§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [7th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was, 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 again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ COLONEL WILSON-PATTEN
said, they were arrived at the third night of the debate on this measure, and if he rose to take part in it it was not because he had formed any great hope or expectation of being able to introduce any additional arguments to those which had already been adduced, but if the House would kindly indulge him, he believed he would be able to confine his remarks within a very short compass. His object was a very simple and, as he thought he should be able to prove, a very justifiable one. In common with many hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House, he intended to give his support to the second reading of the Bill, though he could not have done so except under very extraordinary circumstances. He believed even the Members of the Government would own that they would not have propounded this measure except under very extraordinary circumstances. It must, indeed, be confessed by everybody who had examined the provisions of the Bill that nothing but urgency could justify its introduction, and, for his own part, he could not have supported it except under the peculiar circumstances of the present time. The Bill contained provisions contrary to all the generally recognized rules of political economy, and utterly opposed to that freedom of contract between parties which the House of Commons and the other branches of the Legislature had, 1635 with very few exceptions, endeavoured to inculcate and maintain for many years past. If it did not infringe the rights of property, it at all events meddled with them in such a manner as could only be justified by extreme urgency. It was but natural, therefore, that as he was obliged to sacrifice many opinions in order to support the second reading, he should desire to have an opportunity of stating his reasons for the vote he was about to give. Before doing so, however, he wished to advert to one or two of the speeches which had been made in the course of the debate. Being himself prepared to make considerable sacrifices in order, to attain a great national object, he had listened with the utmost anxiety to the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment to ascertain whether they were also ready to make sacrifices in order to attain the same object; but he was compelled to say that although their speeches were characterized by great talent, that talent was displayed in explaining the course they had taken, without adducing a single argument in favour of it. The only point he could find in the speeches of either of those two Gentlemen was that the Bill was not satisfactory to the Irish people. He must confess, however, that he had much greater confidence in the intelligence of the Irish people than those hon. Gentlemen appeared to have. He was aware that Ireland was, at the present moment, in a state of great excitement; and he would, he thought, be only conferring a favour on his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government when he said that he believed the right hon. Gentleman had, of course totally against his will, been the means of increasing that excitement. In his speech, when introducing the Bill, his right hon. Friend had made use of expressions which he must confess startled him a little when he heard them; but on consulting next day the usual organs of information, he found that he had placed a wrong construction on those expressions. The right hon. Gentleman, on the occasion to which he referred, said—Then for the present, at any rate, I cast aside perpetuity of tenure as a remedy with which I am not prepared to deal.Those words were applied, he believed, exclusively to the argument which his right hon. Friend had in hand. He had 1636 no doubt he had not the slightest intention of carrying it further; but the Irish papers had put a different interpretation on his words from that which they were intended to bear. He saw that they had been made use of at more than one meeting in Ireland for the purpose of inducing the Irish people to continue their agitation, inasmuch as the language of the Prime Minister gave ground for hope that if they would only persevere all their demands would be complied with. He mentioned that circumstance simply to show how liable the Irish people were to be led away by different reports. But the Irish people, whatever their merits or demerits, possessed great intelligence, and he firmly believed that they would meet in a fair spirit the efforts of the House if it only proceeded to legislate in accordance with the principle "Do justly and fear not." He could only say that in supporting this Bill he was sacrificing many private political opinions, and that nothing on earth would induce him to do so except the belief that by a general effort of men of all parties they might arrive at a conclusion of this long-vexed question. He wished, in the next place, to advert to another speech which had been made in the course of the debate—he alluded to the speech of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire). Of that speech he had no wish to complain, except in one respect. The hon. Gentleman had, with perfect justice, adduced a great many statements in support of the argument which he used, but in such a way as to lead the House to imagine that descriptions which had reference only to particular instances of hardship and oppression applied to the general state of Ireland. He happened, while the hon. Gentleman was making his speech, to have held in his hand the Report from which he made his quotations, and he was fortunate enough, as the hon. Gentleman went along, to cast his eye over those passages as well as others in the Reports. The first Report to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded was that of Mr. Hamilton, which applied to the counties of Donegal, Cavan, Fermanagh, parts of the county of Leitrim, Monaghan, and Tyrone; and from that Report the hon. Gentleman had extracted instances of oppression and hardship the existence of which he did not mean to deny. But there were other passages which were 1637 calculated to give a different impression, and which showed that it would be extremely unjust to treat the quotations which the hon. Gentleman had made as describing accurately the state of things generally in the districts to which he had alluded. Mr. Hamilton, for instance, among other things, said that, so far as he could learn, notices to quit were of rare occurrence in his district. The next Report was that of Mr. Horsley, who referred to the district, including Kerry, and parts of the counties of Cork and Limerick. It says, in reference to the question of tenauts-at-will—At the same time, although this class of tenants is positively without legal security, in practice it is a fact, as far as my district is concerned, that their precarious condition is more imaginary than real. Scarcely any authentic case of oppression on the part of a landlord to a tenant-at-will has been brought under my notice within the last twelve years. Although tenants-at-will possess no legal security for the value of the improvements they make, it is the custom of the landlords in my district to deal fairly with them, whenever they wish to surrender their farms with a view to emigration or the abandonment of agricultural pursuits. I am not aware of any instance, except in the case of a change of owner or of property, where the tenant has not been allowed compensation for the increased value of the property, arising from his labour, industry, and capital.Mr. Robinson in the same manner testified to the fact that where the Ulster right did not exist tenants trusted to the fair dealings of their landlords, that in the great majority of cases their confidence was not misplaced, and that in cases where a revaluation of a property took place the value of the improvements of effected by the tenant was seldom added. This gentleman, whose Report covered the districts of Wicklow, and parts of Dublin, Kilkenny, Meath, Queen's County, and Wexford, added—Notices to quit are not frequent. I am aware it has been said that it is the practice on many estates to serve yearly tenants with notices to quit, so as to keep them at the absolute mercy of the landlord; but, after careful inquiry, I do not believe that any such practice exists in my district.The quotations made by the hon. Gentleman were therefore, he contended, calculated to lead the House to draw a wrong inference, for the general tenour of the Reports justified the conclusion that up to a late period there was fully as great confidence between the landlords and tenants in Ireland as in any other part of the British Empire. Mr. 1638 Neilson Hancock said that during the twenty-five years between 1841 and 1866, no less than 80,000 acres of land in each year were enclosed, almost solely at the expense of the tenants. That showed how great an improvement had been effected by the tenants in reliance solely on the honour of the landlord, and it showed, too, the great confidence which must have existed between landlords and tenants. It might be said—"If that is your opinion of the confidence existing between landlord and tenant, why not trust to that confidence and why support the Bill?" He was sorry to say, in answer to that, that he must now bring proof upon the other side. There were instances in these Reports of great hardships suffered by tenants. He regretted to observe that notices to quit and evictions had certainly of late years increased. But anybody who looked carefully into those Reports could see the cause of it. It was not the oppression of the landlords or the destruction of the old confidence existing between the old possessors of the property and their tenants, but there was a changed state of things in Ireland, and he believed it was chiefly owing to that change that this alteration had occurred. The Encumbered Estates Act had been one of the causes producing the change. The object of that Act was to induce the investment of capital in Ireland, and not less than £27,000,000, had been invested under its operation. Those who had invested their money under that Act had obtained the simplest possible title to their estates. They had acquired them subject to no encumbrances or mortgages, and had no need or means of being acquainted with the circumstances affecting those estates previously to the time at which they took possession of them. Many of those purchasers, in the exercise of their rights, had not been influenced by those feelings by which the old landlords were influenced, and in many cases they had evicted their tenants. Much irritation had been the consequence, and the tenants had to a certain extent lost confidence in obtaining compensation from the landlords for their improvements. Therefore seeing that evictions had increased, and that, as far as he could judge, the causes of those evictions were still in operation, he had come to the conclusion that the time had arrived when they must, if they could by legis- 1639 lation, re-establish, that confidence, and secure to the tenant a return for the improvement he had made, and, if possible, restore the customs to which he had just alluded. Under these circumstances, he intended to give his support to the second reading of the Bill, in order that he might support the Government, as far as he could, in securing for the tenants of Ireland compensation for the improvements they had made, and in preventing unjust evictions taking place, while, however, in what it proposed with regard to the past and the present, he had no fault to find with the Bill, except that which might be remedied in Committee, he regretted that his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government had not, as regarded the future, taken advantage of the opportunity of assimilating the law and customs of Ireland to those which existed in England. In this country landlords and tenants met and discussed their difficulties, and there was no law infringing upon the liberty of either. His right hon. Friend was in a position, if anybody ever had been, to propose that a similar principle should be adopted as that which existed in England and Scotland. He was at the head of one of the strongest Governments which the country had seen for many years; he had established a claim on the goodwill of an important class of the Irish nation, which ought to insure to him reasonable concessions in matters of this kind; and if he had exercised his influence in Ireland, he might have introduced much more of the English system of land tenure into Ireland than the Bill contained. Whatever criticisms his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) might have been subject to in the course of that debate, he must say that he totally and entirely agreed with him. The clauses of the Bill relating to the future were a stigma upon the Irish nation—a stigma upon Irish landlords, as showing the belief of the Government that they would in the future oppress their tenants, and a stigma upon tenants because they assumed that they were less independent and less able to protect their own interests than they really were. There was a clause which prevented landlords and tenants from entering into a free contract. Now, this clause was totally inconsistent with the rest of the legislation proposed. The Bill said that 1640 leases should be submitted to revision by the court. Why should not bargains between landlords and tenants be submitted to the same court? Why should such bargains be absolutely prohibited when a court was in existence? In England if a son on coming of age made an improvident bargain with his father in settling his estate he believed that a court of equity would revise the bargain; and young men who had contracted debts, receiving no consideration in return, were relieved from those debts. Why not introduce a system of that kind, as between landlords and tenants, in Ireland? His right hon. and learned Friend (Dr. Ball) said that he supported the Bill as regarded the past and the present, but not as regarded the future. It was unworthy of the Attorney General to apply his arguments not only to the future, but the past and present. As to the clauses of the Bill, the proper place to discuss them was in Committee; but he might allude to one or two which, from their magnitude, appeared to influence the principle of the Bill, or with respect to which he had suggestions to make to the Government before the measure went into Committee. First, as regarded the Ulster tenant-right, that might be said to be almost one of the principles of the Bill. It affected the whole Province of Ulster. If he had now to deal with the Ulster tenant-right custom for the first time, his feelings would be rather against than for it. He saw clearly—and herein lay the difficulty—that if there were any advantage in Ulster tenant-right, it rested exclusively with the tenants already in possession; and therefore he was not a bit surprised that the tenants in possession urged the maintenance of the right, because it was quite clear they were in possession of a valuable consideration, and it would be a loss to them to be deprived of it. His observation of tenant-right was that it did not conduce to the prosperity of agriculture generally; he believed it was often carried to such an extent that an intelligent and energetic tenant found all the means that should be employed in the proper cultivation of his farm, swallowed up by the sacrifice he had made in the purchase of tenant-right. He had been told that people could tell in passing through, Ulster, by the appearance of the farms, for which of them the tenant had been obliged to give an extravagant 1641 price. But he did not wish to act upon his own opinion. He was willing to take the opinion of the Irish Members, and he would deal with it as it stood in the Bill. But he must say that if he were to deal with tenant-right, and it were to be adopted in the Bill, then he was opposed to those of his friends who thought that this tenant-right custom ought to be defined. In his opinion that would be impossible. In cases where the tenant-right was large they would do injustice to the tenants if they fixed the amount of the custom on too low a scale, and where the amount was small they would confiscate the property of the landlord if they fixed it too high. He thought, therefore, the Government had acted wisely in refusing to define the custom, and in leaving the amount to be decided according to the customs prevailing in each district. There was another part of the Bill to which he wished to call attention, and where he thought the Government must make some alteration—he referred to the position of parties who had bought their estates in the Encumbered Estates Court. The Bill laid the onus probandi of the improvements in all cases on the landlords. Now he wanted to know how it was proposed that the parties who had invested £27,000,000 on estates purchased in the Encumbered Estates Court were to furnish proof that the improvements were made by the landlord, and not by the tenant? They had not a single document on the subject. By the custom of the country the landlord was understood to provide timber and slate, and the tenant was to do the rest; but the landlords who had purchased their estates in the Encumbered Estates Court had no means of proving even that. He would suggest this difficulty to his right hon. Friend, and for himself he must confess he did not see how it was to be got over. Then there was another difficulty; it was the case of those landlords who had bought up the rights of their tenants. There was a nobleman connected with the present Government—he meant Lord Dufferin—who he verily believed was the worst used man in Europe. He was opposed to that nobleman in politics; but if any man had ever set a good example in Ireland it was Lord Dufferin. He did not know what his circumstances were; but he had bought 1642 up the whole tenant-right on his estate at a vast expense, and he was now in possession of an estate on which, but for this Bill, there would be no tenant-right whatever. Yet he would be brought under the operation of this Bill. He knew of other cases which, while they were not quite so flagrant, were of the same nature. There was another point of the Bill on which he wished to say a word. It had reference to a question on which his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland and himself had some correspondence—he referred to the Peace Preservation Act. The Act applied in this way—that wherever an agrarian outrage was committed in a district, a force of police was sent down to preserve the peace, and the expense of the force was thrown upon the rates of the district. But, by the present Bill, these rates were to be taken from the tenant and thrown upon the landlord. Now, he asked the Government how they proposed to deal with that question? It was hard enough to be shot—it was harder still to have to pay for being shot. Under the Bill a man might not only be assassinated, but his property would be assessed to pay for his assassination. This was one of the strongest instances of adding insult to injury that he had ever heard of. [Mr. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE: Hear, hear!] He made these remarks not in the spirit of opposition, but in the hope that the points he had mentioned would be attended to. In conclusion, he would say, that his official connection with Ireland was too short to allow him to suppose that anything he could say on this subject would carry much weight in that House; but it had been long enough to induce him to take the deepest interest in the welfare of Ireland. And he could assure the Government that in any course he might take with regard to this Bill he would not forget that he once had charge of the affairs of that country, and that he would regard every provision of this Bill with as deep a sense of responsibility as he then felt. He would not detain the House longer—he thanked them for the patience with which they had listened to him, and he could assure them that it would be one of the greatest pleasures of his life if he could assist in any way in the peaceful and satisfactory solution of a question which had baffled 1643 the endeavours of so many previous Governments.
§ MR. HORSMAN
It must, no doubt, be a great satisfaction to the Government to learn that my right hon. Friend who has just sat down and those who act with him are about to support the second reading of this Bill; it is an admission that the principle is sound, and that it offers an acceptable basis for legislation. But I confess that when I heard the speech of my right hon. Friend—and I listened to him with all that attention and interest which he always commands when he speaks in this House—I could not but have my misgivings whether it were an unmixed advantage for the Government or their Bill that we should pays over without notice or remark the principle of the Bill, and abruptly plunge into an examination of its details, without giving more consideration than my right hon. Friend scorns to think they deserve to all the circumstances that have called for this measure, which he has truly described as a departure, and a bold departure, from the beaten tracks of legislation, and which he avowed to us with frankness and with sincerity that he only accepted, with great reluctance and under a species of moral coercion, as a choice of evils, because he preferred the inconveniences and dangers that might result from the passing of the measure to the responsibility that must attach to himself and to his party for a continued non-settlement of the question and for the dangers that might follow the rejection of the Bill. No doubt the value and efficacy of the Bill must depend upon the manner in which we perfect its details in Committee; but it is a great mistake, therefore, to suppose that we are not now to discuss these separate details upon their abstract merits. In my view this Bill differs from previous Bills on the same subject in this respect; it is less an amendment of the law than the foundation of a policy, and I say, therefore, every detail of the Bill acquires a new meaning and a new character from being taken as part of a great scheme of policy. We shall only be misleading the Government and confusing the House if we now accept the principle of a Bill which can only be carried out by details that acknowledge an emergency without at the same time being in accord with the Government as to the nature of that 1644 emergency, and as to the conditions land objects for which we consent to go into Committee. There is one consideration which we know has weighed with the Government, and which, in my opinion, ought not for a moment to be absent from the mind of anyone who takes part in this debate, although I have observed with some surprise that it has had no place in the speeches of any of those who have addressed us from the other side of the House; and it is that the temper of the Irish people is now such, and such are their relations with the Executive and with Parliament, that this may possibly be the last opportunity open to Parliament—if it be still an opportunity—of proffering to Ireland with any chance of acceptance a peaceful solution of those difficulties to which experience has shown us a new and a worse character is imparted by delay. If this consideration weighs upon us who represent constituencies on this side of the Channel, far more heavily ought it to weigh upon the friends and representatives of those who are interested in Ireland. My right hon. Friend referred just now to the eloquent speech made the other evening by the hon. Member for I Cork (Mr. Maguire); there were some parts of that speech with which he did not agree, but there was one part of it he must have agreed with; it was the part in which my hon. Friend referred with so much feeling to what Ireland had suffered from the indifference and the ill-treatment of English legislation although he did full justice to the different spirit which now prevails. We agreed almost all of is, I think, with that portion of his speech. We admit with my hon. Friend, and deplore as much as he can, that it has taken a longtime to awaken the understanding and conscience of England to the folly and iniquity of old methods of government in Ireland; but we believe it is now thoroughly awakened, and on the last occasion when the country was appealed to on the Irish policy of a Cabinet I think my hon. Friend must have seen that the overpowering answer that was returned amounted to something more than the condemnation of the Irish Church. It affirmed a principle of larger application—it affirmed a policy of growing force; it affirmed a determination to seek out and grapple with every cause of Irish misery and degradation—a policy 1645 of erasing, of reconstructing, and of reconciling all classes and creeds, till the conviction was forced on the people that in Ireland, as in England, there is no wrong without a remedy, and that a new future was opened to that country by substituting a government of justice for one of force and fear. It was, I take it, in obedience to that expression of the national will, and in fulfilment of the wishes of the country, that the present Ministry, as soon as the Irish Church question was out of the way, undertook to measure their strength with a more trying question, on which opinion had not been ripened by discussion; on which they had no pledged majority at their back; on which the best thinkers and writers of their own party were divided in opinion; on which even the utterings of Cabinet Ministers, half-instructed on the question only a year ago, were notoriously conflicting; and on which, moreover, English prejudices must to some extent unite with Irish passion to increase the difficulties of legislation. One advantage which the Government possesses—and it is a very great advantage—is that they showed last year they knew how to master on Irish question with which no previous Government had dared to deal, and they had a right to expect that if they brought to bear on this new question the same qualities of sincerity, capacity, and courage as carried them so well through the last Session, their efforts would meet with the same support, and with the hope of being crowned with a like success. Since the introduction of this Bill we have all of us watched with a good deal of interest—and I must say for myself that I have watched with much anxiety—the manifestations of public opinion both in this country and in Ireland. If the measure introduced by the Government commended itself by its just character to general acceptance it was not likely to be received with favour either by the Irish landlords or the Irish tenants, with whose conflicting interests it was going to deal, because it must go beyond the wishes of the one party, and fall short of the expectations of the other. It would have been a matter of no surprise to anyone—it would have been no disparagement to the Bill—if it had been met with a hostility which would have indicated that it had features to commend it to impartial men; but 1646 I must say that the manner in which the Bill has been received at both sides of the House has occasioned me great surprise. Never, in my experience in Parliament, have I known so important a measure, and one in their view of it so distasteful and disquieting to the opponents of the Government, to be handled with such tenderness. It is not that there are not in the Bill points open to attacks, or that they have been slow to see them. I think we must make our acknowledgments to Gentlemen on the other side for responding, as they have done, to the appeal of the First Minister, to address themselves to the question in a generous and patriotic spirit, and with an absence of all party feeling. The Government have afforded every encouragement to that course, because if the Government had expressed a determination to stand by this Bill in the form it was presented to the House—if they had said they would accept no amendment, no change, it would have been the duty of those who saw great faults in the Bill to do their utmost to damage it on the second reading, so as to weaken the power of the Government in Committee. But the course taken by the Government has been quite the contrary one. They have thrown the door wide open to Amendments—they have invited Amendments. They feel they have a different task in hand to what they had last year. The work of destruction is very easy; but the work of reconstruction is very difficult. The tone of my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government was not only modest and humble, but I thought almost supplicatory, in the manner in which he invited Amendments from both sides of the House, assuring us that the Government, conscious of the inevitable shortcomings of their measure, would welcome Amendments, however numerous, or whatever their magnitude, provided only they promoted the great object the Government had in view—namely, the peace, contentment, and security of Ireland. It is satisfactory to observe that no fault has been found, no Amendment has been suggested, which the Government may not fairly entertain and discuss in Committee, without swerving from the principle of the Bill. I say that most emphatically with regard to that provision of the Bill to which my right hon. Friend opposite has just now 1647 alluded, as to which notice of an Amendment has been given by an hon. Friend behind me, and which creates so much interest among the Irish tenants—the extension of the Ulster tenant-right custom to the whole of Ireland. I say at once to my hon. Friend, that if he can show that the extension of that custom to the whole of Ireland is practicable, and that it can be so extended without a greater disturbance of the relative claims of landlord and tenant in other parts of Ireland than it creates in Ulster, I, for one, will gladly give my vote in favour of his Amendment. I confess that when, during the Recess, it was rumoured the Government intended to make the Ulster custom their plan for all Ireland, although I was surprised to hear it, still I rejoiced to think that they saw their way through difficulties which to me had appeared to be utterly insurmountable. I differ from the opinion expressed by my right hon. Friend, but still more strongly and elaborately urged the other night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt), who was at great pains to show us the pernicious character and tendencies of the Ulster tenant-right. The right hon. Gentleman argued the question with great ability and neatness, and his arguments and illustrations, in the absence of facts, were very convincing—I may say quite conclusive. But one fact is worth a thousand arguments, and I want to know how he gets over this fact—that Ulster, in which this tenant-right has so long existed, is as peaceful and prosperous a Province as any other part of Her Majesty's dominions, while the other Provinces of Ireland in which the Ulster right does not exist are so lawless and so pauperized that we are horrified daily by accounts of crime such as one could expect to find only among a semi-barbarous people. I want to know how the right hon. Gentleman gets over that fact. I say that fact scatters to the winds all the fine-spun and economical theories by which he illustrated his opinions. Although I feel there are circumstances within our own experience which may have made that tenant-right custom work well in Ulster, I do not pretend to say it might be extended to the other Provinces. I am far from agreeing with those who blame the Government—who say they have 1648 shown favour to Ulster by this Bill, and who call upon them in justice and consistency to extend the Ulster custom to all the other parts of Ireland. The Solicitor General for Ireland was at some pains the other night to show that this favour had not been shown to Ulster because it happened to be a Protestant Province. Knowing, as he did, what effect misrepresentations of this character might have on public opinion in Ireland, he did right to refute a delusion which did not require refutation in this House. The Irish representatives in this House are too shrewd not to know that the real reason why the Ulster right is legalized in Ulster is because it already exists in Ulster. If it had existed in Connaught it would have been legalized in Connaught; and, wherever it is found to exist in any form, however modified, uncertain, or obscure, in any other Province of Ireland, there this Bill fastens upon it and gives it the authority of a law. The aim and object of this Bill professes to be to change as little as possible and to disturb as little as possible. It deals with established facts, and where it finds anything like a custom prevailing it makes that custom law. Custom, we know, is in all lands the best foundation of law, and in Ulster custom has made an unwritten law. This Bill recognizes the distinction which already exists between Ulster and the other Provinces of Ireland—it recognizes a distinction which it did not create. And then, also, we may remember that, although we may find we ought not to disturb a system which works well where it exists, it is a very different thing when you try to transplant it elsewhere. We have been told more than once in the course of this debate that you may in one Session make a law, but it takes many generations to make a custom. Custom in Ulster has been the growth of generations, with a large expenditure of capital; but in the other Provinces of Ireland there has been neither the custom nor the expenditure. Again, we are apt to talk of the four Provinces as though they formed one Ireland; but we all know that practically they are four distinct nations—differing in race, differing in character, differing in circumstances, in customs, and in requirements—differing from each other more than some of them differ from England or Scotland. And, again, no one has 1649 endeavoured to define for us, or to make us understand, what is the tenant-right of Ulster. We know that there is no intelligible rule, or law, or custom that governs all Ulster, and more than once in this debate we have been told that even in Ulster itself the custom differs in different counties, and it even differs on different estates in the same county. Such were, no doubt, the difficulties that deterred the Government. I do not say that those difficulties are insuperable, in the teeth of an undertaking on the part of my Friends behind me, that they will give us a definition of Ulster tenant-right which may be extended to the rest of Ireland. I can only say that if they can bring forward such a definition, and show us that it is a practicable and just one, they will give us a solution of one of the greatest difficulties of this question. My right hon. Friend spoke just now of interference which a part of this Bill makes with the rights of tenants in Ireland; he also spoke of the manner in which it interferes with the right of free contract; and he expressed a desire that legislation with regard to the two countries should be identical, if possible. I will make this admission to my right hon. Friend without qualification or reservation. I think it would be unjustifiable on the part of the Government, and it would be reprehensible on the part of the House, if we admitted any principle of legislation for Ireland which, in like circumstances, we should not be prepared to apply to England. I say, Sir, "in like circumstances." But who is there who says that the circumstances are alike? We heard the other night from a high authority on the opposite side of the House, in an eloquent speech delivered on the first night of this debate, that, not only were the circumstances dissimilar, but that they were in two different stages of civilization. My right hon. Friend who spoke last dwelt on the case, the facilities, and the safety with which contracts between landlords and tenants were enforced in England; but we all know that those landlords and tenants deal on terms of independence. Whatever right an English landlord may have acquired under a custom or by law, he has no more difficulty in enforcing it in a court of law than would be felt by any other member of the community who might be a creditor or a claimant. But have you really considered what are 1650 practically the rights of property in Ireland at this moment? Theoretically they may be absolute; but what are they as we see them in every-day practice? Which of the rights of property can an Irish landlord exercise at this moment with the same freedom and safety as he could exercise them in England? I am not now speaking of Ulster, but of the rest of Ireland. Can he choose his tenant as he pleases? Can he evict him us he pleases? Can he raise his rent as he pleases? We know that a landlord exercises those rights at the peril of his life. And what are the rights of a landlord when he is not sure of that very first right—the right to live on his estate? I read the other day of a landlord who raised his rent, and on the following Sunday he went to the parish church, attended by his sons, armed with I double-barrelled guns and revolvers. I agree with my right hon. Friend that there is nothing so valuable and so healthy as the law of free contract—that is to say, in a country which is governed by the laws of civilization and the maxims of political economy. What is the exercise of free contract in Ireland, when you read that one contracting party walks about his farm guarded by two policemen, lest the other contracting party should shoot him through the hedge? And that, Sir, was what one speaker on the other side of the House the other night called, with unconscious satire, "the enjoyment of the rights of property," which were so cruelly interfered with by this Bill. Sir, Irish landlords may have rights, and they may have the enjoyment of those rights; but to outsiders, who judge of Ireland by the occurrences of which they read in the newspapers, it must appear that the perils of property in Ireland are far more conspicuous than either the rights or their enjoyment. The fact is that the rights of property depend upon the law; but, unfortunately, in Ireland the law is not the safeguard of the landlord. The law, too, should be sustained by opinion; but opinion, unfortunately, is too apt in Ireland to isolate the landlord. I said there is no law in Ireland, but I was wrong. There are two laws. There is the statute law, which is not respected, and there is the law of secret societies, which is both respected and obeyed. The one calls on the policeman, and calls in vain, to pro- 1651 tect the landlord; the other calls on the assassin, and does not call in vain, to secure the tenant. This was the state of things with, which the Government had to deal. It was the task—the very hard task imposed upon them. They had to examine the law; they had to go into an examination of the facts; and they had to consider the feelings and influences which led to the law being defied and defeated; and they had to devise a scheme of legislation that should reconcile the law of the land with the feelings, the customs, and the requirements of a disaffected, a divided, and a demoralized population. How were they to proceed? Sir, the numerous inquiries and reports which were referred to by the First Minister of the Crown, when he introduced this question, as having been received during the Recess from correspondents, and from those who visited Ireland with a view to judge of the facts of this question for themselves, have poured great floods of light upon us, and while they have been useful in showing us what we ought to do and could do in Ireland, they have been not less useful in showing the Government what they could not and ought not to do. They were useful, also, in dispelling two popular illusions; one with regard to the landlords, the other with regard to tenants. We are not to assume, as has been too commonly assumed, that the landlords of Ireland are responsible for the present lamentable state of things. We know that they have been the victims of circumstances which the present generation did not create, and while there are in Ireland, as in England, both good and bad landlords, it is now universally admitted that in Ireland a good landlord is the rule, and a bad one the exception. Neither were we, in the application of remedies, free for one moment to admit that the title of an Irish landlord to his estate was one whit less sacred or inviolable than that of the English landlord, whose title to his land is as good as the title of any manufacturer to his mill, or of a shopkeeper to his store. Again, with regard to the tenantry, we are not to conclude, as has been too commonly done, that every tenant is at heart a Fenian. Sir, I believe that an Irish tenant is at heart precisely the reverse. A Fenian is a landless man, with feelings akin to those of an alien or an out- 1652 cast; he is for separation, for disunion, for transferring his allegiance, and for invasion; but the Irish tenant—a tenant-occupier—he has nothing in common with the Fenian except a hatred of the law as long as he feels that it oppresses him. Once change that law and you immediately change him. His desire, his ardent passion, is to draw closer his ties to his native land. He wishes to draw closer those ties—love of country is still warm within him—and if you will but let him feel that his country has some care for him; it will give him something he can rest upon; it will give him a habitation and a home, his whole nature will be immediately changed. He is enlisted on the side of law and order; his instincts become conservative; outrage finds no sympathy in him, nor crime any concealment. He will be the first man to rouse the police, to raise a hue and cry against a murderer; he will be the first to help you to drive the Fenians into the sea. [An ironical cheer from an Irish Member.] I am sorry to find that an Irish representative does not approve the description I have given of his countrymen. Such being the state of things, the character of the landlords presenting no obstacle, and the feelings of the tenants closely drawing them by their interests to an agreement, we should suppose that the difficulties in the way of a speedy and amicable arrangement would not at any rate be insuperable. Sir, I have avoided going into the details of the measure, as we are now discussing the principle upon the second reading. But I may state generally that the Irish tenant has complained of three great grievances; he has complained of his liability to eviction, he has complained of his liability to the confiscation of his improvements, and he has complained of his liability to rack rental. Now, the Bill acknowledges all these grievances, and more or less effectually attempts to deal with them, and where it falls short it at least opens the ground for anybody else to supply its omissions by proposing Amendments in Committee. With regard to the power of eviction, I am not prepared to say that the Bill, as it now stands, makes eviction impossible; but it, at all events, renders it more difficult, by diminishing the motives and facilities that now exist for carrying it out. Then, as to liability to the confiscation of improve- 1653 ments—compensation for tenants' improvements is made absolutely certain, and most undoubtedly it confers a benefit on the tenant, which can be hardly exaggerated—namely, it changes the presumption of the law which formerly made all such improvements the property of the landlord, they are henceforth presumed, to be the property of the tenants. I shall next allude to the third grievance complained, of—namely, the liability of the tenant to a rack rent. The hon. and gallant Member for Tipperary (Captain White) complained strongly the other night that the Bill did not provide a sufficient security against rack rentals. Well, let the hon. and gallant Member propose a clause, and if he can show us how the security he asks for can be provided in a just and practical manner the Government is pledged to entertain it. Therefore, although the Bill, as it now stands, may not carry out all the intentions of the Government, still, there it is upon the table, open to any hon. Member to amend in such a manner as shall make it carry out all that the Government have professed and intended upon the subject. At all events, there can be no doubt that this Bill goes much further in the interest of the tenant than any other Bill ever proposed either by a Government or by a private Member. I do not know myself how it could go much further. It certainly does not make the tenant the actual owner of his farm; but it gives him the greatest facilities of becoming such if he be thrifty and industrious. If it does not turn the tenant at once into the proprietor of the farm, it does the next best thing for him. I do not know that any hon. Gentleman in this House advocates such a change. But if any persons in Ireland could be found to advocate it I should be disposed to ask them two questions—first, what security they would have that the new race of landlords would be an improvement on the old? and, secondly, what answer the new landlords would have when the new tenants, agitating for fixity of tenure, told them they would be shot if they did not grant it? The right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), at the conclusion of his speech the other night, humorously described the Bill, and suggested that its title should be changed, and that it should be called 1654 "a Bill for the promotion of litigation, and for the extinction of small holders." In my opinion, on the contrary, if the title of the Bill were changed it should be termed "a Bill for the protection and comfort of landlords, and for the improvement and elevation of their tenants." Because, although it will effect some change in the existing relations between landlords and tenants, yet it will operate in favour of the former as much as it will on behalf of the latter. And in this way—and I am sure that there is not a landlord on the other side of the House who will not agree with me upon this point—that the social security which the Bill gives to the landlord will add materially to the value of his estate. I am prepared to maintain that in a mere money point of view the landlord will get a return under this Bill far more than equivalent to what he gives up to his tenant under it. I will, however, go one step further, and say that I believe his gain in point of domestic comfort—in point of the safety and happiness of his family, and of being able to live in security among a contented tenantry will be such that it is impossible to estimate it by any pecuniary calculation. I heard with regret the other night from an hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Bryan)—though certainly not with surprise, inasmuch as the observation was not new to any of us—that several county meetings had been held in Ireland at which this Bill was considered—I think my hon. Friend said there had been forty such meetings—at every one of which this Bill was condemned with a unanimity and a force of language it is scarcely possible to misinterpret. I think there are few of us disposed to underrate the importance of that fact.
§ MR. HORSMAN
Well, then, I will refrain from founding any argument upon what I believed had been stated by the hon. Member. The hon. Member, however, says that the principles and the provisions of the measure were denounced by anticipation at the county meetings. That is a very grave occurrence, and I do not think that anyone in the House will be inclined to under- 1655 value its significance, because we know that the tenants of Ireland cannot be expected to examine and judge of the Bill for themselves—they must believe it to be what the leaders of the agitation represent it to be, and if those leaders set themselves heartily to work to discredit and defeat the measure they possess great advantages for doing so. They know—what we are too apt to lose sight of in this House—that it is the tamper of the Irish tenantry, and not their material position, that has for years past constituted England's difficulty and the Irish agitator's opportunity. They know that this land question has been an old sore in Ireland for generations, that it has been transmitted from fathers to children—and I am not using terms too strong when I say transmitted with tears and often with curses—and that it even now rankles in the blood. They recollect that a quarter of a century ago the Devon Commission published far and wide the grievances of the Irish tenantry, and that from that day every successive Government has taken up the question only to trifle with it, as they trifled with the Irish Church question. But, in the meanwhile, those Tenant Protection Societies, which were then few and far between, have spread organization throughout the land, a new generation has sprung up, better educated and more self-reliant, and, therefore, under the sense of grievance far more dangerous, and the effect is seen in this—that although there never was a time when the material condition of the Irish tenantry was so good as it is at the present time, there never was a time when the lives of landlords who enforced their extreme rights were so unsafe. But that which I think is the darkest feature of it all is shown in those Judges' charges, to which particular attention has been of late called. The Judges dwell upon the frequency and enormity of crime in Ireland; but they are far more appalled by the impunity with which these crimes are committed. It is this mysterious inefficiency and helplessness of the police—from whatever cause that may arise—that constitutes a new element of danger not yet taken into account, and which must have conveyed a serious warning to the Government that in the preparation of remedial measures they had not an hour to lose. Now, Sir, we all know that this 1656 Bill will pass through all its various stages, and that it is practically certain to become law, and that its success when it becomes law will depend in a great measure upon the manner in which it is accepted by the tenantry of Ireland; and upon this point I may state that, notwithstanding the attempts made to mislead them with regard to the effect of this Bill, I believe, even from the speeches of hon. Members in this debate, who have not been backward to express the feelings of their constituents, and who have done their duty in a manly and courageous manner, that my hopes are greater than my apprehensions. And I am persuaded, and I say so from my long experience, that no serious agitation can long be carried on without some real admitted grievance. It will undoubtedly require time for the operation of the Bill to become known; but when its effect is once appreciated, any feeling that may be raised against it will soon be dispelled. And it will have this effect—it will narrow and define the true issue; men will be compelled to choose their side, and rank themselves either with those who are in favour of settlement and peace, or with those who still desire to keep up a system of unsettlement and outrage, and the Government will have a law for both. One word more, and I have done. In many quarters a good deal has been said, and some dissatisfaction has been expressed, at the slowness and unwillingness of the Government to resort to severe measures of repression; and I must say for myself, and I should suppose I may say the same for almost the whole of the House, that I have watched with considerable interest and with a good deal of anxiety the inaction of the Government, and I think that on both sides of the House, notwithstanding some expressions of disapproval, there has been a disposition to say that up to a certain point the Government, with their special knowledge of the circumstances, and with their exclusive intelligence, were the best judges of their responsibility and of their duty. Their position has been one of great difficulty. They had two courses open to them. They might have prefaced the introduction of this measure by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and by doing so they might have exasperated public feeling in Ireland, have prejudiced the reception of the Bill, have 1657 gratified its enemies, and have imperilled, if they did not insure, its fate. The Government might have taken another course; they might have said—"It is true another month's or six weeks' outrage unchecked, of crime undetected and unpunished, is possible, and great is the responsibility of a Government were such a state of things allowed to go on;" but they might have added—"Graver still is the responsibility of the Cabinet that, having two measures at its command, the one which all experience has condemned as temporary in its aim, irritating in its character, pernicious and fatal in its results, and the other so large and beneficent in its nature and so hopeful in the prospects it unfolds that it might well warm the heart and fire the ambition of any Minister to whom was committed so great and good a work"—I say it would have been the height of folly and pusillanimity on the part of the Government if they had sacrificed the great and permanent good from a mistaken measure of their duty with regard to the evils of the hour, to which their own Bill was fixing an almost immediate termination. But, although I sympathize with the unwillingness of the Government, or rather with its true and evident determination not to be diverted from the policy they had set before them, I feel that a new situation arises, and a now responsibility is cast upon them, from the day this Bill passes a second reading. When this Bill is ordered to be read a second time—as I have every hope it will be by the unanimous vote of this House—the first care and duty of the Government will be to see that the measure has fair play, that its friends have fair play in Ireland, to see that those in whose interest it is brought forward have fair play in Ireland, and this cannot be so long as the reign of terror is permitted to go on. The Government has shown they can be just; they must now show they can be firm and resolute. The law must be upheld, life must be protected, society must be made safe, and that is not to be done by striking at the poor miscreant who fires the shot. He is not the real criminal; the real criminal is he in the higher walks of life who for his own purpose inflames the passions that find vent in blood. It is at him that the hand must strike—and wherever he be found, whatever his vocation, and under whatever disguise he may be at work, 1658 justice must strike, whether in the interests of the poor, the friendless, and the misguided whom this Bill may tend to rescue and raise, or whether in the higher interests of Ireland and the Empire. When justice strikes she must strike hard and deep, not in cruelty, but in mercy, and throughout the whole civilized world there is not a friend of humanity and freedom who will not approve the blow. But that is a contingency I will not anticipate. It is remote, and I trust not to be contemplated. It is far more agreeable to anticipate that this Bill will be received in Ireland in the spirit in which it is offered by England. It is not necessary for our Irish friends to ask whether this is the very best Bill that can be devised for them. What they have to ask is, whether it be an honest and a just Bill as far as it goes, conceived in a friendly spirit, and with a sincere and earnest desire to repair the past and improve the future. I hope the unanimity with which I am sanguine this Bill will pass through its second reading may be the prelude of all parties going into Committee with the one object of making the Bill justly acceptable to all those whose interests are affected by it in Ireland; and then, Sir, I trust the Land Bill of 1870, following closely upon the Church Bill of 1869, will be an evidence, reaching to the very heart of Ireland, of our determination to persevere in a policy of conciliation based on justice, by legislative measures that will make this Parliament memorable in history for redeeming the character of England, and placing upon new and sure foundations the loyalty and prosperity of Ireland.
§ MR. PELL
said, he should hardly have ventured, as a Member so recently elected, to address the House on that occasion, but that in the gracious Speech from the Throne last year, on the prorogation of Parliament, they were called upon to give their consideration, during the vacation, to such matters as they could bring some practical experience to bear on; and, so far as he had had time and opportunity, he had acted in obedience to that suggestion. It must have been observed, by those who had listened to this debate—which he hoped was now drawing to a close—that there had been a dulness attaching to it throughout; and, with some few exceptions, there had been a want of that 1659 liveliness which was to be expected in the discussion of so great and important a question. He ventured to express the opinion that the character of the debate had arisen from surprise at the Bill that had been introduced; and those who were prepared, at the outset, to meet the Government proposal with stern opposition had been put somewhat in the position of Balaam, and instead of cursing they had come to bless the measure. The Bill afforded so many opportunities for the improvement of agriculture in Ireland, that he could not agree with those who ventured to oppose it. There was much in the Bill that he disapproved, and much that commended itself to both sides of the House; and, under the circumstances, he thought they should endeavour to make the Bill as perfect as possible. The debate had been relieved by a speech from the Treasury Bench, and although he heard if with some, amazement, he hardly thought if possessed that dignity which the occasion required and the character of the individual would have led them to expect from him. It reminded him of the frequenter of Ballinasloe fair who, in want of an occasion for conflict; would trail his coat upon the ground with an invitation to his companions to tread on it. The Bill professed to deal with four important matters. First, it proposed to control, to a certain extent, the severe competition for land in Ireland; but whether it accomplished that object or not, the competition for land in Ireland had not produced the same result for that country it had in England. It had failed adequately to improve the cultivation of land in that country, for out of 20,000,000 acres of land in Ireland there still remained 4,000,000 acres, according to the statistics of 1867, of waste and bog land. One would have thought that the effect of the competition for land in Ireland would have been to have reclaimed a great portion of it. It appeared to him that in controlling the competition for land they would produce a stale of things that would not advance, as they would like to see, the cultivation of the soil in Ireland. The compensation clauses would, no doubt, be most valuable in encouraging agriculture; and he should like to see many of the customs of this country extended to Ireland—and some of theirs introduced into this country—but not the 1660 Irish custom of goodwill. That was a most objectionable custom; and, so far as he could learn, it did not depend so much upon what the tenant did upon the land as upon the character of the landlord under whom he rented. If he were an easy man, the goodwill would run up to a high price. Notwithstanding all that had been said about these Ulster goodwill rights, and similar rights applying in other parts of Ireland, they ought to be regarded as a kind of perquisite more than anything else, and, as such, it would be exceedingly difficult to put a value upon them. Instead of contending for the recognition of Ulster tenant-right, he hoped nothing would be done in the way of legislating for the perpetuation of any such right, whether in Ulster or any other part of Ireland. It had been suggested that the tenant-right of Ulster ought to be defined; but, in his judgment, the Government had acted wisely in not attempting to define it. They knew that—Old order changeth, giving place to new;And God fulfils himself in many ways,Lost one good custom should corrupt the world.Therefore, it would be futile to try to fix a custom. With regard to that part of the Bill which dealt with tenants' improvements, he believed, with some modification, it would have the full assent of many, if not most, of the hon. Members on both sides of the House. As land was at present managed in Ireland, there was a tendency to discourage, or, at any rate, not to encourage, improvements in the cultivation of the soil. When a tenant left his land he was usually permitted to soil everything off—a system which tended greatly to impede the advance of agriculture and good husbandry. To this portion of the Bill, therefore, he should be inclined to give his support. The proposed creation of peasant proprietors would, in his opinion, be of very doubtful advantage. He could see nothing unreasonable in affording opportunities to men to become proprietors of the soil if they were so inclined; but whether it would be wise and prudent to lend public money for promoting that object was quite another question. He himself believed, in all humility, that it would be neither wise nor prudent. Hon. Members should not forgot that, these created proprietors would not be put upon the same footing with the older proprietors of land in 1661 Ireland, for as they would be created by the Government Bill, under the operation of the same measure, there would be a Board of Works keeping a constant espionnage over them, for the purpose of preventing the division or subdivision of the land. What would be more inconvenient to a tenant than to have an incessant espionnage exercised over him by the Government, who professedly invested him with all the advantages attached to the possession of freehold? Before assent could be given to that portion of the measure, he felt sure the House must seriously deliberate as to the operation of such a provision. He heartily concurred in the remark of his hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Read) that a poor man, with a small amount of capital and some knowledge of husbandry, would be more independent if he devoted what little money he possessed to the cultivation of the soil under a landlord than he would be if he devoted it to the purchase of land. The feeling which led men to become possessors of the soil was, no doubt, a laudable one; but too many persons forgot that the cultivation of small plots of land depended for its success, not so much on the skill and exertions of the holder, as upon the natural conditions of the soil. Wherever in England there were plots of land, with a warm soil, and easy to be worked with a spade, and situated near a railroad, or within easy access of a large town, it would be found that, in spite of the English landlords, who had been so much condemned by many persons, small cultivation was carried on successfully, and was daily increasing. He had lately travelled 1,200 and odd miles in Ireland, chiefly in the Western counties, in order to institute inquiries on this subject, and he ascertained that wherever small freeholds existed they had, with one single exception, been created by the character of the soil. One peculiarly remarkable circumstance came under his observation. Even where land was selling for £200 per Irish acre, and was owned and cultivated under the system of small holdings, he saw one acre of land uncultivated, and lying entirely waste, and neighbours explained the circumstance by stating that the owner had fixed the rent so extravagantly high, and had clung so pertinaciously to his demand, that he had let the time 1662 pass for growing a crop, and would have to wait during another revolution of twelve months before the land could be of advantage either to him or the community. And yet within a distance of two miles the owner of that land could have found a customer who would have given him £200 for it. In the Bill there frequently occurred the expression "compensation for the reclamation of land," and it was, he believed, only in the latter part of the Bill that the expression "reclamation of waste land" was used. It was possible that a serious difficulty might arise if this matter were not well considered. How could you define "reclamation of land?" Everybody knew what was meant in England by reclamation of waste land, which was generally preceded by an Act of Parliament, and resulted in a great change in the surface of the locality where the reclamation was effected. In Ireland, however, the reclamation of land consisted of this operation. The tenant went on to a piece of land which, in the first instance, was not waste, as we understood the word in this country. He then proceeded, to remove, with great energy, skill, and perseverance, the large stones from the surface, to dig up others, to put up rough fences, to drain the ground, and otherwise to prepare it for cultivation. He did not know, however, whether this could be rightly termed reclamation of land at all. It was a great improvement of the land, no doubt, and it was immediately followed by a very large return of profit on the outlay, which varied from £15 to £20 per acre. Scotchmen were not appalled by this expenditure; they went over to Ireland, and conducted their operations rapidly as compared with the Irishmen. In the first place, the Scotchman would prefer taking land which he considered improvable upon a lease of twenty-one years; he would then reclaim it, so as to get what he could out of the soil; but did he ask for the renewal of the lease? Instead of renewing the lease for the old land, he began to cultivate fresh ground, and under the security of a fresh lease the improver would recoup himself. If he were succeeded in that land by one less active in keeping up the fences and cleansing the drains—one inclined to think that dairy farming would suit him better than cultivation of the land by ploughing—the land would 1663 run back to waste. The stones which had been taken would remain out of the land, but the fences which had been built with them would tumble down; gorse, rushes, fern, and weeds of that description would come up on the soil that the first reclaimer had cleared; and he should like to know whether it was proposed under this Bill that a fresh charge should be imposed on that land for the restoration of the works which the original reclaimer had imposed on it by his industry? In such a case he thought the tenant might take the landlord into court with a good case for compensation in respect of improvements for which he had already paid heavily in the first instance. He would hail, with the greatest satisfaction, any measure which the united efforts of both sides of the House might produce, promising to bring contentment to Ireland. Without that contentment the country could not have prosperity. No discontented man could put his hand to the plough with vigour. He was not sanguine enough to believe that contentment would follow the acceptance by Parliament of this Bill. He prayed God it might; but if it did not, and if a defiant attitude—that unreasonably defiant attitude which now existed—was still to be borne towards England by the sister country; if a system of terror was to be kept in force against the operation of this measure if it became law, he did trust the Government would proceed in some different way—although it might be hard for them, as it must be for them all—and that measures would be taken, at all events, to secure, if possible, the lives of men who had no bad, no un-neighbourly intentions towards those who lived on their land.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
Sir, in the few observations I have to offer I shall endeavour to confine myself, as strictly as possible, to questions of principle. And, first of all, I desire to join with so many others in an expression of gratitude to the Government for the manner in which, speaking generally, they have dealt with this most difficult question. I freely confess that I had hardly supposed it possible that any measure could be devised on the subject which should so nearly meet the difficulties of the case, and avoid getting into other and greater difficulties. In my opinion, if the Government had 1664 yielded to the wild demands which were made with loud voices—but I trust not really by the majority of the people in Ireland—they would have taken the most fatal course any Government could possibly have taken in a country like our own—a course of which no man could foretell what might have been the ultimate consequences. On the other hand, if they had produced some weak and inefficient measure, entirely inadequate to the magnitude of the subject, and in no degree calculated to satisfy what was reasonable in the expectations excited—to say nothing of the effect that might have been produced on the position of the Government itself—I think such a failure, after so much hope had been raised, would have been attended with disastrous consequences in Ireland. But, whatever else may be in doubt, on this occasion, I think it is not doubted by anyone that the Government has succeeded in producing a measure large enough and important enough to redeem it from the imputation of feebleness, and, at the same time—looking with candour to its general provisions—sufficiently in accordance with the principles of justice to redeem it from the imputation of being, in any degree whatever, revolutionary. I, for one, do cordially thank the Government for the manner in which they have, in dealing with so difficult a question in these respects, discharged their duty. With regard to the Bill itself, I cannot help observing that the sense generally expressed on the other side of the House as to the soundness, in most respects, of the Bill as applied to the present emergency in Ireland has been qualified by some criticisms, the force of which I confess myself unable to understand. The right hon. Gentleman, for instance, the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt), while he commended the Bill in one point of view, so far as it proposes a present remedy for the present difficulties of Ireland, objected to it in another aspect, as settling a land code for the future, as tending to stereotype a bad system, and marking permanently a line of departure from the sound principles of the law of England. I do not concur in that view. As I read the Bill, it is simply and entirely a Bill intended to deal with the present circumstances of Ireland. You cannot, in dealing with such a subject, draw a line between to- 1665 day and to-morrow, and say the circumstances of to-day being entirely changed, the system suitable for to-day will be unsuited to the circumstances of to-morrow. When the progress of improvement in Ireland shall have happily advanced to the necessary point—when farms shall have become larger, and the unreasonable demand for land, without reference to the terms on which it shall be obtained, shall cease, the principles of English law may become suitable to the people of that country. The legislation of that day will, doubtless, adapt itself to the circumstances of that time. But these are not at present the circumstances of Ireland, and nobody can tell when they are likely to become so. That being so, you must deal with the existing situation of things as you find it, and with the immediate future as connected with the present state of interests and habits in Ireland. The whole, therefore, of that line of criticism seems—if I may venture respectfully to say so—entirely baseless. I quite concur with what the right hon. Gentleman said, and what was said before him by the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball), in very much preferring the state of agricultural habits, and the general laws and customs relating to land, which prevail in England. That may be my prejudice as an Englishman, or it may be a sound view, as I believe it is. But, whether it is humiliating or not, we must look at the facts of the case; and, the circumstances of Ireland being admitted to be substantially different from the circumstances of England, dealing with circumstances in Ireland which do not exist in England, we must submit to the humiliation, and endeavour to legislate for those circumstances as well as we can. In that state of things, I confess the only questions I am disposed to ask myself on the second reading are—first, whether this Bill preserves the rights of property substantially; and, next, whether you are likely to do any good by it? With regard to the first of these questions, I confess I could not myself have been induced to agree to any measure which seemed to me, upon the whole, to involve any serious and substantial departure from those great and necessary principles on which, as it appears to me, the rights of property rest. Some of the schemes which have been proposed with regard to Ireland do seem to me, I 1666 confess, to entirely ignore these principles. I shall not go into the argument on that subject, because that point was exhausted by the head of the Government when he spoke of fixity of tenure, which, in plain English, means taking away the property of one man and giving it to another. My right hon. Friend said that, according to the principles of justice, if we transferred property in that way, we must pay for it. No doubt, we may take a man's property, but, in that case, we must compensate him for it. I prefer the doctrine of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury to the extreme proposition stated by the Secretary for Ireland, as held by Judge Long-field. It seems to me that the language quoted as that of Judge Longfield is somewhat dangerous in its extent. That learned Judge appears to have said, that those who bought the Parliamentary titles, granted under the Encumbered Estates Act, could not complain of any subsequent legislation which dealt with landlords as a class, and not as private individuals. But that entirely depends on the nature of the legislation. An Act of general confiscation would, indeed, violate fundamental principles in all cases, and not only in the cases of persons having titles guaranteed by Parliament. But still, I think it cannot be denied, that it would be contrary to the special guarantee, as well as to general principles, if you destroyed in one Session titles, on the faith of which you had induced purchasers to invest their money, in another. There is no doubt that there may be a kind of legislation which would be the grossest possible breach of faith; but it does not appear to me that there is anything in this Bill at variance with the universal principles of equity, except, perhaps, the 3rd clause, which deals with estates not held under custom. That is the only provision which appears to raise a serious difficulty. With regard to legalizing the Ulster custom, no one has suggested that there is any serious difficulty on that point; but when the right hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) said that the extension of the Lister custom to the rest of Ireland was open for our consideration, I must say that that does appear a manifest violation of the principles of justice, and to be impossible, if we mean to respect those principles. It is unquestionable that 1667 where the custom obtains and landlords and tenants act on it in their dealings with one another, in such a case it is a matter of honesty for the landlord to allow the tenant to have the benefit of the custom. But when you talk of extending that custom to other parts of Ireland, you speak of a change which would alter the terms which, in those other parts of Ireland, have already been agreed on between landlord and tenant; and, therefore, if you gave in such a case to the tenant the value of the custom existing elsewhere, you would be just taking so much from the landlord and giving it to the tenant. Another matter mentioned either by the Mover or the Seconder of the Amendment was the scheme of giving what, in substance, would be fixity of tenure, with a periodical valuation of the land for the purpose of determining the rent. A scheme more full of objection, both as respects landlord and tenant, I cannot conceive. On the part of the landlord it is objectionable, because you would take away from him his land; and on the part of the tenant it is likewise disadvantageous, because his rent would be just as variable and uncertain as under the present tenure, and would be sure to be periodically raised in many cases in which a liberal landlord might otherwise allow it to continue unchanged. Under such a scheme you would have constantly brought in a Judge or the State—and what could be worse than the interference of the State in a matter of that kind—to settle the terms of the holding, to value all the lands whenever the time of valuation came round—and there would be a continual conflict between landlord and tenant. The working of a somewhat similar system in India has been referred to; but I see, in a pamphlet by Mr. George Campbell, that he was against its introduction into Ireland, because he foresaw that even in India it would not long work as a tolerable system. I come now to the 3rd clause, which appears to contain the only serious difficulty of the Bill in principle. Suppose the case of a tenant who holds under no custom; yet, besides compensation for improvement, this clause proposes that such a tenant shall receive something for the loss he has sustained in quitting his holding if it is done by the act of the landlord. It is not possible to estimate the objections to, or the justifi- 1668 cations of, that clause rightly, without bearing in mind another very important and elastic clause in the Bill, mentioned by my right hon. Friend when he introduced the Bill—namely, the 14th clause, which provides that, in the case of such a difference between the parties as obliges them to go into court, the landlord shall be able—as against any such claim as that mentioned in the 3rd clause—not only to set up any counter claim arising from the deterioration of land, breach of covenant, &c., but also any other circumstances of conduct on the tenant's part, which may justify him in the course he has taken. Without that safeguard it must be admitted that the Bill would be giving something to the tenant which does not belong to him, and taking away from the landlord something which belongs to him. But under that clause, if the landlord can show reasonable cause for eviction, he may reduce the tenant's claim to nothing, or so neutralize it as to make his compensation much less than it would be under the maximum of the scale in the Bill. Even so, I feel that such a provision can hardly be justified; unless on the ground of some great political necessity for placing a strong check upon arbitrary evictions, in the interest of property itself, and not as a mere boon to the occupiers of land. I am therefore led to ask, whether the Irish landowners generally object to this principle? And we got a reply to that question from the able speech of the hon. Member for Carlow County (Mr. Kavanagh), who said that, looking the clause clearly in the face as a penalty on bad landlords for unreasonable evictions, he thought it would be for the benefit of landlords, on the whole, as giving to them, as well as to their tenants a greater security of tenure. If that be its true character I draw this corollary, that it will not upon the whole diminish the value of land in Ireland. At the same time, I hold myself fully at liberty to consider in Committee whether the clauses connected with this subject do not require amendment for the purpose of preventing any possible injustice. Great objection has been made, as if there were something contrary to principle in the matter, to those parts of the Bill by which it is provided that certain rights given by the measure shall not be contracted away. I see no objection to that. 1669 If the Bill be wanted by the circumstances of Ireland, it is so on the principle that bad landlords and small tenants willing to get land on any terms are not to be trusted to contract equally with each other, and that the want of some safeguard in this respect is a source of serious political danger in Ireland. In that case it is consistent with sound principles of policy, and with many instances which might easily be produced from the laws of the country, to say—"On those points, and for those purposes, in respect to which the law cannot trust the landlord and tenant to deal with each other, the law shall make a contract, and they shall not be able to alter that law." That is a sound principle if prudently applied. It has also been asserted that enormous litigation will grow out of the Bill. Well, everybody knows that you cannot give legal rights without also giving legal remedies. But I do not think it is a just view of those clauses to say that, as a general rule, their tendency is to force parties into litigation, or to invite them to it. They are really addressed to this end, that if differences take place which make a resort to justice necessary, the litigation shall be as short as possible, that the remedy shall be as simple, as accessible, as summary and as cheap as it can be. If we are to have the Bill at all—and I confess that I look upon the necessity for the Bill as a great misfortune—but if the necessity really exists, we must provide both legal rights and legal remedies; because it proceeds upon the supposition that there are bad landlords, who will not do justice to their tenants, and bad tenants, who will not do justice to their landlords unless they are compelled by law. I do not think we need trouble ourselves very much about the clauses for enabling people to acquire land. It seems to me that they are very unimportant; but I am quite willing that a little money should be so spent, and that the experiment should be tried upon the responsibility of the Government. I will say but a few words on the effect to be expected from the Bill. No man can expect that standing alone it will accomplish its object. No wise man, who knows the history and character of the outrages that have disgraced the Ireland of the present day, can believe that those who are guilty of those outrages draw any just or equit- 1670 able distinctions. Whether the evictions be for non-payment of rent or for any other cause, the evidence before the Devon Commission, and much later information which has reached me, and which I am sure I can trust, proves that those who have no regard for other men's lives are just as likely to use the violent methods to which they are accustomed where a landlord has done no wrong, and where an eviction has taken place for the most justifiable cause, as where it has been for the most arbitrary cause. That evidence proves that such ruffians not only draw no distinction between eviction for nonpayment of rent and eviction for any other cause, but it proves that old claims, aye, and claims that have actually been amply compensated, are, sometimes after the lapse of many years, raked up, and raked up for purposes of the most horrible description. No wise man, therefore, will expect that this measure, standing alone, and recognizing, as it does recognize, the rights of both landlords and tenants, will of itself put an end to these outrages, or produce that peace and harmony which we all so much desire to see established in Ireland. But I apprehend it will do this—it will remove everything like plausible reason—justification, of course, there can be none—for any connivance on the part of those of the people who are not themselves guilty of these outrages, with the outrages, and with the persons who are guilty of them. It will remove, as far as legislation can remove it, the moral cause of the outrages, and that being so, the Government will have full moral justification for those ulterior measures which I quite agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Horsman) in thinking will be found to be the necessary complement of this Bill—measures without which it cannot by any possibility succeed—if indeed the influence of those who lead the people of Ireland, and the moral power of the better and much more numerous part of the population should not at once be sufficient, as we hardly dare hope it can be, to put an end to these disorders. It is absolutely necessary, for the success of the Bill, that these disorders should be put an end to. It would be a mockery to talk of justice; it would be a mockery to talk of redressing wrongs, if you allowed the greatest wrongs to pass unredressed, if you al- 1671 lowed the rights which in this Bill are solemnly asserted to remain at the mercy of the secret assassin and of the bands of conspirators who can invoke him when they please. It would be an absolute mockery. Your Bill will not be worth the paper it is writen on if it is not followed up by measures sufficient to establish the authority of the law. Nor will it do to say that in Ireland you can only apply the measures which are suitable to the circumstances of England. This Bill is, in every line of it, an answer to such an argument. This Bill is not suitable to the circumstances of England, and it is so, because the circumstances of Ireland are different. If in England we had such outrages and disorders as prevail in Ireland, does anyone imagine for a moment that we would encumber ourselves with difficulties arising out of constitutional forms and precedents, if they stood in the way of the object for which laws exist and did not tend to fulfil those objects? It is, then, I maintain, the most sacred duly of the Government to render their measure effectual by protecting both, tenant and landlord in Ireland in the enjoyment of their legal rights, and by putting an end to the murders which now make peace and prosperity in some parts of Ireland—happily they are but a few parts of Ireland after all—impossible. But, mind, though it is true that they are but a few parts of Ireland, no man can tell to how many other parts those crimes would extend, if such a system were allowed to go on unchecked. And I must say, that of all the mockeries in the world, the greatest is to talk about the mischiefs absenteeism produces, and to express a desire that landlords should reside among their tenantry, be the dispensers to them of benevolence, spend their money on their estates, and discharge the other duties which belong to their position, when if a landlord residing upon his property only seeks to obtain his rent, or to exercise the rights of a proprietor for some other just and lawful purpose, his life and the lives of his servants, agents, and children immediately become at stake. I do not think anyone can fail to see that the impotence of the law to punish the commission of crime in Ireland tends to dissolve all the bonds of society. The effect of such a state of things does not stop with the landlord; it goes down to his bailiffs and agents, 1672 to the railway official and the egg merchant; in short, any man who seeks to do what he is allowed to do by the law, and who is the object of his neighbour's jealousy and envy, is liable to have not only his property but his life placed in danger. Nothing on earth, I may add, should induce me to support this Bill but my firm conviction and persuasion, that the Government, which has exhibited so much courage with respect to this Bill, which displayed equal courage last year, although I did not then agree with them, and which is supported by so large a majority both in this House and in the country, are as much determined to do their duty with regard to the steps which remain to be taken for the purpose of protecting life and property in Ireland, as they have shown themselves to be in producing these conciliatory measures, which, if they have the desired effect, may succeed in reconciling two countries which have been so long and so unhappily divided.
§ VISCOUNT BURKE
said, that though the measure had undeniable excellences, no one could doubt upon examining it that it was fraught with injustice to the landlord. On looking impartially at the question, they must observe with surprise how small was the injustice complained of, compared with the magnitude of the discontent it had caused, and the still greater difficulty of removing the double evil of the discontent and the injustice, without doing injustice to another class at the cost of the nation's good faith. To satisfy both tenant and justice appears beyond the power of this Bill, which cannot cure by one spasmodic effort of legislation, however ably planned, this agrarian evil, which, although at first caused by injustice, has now, by long continuance, become a second nature, with a life of its own too strong to end with the cessation of its cause. He thought they were in the habit of exaggerating the state of affairs, and of magnifying the injustice of laws which were defective, as affording facilities for injustice on the part of landlords, rather than unjust in themselves. Take, for instance, the case of non-compensation for improvements, which we have lately been taught in England to call a wicked felony. Other nations did not take that view. In introducing this Bill the right hon. Gentlemen at the head of the Government had quoted 1673 words used by the Emperor of the French, as a gratifying instance of foreign sympathy, and as an incitement to us to do justice to Ireland. But what was the custom in France with regard to improvements? The French tenant neither got nor expected compensation for improvements unless it was settled by a distinct compact. Now, during the last eighteen years the French peasant, of whom the tenantry formed a larger portion than was usually suspected, was looked upon as the backbone and support of the Imperial system, while the great landowner was generally to be found among its opponents. If, then, the French tenant-farmer considered himself the victim of injustice, would he not have appealed to the Government that he knew was his friend, and would a Government so wide awake have overlooked the opportunity of conferring a benefit on its friends at the cost of its foes? Surely their neighbours were sufficiently intelligent and civilized and alive to their own interests, and yet it appeared they did not share our views on this question of non-compensation for improvements. But, granting that it was unjust that the landlord should have a property in the tenant's improvements, that portion of the Bill which gave a third or fourth part of the landlord's farm as a compensation for eviction was equally unjust; because, if the improvements as the fruit of the tenant's capital are in equity entirely the tenant's, the farm, as the fruit of the landlord's capital, must equally be entirely justly the landlord's; but Clause 3 scoffed at the landlord's right of property, though the Bill proposed to assert that right by law, in order to protect the tenant. He might be told by those who objected to landlords—and there were lots of such men about—that the landlord could afford to be plundered, while the tenant required protection. He would therefore compare the tenant, not with the landlord, but with another section of the labouring instead of landlord class. When the head of the Government brought in the Bill, he compared the manufacturing interest with that of the tenant-farmers, and he contended that the legislation which was good for the one class must be good for the other. He would, therefore, with all humility, tread in the footsteps of the right hon. Gentleman, and would ad- 1674 vance only one step further along the same path. He would compare the case of the manufacturing operative who earned 18s. a week, with the case of a tenant-farmer who earned about the same sum. The operative got one week's notice to quit, and at the end of that time 18s. if he had earned it. But this Bill proposed that the tenant-farmer should have one year's notice to quit. That was to begin with fifty-two times the notice the manufacturing operative got; but he was also to have five years' rent, equal to five years' wages, and that without doing a single day's work, so that while he was earning five years' wages by doing nothing, he might earn other five years' wages by doing something. The farmer thus earned over £500 during the time that elapsed before his notice to quit was practically out. But the operative earned only 18s., so that they estimated the loss to the tenant-farmer at 572 times more than the loss to the operative, although the financial and social condition of both were the same, and although the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government found so much similarity between the two cases as to think that what was sauce for the one was sauce for the other. He would now refer for a moment to the Ulster tenant-right. He would not waste the time of the House by exposing the absurdities, the disadvantages, the inconveniences, and defects of the system, which appeared to be a failure founded on a fallacy. But he would test the worth of it by the standard set up in this Bill. They were told that Clause 8 was intended to prevent extravagant contracts, and to stand in the way of impossible rents. For instance, a case was cited of a farmer who had contracted to pay 32s. an acre for land only worth 18s., and Clause 8 was intended to check that practice, on the ground that so extravagant a contract would preclude the farmer from keeping himself and his farm in good heart. Now, under the Ulster tenant-right system, which the Bill proposed to legalize, a man paid as much as twenty years' purchase over and above the fair rent of the farm—that was to say, not 32s. for land worth only 18s. an acre, but 36s. If a man could not afford to pay 32s. for such land, how could he afford to pay 36s.? This Bill proposed to legalize the Ulster tenant-right system, and to per- 1675 peruate by one clause, as too good to be lost, a mischief which another clause was designed to prevent as too bad to be tolerated. We were on the wrong tack, he believed, with regard to this Ulster tenant-right; he admitted it ought to be under the control of law to regulate that which was capricious and uncertain; but legislation should aim not at perpetuating it as a blessing, but at its gentle extinction, with all convenient tenderness, as a curse. In accepting the invitation so wisely given by the Government to discuss and criticize the provisions of this Bill, he had been in no wise actuated by a carping spirit of hostility, because no man could desire more sincerely than he did the immediate settlement, as far as feasible, of this question; nor would he attempt the defence of the landed interest, because he believed, with some comparatively minor exceptions, which he hoped might be repaired in Committee, the material interests of the good landlord would be fairly preserved by the Bill, and as for the bad landlord he would say—"Serve him right." In conclusion, he would urge the House to beware lest the cry of "Justice to Ireland" should degenerate again, as of old, into favour to one class though a view one alone, instead of meaning, as it ought to mean, justice to all.
§ VISCOUNT ST. LAWRENCE
said, that although closely connected with the landed interest of the country, he could not take the same views of the Bill as the noble Lord who had just spoken. He took a broader view of the question, and whatever inconvenience it might entail on the landlords, sentiments of patriotism and duty ought to make them accept those inconveniences. Since the last General Election great progress had been made in the ideas and sentiments of the Irish people, and especially in those who led them on the land question; but he had not been able to keep pace with that progress. He clearly abided by the address he had issued to his constituents, the precepts contained in which were short and simple—the conferring of benefits on the people of Ireland which they required, and especially that full security of the tenant should be guaranteed. He should like to see the Bill amended in that respect. He considered the extension of the Ulster tenant-right necessary, and that it should be applied to the other three Provinces. 1676 He would respectfully invite the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) to emerge from the cloisters of erudition and learning, and, walking into the noontide of reality, there test his arguments. He would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether, if tenant-right had existed for fifty years in Westmeath, Meath, and Tipperary, there would have been such agrarian crimes as disgraced those counties? He (Viscount St. Lawrence) admitted that there might be a difficulty in defining tenant-right, but thought that the Ministry were capable of originating a measure which should confer equal benefits on the whole of Ireland. He was dissatisfied with the power proposed to be given to landlords to evict tenants for non-payment of rent, for he considered that in case of such emergencies as the cattle plague, famine, or family sickness, such a power should not rest with the landlord, unless he were prepared to tender to the tenant compensation as provided by the Act under the ordinary process of eviction. The courts ought also to have some power of controlling rents judiciously tendered to them; for unjust evictions or exorbitant rents—arbitrary powers good landlords never exercised—had been the direct or indirect cause of almost every outrage that had been committed in Ireland. His only objection to the Bill, regarding it from a landlord's point of view, was its tendency to produce litigation. All classes of his countrymen were prone to engage in litigation. Still, if matters were left to the landlord and the tenant alone, they might go on pretty smoothly. But, unfortunately, in Ireland the fag-end of the legal profession consisted of practitioners who were as seductive as sirens in alluring men to go to law, but who no sooner had their clients in their meshes than they began to devour them like harpies. That class of practitioners, it was to be feared, would make a trade of getting up actions between landlords and tenants. As a remedy for that evil, however, he thought the tribunals for dealing with cases arising under the Bill should be made simply courts of arbitration, and he felt satisfied that it would be far better and cheaper both for landlord and tenant if the county cess or some other local tax were to pay one-half their expenditure and the country the other 1677 half. In agricultural counties such, as Kilkenny and Wexford, the agrarian crimes amounted to almost nothing, whereas in Westmeath and Heath, which were grazing counties, the number perpetrated was fearful indeed. The more the ploughshare came into use therefore the better would it be for the country, and, indeed, without agriculture this Bill would be a mere myth. Was this measure to be a final settlement, or only one of progress? If it were a progressive measure it was a step in the right direction, and their views and wishes would be brought gradually into harmony, and for his part he hoped most earnestly that it was not to be a final settlement. One tiling filled him with apprehension, and that was the fear that the Irish Members would not be sufficiently united to bring their force to bear in support of desirable Amendments in the Bill. Every right-minded Irishman must have seen from this debate that both sides of the House were fully determined to allow no measure concerning Ireland to pass into law that was not constitutional and consonant to justice. For his part, he felt that there was a debt of gratitude due to the Ministry for the disinterested manner in which they had endeavoured to serve Ireland. The good seed had been sown, and, though the storms of winter might be passing through it, the policy they had inaugurated of doing justice to the Irish tenantry would ultimately bring to the country a rich harvest of peace and prosperity.
§ MR. CONOLLY
remarked, that every measure upon this subject which had hitherto been proposed upon either side of the House had been found so faulty as to meet with speedy rejection. He freely confessed that this measure was the least open to the charge of being framed to sacrifice the interests of the landlord of any of the measures which had been brought forward. No doubt by it the rights of the landlord would be curtailed in some particulars, but the rights so dealt with were mostly those which no good landlord would wish to enforce. There were also some concessions made to the tenant at the landlord's expense; but those, again, were mostly such as no good landlord would refuse. He did not think he was in any way deserting the order to which he belonged when he said he had no hesitation in 1678 giving his support to the second reading of the Bill. He did not participate in the objections urged by his noble Friend (Viscount Burke) who had spoken a little before with so much ability. If that noble Lord had spent most of his life, as he (Mr. Conolly) had done, among the tenant-farmers of Ireland, always receiving kind and generous treatment from his neighbours, he would not have advanced those critical objections to the Bill which he had done. He, for one, having received the greatest confidence from his tenants and friends—a confidence almost unmerited on his part—had no hesitation in saying that he would cheerfully give up some of his rights for the benefit of his country. It was true this Bill could not operate beyond a certain sphere; but he would not be doing justice to Her Majesty's Government if he did not say that sphere was a good one. It would operate most beneficially upon those who were willing to live honestly and industriously in the home of their fathers in Ireland; as for those who looked forward to revolutionary change to them it would give no satisfaction. But those who agreed with him looked only to the interest of the honest and industrious tenant. There was one rule and only one to be meted out to those who despised and rejected all law and order in Ireland. It was utterly useless, as it was beneath the dignity of the Government, to palter with persons of that description; but he would give the Government credit for this, that they had done in this Bill everything that was required to meet the wants and insure the confidence of the industrious tenant. As a Member from the North of Ireland, it would be expected that he should say something about the tenant-right clause. He did not agree with those who thought this clause ought to be extended to the rest of Ireland. Tenant-right was properly designated "a custom," and his learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Dowse) had very justly said that we could not create a custom. Custom was a plant of slow growth, and could not be grown in every soil. It had, however, become a strong and vigorous tree in Ulster. The inhabitants of Ulster were devotedly attached to tenant-right, and however faulty it might be in some of its circumstances they hailed with the utmost delight the prospect of its now 1679 receiving the force of law. His learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland would bear him out when he said that almost all the landlords in the North of Ireland had accepted this custom, and acted upon it, giving it the full force of law. That was, after all, only their duty. Nevertheless, they did not think it was the best custom of the kind that could be established. It appeared to him that it locked up capital which might be more usefully employed. He would give a very forcible reason why it should not be extended to the rest of Ireland—it had a direct tendency to impose a double rent, and though it might be perfectly true that a high rent acted very often as a good manure, still the South and West of Ireland would hardly think a double rent a good cure for all their grievances. The tenant-right of Ulster, too, differed in many parts of the North of Ireland. He knew for example that in one part a man might walk into a farm of 500 acres without being required to pay any money, whereas in Donegal he would have to pay £2,000 before he would be allowed to work it. Now he asked the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore), when he spoke of extending the Ulster tenant-right to the rest of Ireland, to digest that fact if he could. It was marvellous to him how a Bill of this magnitude could be introduced with such few objectionable provisions as the present. It was not consistent with justice that a tenant evicted for non-payment of rent should have a right to compensation. He might say for himself, and others also, that they never evicted a tenant unless for criminal conduct or default in his rent. But in neither the one case or the other ought the tenant to have a claim to compensation. But if a tenant-were removed merely to suit the convenience of the landlord, then he was in favour of giving him as much as five years' compensation. Nothing was more desirable than that the labourer, from whom so much was hoped, should be properly housed, properly clothed, and properly educated. But all that ought to be done under the superintending care of the landlord, than whom nobody had a greater interest in the improvement of the population. It was the landlord's duty to look after the labourer, and from that duty he ought not to be separated. He did not like Clause 63, which imposed on the landlord the duty of 1680 paying the county cess in cases where the holding was under £4. That species of legislation was attempted under the Poor Law Act. It was first suggested by the hon. Member for Galway in a clause which had since been called "the Gregory Clause." That clause had produced a great number of evictions with a view to get rid of the poor rate, and if that were so, how much more likely was this clause to have the same effect? Instead of taking the cess off the shoulders of the small tenant and putting it on those of the landlord, he would be inclined to put both the poor rate and the county cess on the small holder, for he, too, had duties to the poor and the county which he ought not to escape. The rate of wages was rising, and he hoped the day was not far distant when every man of the labouring class would be able to say that his labour was properly remunerated, and would be able without difficulty to meet all the demands that might be made upon him as the head of a family and as a citizen. He would give an instance that had come within his own experience in which he had been able to reclaim men from a dangerous and criminal enterprise upon which they had entered. In the year of the rising at Tallaght two young men of the labouring class in his own neighbourhood were denominated respectively captain and colonel in the future revolutionary army. Speaking to them he said—"You are out of employment, but I hear you are going to be colonel and captain in the new army of invasion?" "Yes, Sir," they replied, "and we hope it will succeed." In answer to this, he said—"Take my advice; leave that army as soon as possible, and come and join in my farming operations. I will give you some draining to do, and if you do it properly will remunerate you to the tune of about 15s. a week, which will be better than the pay and glory of colonel and captain in the army of revolution." The men were kind enough to believe what he said was well intended; they left the Tallaght detachment and joined his farm labourers, the result being that they had since obtained for themselves houses and small allotments of land, paid their rents and taxes, and they now blessed the day on which they went down to the bottom of the drain rather than up to the top of Tallaght Hill to fight for their country. That showed what 1681 might be done on a large scale if the labouring class would trust their superiors. The Government should reconsider the prevision respecting the labouring class, and place every labourer in a position of independence. He would have great pleasure in going for the first time, on the division on the second reading, into the same lobby with the Government.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
said, that as he intended to vote against the second reading of the Bill, he would trespass upon the indulgence of the House for a little time in order to state the reasons which influenced him to take that course. He should do so not because he thought, but because he knew that the Bill would be unsatisfactory to the people of Ireland; not because he thought, but because he was thoroughly convinced that one of the great and primary objects contemplated by the promoters of the Bill would not be accomplished by the measure now before the House. The object to which he alluded was the pacification of Ireland, the bringing of the country into a condition of content, the stamping out of disaffection, and the uniting of the Irish people with the other inhabitants of the Three Kingdoms as faithful and loyal subjects of the Sovereign, devoted to the Constitution, and anxious to sustain the laws of the land. This he knew to be the wish of Her Majesty's Ministers, as it was also the wish of those hon. Members on both sides of the House who supported the present Bill. With that object he thoroughly sympathized. For it he had long laboured against many difficulties and disadvantages, and he had not lost hope that in the end it would be achieved. It was because he knew—and he used the word advisedly—that the Bill would fail in achieving this great object, that he was anxious in the most solemn and emphatic manner to enter his protest against the measure, as one which in its present partial, complicated, and imperfect form was not only not calculated to give satisfaction to the Irish people, but, would irritate for no rational or financial purpose, and by its unrighteous inequality add to, instead of allaying, the present discontent. The Premier, whose intentions he believed to be of the best possible character, and who had devoted himself earnestly to the great object of bringing the people of Ireland into per- 1682 fect unity with those of England, promised the House, when introducing the Bill, that it was to be a measure for granting "security of tenure" to the tenantry of Ireland; but on examining the Bill when it was laid on the table, he (Sir John Gray) found that the words "security of tenure" did not occur in the Bill from beginning to end. In fact, the Bill was not a Bill enacting security of tenure; it was a Bill to give compensation to evicted tenants—mitigating largely, he would admit, the cruelties of the present law, but tending to lessen the security of the most numerous class of tenant-farmers, by removing the difficulties that now beset the paths of the consolidator. To grant that security might have been the intention of the Premier, and if the right hon. Gentleman said it was he (Sir John Gray) was ready to accept the assurance; but the House had to deal, not with the promises of the Minister, but with the provisions of the Bill, and any man who knew Ireland would find, on examining the Bill, that it was not calculated to secure the tenants in the occupation of the land, but to give them compensation after they had been evicted and rooted out of the soil. The Bill contained no declaration of the principles on which the amendment of the existing law was to be based—no "whereas it is expedient to give security of tenure to the holders of land in Ireland"—and he was therefore forced to look for the principle of the Bill to the policy developed in its provisions. The framers of the Bill evaded the open avowal of that policy, but the several clauses proclaimed it. That policy was consolidation; and the policy of a measure being its principle, he was bound to protest at this, the only stage at which it could be done, against the principle of the measure then under consideration. What the Irish people asked from the Minister and from the House, and what they would continue to ask until they got it, was, that the notices to quit, described in the eloquent words of the Premier as things showered out upon the people and falling over the face of the land like snow-flakes, should be put an end to, and that eviction, except for legitimate causes, as non-payment of rent, subletting, or wasting of the land, should altogether cease, as practically it had eased on many of the best-managed estates in Ireland. They asked, further, 1683 that those who were placed by Providence upon the land should fool themselves secure in the enjoyment of all property they could create in the soil—secure not only in the possession and enjoyment of the properly created by themselves in the soil, but in their right to live in the land which was made for them, and from which no man had a right to sweep them out as men sweep vermin from their granaries. For centuries the ancestors of the persons now occupying many Irish farms had lived in succession upon the same holdings, and none of the landlords of these estates ever thought of disturbing these tenants, or would feel justified in driving them out. Official documents in the possession of the House, and the now celebrated eleven Reports of the Poor Law Commissioners, contained in the small blue book he held in his hand, and which was compiled by order of the Government with reference to the question before the House, showed that in the Province of Ulster, and under the tenant-right there prevailing, one, two, three, four and five successive generations of men had occupied the same farms, and had never been disturbed, and that, as a rule, the landowners in that Province did not look upon such a state of facts as in any way depriving them of their proprietorial rights. If this could be rendered universal over the whole country, it would be better than inflicting penalties on landlords for acting in accordance with law. Call that right of continuous occupancy what they might, call it cither security of tenure, or stability of tenure, or fixity of tenure, and he (Sir John Gray) saw no difference between these terms, it would give satisfaction to the whole Irish race, and break down and stamp out the sympathy which to so large an extent now existed between the Fenian element in the towns and the agricultural element in the rural portions of Ireland. Having thus stated his objections to the Bill, as one tending to consolidation and depopulation—as a Bill for providing compensation for the evicted, not for security of occupation—he would state some reasons for objecting to some of the details of the proposed measure. He objected to it because it was partial, though probably not intended to be so; because it was unequal, and, because, instead of giving one law for all the occupants of lands in Ireland, 1684 it gave four—each being in succession, as he understood them, worse than the other, and none of them effectual for the security of tenure promised to the Irish tenants in the opening speech of the Premier. Any hon. Gentleman looking at the Bill would find in Section 1 a system by which the casual reader would imagine that the Ulster custom was legalized and perpetuated; but, on carefully examining the section, it would be found that the Ulster custom was not legalized, and that instead of the ancient custom of Ulster the Bill, as drawn, legalized the modern "rules" of each separate estate. He would presently refer to the "rules of the estate" in detail, and content himself for the moment with asking the House to remember that the 1st section did not deal with the "Ulster custom" or with "the custom of the district," but with the custom on each separate holding, which, in fact, meant "the rule of the estate," and that it was this estate "rule," as it applied to each separate holding, and not the custom of Ulster, that the Bill professed to legalize. In the next section there was another law for another class of holdings situate not within the Pale of Ulster, which did not apply to all holdings in the other three Provinces, but only to a certain class of holdings in Minister, Conuaught, and Leinster. In the 3rd section there was a totally distinct law of landlord and tenant, making a provision for another class; and the 4th section applied to yet another order of tenantry; so that instead of offering to the people one law, one empire, one Constitution, and one sovereign to rule over all, there were four laws for four separate classes, creative of jealousies, perpetuating the old feuds of the Pale—creating, in fact, anew the old favouritism of the Pale, and excluding all without the Pale of Ulster from the benefit of the Ulster custom—a system which he (Sir John Gray) deprecated as suggesting, with regard to the Empire and the Constitution, subdivisions in accordance with the example of this Bill. He would warn the Government of the dangerous results that were sure to flow from the example of this Bill, and ask them, if they desired to have one Empire and one Constitution, to give one law, and not stimulate the fertile imaginations of the Irish people to follow the Government example and seek for re- 1685 medies, to the nature of which he would not even allude, believing, as he did, that they ought to be blotted out from the minds of the people. The true policy of a Government aiming at the consolidation of the Empire should be to stimulate towards unity, by the enactment of one and the same just law for all, instead of towards breaking the Empire into fragments by teaching that unity of law, or unity of Empire, was not essential to the unity of the Throne. What he asked was one law of landlord and tenant for all Ireland, and an avoidance of the results of the policy of the "Pale," and of the feuds that arose from it, and rendered Ireland what she was. With the indulgence of the House he would now call attention more in detail to the provisions with regard to Ulster as contained in the 1st section of the Bill. That section, as he before stated, did not legalize the custom of Ulster, it legalized the usage of each separate holding, which was, in fact, legalizing "the rule of the estate," a phrase but too well understood in Ireland. Both the language of the Bill and the explanations of it which had been given by the Ministers and the Law Officers showed that what it was intended to preserve and perpetuate was the usage of the particular holding in each case, ["Hear, hear!"] He accepted that "hear, hear" from the Treasury Benches as an indication that he had rightly stated the meaning of the words of the section, and not misunderstood their interpretation, and he hoped to show the Government and the House that the legalizing the usage of each "holding" was not the way to legalize the Ulster custom where it existed, but was the very reverse. According to the terms of that section each landlord and agent would be converted into a lawmaker, and the tenantry would be bound, not by the Ulster custom, but by the "rule of the estate," as proved to exist, whatever that rule might be. His right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University had quoted from one of the eleven Reports a short passage showing how much the rule of one estate differed from another, and deduced from that variance that the Ulster tenant-right custom could not be defined—a very natural mistake to fall into, for the writer omitted to point out that the Ulster custom was one thing, and the price to which its value was cur- 1686 tailed by the other encroachments made upon it, and the conditions under which the rule of the estate or "office" limited its application, on which alone it was "allowed"—to use the appropriate words of the section—was another and very different thing. The Ulster custom did not provide for a fixed price, and, therefore, no price ought to be defined. The rule of the estate often did; and, therefore, the clause ought to legalize the custom, and not the rule applicable to each particular holding. The court, according to the Bill, would be prevented from extending to one estate the better and more enlightened rules which might prevail on the estate adjoining; and the Bill in effect would fasten round the necks of the tenantry of Ireland "the rule of the estate" which had been framed by the landlord and his agent, and with regard to which the tenants had never been invited even to make a suggestion. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University showed that by the rule or usage of one estate the value of the custom was limited to £2 per acre, and that on a number of estates it ranged from £3 to £5, and even up to £25 per acre, according to the "usage" or rule of the estate. It was this usage or office "rule" they were about to legalize, and to this he objected, and against this every man who understood what the "rule" of an estate meant would protest. His learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland spoke most eulogistically about the Judges of the local Courts who would have to administer the law contemplated by this Bill. He spoke in the same terms—and justly so—of the courts of appeal; but all these courts would be bound by the terms of the Bill to give force to the estate-rule, and not to the custom of either Ulster as a whole or of the district in which the special farm was situate. In the same parish two estates might be found, on one of which the custom was limited by a rule or usage to £3 per acre as its price, and on the other there might be no limit, and the price might be £12. But what were the consequences following from the adoption of this rule? Hon. Gentlemen from Ireland, to whom the rule of the estate was a household word, knew that if this estate-code were broken in one point it was broken in all; the infringement of anyone rule vitiating 1687 the whole contract under which the farm was held, depriving the tenant of every privilege conceded by the code, and subjecting him to immediate removal. The landlords or their agents prepared these codes or rules, made them part of the whole contract for tenancy, each section of the code acted and was re-acted on by every other section, they became a part and condition of the tenancy, and their rigid observance was the essential condition on which the tenant was allowed to sell his goodwill in any case in which the sale was provided for by the code. Like the Ten Commandments, he that broke one rule was held by the agent to have broken all, and to have forfeited all rights dealt with or conceded under the rule. It was this code, or rule, or "usage" as to each particular holding "in the Province of Ulster"—to repeat the words of the section—and not the custom of Ulster that the Bill legalized. He was satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government never intended that a code such as he described should receive the sanction of law. Yet his Bill distinctly, but he hoped unintentionally, provided for legalizing it. He would illustrate the inevitable operation of legalizing the "usage" of estates, instead of legalizing the Ulster custom, by mentioning a case that occurred in the South of Ireland, where a tenant was expelled for breaking the rule of the estate. The rule or usage required the tenants to preserve the game, and this man flung a stone at a hare and killed it, and he was at once noticed to quit and ejected. If the Premier did not want to legalize these rules he must alter the phraseology of the 1st section of his Bill and legalize the custom of Ulster, which may be popularly and yet accurately defined as the "right to sell the interest in the holding and the right of occupancy at a fair rent, to be agreed on or otherwise settled, to a person to whom the landlord cannot reasonably object." This would be a boon to the tenants of Ulster; but to legalize the office rules, be they good or be they bad, and give them the force of law, would be an unmitigated evil. He (Sir John Gray) hoped Her Majesty's Government, and especially the head of the Government, did not intend to fasten the rule of the estate office round the necks of the tenantry as this Bill in its present form 1688 did. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Certainly not.] The Bill now did so, and the courts should rule so, for it was the usage of the estate as applicable to each holding that was legalized. He would now give another illustration of the working of the "usages" of estates. Upon another estate, said to be one of the best-managed estates in the South of Ireland, a petition was presented some years ago to the landlord which concluded with this statement—Without the permission of the agent no tenant could marry or procure the marriage of his son or daughter, even though it did not involve any change of the tenancy.[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed, but he presumed it was because that they felt that in England, at any rate, such a rule would be impossible. But the rule did exist in Ireland on the particular estate, and, for all he knew, existed still. [An hon. MEMBER: Name!] No; he had not come there to raise indictments against landlords or to make offensive accusations against individuals; but the petition of which he had spoken was presented to a noble Peer, and he believed the rule was still in existence. Another striking rule of the estate would be found in the published reports of a criminal trial in Ireland, at which the present Chief Baron of the Exchequer presided—Chief Baron Pigott. A boy, whose grandmother was his only support, came to her an orphan—his father dead and his mother buried. The grandmother was noticed by the agent, and had to turn out the boy, being threatened that she herself would be evicted if she harboured him any longer. He then sought shelter with a more distant relative, but notice to the like effect was also served on him. The boy was pushed from the door on a cold frosty night, and in weakness and hunger he fell. During the cold night he lay there injured by the fall, but weakened still more by the cold and hunger next morning he was picked up a corpse. The man who had pushed him from the door was arrested. It was proved that he had pushed the boy from the door, but did not strike him; and these are the words in which the Judge addressed the accused after he had been found guilty of manslaughter—The poor boy whose death you caused was between ten and twelve years of age. His mother had at one time a little dwelling horn which she was expelled. His father was dead. His mother had left him, and be was alone and unprotected. 1689 He found refuge with his grandmother, who had a little farm from which she was removed in consequence of harbouring this poor boy, as the agent of the property had given public notice to the tenantry that expulsion from their farms would be the penalty inflicted upon them if they harboured any person having no residence on the estate.The Chief Baron added that the man he was then sentencing did not intend to kill the boy, but was forced to do so in self-defence, for he could not afford to lose his farm. Such, was the "rule of the estate" in Ireland, and he was glad to hear that they were not going to affirm the custom of every such estate, and that the phraseology would be changed, for as the Bill now stood it was the usage of the estate that would be confirmed, not the tenant-right custom of the district. He objected to the Bill in other of its details because it did not make the same provisions for the protection of the tenant-custom in the South as it did for the tenant-custom in the North. The Solicitor General for Ireland, in his rather too amusing speech the other night, said that the tenant-right of the South was made legal custom in the same manner as the tenant-right in the North.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
You are not a lawyer, and cannot interpret an Act of Parliament.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
admitted that he was not a lawyer, but he had a little common sense, which was sometimes as good as law, and any person who would compare the provisions of Section 1 with those of Section 2 would at once see that there were three sub-sections under the 1st section, and that it was distinctly stated in the 1st sub-clause that the tenant-right of the holding shall be a legal custom in the case of every holding in the Province of Ulster. Was there such a clause under Section 2? The word "legal" or "legalizing" did not occur at all in Section 2, which applied to the custom of the South, and though he was not a lawyer common sense told him that the two sections of the Act dealt in totally different ways with the usages of the Northern Province and of the other three Provinces. If they looked not only to the negative but to the positive provisions of the 2nd section it would be found that it clearly abolished the custom in the South as a tenant-right custom, instead of le- 1690 galizing it, as his hon. Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland stated. There were other provisions in the 2nd section which even more clearly demonstrated that though the statement of his learned Friend might be in accordance with the intentions of his chief, the drawer of the Bill managed practically to set aside and extinguish the custom—for after the observation of the Premier as to the "usage" of the estate he would accept it as a fact that the custom of the district, not the rule of the office, would be legalized by the 1st section—of the three Provinces. In the first subsection of Section 2 it was provided that it was only after the "disturbance" of a southern tenant—after eviction had been decreed—that the local custom came into operation to protect the tenant, whereas the word "disturbance" had no place at all in Section 1, which related to the new Pale to be created with respect to Ulster. There was a recognition of the existence of a custom in the South; but there was, he contended, no legalization of it, and the tenant-right custom, as he would show, was, in fact, to be extinguished gradually in the three Provinces, and have no permanency outside the charmed circle of the North. Under the provisions of the sub-clause of the 2nd section the tenant of a holding under a lease granted for not less than thirty-one years was, after the passing of the Act, to have no claims whatever under the custom in the South, and in every case there must be eviction before the custom could come into operation. Were these two identical? On the contrary, nothing could be more dissimilar. A lease for thirty-one years was to abolish the custom altogether in the South, and eviction only called it into life prior to its abolition. Was there any reason why that should be so? Was there anything in the practical operation of the custom in the two districts to suggest this difference? He had taken the opportunity of examining some of these districts in the autumn, and he would mention one or two cases. Under Lord Granard a tenant-right of a farm let at a rental of £100 a year recently sold for £800 or £900. Why would they abolish a tenant-right which was now worth £800, instead of having that custom protected or established? Unless the farm was held under a lease, notice to quit might be served by Lord 1691 Granard's successor, and it was only after the tenant had been disturbed that he could claim compensation. In fact, on Lord Granard's estates the Ulster custom was observed in all its purity and fulness, and yet, because these estates were not situate in Ulster, the custom was to be undermined, its value destroyed, and it was to be eventually annihilated. The facts as to the custom in the Southern districts, and as to its identity in all essentials with the custom of Ulster, were well-known to the Government, for in the eleven Reports prepared by the Poor Law Commissioners they were fully set forth. He would give one other illustration as to Wexford, taken from the blue book to which he referred. The writer was describing the custom as it prevailed on Lord Portsmouth's estates, and set forth a formal statement as to the rules of the estate sent him by Lord Portsmouth. He would read part of the document—Rule No. 5—To set all lands at moderate rents, and in settling such rents to have regard only to the situation and natural fertility of the soil.Rule No. 7—To allow all tenants to dispose of the interest in their holdings by private treaty, or public auction, to approved purchasers.Under Section 2 a thirty-one years' lease would alter all this, and abolish, if the successor of Lord Portsmouth desired to do so, this tenant-right. There was no provision that the tenant of an estate in the South should have his custom continued; yet the Solicitor General, who interpreted the Bill last night, assured the House that the custom of the South was legalized in the same manner and as securely as the custom in Ulster. And has this system injured Lord Portsmouth's property or diminished his rental? Does he feel aggrieved? Here is his own written statement to the Poor Law Commissioners—The unbroken observance of forty-seven years of the above rules has had the following beneficial results:—It has inspired with confidence and energy the agricultural tenants, who have changed badly-cultivated patches of land into fine farms, now well-cultivated and well drained, on which they have erected, at considerable expense, suitable, substantial, and, in many cases, costly residences and homesteads, with all the necessary requirements for good farming. This has all been done without any outlay on the part of the landlord. Enniscorthy has been changed from a more village of mud hovels into an important, well-built market town. All this has been done by Irish tenants on the faith of tenant-right having being accorded to them. The rental had increased 1692 more than double, and the rent was punctually paid, instead of being irregularly paid.He (Sir John Gray) could not discover any difference between the custom in the South, as described here, and the custom of the North, as described by Mr. Steward of Ards, except that on Mr. Steward's property a lease seemed not to be considered necessary, so fixed do the people feel under the custom. So far as he could understand the intentions of the Prime Minister he believed that the right hon. Gentleman intended to put the two portions of the country in as nearly a similar manner as he could; and that if he had not believed that the present proposal would receive the sanction of the Southern representatives, he would, when persuaded not to extend the Ulster custom as a statutory tenant-right to all Ireland, have extended an equivalent provision to the whole of Ireland. He objected to the 3rd clause, which confined all the beneficial operation of the provision to tenants holding under a tenancy created after the passing of the Act.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
explained, that the clause applied equally to the past and to the future by the operation of subsequent words in the clause.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
proceeded to say he was quite aware that there was another clause in Section 3, which brought a certain class of existing tenants within the operation of the Bill; but that clause was separated by nearly two pages of print from the opening line of the 3rd section, which read thus—"When the tenant of any holding held by him under a tenancy created after the passing of this Act." He, however, felt it due to the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Benches to read the clause he referred to, in order that the whole scope of the section might be before the House. It would be found on page 4. The section he read was on page 2.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
It seems to be the only clause that takes in any other tenants than the future tenants.
It is on page 4, line 22. There is some complication in the section, and its purport is not easily apprehended at once. Perhaps it could be made clearer.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
That was the clause he was about to read when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland suggested he was in error in supposing that was the qualifying clause. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that the whole of Section 3 was a difficult one to understand, and was very complicated. He would then read the sub-clause—The tenant of any holding held by him under a tenancy from year to year existing at the time of the passing of this Act shall, if disturbed by the act of his immediate landlord, be entitled to compensation under this section.That clause did admit a class, but only a class. What was meant by "immediate" landlord he would not say; but it seemed to him to imply that if a tenant be evicted by the superior landlord, and not by the middleman, he had no claim at all. Whether the number of sub-tenants be large or small, they were palpably shut out. However, that was but an incidental issue. The broad fact indicating the policy and, in so far, the principle that pervaded the whole Bill, was shown clearly in the opening line of the section—"tenancy created after the passing of this Act." "After the passing." He would ask the House to carry these words in their memories, and then look at the scale on the 3rd page of the Bill. The scale ranged from seven years as compensation for eviction from a £10 farm to two years' rent if the farm were valued at, say £101. What landlord, he asked, who had a town land valued at £120 would, after the passing of this Act, divide it into twelve farms and let it to twelve heads of families with a possible penalty of about£900 or £1,000, when he could let it as a consolidated farm to one tenant with a contingent penalty of about £250? If words had meaning the policy of that clause was, and its operation in the future would be, he would not say eviction and removal of existing tenants, but the shutting out of small tenancies hereafter. He would not call it an eviction section, because he did not believe it was so intended. He would say, however, it was a consolidation section, for no man, no matter how humane, could be expected willingly to accept a possible loss such as that graduated scale would suggest were he to create a small farming yeomanry. They had consolidation 1694 enough in Ireland already. Hundreds and thousands of acres, enriched by the labours of the small tenants, had been consolidated into great bullock farms, and the lands that gave abundant and profitable employment to human beings were now devoted to cattle. It was computed that one firm of stockmasters in Meath paid about £70,000 a year rent, and on the vast area which they used as pasturage—nearly all of it prime tillage land—they did not employ forty hands. The Bill aimed at consolidation by giving premiums for consolidating in the form of exemption, and if a landlord could consolidate sufficiently he could free himself from the Bill altogether. There were 400,000 holdings rated under £15 a year. The Bill gave a stimulant to consolidate all those—not one suggestion to break up the great pasturage tracts made fertile by the people, but now used, not for man, but for the beasts that perish. As to the phraseology of the section, he would only observe that if it was intended to take in all existing as well as all future tenants, he would prefer openly to state so, and say "the tenant of any holding," whether the tenancy was created before or after the Act passed. That would be clear and not subject to any misconception, though it could not affect the consolidation policy which was the basis of the 3rd section. He felt that, in fact, the penalties themselves would act as a mitigation of the cruelties of evictions, and, in so far, encourage depopulation by removing from its authors the public odium that now attaches to it. It was done now by some rich landlords, it would be done hereafter by many others who would be more than recouped the cost by getting adjoining tenants to pay all the cost of the removal. His hon. Friend the Member for Tralee (The O'Donoghue) assumed in a speech which was full of assumption in that and other respects, that every court would be compelled to give the full amount of compensation provided in the clause. That went down very well; it was cheered, because it was spoken with the force, and eloquence, and correctness of language which characterized all the speeches of his hon. Friend. But when his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland came to explain the clause he gave it a different reading. 1695 He was speaking to the opposite benches; but the Member for Tralee spoke to those on the Government side. Another of the assumptions of the hon. Member for Tralee was that the tenant's rent could not be capriciously increased under this Bill; but that was altogether gratuitous, for no such provision existed. The hon. Member quoted words, as from the Bill, which had no place in the Bill. He said if a man was "disturbed in his tenancy" he could at once go to the court for redress. Had he studied the Bill a little more carefully he would find that no such clause existed in it. It was when he was disturbed from his "holding", which meant evicted from the land. If the Bill did say "disturbed in his tenancy," which it did not, it would carry the whole tenancy and all its parts, rent, land, tenure, all; but the words of the clause carried only disturbance from the land, and the rent might be doubled under the Act as it now stood. In fact, the word "tenancy" did not anywhere in the Act occur in the connection quoted, and he would presume to suggest that when a clause be quoted again it be quoted as it was, and not as it was not. The Solicitor General for Ireland said the amount of compensation would only average a year or half-a-year.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
I never used the word "average," nor have I seen the word in any report of my speech except one contained in a Dublin paper. What I did say was that the Judge could give any compensation from half-a-year or a year up to the maximum.
I beg to say also that the hon. Member (Sir John Gray) has misrepresented me too. What I said was, that the court would give the maximum of compensation unless it was shown that the tenant had done something to deteriorate the land.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
Exactly so. The hon. Member for Tralee said if there were nothing to stop the action of the clause the Judge would give the full seven years' compensation. That was the assumption—no doubt a very strong assumption—of his hon. Friend. But when his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland came to explain the operations of the scale he said that in the ordinary run of cases the compensation would be only one 1696 year's rent or half-a-year's rent, while in some cases it might be the maximum.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
I rise to Order, Sir. I never said anything of the kind. I said that in some cases it might be one, two, or three years for the occupation less, but in others it might be only half a year.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
did not wish to misrepresent his hon. and learned Friend who was lately a member of the tenant-right party, and he was sure he (the Solicitor General for Ireland) would be the last man to agree to a clause under which the court could give only the amount of half-a-year's rent by way of compensation to the tenant. Yet he admits he did speak of half-a-year's rent as a possible compensation. What he (Sir John Gray) wished to call the attention of hon. Members to was that, while one advocate of the Bill assumed that the Judge must give seven years, the other, with equal force, appealing to the Conservative Benches, argued that it might be only one half-year's rent as compensation. The two classes of claims for compensation recognized by the Bill—loss of occupancy and payment for improvements—ought not to have been mixed up in one clause. The scale of compensation allowed for both together would not in many cases cover the cost of drainage; but in that scale all drainage, all manuring, all fencing, all tillage, all farm-roads, were included with occupancy right, and the maximum sum for all could not exceed the limit. He could not quite comprehend the 23rd clause; but as he understood it, this clause gave to a certain class of landlords the power of borrowing from the Treasury money for the purpose of what he thought was a consolidation contemplated by the Bill. A landlord giving a thirty-one years' lease of a £50 holding, and undertaking to erect farm buildings and execute certain other works, was exempted from the operation of the compensation clauses for all future improvements, and in order to be in a position to settle with the tenant of the new take, he was authorized, as he commenced to borrow money from the public Treasury, to pay compensation for the past. This offered a premium to landlords to consolidate farms. Its tendency would be to induce landlords to 1697 consolidate, say five holdings of £10 each into one £50 holding. He understood his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to say that at a conference of tenant-right fanners held at Belfast, so far as there was an expression of opinion on the subject, they declared themselves satisfied with the Bill. He had seen in The Times resolutions adopted at that conference, and he thought they scarcely bore out the view of his right hon. Friend. Those resolutions declared that, in the opinion of the meeting, this Bill was an earnest and honest attempt to legislate on the land question. He concurred with the conference in thinking it was an earnest and honest attempt; but there was more than honesty required from a statesman who aimed to grapple with a great crisis. The attempt was honest—the measure was large. He would not disparage the framers of the measure; but it was not equal to the emergency—it would not satisfy the people, and would not, therefore, accomplish the all-important end of stamping out discontent. The Belfast resolutions went on to state that the Bill, as it stood, was so defective in the clause relating to the Ulster tenant-right custom, that it would destroy that custom. They further laid down the necessity of defining what was meant by the Ulster tenant-right custom, and asserted that the principle of that custom, as affirmed by the meeting, was applicable to the other Provinces of Ireland. Was not that a condemnation of the Bill? The conference declared the Bill to be defective in not discriminating between the rules on estates and the general principle of Ulster tenant-right, and it condemned the Bill because it did not define the Ulster custom. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) delivered a very long and very able speech in support of the Bill; but it had one characteristic—that which he would venture to say diminished its cogency as an argument for the measure. His hon. Friend did not discuss the principle of the Bill, or any part of the Bill, or of any one single clause in the Bill; yet he exhorted those who heard him to vote blindly for it, assuring them that the Solicitor General for Ireland would show them that it was the very Bill that would best suit Ireland. That assurance he was not ready to accept. The hon. Gentleman in that speech, to which he had listened with great attention, had, 1698 in support of his argument in favour of the principles of this Bill, cited the case of a noble Lord (Lord Dufferin), who had bought up the tenant-rights on his estate for £10,000. It appeared that that noble Lord had laid out £35,000 upon the property; but the tenants had to pay 5 per cent for every £100 so expended. With that arrangement, however, he had no fault to find, neither did he regard the sum so demanded as in any degree exorbitant. The leases under which the tenants held, however, contained some remarkable clauses; and, as the House would see by one he held in his hand, they were of a size to gratify the eyes of any attorney's clerk. He hoped that the courts that were to have jurisdiction under this Bill would not adopt them as models to be followed. For instance, even the very sea-weed, the waste thrown up by the waves, was reserved under those clauses as the property of the landlord, who was also to have the right to take back any portion of the land he might require for planting or other purposes whenever he thought fit to do so—in fact, he was really to be the master of the land. The hon. Member for Tralee had said, in his speech, that "the nation generally would come to regard the gambols of excited patriots merely as so many dangerous eccentricities." The hon. Member did not give the House the benefit of placing before them a specimen of the sayings of the "gamboling" patriots. But there was a meeting, which the hon. Member would, perhaps, call a "gamboling" meeting, recently held in Dublin, but which he (Sir John Gray) would call the most important national conference ever held in Ireland. At that meeting, after a resolution was passed declaring—That no measure will satisfy the Irish people which does not put an end at once and for ever to arbitrary eviction and permanently fix the Irish tenant in the Irish soil,an hon. Member of this House thus "gamboled" before his audience. He proposed the following resolution:—That the measure should recognize the tenant's rights of the property in the continuous occupancy, so secured to him with all the improvements on the farm, whether made, purchased, or inherited; and that his assignment should be binding on the landlord on payment of all arrears of rent that may be due by him.And afterwards said— 1699According to these patriots—for patriots they pretend to be—for the legislature to decree that a landlord is entitled to no more than the fair value of his hind would be barefaced robbery, while for the Legislature to enact that as long as a fair rent is paid no man shall be turned adrift on the world, would be to violate the most sacred rights of property, by depriving the landlord of his most cherished prerogative. I believe that the promulgators of these doctrines and their supporters and abettors stand between their country and happiness—between the people of those kingdoms and enduring friendship—between the Empire and union. If the land question suffers in the House of Commons it will not be front being an Irish question, but from the Irish Members having failed in their duty. We ought to be able to say the majority of the Irish Members advocate such a cause.This, Sir, was the "gamboling" of my hon. Friend the Member for Tralee. Another hon. Member—the Member for New Ross (Mr. M'Mahon)—moved a resolution, saying—That no measure will be satisfactory to the Irish people which will not recognize a continuous right to occupancy, subject only to eviction for non-payment of rent or subletting without the consent of the landlord.And he delivered a most able and most effective speech. Were these the "gambols" of excited patriots? Before he left this branch of the subject he should protest against the unjust attempt of his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland to prejudice the mind of the House against the policy and principles of those who had, from time to time, spoken of the necessity of so rooting the people in the soil that they could not be swept off as vermin at the caprice of any man. It was not right to misrepresent men like Lord Granard, Lord Bellew, and others who, anxious to check depopulation and extermination, adopted the counter phrase of rooting the people in their own land by saying, as the Solicitor General did, that the provisions made in the Bill would enable the landlords to get the price of their land, and add with a sneer, that this was a thing not contemplated by some of those who aimed at rooting the people in the soil. With the permission of the House he would read an extract from the requisition which assembled the "gamboling" patriots of the hon. Member for Tralee at the Mansion House, Dublin, in national conference during the last month, at which the resolutions were adopted and the speeches made which he had read. After the usual formal sentences, the requisition proceeds to 1700Request a meeting of the landed gentry, clergy, Members of both Houses of Parliament, and municipal and Poor Law representatives of Ireland on an early day at the Mansion House, Dublin, to confer as to the most effectual means of rooting the Irish race in the Irish soil by securing the property of the tenant-farmers from being absorbed by unfairly increased rents, and by protecting their right of continuous occupancy from capricious violation without infringing on any of the just rights or legitimate influences incident to the enjoyment of landed property.He did not expect the policy expounded in that document to receive much favour from Ministers, though the principle must be embodied in the Bill. But it was not open to the suggestion that it aimed at getting the land without paying the owner. So at least thought some men not long since, and so think others still. Amongst the 500 names attached to that requisition are those of Lord Granard, Lord Portsmouth, Lord Bellew, Lord Greville, some sixty deputy lieutenants and magistrates, and nearly every mayor in Ireland. There is one name, however, of special significance—it is that of Richard Dowse, M.P. for Londonderry. He (Sir John Gray) would not venture to say whether or not the House recognized the tenant-right Member for Londonderry—to adopt a phrase imported by himself into the debate when alluding to the gallant Member for Tipperary—under his new alias of Solicitor General for Ireland and denouncer of the principles subscribed to by the hand of the hon. Member for Londonderry. He had trespassed longer on the indulgence of the House than he ought. He had strongly objected to the Bill—he intended to protest against it as a final settlement in the only way in which he could do so, by voting against the second reading. But while he did so, he would be sorry to be unjust to the Minister. The Bill was said to be an honest Bill. He (Sir John Gray) frankly admitted it was an honest Bill—he believed it was framed with an honest, earnest, and hearty desire to settle the Irish question once and for ever according to the lights and knowledge of those who framed it. But he wanted, the House wanted, the Irish people, the whole Empire wanted, not only an honest but an effective Bill—effective for the two great ends of the contemplated legislation, doing full justice to the tenantry, and so stamping out discontent and disaffection, as to give peace and security to all. The Bill 1701 would not do that. It would fail to secure the great end aimed at—the settlement of the Irish land question. He did not depreciate the Bill. As compared with former Bills it was a great, a solid, he would even add, a generous and a noble advance. But the instincts of the people should be considered as well as the financial details in a full settlement. The Irish tenant did not require a Bill of Pains and Penalties against their landlords. They asked a Bill of Rights for themselves. They wanted to seize no man's property—to appropriate no man's lands. The question in issue as between the supporters of the Bill and those who protested against its present insufficiency was—are the people of Ireland to be rooted in or rooted out of the land on which Providence placed them, and in which Providence intended them to live, to prosper, and be happy? He denied the right of any man to say to another—You must leave this land—go! The Bill must, to be satisfactory, elect between the two policies—root in or root out of the soil—and by the policy chosen will it be tested. He knew the Premier would not favour the latter. He knew he was trammelled—he should rather say he believed he intended to do the best. [Ironical cheers.] He had no right to use the word "know" with respect to the Minister's intentions, as that might seem to be assuming that he had some direct knowledge—he did believe, however, judging from his conduct, that he felt either coerced or persuaded to take the course he did, and he, at least, frankly admitted that he was in some degree justified in doing so. The great majority of the Irish Liberal Members supported a policy adverse to that supported by the Irish people, and advocated by many of themselves in Ireland, and the Minister was, in a sense, bound by the opinions and advice of those who were the constitutional representatives of the people. If the Bill fell short the Minister could refer for his justification to those whose advice he followed. The Bill would, no doubt, be carried; but he hoped, at least, not unchanged. One word about the alleged desire to interfere with the rights of property. He spoke with confidence as to the popular feeling on that topic. He met the people of many counties, the leading men of nearly every county in 1702 Ireland, during the past autumn. With all he found one sentiment—the sacredness of private property is felt to be the basis of society. Any attempt to disturb its security would prove move destructive to the industrious man than to the great landed proprietors. To content the one so as to prevent the abuse of property was a duty—to disturb its foundations was a crime, and the greatest crime that could befal the tenant-farmer would be the allowing the rot of Communism to enter into their social affairs, for it would rapidly sap the foundations of their hopes. A full rent, more than a full rent, they were ready to pay; but in return they demand, and sooner or later that demand must be conceded, that they be so fixed, so rooted in their own land, that no man shall have the power to drive them into exile. He was no factious opponent of the Bill. He did not seek to embarrass the Government; he wanted to save them from the embarrassment and failure which bad advisers would entail on them. On such a question they could not afford to fail; and those who told the truth to the Minister and to the Parliament, and warned them that the great end they all sought would not be accomplished by the Bill, were the truest friends of order and of progress. Instead of being assailed as agitators, the men who then frankly told the bitter truth ought to be valued as the best friends of peace; they counselled the people to look to that House for redress—to have confidence in its desire and in its power to remove injustice, and he hoped they would not be disappointed. There were those who watched their proceedings that night anxiously hoping that an abortive measure which would disappoint the people and destroy their hopes from Parliament would be passed into law, in order that a clear path would be opened for their revolutionary designs. Against these men he had ever struggled, and ever would. He warned the Ministers not to strengthen the hands of that party, and implored them to give such a bold measure of redress as would enable all who loved social order to proclaim that full justice had been done. The imperial policy on which this Bill was based was of the last importance. Great advances were made—great sacrifices of feeling were submitted to in order to settle this question; and he implored Ministers, who were doing so 1703 much, not to stop short of a perfect and final measure—a measure that would stamp out revolution and bring a generous and long-suffering, but spirited and noble race, into harmony with the law, because it had become their friend, and with the Constitution, the Empire, and the Throne, because they combined to save them from extermination.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, he had rarely heard a speech that gave him greater pain than that which had just been delivered by his hon. Friend, who had done all he could to prevent the people of Ireland from appreciating the feeling which pervaded both sides of the House, of an anxious desire to do them justice. He had, together with a few hon. Gentleman who acted with him, done all he could to induce the people of Ireland to undervalue the greatest boon that had ever been offered to them, and he wished to impress upon his hon. Friend the tremendous responsibility which he had thus incurred. The majority of the English and Scotch Members had agreed to postpone measures most interesting to them for the purpose of directing their time and attention to the consideration of a question which they believed to affect deeply the interests of Ireland, and he knew of no better way of answering the speech of his hon. Friend, which was full of unintentional misrepresentations, than by submitting the Bill to two simple tests. He would, in the first place, compare it with the proposition made by a body that was supposed to completely represent the whole tenantry of Ireland, and which was introduced by Mr. Serjeant Shoe—afterwards Judge Shee—in the shape of a Bill which received the sanction of the whole of the Irish tenant-farmers, North and South. The hon. Member complained that this Bill did not extend to Ireland the tenant-right of Ulster.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
explained that he had said there were difficulties in the way of extending the Ulster custom throughout Ireland; but that if these difficulties could not be overcome, some arrangement should be made corresponding in principle with the Ulster custom.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, this was precisely what the Bill attempted to do. In so far as it did not do so perfectly his hon. Friend might suggest Amendments in Committee; but it recognized the fundamental principle of Ulster tenant- 1704 right compensation, quite apart from improvements, for disturbance of occupation; and his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General had shown that tenants-at-will had a legal right to sell their interests. But, leaving this for the moment, he said his object was to show that this Bill, upon which his hon. Friend had heaped every sort of vituperation, was far more liberal in its provisions, and would confer far greater benefit on the tenants, than the Bill put forward by their chosen representatives. That Bill separated Ulster from the rest of the country, and provided that improvements should be considered as having been made by the tenant, unless the landlord could prove to the contrary, and that compensation was never to be paid unless it was shown the land had increased in value; but this Bill attached a value to occupancy pure and simple. His hon. Friend objected to the provisions for giving tenants leases for thirty-one years; but Mr. Serjeant Shee's Bill gave compensation leases for only fourteen years; and, certainly, up to the last year no one in Ireland, passing a panegyric on a landlord, would have failed to bring in as a climax the fact that he gave thirty-one years' leases at fair rates. The highest ambition of the Irish tenants was to rise to the level of the English or Scotch tenants; but the latter would think the House was conferring a very great benefit upon them if it gave them leases for thirty-one years at fair rents. Again, his hon. Friend had referred to some remarks made by the Solicitor General for Ireland; but it was apparent that those remarks were misunderstood. The hon. and learned Gentleman was referring to compensation; but what he said was, that in the case of a bad and ill-conducted tenant half-a-year's rent only might be awarded in case of eviction. It was, unfortunately, true that many of the Irish people were willing to believe that, whatever the House of Commons might do, it was actuated by a bad motive; but this was the penalty we must pay for the evil years of unjust legislation. There could be no doubt that the long delay of Parliament in remedying the evil which it admitted to exist in the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland had produced distrust in the minds of the people; and it was the duty of his hon. Friend the Member for 1705 Kilkenny to tell them that, although the present measure might not give them all they desired, yet it did confer upon them a substantial benefit, and was a proof of the real earnestness of the House in endeavouring to carry out a new policy towards Ireland, and to blot out the past. What were the principal grievances of the Irish tenants? His hon. Friend himself had stated that in the large majority of cases they consisted in the tenant being subject to eviction at the landlord's will, in his rent being raised by the landlord, and in his receiving no compensation for permanent improvements. The worst mode in which that system operated was shown in those frightful clearances which, especially in former years, had been the disgrace of the country. Now, he put it to the House whether these clearances could have been made if the 3rd clause of the present measure, which had been so much run down by the hon. Member for Kilkenny, had been in force? While admitting that his hon. Friend was correct in stating that the Bill contained no such words as "security of tenure" he maintained that it provided for security of tenure in substance, for it enacted that a heavy penalty should be paid by the man who violated the law of security of tenure by evicting his tenant. His hon. Friend had pointed out that in a case like that referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), of a bad tenant who had misconducted himself being turned out, the court would not award him more than half-a-year's purchase by way of compensation. This might be so; but he was sure that in the case of a wanton eviction no Judge in Ireland would hesitate to impose the highest penalty on the landlord, and make him pay seven years' purchase. Again, who could doubt that if this Bill had been in force many agrarian outrages would have been prevented? To show the effect of those outrages in increasing local taxation, he might mention that in the North Riding of Tipperary the land under crop in 1867 amounted to 130,000 acres, including meadow land; while the cost of police and soldiers to keep the peace in that county, as compared with Londonderry, amounted to £72,567 a year, or nearly 11s. per acre of the land under crop. He maintained that the effect of the Bill, in every case 1706 he had examined, would have been to have placed an obstacle in the way of the landlord evicting, and thus, in all probability, have prevented the outrage. As an instance, he might refer to a recent eviction in the county of Meath. Thirteen tenants were turned out. One of them was able to produce a promise of continued tenancy, upon which he brought an action and recovered £300 damages. The other twelve could not recover, and did not receive a half-penny. But under this Bill, had it been the law of the land, they might have been entitled, in respect of their 420 acres, to a sum of £5,100, besides compensation for buildings and improvements. How, then, could his hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny say that the Bill gave no security against eviction? It was to him a subject of the deepest regret that his hon. Friend should get up and misrepresent a Bill of this kind, and convey to the minds of the people of Ireland, whom the Government were endeavouring to serve, that it would be useless, and produce no beneficial result. He could state, on the authority of an eminent barrister, that for wanton eviction the very highest penalty in the Bill would be inflicted. If that were the case—if the Bill did give practically security of tenure—was it not a melancholy thing that they should not all join together in passing it through the House? He ventured to say that the course which his hon. Friend, and those who acted with him, were pursuing, was fraught with danger to the peace of the country. The feeling on this subject, in England and Scotland, was neither enthusiastic, excited, nor sentimental, but was one founded on a sense of duty. Still, if these countries found that the favours they offered were coldly put aside, it was quite possible that they might stop in their course of projected improvement. In that case, Ireland might go back to those evil days when England cared little for the interests of Ireland, but satisfied her conscience by the belief that Irish grievances were irremediable. If his right hon. Friend the Premier were driven, by the rejection of his offers, to cease taking an interest in Irish affairs, he should like to ask the hon. Member for Kilkenny whether that would redound to the benefit of the country? The only result to be obtained by succeeding in the division 1707 into which the hon. Gentleman seemed desirous of foreing the House would be to postpone a great act of justice to Ireland; and he therefore begged his hon. Friend not to divide the House upon the question, but to go into Committee, suggest what alterations he desired to see made in the Bill, put what Amendments he liked upon the Paper, and allow the second reading to pass unanimously. If he did otherwise he would, however unintentionally, play the game and forward the purposes of those whose object it was to blind the Irish people to the desire to do justice to them which pervaded now the mind of England—he would assist in preserving the separation of hearts which every true lover of Ireland must desire to unite.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I am sorry that I shall have to occupy the House, even for the time I must necessarily take, at so late a period of the debate; but I have been anxious to say a few words on this question, and perhaps it is one upon which English Members may well express an opinion. But there have been some things said, with respect to what has taken place on this side of this House, that it is necessary that I should refer to. I quite agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) in many of the remarks which I heard him make this evening in that portion of his speech which I was fortunate enough to hear. I agree with him as to the statement of the right hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman), when that right hon. Gentleman said that we on this side of the House had not sufficiently contemplated the grounds on which this Bill was based. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that we had not looked at the serious matters in question, and I believe he also took the view that it was on account of the special circumstances of the case that he was enabled to give his assent to certain things in the Bill to which otherwise he should not have assented. But the right hon. Gentleman was, I believe, entirely mistaken as to what has been said on this side of the House. With respect to myself, Sir, when I first considered this question when it was brought forward in former years, it was necessary to turn one's attention to the writings of those who were conversant with Ireland, and to the conversation of those 1708 gentlemen who had had experience of that country; and I may say that in some little degree I was unfortunate enough to have a certain amount of experience myself, for I had a small estate given to me in the West of Ireland—an estate which I never saw, and which was in a miserable condition. I had possession of it for several years, and during that time I evicted no tenants, nor did I ever increase their rents; but, on the other hand, I found that I had to make all the improvements, and when they were made I was told that the place was not any the better for them. When I parted with that valuable possession, I did not make any profit out of it, but I thought that it was not desirable to retain what I could not have a thorough personal knowledge of; but my attention was called to the nature of the tenancies in some part of Ireland, and I was not encouraged to become a purchaser of land there. I had several tenants who paid me no more than 30s. a year each, and my highest tenant only paid me £12, and I saw at once that I was dealing with a number of persons whom I could not treat in the way in which we should treat English tenants in this country, and who, indeed, were not in a condition to bear it. I found a large arrear of rent, for the custom of the place had been to be two years behind with it, but I struck off a considerable arrear of rent in order to enable the tenants to start fair, and I told them they had better pay regularly for the future. I endeavoured, in short, to bring them into the fair English practice, but it was not with any very great effect. These things come from all who are acquainted with the special circumstances of Ireland, and perhaps I may be permitted, as a forcible way of putting the matter, to say that after we have waded through a great deal of this information, and obtained all the knowledge we can from those who are more conversant with the matter than ourselves the result is what is described and believed by Mr. Hamilton to be the feeling of the English people upon it. He says—The people, in ploughing through the subject, seem to have cast aside a great deal of what is useless, and to have at last laid bare a very simple, and, I will say, just idea—namely, that from a variety of causes, attendant upon unwilling or helpless owners and defective land laws, tenants have been allowed gradually to acquire an equi- 1709 table right of property in certain things now mixed up with that of the landlord, and that something must be done to disentangle the conflicting interests, so as to leave every man his due—i.e., each his own. This would be justice to the tenant. More would be injustice to the landlord.Now, I am not at all unwilling to take that as a reasonable and fair view with which to start. But I am bound to say that I think there has been a little too much stress, not laid so much by the Government as by others on exceptional cases and that as a general rule, the landlords have been unjustly assailed. That is proved by almost every book written upon the subject. I find that a Scotch gentleman, who was in 1858 very conversant with the working of the Encumbered Estates Act, and who had the best opportunities of forming an opinion on the point, writes, in reference to the agricultural and social state of Ireland, as follows:—No class of society has been more unjustly maligned than the Irish landlords for their treatment of their tenantry; but the truth is that as a body they have treated them with the greatest kindness and forbearance, and have often submitted to claims which it would never enter into the minds of British tenants to make, and which, if made, would hare been indignantly spurned by English and Scotch landlords.With regard to evictions. I have looked through the lists of recent years and I have found that, with the exception of those who have been evicted for non-payment of rent, they are not proportionately numerous at all; and with regard to emigration, which it has been argued is founded on eviction, I found that only 5 per cent of emigrants had been evicted. It is clear, therefore, that you cannot lay such a stress on the question of eviction or the cruelty of the landlord, but that it has been other causes—such as the spread of education and the knowledge that those who emigrated might improve their condition—which has led them to emigrate in such numbers. And when English laws are abused for what has occurred in Ireland, I confess I think it somewhat hard that England should have to bear so great an amount of blame, seeing that she has done so much. The right hon. Gentleman to whom I owe so much instruction, and whose instruction, I have always looked upon with respect—the Chancellor of the Exchequer—told us in 1868 that certain events which then took place had made a great difference in his opi- 1710 nion, but even in that revolutionary state of change, this was his political idea—for it was made after the great revolution had taken place—and unless he gives us good reason to believe the contrary, we may accept the statement which he then made as the one to which he now adheres. I should like to hear him give some good reasons why, if indeed, he has deserted the strong opinions he formerly expressed. He said, in 1868—It is the misfortune of Ireland that having, like other countries, differences of opinion among its inhabitants and relations of superiority and inferiority, such as must always exist in every community, the national mind seems incapable of accepting them as they are accepted in other countries, but somehow or other contrives to engraft on them contention, division, and hatred. We have landlords and tenants in England as they exist elsewhere, but we can contrive to carry on our business without mutual quarrels … … As to the ill-treatment Ireland receives from England, I protest against such language. …. I feel, as an Englishman, impatient under the weight of the misrepresentation and calumny to which this country is subjected … … I have sat on several Committees of this House to investigate this question of the land in Ireland, and it never has been my fate to hear a single case of grievance or ill-treatment of a tenant alleged with dates and circumstances so that it could be verified … … Our Committees were entirely unsuccessful in discovering any case of real grievance … … It is ridiculous to inveigh against a law which is the same in Ireland as in England; and whatever may be the difference between the two countries, it is impossible that there can be any fundamental injustice in a law which works with entire satisfaction in a country like this."—[3 Hansard, cxc. 1483.]Such were the words which were used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1868. You must not be surprised, therefore, if those who listened to those words of wisdom should not at once have come to the conclusion that the Prime Minister was right when he told us that the legislation of England for the last eighty or ninety years was founded on misconception, that it was injurious to Ireland, and that it never met the wants of the whole community. Here you have one of his Colleagues in a very high position in the Government telling us that, so far from that being the case, he has come to a wholly opposite conclusion. Now, Sir, I do not mean to say—or I would not speak as I do, seeing that I am prepared to vote for the second reading of this Bill—I do not mean to say that there is not some grievance involved in this matter; I believe there is a real grievance, because I conceive that there has been virtually a covenant between the land- 1711 lord and tenant in many parts, which has resulted by degrees almost in what is called in the Bill a "custom"—though the word "custom" should not have been used there as a legal term, because if it had been a legal custom it would have been recognized as such by the Irish law courts, which it never has been. With great humility, I venture to express a difference of opinion with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland, even on a point of law. I have looked at the law as between landlord and tenant in Ireland, and I have examined what I believe is a high authority upon the subject—the book of Mr. Latouche. I will not quote from the book—here is the volume if the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to see it—but I find it is here stated that the law with respect to custom in Ireland is precisely the same as the law with respect to custom in England; that in the Irish courts customs are enforced just as in the English courts; but in Ireland, as in England, the same law prevails that where a usage is confined to an estate or a limited holding it is not recognized as a custom at all, but a different principle applies, and if enforced or capable of enforcement, it is as a covenant between the two parties. The Solicitor General for Ireland quoted the case of "O'Fay v. Burke." That was a very remarkable case no doubt; but it was decided not upon Irish law, but upon English law—it was decided upon the judgment of Lord Mansfield, and upon the dicta of Lord Eldon and Sir William Grant, and if a tenant-at-will chooses to put up buildings which he knows do not belong to him, he runs the same risk in either country. I do a little complain of the hon. and learned Gentleman for not having, when he told us what the excellent Master of the Rolls said, read the sentence which preceded that which he did read to the House, because it appears that this very case was considered in the courts as a case of so entirely exceptional a character as not to rule in any other case. It was laid down by the Master of the Rolls as such, for he said—I think it probable that this case will be brought forward in the next Session of Parliament as afford ins an argument in favour of a Tenant's Land Bill for Ireland, and it this was not an exceptional case it would, I have no doubt, lead to legislation on the subject.1712 The proof that it is an exceptional case is that since 1858, in none of the courts of Ireland or elsewhere has there been any case at all resembling it. What really comes of the matter is this—Though it may be true that there are unjust evictions, it is also true that the landlords have generally acted in harmony with their tenants; and I do not agree with the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) relying on what was said by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, that notices to quit have fallen like snow-flakes over the country. The right hon. Gentleman, indeed, corrected that himself, by saying that he referred to some particular estates. If, however, these things have happened, they have begun to cease. Judge Longfield refers to the improvement that has taken place in the condition of the tenants, that things had begun to go on smoothly, and they would have continued so to go on but for those people who make a trade of agitation, and will not allow the people to live on the best possible terms with their landlords, but stir up in their minds suspicion of grievances that do not really exist. But I admit that this does exist; that in consequence of these exceptional cases people feel a sort of uncertainty, and it is for this reason that one portion of the people look to the Ulster tenant-right. I am, for myself, bound to say, looking at it from the outside, that I am not much enamoured of it. I do not think that it is a mode of conducting business that is likely to be beneficial to the parties interested or to cause improvement in agriculture, or to do the thing that is best for the country at large. I believe that the Ulster custom does not prevent evictions, for in Ulster there are more evictions in proportion than in any other part of the country. I find, too, that there are many other defects in the system. The Solicitor General for Ireland mentioned one—that there are nine definitions of the custom in different parts of the country; and, therefore, there is this great objection, that it is a sort of custom that causes perpetual jealousy between different parts of the country, and raises a sort of competition among tenants to get the highest price allowed under any view of it. When I hear of things like this—that a man has given forty-three and a-half years' purchase to get permission 1713 to farm property that would sell for only about twenty-one years' purchase—it seems such an extraordinary proceeding that I cannot imagine how such a system can go on. You must not look at the matter simply when things go on smoothly and when all is fair sailing. Look what you are going to put upon the landlord. Several tenants came to me and asked me to assist in reference to some parts of this Bill, and I heard their case, and a very interesting case it was; but when I asked if the landlord ever recognized this right, they said—"It goes through his office, but he is never himself a party to the transaction." It is always done between the incoming and the outgoing tenant. But suppose there should come a time of great agricultural distress, suppose there is a famine or a great fall in the value of agricultural produce, and a number of tenants wish to throw up their properties, and tenants are not found to come into them. This being so, is the landlord to pay forty-three and a-half years,' purchase for the land which he already possesses, or, even what many of the tenants have paid, £20 an Irish acre for going into the farm? What, under the Bill, will be the position of a landlord who in time of great distress among his tenants may have his land thrown on his hands with these enormous demands made upon him by his tenants—demands which will compel him to borrow from the State or mortgage his property to private persons? ["No, no!"] I am astonished to hear that I am speaking in a manner not warranted by the Bill. As I understand it, the Bill will enact that tenant-right shall be a legal custom—that is to say, if a tenant in possession proves such a payment, he must have a similar payment when he goes out. Will that be binding upon the landlord, and if the landlord, in default of the outgoing tenant finding a successor to pay, has to take back the farm into his own hands, will he be bound to pay to the tenant that which the tenant has paid to his predecessor. ["No!"] The Judge Advocate says "No." Then, where is the justice to the tenant? Then I understand that the Government assent to another interpretation, which is this—that unless the outgoing tenant can find another tenant that will give the price that he paid upon going in the landlord is not bound to give it to his tenant. In 1714 every instance of this Ulster custom the transaction is accomplished through the agency of the landlord, and I should have supposed that by legalizing this custom you were binding the landlord as well as the tenant. ["No, no!"] At all events, I throw this point out for consideration. It will be discussed when we are in Committee; but I thought it my duty to call attention to it now. But if the interpretation is, that it applies only to usage between incoming and outgoing tenants, you must apply the same rule to the usage in the next clause, and the usage under that will be, that the incoming tenant has to pay to the outgoing tenant, and that the landlord has not to do so; but then if the tenant cannot find another tenant that the landlord would take, what is his position? I do not think that you could carry out your Bill upon such a principle as that, for you would give to the landlord the power of always placing a veto against the incoming tenant, and if he should exercise that right he could refuse to receive a new tenant, and so force the land back upon himself. [An hon. MEMBER: He must exercise his power reasonably.] Well, I do not wish, particularly at this hour, to detain the House with details. I therefore pass from these cases; but it has always struck me that the difficulties in the way of legalizing the custom would be very considerable. It was objected to the argument of my right hon. and learned Friend (Dr. Ball) that he was inconsistent in accepting the Bill as far as it applied to the present, and yet wishing for a different state of things in the future. But surely you may find customs and virtual covenants at present existing which may lead you to recognize them as inevitable, and yet, if the system be a bad one, you may at the same time be anxious that a better system should be adopted for the future. Lord Dufferin, I believe, has purchased out the tenants' rights on his estate. Suppose it were now proposed to make loans under the Bill for the same purpose. Surely, it would not be unreasonable to argue that steps should be taken in that way to get rid of a tenure which we think a bad one. I was very much struck upon reading the work of Mr. Thompson upon this subject. He has investigated it thoroughly. He has been twice to Ireland, and has looked into the matter, and he is a man who is 1715 thoroughly acquainted with agriculture. What does he say about legalizing this custom in perpetuity? He says that it "would be as reasonable as to pad lock the go-cart round the neck of a grown man and thus perpetuate the memory of his feebleness, and permanently impede his future power of locomotion." My right hon. and learned Friend (Dr. Ball) said—"Do not tie us down to such a system; give us some freedom—some hope of extricating ourselves from this embarrassment. Let us look to the future, and let us not be treated for ever as children incapable of managing our own affairs." Agreeing with him, I am willing to give effect to and fulfil the obligations of the present; but as to the future, surely we may be able to devise some better system. Let the landlords of Ireland fulfil in every way what was a virtual agreement between the parties, and separate this tangled mass in which the interests of landlord and tenant are so mixed up that it may be necessary to invoke the intervention of a third person, but let this be for the past and not the future. And now I come to the 3rd clause. I want, first of all, to call attention to the mode in which the conflict between landlord and tenant is to be treated. We are told that we are to find a tribunal ready to our hand in the Civil Bill Courts, and that we are to have an appeal to the Judges of Assize. The Solicitor General for Ireland was extremely eloquent upon the excellence of those courts, and when he came to describe the excellence of the Judges of Appeal he said that you would have one hard one and one soft one, and by combining the two together you would arrive at the result of having one of average fairness. But this may not always happen; for one may be too soft or one too hard and the result by no means one of average fairness. I look into the Bill therefore to find a guidance for those who are to administer what is called the law, and there is no law laid down for them. You may refer to that which is called the equities, Clause 14, by which it is enacted that a variety of circumstances are to be taken into consideration upon the trial. But these do not affect the law but the facts, and when you say that there would not be litigation arising out of the proceedings in the Civil Bill Courts, I find it impossible to agree with you. I have made out some twenty 1716 or thirty points in the clauses which afford most difficult questions between landlords and tenants. The Judge will be called upon to solve these questions, and will have to decide pretty much as a Turkish Cadi has to decide. With all respect for barristers of five years' standing—I had a very excellent opinion of them when I was of five years' standing myself—I must think that they have not learned more about the facts of cases of this kind than most other people; and when they sit upon these cases, they will have neither precedent nor principle to guide them; and there will be nothing laid down in one case that will guide them in any other. If, therefore, you go into all the counties in Ireland, with these hard men and soft men and men of medium quality, and there are great numbers of these Judges, you will have, upon the same state of facts, decisions which are wholly contradictory. The principle in one case will afford neither precedent nor guidance in another. I do not want you to define customs which cannot be defined; but I should be glad if you could see your way to laying down a general principle on which the barristers are to proceed, in order that there may be some uniformity in their decisions, and some hope of their coming generally to reasonable conclusions. On the questions of law those courts are, I will presume, excellent, and on questions of law and equity, in the technical sense, I am in favour of going to tribunals that are fitted to administer them on fixed principles. But when you come to a lawyer and valuator—that may form a very good arbitration tribunal, but do not speak of it as if you were going to law. It is going simply before persons who have the power to decide upon the facts of the case without regard to legal rules. And, as I have said, it is like the justice that was administered by a Sultan or a Cadi, without reference to law at all. The fact is, the House of Commons, in its puzzle and difficulty—and the difficulty is a great one—is to delegate its legislative powers to other persons; it is an expedient resorted to upon a matter upon which it seems the House can come to no conclusion; and, perhaps, it is better than nothing; but I do hope, if it is possible, that some guidance may be given to those gentlemen by which they may arrive at uniform 1717 conclusions. It has been suggested—and I think there is a good deal of force in the suggestion—that two or three of those assistant barristers might sit together, and go a sort of circuit together. If I were an assistant barrister in some parts of Ireland, and especially if resident. I am not sure that I should like to have the decision of these questions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) talked of legislating to take from the landlords that which otherwise would be taken from them by the pistol, and I thought that the strangest argument I ever heard addressed to an Assembly fond of law and order. With regard to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (the Solicitor General for Ireland), of course I listened to it, as the House generally does, with much amusement; but he must not expect us, who are not Solicitors General, to say credo after him. I never heard so many beliefs in my life. I confess my creed fell far short of that of the hon. and learned Gentleman. I have often heard persons spoken disparagingly of who found their belief on what is derisively called "book religion;" but the hon. and learned Gentleman professes a "Bill religion." I must say he made a very good story out of it. He seemed from his thorough appreciation of every section to have made light reading of the Bill after he came from his election. But there was one point in his speech to which I must call his particular attention as a Law Officer of the Crown. He said one thing which I very much regret. A good deal had been urged about the purchasers in the Encumbered Estates Court. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked why purchasers in the Encumbered Estates Court should be treated differently to everybody else, and asked what they had done to be treated so differently. He says, supposing a man purchased in the Encumbered Estates Court, having seen that the tenant had put up some new buildings on the land, and bought it cheap and then refused to allow the tenant any compensation for such buildings, he would call that man "a felon." But who was the felon? If the tenant were robbed by the action of the Encumbered Estates Act, I say that Parliament was the felon, and not the man who bought in the court an estate free from all encumbrances. I think it ill becomes a Law Officer of the 1718 Crown to say that a gentleman who purchased an estate under the terms of an Act of Parliament was in any sense of the word a felon. The Act had already given him the right of purchasing an estate in that court free from ail encumbrances—freedom from encumbrances all kinds being the main inducement held out—and even though some interests and possibly some improvements of tenants had been sacrificed by the act of the law it was certainly a misuse of terms to call such a purchase, felonious, and gave currency to ideas in Ireland that are unjust and mischievous. I say, with respect to these purchasers in the Encumbered Estates Court, they have immense claims under this Bill. The very condition on which they purchased was that they should have no encumbrance with the estate. A lady has written a letter to me stating that she had bought a small estate in the Landed Estates Court, whither she was allured by the assurance that if she made certain improvements on the estate she could double the rental without injury to the tenants. She offered to make those improvements for a fair consideration which was refused, and then she asked the tenants whether they would make those improvements, and they declined to do so. She is now at a standstill, very much, no doubt, in consequence of the measure now before Parliament. Although she has done nothing to increase the rents—she has let the property at very low rents—she may now, under this Bill, be called upon to pay those tenants compensation for the improvements already on the property distinctly conveyed to her wider the authority and on the guarantee of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland seemed to assent to what was said to-night by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Wilson-Patten) with respect to the county cess. You propose that those who have purchased, as I say, without encumbrance, and for a Parliamentary title, shall have new conditions imposed upon them with respect to tenants, and you propose, with respect to tenants under £4 rental—that is, 20 per cent of the tenancies—to add to the burdens already imposed upon the landlords, if they should in the improvement of their property cause offence and give rise to an outrage upon either a landlord or his 1719 agent. You are to quarter the police upon his property, and he is to pay county cess, because the people try to murder him; is that common sense or justice? I know you say that in order to get rid of all these difficulties the power is given to offer thirty-one years' leases. Such leases are certainly more common in Ireland than elsewhere. But I want to know why it is that in Scotland land can be let on which the tenants would have to make the improvements and erect the buildings on a nineteen years' lease, and yet they consider themselves paid at the termination of such lease. Why is it that in Ireland a thirty-one years' lease should be required, and at the end of that term a demand should be made for compensation for permanent buildings and reclamation of land of which the tenant has had the advantage during the occupation? Now, in respect to permanent buildings under this Bill, the demand for compensation may extend back for ever, and the onus will be thrown upon the landlords to show that those improvements have been made by them if they want to relieve themselves from these liabilities. It is obvious that very great difficulties would lie in a landlord's way to produce this evidence; and the Government ought to impose a limit of time, which, unwisely, they have not done, for under the Bill as it stands a man might have to pay for a round tower. The purchaser in the Landed Estates Court gets no covenants from the previous owner; he merely gets a small parchment from the court, which conveys to him all that he finds upon the land; it is no object to him to enquire or know who put the buildings up. Suppose they were all put up, as I believe many are, by the landlord, how is he to prove it? But by this Bill he who comes in, having purchased all in the first instance, is called upon to prove, as against the tenant, that the buildings were put up by his predecessor. Was there ever so monstrous a proposition? A Parliamentary guarantee having been given by the court, if a payment is to be made, Parliament ought to make it. I come now to another point—namely, the sale of land to tenants. I am bound to say I cannot speak of this part of the Bill in the terms used by some Gentlemen opposite in relation to it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ox- 1720 fordshire (Mr. Henley) alluded to a society instituted for the purpose of raising money to purchase small farms and stated that it had broken down. I wish also to remind the right hon. Gentleman opposite that in the Landed Estates Court several great estates had been cut up for the purpose of facilitating their purchase by small holders. But it was found that that object had been obtained only in very rare instances. If men are so anxious to become proprietors instead of tenants, why do they give from twenty to forty years' purchase to acquire a tenancy? Why do they not go into the court and buy estates? They have not done so, and I presume there is no wild desire to become landowners, except in the case of very small tenancies, which nobody desires to turn into proprietorship. I want also to know—supposing a man wished to part with his estate, and to get the highest price for it, and that in order to do so he divided his estate and put it up to auction—on what condition would the Government make the advance? Will they say—"Whatever you buy at we will advance three-fourths of the purchase-money?" If not, it will be no use. Another point—suppose the tenants in any of those haunts in Tipperary which have been referred to, desired to purchase, and a stranger or neighbour wanted to buy, what would be the chance of that stranger or neighbour getting it? Would he like to bid against the tenant? And if he did, and bought, would he like to take possession of the land? This shews the difficulty of Government mixing itself up in these matters. I think the Government are taking a great responsibility on themselves in helping the people to buy land, as there is no speciality in Ireland that should apply there and not to the rest of the kingdom; and if you do it for the rest of the kingdom, we might be called upon to spend millions without any advantage, and contrary to all sound political economy. Then there are provisions that those who buy with Government money shall not subdivide or sublet, but who is to look after them? Is Government to be at the expense of having agents to travel about the country to see to these separate little tenancies? There are already inspectors enough in England and Ireland, and I hope that the Government are not going to have land inspectors also; for if so, 1721 they will be brought into some of the difficulties and dangers which at present surround landlords and agents. But suppose that the tenants buy otherwise than by auction, and that the Government assists them to the extent of three-fourths of the value, and the tenant farms badly, which even landowners are sometimes guilty of, so that the land may be deteriorated to the extent of one-third or one-fourth of its value. What is Government to do with land in that condition? I believe that to be a probable and a possible case, because land is frequently "scourged," or so ill-used, that there is very great difficulty in treating it as good land, as land which will sell for the price at which it was purchased. With respect to improvements, allusion had been made to to the Bill of Lord Mayo, to which I was a party, in which compensation for improvements was to be both prospective and retrospective; but by the 3rd clause of this Bill there seems to be a difficulty with regard to this matter. There are always a certain number of evictions for non-payment of rent, and I have inquired for what period the rent is, on the average, due. I find, in the Returns, nothing so low as one year; there are a few something above a year, but the great majority are about two years, though there are some for three or four years' rent. Suppose a tenant has been making improvements upon the land while he has been running into arrears with his rent—whose capital has he been using? Is he, when the rent cannot be obtained, and he is turned out, to be paid for those improvements? I say these are not the tenant's improvements, if he has made them during the time he has been running into arrear, although that is not very probable; yet, if he claims them, he has not made them with his own money, but with the money of his landlord. I have pointed out some of the points of the Bill which I think will require re-consideration. Many others have been referred to; but I come to the conclusion that we must look to the Government, who have taken this vast responsibility on themselves, in the hope that good may come from it, and I will go as far as I possibly can without unjust encroachment on rights to assist them. I do not speak so sanguinely as others have done on both sides of the House, for I do not 1722 expect that peace will immediately ensue on the passing of this measure. Nobody ought to expect it; but I am afraid that there are matters in connection with the Bill which will prevent peace permanently ensuing, unless the country is governed differently from what it has been. I read with sorrow and regret in a paper published on Monday last, a statement about the agricultural labourers of Ireland, that in almost every instance, and in all parts of the country they are discontented and disaffected. That brings me to a part of this measure on which I have yet said nothing—namely, the question of labourers' cottages, and the subdivision of land to the extent of half an acre. It is perfectly clear that the opinions expressed on both sides of the House are against that plan. The extreme advocates of tenant-right, the hon. Member who moved the Amendment (Mr. Bryan), and many others, have spoken against it, and, indeed, that hon. Gentleman said—"God help them if they are to be tenants to the farmers." All you provide for these labourers, who are discontented and oppressed at present, with small wages, made to work very often for the farmers in whose cottages they live upon conditions which are injurious and discreditable, is to allow the farmers to let them houses, each with half an acre of land. Do you think that that will satisfy them? Do you think that those who are struggling to better their condition in the hope of becoming small farmers, will find any amendment of their condition in this Bill? Instead of getting small farms without purchase or fine, they will, under this Bill, have to pay their way into them. In addition to that, all the discontented men who are crowding Ireland and seeking to be admitted to tenures will cause a vast competition in consequence of these new arrangements, and a vast number will still be left outside in the cold. There must be a great number of persons who cannot get farms, and, even if they could, it would only be by the multiplication and subdividing of farms, which would be the unhappiest event that could befall Ireland. I was astonished to hear the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) speak of the evil of consolidation of farms, because a few years since it was urged that a higher class of farmers, something be- 1723 tween the gentry and the peasantry, was wanted for Ireland. These men are growing up, if you will but let them take root in the soil. Now, it is said that the English and Scotch proprietors are to be rooted out. An hon. Member opposite shakes his head; but that was the term used by the hon. Member. He said that the Irish race were the people whom Providence had brought upon the land. Does he mean that every man who was born upon the land is to inherit a piece of it? Or does he mean that a man who is put by a landlord into possession of a small farm for a year is to be rooted on it for ever, and that there is to be no power of turning him out? Such a thing is an outrage and an absurdity, and I cannot understand hon. Members getting up any argument upon them. He said there was in one part of Ireland a great quantity of grazing land? and why, because the country is adapted to it. A man who goes to New Zealand does not plough up grass land on which he can feed sheep to advantage, and why should the people of Ireland treat it differently? It seems to me that those who are opposing this Bill are opposing on extreme views, putting aside not only political economy, but common sense and reason, and everything that is just. The hon. Member for Cork said something about the grazier, and added he would speak about him again, but from forgetfulness or some other cause he omitted to do so. It is clear however that his meaning is that those practical farmers who went to Ireland for the purpose of improving cultivation there are to divide their land in small lots; and one Member seems to complain because a holder of a hundred acres would not divide it into ten lots for ten men who wanted ten acres each. I hope, however, we shall not find a man fool enough to do that in the Three Kingdoms. You are to go further than that. Here is a priest who publishes a letter, in which he says in effect—"No Bill will do any good; agitate and root out those English and Scottish settlers; root them out, because there are natives who want the land subdivided." But the land was occupied by those enterprizing men when there were no inhabitants upon it. They made no clearances or evictions—the famine had done that work—but they went over from Scotland and from England at the invitation of great 1724 statesmen at that time in this country. Those who remember what Sir Robert Peel and others said about the advantages of these men going over to Ireland, I trust will not forget it now. These men went over at the instigation of Parliament, and on the belief that Parliament would establish them, and when established protect them in their holdings so long as they did right and injured no man. They cultivated the land to the best of their ability, and made it beautiful, and what is their reward? They receive threatening letters on every side. They are told that the land is to be for the Irish, and that they themselves are to be rooted out. I hope such language will never be used in England with respect to the Irish race. Irishmen are seated on our Bench, they are in our courts, in our exchanges, and in our fields. In every part of our country they are admitted freely to compete with us, and it is a shame, a wrong, and a sickening thing to hear Irishmen speak of Ireland as meant for the Irish race alone, instead of being for the advantage of the United Kingdom. If there is to be security of tenure in Ireland, Englishmen and Scotchmen there should have that security as much as anyone else. Now, Sir, this Bill, as my right, hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) says, goes far enough in some respects. I frankly admit it goes too far for me; but, at the same time, I think that no one on this side of the House has offered, either in word or deed, any factious opposition, and the only person who has insinuated that anything of the kind has been done is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard was a little disappointed. He had arranged to speak second; and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Wilson-Patten) got up and spoke with that judicious care and thoughtfulness he always uses on every subject, the right hon. Member for Liskeard said he was astonished at the opposition. Nothing had disappointed him so much, and I dare say he disappointed the House very much, because I believe there would have been far more pepper in his speech if there had been, as he seemed to hope, a strong opposition one from this side of the House. Sir, I will con- 1725 clude by expressing the earnest prayer and hope that this Bill will meet the wishes of its authors, and that it may meet the wishes and hopes—I dare not say expectations—of us who are so far giving it their support. I implore the Government in dealing with this measure not to look upon it simply as a measure for the present, and as compensation for the state of things which now exists, but to look a little forward, and see if they cannot, for the future, introduce conditions into Ireland which will make the arrangements there alike consistent with the interests of the inhabitants and with some mild connection with political economy. I will not go so far as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in pressing the doctrines of political economy with the pitiless logic of which he is always master. Two years ago the right hon. Gentleman implored that these doctrines should prevail. I hope that he will use his influence that, they may prevail to some extent in the future in Ireland. He said then—I entertain a prejudice derived from Scotland and adopted by Adam Smith, that a man is at liberty to do what he likes with his own, and that having land it is not unreasonable that he should be free to let his land to a person of full age upon the terms upon which they shall mutually agree. That I believe to be reason and good political economy.I believe that also. And this I want to know—I want the Government to explain why, when they are appealing to a third person with respect to the thirty-one years' contract, they will not, as was pressed by my right hon. Friend, allow the people to contract for themselves, even if they should call in the assistance of this third party to help them, which, however, I think is contrary to principle. Why should not people, if any contract be allowed on that footing, call in a third party to settle upon any basis they may think fit, any question that may arise? We have heard Lord Portsmouth much praised as a landlord to-night; but if Lord Portsmouth had come into possession of his property under the 3rd clause of this Bill, he would not have been able to make those contracts which are said to be so beneficial to his tenants. You are going to stereotype what you find in existence, without satisfying yourselves that it is a good thing. You are hoping to establish in 1726 Ireland what many in their hearts believe to be absolutely bad, but what you assume to be a panacea not only for the present, but for the future. I implore you to look beyond. I implore you to put Ireland on such a footing that upon ordinary principles of self-interest those men in Ireland whom you trust with votes, and regard as qualified to share in your free institutions, may be enabled to contract with one another, and that those men, some of whom I am sorry to say are capable of intricate conspiracies, and of the most difficult and arduous tasks in the pursuit of objects destructive to others, may have the chance and the hope, by your putting the relations of landlord and tenant upon a just and reasonable footing, and in accordance with the laws—I do not say the strict laws of England, but suiting those laws in some degree even to Irish prejudices—I implore that they may have the chance and the hope of being put upon such a footing that in the future their interests shall guide them, as men's interests guide them in England and Scotland, to settle their own differences. And do not hope by merely offering them sugar-plums, and dealing with them as children, that you will prevent agrarian crime. It is only by treating them as men, and making them understand their true interest, that you will eventually bring about a state of things in Ireland which will add peace and prosperity to that country.
§ MR. W. H. GREGORY moved the adjournment of the debate.
said, he hoped, as the debate had been adjourned till Friday, that hon. Gentlemen would be kind enough to allow the debate to proceed. The Order for Supply would be got rid of as rapidly as possible. He made these observations in the full expectation that they would be able to bring the debate to a close on Friday.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.