consideration of the House, and it was far nearer to the wants and wishes of the Irish people than any previous attempt at legislation. It was founded on more enlarged knowledge of the circumstances of the case, and it was far simpler and, if I may so say, far more natural than previous Bills. As I say, it resembled the present measure in several respects. Like the present Bill, it enacted no direct bar to the landlord's power of evicting his tenants—that is to say, of taking his land into his own possession again; nor did it directly debar him from exercising the power of raising the rent; but it aimed at giving to the tenant, as we now do, that security and that protection which would prevent the exercise of these powers from being dangerous or unfair. Then, again, security and protection wore given to the tenant by enabling him to sell his interest in the land, if it lay in Ulster, or, if the land were in any other part of the country, by granting him compensation for his improvements, and by giving him an additional sum of money, on account of the loss suffered by him by reason of his dispossession, according to the principles laid down in the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act which had recently been passed. The two main characteristics of the Bill were these—It recognized, as we do, a custom wher- 1436 ever it found one; and when it found no custom which could be enforced by law it gave protection to the tenant against arbitrary eviction by granting him compensation for any loss he might have sustained. It fell far short, however, of the present Bill in a most essential respect, for it gave no compensation whatever for the tenant's loss of occupancy, except where the tenant had added by improvements to the value of the property. I have no idea of undervaluing that Bill, because I think that, although it would have required to be drawn up more carefully if it had been in the hands of the Government, yet it was a Bill founded on the wants and circumstances of the Irish people, and there was a vast amount of good in the principles it contained. It had, however, a remarkable characteristic—a characteristic which, at all events, appears remarkable to us who have lived to the present day—that although it was the expression of the extreme representatives and of the extreme desires of the Irish people and of the Irish Tenant League, it positively gave no compensation whatever for dispossession or the loss of occupation, except when industrial value had been created by the tenant. I must add, that the framers of the Bill found it necessary, as a matter of machinery and arrangement, to draw a statutory distinction, as we now do, between the parts of Ireland in which a custom prevails and the rest of the country. The Ulster custom was dealt with, and I think as a matter of necessity, in one way. The remainder of Ireland was dealt with in another way. I will pass lightly over the period which followed. No doubt the Bill of the Irish Tenant League was carried on with energetic though ineffectual zeal by my hon. Friend opposite the Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire); but the time was not favourable for legislation of this kind. The attention of Government and of Parliament was not specially fixed, as it is now, upon the condition of Ireland, and, consequently, this great and vital subject was unhappily postponed. There were, indeed, two or three efforts made during that period to solve this question. Two or three Bills were introduced which may be styled "Bills of the period," being character- 1437 istic of a time when it was felt that very little could be done. For instance, there was the Bill of my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for War, which contained very valuable principles, but which was so wrapped up in swaddling-clothes that it could not walk. Then there was a Bill—and I am bound to mention it because it was one of the greatest interest—which never reached this House, but which, I believe, is known to the public, having been described in a blue book which is now upon the table of the House. It has been called "the Bill of the Irish Members." It is interesting to recall what that Bill was, considering that only four years have elapsed since it was devised by the most advanced Members of the Irish Liberal party. That Bill divided the Irish tenant-farmers into two classes; one class consisting of those who held, or might thereafter hold, leases of thirty-one years or upwards. In their case it made no provision whatever, but they were left entirely free to contract as they pleased with their landlords. With respect, however, to tenants holding leases for a less term than thirty-one years, it implied an agreement respecting improvements, and respecting improvements only. That was, no doubt, a limited ground; but, at all events, the Bill would have worked thoroughly and completely as far as it went, and have given to the tenant all it promised to give, without I any elaborate machinery. Guided in a; great degree by those views of the Irish Members on this side of the House, I myself had the honour of introducing a Bill on the part of the Government of Earl Russell. The Fates did not allow it to pass; but I have at least the consolation of believing that, as far as it went, it was the simplest and most efficacious Bill which had up to that time been submitted to the notice of Parliament. It is true that it did not cover the whole ground; but whatever it professed it would have effected. It was a real advance in the question, and I am glad to remember that it received the approval of many hon. Friends of mine who are now present, and of one Friend of mine who. I regret to say, is not now present—the late Mr. Dillon—who I am convinced would, if he were here now, bring Ms information, his intellect, and his patriotism to the support, in the main, of the measure before the House.
1438 And now, Sir, I come to the Bill before us. The first clause of it is that which deals with the Ulster custom. Many criticisms have been made upon that clause, and there can be no doubt that it professes to do a great deal in a very few words. Some may say it is short and meagre; but the form in which it is presented to the House in one which has been adopted, after very careful consideration, by the Government. There are two modes in which it is possible to deal with the Ulster custom. You may undertake to define it in all its incidents and conditions—you may undertake to tell the parties concerned to do this and that; but if you take that course, you must enter into a vast variety of details in accordance with the various forms in which the custom exists in various parts of the Province. Another mode of dealing with it—the mode which we have deliberately preferred—is that which is contained in the Bill, which attempts not to define by law the various incidents and conditions of the custom, but which directs the Court to be constituted under the Bill to enforce it in every case in the form in which it may find it existing. That I believe to be the course which will prove to be most beneficial to the people of Ulster, and which is most in accordance with justice. We say that the Court shall ascertain in every instance what the custom is, and then enforce it—that is to say, the Court will find out—as it will be able to do easily, because the facts in Ulster are notorious—what was the fair understanding, according to the particular custom, between the landlord and tenant, and what were the fair expectations with which both parties made their bargain, and then enforce the custom. Now this mode of proceeding may. I admit, impose some trouble on the Judges; but that is an inconvenience which would be soon got over, for the intervention of the Court, not only in Ulster but in I other parts of Ireland, will, I hope and believe, be a rare matter, coming into play in the mere minority of cases. The existence of a Court capable of dealing with authority with all these cases will always be a power in the background, which will have a constant and potent effect upon all the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, but its actual intervention will, I hope, be comparatively rare, and if any diffi- 1439 cult problem arises it will be decided on appeal by a very high and authoritative tribunal provided by the Bill, and a few decisions will, I have no doubt, settle a vast number of cases. Sir, I see by the Amendments which have been placed on the Notice Paper that some hon. Members representing Ulster are not satisfied with the definition of the Ulster custom which is contained in the 1st clause. That is a matter of phraseology, and any questionable words are, of course, perfectly open to consideration. But the meaning of the words in the Bill is, I think, clear enough—namely, that that custom shall be held to include not only the payment made by the landlord to the tenant, but the tenant's right of disposal of his interest to Ms successor. The words of the clause are—The usage prevalent in the Province of Ulster, with reference to the compensation to be made or allowed to or on account of an outgoing tenant of a holding.Of course, if a landlord gives his permission to a tenant to assign his interest in his farm to an incoming tenant, no dispute would arise between them; it is only when that permission is refused that the provisions of the Bill come into operation. At all events, the intention of the Government is that the Ulster custom as it stands shall be legalized and enforced by law. As to the Bill as it affects the rest of Ireland apart from Ulster, we are told that it deals unequally and unfairly with different portions of the country. Now, that is an allegation which I am sorry to have heard made, and the justice of which I entirely deny. Above all, I regret that my hon. and gallant Friend who so ably seconded the Amendment (Captain White;) should have introduced into this discussion the religious question. Anything more unwarranted than the introduction of such a topic I must, with all respect for my hon. and gallant Friend, say I have seldom known. The people of Ulster are not all Protestants: on the contrary, a majority of them all, and a decided majority of the tenants, are Roman Catholics. Moreover, all we do in respect to Ulster is to accept facts as they are: and that we think ourselves bound to do. We find existing there relations between landlord and tenant happier than exist throughout Ireland generally, and we recognize those relations. But then 1440 we are asked—"Why not extend this Ulster custom to the rest of Ireland?" Now, Sir, that is a question which provokes a good many questions in return. I do not deny that it is one open to discussion; but it is full of difficulties and questionable points, two or three of which I should like to lay before the House. Can we, let me ask first of all, create or extend a custom? I do not think we can. We can legalize a custom—we can enforce it—we can forbid it—but we cannot create it. Another thing, however, we can do—we can imitate it, and that is, I contend, what we have done, as far as was possible, in the ease of the Ulster custom. I believe the strength and merits of this Bill lie mainly in the fact that it is not an artificial measure drawn by ingenious politicians or draftsmen, but that it is based on the best usages of the best Irish estates, of which usages Ulster presents us with the most perfect specimens. In other parts of Ireland we found usages not so fixed and definite, but analogous to the Ulster custom; and, above all, we found here and there throughout Ireland a practice prevailing on the best regulated estates, in accordance with which the landlord admits himself to be under a moral obligation not to change his tenant without strong reason, and when he does change him to compensate him for any value which he may have added to his farm, and for the loss he may suffer by his dispossession and the breaking up of his continuous occupation. We have kept these facts in view in framing this Bill, and in the case of the rest of Ireland, as apart from Ulster, we provide that the Court shall legalize any similar custom it may find in existence. Beyond these customs we have come to the conclusion that the wholesome practices which prevail to some extent are not capable of being embodied absolutely and literally in an Act of Parliament. We also are of opinion that the Ulster custom is not capable of being slavishly copied without regard to the circumstances of other parts of Ireland. But we have based our measure on this analogy, and shaped it into an enactment in a form as near to the original as we think can wisely and successfully be accomplished. Still I am asked—Why not simply extend the Ulster custom? Let me point out two or three difficulties in the way of that 1441 course. First of all, in Ulster landlords and tenants are perfectly aware of the custom under which they hold and have virtually contracted. In the next place, they have arranged their rent in accordance with the custom; a most important consideration, because there is no more dangerous and gross—I was going to say no more insidious—violation of the custom than to raise the rent to such a point as seriously to impair the value of the tenant-right. That is a breach of faith which I am happy to believe, when this Bill passes, can seldom occur again, because the landlord will have to find a tenant to pay, or pay himself, a tenant-right value, calculated at the former rent, or at such a rent as would not violate the custom; but it is a matter of vital importance when considering the Ulster system. In the next place, the Ulster tenants who possess those claims have actually paid sums of money for the enjoyment of their holdings upon entering into possession. What I wish to suggest for consideration is, whether it is possible, by the mere words of a statute and by the fiat of Parliament, to create such a custom as this? For instance, you can give a tenant, who has paid a large sum of money upon entering his holding, a similar claim upon leaving it; and we do this, wherever the case arises, all over Ireland. But can you give a tenant who has paid nothing upon entering his holding the same claim as you give to a tenant who has paid a large sum of money? Again, are hon. Members certain that it would be a boon to tenants in other parts of Ireland to tell them that they shall have what they can get for the saleable value of their holdings, and nothing more? That they shall have no compensation for improvements, and no compensation for dispossession, but merely whatever they can get from some other tenant for the saleable value of their holding—always remembering that, in the case of a small Irish tenant, the man in occupation will consent to pay a higher rent than any new comer would do? Would that be a boon to small tenants in the South and West of Ireland? I greatly doubt it. In the rest of Ireland, beyond what may be called the customary districts, rents are sometimes very high in proportion to the capabilities of the tenant to pay, and sometimes they are very low. Are we to confer upon the tenant who 1442 lives under a good landlord, at an easy rent, the high value which he might obtain from the sale of his interest, and, at the same time, when a tenant farms at a rack-rent, and probably upon very bad land, in a large part of the South and West of Ireland, are we to give him nothing but the sale of the interest which he may have in the holding of that land, the value of which interest may be little or nothing? I cannot see my way to such a system as being a solution of the problem in the other Provinces of Ireland. The difficulty is this—In Ulster we have a system which is for the most part sound; not that even in Ulster there are not many inequalities; and we have recently been furnished with evidence that there are in the Bill provisions which are in favour of other parts of Ireland, for resolutions have been recently passed in the Northern Province declaring that Ulster is badly treated in comparison—but, at all events, in Ulster we have a system which, as I have said, is for the most part sound and fair, and which admits of being sanctioned and legalized; but elsewhere, in other parts of Ireland, if we attempt to introduce by the process of statute a mere literal and slavish copy of the Ulster custom the result would be one of the most doubtful character. We should give too much to one man, too little to another. We should press too hardly upon the good landlord, and far too lightly on the bad. We should introduce by statute a system, not based upon the value of the tenant's improvements, not based upon the payment which he may have made to a former tenant—of course, a most just and equitable claim—not based upon any virtual contract between landlord and tenant, and also not founded upon the deliberate sense and opinion of Parliament as to what should be the future legislation between the two parties, but simply based capriciously and unequally upon the state of circumstances which we found existing at the time when the Act was passed. I do not know whether I make myself understood by the House; but, having looked closely into this matter, I feel strongly that there are great doubts whether what is called vaguely the extension of the Ulster custom to the rest of Ireland would be fair either to landlords or tenants in that part of the country. The matter is worthy of dis- 1443 cussion; but it is my duty to present to the House the difficulties which the Government have felt in framing this measure. These being our difficulties, we have not attempted to import into the rest of Ireland a literal and slavish copy of the Ulster tenant-right custom. But we have not disregarded that custom. On the contrary, we have had special regard to the best usages prevailing upon the best estates in Ulster as well as elsewhere. We have taken the elements of the Ulster custom and translated them, so to speak, into a statutory form for the rest of the country. Whether that form is the best that can be devised is matter for discussion, though not at this stage of the Bill; but my duty is to tell the House what the object of the Government has been in proposing it. The principle I now speak of is that of taking the three elements of the Ulster custom and of similar customs elsewhere—payment by the predecessor, improvements by the tenant himself, and compensation for dispossession—and keeping these carefully in view in framing the main clauses of the Bill. Those are Clause 3 and several which follow, Clause 3 has boon talked of lately as if there was nothing else in the Bill; but that is a statement to which I demur, for there are several other clauses of the greatest possible importance to the Irish tenant. As to Clause 3, our object in framing it was that which I described just now. Sir, of course, the Government might conceivably have made up its mind to deprive the Irish landlord of all power of dealing with his own land. It might have decided that he should never resume possession; it might have decided that he should never raise the rent. These propositions the Government advisedly rejected. But they have endeavoured sincerely, in this and other clauses of the Bill, to do that which has been attempted formerly, though think less effectually and loss boldly, by the foremost advocates of the Irish tenant—namely, to impose upon the Irish landlord such restrictions as shall virtually and substantially produce the result desired by the reasonable friends of the tenant, and shall, for practical purposes, and in the main, put an end to the practice of unjust and arbitrary evictions. At all events—and this is a matter not to be forgotten—when the landlord does vise that power, rightly 1444 or wrongly, the Bill will greatly mitigate the hardship of the operation, because it will be scarcely possible that any Irish tenant shall leave his holding a beggar or without the means of starting afresh in the world. Sir, it is often said that what we are doing is to put the tenants of the bad landlord, to use the common phrase, upon the same footing as the tenants of the good landlord. That is true as far as it goes, but it is much less than the truth, because the tenants of the good landlord, however favourably situated, are after all in a most precarious position. They depend upon the present disposition and upon the life of the landlord, and are liable, by change of circumstances, by death, by purchase and consequent change of ownership, to all those evils which we know so well and which have fallen heaviest upon the tenants of recent purchasers in Ireland. We therefore endeavour to put all tenants in Ireland not only in the position of the tenants of a good and considerate landlord, but in a still better, because much safer position. The Bill goes far beyond any previous Bills in effecting this object. Former Bills gave compensation for loss of occupation and injury caused by dispossession only in cases where the tenant had added actual value to the farm. We, on the contrary, direct the Court under Clause 3, oven in the extreme case where the tenant has no improvement whatever to show, to give substantial compensation for the loss of occupation and the dispossession caused by the act of the landlord—an act, let me add, which can only take place after a notice of twelve months. But in addition to payment for the loss of occupation, let me say a word as to the provisions of the Bill with respect to improvements. We have not hoard much, so far, as to that portion of the Bill; but it is one which is worthy the attention of the House and of Members interested in the Irish tenant the question of improvements was once the whole land question, oven in the opinions of men like Sharman Crawford; it is now somewhat out of sight, but it is of essential importance, and will become, I trust, more and more important in every coming year! It has never boon dealt with so simply and broadly as by this Bill. We have entirely got rid of all the old machinery of notices, registrations, previous decisions by the Court, 1445 and so on. In short, we have followed the admirable example of Ulster; and have left the question of whether an improvement shall be compensated for to the natural play of the relations between landlord and tenant, and in extreme eases to the decision of the Court. We have not even attempted to enumerate "improvements" under this Bill. Every-thing, however simple, however humble, that adds value to the holding and is suitable to it, will be esteemed an improvement, and be the subject of compensation. Clause 4 is what may be called the Improvement Clause. It deals with improvements in the liberal sense which I have just described; it enables the tenant at any time when he leaves the farm, whether voluntarily or by dispossession, to claim the value of his improvements. I need hardly remind the House that in this Bill we introduce the clause once called "the O'Connell Clause," having been devised by the acute mind of Mr. O'Connell. By means of this clause the existing presumption of law is reversed, and the improvements effected on a farm are taken to belong to the tenant unless the landlord can show that they belong to him. Some objection has been made to this clause by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlow County (Mr. Kavanagh), who spoke with such ability and fairness this evening. He said it was unjust. Now, I think it quite the contrary. The change which this clause makes is one that has been long demanded. It is surely only just and equitable that the presumption of law should follow the general course of facts; and I need hardly take up the time of the House by showing that in the vast majority of cases the so-called improvements—all those works which make it possible to inhabit and cultivate land—have been the work of the tenant in Ireland. Again, is it not fair to throw the onus of proof on the stronger party, who in this instance is the landlord? These considerations have induced us to adopt fully and frankly the O'Connell clause in this Bill. The Bill creates a property in a tenant's improvements which will not depend on the will of the landlord. The tenant is at liberty to disengage his capital, and to require the landlord to allow him, according to the Ulster custom, to receive compensation for them from the incoming tenant, or else pay it 1446 himself. By Clause 6 the same mode of treatment is applied to another charge, which we may call the tenant-right of payment. We know that in Ulster when a tenant has made a payment for the goodwill, with the assent, either expressed or implied, of his landlord, he is entitled to receive a similar payment when he is leaving the farm. These things are sure to occur under this Bill, to what extent will depend on the landlords themselves. Clause 6 will give the tenant a property in such charges. If in any part of Ireland a tenant shall be in the position of an Ulster tenant—that of having paid a certain sum of money on entering his farm—and if he have improved the farm while in possession of it, he will be able to realize both the payment for goodwill and the value of the improvements, either on eviction or on voluntarily giving up the farm. These two things appear to me to make up the Ulster custom. Therefore, if in any case a state of things similar to the Ulster custom shall grow up under this Bill, it will be recognized; and, on the other hand, if in Ulster a I tenant enter a farm on the same terms as a tenant in any other part of Ireland, lie will be brought under the general provisions applicable to the country generally—that is, he will obtain whatever the Court may award him on account of loss by disturbance, and for improvements. Let me mention one other point in connection with this part of the subject. Those who know anything of land tenure are aware that even the tenant holding from year to year has power to assign his farm. Will not compensations such as those provided by the Bill give the tenant great advantages whore he is making such arrangements? Will they not make the landlord's assent far more probable and his refusal far less easy?
And now a word or two on the subject of leases. A good deal has been said about the system of leasing provided in the Bill. This is a matter which it I may be more convenient to discuss in Committee; but I may observe that, at all events, the leases proposed by the Bill are of a liberal character. There is the twenty-one years' lease for the case of the landlord who puts himself on the same footing as English and Scotch land-lords—that is, the footing of landlords who provide buildings and everything 1447 in the way of works necessary for the due cultivation of the farm. I am surprised to find that in the Tenant League Bill it is proposed that wherever the landlord makes improvements after the practice of English and Scotch landlords he shall be entirely exempted from any claim under the Ulster custom or under the Bill even when he has given no lease. Our Bill deals more liberally towards the tenant where the improvements are made by the landlord. Even under the thirty-one years' lease we give the tenant a claim for permanent improvements. Sir, the next question I will touch upon relates to the tribunals by which the law under this Bill is to be administered. I have heard a great deal said as to the amount of litigation which the courts provided by the Bill will be the means of causing; but I confess I am not able to discover the force of what has been urged on that point. My hon. Friend the Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell) said something about every landlord being obliged in future to "keep an attorney;" but he did not explain how disputes, should they arise, can be settled without the intervention of some court or other. What does the Bill provide? I believe, contrary to my hon. Friend, that his attorney will be very much disgusted at its operation, because anything simpler I cannot conceive. In the first place, the parties, if they wish, have nothing to do but to go to arbitration—a mode of settling these questions which is very familiar in Ireland. I know some hon. Members have thought that under the Bill one of two parties may force the other into arbitration. But that is not the case. Both parties must agree to the arbitration, and then that mode of settlement will be final; but if they do not agree they go to the Chairman of the Civil Bill Court, and I must say that a more obvious and practical mode of settlement I cannot imagine. The County Court is generally presided over by an able man; it is a tribunal impartial, accessible, and cheap. In addition to that, the appeals to the Judges of Assize are, as I am assured, equally convenient and cheap. With respect to the final appeal to what is called in the Bill "the Court for Land Cases Reserved," that is an appeal which can only be had by permission of a Judge of Assize, and it is justified by a consideration which, I 1448 think, the House will recognize at once. The Government believe that occasionally a question of great interest and importance may arise—a case which may govern a variety of circumstances in the future, and which it will therefore be advisable to have decided by the highest court that can be found in Ireland. Under the control and by the permission of the Judges of Assize, it will be possible to bring such cases before the high tribunal of appeal created by the Bill. But with respect to the ordinary mode of deciding these questions between landlord and tenant, either by arbitration or by the action of the Chairman of the County Court, sitting without either a jury or the county magistrates, but with the assistance of a practical valuator acting as assessor, in my opinion it is quite impossible to find a more efficient or a cheaper mode of adjudication. Sir, I will not dwell, on this occasion, upon the second part of the Bill. I will only say that I trust it will enable many a tenant-farmer to put himself in the position of an owner of land. I believe that if it does this it will, to the very great benefit of the country, increase the number of the middle class and of the proprietary class in Ireland, and will swell the ranks of law and order in that country.
In conclusion, let me assure the House that this Bill has been founded by the Government upon the most careful consideration of the facts and wants of Irish life, and after a thorough examination of all former efforts that have been made to solve this great problem. I hope and believe that our efforts have not been unsuccessful to reach, but not to overpass, the line of equity and justice. Speaking for myself, as an Irish landlord, I am perfectly ready to accept those restrictions and charges which we desire to impose upon others. I know very well that this Bill will limit my power as a landlord, and the power of all landlords, but only when that power is unjustly exercised. I know perfectly well that what the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Kavanagh) said to-night is true—that under this Bill the landlord will not be able to do as he wills with his own; but I know equally well that these restrictions will be for his own good as they are for the good of the tenant. There are, indeed, no restrictions in the Bill but such as are imposed upon 1449 themselves by the best and wisest landlords. I hope and trust that Irish landlords will take that view of the méasure before us. On the other hand, I must venture to express my hope that the representatives of the tenants will meet us in the same spirit. I trust that they will take good heed not to miss an opportunity of settling this great and vital question which may never occur again. Speaking with a knowledge of the subject and with a deep sense of responsibility, nothing to my mind can exceed the importance of putting an end to that state of uncertainty and agitation which now mischievously and most dangerously affects the minds of the agrarian portion of the population of Ireland. I trust that their friends and representatives will not mistake their true interests, and will not unwittingly deceive them by asking on their behalf for anything that goes beyond the line of policy, justice, and possibility; but that, on the contrary, by a spirit of fairness and moderation, making up their minds to put an end to this intolerable state of uncertainty, they will enable Parliament to pass the Land Bill of 1870, and thereby to sign and seal with the Irish people a long. I hope a perpetual, lease of prosperity and concord.
§ DR. BALL
Sir, the right lion. Gentleman who has just sat down commenced his observations by inviting a full and free discussion of the measure now before the House. I trust that in so inviting that discussion he did not mean to solicit suggestions or discussion merely from those who, generally supporting the Government, are at present endeavouring to put a pressure upon him and the Government with a view to induce them to enter upon the most dangerous and most fatal views and measures. I trust that he also meant to invite a full and free discussion from those who, although opposed to him in general policy, are willing to give their assistance by any suggestions in their power, or by any Amendments which may occur to them, to render this measure a final and complete settlement of the question. Sir, I am unable to agree with all the objections that are made to this Bill. I am also unable to concur in the high estimate which has been placed on the advantages it will confer upon the people. I believe that both are exaggerated. I believe that the effects of 1450 the Bill in several directions are exaggerated, and that this arises from the legal meaning and the legal result of the provisions of this Bill not being completely understood. A measure of this kind, dealing with the ownership and management of land, is susceptible of considerations of a three-fold character—political, economical, and legal. Taking the first of these news of the subject—namely, "What is the political effect of this Bill?"—I express my opinion that the effect will be extremely small. The Bill does not interfere with the relations of social classes to each other as regards their relative positions. It may impose pecuniary burdens upon one class; but, subject to those pecuniary burdens, the Bill leaves the power and the status of that class exactly as they stood before. I will illustrate what I mean by calling it a Bill not interfering with the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland, or with the power or influence of the territorial aristocracy of that country, by showing what would so interfere—and that is if the Government were to adopt the suggestions that have been pressed upon them by persons who have roused in that country a spirit of agitation and disturbance demanding that tenants should become the absolute owners of the soil and the landlord a mere owner of rent-charge. If their views were carried out, you would introduce a political and social revolution. The landlord must receive an income—that would be the simple relation between him and his tenant. The landlord would never come into contact with his tenant, he would not know anything about him, but would merely receive an annual sum like a fundholder dealing with that body which you cannot perceive—the nation, the Government, or whatever it is that pays the dividends upon the Funds. The landlord, I say, would not come into contact with the tenant; and thus would be severed for ever all the various relations which at present subsist between them, all mutual feelings of respect and esteem—generosity and propriety of conduct on the one side, and gratitude and right feeling on the other. All that would be terminated at once and for ever. The proprietor would be no longer a source of enlightenment to the district in which he resides. His influence for refinement, improvement, the management of property, and the conduct of 1451 affairs in his neighbourhood would cease, if this scheme of creating in the tenant an absolute ownership in the soil, and in the landlord no possession and no relation but that of recipient of money were carried out. The Bill does not produce this result; and, therefore, I say that the objections I have seen offered to this Bill on that ground are not well founded. It keeps within the limits of the relation of landlord and tenant; and the considerations applicable to this Bill and the objection to its provisions are therefore not political, but economical and legal. The Bill does not err in the direction to which I have alluded; but I am not able to extend that remark to other relations. It docs appear to me to err in the economical principles applied, or rather violated, in it. The Bill also errs against legal views and principles which I should have thought almost axioms in regard to legislation. Before I come to consider what I deem defects in this Bill, I think it right to state at once that, as far as I am concerned, I do not object to large and liberal legislation upon existing relations. I do not object to a fair settlement of any controversies or differences there may have been on this subject; and no man can deny that the public mind has been agitated with discussion and controversy, not merely by agitators, but by philosophical writers applying themselves to investigate the abstract principles on which these relations are finally to be determined. I do not object to any fair, large, or liberal settlement which is confined to the termination of existing controversies and the settlement and final arrangement of existing relations. I do object to a permanent, unalterable, unchangeable system being created, unless that system be abstractedly, according to legal and economical principles, the best. I say you are not to legislate for posterity under the panic of a moment. You may legislate for the moment—for what exists at the time; but what right have you to pronounce upon a nation the doom of inferiority, and to declare that it is incapable of rising to a better and higher standard? Now, the classification adopted in the Bill of all the relations of landlord and tenant connected with any termination of tenancy—for that, in fact, is all that the measure deals with—is three-fold. First, the Bill assumes that the Province of Ulster de- 1452 mands a wholly different treatment and law from the rest of Ireland. Secondly, it assumes that there exists, not the real Ulster system, or what is known as the Ulster tenant-right, but a sort of analogy to that—an imitation of it—which has grown up in other parts of Ireland; and this is treated of in the second section. And, thirdly, it assumes that the whole of the rest of Ireland demands to come in under one head—that of the third section—which applies to the whole of the rest of Ireland—in which neither the Ulster tenant-right nor the imitation or analogy of it prevails, but in which heretofore the whole of the relations of landlord and tenant have stood simply and exclusively upon contract. The Bill deals with two kinds of relations connected with the tenure of land; the one kind being the usages of Ulster, or those which are imitative of Ulster, but not in that Province; and the other being existing relations founded wholly on contract. With respect to the Ulster tenant-right, I entirely agree with the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that if you are to keep that tenant-right and to legislate on the footing that there is to be no improvement of the system, and that it is to remain as it is, there are only two ways of accomplishing your object. One is by shaping your measure so that it shall be flexible, and shall accommodate itself to every variety and modification of the tenant-right; and the other is to determine the right and fix it permanently over the whole district. For my part, I own that although I have a great admiration for Ulster tenants, I cannot profess as great an admiration for Ulster tenant-right. I cannot forget that a nobleman who has contributed as much information and knowledge as any man in Ireland on this question—a nobleman whose name I have never heard mentioned without respect in his relations to his tenants, and who is himself a Member of the present Government—has paid from £8,000 to £10,000 to extinguish the Ulster tenant-right on his own estate. And why did he do it? Why does a man of large capacity and great experience in these affairs, who has thought and reflected upon them philosophically, subject himself to that large payment and incur that great expence, except that he believes the system may have its merits, but is by no means the more excellent way, and that he saw his 1453 course to one that was more consistent with the welfare of the country? I do not think he had in view his own interest only, but also the interest of his tenants; and let me here say that the true and permanent interest of the landlord is the same as that of the tenant; and it is a miserable and short-lived benefit that is gained for the landlord which does not at the same time conduce to the permanent well-being and comfort, of his tenantry. I say that Lord Dufferin went to all this great expense in order to terminate the system only because it is by no means the best one. I do not say that you are to come down and abruptly terminate it altogether. You cannot do that with relations that have gradually grown up. But my objection to this Bill is that it is not content with dealing with existing relations or with providing that the landlord shall purchase up 1he tenants right or give an equivalent to terminate it. I will show that the Bill contains absolute and positive words of coercion to enforce the continuance of every one of those vicious systems which political economy should teach the Government to endeavour to bring to an end. I say there are only two modes of dealing with the Ulster tenant-right—the one is to fix and define it, and the other to make its definition flexible so as to accommodate itself to every variety of form it assumes. After much inquiry among Ulster men, I have been unable to find any fixed standard of tenant-right in that province. An authoritative document has been issued by the Government to which I would call attention. In the Reports of the Irish Poor Law Inspectors Mr. Hamilton, one of those officers, says—In Fermanagh, the Ulster tenant-right custom exists upon many estates in a modified form, restrictions being imposed which are almost unknown and would hardly be tolerated further north. Some proprietors, indeed, decline altogether to acknowledge or permit it; while others allow it under certain well-defined restrictions. And it may be interesting to state what are the various usages which, so far as I could learn, are in force on the most important properties in the county. On Sir Victor Brooke's estate the price is settled by arbitration, the seller and buyer each naming an arbitrator and the landlord an umpire, and the value is regulated according to the condition of the farm and the improvements on it. On Lord Erne's estate the price is fixed at five years' rent and the value of improvements made, but this restriction seems to be frequently evaded. On Lord Enniskillen's estate it is limited to two and a-half years' rent, and the outgoing 1454 tenant must surrender his holding to the landlord. On Lord Ely's estate it is limited to three years, except where extensive improvements have been made by the outgoing tenant. I am informed that on the Rev. Mr. Porter's estate it is not permitted to exceed two years' rent, and if the farm is left in an exhausted state nothing is allowed. On Captain Archdall's estate I am; told that it is also limited to two years' rent and the value of improvements. On Mr. D'Arcy Irvine's estate, and also on some others, it is not allowed at all.That is merely the case of one county. I have taken the trouble to make inquiries on the subject this very day from one or two large proprietors. One nobleman told me that on his estate the tenant-right is that the tenant may sell, but it must be to another tenant of the estate. Another proprietor told me that on his estate the rule was a limit of years upon the sale, and that his agent should approve of the incoming tenant. Now, I desire to know from my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland in regard to the words in the 1st section referring to "the usage prevalent in the Province of Ulster," which of all those various usages is meant by the language of that section? The section runs thus—The usage prevalent in the province of Ulster with reference to the compensation to be made or allowed to or on account of an out going tenant of a holding (and which usage is commonly known and in this Act referred to as the Ulster tenant-right custom), is hereby declared to be a legal custom, and shall in the case of any holding in the province of Ulster proved to be subject to such custom be enforced in manner provided by this Act.Besides the difficulty arising from the language of this section not embracing every variety of development of the custom, I must also object to the words on another ground. I doubt whether they meet the real Ulster tenant-right at all. The Ulster tenant-right, according to the best information I can obtain, is the right to sell to auothor, under the restrictions of the estate, which vary to such a degree that they range from two years' value on one estate to, I believe, as high as twenty years in some others. [An hon. MEMBER: TO forty.] I really felt afraid to say so high a price; but I am told on very good authority that it has reached as much as forty years' value in particular instances. In addition to that, the usage has this other essential ingredient in it, at all events on some estates—the approbation of the landlord. I say, then, that to make all this variety a fixed and 1455 perpetual law is in itself the creation of an evil. Have you not struggled in England to escape from evils of that kind by endeavouring to enfranchise copyholds? You felt that a variety of tenure was an evil—a source of litigation and of expense—and that there ought to be one definite tenure cognizable and known to every person. Can any lawyer, if this law passes, toll any landlord what is the exact relation between him and the tenants on his estate? He can never do it till it has been adjudicated upon by a Judge. Does the language of the section mean the usage of the holding, the usage of the estate, the usage of the barony, the usage of the county, or the usage of the province? I should say, as a lawyer, that if it came to be interpreted by a Judge, it would be out of his power to apply it to anything but the actual holding in question. He could only ascertain the terms of the particular holding by going back from tenant to tenant; and the Act would be abortive where the tenancy had passed from father to son without payment for many years. It has been the subject of complaint by the tenants that the landlords have been altering this custom from time to time. Under these circumstances, what is the usage which the Judge is to decide and fix for ever on the estate? Is it that of the last seven years, of the previous five years, or throe years? Is it to go from father to son? I wish to be perfectly fair, and in the observations I have made I do not think the Government are altogether to blame in taking up this clause, because I have found myself a strong and decided feeling among persons in the North of Ireland in favour of retaining some clause of this kind. What I object to is our saying that this is to continue there for ever. You can only escape from it by falling into the provision of the 3rd clause. If you buy up all the Ulster tenant-right on your estate, and, like Lord Dufferin, have paid £10,000 for purchasing it, you are to fall under the 3rd section of this Bill, and find yourself again with a sliding scale of compensation. And to whom are you to pay that compensation but to those from whom you have already bought up the tenant-right? Yet, after all, you are to be subject to a sliding scale varying from seven years' to two years' rent of the land. If I have paid £10,000 in 1456 discharge of all the tenants' rights of a character embracing in them improvements—and it is admitted that the Ulster right covers everything—after that I find myself under the 3rd section with a now set of liabilities, a new set of duties, and a new set of expenses. Now as to the 2nd clause, though it is not strictly framed to meet the Ulster tenant - right principle, nevertheless it may operate in places where the Ulster tenant-right has grown up. The clause applies to cases where some imitation of the Ulster custom has grown up through the kindness or goodness of the landlord. It speaks of the usage by virtue of which compensation is made or allowed. What is to be the test? Is it to be one year, five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years? Is it to spring from bounty?—from the negligence I of a tenant for life? Is a remainderman to be bound by the conduct of his predecessor? What is it that creates the custom under the 2nd section? It is better that these things should be defined. The 3rd section, that is, the general case of Ireland, remains to be considered. Admitting, with the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that it would not only be unwise but absolutely impossible to apply the complicated and ever-varying system of tenant-right to the whole country, I am not disposed to view the 3rd section with the disapprobation some hon. Gentlemen have expressed. I should be disposed to object to it if I put upon it the interpretation which the Secretary for Ireland does. It states that—When a tenant is disturbed in his holding he is to receive compensation, regard being had to the improvements in his holding by the tenant or his predecessors, and to the loss sustained by him on quitting his holding.I construe the 3rd section to mean, not that there is a property in occupancy, because if a Judge had to pay a man for his occupancy, no more mischievous measure was ever introduced, but that the section requires first that a Judge should recognize all the improvements made; and, secondly, that he should have regard to the tenants' plan of cultivation, his plan of management and trade, and the value of the produce he may expect from it. That is a just and proper view of the case, for unless the farm were a mere grass farm you would, by disturbing the man in possession, affect all interests in the land. There can be no 1457 cultivation of a farm without some view to the future. Even a farmer of twenty acres should have one part in oats, another in potatoes, and the rest in grass; he must farm upon some system, and what the Bill contemplates is that when the Judge found a man was managing with prudence he should be rewarded for his prudence; and, on the other hand, that he should suffer for his improvidence. As far, therefore, as this section is concerned—and interpreting it as I have done—I cannot join in the opposition which has been made to it. What I object to in this section is the scheme of compensation. I regard it as altogether too high. The ordinary value of a fee-simple estate in Ireland is twenty years' purchase. Of course it may be worth a great deal more in the North of Ireland, where, however, this section would have very little operation. This section applies to that part of Ireland where the land is selling at a very low figure, and, taking the value at £10, as it is in many parts of Ireland, the landlord would be obliged to pay £70, or one-third of the fee-simple for compensation. I admit it may be said that the Judge has a discretion; but I would prefer that the discretion should not be so wide, for, although some Judges would be perfectly safe, others might not be so in all cases. Sometimes humane feeling's would spring up which some Judges would find it difficult to resist, and I submit that seven years' rental is a very extreme sum to give for compensation when the legal right is temporary. But this is a question of degree, and, as I have already said, I do not object to the principle of the clause, placing upon it the interpretation I do. Now, with respect to the improvements, I give my support to the Bill, with one exception. I do not understand why there should be no period at which liability to compensate for permanent improvement should cease. Even a house will not last for ever. If I enjoy the use of a house for a certain number of years I obtain the full value of it by my use; and should there be no period at which liability for improvements ceases, a man might claim compensation for a house 150 years old. The claim for ordinary improvement you allow to cease after twenty years—you say a tenant shall not claim compensation in reject of any improvement made more than twenty years before the passing of this 1458 Act except permanent buildings and reclamation of land. But, suppose the case of a "permanent" improvement made fifty years ago; the tenant has reaped the benefit of it, and has repaid himself his expenditure on account of it; and it cannot seriously be contended that anything in this world is permanent and everlasting. There is another peculiarity in this Bill. It gives a right to the tenant to claim by what is called his predecessor's title. Now, this is a claim which hangs, as it were, for ever over the landlord, without any period mentioned at which it is to cease. There are two other matters to which I shall allude before coming to what I object to: they are the power of lending money and purchasing. I think the effect of the facility given to tenants under this provision is exaggerated, the advantages which would accrue from it are doubtful, and I do not believe in the permanent existence of these small fee-simple tenures. I have been much influenced in my consideration of this point by the fact that this is not the first time an attempt has been made to plant small freeholders in Ireland. Cromwell divided large parts of Ireland among his soldiers in small fee-simple gifts. I had a title before me on one occasion in which father and son in direct line from Cromwell to the day I wrote upon it, had held fifty acres in Tipperary, but of what class were they? They were gentry; and I never saw another such case. I believe that was bought by a neighbouring large proprietor, and "Cromwell's debentures," as they were called, have uniformly been absorbed in the same way. I believe the tendency of civilization is to give the poor more profitable methods of employing their ability and capital, such as will yield more immediate returns, than such small holdings, which would bind them to remain for ever planted on one spot. The profits from small holdings are small; and, though the desire to retain the fee-simple is great, it is overcome by the consideration of profit, by special pressure, by the necessity of providing for a family, by the ambition of large owners, and by other causes which tend to make the temptation to sell irresistible. But what I believe would be for the great advantage of Ireland, and what is demanded by the needs of Ireland, is some inducement for the creation of a resident gentry. The great calamity of that 1459 country is the enormous amount of money taken out of it by absentees. Let any man read the speech of Bishop Jebb in 1822, when he gave an exact statement of the rents taken out of Limerick by absentees; let him take the miserable account of empty boxes which that Prelate states to have been the result of his applications to the absentee proprietors for assistance at a time of public distress, and he will see what it is that Ireland needs. I do not want extensive proprietors for Ireland; but I do believe what that country requires is men of independent fortune in the middle class of proprietary gentry, educated, enlightened, bringing with them civilization and an example of refinement, and spreading those influences around them. I could name one country which is filled by resident gentry of this class—the county of Carlow—which is without a flaw in its present condition, and why? Because that country is inhabited by a resident gentry of moderate and competent fortune. This, in my opinion, is the line that really beneficial legislation for that country should take, and not the creation of that which I believe will not be permanent. But, as I said before, I shall undoubtedly support the Government in that part of their Bill. I think it is in some degree a sort of compensation to those landlords who may not be able to accommodate the arrangements of their estates to the new demands made upon them by this Bill. I think it is not an unfair tiling in itself, and think, too, that it is a desirable thing to scatter over the country an independent fee-simple proprietary. It is not well to have in any country but one solitary standard, great proprietors and humble tenants. I should be sorry to see the whole country parcelled out in that one uniform manner. I think a nation gains by a variety of classes, interests, pursuits, and habits; and I desire, therefore, to see not only a resident gentry, but also to the limited extent to which this Bill goes, and even to a larger extent, a number of small proprietors in fee. My observations, therefore, are not to be understood as opposing the proposal of the Government, but only as meaning that it will not produce the extensive effects which you contemplate. As regards the tribunals to be established under this Bill, I am almost entirely in accord with the 1460 right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland. I have only one observation to make on the subject. As to the court of appeal, I cannot conceive why the duty of being always there is thrown on the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls, two of the most overworked Judges in Ireland. I cannot understand why the Vice Chancellor is left out. I now come to what appears to me the cardinal objection to the Bill. The 2nd clause contains this provision—Any contract made by a tenant by virtue of which tic is deprived of his right to make any claim which he would otherwise be entitled to make under this section shall, so far as the same relates to such claim, be void.And again at the end of the 3rd clause is this provision—Any contract made by a tenant by virtue of which he is deprived of his right to make any claim which he would otherwise be entitled to make under this section shall, so far as relates to such claim, be void.Now, the effect of these clauses is this—no man can bargain with his tenant to terminate or vary the arrangements of these clauses. The third section relates to the future, and it is to the future that my objections point. It extends not only to tenancies from year to year, but to every kind of tenancy. I am dealing now with every other custom but the Ulster custom, and I say that the effect of the prohibitory clauses of these two sections is that no man can by agreement with his tenant place himself on an independent footing outside the provisions of this Bill. If I am about to let my land, why should I not have the power of saying to the tenant—"I give you this land a pound an acre cheaper on condition that I am not subject to compensation. I prefer to lose so much money rather than be embarrassed by complicated rights, be liable to be brought before a Judge, and afterwards probably be dragged from one tribunal to another. I prefer to have such an arrangement that he who runs may read." But what do you propose? You say—No, you shall not do that. If you give the land at a pound an acre less on condition that no compensation be demanded, such contract shall—unless you I give a thirty-one years' lease—be void." Now, I do not object to any Bill containing a provision that a contract shall be void, if that contract is per se objectionable. But my objection to your system is that it is not the best, and, 1461 what is more, you know it is not the best. For here you are in England arrived at the highest pitch of civilization, you claim for yourselves that you are models to the world, you hold out your social relations to the admiration and envy of Europe, and you insist that the relations between landlord and tenant in your country shall be on the footing of contract. What have you been doing? You have been working ever since the day that Latimer denounced the landlords who drove out their tenants, telling them that the Divine vengeance would come upon them for it—you have been working, I say, to make landlord and tenant not ascertain their rights by litigation, but have them established on the solid basis of contract, so that every landlord in England knows for what he contracts, and every tenant in England knows for what he has to answer. You dare not bring in a Bill and say to English landlords—"You have gone on a wrong system; we will put back the hand of the dial; and direct that everything shall stand on tenure, and nothing on contract." You know if you were to bring in a Bill to do that you would not get five votes for it in this House. Why do I say that this is conclusive against your present proposal? I say it because you have got the best system, and I believe it to be the best, because I believe that Englishmen, having set their hearts on the best system, would be content with nothing less. What do I ask for my country? I ask the right to rise to the same standard as yourselves. I demand that you will not lay down a rule of this kind, and say—"This is good enough for Ireland. The Irish people differ from the English. There is a positive incapacity in the Irish landlord to deal with his tenants by contract, and in the Irish tenant to take care of himself by contract. The Scotch and English are able to do it. Therefore the true system shall be reserved as a privilegium for them, but the Irish shall not be able to attempt it; because we shall put a clause in an Act of Parliament to prevent it." That is what I object to in your Bill, and in the tone of the legislation that is now advocated as philosophical and right. I object to it because it is put forward as legitimate and right. Is there a political economist, is there a thinker, that approves 1462 such a principle? And here let me say that the true standard, the true test to try things by, is not the violent political passions of the time, or the eager partizanship of men seeking to recommend themselves to a Minister, but it is the unperturbed reason of the philosopher and the thinking man. Come to that test, and tell me whether those ideas are up to the standard that is laid down by the most philosophic minds. I can say they are not. I do not agree in governing Ireland according to the Irish idea. I cannot consent to introduce a different principle of law into that country from what exists in England and Scotland. I say that my ambition would be to raise my country to the level of yourselves. My desire would be to make it as nearly as possible resemble you. What have we gained by the Union? Incorporation into your greatness, to be sharers in your glory, an opportunity of being one and the same with you. This is what we ought to gain, and it is precisely this, which you now seek to deny us. You reverse the policy of Pitt when he carried the Union. You reverse the policy on which the measures of Peel and Russell also have been founded, and on which our whole legislation has since proceeded. From the time of Pitt up to the introduction of the Irish Church Bill and of the present measure, the views of English statesmen have been—"Let us do everything we can to make Ireland, England." But your views now are—"Let us raise up an eternal barrier—a broad line of demarcation between England and Ireland." What you say is—"We will not legislate for you on the same principles; we will not give you the same laws; we will train you up from your earliest childhood in habits different from those which prevail in our own country;" and then you are surprised that there is springing up in Ireland a spirit of nationality, when a moment's reflection would show that such a spirit is the natural growth of such a system. I think that there is great danger in laying down one system for this country and a different one for Ireland; and yet on every subject where legislation is necessary the Government put forward for Ireland a policy exactly the opposite of that which they adopt for England. They have abolished all endowments; they have abolished all acknowledgment of any religion in Ire- 1463 land. They now proceed, with this Land Bill, to keep up Irish customs so as to disable the people from rising to the English standard. And on education they come forward and say that for Ireland they will have a system which they cannot introduce in England. In fact, in everything that is done there appear symptoms of a depreciation of the Irish nation. I have no objection to a fair settlement of this land question; but I protest against making a covenant with posterity against any alteration. What I desire is to retain a hope that we may adopt your system, your rules, and your laws. I desire to retain the power of doing that which will bring us into so intimate a union with yourselves as to lead to such a consolidation, not merely of our interests, but of our habits, affections, and feelings, as will tend to the promotion of our true glory and true greatness.
§ MR. MAGUIRE moved that the debate be now adjourned.
said, he trusted that, through the kindness of Members who had Notices on the Paper, the House would be permitted to resume the debate at the earliest possible moment to-morrow. He would especially appeal to the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Crichton), who had placed on the Paper a Notice impugning the conduct of the Government with regard to Ireland, and if the noble Lord would give way he should be happy to afford him as early an opportunity after this debate had terminated as he possibly could to bring on a Motion, which, for the satisfaction of the Government as well as the noble Lord himself, they would be glad to have speedily discussed.
§ Debate adjourned till Tomorrow.