§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR,
in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that when a law stood condemned by public opinion—whether because it was bad in itself, or because by change of times and circumstances it had lost all fitness and appropriateness, the truly Conservative policy with regard to it was to abolish it at once, and not to attempt to prop it up by feeble compromises. In that sense he claimed for his Bill that it was a Conservative measure. There was a sense, too, in which he believed it was a moderate measure. It would not only cut off excesses—battue shooting would die, and the occupation of the poacher would be gone—but it would establish all over the country just such a state of things as existed now in those parts where the cultivation of the land was highest, and where the relations between landlord and tenant were on a satisfactory and proper footing, and where game was not too extensively preserved. 1385 It was said that this was not a subject to be taken up by a private Member, and that a subject of such importance should be dealt with by the Government. But, looking to the present position of public affairs, he ventured to differ from that doctrine. There were two ways of dealing with this question—an effective way and a useless way; and he had no right to suppose that the present Government, strong as it was, pressed upon by so many other measures would provoke the hostility of the landed proprietors on both sides of the House by bringing in a thorough measure. But, seeing that the Government was a Liberal Government, and derived a large part of their strength from the support of Scotch Members, who were returned in part on the question of the Game Laws, he had an equal right to expect that they would not bring in an useless or ineffective Bill. Look at the composition of the Government. They had among their numbers also his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, whose absence he deeply regretted, and who had made the abolition of the Game Laws his peculiar object; and they had also the present Lord Chancellor, who had declared that the Game Laws should be altogether got rid of. But the Government had taken a course which he did not think they would have done, and which he deeply regretted. He did not propose to criticize the Game Bill which had been introduced by the Lord Advocate; indeed, if he might say so without disrespect, it was below criticism. ["Oh, oh!] It might certainly be said to be beyond the reach of criticism when it had been contemptuously rejected from one end of Scotland to the other by everybody except the Commissioners of Supply. Any measure which gave no security for the diminution of the head of game, and which proposed to leave the settlement of the question to be arranged by contract between landlord and tenant, was a mockery; and anyone that congratulated the Scotch farmers on the prospect of their being put by this Bill on the same footing as to Game Laws, which in England had proved utterly ineffective, was guilty of an insult to the farmers of Scotland. This was not a party question in the ordinary sense of "Whigs" and "Tories"—it was the question of justice against injustice, and it might yet become the foundation of a 1386 new division of parties—the party of the Landed Interest and the party of the Farmers' Friends. He had a letter from a Scotch farmer, who said that Sir William Maxwell told them the other day, at the dinner given in his honour at Perth, that Mr. Henley, one of their most trusted leaders, saw the coming necessity for household suffrage before anyone else, and that he (the farmer) trusted some other far-sighted statesman—Mr. Henley himself or Mr. Disraeli—would discern the coming necessity for the abolition of the Game Laws, and once again "dish the Whigs;" in which case the farmers of the country would support them. The system of the Game Laws was condemned equally by judicial, philosophical, and philanthropical authorities. Blackstone forgot his Toryism and his stately periods in the vehemence with which he denounced the Game Laws. Jeremy Bentham put the case in a few plain words when he said—I sow corn; partridges eat it: if I offend against the partridges I am sent to gaol for fear that the great man who is above sowing corn should be in want of partridges.The Rev. Mr. Fraser, now Bishop of Manchester, was sent down to report upon the employment of women and children in country districts—he was no demagogue—he was not sent down to inveigh against the gentry, or to set class against class:—yet he was so struck with the evils of the Game Laws that he was compelled to interpolate, as it were, a condemnation of the Game Laws into his Report. The majority of the Committee that sat on Mr. Bright's Motion admitted the evil of the Game Laws, but they suggested no remedy; and the only result of their labours was that shameless law, passed a few years since, which authorized a policeman to stop a man on the highway without a warrant, and search him for game. That was contrary to the spirit of the Constitution—but what was the Constitution when put in comparison with the Game Laws! It was said that mercy was twice blessed; but the Game Laws were three times and four times the reverse of blessed. They were a curse to the tenantry and they were a curse to the landlords, who, but for the temptation of sport, would regret the hatred, malice, and obstruction that had taken the place of the former mutual affection and respect. William Howitt, a writer whose 1387 sympathies were more with country than with town life, said no one who had not lived on a game-preserving estate could tell how strong was the spirit of the feudal ages there, where a man could scarcely venture to call his soul his own. Mr. Grey, of Dilston, himself an excellent practical farmer, said that to protect the game as was now done was a remnant of feudalism. Bad as the former system was, the modern practice of battue shooting had aggravated them ten-fold. William Howitt said it was butchery that had usurped the place of sport—that the fields were but another name for slaughter-houses and shambles, and that they would wear an air of insanity if the profits of the market were not visible in the rear. Two or three years ago the actors in this sport paraded their doings boastfully before the world; but of late a hint appeared to have been given that the sport, if enjoyed at all, had better be carried on more privately. But there was a statement in The Field, in December, 1868, to the effect that 11 gentlemen had met in Suffolk, and in five days had brought down 8,345 head of game, of which 4,077 were hares and rabbits. That was equal to about 11 tons of game, or one ton per head. In such a case sport was out of the question—it seemed to him that the best course of teaching for such sport would be an apprenticeship to a butcher in Leadenhall Market. Let the House but consider what a waste of food these battues must occasion when all the animals slain had been reared on the most precious food of the people. Another very serious consideration was the extent to which the Game Laws interfered with the administration of justice in the rural districts. It made the game preserver a judge in poaching cases, and there could not be a greater evil than when the same man had to act as prosecutor, judge, and executioner. A friend of his, a justice of the peace, wrote to him that next to a Jamaica court-martial, no mockery of justice could be conceived greater than that of game-preserving squires setting to convict a poacher on the evidence of a gamekeeper. It was said that gentlemen retired from the Bench when their own cases were to be heard. Could there be a greater mockery? Suppose four game preservers, A, B, C, and D—when a poacher was brought before the Bench for poaching on A's 1388 preserves, A magnanimously retired, and his brother preservers proceeded to do justice on the delinquent—probably on the principle that we should do unto the poacher on another man's land what we would others should do unto poachers on our own land. He must not be supposed to condemn the gentlemen of England—he condemned Englishmen for having suffered such things to continue—he believed that there was no class of men who would have suffered so little deterioration under such a system of anomalies and inconsistencies as the English gentlemen. Then the Game Laws were unquestionably a curse to the tenant-farmers. It was unnecessary to prove it—it was so by universal admission. ["No, no!"] It was proved by the number of Bills introduced into Parliament on the subject. The tenant-farmer was placed in a most anomalous position. When he took a farm he was compelled by his contract to keep a number of wild animals, which he was to support and pay for, while the quantity and disposition was at the pleasure of his landlord. What the effects were depended on the quality of the land, the crops, the season, and the character of the landlord—so that there was a constant element of uncertainty—a certain amount of gambling was introduced into the cultivation of land. Another great evil of the Game Laws was its tendency to knock out the class of small freeholders; for there was nothing so obnoxious to the game preserver as a little freehold oasis in the middle of his vast estates. Now, the rural police had been converted into gamekeepers, the farmer had first of all to maintain the game, next to preserve it, then to pay the expense of prosecuting for it, then to pay the cost of imprisoning the offenders, and lastly to maintain their families while they were in gaol. As to the assertion that the farmers were compensated for the damage done by game, it was not worth entering into; compensation was seldom asked for, it was impossible to estimate the damage, and it was insufficient in amount. Mr. Grey, of Dilston, said, that when arbitration had been resorted to he never saw the farmer get one-half of what he was entitled to. But his great charge against the Game Laws was not that they were the curse of landowners and farmers, but that they were the curse of the English labourer. 1389 Whatever diminished the profits of the farmer diminished the wages of the labourer; but most of all was the temptation to crime that they continually placed before him. Many a man who commenced by breaking the law of the land—for no man pretended that poaching was anything but a law-made crime—ended by breaking the law of morality. You punish him for a law-made crime, and the next thing he does is to commit a moral crime. You made your gamekeepers, too, an anomalous class—a sort of hybrid class, something between a spy and a gendarme. As to the convictions under these laws they were yearly increasing. In the year 1843 Mr. Bright based his indignant opposition to those laws upon the astounding fact that there had been in that year 4,529 convictions. Between that time and the present the number of convictions had more than doubled. In 1843 it was 4,529, in 1869 it was 10,345, whereof 806 wore convictions owing to the Bill of 1862. Then, as to the national loss arising from the Game Laws—the loss of food to the people and consequent rise of prices—this was very difficult to estimate, and in what he was about to state he did not pledge himself to accuracy. It was stated before the Committee of 1845, by Mr. Gayford, a Suffolk farmer, he found that in 6 weeks 12 rabbits consumed 68 stone, value 18s. 2d., and 2 sheep 45 stone, value 13s. 9d. Mr. Philippo, a Norfolk farmer, found that 4 rabbits consumed as much as 1 sheep, the sheep increasing in weight seven times as much as the 4 rabbits. Mr. Beck, of Congham, the principal land agent in Norfolk, was of opinion that one hare did more damage than would maintain one sheep. The other day a Mr. Clark, on making a speech in Aberdeenshire, said that the loss in that county in feeding rabbits, as compared with sheep, after deducting the weight of the rabbits' flesh as food, plus the value of their skins, was 2,033,910 lbs of meat. The loss by hares was taken by him at 1,356,056 lbs weight of meat; the loss by grouse at 190,000 lbs; and the loss by deer at 267,666 lbs; making together 3,847,632 lbs loss in meat, which he estimates at not less than £150,000. The loss for all Scotland was estimated on the same authority at 24,000,000 lbs weight of meat, and the money loss in Great Britain at £8,320,000. He (Mr. Taylor) had seen another statement, in 1390 which the total amount of loss was estimated at £15,000,000. His object was to show that the loss was, at any rate, enormously great. He must now say a word to show the national disgrace that sprang from these laws. A game preserver sent out bands of myrmidons, armed with cutlasses, guns, and flails to, fight with the men who pursued wild animals; there was a species of warfare between the keepers and the poachers, in which strategy was not wanting. He read the other day that a party of game-keepers encountered a party of poachers in a wood, and showed such excellent tactics that they gradually drove them up a tree and then shot them down. [Laughter.] There were regular lists of killed and wounded. In 10 years 42 gamekeepers had been shot, and numbers of poachers killed and wounded—to say nothing of the 10,000 prisoners of war shut up in gaols. An even more shameful element was that poachers were hunted down with dogs, as were formerly the Maroons in Jamaica or the slaves in South Carolina. Here was a case which happened only last February—On Sunday morning, a gamekeeper in the service of Lord Forester, at Trowbridge, meeting a little boy in the preserved grounds, set upon him a ferocious dog, which he led muzzled. The lad fell on his face and folded his arms round his neck to protect himself, but the dog, seizing him by the back of the head, bit him in a shocking manner. Lord Forester has sent £5 to the mother of the lad by way of compensation.These, then, being the evils of the Game Laws, what was the root of them? He believed it was clearly and unmistakably the over-cultivation of too great a head of game—of wild animals. And how was that to be stopped? By repealing the laws by which those wild animals were protected. It would probably be urged by those who took a philosophical view of the matter, that all wild animals had their uses in the economy of nature, and that if you were to repeal these laws, all wild animals would be swept off the face of the country. But he did not see why, if a modified protection were required, a modified protection might not be given. There was always a certain relation between the numbers of wild animals, and the supply of food for them, and there needed no artificial laws to interfere with them. Then as to the Game Laws of foreign countries. The noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) 1391 had said that there existed in every foreign country Game Laws similar to our own. This was a mistake. Laws for the protection of wild animals no doubt existed in foreign countries; but they were not always with the same object as our laws, and did not produce the same results. In France the old Game Laws perished in the Revolution of 1789, which they did so much to evoke; the Game Laws of France now existing were passed in 1844, and, by them, to shoot without permission on another's estate is an offence. In Germany the old Game Laws perished with the Revolutions of 1848, which found their support among the peasantry in great measure in consequence of those intolerable laws. In Prussia there were no Game Laws. In the United States, taking the State of Massachusetts, the laws for the protection of wild animals were almost Draconian—they applied even to sparrows. But these laws were not like ours, for the benefit of an aristocracy of landowners, but were democratic or scientific. Such as they were, however, the convictions under them were almost nil. Then, as to the remedies that had been proposed. One, which had been received with some degree of favour, was to make game private property. But that, in the first place, would not meet the case, because it did not provide for the protection or destruction of wild animals; and it made no difference to a man whether you imprisoned him as a felon or a poacher. In the next place, you would be creating a new and indefensible principle of law. It was agreed by all jurists that there could be no property in wild animals—the property in them arose from reclaiming and domesticating them. If they adopted this principle, the farmer would be the largest gainer, for he was the largest sufferer under the existing system. As to the loss of sport to the landlord, he (Mr. Taylor) was as fond of sport and pleasure as anyone; but he paid for it as he had it. But the landlords had not been content with the pleasure of sporting; they had made of late years large profits from the game. There was one in Suffolk who boasted of being able to let his preserves for £9,000 a year. ["Name!"] Lord Stradbroke. It had been stated in that House by an hon. Member that he knew of land which was let in 1824 for £160 a year, but which now brought 1392 £3,000 a year. But it was not to the pleasure or the profit only that they must look. The landlord did not even pay the cost of his own game. Where game existed the rates had been levied not on what the land would have been worth had it been used for production instead of for game, but at a lower rate. Another proposal had been made in respect of ground game, by increasing the stringency of the trespass laws. But that would not diminish the real evils of the Game Laws, because it would only protect the animals in another form and by another system of legislation. If game was not to be killed, it did not matter whether the man was punished as a felon or a trespasser. But it was apt to raise a smile when you talked of the damage done to a farmer by a man getting over his hedge or his gate. Why, they knew very well that 50 or 100 men at a time rode over his fields after the foxhounds, and did more harm in five minutes than all the poachers could do during a tenancy. There was another matter to which he would allude in respect of ground game. It was said that in Scotland the farmer would be ruined by the ground game, if he was not permitted to kill them. Well, where permission had been given in England how had it operated? Why, on Lord Derby's estate "fur," says a sporting writer, "was so plentiful as to embarrass the dogs; 100 hares starting up at a time." Now, the very aim and object of his Bill was to compel the landlord and to permit the farmer to abandon the over-preservation of game. If they had not the wisdom to do so, they would only call into compensation the poacher—or, as he would rather call him, the slayer of wild animals. Punch had called him (Mr. Taylor) "the poacher's friend:" he believed, however, that the poacher did not see it in that light—he knew that if the game was reduced upon the land, his occupation was gone. Neither would a law extending to ground game only, be an effective measure. Pheasants, as they had abundant testimony, destroyed vast quantities of corn and turnips. "Partridges and pheasants," said the Bishop of Manchester, "corrupt and demoralize the virtue of the labourer." By process of exhaustion, therefore, said the hon. Member, I fall back upon my Bill, which I believe is the only possible, simple, moderate, and complete one. 1393 And now, in conclusion, I venture to say that the Bill which I have the honour to ask the House to read a second time is in my earnest conviction a measure of simple justice, and it is also in my earnest conviction a measure of inevitable necessity—it is a question of time—of to-day or to-morrow. I venture to appeal to the House to deal with this question in a large and comprehensive spirit, and I venture to appeal to the landed Gentlemen themselves, and to ask them to do now what can be done with some grace as a satisfactory settlement, rather than attempt to prolong a struggle the continuance of which must be mixed up with much of hatred and distrust, and which will tend to increase the already sufficiently lamentable difference between the interests and sympathies of various classes of our people.
§ MR. DICKINSON
said, he had no great sympathy with either poachers or preservers, and he seconded the Motion in the interests of the community at large. In the first place, he complained of the injustice of permitting a landlord to enter upon land which was for the time being the property of the tenant, and of the further injustice of compelling a tenant to preserve, by making him not only liable for damages to his landlord, but liable also to be fined by the Queen for killing that which destroyed the fruits of his labour. He contended that the tenant should be allowed to kill an excess of game, and that the onus should be on the landlord to take action and prove that the preservation of game was not excessive. To the argument that the Game Laws were based upon the right of free contract, and that the Bill would be an interference with that right, he replied that the law already interfered with him as a landlord by preventing him from killing game at certain seasons of the year. Such interference was justified only on grounds of public necessity, and he doubted whether the law against killing game except when in season could be so justified. Parliamentary interference in the case of salmon was justified by the fact that the salmon stream was the property of a number of proprietors; but game did not, as a rule, migrate, nor could game be regarded as an important article of food; certainly it could not be said to be at any time unseasonable, for the pheasant very much resembled the barn- 1394 door fowl, which was eaten all the year round. The Act for preserving sea birds had received the sanction of Parliament on grounds which he did not altogether approve; but the grounds advanced in its support were of a public character, while the Game Laws interfered with private rights without subserving any public advantage. They were essentially unjust, and being unsound in principle ought no longer to be maintained. Moreover, they had an immoral effect. They placed temptations in the way of men which were difficult to resist, and when a man once became a poacher he was easily led into other crimes. The only reason for continuing them was the selfish determination to preserve a fashionable amusement. Fox-hunting, which a Bill now before the House threatened to destroy, was unprotected by law, and it was entirely unselfish. The keeper of a pack of hounds was of necessity wealthy, and generally liberal; he invited all the county to the sport, and the farmer was as glad as he to take part in it, because the fox was a common enemy.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. P. A. Taylor.)
§ MR. HARDCASTLE
said, he rose to move the Previous Question. He agreed in some of the observations of the Mover of the Bill (Mr. P. A. Taylor), but he did not agree in them all. He would observe that, in the Bill he had himself introduced, he designed simply to make foxes, as well as other kinds of game, the personal property of the owner of the place where the fox might live, because he believed it would be easier with such a provision to preserve foxes than it was under present circumstances. The introducer of this Bill had made many attacks upon wild animals in the course of his speech; but his proceedings seemed chiefly directed against another animal who was only partially reclaimed—the country gentleman, for whom he appeared to have a great antipathy. But it was rather hard that the country gentleman should be attacked for doing his duty as a magistrate, when he would much prefer handing all game cases over to a stipendiary. The pictures the hon. Member had drawn would probably do very well for his constituents; but he might rest assured he 1395 would not gain his point by making attacks almost personal in character. There were good servants and bad in all countries, but he believed there was no more maligned class than game-keepers. Stories about ferocious dogs setting upon children was no evidence against the Game Laws, for outrages were committed every day, and the repeal of the Game Laws to-morrow would not eradicate malevolent impulses from mankind. Even if this Bill were to pass it would be utterly impracticable to carry its provisions into effect. There would be a great feeling of irritation on the part of the influential classes who were interested in the maintenance of the Game Laws, and in the course of a year or two it would become necessary either to introduce a new Game Law, or to substitute for it a stringent law of trespass, which, in his opinion, was far more objectionable. While on this subject he might mention that in Germany any landlord might register his land in a public office, provided it were not less than 200 acres in extent, and he could then obtain a larger penalty against trespassers. Another ground of his objection to the Bill was that it was a step backward in legislation. At present the occupier of the property had only a qualified right in regard to game. Though he possessed the power of killing it he did not own it, and it could not be made the subject of larceny like the poultry and crops of the farm. He should like to see game made the actual property of the tenant, who would, of course, be able to make his own arrangement with the landlord as regarded the right of shooting. He could by no means concur in the opinion that the tenants were unable to fight their own battles. The last elections, particularly in Scotland, where half the Members were returned, by the tenant-farmers, showed that the latter could, by putting their shoulders to the wheel, obtain pretty much what they wanted. The relations between landlord and tenant had already received a rude shock, and we ought not to make any further experiments in that direction. It was stated in the Preamble of the Bill that in consequence of certain legislation wild animals had multiplied, but he believed that statement was incorrect. Our legislation on the subject had not varied much for the last 30 or 40 years, and yet it was during that very period that there 1396 had been so large an increase in the quantity of game. Among the real causes of that increase were the greater luxury which prevailed, the additional means of locomotion, rendering communication with places formerly inaccessible much more easy, and the growing love of athletic sports. The practice of selling game also was a direct encouragement for persons to keep up preserves. He much doubted the truth of the assertion in the Preamble, that the produce of the land was diminished by the operation of the Game Laws; for though, in some cases, the game had undoubtedly injured farmers' crops, it should be remembered that a large quantity of animal food had been supplied to the country in consequence of the increased preservation of game. The hon. Member who introduced this Bill might, perhaps, be interested to know, that of the rabbits killed in Suffolk about five-sixths were not consumed in the district, but were sent to London, to Sheffield, or to the town which the hon. Gentleman himself represented. If the House should reject the present measure, they might adopt either the Bill of the Government or that which he (Mr. Hardcastle) had had the honour to bring forward; but with regard to the Government Bill he thought a more awkward attempt at legislation was never witnessed. It certainly appeared to him that if the present measure became law it would prove totally inoperative—a result which some hon. Members might, perhaps, think desirable. In reference to the clause of the Bill which provided that landlords should keep down the stock of game on their estates, he would remark that hares and rabbits could not be numbered like a flock of sheep; while the natural result of the provision enabling a tenant to bring an action against his landlord once a year would be the insertion of a clause in every future lease to the effect that if the tenant availed himself of this right he would be liable to pay an enhanced rent. He regretted that the Government had not touched the question with a stronger hand. This was a question that required the most anxious attention of Parliament. The number of convictions for poaching was about 1,200 in the year 1820; it had risen to 5,000 in 1860; and, according to the last Return, it was 10,300. There was feeling abroad that poaching was a crime only as it was 1397 made so by the law. It was most important that public opinion—the opinion of the lower classes of the people should be brought en rapport with the law, but so long as the law continued what it was this could not be accomplished. It appeared to him that the only remedy was to make game absolutely the property of the occupier of the land, and to let him deal with a person who took a hare or rabbit precisely as he would with any other thief. The parties liable to this kind of temptation would then be gradually brought to see that it was as dishonest to take one kind of property as it was another. He could hardly hope that any of these Bills could be passed this Session; but he hoped the attention of the Secretary of State for the Home Department would be seriously devoted to this important subject with a view of devising some plan for curing the existing evils. In conclusion he begged to move that that Question be now put.
§ Previous Question proposed, "That that Question be now put."—(Mr. Hardcastle.)
said, he found it difficult, if not impossible, to remain silent, after listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Taylor). If this debate were to be continued, he hoped it would be discussed in that spirit which usually animated the deliberations of the House of Commons; but he was bound to express his opinion that the hon. Member for Leicester had trespassed somewhat beyond the boundary of fair political and personal criticism. The hon. Gentleman had introduced extraneous matter into the debate, and made grave charges and imputations against a large and influential portion of the community. The hon. Gentleman had ventured to insinuate that the justices of the peace in various counties and boroughs did not administer justice fairly and impartially to many of their fellow - countrymen who were brought under their jurisdiction. Now, he repelled that insinuation, and defied the hon. Gentleman to corroborate his statements by evidence; and, on the part of the justices of the peace, he would now tell the hon. Gentleman to his face that they regarded these charges and insinuations as a direct insult to their body, and as a cruel libel on their character. He wished to say a few words on the 1398 subject under discussion; but he should not have ventured to do so, had he not had a kind of inkling in his mind that, while the House had a holy horror of hearing long and prosy discourses from Members who talked about measures they did not understand, it was always willing to listen to any Member who spoke on a subject with which he was conversant. Having been a game preserver more or less for upwards of twenty years, and having, during all that period, mixed in a friendly and familiar manner, convivially and in other relations, with many tenant-farmers, he felt quite equal to the occasion, ready to grapple with the facts adduced, by the Member for Leicester, to deny his statements, to refute his arguments, to annihilate his doctrines, and, in fine, to shut him up altogether. On what indictments did the game preservers stand arraigned before that House? The first had reference to the injury alleged to have been done to the tenant-farmers by the over-preservation of game, and the consequent ill-feeling which arose between landlord and tenant. The second was based on the great temptation held out to the labouring man to take "what isn't his'n," and the third was founded on the immense amount of food which was devoured by hares, pheasants, and rabbits, instead of going into the stomachs of men, women, and children. Now, this was entirely a question between landlord and tenant, and he should not proclaim his opinion so strongly, if he could not fortify it by conclusive evidence. They lived in a free country, and he was not aware that there was any law to force a man to take a farm unless he liked to do so. What said the great Sir Robert Peel, 25 years ago, on the subject? He only quoted from recollection, but he had a capital memory.—"What objection," said Sir Robert Peel, "can there possibly be to a tenant, before taking a farm, making strict conditions with respect to game? What possible obstruction can stand in the way of any tenant, whether he be a tenant-at-will or under a lease, from making an express stipulation with the landlord that he shall not let the game, but that the tenant shall have the exclusive control over it?" Sir Robert Peel hit the right nail on the head, when he said that the remedy was entirely in the hands of those who made their contracts 1399 before taking the farms. The hon. Member's statement about the ill-feeling existing between landlord and tenant showed that he either had no landed property, or, if he had, that he never went shooting on it; for, of all the 365 days in the year, the one to which the tenant-farmer looked forward with most pleasure was that on which his landlord and his friends came to take a day's recreation with him. He was referring to English landlords, and would say nothing of the landlords of Scotland, because he did not understand the language of that country. Then, was not the hon. Member well aware that, whether in the town of Leicester or in an agricultural village, it happened in 99 cases out of every 100, that the poacher was the bad character of the place? Did anyone suppose that the men who went out poaching, and who sometimes, without any provocation, committed murder, would hesitate to steal geese, chickens, turkeys, or even the watch which was now ticking close by the philanthropic heart of the hon. Member for Leicester? Let the House consider the extraordinary argument of the hon. Member who demanded the repeal of the Game Laws, because there were an enormous number of convictions under them. To repeal a statute because it was frequently infringed would be to pursue a policy fraught with danger. Then the hon. Gentleman had spoken of the immense quantities of food which game destroyed, and had made a learned discourse on the digestive capabilities of a wether sheep, after which he gave the House a microscopic insight into the internal arrangements of a buck rabbit. The hon. Gentleman seemed to forget, however, that hares, rabbits, and pheasants were food for the people as well as beef and mutton. He noticed that the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Henry Hoare) was in his place. Now, it happened that, in the course of the present year, he (Mr. Sturt) had to employ a considerable number of workmen at his residence in the country. The head man, who said he came from Chelsea, asked him if he and his companions could have some rabbits, and he replied—"Yes; you can have five couple a week, and the Standard newspaper shall be taken in for you also, but upon one condition—namely, that you vote against Sir Henry Hoare at the next election." This was a proof that he 1400 always did what he could to promote the interests of the Conservative party. Having said this much against the Bill, he desired to give some friendly advice to his brother preservers of game, for he believed they would take advice from him in a better spirit than they would from the Member for Leicester. Now, he confessed he did not think that everything in regard to the Game Laws was in a satisfactory state. The long list of convictions for poaching made him very uneasy, and was a sort of disgrace to the civilized age in which we lived. He wished, however, to effect a change by social and moral means, and not by Act of Parliament. If the owners of large estates wished to diminish the number of convictions for poaching, they ought to see that every labourer on their property was comfortably housed and had a nice garden and a good allotment. He was not anxious to bring his own individual case before the public; but he might mention that he reared 4,000 pheasants the year before last, and that, during the last 23 years, there had not been on the average more than one case of poaching per annum on his estate. This was because every labourer on the estate voluntarily constituted himself a keeper of the game, as he was treated like a Christian, and, in fact, considered himself as one of the family. He wished every landlord would have all the rabbits on his estate killed, and see that his tenant-farmers were not eaten up with hares. If they took his advice, they would do what was still more important, and refuse to let their places for shooting in order to put a few dirty sovereigns into their pockets. If the landlords built cottages for and made friends of their tenants, and if they declined to make the game the subject of a money transaction, they would be able to withstand for many years the onslaughts of such men as the hon. Member for Leicester, and to keep up a noble sport and amusement, which brought about and cemented those feelings of friendship and cordiality which ought to exist between all classes, and more especially between the owners and the cultivators of the soil.
§ MR. M'COMBIE
said, that being identified with the interests of the tenant-farmers of Scotland, he wished to read certain letters which he had received from tenant-farmers, embodying 1401 their views. The letters were from different parts of Scotland, and fairly represented the opinions of the tenant-farmers on that subject. The hon. Member then read the letters referred to. They generally denounced the Lord Advocate's Game Bill as "little less than an insult," as a "sham and a mockery, but not a delusion, for the tenant-farmers from John o'Groat's to Land's End see through it;" while, on the other hand, they as generally concurred in the Bill of the hon. Member for Leicester, as "the only Bill on the subject that is intelligible"—"the only one that will give satisfactory relief." Another said—"that unless such a Bill as Mr. Loch's becomes law, or there was a total abolition, it will be impossible for us to live." The hon. Member said that, so far as he knew the feelings and views of the farmers in the country, and the intelligent classes of towns, nothing would give satisfaction short of a Bill that would take ground game out of the Game Laws, or an entire abolition of these laws. ["Divide, divide!"] He would not trouble the House with any further extracts. He was sent there by the tenant-farmers and feuars of Scotland to speak for them, and he wished to explain what he considered was justice to them. They only wanted justice. They heard nothing there but of justice to Ireland. Well, they had helped the Government to do justice to Ireland, and now they wanted justice for the tenant-farmers of Scotland—justice in taxation, justice in not letting their crops be eaten up by the landlord's game, modification of the malt tax, and the abolition of the Law of Hypothec. ["Question!"] They wanted no more than justice, and they would not be content with less. He feared they could not look to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for help. They had applied to him for the remission of the duty on shepherds' dogs, it being a small revenue, and its taking off would have been a great boon to the pastoral districts of Scotland; but, "Oh no," he said—"he had made his arrangements and could not alter them." He (Mr. M'Combie) hoped, however, that it was his intention to reconsider his decision on that point. Now, it was proposed to tax the guns the farmers were obliged to keep for the protection of their crops from crows and other ver- 1402 min. The right hon. Gentleman said that the tenant-farmers, with due precaution, would be allowed to steep their barley for feeding cattle; but he (Mr. M'Combie) regarded that as no boon at all. He was, he believed, the largest feeder of cattle in Scotland for the London market, and he should never think of steeping his barley for feeding them, and extracting from it its germinating powers. He quite exonerated the Lord Advocate from wishing to hurt tenant-farmers in drawing his Bill; but he thought it would be a pity to waste the valuable time of the House in the consideration of such a measure. The Government should remember what it was that turned some, if not most, elections in Scotland. Was it not the Game Laws? Assuredly, and no one could deny it. To whom did the Gentlemen on the Treasury Benches owe their seats, or, at least, their majority? Why, it was to the tenant-farmers and to the feuars of Scotland, and it was in their interest that he had now addressed the House.
§ MAJOR GENERAL FORESTER
said, he should not have felt it necessary to trouble the House with any remarks were it not for the allusion made by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Taylor) to an occurrence which had happened on his (General Forester's) brother's estate. The facts were these—his brother, having suffered much annoyance from the mischievous cutting of shrubs and trees on a piece of dressed ground by a number of boys, gave orders to his keeper to look after those boys, with the view of preventing further damage being done. The keeper took his dog with him—which, however, was muzzled—and, finding the boys again trying to destroy his master's trees and shrubs, he rushed towards them. The boys took to flight; and, being unable to overtake them, the keeper very improperly let slip the dog after them. The dog knocked down one of the boys and scratched him on the back. He (General Forester) believed that there was little more damage done to the boy. Lord Forester, on hearing the facts, sent £5 to the boy's mother and discharged the keeper, feeling much annoyed with his conduct in bringing the dog out against the boys. This occurrence happened, not at night, but at broad daylight; and he supposed the keeper found that 1403 the boys gave him leg-bail, and that the only chance was to frighten them by letting the dog loose. The affair had been much exaggerated in the local papers. After the admirable speech of the ton. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Sturt), he should not think it necessary to contradict or refute any of the statements of the hon. Member for Leicester.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
said, he heartily sympathized with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Sturt), at the commencement, and also at the conclusion of his speech. He thought that if all Gentlemen who were game preservers acted up to the advice which the hon. Member gave them, there would be very little heart-burning between landlords and tenants, nor would there be very much discussion with respect to the necessity of repealing the Game Laws. But unfortunately that was not the case. One thing had rejoiced him very much—that was, that the discussion upon the present occasion had not been confined entirely to Scotch Members. Hitherto discussions of this character had been chiefly confined to Scotch Members; probably because the evils of game preserving had reached a much greater height in Scotland than they had in England. But that Bill, applying as it did to England, interested English Members of Parliament, and he was glad that they had had the views of certain of those Members on the subject. He was, farther, glad that the discussion of the question had been taken out of the hands of Scotch Members merely, because it must be acknowledged that in the past discussion of the Game Laws some characteristics of the perfervidum ingenium Scotorum had been manifested by Scotch Members which were not very creditable to them, though they might be very amusing to the House. There could be no possible doubt of the importance of the question, and of the evils which had been caused by the Game Laws, and he would not detain the House by discussing them. He regretted to hear such wholesale denunciation of the Lord Advocate's Bill. If he might be permitted to say so on the present occasion, he should say that it was something more than a mere Bill for the amendment of the Game Laws; he believed that no measure would give more substantial benefit to the tenant-farmers than that measure. That pro- 1404 vision alone by which a farmer killing game on land in his occupation could not be taken up for a trespass, but could only be proceeded against by his landlord on a civil action, was an immense boon to tenants. As regarded another Bill before the House—that brought in by his hon. Friend the Member for Wick (Mr. Loch)—it took the power of free contract from both landlord and tenant, because it proposed to enact that any contract which was made between landlord and tenant, which had for its object the preservation of game, should be null and void in the law. Now, he (Mr. M'Lagan) had the strongest objection to a provision of that kind; and even if it were passed, which he did not think it would be, it would be no protection to game as property. He objected to that part of the Bill most strongly, because it would encourage litigation, promote dishonesty, and practically encourage commercial immorality—that was to say, an immorality which would be connected with all bargain-making, and all bargain-keeping. The hon. Member was proceeding amid continued cries of "Divide, Divide!" to address himself to the Bill now before the House—
§ When, it being 10 minutes to Six of the Clock—
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.