§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
, in rising to call attention to the constitution of the Irish Society of London, and the management of its income and property, and to move—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the constitution, management, and annual expenditure of the Irish Society of London; and, further, to report as to what, if any, changes can be made in the governing body or the mode of administration in order to ensure a more economical and advantageous application of the property, or whether such result can be best attained by placing the property in the hands of public Trustees resident in Ireland,said, the nature of the case he had to present to the House was such that he hoped no apology was needed from him for introducing the subject; because, although the locality affected was represented in that House by four Members only, it was in reality a matter of great 1094 importance, inasmuch as it affected the privileges of the great Corporation of London, which had a large interest in the subject. The property which was the subject of the Motion was so extensive as to produce an annual rental of £14,000 gross, or £12,700 net. It was all situate in the county of Londonderry. The history of the property extended 250 years back. In the reign of James I., a large amount of property in the Province of Ulster, to the extent of 400,000 or 500,000 acres, having been forfeited by persons who were guilty of treason, it was then resolved to form a new plantation or colony in Ulster under a Charter. Accordingly, the large Companies which formed part of the Corporation of London were called in for the purposes of providing the requisite funds for settling and populating the new Colony. The original Charter was granted by King James I. in 1613. Shortly afterwards disputes arose between the Crown and the Corporation of London, the result of which was that in the reign of Charles I., in 1637, that Charter was annulled, and the Crown again took possession of the property. Subsequently, however, in 1662, King Charles II. granted a new Charter under altered conditions, under which the property, the subject of this Motion had ever since been regulated, and under which the Irish Society itself was originally created, and had continued down to the present day. Between the granting of the original Charter and the time of its annulment, the Irish Society had conveyed in severalty, as their own separate properties, to the 12 great City Companies of London, portions of the original estates which had been conveyed in bulk to the Irish Society by the original Charter; and the consideration for those conveyances was the good and valuable consideration of money paid by each of the 12 Companies for the purpose of the Ulster settlement and plantation. And here he begged it to be understood that he did not impugn the title to the property or attack the revenues of the several properties of the individual Companies — they were, no doubt, lawfully conveyed by the Irish Society between the granting of the original Charter and its annulment. Notwithstanding these conveyances, however, there was a large residuary 1095 property not conveyed to these individual Companies, and this was brought under, and specially made the subject of settlement, in the second Charter of Charles II. That property was called the indivisible portion of the old estate, and the House of Lords, in a judicial suit, had decided that this property was public trust property, and it was sufficient to show that the Charter of Charles II., under which the Society still existed, bore this character, to justify him in saying that this being public property, it ought to be used for the general purposes for which it was conveyed—namely, the benefit of the public. It was also necessary for him to state that this Charter dealt not only with the formation of the Irish Society; but it further provided for the municipal government of the city of Londonderry, and the town of Coleraine—and this, indeed, was the ground on which the old city of Derry had assumed its present name. This being the history of the case, it was his duty to show and to prove, on unimpeachable evidence, that the property thus vested in the Irish Society was held for public purposes, and for public purposes only. He had first, however, to state that although the present gross income from the property was £14,000, it had not, as the House would suppose, always produced that amount. Twenty-five years ago the income did not amount to more than £7,000; and antecedently, the figures were smaller still; but it had always been a property of a very substantial character, and was still an improving property, and likely in the future to become still more valuable and produce a larger income. The question now raised with respect to it was no new question. Already three Royal Commissions had dealt with this subject as incidental to the main purposes for which they were appointed—the Commissions upon the Corporations of England and Wales, upon the City of London, and upon the Corporations of Ireland; and each of these Commissions had inquired into this particular subject, and had, as he would presently show, condemned the present state of things. The last occasion on which the subject was brought before the House was in 1869, by the late Mr. Maguire, the esteemed Member for the city of Cork, and the then Chief Secretary for Ireland, Lord Carlingford, distinctly admitted that the present state of things could 1096 not be allowed to endure, and promised that the Government would take the matter into their serious consideration. That promise, however, like many others, ended without performance. But as regarded the Parliamentary position of the question, they had this—that the responsible Minister of the Crown, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, had admitted that the existing state of things required a remedy, and had promised the attention of the Government to it. Now, he believed he was entitled to state that the case set up out-of-doors by those who represented the Irish Society—though he doubted that it would be ventured on here — was, that these estates were their private property; that they were in no sense a public trust; that they might, if they so pleased, dispose of it for their own purposes, or of the City Companies, and that the Society were not responsible, in any public sense, and could not be dealt with as public trustees. The history of the dealings with this property by the Society was certainly very remarkable. When the income derived from it was small, the greater part was spent for the personal delectation of its members, and any surplus—if any there was—was handed over to the City Companies, where probably it was probably it was also spent upon dinners. When, however, the income increased, by degrees some light seemed to have broken in upon the minds and consciences of the Irish Society, for about 150 years ago they awoke to the propriety of devoting some part of their income to the public objects for which they were instituted, and up to 1823 about £500 a-year was devoted to public purposes. Between 1823 and 1832 a great improvement occurred, and the £500 was increased to £1,000 and £1,500 a-year. It could be proved, however, from the sworn documents of the Society, when on its defence in a Chancery suit, that between the years 1777 and 1831 about £2,000 a-year was paid to the City Companies as the primary recipients and cestuis que trusts—making in 60 years £120,000 so paid, in distinct breach of the primary trust upon which the Society held the property. Now, this property was given the Society for the public purpose of plantation, for making roads, bridges, and for the erection of the necessary public and 1097 municipal buildings of the two principal towns of the county of Derry; and at the very time this money was being misappropriated, and the £120,000 unlawfully put into the pockets of the 12 City Companies, the city of Londonderry was incurring a public debt and taxing its citizens for making a bridge over the Foyle, to connect two parts of the place, and for improving its port and harbour—the very public objects for which the property was given to the Irish Society. Now he came to a remarkable state of things. In 1823 the Irish Society was called upon by the Common Council of the City of London to account to that body for the appropriation of their revenue. They refused, contending that the Corporation of London had nothing whatever to do with the matter, that they were only responsible to the City Companies, whose property the surplus income was. In 1832 this remarkable change occurred. The Skinners Company thought they did not get enough of the money, that too much was spent by the Society upon its own responsibility, and for its own purpose, and that too much was given to the public. Accordingly the Skinners Company brought a suit in Chancery to compel the Irish Society to account for the application of their revenues, and to get a more equitable division, not between themselves and the public, but between themselves and the Irish Society, to the exclusion of the public. The scene then entirely changed. The Irish Society, in indignation at the exercise of their abounding discretion being interfered with, entirely changed their front, and would not give anything to the City Companies. While the suit was going on the system of administration—he was happy to say—entirely changed in the interest of the public, and from that day to this the City Companies had never received one farthing of the money. So that, after having refused to account to the Corporation of the City of London, because it was a matter personal and private between themselves and the City Companies, they then declined to pay money to those Companies because they alleged that they held it for the advantage of the public. The old adage was realized as to what happened when certain persons fell out. Well, then, was this public property—or, in other words, did the Irish Society hold it as a 1098 public trust—or was it, as they contended, private property? He could not understand how the Corporation of London—although otherwise unreformed—could have thought it was held as private property; for they were not a private association, and as a public corporation could hold only for public purposes. He must now trouble the House with a few extracts from important documents and decisions which dealt with the question—was this a public trust, or was it a private endowment? He would first read two sentences from the Charter of Charles II., by which the Society was constituted. The first recited—That the Society did retain in its own hands such part of the same tenements and hereditaments as were not property divisible for defraying the charge of the general operation of the said plantation.Then the intent of the Charter was described as followed:—That there may be a new Society made by the new plantation in Ulster aforesaid, consisting of the like number of honest and discreet citizens of our city of London as the other and former Society heretofore consisted of, and that a new incorporation of the said city or town of Derry be constituted, and for the further and better settling and planting of the said county, towns, and places with trade and inhabitants.It was upon this that the Skinners' Company proceeded. On the hearing, the Master of the Rolls decided in favour of the contention of the Irish Society—that they were not a body accountable to the City Companies, because their primary trust was a public trust and not a private trust. The Skinners' Company appealed to the House of Lords. Their Lordships confirmed the decision of the Master of the Rolls—that it was a trust held by the Irish Society for public purposes, and not for any other purposes. Lord Lyndhurst said—Now, my Lords, if that be so, the conclusion I come to appears to me to be irresistible; they are public officers—they have public duties to perform of an important kind, By the terms of the Charter of Charles II., independently of any general reasoning, this property is given to them for these very purposes: they have applied it for these purposes. After they have satisfied the purposes, which are purposes entirely in their discretion, they been in the habit of paying over the surplus funds to the different Companies, in proportion to their original contributions; but that depends entirely on the will of the Society—I mean as to the amount. They arc to exercise their judgment as to what is necessary for the performance of their public 1099 duties, and after they have satisfied those duties, after they have applied to public objects what in their judgment—the fair exercise of their judgment—is necessary for those objects—then it is, and then only, that the surplus which remains, subject to their discretion, has been usually paid over to the Companies.And then, at a later part of his judgment, he stated—Now it is perfectly clear, therefore, in this state of things, that they cannot be considered as trustees for the benefit of the Companies.And Lord Campbell said—It seems to me that the object of the Crown was that public purposes should be attained by the trustees who had the management of these lands, and I am clearly of opinion that the purposes for which the grant was made still continue, and that they arc and must ever remain trustees for the public.He had then to point out that in this Skinners' suit the Society had taken up the position that they were public trustees, and were not accountable for their actions to any Company. A Royal Commission was appointed in 1851 or 1852 to inquire into the Corporation of the City of London; and the Irish Society being an annexe of the Corporation, they inquired also into the affairs of the Society. That Commission was as strong a one as had ever been appointed. It included as its Members the late Lord Taunton, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, and Mr. Justice Patteson. A Commission so appointed could not be considered a revolutionary body, neither could it be said that the conclusion to which they came could be considered as other than of the greatest weight. They reported that the Society, from its Charter and present practice, were mere trustees for the purposes declared in the Charter of Incorporation, and that—Though neither Lord Langdale nor the House of Lords decided what the claims of the Company might be upon a supposed surplus, it results from both these decisions that the objects of the Charter are so vast and various that they never could be satisfied by any funds at the disposal of the Society; and that, in fact, if the Society did its duty, no surplus could ever arise within any reasonable probability. Practically, therefore, the Companies have no interest in the revenues of the Society, because they can only be entitled (if they are entitled at all) to a surplus which has, and cannot have, any actual existence. It follows that there are no persons or bodies in this country beneficially interested in the receipt of the revenues.1100 He would now call attention to how the Governing Body, which had the management of this vast property in the North of Ireland, 500 miles away from Guildhall Yard, where it was administered, and of which the revenues were also local, was constituted. The Society had but one permanent member, the Recorder of the City of London. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was not present to tell the House what part he took in the management of the estates; but the gentleman who filled the office of Recorder at the time that Commission sat told the Commissioners that he had only attended one meeting of the Society. In fact, he (Mr. Lewis) believed that the only permanent member of the Governing Body was not in the habit of attending any of the meetings of the Society. The shifting members of the Governing Body consisted of the Governor, the Deputy Governor, and 24 ordinary members. The Governor, as a matter of form, was elected annually; but practically, inasmuch as he was always re-elected, he was a permanent officer, otherwise there would not be any continuity in the government of the Society. His hon. Friend opposite, the Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow) was elected in 1873, and had since been elected annually; and was, therefore, practically a permanent officer. The Deputy Governor was elected yearly, and the 24 ordinary members, of whom 12 were elected every year, continued in office only two years; so that, at the end of every two years, there was a complete change of the Governing Body. He understood there was what was always a crowd of candidates for these appointments, for to be elected a member of the Irish Society was considered one of the honours of the Corporation, and was therefore an object of special desire by members of the Court of Common Council. He asked, could there be any constitution more unsuited for the management of property 500 or 600 miles away, the application of the revenues of which was local and had reference to educational, charitable, and other purposes? Again, the Society was a foreign body—an absentee body; and, further than that, it was also an unreformed body, for it was strange, but nevertheless the fact, that while all other public bodies had to submit to such changes as the circumstances of the 1101 time required, the Corporation of the City of London had hitherto escaped reform. Some time or other, however, it would be compelled, like the the other public institutions of the country, to submit to the pruning knife. So it was with the Irish Society which emanated from that Corporation, and so despotic was the sway which it exercised over the Mayor and Corporation of the City of Derry, that that body could not pass a bye-law in the administration of local self-government without sending it to Guildhall Yard for the approval of these City magnates. Was that a state of things which ought to exist? Upon one occasion the unfortunate Corporation of Derry took upon itself, with insolent self-reliance, to name one of the streets, and it was upon record that the Irish Society, in the exercise of its undoubted rights under the Charter, sent a peremptory order to the Corporation of Derry to restore the original name of the street. Now, he would ask the House if such a state of things ought to be allowed to last in these days of local self-government? The altered circumstances of the times and of the locality imperatively required that it should cease, and that the property should be administered for the advantage of the people and of the locality with which it was connected. He considered that fact alone sufficient to justify the appointment of the Select Committee which he asked the House to grant to him. That was not all. The property being local, and the Governing Body being in London, there was a system of dual government, with two sets of officials. There was a Government house in Derry, with a most efficient general agent and subsidiary officers, and there was a Government house in Guildhall Yard, with most efficient secretaries with very little to do, and a number of subsidiary officers. And this dual system of government had most remarkable results. He had already referred to the way the Society had interfered in respect to the naming of streets. That was, however, a trifling matter compared with their conduct in opposing a Bill which the Port and Harbour Commissioners of Derry promoted in 1854 for the improvement of the navigation of the Foyle. The Harbour Commissioners, in the exercise of their public office, brought in a Bill for the improvement of the 1102 port and the navigation of the river. The dignity of the Irish Society was at once aroused, and they immediately put forth the privileges they asserted themselves to possess—they petitioned Parliament against the Bill. So here they had two public bodies, intimately allied, in a position of antagonism. In the end the opposition to the Bill was arranged, but the matter was not settled without the waste of £1,200, in passing what should, in common reason, have been an unopposed Bill. When the Corporation of the City of Loudon was made dry nurse to the Ulster plantation, the county of Londonderry was desolate; it had no inhabitants, no means of local self-government, and no money to cultivate property. Consequently, it required not only the power of wealth, but it required intelligence of management, and to obtain that it was necessary to go far afield. At that time, therefore, it might have been a very politic arrangement that an outside body should manage the affairs of the county. But the state of things was totally altered now. Everybody acquainted with the county of Londonderry and with the city of Coleraine knew that they had merchants and members of all classes and creeds who were just as capable of taking part in the administration of affairs as the Corporation of the City of Loudon or any other municipality. The case, therefore, was entirely altered, and that of itself, at the expiration of 250 years from the date of the Charter, appeared to him to be sufficient justification for asking the House to inquire as to what might be the best way in which to manage this large and important property. One of the evils of the present mode of administration was that the Society had spent considerable sums in complimentary presents, and at one time had been turned into what might be called a "Mutual Snuff-box Society." Each year a deputation of the Society went over to Derry to visit the estates, and on their return their portraits were painted, to be hung up in the Society's rooms in the Guildhall, or they had services of plate presented to them. In a book published by the Society he found no fewer than 26 instances of presentation to those who had been good enough to form deputations to the city of Derry. Nor was that the only mode of expenditure to which the Society had committed. 1103 itself. He found by the books of the Society that, in 1832, £932 had been paid as the cost of an Election Petition to turn out the Members for Coleraine. A year later he found an item of the payment of £110 to Captain Thorpe, the brother of the then Governor, the late Alderman Thorpe, towards his expenses at an election for that town. But they next got to even worse. In 1854, when the Commission on the Corporation of London was brought on, the then Governor of the Society, Mr. Alderman Humphery, was brought seriously to task with reference to the annual expenditure. He said the expenditure might be put at about £3,000 a-year, including £600 a-year for law expenses. He (Mr. C. Lewis) had looked into the accounts, and found that for the five years, 1870–74—both inclusive—the expenses of management were £22,468, or £4,500 a-year. They were dealing with an estate at this time bringing in £12,700, and he would ask hon. Members what they would think of the expenditure being nearly 40 per cent of the income with regard to any charities or trusts with which they were connected, not in any outlay respecting the estate, but in travelling expenses to Ireland in the month of August, the ostensible object of the deputation being the interests of the Irish Society, but in reality to afford them the opportunity of a visit to the Giant's Causeway, and have a pleasant summer outing. In some years the expenditure was as much as 45 per cent of the income. In 1874 a sum of £970 was paid for visiting the estate, and in 1873 it was £870. They then came to another item—tavern expenses. This was no invention of his—he was speaking from a Parliamentary Return obtained by himself in 1876, and another in 1866, before he had the honour of being a Member of that House. He found the item of tavern expenses put down in those Returns at £2,203 for five years. Was it right or proper that the money belonging to a public fund should be spent in such a lavish manner as that for the personal enjoyment of a few gentlemen connected with the City of London? Was he not entitled, on behalf of the constituency he represented, to say that a very strong case was made out for inquiry? But it did not end there. There was another item of "Fees to Members." Now they 1104 would understand why, to get on the Society was such an object of anxiety to members of the Common Council. It did not require legal training to see that these payments were utterly illegal. Public trustees had no right to fees. Nothing was said in the Charter about the payment of fees; and yet, from an early period in this Society's existence to the present time, the funds of a public trust had been diverted in the payments to members for the performance of a public duty. The payment was continued to the present hour, in defiance of most plain and positive evidence that it was illegal. It had gone on for 200 years, and could not in that time have amounted to less than £30,000. He should probably be now told — "See what the Society have done for the city of Derry." No doubt, things had somewhat improved of late. He would let them into the secret of how that had come about. His present Motion was an answer to a requisition he had received two years since. In June, 1875, he, at the requisition of his constituents, and acting with the other Representatives of the district, gave Notice of his intention to bring this matter of the Irish Society before the House. When the deputation went to Ireland in the following August it was surprising what an amount of liberality they carried with them; under the pressure of this impending Motion, it was suggested that grants might be made for the public purposes of Londonderry and Coleraine. Unfortunately, he was unable to bring on his Motion in 1876; but Coleraine sent a deputation to London and got a grant of £10,000 for the improvement of the town, and the city of Derry got £40,000 to liquidate the debt upon the bridge. [Sir SYDNEY WATERLOW: Hear, hear!] He would not say that the Irish Society made these grants under pressure; but they were just the very grants which ought to have been made years ago at the time when the city debts were contracted; and were now made at the very moment the inhabitants of the country and towns had awakened to their rights. He desired to state what was the public history of this question. The Royal Commission of 1854 reported that in their opinion the Irish Society should be dissolved, that new trustees should be appointed by the Lord Chancellor in Ireland, and that the trust 1105 should be declared by a public Act. He did not ask the House to go as far as that on this occasion, and for this reason—it was said on behalf of the Society that that was an ex parte decision, that the Commission had not heard the Society. Many persons who opposed the views which he ventured to hold said that the state of affairs, as far as the properties held by the Irish Society were concerned, had changed considerably within the last quarter of a century. This, without doubt, was true; but the altered state of circumstances, even though it might be a change in the direction he desired, ought to justify an inquiry before a conclusion was arrived at as to the manner in which the properties owned by the Irish Society should be managed in the future. In 1869, Lord Carlingford promised the serious attention of the Government to the matter — he (Mr. C. Lewis) now requested the serious attention of the House to it. His request was in no respect an extreme one. He asked the House that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the management and annual expenditure of the Irish Society of London; and to report what changes were required to be made in the Governing Body and mode of administration: in other words to inquire and report whether the necessary reforms could be best effected by a reform of the existing Governing Body, or by the alternative suggested by the Commission of 1854? He thought he had said enough to justify him not only in bringing the matter before the House, but in asking it to grant the Select Committee for which he now moved.
§ MR. RICHARD SMYTH
seconded the Motion. Motion made, and Question proposed,That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the constitution, management, and annual expenditure of the Irish Society of London; and, further, to report as to what, if any, changes can be made in the governing body or the mode of administration in order to ensure a more economical and advantageous application of the property, or whether such result can be best attained by placing the property in the hands of public Trustees resident in Ireland."—(Mr. Charles Lewis.)
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
Sir, I cannot for a moment pretend to emulate the ability of my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry in the way in which he has stated his case; but I am sup- 1106 ported by my knowledge that the facts are favourable to the statement which I have to make. I would ask the attention of the House, because I think it will feel that I am in a very responsible position as Governor of the Society, and, to some extent, my hon. Friend may think I am to blame. Now, Sir, I am not astonished that my hon. Friend should have brought this Motion forward. Several of his predecessors have felt a similar necessity, and have brought forward similar Motions. My hon. Friend has said that in 1856 Mr. Kennedy brought forward a similar Motion, seconded by the then Member for Londonderry. In 1869 Mr. Maguire also brought forward a similar Motion, and on both occasions the Motion was withdrawn, the hon. Members being satisfied with the discussions it had elicited. I trust the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lewis) will, when this discussion terminates, deem it wise to follow the same course. Now, Sir, I will just say one or two words on the points urged by my hon. Friend. He has asked, in very forcible language, whether the Irish Society is a private Society or a public trust. Now, Sir, let me say that since I have been Governor of this Society I have never missed an opportunity of declaring, from year to year, as opportunity offered, that primarily and indubitably it is a public trust, which requires the trustees to spend the moneys in public improvements, in promoting schools, in building churches, and in doing whatever may be considered best for the advantage of the locality interested; but that undoubtedly there may be a reserve, which is, or may be, the property of the London Companies. The hon. Member has stated to the House why he considers that the matter should be inquired into. I devote a large amount of time from year to year—I spend a week or 10 days every year in Derry. I do not charge my travelling expenses—and the only money I take is the cost of my living while I am in Derry. What are the fees? Every member receives a fee of 10s. for attending a court. Is that an excessive fee? I do not think my hon. Friend would consider that a very large sum for attending court. Every member receives a fee of 5s. for attendance at a Committee. I do not see how that can be considered exorbitant. My hon. Friend says it is a breach of trust to 1107 receive any fee at all. That is a legal question. The opinion of Lord Campbell and Lord Lyndhurst was that the Society was to spend its money in the improvement of the property; but if there were any surplus that surplus would undoubtedly go to the Livery Companies. If my hon. Friend thinks that this money has been spent in defiance of the law, he is a very good lawyer, and knows what remedy may be taken. My hon. Friend has stated that there are many objections to a body of gentlemen in London managing a property in Ireland; but I must remind my hon. Friend that this is a dual trust. In 1613 the Livery Companies who contributed this money consented to part of it being set aside for making the trust a permanent one: but when that trust was satisfied, the balance of the money should go to them from year to year. My hon. Friend has spoken of the grievances which are suffered by the Corporation of Londonderry. He says they cannot even pass a bye-law without the assent of the Irish Society. Strictly speaking, that is correct; but, as a matter of fact, my hon. Friend knows that the Irish Society has never interfered with the passing of any bye-law by the Corporation for the last 150 years. It is true, that nominally their assent is required to a bye-law; but, on the other hand, the Corporation of Londonderry receives from the Society the sum of £1,200 a-year—the Society feel they are trustees for the city of Derry. The condition of the Corporation of Derry at the time the Irish Society obtained their Charter was a lamentable one. The Corporation had spent all their money, and even the mace was put into pawn. The Society had actually to pay their debts and to take the mace out of pawn in order to enable them to go on. My hon. Friend made another point. He stated that in 1874 the Society opposed the improvement of the quays and the construction of a harbour. Why did they oppose it? Their opposition, Sir, was intended for the benefit of the merchants of Londonderry. The Society thought that if they were going to give a free grant of the land they had a right to stipulate that if any house were put upon that land for public purposes no charges should be made except such as might be sufficient to pay for the erection of the buildings; and, therefore, they 1108 insisted that there should be a clause in the Bill to give the Society power to assent to the tariff proposed to be put upon the trade. The whole object of the Society was to protect the small traders and to insist upon the lowest possible tariff being charged for the dues, considering that the Society were to grant the land. The deputation which waited on the Society in reference to the subject went back again, and the first thing they did was to pass a Resolution thanking the Society for the liberality which had been shown in its treatment of the Harbour Commissioners. My hon. Friend has said that the state of things is entirely altered—that Derry and Coleraine require no longer to be dry-nursed by the Companies of London. If the case is so altered that the Corporation of Derry can do without the Livery Companies, then the Livery Companies will come in and say that the trust is exhausted, and that the corpus of the fund therefore belongs to them. That is not the view that the Irish Society considers a reasonable one. I shall presently, I think, be able to show that the inhabitants of Derry and Coleraine are satisfied, and that they are not here supporting the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, but are anxious that it should be rejected. When the Motion was brought forward by the hon. Gentleman last year not a single Petition came up in support of it; but a Petition came up from Derry, signed by the Bishop, by the clergy, by the merchants, by gentlemen of social position and property, praying the House to reject the Motion. What did Coleraine say? Coleraine sent up a Petition against the Motion. Now, I venture to ask the House whether they can accept that as a view of the feeling of the people of Londonderry and Coleraine in regard to the Motion of my hon. Friend—especially as there was not a single Petition in favour of it? My hon. Friend tells you of the sudden liberality of the Society when it we heard that this Motion was coming on; but he forgot to tell you that we agitated for the freeing of the bridge 10 years ago. Ten years ago the Society offered £1,000 a-year for the opening of the bridge; and I made an offer myself last year. I said—"If you will find half the money we will find the other half"—because the Society felt that the freeing 1109 of the bridge was a matter of great importance for the well-being of the poorer inhabitants of Derry. The city is divided by the river Foyle, the working people live on one side, and the factories are placed on the other; so that the work girls have to cross the river to go to their employment, and the tolls amount to something like 2d. a-day, which is a heavy tax upon them. I said—"If you will find one half the money to free the bridge we will find the other half." The Society agreed to give £1,000 a-year 10 years ago, I think—at all events, it was many years ago—the agreement was entered into and the money was paid for three years, when the payment was stopped because the Society disapproved of the proposed mode of constructing the bridge. The Society has now agreed to pay half the cost of freeing the bridge. And let me remind the House that they have applied to the Treasury to lend the money; but the Treasury say they cannot do so. The Society has therefore to borrow the money from the Assurance Societies, or wherever it can get it. If this Motion passes the credit of the Society will be injured, its proposals with regard to the bridge will be unfulfilled, the improvements will be stopped, and I venture to think that my hon. Friend (Mr. C. Lewis) will not dispute that it will be exceedingly difficult to know when the works will be carried out. What does the Motion ask for? An inquiry into the constitution, management, and annual expenditure, of the Irish Society. Why, Sir, the constitution is as well known as anything can be known. My hon. Friend has told you that this book was published by the Society in 1804. If a Select Committee sat for three months it could not get a better history of the Society than this book gives you. With regard to the management, I am quite willing to admit that there is more expense than one could wish to see. But remember it is a dual trust. The Society is obliged to have a representative in Ireland. He is allowed £800 a-year and a house to live in. He occupies a good social position, he is a magistrate and a member of the Grand Jury. I do not think my hon. Friend will be of opinion that we should make any reduction in that payment. We must also remember that the Livery Companies have an interest in the estate—they are 1110 entitled to the reversion, and it is necessary to have some sort of establishment in London. All that that establishment consists of is a secretary, a clerk, and a porter, and I do not well see how that establishment could be reduced. With regard to the items of expenditure to which my hon. Friend has referred, I am quite sure he would not have stated them if he had not been informed that they were quite correct. In order to understand this matter, I think it will be necessary for me to trespass on the patience of the House while I state the circumstances under which this Society was originally instituted. About the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth the O'Neills and O'Doherties, who were in constant rebellion, had their lands sequestrated by the Crown. These lands constituted the greater part of the county of Londonderry, and the Crown having taken possession of them, did not know what to do with them. It accordingly applied to the Lord Mayor and Corporation of the City of London to consider what should be done with it. The Corporation appointed four citizens to visit the district and to report upon it. Those citizens came back and reported that it was well watered, suited for agricultural purposes, and carrying on an important trade—and that opinion had been amply verified. A grant of £30,000 was accordingly made for the purposes the Crown had in view; and that sum was subsequently increased to £60,000. That seems a small sum of money now; but in order to obtain some idea of its relative value in those days, let me inform the House that at that time a bullock was worth 15s. and a hog 2s. If you take the relative value of money, that £60,000 would represent £2,000,000 now. The Corporation had a power of requiring the Livery Companies to contribute money, and they commanded them to find that sum. It was contributed by 53 Companies, and I think that for more than a century the Corporation never received any consideration for it. The lands were divided and apportioned to the Livery Companies in proportion to the amounts contributed by them, and the Charter was granted in 1614. My hon. Friend (Mr. C. Lewis) read one part of the Report of the Royal Commission on the subject; but if you read only one 1111 part of a Report you are apt to get a mistaken notion of its import, and sometimes the reading of another part helps you to understand it more accurately.
Now, Sir, I say the Irish Society have done their duty to the North of Ireland. They did, as their duty compelled them, take over boys from Christchurch Hospital as apprentices, and for many years the inhabitants were forbidden to take any Irish apprentices. Houses were built some of which, I think, remain in Coleraine to this day. They were framed in London and taken over and put up as quickly as possible. The Colony was so well nurtured that it became in after time, and is now I venture to say, without fear of contradiction from my hon. Friend, a district as populous and industrious as any other part of Ireland; and I venture further to say that the Irish Society has mainly contributed to that happy state of things. My hon. Friend (Mr. C. Lewis) has dwelt very much upon the expense of management; but he must remember that no society, church, school or institution, that could be required for the benefit of the district, has been forgotten. One of the most gratifying things to me, and one which almost repays me for my annual visit to Ireland, is to visit the large school in Coleraine, where more than 700 children of all denominations receive an education free of expense as good as any that is given in any part of Ireland; and I think my hon. Friend will not dispute that the schools are everywhere spoken of in terms of the highest appreciation. I do not wish to detain the House by dwelling on the subject; but I ask who is it that complains? Not the inhabitants of Derry—because they have petitioned against this Motion:—not the inhabitants of Coleraine, for they also have petitioned against the Motion. I make that statement in the presence of the hon. Member (Mr. C. Lewis). He is here, and if I make a misstatement he will correct me. The inhabitants of Londonderry and Coleraine, who are the primary beneficiaries under our trust, do not complain—why should the House interfere in the work of the Society, and prevent that work from being carried on which is now in progress for the benefit of those for whom the Society was originally established? Sir, I do not want to point too much to the work of the Society, but 1112 if any of my hon. Friends know the Cathedral at Derry, they will remember that there is a stone inside the porch, placed there two centuries ago, which bears this inscription—If stones could speak then London's praise would sound,Which built this church from out the ground.I venture to say that there is not a church, or a school, or a public building in Londonderry, which would not make the same declaration—that the Irish Society have fostered religion and education ever since the trust was first founded. But go back to the time when the freemen of Derry gallantly defended its walls against the assaults of the enemies of this country—history tells of the glorious defence that was made against the Siege of Derry. The Livery Companies supplied the sinews of war, and more than that—they sent over some of the finest pieces of ordnance that were made at that time. Sir, you will see on the walls at this day, the Salters' gun, the Vintners' gun, the Fishmongers' gun—and others. In one of the descriptions of Macaulay, one of the guns is described as "Roaring Meg," and I believe it was fired as many as 200 times during the Siege. That was the spirit of the Livery Companies of London, in those days, who declared that they would defend the Crown against the assaults of its enemies. I will not detain the House longer. I have only one word more to add. My hon. Friend has complained of the constitution of the Society. He has said that the Recorder is the only permanent Member of the Society—that is, that the Recorder ex-officio is the only permanent officer. He has been pleased to refer to me in very satisfactory language; and if he is satisfied with the present Recorder, and he is the only permanent officer, why should he bring this Motion before the House with the view to censuring the conduct of the Irish Society? As long as the Irish Society shows confidence in me I shall always endeavour to persuade my Colleagues that this is primarily a trust for the benefit of Derry and Coleraine; and as to the surplus to which allusion has been made, I am afraid it will never arrive as long as my hon. Friend and others have any public improvement which they wish to see carried out.
§ MR. RICHARD SMYTH
The hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow) has, with his accustomed ability and command of administrative details, met the Motion and speech of the hon. Member for the City of Londonderry (Mr. C. Lewis), and I think we may now assume that we have heard the worst and the best that can be said for the Irish Society in its connection with the Plantation of Ulster. I do not rise for the purpose of supplementing the statement of facts which has been sufficiently ample, but to say some words on behalf of the people whom I have the honour to represent in this House, and whose interests are largely in the keeping of the Irish Society. I wish it to be distinctly understood that I do not support the Motion now before the House in any spirit of hostility to the Irish Society, but because I believe if the Committee sought for be granted, its investigations will result in giving fuller scope to the beneficent aims of that body, and to the exertions of my hon. Friend near me (Sir Sydney Waterlow), who, I am bound to say, is as skilled and impartial a Governor as ever was at the head of this or any other Society. My hon. Friend asks for a Select Committee of inquiry, and the Motion foreshadows some interesting topics of investigation. If it has a Radical look about it I hope all alarm on that score will be dispelled by reflecting that the Motion proceeds from a safe quarter of the House. Indeed, we are now happily at a loss to know in what particular region of the House of Commons reformers find their seats. But it may be a relief to some hon. Members to know that the Motion before the House does not go nearly so far in Radicalism as the Report of the Royal Commission of 1854. That Commission recommended the repeal of the Irish Society's Charter. In that recommendation I cannot agree. Nearly all the property of the county of Derry is held under the Charter of Charles II., and if it were repealed, I dare say all this property would, in the meantime, revert to the Crown. Of course, Parliament would take care that the present owners should get their lands back under a new title; but to subject the fee-simple of a whole county even for one night to a debate in this House, and to the risks and eccen- 1114 tricities of the Division Lobbies, would be a nervous kind of process. My hon. Friend opposite does not aim at anything so disquieting and revolutionary as this, but something much more practical and modest. My hon. Friend has laid some stress on the anomalous character of the Irish Society's position and duties, and has urged that our notions of propriety are challenged, if not outraged, by the spectacle of a committee of the Corporation of London managing property on behalf of the people of Derry and Coleraine when these people are quite competent to manage themselves. It has been replied to this that the anomaly does not so much consist in the mode of managing the property as in the fact that there is such a property to manage, made over to two towns in the North of Ireland, whilst other towns in Ireland have nothing of the kind. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, but I take leave to say that is a dangerous line of argument, for if you begin to question the wisdom of James I. and Charles II. in making over this property to Derry and Coleraine—or, rather, to the county of Derry—people will begin to question their wisdom also in issuing many other Letters Patent, where individuals, and not the general population of a district, were the beneficiaries. It will be better for us not to open up the question of property at all. If you tell us that the reasons why King James selected Derry and Coleraine and the county lying between them as objects of special favour no longer exist, and that the estates may now be set free for more general purposes, I am afraid there are descendants in Ulster of many other favourites of King James who will not thank you for going back to these first principles. If I am asked why Derry and Coleraine should have these advantages, I cannot answer, except that they have them under an ancient Charter, and if we come to ask the why and the wherefore of all existing rights in the North of Ireland, we shall open up fields of discussion where nothing but revolution can reap its harvests. It is well, then, that my hon. Friend's Motion assumes that the concern of any Committee which this House may be pleased to appoint will be to find out whether the mode of administering the trust may not be so improved as really to strengthen 1115 the Irish Society, and add to the advantages of the people. Sir, the Irish Society is the only genuine relic of the Ulster Plantation. In the case of private estates the objects and conditions of the settlement have long since been forgotten or disregarded. The only thing that is left to remind us of the best element in the Plantation is the Ulster Tenant-right, which is a tradition of the favourable tenures conferred on the Colonists, and which, I regret to say, in some districts of the Province has well nigh disappeared in the general subversion of popular rights. But no matter what changes took place in Ireland, the Irish Society preserved its identity all through; and we have heard this very night from my hon. Friend, the Governor of the Society, that it frankly acknowledges that it has the same duties to discharge as when it first took possession of the confiscated lands of Ulster. All the good and all the bad of the Ulster Plantation are in the Irish Society as fresh as in the year 1613. What we aim at in this Motion is to expunge all the bad and perpetuate all the good. I must speak frankly. I admit that when King James undertook to colonise the six northern counties of Ireland with English and Scotch settlers, the county of Derry fared rather better than the rest. Its escheated lands fell to the Corporation of London, and we know that the Corporation of London has always been a great defender of liberty, especially its own. I bring no charge against other proprietary colonists; but I own that the Londoners, as the King used to call them, discharged their duties in a spirit of tolerance, which contrasted favourably with that shown by some other undertakers in the Province. The truth is, they were not bigoted enough for King James's taste; for, about two years after the issuing of the Irish Society's Charter, the King wrote to Lord Deputy Chichester complaining that the Irish Society had not driven the natives off the lands. My' hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone has no reason to be ashamed of his ancient predecessors in those days. It is true those English gentlemen had signed harsh covenants while they were in London; but when they found themselves face to face with the Irish people 1116 their kindlier feelings got the better of them, and they had not the heart to drive the people to the mountains. Sir, Englishmen who know Ireland are seldom its foes. The Irish Society allowed many of the native Irish to stay where they were, and dared to incur the displeasure of the Royal bigot who had sent them over to do sterner work. I, for one, am ready to place to the credit of my hon. Friend and the Society over which he so worthily presides those humane deeds which have lived in history for 260 years. I would not have it thought that we, in the North of Ireland, have ever looked upon the Irish Society and the London Companies as wilful oppressors. They have allowed themselves, now and then, to be misguided by officials, both English and Irish. This is specially true of the Mercers' Company. But, on the whole, they have administered their estates with a certain consideration for the comforts of their tenantry. But the people of Derry and Coleraine, or, at all events, a portion of them, are dissatisfied with the present state of things on two grounds. The one is a matter of principle, and the other is a matter of detail. As to principle they feel sore at being subject to a foreign body like the Corporation of London. I am sure the hon. Baronet (Sir Sydney Waterlow) wonders at his being considered a foreigner in Derry, for at Government House he and his guests always seem very much at home. And yet the Governor of the Society, with all his tact, patience, and impartiality, has not been able to reconcile Derry to English rule. It is a remarkable thing, and I crave attention to it, that men of all shades of politics, and of all religious opinions, take exception to this department of English 'rule, and hint, in no obscure way, that Irish ideas ought to prevail at Derry and Coleraine. I confess I am led to think that almost all Irishmen are inclined for home government when their interests appear to demand it. In the case of the Irish Society, it is thought that the evil is intensified by the shortness of the tenure each member has of office. With the exception of the Governor, who is generally re-elected — and I hope the present Governor will be re-elected as long as he lives—each member remains 1117 in office only two years. He sees Ireland twice, and is then for ever lost to us. Now, with reference to the concluding part of my hon. Friend's Motion, it may be asked—Suppose the Irish Society were abolished, what do you propose to put in its place? I think I shall act discreetly if I follow the example of my hon. Friend, and decline to answer that question. I am not able to answer it. My confession is an open one. It would be presumptuous in me to set up for being wiser than the whole body of the people of Derry and Coleraine; and, as they have not come to a common understanding as to any constructive policy, I think it may be as safe for me not to rush where my constituents fear to tread. The Royal Commission of 1853 recommended that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland should nominate a new body of trustees; but I have not met any Derry man who agrees with the Royal Commission, for there is a vague impression that the Court of Chancery in Dublin might, at some future day, cease to be the seat of patriotic virtue. Passing away, then, from this part of the subject, I come to the question of detail, or the practical administration of the trust. Here I am not afraid to recommend some positive and substantial measures of reform. I have admitted that it would be a serious thing to repeal the charter of Charles II., and send the whole property of county Derry adrift on these benches. But it is one thing to repeal the Charter, and another thing to supersede certain parts of it by Act of Parliament. Many parts of it have already been set aside by the Act for the reform of Irish Corporations. The Charter gave us many things in Londonderry which we have not now. It gave us 12 aldermen for life, six sergeants-at-mace, a chamberlain, two sheriffs, a gauger, and a garbler, whatever that is, with several other civic benedictions which have vanished away. We only ask Parliament to go a little further in the way of reform. The Irish Society have two sets of duties. They are landlords and they are trustees—they own property in Ireland, but then they must spend the income from that property for the benefit of the districts where it is situated, in public improvements and education. Originally, the whole county of Derry was entitled to the benefits of the trust; 1118 but when the 12 London Companies had their portions assigned to them by a conveyance from the Society, it was understood that the Companies would do for the county what the Society was to do for Derry and Coleraine, and with a measure of fidelity they did so. It cannot be questioned that the London Companies spent more of their rents upon local improvements, religion, and education, than is generally done by private owners, and, so far, carried out the spirit of the Charter. But now the Companies are, one after another, selling their properties, and their successors in title repudiate all obligation to do for the districts what the Irish Society was originally constituted to do. Those parts of the country which have passed away from the London Companies might as well have never had any connection with the Irish Society. The estates have gone into private hands. Benefactions for local objects have ceased, rents are raised beyond any figure that was contemplated by the Companies, and the chartered rights of the people are lost. Whatever mistakes may have been made by the London Companies, and however numerous may have been their shortcomings, I deny that it has been any benefit to the community that they have withdrawn from the country, that they have sold their estates, and brought the purchase money with them to London. I submit that the county at large has more reason to complain than either Derry or Coleraine, and I think that if any new declaration of trust is to be made it will be necessary to consider that the Irish Society was constituted in the interest of the whole Plantation of the county of Derry. I do not dispute the legal right of the London Company to sell their estates; but when we take into account the origin of their connection with Ireland, and the objects they were intended to serve, I think the very least they can do is to make the first offer of the property to the occupying tenants, and not hand it over to men who will whip them with scorpions. In the name of sound policy and of justice I put in this claim, and I protest against a process which in its issues may be little less disastrous than the wholesale confiscation of the 17th century. Many of the present troubles can be traced to the uncertainty which has prevailed, and which still 1119 prevails, as to the tenure of land. The hon. Baronet has appealed to the fact that within the municipal boundaries of Derry and Coleraine nine-tenths of the building ground is let on perpetuity leases. Well, I ask why not let the remaining tenth on the same tenure? For want of a nail in the shoe the horse is to be destroyed. If there never had been a perpetuity lease for building purposes granted in Derry, I do not know but by this time the people might have been schooled into acquiescence in a system which had become universal. But the popular idea of the management is making fish of one and flesh of another. I do not myself believe that in later years favouritism has had anything to do with it. Still, it is hard to persuade people that a partial result is not traceable to a partial purpose. After all, building leases form a small portion of the question of tenure. The Society has some 50 agricultural tenants who have been kept in a state of chronic alarm ever since the passing of the Irish Land Act. If there is an estate in Ireland in which the Ulster custom of Tenant-right exists, it is, and ought to be, that of the Irish Society. The Society claims to have had a principal hand in creating tenant-right. I do not deny it. I own gladly that the Society has latterly shown a disposition to concede to its tenants all the ancient rights and privileges they enjoyed under the tenures of the Ulster Plantation, and I, therefore, refrain from offering any hostile criticism upon proceedings which were of a dubiously creditable character as regard s leases. I am not suggesting, for it would be unjust to do so, that the Irish Society have been bad landlords, or that they have purposely harassed their tenants; but I do affirm that they have not always sufficiently considered the history of the people with whom they had to deal. Gentlemen go over from London and are amazed that an agricultural population, such as they find on their Irish estates, should keep so stiff a back and stand so straight upon their rights. The reason is to be found in history. These men either trace their lineage back to English or Scotch colonists who went to Ireland in a spirit of hardy enterprise, or they exhibit the pluck and tenacity of those native Irish who held their own against the colonists when they attempted 1120 to drive them to the begs and the mountains of Londonderry. I think it worth while to be patient with such men when they show a little of their inherited independence, or when they give expression to their wants and feelings in language which is not always cast in the mould of courtly ceremonial. The Irish Society is a trustee for the public, and I should like to point out, before I sit down, that the spirit and objects of the trust are not altogether in harmony with the requirements of the 19th century. King James was a great Protestant in his own way, but he had uncommonly foolish ideas about the way of propagating Protestantism. The Irish Society was sent over to Protestantise, educate, and civilize the North of Ireland; and we find that the first deputation of that body set about its missionary operations by presenting silver-gilt communion cups to the established congregations of Derry and Coleraine. That was its first religious effort; but, along with this, it did something in the political line, for it made an allowance to the orthodox Members for Derry and Coleraine to defray their expenses in the Irish Parliament. I have no interest in that historical reminiscence, because these were the borough Members. An attempt was made in the early part of this century to widen the scope of the Society's donations, and make its action less sectarian; but the Charter was found too rigid for the Liberal views of my hon. Friend's Liberal predecessors. It is not surprising that such a Charter is unpopular; but, whatever justification there may have been for this sectarian construction of the Charter, I put it to this House whether denominational favouritism in Ireland is not now out of date. We have no privileged church or religion in Ireland now. There is no such thing as nonconformity on the other side of the Irish Sea. You are in this country still debating about the burial of dead Dissenters. In Ireland you buried all the living Dissenters in 1869, and, at this moment, there is not a Dissenter from the Giant's Causeway to the Cove of Cork. Amid this state of things it is high time that the Irish Society should be emancipated from the panic-stricken policy which was in vogue after the discovery of the gunpowder plot. I do not for one moment suggest that the property should be di- 1121 verted from the purposes for which it was set apart; but I would melt it down in the crucible of the 19th century, and get rid of every obnoxious element. James I. may have known well enough what was good for the 17th century, but surely we know better than he did what is suitable for the 19th. Pious founders, whether kings or common men, should come under a statute of limitations as to their dictatorial powers. The world moves on, and even Charters get out of date if they stand still. Noah's ark was the work of a pious founder, but it was not intended that people should live in it for ever. The hon. Baronet has enumerated the educational benefactions of the Society, and I have only to say that, of all its grants, those which will stand the most searching test are the grants which have been made in the interests of knowledge. I wish to see its powers enlarged in making these grants—I mean as regards the area over which they are to be denominationally spread. The reforms which I desire to see brought about point to an improved system of tenures, a curtailment of expenditure in the management of the trust, and such an extension of the Society's powers as will enable it hereafter to disregard all sectarian considerations in the distribution of the vast funds at its disposal. A Committee of this House would, I hope, be able to tell us how this is to be done. If legislation is necessary, let us face it. A Parliament that put down Ritualism, or tried to put it down, and then made a bold effort to put down the Free Church of Scotland, may well be asked to undertake the task of overhauling a Charter of Charles II., especially when the request is made by an hon. Gentleman whose locality in this House places him above the suspicion of revolutionary proceedings. I am animated by the most friendly spirit towards the Irish Society. The Governor, the deputy Governor and assistants, are better than their Charter; and I would rather see it brought up to the level of the generous opinions and sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone than see him any longer cabined, cribbed, and confined by an antiquated instrument. No good can come of these perpetual squabbles between Derry and Coleraine on the one side and the Irish Society on the other. We want to end them not in a hollow truce, to be followed by another outbreak, but in a 1122 permanent peace, which will insure prosperity and mutual confidence for generations yet to come.
§ MR. ALDERMAN W. M'ARTHUR
felt it was hardly necessary for him, after the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow), to address the House upon the present occasion, but having for many years had the honour of being connected with the City of Londonderry and also of being a member of the Irish Society, he desired to make a few remarks. He approached the question without prejudice, and he would say if he thought this Motion would promote the interests of Londonderry and Coleraine he would support it. He believed, however, it would have directly the opposite effect. The relations between those towns and the Irish Society were never more cordial than at the present moment. The City of Londonderry had no sympathy with the agitation, which had been got up by three or four individuals for interested and selfish purposes, and the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. C. Lewis) was made their cat's paw. The authors of the agitation held leases under the Society which had nearly run out. The land comprised in those leases was situated near the City of Londonderry, and was most valuable for building sites, and the lessees felt they would be unable to obtain renewals unless some agitation were got up against the Society. He quoted the Petitions from Londonderry and Coleraine which ho had presented last Session, and also several letters which had been addressed to himself by respectable inhabitants of those towns, to show that public feeling was entirely against this agitation. He could himself speak for the last 25 years, during which the Irish Society had not only done its duty, but acted in a most judicious, liberal, and generous spirit. The Society had expended large sums of money in making new sewers and quays, in erecting schools, and in improving the approaches to the bridge in Londonderry, and had given no less a sum than £40,000 towards freeing the bridge from tolls. It could not, therefore, be said that they were unmindful of he general benefit of the district where their property was situated. He might remind the House that no tenantry in the North of Ireland obtained their holdings upon such favourable terms as did those of this Society, and it would be 1123 a great misfortune to the latter if the property of the Society passed into other hands. He very much deprecated agitation of this character, which was got up by a small section, because it inevitably resulted in the large City companies withdrawing altogether from the North of Ireland and carrying their money to London. In conclusion, he might observe that the Society were perfectly willing to modify the duration of their leases.
§ MR. LAW
said, he hoped that nothing that might fall from him would tend to disturb those friendly feelings which the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Alderman W. M'Arthur) had referred to, as generally subsisting between the Irish Society and the people of Londonderry and Coleraine; still, he thought that a good deal of the irritation inevitable to discussions of this kind must continue to arise until they arrived at a clear and definite understanding as to the true position and functions of the Irish Society, about which there had been so much debate. He had heard with pleasure from the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow), that it was his decided opinion, and one which he took all opportunities of enforcing on his colleagues—that the primary duty of the Society was, to hold and administer their property for the benefit of the districts under their charge; but still, he must add, that statement was qualified in a way which left the matter in a somewhat unsatisfactory position; because the hon. Member went on to state that though there were these primary trusts for the benefit of the locality, yet there were other secondary or subordinate trusts for the London Livery Companies who, according to him, had certain reversionary rights. Now, that was a point which must be cleared up before they could arrive at any satisfactory conclusion on the subject. How it should be, indeed, that some two centuries and a-half after the constitution of the Irish Society there should be any obscurity about its objects or duties, it was needless at present to inquire; but, probably, there would have been less room for misapprehension on the subject if the Society had been more disposed to give information when called on for it. When, in 1832, Commissioners were appointed to inquire into the affairs of the different Municipal Corporations of England and 1124 Ireland, and information was sought in respect of the property of this Society, none could be obtained. The English Commissioners, indeed, seem to have thought that the inquiry fell within the province of the Irish Commissioners, and the Irish Commissioners unfortunately could only report that when they applied for information to the general agent of the Society in Ireland, they were told that he was not authorized to give any. It was, he (Mr. Law) thought, much to be regretted that a body discharging an important public trust should have acted in that way. Now, he believed no one would regret more than the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone that such a course should have been adopted by the Governors of that day; for no one would deny—and least of all his hon. Friend—that a public body which occupied so important a position, and which was entrusted with such important duties as his hon. Friend admitted the Irish Society was, should at all times be ready—nay, even anxious—that its administration should be open to the fullest investigation. However, it so happened that shortly after the time the Society thus refused information to the Royal Commissioners, they engaged in a protracted litigation with the Skinners Company; and from the statements made on either side in that cause, the House had, as it appeared to him, the means of forming tolerably correct conclusions as to some, at least, of the questions raised in this discussion. The Skinners Company alleged that the Irish Society were trustees for them and for the other Livery Companies, and insisted that every penny of surplus income, after payment of permanent charges and the expenses of management, should be handed over to them. To that demand the answer of the Society was distinct and precise enough. They said nothing whatever of the "dual trust," on which the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone had insisted so often that evening. There was then no division of their duties into primary for the benefit of the localities, and secondary for the Livery Companies. On the contrary, their answer in 1834 was this—that they owed no duties whatever to the Livery Companies, but held the estates in question upon public trusts alone—namely, for the purpose of carrying into effect the objects of the Plantation—that was to 1125 say, the promotion and support of the Protestant religion within the district, the maintenance of divers public charities therein, the protection of the Settlement, and "the advancement of the trade and commerce and general welfare thereof." Was it not then somewhat inconsistent in this same Society now practically to deny their accountability to the public of Londonderry and Coleraine, on the ground that they were answerable to the Livery Companies as having reversionary rights and being in fact the ultimate owners, after having defended themselves against these very claims, when formally asserted by the Skinners for themselves and the other Companies, by insisting that their only trust was for the public of Londonderry and Coleraine.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. LAW
But there were two other parties to this suit beside the Companies and the Irish Society — the Attorney General and the Corporation of the City of London. Well, the Corporation did not then concur in the view of the Livery Companies; on the contrary, they averred that the property held by the Irish Society was not impressed with any trust in favour of the Livery Companies or any of them, but wasimpressed with trusts or purposes of a general character for the prosperity of the said Plantation, and the benefit of the inhabitants and the public in general, entirely apart from private pecuniary advantage,and the answer to the Attorney General was to the same effect. That contention was successful—the Bill of the Skinners Company was dismissed by the Master of the Rolls with costs and, on appeal, the House of Lords affirmed that decision. It could hardly, then, be said that the Royal Commissioners of 1854 were not warranted in stating that—There are no persons or bodies in this country (England) beneficially interested in the receipt of the Society's revenues. Neither the Corporation of London, the Society itself, nor the London Companies being beneficially interested in its funds.It would, however, appear that notwithstanding the decision by the House of Lords, and the Report of the late Lord Taunton, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, and Mr. Justice Patteson, as just re- 1126 ferred to, a difference of opinion did, as a matter of fact, exist on this vital question; and this—even if there were no other reason — seemed sufficient ground for having some further inquiry. Another ground for acceding to the proposed inquiry was the fact that there had long existed more or less dissatisfaction with the administration of its trusts by the Irish Society. He admitted that his hon. Friend (Sir Sydney Waterlow) had shown himself an admirable Governor; but it was not quite satisfactory that, owing to the peculiar constitution of the body, the proper management of the trust should depend on the Society having at its head a gentleman who, however excellent, was only mortal, and who might at any time be succeeded by a person of a different character. And here too, as it appeared to him, there was matter for inquiry, with a view to placing the constitution of the Society on a more reasonable footing. But it was said that this agitation was factitious, and, in short, had been got up by a few interested persons for their own private ends. All he could say was this—that a memorial had been signed by 270 of the most influential of the inhabitants of Londonderry, amongst whom were the Mayor and five or six Aldermen of the city, asking for inquiry; and that another memorial had been signed by 123 inhabitants—including the Town Commissioners—of Coleraine to the same effect; and, having regard to this expression of local opinion, he ventured to think it was rather too much to say that there was no real dissatisfaction existing. Moreover, the Royal Commissioners of 1854 had reported that the evidence taken by them appeared to show that the relations between the Society and its tenants could not be deemed satisfactory, and a similar statement might be found in the Report of the Municipal Corporation Commissioners 20 years before. Now, considering the peculiar constitution of the body, and the difficulties insuperable from their position, having to make costly expeditions annually to Ireland, he felt sure that they did not actually misapply a shilling; but, then, what objection could there be to a full inquiry, the result of which would only be to show that everything was regular and right. There was another matter connected with the Society's management 1127 of the trust property to which he (Mr. Law) desired briefly to advert; and that was the uneasiness created amongst the tenantry by some recent attempts, as they believed, to interfere with, or at least question, their tenant-right. Well, he (Mr. Law) did not himself suppose that any such injustice was intended; but the course taken, and the language of certain notices issued on some recent occasions, had naturally caused disquiet on this point. He (Mr. Law) had seen and read the Society's form of lease; and he was compelled to say that although the tenant-right was reserved, the lease itself was subject to such conditions and restrictions as to materially interfere with its value. A lease containing 16 special covenants, with a clause of forfeiture for breach of any one of them, was no real security to a tenant. Looking at this form of lease as given in the local papers, he found that if the tenant failed to protect from injury every shrub and sapling on his farm, or let a road or a drain be for a day out of order, or even if, without his knowing it, a judgment creditor, by registering his judgment as a mortgage, transferred the holding to himself as security for his debt, the lease was forfeited. Now, so long as his hon. Friend remained Governor of the Society, he (Mr. Law) knew that this tremendous power would not be improperly exercised; but it was an undesirable and unhealthy state of things when in business contracts like a lease, one party was thus placed entirely at the mercy of the other. And now for a few words on the composition of the Irish Society. It consisted of a Governor, a Deputy Governor, and 24 Assistants, who were changed every two years, the only permanent officials being the Governor and the Recorder of London. Now every one of these gentlemen might be, and no doubt was, anxious to do his duty, but they were beset by difficulties, of which, perhaps, the greatest was that they knew, and could know, little or nothing of the localities or the requirements of the people for whom they were trustees. It was true a deputation made an excursion to Ireland every autumn, remained there about 14 days, and gave some very pleasant parties; but such a system for administering a local trust in the North of Ireland seemed almost an absurdity. The fact was, the Deputy Governor and assistants were out of 1128 office before they could gain any acquaintance with the requirements of the locality. Perhaps, too, he might remind the House that the Commissioners of 1854 recommended the abolition of the Irish Society, and the appointment of local trustees by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Difficulties, no doubt—and serious difficulties—might easily be suggested, as likely to arise with a system of purely local trustees; but he would hope that it was not beyond the reach of Parliamentary wisdom to devise a scheme which would obviate these objections. Could they not, at all events, arrange to give the Governor a helpful body of assistants to aid him in his duties, instead of 24 faineants, all in a row, who could be of no earthly use to him, or those for whom they were supposed to act? There was again another point to which he wished to allude. It would be seen that the population of the county of Londonderry in 1871 was about 174,000, and of these more than one-third were Roman Catholics, all of whom were absolutely excluded by the provisions of the Charter from participating in the trust. Now, could that be justified in these times? He found that large sums were expended by the Society every year for education. In Londonderry there was disbursed for schools £1,843, and in Coleraine £873. Now, of course, none of these were Roman Catholic schools, for the Society was precluded by its Charter from promoting any but the Protestant religion. But as far as could be learned from the published accounts, it would appear that out of £2,716 given to schools in Derry and Coleraine, the sum of £80 only was given to the National Schools intended for, and open to, children of all creeds. This point, at all events, he (Mr. Law) thought, might be more fairly and usefully dealt with, by allotting the larger proportion of the Society's educational grant to assist those schools which the State had provided and endeavoured to make available for all children, Catholic as well as Protestant. The hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone had told them that the Society's school at Coleraine was open to all. That might be so; but still it did not seem to him a sufficient concession to the conscientious convictions of a large part of the population. The Society, in short, in all that related to or touched upon religion, was founded 1129 upon views that were now happily obsolete, and must be replaced by others more in harmony with modern principles. It was, therefore, no matter for surprise that four years after the Royal Commission of 1854, the Endowed Schools Commissioners, when they turned their attention to this matter, should have recommended that immediate steps should be taken in order that all the funds which, under the Charter of the Irish Society, were devoted to education should be placed under a system of efficient management, for the benefit of all the people of the county. Now, all these various considerations showed, as it appeared to him (Mr. Law), that some inquiry should take place. If the Committee were not granted the matter would be closed for this Session, but the question would assuredly soon be raised again. It was not for the interests of either the Irish Society on the one hand, or Londonderry or Coleraine on the other, that any ground, or even supposed ground, of complaint should remain. He did not believe the Society had anything to conceal. He was convinced that for many years back they had done everything that could be reasonably expected of a body of trustees so constituted; but in their own interest, as well as in that of the people concerned, he thought there ought to be an inquiry such as that now proposed.
§ MR. D. TAYLOR
said, that as the Representative of one of the towns embraced in this property (Coleraine), and in which he had resided all his life, lie had had every opportunity of observing how the duties of the Society had been carried out. He had listened with great pleasure to the discussion that had taken place, and to no part more than the clear statement that had been made of the trusteeship for the towns of Derry and Coleraine. And he had to state this—that although the towns of Derry and Coleraine had been for a long time dissatisfied with the way in which the funds in question had been distributed, that feeling had during the last 10 or 15 years undergone a change—at all events, so far as the latter town which he represented was concerned. He had had to meet the Deputations of the Society for nearly 20 years, and had had occasion to bring many matters before them, and he must say—as he had said in past years—that they had 1130 always given their best consideration to the various applications made before them, with the full desire of doing their best for the town and inhabitants of Coleraine. As regarded their grants for educational purposes, they had been most liberal—their schools were large, and one of them provided accommodation for 700 children—they were free to all classes, and were always full. He must correct the statement of the right hon. and learned Member (Mr. Law) that these schools were not under the National Board. These schools were under the National Board—these schools, moreover, were not only under the National Board, but were managed by a local committee. As regarded the trade and commerce of the towns, he had never known an improvement suggested in which the Society was not willing to join. As to the navigation of the river Bann from Coleraine to the sea, the Society had agreed to assist with £1,000 a-year for 10 years, £3,000 had been paid when the project was abandoned; but it was now resumed, and the Society had agreed to grant £1,000 a-year, not for 10 years, but for 25 years. As regarded the management of this property, Coleraine at least had no cause to complain—the Society had granted leases on such terms as had given great satisfaction. No doubt some alteration in the constitution of the Society would give satisfaction, because it was objectionable, that persons who had no knowledge of the county should be placed upon the Board, and cease to be members just as they had acquired some knowledge of their duties. The inhabitants of Coleraine, however, did not think that that was a proper time to press these changes on the Society. If their conduct of affairs continued what it was, the inhabitants of Coleraine felt that the matter might be left in the hands of the Society. That being so, he could not support the Resolution, against which he had received a Petition signed by a much larger Humber of persons than supported the requisition in favour of bringing the subject before the House last Session.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHERLOCK
contended that no answer had been given to the Resolution which had been brought forward on the subject before the House by the hon. Member for Londonderry. If indeed, there had been any question 1131 of want of confidence involved in the Motion, he would not have supported it; but what the Resolution asked for was investigation; the necessity for which was shown by the fact that no one could say what were the trusts on which the Society held the property in question. They had heard the decisions of the Courts of Law, and they had now heard the very important declaration of the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow), that it was a public trust under which that property was held; and once that fact was established, all minor questions must give way to that of investigation as to the manner in which such public trust was administered. The hon. Member admitted that fees were paid, but excused them on the ground that they were so small; still, those payments to trustees were misapplications of trust funds which were quite unjustifiable; no explanation had been given as to the large tavern expenses, amounting to several thousands of pounds; and there were various other matters which demanded inquiry. The question for investigation was simply as to whether the funds of this public trust had been legitimately applied. This was not the first time the matter had been brought before the Parliament. Investigation was promised in 1869, by the then Chief Secretary for Ireland (Lord Carlingford); and if that promise had been kept we should now have been in a position to say—what the proposed inquiry was intended to show—what were the trusts on which the Irish Society held their estates, and how the rents of those estates had been applied. He hoped some Member of the Government would explain what these trusts were. It was impossible that matters could remain as they were at present, and if the investigation asked for was refused by the Government, he hoped the Motion would be repeated again and again till it was granted.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, that so long as the House encouraged and listened to the agitation of such questions from Ireland they would have enough of them. It was not disputed, certainly it was not disproved, that the Irish Society administered its duties with admirable tact and ability; and the House had been called upon to waste so much valuable time, merely for the purpose of inquiring whether some other organization could 1132 be sustituted for the one in existence. The Corporation of London deserved every credit for the grand success of the experiment it had made in Londonderry, by which it had supplied a complete counterpoise to the otherwise dominant power which had so long had an unfortunate influence in Ireland. In that country the world might see the two systems in operation side by side. On the one hand they had seen massacre following massacre, and desolation spreading over the rest of Ireland; while there, in the extreme North, civilization and prosperity had gone hand in hand. He trusted that the House would do nothing to destroy this one good example of Protestantism as opposed to Popery, and agree to this purposeless and objectless Motion without a single grievance having been made out. There had been no complaint made against this Society of money misapplied or of the existence of great dissatisfaction; and all that had been suggested against it was that some change was wanted in the organization of the Board. The fund could not have been more honestly and honourably managed than it had been under the present Board. For two or three centuries it had been the model and example of good administration to all Ireland, and it was, indeed, hardly too much to say that it was the best governed and most prosperous district to be found in Her Majesty's dominions.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH
said, there could be no doubt that the constitution and the management of the Irish Society of London might be a legitimate subject of inquiry by a Select Committee of the House of Commons, and he should be reluctant to interpose any obstacle to such an inquiry if sufficient grounds were shown for it, and there did not appear reason to suppose that the mere granting it would create greater mischief than would be balanced by any good that could possibly result. What was it that was sought? The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. C. Lewis) asked for a Committee to inquire into the constitution, management, and annual expenditure of the Irish Society of London. Now, he would venture to say that there was hardly anything upon which the House had already better means of forming a judgment than on the Irish Society. Its constitution might be 1133 found, by anyone who liked to look for it, fully described in the judgment of the House of Lords to which allusion had been made, in frequent debates in the House of Commons, and in the Reports of Royal Commissions. Its management and annual expenditure had been explained by the hon. Member for Maidstone, and both had been so fairly and. and openly placed before the House and the country by the Society that he could not conceive that any further information on those two points could be obtained by the inquiry of a Select Committee. But the right hon. and learned Member for the county of Londonderry (Mr. Law) had told them, amongst other points, that ho considered inquiry was necessary in order that the trusts of the Society should be more clearly defined. Again, he would refer bon. Members to the judgment of the House of Lords on that point also. He could not conceive that any Committee, whatever ability it might display in the preparation of its Report, could more conclusively state what were the trusts of the Irish Society. It had been admitted that night by the hon. Baronet (Sir Sydney Waterlow) that the Society held its property subject to a trust for certain public objects. He found that in a previous debate in this House Baron Dowse stated this as the effect of the decision of the House of Lords—That the Irish Society were declared to be trustees for public objects, and that, after having satisfied these public objects within their discretion, the surplus ought to go to the Loudon Companies."—[3 Hansard, cxcv. 709.]That, then, was what he understood to be the position of the Irish Society. With regard to its management and expenditure he would speak presently; but first of all he would ask the attention of the House to the latter part of the hon. Member's Motion. The Motion asked for inquiryas to what, if any, changes can be made in the governing body or the mode of administration in order to insure a more economical and advantageous application of the property, or whether such result can be best attained by placing the property in the hands of public Trustees resident in Ireland.Now, that pointed to a conclusion far more sweeping than anything in the mere words of the Motion. It pointed to a conclusion definitely expressed in the Motion of which the hon. Member for Londonderry gave Notice last Ses- 1134 sion, though he did not bring it before the House—a conclusion which seemed to have been pressed upon him by many of his constituents, and was pointed at still more clearly in his speech—namely, that the property of the Irish Society should be taken away from them and placed in the hands of public trustees, locally resident. Now, before assenting even to inquiry into a proposal of this kind, the House ought to be satisfied how far the Society had or had not fulfilled the public trusts for which they were constituted. He had failed to gather from any previous speaker a statement that the Society had not to the utmost of their power fulfilled those public trusts. The hon. Member for Londonderry himself (Mr. C. Lewis) spoke of the magnificent manner hi which the Society were now behaving to Derry and Coleraine. Certainly the hon. Member went on to hint—and his hint was amplified by a subsequent speaker—that the attacks on the Society which were made or threatened had disposed them to behave more liberally than heretofore. This assertion, however, was conclusively refuted by a mere glance at the grants made in previous years, long before any attacks of this kind were meditated. He had listened attentively to the speech of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. R. Smyth); but though in addition to being a Member of that House he was a Professor of Magee College, he failed to catch any allusion to the liberal contribution in 1850 of £1,000 from the Society to the College, towards the foundation of a Professorial Chair. Then in 1854 the Society made a large contribution to the waterworks of the city of Derry; in 1856 there was the building of those schools in Coleraine which, as the hon. Member for that borough (Mr. D. Taylor) informed the House, were under the National Board, and open to children of all denominations. In 1861 the Society gave £10,000 towards the bridge of Coleraine, though it was now urged as a great blot on the fair fame of the Society to have allowed the debt to accrue; and within the last two years grants had been promised by the Society of £1,000 a-year for 25 years towards a harbour at Coleraine, and no less than £40,000 towards paying off the debt upon the bridge at Londonderry, which had been mentioned by the hon. Member (Mr. C. Lewis). He would not 1135 trouble the House with any statement as to the application of the funds to other public purposes of the locality. The Governor of the Society (Sir Sydney Waterlow) had sufficiently entered into those matters. He only mentioned enough to show that there was no good ground for complaint as to the mode in which the Society administered its revenue in Derry and Coleraine. It had been said by the right hon. and learned Member for Londonderry (Mr. Law) that it was a pity the Society could not contribute towards denominational objects, such as Roman Catholic education in the county of Derry. But there were sufficient undenominational objects, such as harbours and bridges, to which the Society could subscribe, and the hon. Member (Mr. C. Lewis) had not hinted that he would desire such an application of their funds. What, then, was the object of the Motion of the hon. Member? The misappropriation of the funds of this Society spoken of by the hon. Member took place almost centuries ago, and he (Mr. C. Lewis) appeared to argue that, as for a great many years the Society had devoted their funds so largely to local objects as to leave no surplus to go into the pockets of the City Companies, the property should be taken from them and placed in the hands of local administrators. The hon. Member touched upon the expenses of management, on the fact that the property was governed by a non-resident body, and its alleged interference with the discretion of the Corporation of Derry; but were these points of sufficient importance to justify a Motion which, whatever its terms, would be accepted out-of-doors as not only a censure of the Irish Society, but as directly affecting the property of the City Companies, and even of private proprietors in the North of Ireland? But what were the facts as to the expenses of the management? The hon. Member for Derry stated that in one year £970 was charged for the expenses of a single visit of the Deputation to Ireland. That did seem a large sum; but it was not alleged that it was spent for any private purpose. The Deputation visited Ireland on the business of the trust, and did—as he hoped they would continue to do—entertain the principal persons of Coleraine and Derry in a manner which no doubt gave great satisfaction to those persons; and he understood they not only spent 1136 the money of the Society, but some of their own private funds as well. Then the House had been told of law expenses, of a fee of 10s. for each attendance at meetings of the Council, and of £450 charged for the establishment of the Society in London. Did this contrast unfavourably with what they knew of the management of trust funds by public bodies of other kinds? Had they never heard of the legal and other expenses of certain Commissions instituted within the last 25 years by Parliament itself for the administration of trust funds? It was possible that the expenses of management might be lessened if the property of the Irish Society was handed over to local trustees in Ireland; but in some ways the trust fund might be more advantageously distributed by a non-resident managing body, for they were perhaps less liable to be biased by local interests and less disposed than the corporations of certain towns in Ireland had recently been proved to be, to devote their lands to the benefit of themselves, their relations, or their friends. The hon. Member said the Society exercised an abnormal control over the Corporation of Derry. Well, they paid the Corporation £1,200 a-year; and perhaps the control in question was not entirely useless, for when the Corporation got into difficulties some time ago and had to pawn their mace, the Society redeemed it from pawn, and restored it to them. The hon. Member said that the Society exercised so complete a control over the Corporation as even to interfere in the naming of the streets. One would scarcely have thought that in Derry this would have been felt as a very great grievance, when it was remembered that, about two years ago, the Lord Mayor and Corporation of Dublin, with great ceremony and parade, changed the name of Essex Bridge in that city, which had been so named after a Saxon Lord Lieutenant, to Grattan Bridge, in honour of a distinguished Irish patriot; but from that day to this "Essex Bridge" remained painted up at the corner of the street, and they had never taken the trouble to alter it to the new name. Having now gone over the points upon which the hon. Member grounded the Motion, he asked the House to consider whether they were really sufficient to justify them in granting this inquiry. The mode of appoint- 1137 ing members of the Council, and perhaps the mode of granting leases to tenants, might need reform—though the Society were not the only landlords in Ireland who were found fault with on the last head. For the sake of these comparatively small matters, would the House sanction a Motion which out-of-doors would be taken as an intention to deprive the Irish Society of their property altogether? This matter was not now brought for the first time before the House. In 1869 there was a debate upon it, and at that time Lord Carlingford speaking for the late Government admitted that there were points connected with the Irish Society which required looking into, but it was for the Government to consider whether any legislation on the subject was required, and whether there should be any investigation supplementary to the inquiry of 1854; but that there was no occasion to proceed with undue haste in the matter. It was (said Lord Carlingford) the duty of Government to satisfy themselves whether it was necessary to institute any further inquiry either by a Committee or by a Royal Commission, or to propose any legislation with regard to the Irish Society. That Government remained for four years subsequently in office. He (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) did not doubt that according to that promise further investigation was made in the matter, and he was forced to conclude that they had come to the decision that although it might be desirable to effect some small reforms, the dangers and difficulties of dealing with the subject were so great as to outweigh the advantages that could be expected to result from them. He thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Law), who was afterwards Attorney General for Ireland in that Government, must, when he made his speech that night, have forgotten the debate of 1869. As to the Motion, he thought that serious results might follow from agreeing to it. He came to this conclusion not so much from the terms of the Motion itself as from the object that more plainly appeared in the Motion of last year, in the Petition presented by some of the constituents of the hon. Member (Mr. Lewis), and specially in the hon. Member's speech this evening. It was not merely the future of the Irish Society which was now in question. The hon. Member for county Derry (Mr. R. 1138 Smyth) wished the City Companies to remain Irish landlords; but the passing of such a Motion would be a strong inducement to the Companies to withdraw from the North of Ireland. Their property was held under the same charter, and if they found the Irish Society disestablished and disendowed it was perfectly conceivable that the next step would be to attack the Companies, perhaps on the ground that they had not given sufficient consideration for their property, and that therefore it should be taken from them and divided—possibly without payment—amongst the existing tenants. Those Companies, with such a possibility before them, would probably at once take steps to dispose of their property. But that was not all. There were private properties in the North of Ireland held by titles either resting on a similar basis, or actually derived from the Irish Society. He did not know whether or not they would be endangered; but if the House passed this Motion, a vista of possible consequences would be opened which he would rather not contemplate. The House had heard nothing from the hon. Member for Derry which would justify them, for the sake of such small advantages, in undertaking so grave and so perilous a task.
§ MR. LAW
said, the right hon. Gentleman had strangely misunderstood him. He had not urged the Irish Society to contribute towards denominational objects; but had complained that owing to the limitations in their Charter their contributions were practically in favour of denominational education and confined to one particular sect.
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
, in reply, said, that nothing could be more satisfactory than the attention which the House had paid to this matter; which, after all, had very much of a local character. He denied that the Irish Society had the least right to take credit for liberality in the manner in which it had discharged its duties—they had simply spent their money according to their Charter. It was not generosity, but the mere performance of a duty—when it was said that they had given £1,000 to one thing and £10,000 to another, that was not the ease. He was much amused by what had been said about their liberality in the matter of the cemetery and the waterworks. So far from being liberal, they had claimed £5,000 from 1139 the Corporation of Derry in respect of land required for waterworks for the town, and upon an arbitration they had been awarded £510. They had also asked £1,500 for land which was wanted for a cemetery. As to leases, in Belfast those granted were perpetuity leases, whereas in Derry the Society had only granted leases for 61 years, and manufacturers would not build upon land let for so short a term. The term was now, he believed, extended, and changes were being made of a more liberal character.
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
said, his hon. Friend was totally uninformed on the matter. Nine-tenths of the leases granted within the municipal boundary of Derry were perpetuity leases.
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
said, that was the old property. It was during the present century that perpetuity leases had been refused. In refutation of the statement that this agitation had been got up by "a small and contemptible clique," the hon. Member referred to the requisitions desiring him to take up the question. One was signed by 261 citizens of all classes and creeds, including five out of the six Aldermen of the city, 13 out of the 18 town councillors, 64 merchants, and others. The memorial sent from Coleraine was signed by nine out of the 18 town commissioners. As to the assertion that there was no breach of trust, he replied that 45 per cent of the income was spent in managing expenses. He was content to go to a division with the knowledge that on this matter, as on many others, a Conservative Ministry and the Conservative Party shut their eyes to the necessity of reforming institutions, leaving it rather for a Liberal Ministry when it came into office to work out Radical changes with a ruthless hand.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 53; Noes 108: Majority 55.—(Div. List, No. 17.)