§ [SECOND NIGHT.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [25th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "no measure of Land Reform for Ireland, however ably advised, can be considered complete or perfectly satisfactory which does not deal with the condition of the farm labourers of Ireland, with a view to ameliorate it,"—(Mr. Villiers Stuart,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD ELCHO,
who had given Notice of the following Amendment:—That this House, while willing to consider favourably any just measure, founded upon sound principles, that will benefit tenants of land in Ireland, is of opinion that the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, is, in its main provisions, economically unsound, unjust, and impolitic,observed, that in the year 1873 a Liberal Attorney General said that an object of all law was to make men certain of the tenure of their property. He thought that in considering this very remarkable Bill it was desirable to remind the House of such a saying as that, and also to remind Her Majesty's Government that the object for which they sat on the Treasury Bench was to make men certain of the tenure of their property. And he thought it the more necessary that these matters should be considered, when we had the state of things which we knew prevailed in Europe—when we had Socialism rampant in Germany, and Nihilism in Russia capable of committing atrocities such as that of which they had so lately heard, and when there was no disguising the fact that a state of things was growing up in Ireland—he did not know whether to call it Parnellism or what— 1323 which if not Communism was practically the same thing, and when we had a Bill brought in by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which unquestionably did give effect to the, carrying out of the Communistic principle, for what was Communism but the expropriation of the few for the benefit of the many? His right hon. Friend did not as yet go in for Communism pure and undisguised; but they knew not how soon a light might dawn on him. They knew not how soon he might discover that he had been living under the darkness of the British Constitution, and the only true light was to be found in some such Communistic Constitution as had been elaborately drawn up and circulated throughout the country. His right hon. Friend had the great power of what he (Lord Elcho) might call protoplasmic reasoning, and he had no doubt that the time would come when they would be within measurable distance of Communism, and that it would be within the range of practical politics. At any rate, he (Lord Elcho) found in this Bill the great Communistic principle—the expropriation of the few for the benefit of the many, and he ventured to ask the House to resist that principle to the uttermost and throw out the Bill. The first part of the Resolution which he intended to move asked the House to say that it was ready to consider any measure which was founded on a just principle, and was equitable in itself, and would benefit the tenants of land in Ireland. He admitted that the Government found themselves in great difficulty, that they found they had to legislate in some form or other on this Land Question. But whose fault was it? It was through their own fault that difficulties occurred. Those difficulties arose, in the first place, from the principle of confiscation without compensation to be found in the Land Act of 1870, which gave the Irish tenant a possessing right in his holding. They arose from wild talk during the last Election. They arose from allowing the lawless agitation to go on in Ireland, and the Irish people to be armed, without taking steps to prevent that state of things. They arose from this—that when they had the power, they used it not against the Tritons of the agitation, but against the minnows of agitation. They arose also from the fact that the Government, while speak- 1324 ing about remedial legislation, had not the courage to tell the Irish people plainly that there was only one way for a nation to be prosperous, and that was by being law-abiding. The Prime Minister had admitted that the Land Law in Ireland was more favourable to tenantry in Ireland than it was to tenantry in England, Scotland, or any other part of the civilized world, either in Europe or elsewhere. ["No, no!" and "Hear, hear!"] He simply stated the fact, and those who cried "No!" must show that it was incorrect. He ventured to think that this Bill of the Government would not get them out of their difficulties with regard to Ireland. It would not improve the state of Ireland, but would simply aggravate those difficulties. He hoped he had as much sympathy for his fellow—being as any man in that House. He had no right to speak for anybody but himself; but he thought he might, without fear, say this—he was confident there was no keener sympathy for the poor tenantry of Ireland on the part of any hon. Gentleman opposite, or any hon. Gentleman who sat behind him, than was to be found on the part of Members who sat in his part of the House. ["Oh!"] That was his firm conviction. He believed, further, that what they were about to do would greatly aggravate the evils which they professed to cure. They need not go back to pre-historic times, to the Brehon Laws, or to the laws of the 16th century, as the Prime Minister had done, to account for the state of the Irish tenantry. The reasons were patent, and were much less remote than that. They were simply the result of a bad climate, precarious crops, and overcrowding. Let anyone deny these facts if he could. With all possible respect to the Government, he thought the proper course would have been to have the courage to tell this to the people of Ireland, and to point out to the people the physical fact that it was impossible in Ireland for any family to exist on five acres of land. But what was the state of the tenantry in Ireland? That out of 600,000 tenants 300,000 were said to have less than 15 acres, and he saw it stated that 150,000 were below £4 valuation; and he had read somewhere that there were 28,000 tenants who held no more than one acre of land. Well, what would legislation such as that pro- 1325 posed do for such a state of things? There was but one remedy, and that was the remedy which appeared in the latter part of this Bill—namely, the remedy of emigration; not the banishment of tenants, but sending them from misery in Ireland to the plenty which our Colonies were willing to offer to them. That he believed to be the true remedy. It was the remedy, at any rate, which, after careful inquiry, a scientific French economist held to be a sound remedy. Although he believed that emigration should be left to perfectly natural causes, yet he should be quite willing to support the second part of the Bill, and was also willing that the Government should try the experiment of transferring the people from the distressed districts to the reclaimed land, though he believed the money would be much better spent in improving the land already reclaimed; but what he wanted to point out was that the second part of the Bill was absolutely antagonistic to the first. The first part aggravated and perpetuated the evil by rooting the surplus population in the soil, which by the second part of the Bill they showed a desire to get rid of. Therefore, addressing himself to the first part of the Bill, he said in his Resolution that it was economically unsound, unjust, and impolitic. The first thing in considering the Bill was to find out what was the Bill, and what the Bill meant. His right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), in that very powerful speech of his the other day, said—and it was the only thing on which he differed from him—that this Bill was not skilfully drawn, that it was not clear. Now, it struck him (Lord Elcho) that a remarkable feature in the Bill was the skill manifested in the drawing of it, because it did not tell you plainly what it meant. He would not like to say that from his own view, but during the Recess, there was a great display of Northern Lights at Belfast, and one of those lights he saw opposite him. A speech was made by the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton), who, he was told, was reckoned in Ireland a very able lawyer. And what did he say of this Bill? He prayed the particular attention of the House to this passage of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone, one of the Northern Lights— 1326The Government were surrounded by certain difficulties, which they sought to get rid of by the skill with which the measure was prepared. There was a strong opposition in the House of Commons, and if Mr. Gladstone had come forward with a Bill that would have said that every tenant in Ireland must have fair rent, free sale, and fixity of tenure, he would have found it impossible to carry such a Bill. He believed those were the objects Mr. Gladstone had aimed at in his Bill; and he thought, so far as he could judge, he had secured them. They were secured not in a direct way, and not in such a manner that he who ran might read; for, if it had been so framed, there would have been a measure of hostility that those who framed the measure were anxious to keep back.So, whatever the verbage, whatever the contradictions might be, the intention of the Bill was simply to put on the Table, on the part of the Cabinet, a measure which was cast out of the House by a majority of 234 when proposed by Mr. Butt, and which amounted to what were called the "three F's;" but which had been more properly called the "one R," or simple "robbery." The present Bill, however, might be better designated as the "two R's," or "robbery wrapped-up." It meant tenure fixed by the State in practical perpetuity, fair rents, and free right of sale on the part of the tenant of that which he had never bought to the highest bidder. That was what the Bill plainly meant, and he affirmed that a Bill of that character was economically unsound, and he challenged any Gentleman on the Treasury Bench to affirm the contrary. It might be supposed that he would quote in support of that proposition Adam Smith, Bentham, Mill, Fawcett, or all those politico-economic lights who had guided the steps of the Liberal Party till the year 1870. He was not about to do that, nor would he quote in support of sound, economic views, as against those that were unsound, the doctrines expounded in such eloquent terms in 1870 by the present Prime Minister, who then knocked over the case of this Bill by arguments which could not be controverted. He would not quote Lord Selborne or other legal authorities; but he would content himself with saying that he had collected and strung together a collection of the pearls which had fallen from their lips and published them as a useful preface to the Land Bill. He would, however, on that economic question just say a word as to what fell from the Chief Secretary for Ireland the other night. That right 1327 hon. Gentleman then had a very difficult and delicate task to perform—namely, to justify on economic grounds what he could not call other than the economic apostacy of himself, of the Cabinet, and of his Party. The right hon. Gentleman did it hesitatingly, he might say blushingly. But somehow or other he got through the task of attempting to justify the repudiation of the politico-economic faith in which not only his Party themselves, but their fathers and forefathers, had been nurtured and had cherished until the fatal year 1870, when the Prime Minister brought in, to a great extent, new economic views. But what did the Chief Secretary tell them the other night? He said they gave something of value to the tenant; and, that being rather alarming, he qualified it by adding that they gave him something which he already had in sentiment and feeling. That was the new doctrine. For himself, he thought the old view was the sound view; he was still of the faith which the right hon. Gentleman and Ms Colleagues previously held; and he did the Chief Secretary the justice to say that, at any rate, he had not scoffed at those who adhered to the old faith. He could not say the same of the Prime Minister, who, revelling in the repudiation of himself and of what he was in 1870, had endeavoured to cast ridicule on the Professor of Political Economy at Oxford, who, on the Land Commission, thought right to state that he did not believe in the "three F's," and regarded that policy as mistaken. Here was what Mr. Bonamy Price, who was responsible for the training of their sons, said—The 'three F's' ought to be condemned as false in principle, both socially and economically, as calculated to perpetuate the peculiar evils from which Ireland is suffering, and to arrest that increase of production from which alone she can hope to advance towards prosperity. No doubt Ireland is in a sickly condition; but is her cure to be effected by remedies false in their nature, and sure, in the cud, to low to a yet worse malady For nations, as for individuals, there is one golden rule which ought never to be violated—not to start from false principles, however trilling their action may seem at first. The law of human nature decrees and enforces that their evil nature shall do its work, and develop the mischievous consequences which they contain. The remedy must be sought not from a legal interference with business, which is unnatural and mischievous, but from the training of both landlords and tenants to 1328 the understanding and the fulfilment of what each owes to the successful cultivation of the land.His right hon. Friend repudiated that, and preferred the views of the Bessborough Commission, which rested on the ground of sentiment and pre-historic tradition. His right hon. Friend said that Mr. Bonamy Price's views were only fit for the planet Saturn. Now, he had no acquaintance with the planet Saturn, but he had a little acquaintance with the planet Earth, and the doctrines which were repudiated by his right hon. Friend were the doctrines of the planet Earth. What the doctrines suited to the planet Saturn were he could not say; but he did not think his right hon. Friend was very happy in his reference to that planet. They had been taught in their mythological lessons at school that Saturn had a habit of eating his own children; but, as far as lie could recollect what he had been told of that estimable individual, his power of eating and digesting his own children was as nothing compared with the power of the present Prime Minister of swallowing and digesting, in 1881, all the political doctrines which he gave utterance to in 1870. He came back, however, from Saturn to this earth, only remarking that this Bill could be described in no better words than these—that it was a Saturnalia of economic error. If they cast themselves adrift from the sound principles of political economy, what, he asked, was to be their guide? Was it to be "the sentiment and feeling" of Isis right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary? Were they to have no other light to guide them but the bog-light of impulsiveness and the sentimental statesmanship which would trade for Party purposes on the predatory instincts of men? He protested against their following such guidance as that, and he thought that the House would agree with him that the Bill founded on those principles was economically unsound; that it was unsound, further, in this—that it had not even the excuse which had been put forward for the Hares and Rabbits Bill, and which would, no doubt, be the excuse for the measure which had been promised them in future in regard to the land in England—namely, the improvement of the state of agriculture, and an increase of the supply of food for the people. Would any hon. 1329 Member venture to assert that this Bill would effect those objects? Why, they drew no distinction between the idle and the active, between the ignorant and the skilful and intelligent farmer. The tendency of this Bill would be, if it was to the benefit of mankind that two blades of grass should be made to grow where but one grew before, to stereotype all the evils of Ireland and make one blade of grass to grow where two grew before. He entered his protest against this Bill as economically unsound. If it was true that what was morally wrong could not be politically right, that measure could not be politically right which sinned against the Eighth Commandment. He ventured this further dictum—that that which was economically wrong could not be politically right. He asked the House to affirm, by his Resolution, that the Bill was unjust. He had heard it said that the Irish landlords were prepared to accept this Bill; but the answer one of them gave, speaking on their behalf, was that they wanted one of two things—either compensation or the purchase of their property. Failing one or other of these, they held that they were justified in resisting this Bill to the utmost. No answer had yet been given to the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson). That speech tore the Bill to pieces. The right hon. and learned Gentleman showed that, by the operation of the 7th clause, in taking the rent into consideration, they would have to make allowance for tenant right and for disturbance and compensation where no tenant right existed, and reduce the rent in proportion, the result of which would be to reduce the rent by one-third. The Chief Secretary gave his opinion that it was not intended that the tenant right should be carved out of the rent; but in a matter of such monstrous confiscation they wanted facts, and not mere speculation. If it was not as stated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, let them be referred to words in the Bill, and not be told that if the law was properly construed it would not be so. If they could not point to clear words in the Bill, let there be a distinct understanding that something would be put in the Bill to settle the point. At the Belfast meeting there was a speech made by a gentleman who was familiarly known in the North as "the three S's"—"sober, 1330 sensible Shaw." What said "the three S's?" In the first place, he referred to the stupidity with which the Bill would be encountered; and then he said, with reference to Clause 7—The valuators go to the holding and see what is the present letting value as it stands with all improvements and put a fair rent upon it. What next According to the subsection they deduct in Ulster the value of the tenant right and say—the land is worth 30s. an acre; the tenant right is so much, and we deduct that; and so with the rest of Ireland.That was the view taken of the Bill by a distinguished authority on the question—that it was intended in fixing the rent to take into consideration the tenant right, and deduct it from the rent. [An hon. MEMBER: From the competition rent.] Let them see what this confiscation really amounted to. It was better these things should be driven home. He had drawn up, with the help of a most able lawyer, a statement which confirmed to the letter the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, although it was drawn up before that speech was delivered. He found that if they took a holding let on the 1st November, 1881, at £21, and if the rent was approved by the Court, the fee at 21 years would amount to £441, the tenant's interest, under Section 3, amounting to one-third of the fee. ["No, no!"] Was, he asked, the tenant's right ever sold for less? The Court would, therefore, deduct that, and fix the rent at £14. The tenant gained, and the landlord lost £7 of an annuity, which at 15 years was equal, at compound interest, at 5 per cent, to £146. If the tenant was undisturbed, the accumulating power of the £7 annuity continued to the confiscation of the fee. If the tenant was disturbed, the compensation, which was seven times £14—the fair rent—was equal to £98. Thus, if the landlord at the end of 15 years assumed possession, his loss would be—accumulated annuity, £146; disturbance, £98, showing a total of £244, or £23 more than half the value of the fee at the commencement of the statutory term of 15 years. He was only assuming this; he hoped it was not true; but it was a view which had not been directly contradicted. Was it in the Bill? He believed it was. If it was not, well; if it was, let it be struck out. He should follow it to the bitter end. Let them apply a parallel case. A 1331 tradesman sells a business under £5,000 penalty not to re-open in the same street for 15 years, nor thereafter without consent of the purchaser. He is required, nevertheless, during 15 years, and thereafter, to pay 5 per cent on £5,000. It would be better to forfeit at once and so re-open. As regarded the penalty on the landlords, if a landlord raised his rent and asked more than the Court sanctioned, what was his state? His state would be this—Suppose the tenant paid £80 for 20 years and the landlord asked £120. One member of the Court approved of £120, another thought £100 sufficient, and the third £80; but £100 was decided upon as a medium course. The landlord having asked £120, and the Court having fixed £100, he would have to pay 10 times £20 for having asked a rent one of the Commissioners considered fair. If the tenant refused to pay the £20 increase, and was evicted, he would receive four times £80, or £320, for having previously enjoyed a farm at a rent £20 below what was thought fair. If that was so, what a mockery of justice the Bill was! He hoped the Government would make this matter clear. He wished to ask the question—Was it intended that a sale or assignment made by a tenant in disregard of regulations in Clause 1 should be annulled? If not, what provision was there to give the landlord the benefit of these regulations? He thought it would be difficult to characterize the Bill in other terms than those used by the Premier himself with reference to the proposals of a section of the Irish Members—namely, "public plunder." He considered that the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) pursued a much more straightforward and manly course than the Government. Practically, the proposals or the Government amounted to the expropriation of the landlords; but they had not the courage to come forward and say that. There was no word as to compensation to the landlords. The hon. Member for the City of Cork had the same object in view; he proposed that the landlords should be expropriated and compensated. His right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland the other evening quoted a passage from Mr. Mill to the effect that "reason and experience recommended that in the case of a tenant proprietary rent should be fixed"—as 1332 he understood his right hon. Friend—"by authority." He turned to the chapter and found a material difference between the original passage and the quotation of it by his right hon. Friend. He did not say the Chief Secretary misrepresented it intentionally; but the words were not "by authority," but "in perpetuity." And for what purpose? To perpetuate small tenants in Ireland? The heading of the chapter was, "How to get rid of cottier tenantry." Mr. Mill went on, and said—In this measure there would be, strictly speaking, no injustice, provided the landlords were compensated for the present value of the chances of increase they would be prospectively required to forego.The whole passage was a most important one, and he hoped the House would allow him to read it. He agreed in every word of it. Mr. Mill said, with regard to property in land—The claim of the landowners to the land is altogether subordinate to the general policy of the State. The principle of property gives thorn no right to the land, but only a right to compensation for whatever portion of their interest in the land it may be the policy of the State to deprive them of. To that their claim is indefeasible. It is due to landowners, and to owners of any property whatever, recognized as such by the State, that they should not be dispossessed of it without receiving its full pecuniary value, or an annual income equal to that they derived from it. This is due on the general principles on which property rests. If the land was bought with the produce of the labour and abstinence of themselves or their ancestors, compensation is due to them on that ground; even if otherwise, it is still duo on the ground of prescription. Nor can it ever be necessary for accomplishing an object by which the community altogether will gain that a particular portion of the community should be immolated. Whore the property is of a kind to which peculiar affections attach themselves, the compensation ought to exceed a bare pecuniary equivalent. The Legislature, which, if it pleased, might convert the whole body of landlords into fund-holders or pensioners, might à fortiori commute the average receipts of Irish landowners into a fixed rent-charge, and raise the tenants into proprietors; supposing always (without which these Acts would be nothing better than robbery) that the full market value of the land was tendered to the landlords in case they preferred that to accepting the conditions proposed.So much for the injustice to the landlords; but did the injustice stop with landlords? How as to the remainder-men? How as to the mortgagee? How as to those who, on the faith of Parliament, had invested millions of money in Irish land? According to Justice Fitz- 1333 gerald, £54,000,000 by purchases under the Encumbered Estates Act. How as to every farmer in Ireland who had been a tenant? How as to the labourers? At the present time they could get a farm without payment. They could not do so if this Bill passed. Therefore, let the great Liberal Party fully understand this great fact, that if this Bill passed into law they would be creating, not by the action of the Crown directly, but by an Act of Parliament, a vast close corporation of the existing holders of land in Ireland, and enabling them to fix individually what fines must be paid by every man before he could be admitted to that corporation. That fact did not admit of dispute, and he commended it to the notice of the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) and the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. James), who had an extraordinary appetite for devouring Corporations. He thought he had said enough as to the equities of the Prime Minister, who upon this question was always perorating to justice. There remained the question of impolicy. He had proved that the Bill was essentially unjust, he had proved it to be unsound, and, therefore, it must be impolitic. But he asked the House to take a wider view of its impolicy than as affecting merely the landlords and tenants of Ireland. How would the measure affect the Empire and the question of union between England and Ireland? Would it be successful for its purpose? It was said to be a measure of concession to Ireland; but what kind of a concession? Did concession to Ireland ever stop agitation? In 1833, Sir George Cornewall Lewis said Ireland only required a Poor Law—did that satisfy them? Mr. Sharman Crawford in 1843 proposed tenant right—did that satisfy them? In 1860, Mr. Cardwell and Lord Palmerston gave compensation for improvements prospectively, not retrospectively—did that satisfy them? Then came the Land Bill of 1870, which was the germ of the present Bill—did that satisfy them? What followed? Between 1870 and 1880 there were 39 Land Bills for Ireland brought it. They had in 1876 the "three F's" brought in by a private Member, Mr. Butt; but the thing was scouted. There was no question at that time of any man of influence or importance in the House, except the Members from Ireland, who for one 1334 moment would hear of such a concession. But let them go back two years or loss. When Parliament separated in 1879, was there any question of legislation of that kind? Did anyone for a moment suppose then that they should have heard of the necessity of remedial legislation for Ireland to sweep away all those obnoxious landlords? No. He wished to do honour to the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), for he was the originator of the principle. There was a bad harvest in 1879, and the hon. Member asked the Government to stop evictions in consequence of the distress. No one even took notice of his proposal. What happened in Mid Lothian? The election for Mid Lothian was subsequent to 1879; it was in 1880, only 13 months ago. Was there any question of that kind on the Mid Lothian hustings? He knew what went on at that time, and he could say there was no question on the Mid Lothian hustings of "remedial legislation" for Ireland. On the contrary, the electors of Mid Lothian and the world were told that Ireland had never been so prosperous. That was in March, 1880, and within two months of that time, that God-forsaken, still-born, Compensation for Disturbance Bill was brought in, and it contained the principle in question; and within 13 months of the time when they were told that Ireland had never been so prosperous or contented they had this Bill. Would anyone, in the face of those facts, get up and say that the Bill rested upon solid conviction—that it rested upon principle? Why, there was not a speech which the Chief Secretary made in which ho did not tell the House that he was prepared to maintain the law; but they must enable him to do that by sacrificing the landlords' property. That was what it came to. And so it was as regarded the Church. Beginning with Roman Catholic Emancipation, they ended by destroying the Church. But in the end they came to this, that nothing would satisfy. No concession extorted by violence ever would; and who could deny that this was a concession extorted from the Government by the lawlessness which had prevailed and still prevailed in Ireland? It was nothing more nor less than blackmail that had to be paid. What would be the result? Would it bind Ireland any closer to this country? 1335 If the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) accepted it, would it satisfy the labourers? Pass this Bill, and as sure as the sun rose to-morrow a Parnell of the labourers would arise. He was not sure, judging from an Amendment on the Paper, that a Parnell of the labourers was not already in the House. But, at any rate, if they satisfied the tenants by a bribery as gross as any practised in contravention of the Bribery at Elections Act, they had the labourers then to satisfy; and the hon. Member for Cork told them in the plainest language that the Bill was not a stopgap, not even a halting place, but a step in progress. The hon. Member would accept, it might be, the expropriation of the landlords; but that was with a view to get rid of the tie between this country and Ireland, and to lead to separation. ["Hear, hear!" and "No!"] They had been told, over and over again, that it was with a view to Home Rule—in other words, in the long run to separation. Therefore, in this attempt to conciliate Ireland they were false to their own principles, and were doing that which would fail of its object. They knew well in Lear how Kent, when blind, asked to be led to the top of the precipice; but here they had a Government with their eyes open walking themselves and driving the nation into the grave which was being openly and avowedly dug by the hon. Member for the City of Cork for the interment of the unity of the Empire. But the most noxious things had their uses; and this Bill, if rightly read, had its uses. Ho had shown that it was a gauge of progress; it was also a measure of value, for it told them of the value of the Whig securities in the Cabinet. As far as he knew, there was only one of them convertible, and he was glad to say he was a Scotchman. The others apparently were content to play the part of dumb figureheads to the ship which was driven by the two right hon. Members for Birmingham, who were stoking in the engine-room. But if it was a measure of value it was also a warning. Did any hon. Gentleman who had listened to his remarks or had studied the Bill really believe for a moment that its principles would be confined to Ireland? He well recollected that the Prime Minister had said the principles which were in that Bill, if applicable to Ireland, were equally applicable to England. [Mr. 1336 GLADSTONE dissented.] He hoped the House would pardon him if he were driven to read the passage by the shake of his right hon. Friend's head, who, like all great and modest men, forgot some of the many excellent things that he had said. These were the words of the right hon. Gentleman—There is another point which, I think, deserves serious attention. I cannot help pointing out that if perpetuity of tenure were really good for Ireland, it could not be bad either for England or Scotland."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 353.]That was his argument. If they consented to the principle as applicable to Ireland it would not stop there. And did they think it would stop at land? Why, there was already a house league in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland. Did they think it would stop at houses, and not touch every description of property? This was a sop to Demos, and did they imagine that if Demos got the power lie would draw any nice distinctions between property, whether in laud or in money? Assuredly not. He hoped the capitalists of this country would remember that. They might depend upon it that our Brummagem Girondists were calling into play forces which they would afterwards find themselves powerless to control. In conclusion, he had only to say that if hon. Members opposite, the extreme illiberals below the Gangway, would not attach weight to his views, perhaps they would pay attention to what came from the Treasury Bench, and to a passage that seemed to have been written outside the House for the instruction both of the Front Benches and of hon. Members generally. It was as follows:—Unlike the Socialists of former days, those who, at the present time, are under the influence of the Socialistic sentiment are beginning to place the chief reliance upon State intervention. This growing tendency to rely upon the State is fraught with greater danger to England than to any foreign countries. The two great political sections who contend for place and power have a constant temptation held out to them to bid against each other for popular support. Under the pressure of this temptation it may consequently happen that statesmen will accept doe trines and pursue a policy against which, if their judgment was unbiased, they would be the first to protest. This is a peril which hangs over the country.The magnitude of the peril was shown by the kind of legislation before the House; and he ventured to think that the views he had just quoted, and of 1337 which the Postmaster General was the author, contained far sounder doctrine on the subject than was embodied in the Government Bill. He had now endeavoured to state clearly the grounds of his objections to the Bill. If the Forms of the House enabled him to do so, he hoped to move his Amendment, which challenged the principle of the major part of the Bill, and pronounced it to be economically unsound, unjust, and impolitic. Wishing to resist the Bill to the utmost of his power, he proposed to press his Amendment to a division. Whatever number of Members might vote for it, the weight of authority would be found in the Lobby of the minority. And why did he say that? Because in the Lobby of the minority would be found the wise, the deliberate, the written dicta of all the learned political economists down to our time who had discussed this question, and who had ever been looked upon as the lights of the Liberal Party. There would also be in the Lobby of the minority the spoken statements and the public acts of all the eminent statesmen from Sir Robert Peel downwards who had had to deal with political economy subjects in the House. There would also be in the Lobby of the minority the ghosts of the opinions—the former opinions—of every man who sat upon the Treasury Bench, without any exception; and, finally, there would be in the Lobby of the minority, no matter how small the minority might be, the consciences of three-fourths of those who voted against him.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, he did not wish to enter into a very lengthened criticism of the eloquent speech they had just heard, into which he could not help remarking that a singular spirit of gaiety had been imported. It was a great pity the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) had not heard the speech of the noble Viscount the Member for Barnstaple (Viscount Lymington) the other day, who had most clearly shown that the Bill would not interfere with the real interests of the landlords, but would rather benefit and consolidate them. He (Mr. C. Russell) could not help thinking the speech they had just listened to had been delivered long beyond its time. It ought to have been delivered in 1870—indeed, he knew it had been. It was not much more than a reproduction of a 1338 speech delivered by the noble Lord during the debate on the Irish Land Act of 1870, garnished with a few meagre extracts from books. It was the old policy to "do nothing" with regard to Ireland, and to trust to rack-renting and to the Royal Irish Constabulary to carry it out. ["No, no!"] Then what was the policy? If the noble Lord really felt the sympathy he expressed with the Irish tenants, where had been his propositions to ameliorate their condition when the Conservatives were in power? In certain passages of his speech the noble Lord had been quite carried away by his eloquence; for he must have forgotten himself, when he plainly hinted that the Prime Minister had brought in the measure for purely Party purposes when his conscience went against it. Those were sentiments which the noble Lord would probably regret having uttered. There had been a time when the evil forebodings he had given vent to might have had some effect; but, at this time, the House was pretty well used to those kind of arguments. The same arguments about robbing the landlords and Communism were used in 1870; but, since that time, it was a fact that the gain of the landlords had increased. Better protection for the tenant meant better security for the landlord. The noble Lord opposite (Lord John Manners), in his Amendment, said that the remedy for the condition of Ireland lay in the industrial development of that country, and he affirmed that no legislation for Ireland was needed on the Land Question. They had heard only three speeches from the Opposition as yet, including that from his (Mr. C. Russell's) hon., learned, and, he might say, demonstrative Friend the Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton). The speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson) had not affected the great principles of the Bill; and as for the noble Lord's speech, that ought to have been delivered in Committee. He had only raised two points going to the principle of the measure—one as to the supposed, and he could show it was not real," exclusion" of the landlords, and the other as to the basis upon which fair rents were to be fixed. Could the existing state of things be allowed to go on? Did any class in Ireland—did the land- 1339 lord class wish that it should continue? He (Mr. C. Russell) thought he was speaking their sentiments when he said that they desired the question to be settled, and, if possible, that the agitation should come to an end. He hoped the noble Viscount the Member for the County Down (Viscount Castlereagh), who represented and was connected with great and important interests, and the traditions of whose property were amongst the first, as regarded management, in Ireland, would favour his Party in that House with some of the speeches he had made out of the House, and which showed what was his expressed opinion and liberal sentiments on this question when addressing his constituency in Ulster. Now, what was the condition of things? They had, in the Estimates for the year, an item of £50,000 extra for police force, used for what purpose?—for the purpose mainly, if not entirely, of the enforcement of civil processes in reference to land. They had, he believed, as many as 30,000 troops in Ireland—as if au army were invading a hostile country. They had grave and serious crimes staining the land in Ireland, which, he would admit, had had much sympathy amongst a large class of people in the country. Side by side with the existence of that particular class of crime, they had an almost entire absence of ordinary crime. What did that point to? It seemed to him that the existing relations affecting land in Ireland had become untenable and impracticable. The Government attempted to remedy that. He did not propose to bestow upon that Bill of the Government indiscriminate eulogy; but he objected to it from entirely different views from those of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire. He (Mr. C. Russell) thought it was a Bill which should be dealt with by the House in a fair and liberal spirit. He could not but think that a good deal of the criticism of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) was microscopical, and that it savoured very much of the language of the special pleader. He hoped the Bill would be approached in a fair and generous spirit, and not in a spirit of carping criticism; for, after all, criticism was an easy task, especially on a subject of this complex nature. In consequence of the observations of 1340 noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, he (Mr. C. Russell) was obliged to make one slight reference to political economy. The noble Lord utterly misconceived the point in the passage he had quoted from Mr. Mill. Mr. Mill was there speaking of the expropriation of landlords, with the view to the creation of a peasant proprietary, and said, what he (Mr. C. Russell) entirely subscribed to—that it would be utterly wrong and unjust legislation to expropriate the landlords for such a great public object as that without fully compensating them. But that, he would say, was not ad rem. He would cite one passage from the late Professor Cairns on this subject. He said—Sustained by some of the greatest names, I will say, by a large number of the first rank, in political economy, I hold that the land of a country presents conditions which separate it economically from the great mass of the other objects of wealth—conditions which, if they do not absolutely and under all conditions impose upon the State the obligation of controlling private enterprise in dealing with land, at least explain why this control is at a certain stage of social progress indispensable, and why, in fact, it is constantly to be put in force wherever public opinion or custom has not been strong enough to do without it.That being so, if ever a state of things existed which should justify legislative interference, surely that state of things existed in Ireland. He was asked how came it that English Land Laws would not do for Ireland. He was not going to discuss the statement of the noble Lord that the Land Laws of Ireland were more favourable to the tenants than those of any other country. He admitted that they were in some respects; but, if necessary, he could point out some respects in which they were not. If English law was not more favourable to the tenant than Irish law, why should it not do in Ireland? The causes were far back to seek, and he was not going to treat the House to an historical dissertations; but he should like to say, in a sentence, that there were mainly three causes which had rendered the condition of things in Ireland exceptional. First, political causes, followed and marked out by confiscation and repeated confiscation, which affected not only the status of proprietors in the soil, but also that of those who claimed under them. Next, the legislation prompted by the jealousy at one time of this country against the rising 1341 trade and industrial enterprize of Ireland, and which, by depressing the rising trade, threw the population of the country upon the land. Side by side with the legislation throwing the people upon the land, there came into play a worse evil than all these—he meant the penal laws, by which was prevented the acquirement by the great mass of the population of the country—the Catholics—of any permanent interest in the land. And thus these threefold causes, principally, perhaps, created a state of things in which, by artificial means, the growth and development of those rights by which industry attempted to free itself from artificial obstacles, and the growth of those natural rights by which men acquired property in laud arose. That day wanted one day short of 100 years since the Catholic could first acquire freehold property in land. It was in 1782 that the penal law was repealed which provided that at that time a Catholic could have taken 50 acres of bog and reclaimed it; but, if he improved it so as to increase its value, the landlord could deprive him of it. He could also hold one or two acres at a certain distance from any town. Even bad laws could not long shackle and control a people; but, unhappily, there were no free people in any real sense in Ireland, and causes, partly political and partly religious, prevented the formation of that healthy public opinion, in the face of which the existence of bad laws could not long maintain itself. They had the land hunger; they had no freedom of contract; they had the tenant subject to have his interest eaten up by rack-rent. A Protestant rector in the South of Ireland said last year—The fact is beyond all doubt, that the effect of the existing laws regulating the tenure of land is that the people are degraded into a condition little above servitude, where every family may be harassed by estate rules: where freedom of contract is unknown; and where the self-respect of the great bulk of the community is degraded into craven fear of offending those who have the power to make or mar the tenants' fortunes.The Devon Commission of 1845 testified that the uncertainty of tenure in Ireland was a pressing grievance, paralyzing all exertions, and placing a fatal impediment in the way of improvement. It was hardly creditable to the English Government that it was not until the right 1342 hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister addressed himself to the task nothing was done to remove the difficulties then pointed out. What did the Irish people ask? He (Mr. C. Russell) said the Irish people, because on this Land Question the Irish people were for the first time thoroughly united. It did not follow that what was asked for should be granted; but it was, at least, important that they should understand what was asked for. Primarily, they asked that the tillers of the soil should, on just terms, be allowed to become the owners of the soil which they tilled. Secondarily, where the first could not be accomplished, that they should have fixity of tenure at fair rents, with the free right of sale of their interest in the holding. It did not seem to him that there was anything alarming in that proposition. All the Commissioners that had reported, and all the Members of those Commissions, were in favour of an increase in the number of peasant proprietors. All the Commissioners were against arbitrary rents, the abolition of which would necessitate the appointment of a tribunal to fix the rents. Five out of six of the Duke of Richmond's Commissioners were practically in favour of the "three F's;" and all the Bessborough Commissioners, except Mr. Kavanagh, were in favour of the same objects, and Mr. Kavanagh went a long way in that direction. The Bill also went a considerable way towards effecting those objects, though he (Mr. C. Russell) did not think it went far enough. An analogous system had found a successful place in many countries in Europe. For example, in Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) said he did not object to the 3rd sub-section as the definition of a fair rent. It would completely knock on the head the Ulster tenant right, which the Motion of the noble Lord opposite professed to desire to protect. If the section were to end where the right hon. and learned Gentleman proposed, it would amount to the confiscation of the tenant right in Ulster, and of the good-will interest in the rest of Ireland. The first thing the Court had to do was to determine what a person coming on to the land for the first time should pay as competition rent, or to get at the fair rent for the occupy- 1343 ing tenant, who and whose ancestor had spent their lives and labour in improving the holding; and, in doing that, regard must be had to the interest of the occupying tenant, and put that, to some extent, against the full rent. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said—"Take the case of a farm of 20 acres, the present rent of which is £20, but the competition rent of which would be £24, or an increase of £4, and I will suppose the tenant right would fetch 20 years' purchase. That would be £400, the interest on which at 4½ per cent would be £18, which, deducted from the competition rent, would leave only £6 for the landlord; but either £24 would be far from being the full competition rent, or that man must come out of a lunatic asylum who would give £400 for an improvement in the value to the extent of £4." The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked what they were going to do in places outside Ulster, where there was no Ulster Custom or system analogous to the Ulster Custom. He (Mr. C. Russell) maintained that by the Act of 1870 the law recognized that which had long before existed as the equitable property of the tenant all over Ireland. Although he was in the presence of the Prime Minister, he was bound to say that the language used in the Act of 1870—namely, "compensation for disturbance"—was not happy language. He recognized it as giving effect to the existence of that which, according to the practice, according to the statement, and according to the universal feeling in Ireland, had been for years recognized. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University was rather unhappy in a passage which he cited in this connection. It was a passage from a letter of Lord Dufferin, which was—Why was a tenant farmer in Down, who took a 50 acre farm five years ago, to have security of tenure, because a peasant or a peasant's father in Connaught 100 years ago could claim 10 acres of bog?His (Mr. C. Russell's) answer was that the farmer in Down who took a farm five years ago paid to go into it, and the peasant in Connaught founded his claim partly upon the fact that he or his father had reclaimed the laud from a state of nature. The Devon Commission, in 1845, which was quite a Landlord Commission, reported— 1344There has long been a practical assumption by the tenant of a joint ownership in the land with his landlord.That was reported so long back as 1845; but what did the Bessborough Commission report?—It appears to us that the conditions under which land has been held by tenants in Ireland have been such that the occupiers have, as a general rule, acquired rights to continuous occupancy, which in the interests of the community it is desirable legally to recognize.Both the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin and the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire argued as if the Court to be constituted under the Bill would be bound, or was likely, to give the maximum amount of compensation for disturbance, He (Mr. C. Russell) regretted much that the Return suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) could not be furnished, because if he (Mr. C. Russell) was to believe all the complaints he heard, it would have shown that the scale of disturbance allowances administered by County Court Judges was meagre in the extreme. The language of the Act of 1870 said that the Court was to compensate a tenant for the loss he had sustained by reason of disturbance. The House would at once see that practically that would let the rack-renting landlord off cheaply, and visit the liberal landlord very heavily. He would respectfully suggest that the section which dealt with competition and fixed a fair rent would be well omitted by a repeal of the Act of 1870, and by inserting a clause that the Court should give compensation in respect to the just interests of the tenants themselves. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University had asked where the interest came from. Did it, he asked, descend like manna from Heaven? The present Bill was for the protection of the interest of the Irish tenants which existed and was their moral right, but which jurists might call the right of imperfect obligation. If the tenant had the interest he had endeavoured to describe, it followed incident to the right that he should have the right to realize it, because next to the right of property was the right to turn it into money. He now came to the third criticism of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The right hon. 1345 and learned Gentleman said the portals of the Court were closed against the landlord, and yet the Government called the Bill a just one. He (Mr. C. Russell) was quite willing that the landlords should have accesses to the Court—nay, he intended to propose an Amendment to the effect that a landlord, instead of being allowed to give notice of an increase of the rent, as he was under the Bill, should not be allowed to increase his rent until he had applied to the Court. As now proposed the onus of resisting the increase would rest with the tenant; but he denied that that should be allowed. Upon the question of pre-emption he admitted the Bill was somewhat obscure. He, however, understood the object to be—at least, he hoped it was—to prevent a landlord getting rid of the tenant, merely to have the land so as to begin a fresh career of rack-renting. There was one other blot to which ho wished to refer. He thought it was loft quite undefined and quite uncertain what was the compensation to the tenant, and, indeed, also the compensation to the landlord where the tenant sold his interest pending eviction. Undoubtedly, his right hon. and learned Friend was quite right in stating that, according to the general principles of law, the tenant could only sell that which was legally in him, and all that a tenant under threat of eviction had was an unexpired term of occupancy up to the date of the eviction. Therefore, if it was intended that the occupancy should not be determined by the eviction, but should be a continuing occupancy, the language of the Bill required amendment. Having so far followed the criticisms of his right hon. and learned Friend, he would be glad to be allowed to say a few words in the way of suggested Amendments on that part of the Bill. He knew it was impossible to hope to deal with the great and important subject of the Law of Settlement and Entail in this Bill; but still he hoped that Liberal statesmen would not lose sight of it, because he did not think that any fair play would be given to a scheme of land reform which had not the advantage of a reform in the direction he had pointed out. He also recommended to the attention of the Government the suggestion of the Bessborough Commission, and also the suggestion of the Land Tenure Committee, 1346 which had such men upon it as Judge Longfield and Viscount Monck—that no objection of any kind should be allowed by the landlord except with the leave of the Court. He was also struck with this difficulty. He found, if he read the Bill rightly, that when a future tenancy began, a future tenant was not within the protection of the Bill in one important espect—namely, that he could not go to the Court upon the question of fixing the rent if he found the rent was unfair. He could not understand the principle of that distinction. He thought all future tenants should come within the protection of the Bill in that respect, and have the right, as the present tenants had, of going to the Court to fix the rent if under all the circumstances it was found to be excessive. There was another point which he thought ought to be considered. The compensation for disturbance section was perpetuated from the Act of 1870, and the scale of compensation enhanced. They fixed as a maximum of compensation for disturbance seven years' rent; the Court might award much less, but, in some extreme cases, it might give the seven years' rent. He wished to know if, in a possible case of disturbance, a tenant was entitled to seven years' rent, he forfeited his claim to the amount if he had gone one year in arrear of rent? In other words, as the Act of 1870 and this Bill worked, a man might, in a possible case, be entitled to seven years' rent for disturbance; but if ho was one year in arrear he lost the whole through it. And another point—the Bill, as he read it, excepted leases entirely from its operation. He could not understand why that should be so. He could not see what magic or sacredness there was in a contract in writing under seal as compared with a parole contract, as they asserted, because that was the foundation of the Bill; and if there was no real freedom of contract in Ireland, how was it that the freedom of contract applied in the case of leases and not in the case of parole contracts? He was loth to introduce names in that House; but cases had again and again been brought under his notice, and quite recently in the North, where leases, prepared in batches, printed with elaborately confused clauses excluding the lessees from the benefit of the Act of 1870, had been forced upon the ten- 1347 ant. In that connection he would refer to the evidence given before the Bessborough Commission by the President of Maynooth College, with reference to his own personal experience as head of that Institution in reference to one of the Duke of Leinster's leases. That lease, which he had seen, was a formal demise with the most elaborate covenants. It was a lease for one year, and so from year to year, and it contained not only the most elaborate protective clause, but it also made the tenant disclaim the benefits of the Act of 1870. There might, no doubt, be many eases of free and binding contracts; but he put the case no higher than that, and he urged that if there had been any decrees in entering upon those contracts, that the parties should at least have the right at their own risk of going before the Court to make out their case. He came now to another point, which he would respectfully urge upon the Prime Minister. He considered it of the greatest moment in reference to the future working of the Bill. He referred to the mode of dealing with existing arrears of rent which accrued due from 1877 to 1879, through no fault of the tenant, but, as had been frequently admitted, through a visitation of Providence. He asked whether it was not possible with the Bill, in order to free it from impediments, to give the Court some power in reference to deferring or reducing those arrears? Unless that difficulty was met, he was afraid there would be very serious difficulty in the working of the Bill. An allowance or abatement of rent because of the failure of crops was a principle well known in the law of many countries; and though it might reasonably he objected that parties in this country contracted upon the basis of the existing law, he maintained that the principle for which he contended was not a strained one, and he submitted that if this was to be a remedial measure under exceptional circumstances, the circumstances he had referred to were peculiarly exceptional. With reference to the constitution of the Court under the Bill, he desired to say that to be effective, the Court must be simple in its machinery, it must be expeditious in its procedure, and it must be cheap. He thought it should partake as little as possible of the character of contested litigation, and as much as possible 1348 of the character of friendly arbitration. Though he respected them greatly, and had the honour of knowing a great many of them, he had found the strongest and most unanimous feeling in all parts of Ireland that the County Court Judges would not form a tribunal which would command the confidence of the country. He had found that by letters from North, South, East, and West; and lately, in Belfast, he had found the same sentiment prevailing among the hard-headed men of the North, as they were usually called. He would therefore suggest, whether it would not be possible, taking the case of a large estate in which a large number of tenants were dissatisfied with their rents, and thought they had a fair claim to seek readjustment—at their own risk, of course—whether it would not be possible to deal with such cases in groups, treating them as independent acts of litigation, but not, of course, supposing that the rule for one farm should govern another, but that they should be considered according to their respective circumstances? There were several other parts of the Bill upon which he would like to observe; but, as they were matters more properly for Committee, he would put his suggestions in print. He looked with satisfaction almost unqualified to the part of the Bill which bore the honoured name of the "Bright Clauses," because he confessed that he looked upon that part as containing the real germ of the final settlement of the Land Question. In reference to that part of the Bill he would throw out for consideration, whether, in the case of corporate bodies in Ireland, such, for instance, as the London Companies, there should not be compulsory powers to take their estates, not at all upon the ground that they had been unworthy landlords—because their management contrasted favourably with some of their neighbours—but upon the ground that they did not hold their estates for public purposes, and did not represent private interests, and, therefore, no private interests would be affected by their compulsory expropriation. Next, he would suggest that estates encumbered up to 75 per cent of their value should be compulsorily purchased; because, by the principle put forth from both sides of the House, a landlord should be a landlord in an effective position, capable of dealing with his 1349 property satisfactorily, and any landlord whose estate was encumbered 75 per cent only held his title nominally, and there could be no harm in expropriating him. Then, as regarded the question of assistance to the tenant, he hoped the Government would not go behind the recommendations of the hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Shaw) before Committee—namely, that the tenant should be advanced four-fifths of the purchase money. By such an arrangement the tenant would be given a greater inducement to persevere; by the annual payments the security to the State would be daily becoming greater, and the debt to the State would be becoming less. He thought there should be a discretion on the part of the Commissioners to extend the payment over a period of 52 years. He thankfully recognized the fact that the landlord and tenant part of the scheme would do much good; but it was to the "Bright Clauses" of the Bill that he looked as containing the real germ of a settlement of the question. He believed the Bill wisely and liberally administered would create in the course of a few years a number of peasant proprietors, who would quicken and leaven the whole country with a new spirit. It would create an unpaid army on the side of order—order followed from content, and a sense of security and loyalty followed in the wake of interest. He looked with great hope to the Bill. Up to that time Ireland had been to this country a source of weakness and not of strength; a part of the richest Empire in the world, its people were amongst the poorest. They owed it to their past misgovernment of the country to be as liberal as the utmost bounds of justice would allow, and be asked no more. He was aware that it rarely happened that legislation could do much to remedy the ills of a country; but there was one thing that it could do—it could not scatter plenty over the land, but it could remove those artificial obstacles by which plenty was made impossible. He asked the House to do it in a liberal spirit. He knew much would depend on the people themselves—upon their energy, their sobriety, their thrift, and their spirit of self-denial. He was no true friend of the Irish people who denied the existence among them of many grave faults. He claimed for his country that those faults were not inherent in it, 1350 but were in great part the creatures of conditions under which they found themselves. Out of their own country, with their hands free, and with a motive for exertion, they played their part and held their own in the race of life. He did not desire to use the language of exaggeration; but he believed Providence had endowed the Irish people with great and noble qualities. That was seen in their steadfast adherence to the faith in which they trusted, in spite of many previous temptations to the contrary; in their tender regard to the claims of kindred and friends, which they carried to the ends of the world; in the absence among them of ordinary social crime; in the marked purity of their domestic life; and it was not too much to say that in these they were an example to the world. He hoped it would not be for long that it could be truly said, as it was once, perhaps with some poetic exaggeration—In a climate soft as a mother's smile,With a soil fruitful as God's love,The Irish people starve.
§ MR. GREGORY
considered that the definition in the Bill of fair rent, which was "what a solvent tenant would undertake to pay one year with another," would lead to great difficulty in any application to the Court for its assessment, as it would be a great deal a matter of discretion and could not be assessed on any defined principle. It was the basis of rating in this country; and anyone who had any experience of it knew the difficulty of dealing with the evidence of conflicting surveyors in case of dispute as regarded this and many other provisions of the Bill. Hon. Members ought to remember, in considering the Bill, that the whole of the relations between landlords and tenants in Ireland were left to a Land Court, as to the composition of which they had no fit means of judging. Yet that Court, as it was to be constituted, would be invested with enormous power; it would regulate all the relations of landlords and tenants throughout Ireland; it would have the responsibility of purchasing estates, guaranteeing titles, and advancing money to an unlimited extent. With respect to the construction of the Court itself which was to exercise such extraordinary powers, where did they expect to get for a salary of £2,000 a Judge qualified or willing to undertake 1351 all that responsibility, and to administer those powers? If they expected to find such men in Ireland, then he (Mr. Gregory) could only say that talent was much cheaper in that country than in England. But this was not all. These Judges or Commissioners might delegate their powers to certain assistant Commissioners, so that the landlord, who would himself have no access to the Court, would have his interests left in the hands of either one of the Commissioners, or else in those of an assistant and, presumably, a less competent Commissioner. He complained that by the Bill the approach to the Court was given to the tenant only; the landlord was to have no access to it in the regulation of his own property. Power was given to the tenant to appeal to it, but no provision was made for any preliminary communication with the landlord; in fact, the former was empowered to bring the latter into Court without any notice whatever, nor was any provision made as to the costs of an application. Now, with respect to the other part of the 7th clause of the Bill, which was of so much importance in dealing with these applications, it had been demonstrated that as it stood, and particularly in carrying the Ulster Custom to the extent which was proposed, it might lead to the most monstrous injustice. In his opinion, all that the tenant could fairly ask was a set-off as against the landlord of any benefit accruing to the latter by the outlay or improvements of the tenant. And, in dealing with this as well as the other proceedings on the application, they should bear in mind that recourse to the Court was to be a voluntary act on the part of the tenant. He might, if he pleased, remain as he was; but it was only fair that, if the landlord was brought before the Court unnecessarily by the tenant making an unjust claim, the tenant should be liable for the costs of the application. At all events, it should be in the discretion of the Court to make an order with regard to the costs in such a case. Again, it was quite evident that there would be dealing with property on which mortgages had been effected, as to which nothing had been said, notwithstanding the position of both mortgagees and owners of property would be materially affected by the operation of the Bill. In many cases mortgages were effected for the improve- 1352 ment and consequent increase in the value of the estates of the landlord, and as the existence of mortgages might be known in most cases—for in Ireland there was a provision for the registration of mortgages—a mortgagee should always have notice of an application to reduce the rents of property on the security of which his money had been advanced. It was but just that they should have an opportunity of being heard when a proposal was made in detriment of that security. In the Drainage and Cottage Building Acts the interest of the mortgagees was protected, and there ought to be a similar provision in this measure. He had taken some part in the discussion of the Laud Act of 1870, which he always considered to be a very considerable invasion of the rights of property, converting the owners of land into mere rent-chargers, and a great discouragement to resident or improving proprietors. A very wide step was taken by that Act, which might have been necessary; but that invasion was carried very much further by this Bill, and it had not been shown to be justified. If the Bill were to be accepted as a final settlement of the question; if it were to be regarded as a boon from the hands of Parliament to the Irish people, with which they would be contented for ever, that might perhaps induce one to give the Bill a second reading; but there was little hope that it would be so accepted, and he could not help thinking it would be used as a starting point for fresh demands. It was the offspring of agitation, and he feared would be the origin of more. Now, with respect to the second portion of the Bill, this conferred unlimited power of advancing public money in Ireland. It was well known to many in the Legal Profession that there had been great reluctance of late years to advance money on Irish estates; both individuals and public companies had felt grave doubts whether they were justified in doing it. Indeed, during the last 10 years, since the passing of the Irish Land Act, it had been almost a rule with large financial undertakings not to advance money on the security of Irish property; and lately one or two companies had taken credit for not doing so. Under the provisions of the Bill as it now stood, there was, practically, no limit to the amount which 1353 the Treasury would have to give to carry them into effect. The Minister for the time being would have the Irish Vote at his back, and the House must, therefore, be prepared to have large demands made upon it. The advances contemplated by the measure amounted to three-fourths of the value of the property to be purchased; but, speaking for himself, as a professional man, he would not, nor would he advise anyone else to, advance on the security of Irish land more than two-thirds of its value. The proposal required grave consideration, and he hoped that some limitation would be put upon it. The advances might be made by the Treasury at a time when the value of landed property was high, and the State, the mortgagee, might seek to realize at a time when bad times and seasons had greatly depressed its value. In that case, what position would the State be in if it ventured to get back its instalment of principal and interest from the tenant whose security it held? What universal condemnation and clamour would be raised if the right of the State creditor were enforced. That was a state of things which they must be prepared to meet. The Bill would, in fact, induce the tenants to mortgage themselves up to the hilt, and that, too, with the money of the State, which, in many cases, they would have the greatest difficulty in repaying, and which in the end would result in ruin to them and the House must be prepared to face the risk which would arise from the steps which, in many cases, should be taken to recover the amount becoming due. If they were to advance money to enable tenants to purchase their holdings, let them do so, as trustees for English taxpayers, on sound economical principles. They were bound to make advances within moderate bounds and to confine them to legitimate objects. In conclusion, he could not help looking upon the Bill, as a whole, as one which would have the effect of enormously reducing the value of land, and cutting down the legitimate rights of the landlords of Ireland to the lowest possible point, to enable them to be absorbed by the tenants.
§ MAJOR O'BEIRNE
said, he did not think the Bill could be regarded as a highly successful attempt, likely to produce a settlement of the Irish Land Question. All authorities, from Judge Longfield to the Members of the Bess- 1354 borough Commission, were agreed that the only real settlement of the Irish Land difficulty was to give the occupier of the soil the absolute ownership. The tenure of land in Ireland was unique, as far as European countries were concerned, seeing that in them the bulk of the land belonged to the masses of the people; but, in Ireland, as much as 10,000,000 acres, or one half of the land, belonged to 721 proprietors. Therefore, he could not but regret that the Government had not regarded the creation of peasant proprietorships as the most important feature of their Bill. If they had done that, the effect would have been to do away with the Law of Entail, under the provisions of which law a greater portion of the land of the country belonged, not to the real owners, but to mortgagees. If the Government had taken the course which he suggested, and had advanced the whole of the money necessary to buy up the land, they would have been secure in advancing public money to tenants who wished to become owners of the land which they occupied. That was shown by the results of the advances by the Board of Works and the Church Temporalities Commissioners. The people of Ireland had also just cause of complaint in respect to absenteeism. It was estimated that as much as £3,500,000 was spent by the absentee proprietors every year. That evil ought to be dealt with in some way or other, as such a state of things would certainly not be tolerated in any other country. He entirely approved of the principle of the prevent Bill, though he could not approve of the machinery employed. He considered that a fair rent ought to be fixed by an outside tribunal; but he disapproved of the suggestion that the disputed questions of rent should be referred to a County Court Judge in the first instance. A mass of evidence was given before the Bessborough Commission on that question, and the general decision was that a tenant could not establish his legal rights without the annoyance and expense of a law suit. The litigation under the Bill would be almost endless, and he contended that the proposed system would do nothing except put money into the pockets of the lawyers. He did not believe, with the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. W. E. Forster), that those 1355 tenants who were lowly rented would not enter the Court. He believed they would do so, with the object of obtaining still a further lowering of their rents; and they had a perfect right to do so, if they had any chance of success. The machinery proposed to be employed in the settlement of rent was extremely faulty, and ought to be altered. The Bessborough. Commission were of opinion that there should be two arbitrators representing the landlords and two representing the tenants, and then a professional umpire should be appointed in the person of a gentleman of the education and standing of Professor Baldwin. That would have been a cheap and expeditious way of settling the question; but, under the present Bill, he would be mulcted in at least £10 by a law suit before he could establish his rights. Further information would, he hoped, be given as to the way in which tenant right was to be computed, and the position in which mortgagees would stand with regard to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was extremely vague and undefined in his explanation of how for the future the tenant right was to be settled. That was a question which, in his (Major O'Beirne's) opinion, deserved to be explained in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. He was a landlord himself, and one of those who considered that if landlords' incomes wore to be reduced they should be compensated for their loss. If some sort of provision to compensate landlords were not made, and unless the objections which had boon raised with respect to the tenant right were not clearly explained away, he should vote against the third reading of the Bill. If he could satisfy himself that fixity of tenure, fair rents, and free sale, were given in reality, without putting the tenant to expense, and without harassing the landlord, he would support the measure; but, at present, he did not see that it did this. The only real objection against tenant right was that it saddled the tenant with a double rent. He hoped, in conclusion, that Her Majesty's Government would take all those matters into their consideration, and give a clear and unmistakable announcement with regard to how the proposed reduction of rents would affect property all over the country. At the same time, the thanks of the Irish people were due to some 1356 extent to the Government for the earnest manner with which they had taken up the Land Question; but the Bill would not satisfy the expectations of the Irish people. The "three F's" were not sufficient; but what was wanted was a peasant proprietary all over the country.
§ MR. E. W. HARCOURT
said, it seemed to him that the framers of the Bill had cast to the winds considerations of a practical nature. All persons who had had any experience in the matter must be aware that there was not a greater misfortune to a landlord than to lose a good tenant. At the same time, it was an equally great misfortune, both to landlord and tenant, to give the land to a bad tenant, by which he meant a man who was unable to cultivate it properly. The case of the tenant who was unfortunate through drought or too much rain should be considered; but the man who was a bad tenant was no good to himself, was no good to the landlord, and, what was of more importance, was no use to the land itself. He was aware of the difference of tenure in England and Ireland. It was true that in England, as a rule, the outlays were made by the landlord, and that in Ireland they were usually made by the tenant; but justice required that the property, whether of the landlord or the tenant, should be secured to the person to whom it belonged. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had £10,000 to deal with in sovereigns, entrusted to him by someone, he might regard it as somewhat immoral to make them go through the process vulgarly called "sweating" before he handed them to their owner; but it seemed to him (Mr. Harcourt) that that was exactly the process which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to apply to the property of Irish landlords. He was not in the secrets of the Cabinet; but he very much suspected that at each of those sittings of which they had heard so much there had been an additional shake of the bag, and the residuum was now being divided amongst the tenants at the expense of the landlords. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that there were but few bad landlords in Ireland, and yet he proposed to legislate with regard to that small minority. He (Mr. Harcourt) held in his hand a reprint of a book on the system of land tenure in Ireland by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Potter). The book was 1357 reprinted at the request of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At page 6 were these words—"The Irish farmers never were more prosperous than at the present time." [An hon. MEMBER: What is the date?] He expected to be asked that question. There was no date in the book. The Cobden Club did not favour them with dates; but the date of the right hon. Gentleman's letter, in which he requested that the book should be reprinted, was January 31, 1881. It was, however, only fair to conclude that, as the Prime Minister had asked for the reprinting of the work as one likely to be of use to the people, he approved its contents. In page 19, the author said that the complaint of high rents had lasted for more than 300 years; that there never was less ground for it than at the present moment, although in some instances the rent demanded was too high. At page 45, he said it would not be difficult to prove that a law establishing fixity of tenure would be as impolitic as it would be unjust. Such a law, he said, would wrongfully transfer property from a certain number of individuals who were now called landlords to another set of individuals now called tenants, and who would then become landlords; that the men now in possession would be able to violate their engagements, but that no future tenant would gain anything by the change. He (Mr. Harcourt) felt obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for being instrumental in circulating a book which would enable hon. Members to arrive at sound conclusions on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman was not legislating fairly or wisely. If the State became lenders, the lenders could have no heart and no compassion. The right hon. Gentleman, who would not make any arrangement for providing a single farthing in his Budget to give an insignificant sum to assist the British farmer in the matter of his highways, was, nevertheless, willing to set apart nameless sums to assist the Irish farmer in emigration. He was quite convinced that, unless great alterations were made in the Bill, and its one-sidedness was corrected before it was presented in its final shape, they would have in Ire land in future a race of rack-rented tenants and despoiled landlords, who would be for over litigating in the dreary halls of the Court which the 1358 measure of the Government would establish.
said, that the bon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Harcourt) had not answered the pertinent question put to hon. Gentlemen opposite by the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell) in his eloquent and impressive speech—namely, Were they prepared to allow things to remain exactly as they were in Ireland, where the payment of rents had to be enforced by the Constabulary at the point of the bayonet? He held that that state of things could not be permitted to continue, and that a reform of the Land Laws was absolutely necessary. The noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) made a mistake in not sufficiently estimating the gravity of the present issue, because he said that the difficulties which surrounded them had been created by the Government itself, and partly by the Mid Lothian speeches of the Prime Minister. Now, he (Mr. Brand) hardly thought that the most ardent admirer of those speeches would claim for them the power to create and keep up the agitation which they had recently had in Ireland. No one could be said to understand the state of that country unless they comprehended the fact that the difficulties which encompassed them had been to a large extent caused by the Land Laws of Ireland, which had created and encouraged a monopoly of land. He had asked himself the question whether it was possible to remedy those evils, and whether the Bill of the Government would remedy them without necessitating compensation in some shape to the owners of land. The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk had said that the fee simple of land in Ireland had increased in value between the years 1870 and 1880. That might be the case. It was difficult to distinguish as to the causes which had produced that increase in the value of land; but he did. not wish to contest the fact. He did not rest his opposition to some of the proposals of the Government on that ground; but he thought the Bill was unjust to the landlords of Ireland in some sense, because it would tend enormously to increase litigation, and also because it would put a practical bar on the landlord ever resuming possession of the 1359 land. His hon. and learned Friend wished power to be given to the Court to remit all arrears of rent which had fallen due through recent failures of the crops. Now, it was equitable that the landlord should remit a certain portion of rent to his tenants when they had losses through bad harvests; but it was a different thing to impose that remission on the landlord by law. His hon. and learned Friend had referred to the métayer system ill France; but, under that ményer system, the tenant and the landlord enjoyed together the profits of the good years, and they had to suffer together the losses of bad years. But his hon. and learned Friend was asking the Irish landlords to suffer all the losses of the bad years, and to allow their tenants to reap all the profits of the good ones. Having felt himself obliged to abstain from supporting the Compensation for Disturbance Bill of last year, he wished to make a few remarks on the present Bill, which, if not amended in certain important particulars, would not be of great benefit to the tenant farmer, while it would be unjust in many senses to the owners of the land. There was a point of comparison between the Compensation for Disturbance Bill and the present Bill which seemed to be greatly in favour of the latter measure. Whatever could be said against the present Bill, this, at least, could be urged in its behalf—that it did not sanction the theory that the payment of rent was not a just and legal debt payable to the landlord. It did secure to the landlord the payment, not of the full rent, but of a fair rent, though in many cases it would be a very small rent; and it secured to him, besides, the arrears of rent by means of the sale of the tenant's interest. There must be a feeling of despair in the minds of many hon. Members that they were face to face again with the claims of Irish tenants, through the failure of the Act of 1870; but that Act had failed because it was not based on principles that met the real demands of the Irish people. What, as he understood, they had always asked was that they should be, as it were, rooted on the soil of the country; that they should be secured in a joint proprietary interest, as they said they had, with the landlords; and that evictions and notices to quit should practically cease so long as they paid fair 1360 rents and observed certain statutory conditions. No reasonable man would deny that the Bill of the Government, whether just to the landlords or not, did practically meet the demand of the Irish tenants as far as regarded fixity of tenure. If he voted for its second reading, it was not from ignorance of the scope and drift of the measure. It was one involving the most tremendous consequences. Perhaps it was the most democratic Bill ever presented to the House by a responsible Government. He said that with reason. For example, it meant that if any man was the owner of more land than he occupied, or if he did not occupy the land which he owned, the Bill imposed restrictions and limitations on all dealings connected with that land. The inevitable consequence would be that all those who owned land which they did not occupy would endeavour, as far as possible, to get rid of a property of the use and enjoyment of which they were to a great extent to be deprived. The noble Viscount the Member for Barnstaple (Viscount Lymington), the other night, referred to the custom on the Earl of Portsmouth's estate. On that estate not a shilling was expended in improvements by the landlord. He believed, in fact, that the Earl of Portsmouth had accepted the position of rent-charges on his estate. Therefore, as far as the Earl of Portsmouth's case went, the Bill would not make much difference in his position. But there were some other Irish landlords who might think differently of the matter. The question, however, was, what would the tenants do? He believed that the advantages given them under the Bill would be so great that, in many instances, they would prefer to remain under the Bill, rather than to accept the latter provisions of the measure, and purchase the fee simple of the land they occupied by means of the facilities held out to them. The tenants now received compensation for their improvements, and, in addition to that, compensation for disturbance. That was practically unknown in foreign countries, and the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire was right in saying that Irish tenants were in a more advantageous position than the tenants of any other part of Europe. The Code Napoleon encouraged the principle of freedom of contract, and there was no 1361 desire among the owners of land in France to depart from that principle, because the possession of land in that country was extensively distributed. The simple fact was that the agitation in Ireland was a political and social movement. Now, the reason of the prevalent discontent was that the land was in so few hands. Half the country was owned by 740 persons, and two-thirds of it was owned by only 2,000 persons out of a population of over 5,000,000, the greater part of whom were engaged in agriculture. He thought that therein lay a serious political danger. There was really what almost amounted to a revolution in Ireland, which should be guarded against, and the best way to guard against it was by extending the proprietary body. If that were carried out, instead of a desire for retrograde and reactionary legislation, they would have a desire on the part of the numerous owners of land to have all dealings with regard to the ownership and letting of land as free as air. He thought that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) had made several points in his speech the other night which had not been sufficiently answered. Ho had listened to that speech with great admiration; but he thought there was one serious omission in it, for the right hon. and learned Gentleman never once expressed disapproval of the principle of the Bill, of which the fundamental principle was the establishment of a Rent Court for regulating rent, and, consequently, all the relations between landlord and tenant. He would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether the time had not come for the establishment of an independent authority in Ireland for the regulation of rents? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, who had spoken the night before, had made seine important remarks with reference to the Court to be established. The Court was to be the Civil Bill Court presided over by Judges who were barristers of 10 years' standing. From that Court there was to be an appeal, not to the Appeal Court, but to the Land Commission, which was to consist of three members, receiving a salary not exceeding £2,000 a-year, one of whom was to be a Judge. He certainly admired the courage of the Government in pro- 1362 posing to adjust all the relations between landlords and tenants in Ireland by means of Courts so constituted. He had carefully studied those parts of the Bill which gave in effect perpetuity of tenure, but had failed thoroughly to understand them. The first question was, whether that perpetuity extended to the present tenants alone and their successors, or to all tenants for all future time? The 45th clause dealt with that question. He gathered that the future tenant would have all the advantages of the present tenant except the right to apply under Clause 7 to the Court. What, then, were the advantages which he was to enjoy? First, he would be able to sell the tenant right, whatever that was; secondly, he would be able to claim compensation for disturbance; and, thirdly, he would be protected against the raising of his rent. To all that he had the strongest objection. If it was necessary to suspend freedom of contract, such suspension should only be temporary. It might be right to settle conflicting claims between landlords and present tenants; but ho thought as regarded future tenants there should be free contract, with compensation for improvements made by them. Suppose hereafter a small owner, who had purchased his holding under the Act, wished to let it for a temporary purpose, he would be unable to do so without having all those adverse interests growing up against him. In that respect the Bill went beyond the Act of 1870, which, by the 3rd clause, provided for the exclusion after 1891 from the benefits of the Act of tenants who had taken their holdings after the passing of the Act. That was absolutely done away by the Bill. Under the Bill the present tenants would practically have perpetuity of tenure, subject to a variation of rents on revision every 15 years, as long as they paid their rents and conformed to certain statutory conditions. If all future tenants were to have the advantages of the Bill, all rights of ownership would be tied up for ever in Commission, and its operation would involve some very important consequences, which would demand very serious consideration. He should, therefore, feel it his duty accordingly to move Amendments in Committee in reference to certain points of the Bill, which, if allowed to remain in their present form, could not work advantageously. The 1363 right hon. and learned Gentleman the other night had made a great point with reference to the clause dealing with compensation for disturbance. When one tenant transferred his interest to another, there could be no disturbance. It was, he thought, perfectly just that the tenant should have, as a set-off against his rent, the value of his improvements, made by himself and his predecessors in title; but he could not understand why he should also be allowed to set-off compensation for disturbance, which was not a value in existence, and which could not be created except by the act of the landlord. Unless more guarded words were introduced into the Bill, he feared there would be great danger that the Court would have to carve the tenant's right in this respect out of the landlord's rent. The Bill went further than that of the late Mr. Butt, who only proposed that a tenant should be recouped for the actual improvements effected by himself or his predecessors in title. He thought, too, the Government had not clearly defined the right of sale, or what it was that the tenant had to sell. With regard to it the Bill was silent, whereas it ought to define clearly the interest he would have to sell. Parliament might make any law it liked respecting the regulation of rent; but it could not fix the rent, or prevent a tenant paying the full rack rent, for, do what it might, the incoming tenant would have to pay the full rack rent. He had found great difficulty in extracting a meaning out of the Bill; but from what he could gather, it was evidently to be made up out of the margin between a low rent and a fair commercial rent. From that, it would appear that the lower the rent had been, the more generous the landlord had shown himself, the greater would be the compensation he would have to pay to the outgoing tenant. He thought, therefore, that a general rise in rents on all the low-rented estates in Ireland would be the immediate result of the passing of the Bill. His own belief was that, in order to get out of the difficulties, the trouble, and the litigation which would be incident to the Bill, the owners of land in Ireland would wish to sell their land to the State; and he thought that this should be done—that the State ought to be made the purchaser in every case where a landlord wished to sell, at a price to be fixed by arbitration. The 1364 State had permitted the landlords to be practically fettered in the improvement of their estates, and there would be no harm in advancing money to the tenants to enable them to improve their condition. Surely, if the Court to be established under the Bill was to be worth anything, it might advance more than 75 per cent of the purchase money in cases where it might be thought necessary. It might be said that there would be no security for the State, and that was, in fact, a great objection to the Bill; but they must be content to risk something for the sake of the advantages which they hoped the Bill would accomplish. He believed there would be security for the State, for it was a remarkable fact that all through the late hard times the Church tenants had paid in full, with the exception of 10 per cent, all the instalments of interest due by them to the Commission. If the Bill was to be successful, the character of "thoroughness" must be attached to these proposals for the purchase of land in Ireland. The condition of landownership in that country was to his mind a grave political danger, and the surest way to preserving order was by adding largely to the number of persons interested in maintaining it.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
Sir, it is with the deepest regret that I find myself unable to support the Bill brought in by Her Majesty's Government, in consequence of some of the provisions thereof being, in my opinion, totally opposed to all the rights of property as now vested in owners of land, and, as I hope I shall be able to show, also opposed to the interests of all future generations of tenants. There are other provisions in the Bill which, had they appeared in the form of a separate measure, and unconnected with those principles which I consider obnoxious, I think are entitled to the favourable consideration of Parliament, and would have had my support. But now, Sir, before I proceed to discuss the principles and details of the measure before us, I would ask Tier Majesty's Government whether there is any precedent for the second reading, or any subsequent stage of a great and comprehensive measure such as this, being put into the hands of the Whip of the Party to move, in the presence of Ministers of the Crown whose names were actually on the back 1365 of the Bill? Were they so disenchanted with the reception their production had met with from the Press and from the public during the Recess that they wish it to be classed, notwithstanding their announcement as to its character, as a minor measure? Or can it be that those other names which godfathered it into the House knew so little about it that they declined to be responsible for its introduction? Was it that the convenience of the Prime Minister prevented his leaving his home in the country, and the rural delights of Sunday readings, on the previous Saturday; or was it that he did not think it necessary to rise to a great occasion like this, and strain his muscles—I borrow the phrase from him—to catch a train an hour earlier on the day he should have introduced a measure fraught with the gravest interests to a not inconsiderable section of the British Kingdom? Was it that he was within the boundaries of this City at an earlier hour than the meeting of the House—as, indeed, I have been authoritatively informed—but that urgent private affairs were given priority to Public Business? I will not allude to other reasons for which it might have been grateful to the House and the country that the Prime Minister should have found it convenient to be in his place; but I say, Sir, that the country pauses for a reply to the question—Is this Bill, then, of so little consequence that it can be delegated to a subordinate to move, to suit the pleasure of the Minister who finds it convenient to adopt the course which he has hurled unmerited abuse and ridicule at the heads of others for even suggesting? I presume, Sir, that some explanation of this unusual and extraordinary proceeding will be given at an early period of this debate; and I shall now pass on to what did occur on Monday. The hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy), in the course of the debate on the adjournment of the House, put forward the astounding proposition that the proper course of the debate was that we on these Benches, representing those that have, should lay bare the whole of our case, in order that he and his Friends, representing those who have not, should have the fullest opportunity of pelting us after we had expended our ammunition; or, in other words, that we, who are the 1366 defendants, having been acquitted in the first State Trial by Royal Commission, but who are now being tried again on the same evidence and the same charges, should more Hibernice first complete our defence before the prosecution was in a position to open. I should have thought his legal training would have shown him that, however such a reversal of the ordinary rules of procedure might answer in a country where the rules of contrary are the guiding principles, it could hardly be accepted as a convenient course on this side of the Channel. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in the course of his speech, referred in terms of admiration to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Barnstaple (Viscount Lymington), and to the luminous and able manner in which he had treated his subject. I, Sir, heard the speech of the noble Lord, and, beyond bald assertions of theories, collected by him in an occasional shooting excursion of three days' duration, unsupported by a particle of evidence, I failed entirely to see any more point in his argument than I should have expected to emanate from such an extensive experience. One fact alone will be enough to quote to the House to upset the whole of the theories and fallacies which the noble Lord has presented to us. Any and all of his arguments are equally capable of demolition. But listen to what the noble Lord has put his signature, in an article written by himself in October last in The Nineteenth Century, and in a statement by him of the custom on the Portsmouth estate—The landlord's interest is consulted on a re-letting at the expiration of a lease, when from one-eighth to one-fourth is added to Griffith's valuation of the land only.He has previously stated that the leases are for 31 years. Now, the position of the tenant is that, under what he calls the Portsmouth custom, he may have 50 per cent added to his rent within a period of 32 years, and must have not less than 25 per cent. This, Sir, is the principle advocated in October by the defender of the Government policy in the following April. I am quite content to leave a comparison of the noble Lord's views with this previous statement of his to a discerning public, merely saying that, unless the right hon. Gentleman can get some more 1367 valuable references than this to bolster up his arguments, it might be as well to be saved from his friends. Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman also carried on a most interesting conversation, and interchanged ideas with the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold), whose wide and varied knowledge of every conceivable subject within the range of practical politics, from the steppes of Central Asia to the bogs of Central Ireland, naturally leads him to believe that he is capable of giving a thoroughly practical opinion on a subject which has puzzled and defeated many of the leading statesmen of the country, with thorough and complete personal knowledge of Ireland and her requirements. I do not, however, find that the points raised by the hon. Member had much to do with the principal and real question at issue, or that the House received much elucidation from the replies made to immaterial points and issues by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I now come to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and I listened. with the closest attention to that speech, which purported to reply to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), and. I have since carefully read and reread that speech, and the impression formed at the time has been fully confirmed—namely, that a more inconclusive, incomplete, and lame answer, or weak argument, was never uttered with the authority of a Minister in charge of a Bill. I looked in vain for satisfactory replies to the leading and pointed questions of my right hon. and learned Friend, and found them conspicuous by their absence; with one or two exceptions, almost totally unanswered. First, as to the question of compensation, for what my right hon. and learned Friend justly termed confiscation, but no mention of which appears in the Government proposals. Now, Sir, does the right hon. Gentleman, standing there with his hand in our pockets, expect the House and the country to believe that what he and his Colleagues called expropriation in 1870 can be re-christened in 1881? Does he seriously expect the House to swallow such a dose as that without asking how and why the prescription had been altered since 1870? Did he suppose for a moment that the arguments and the denunciations against such a step used by his 1368 Colleagues in 1870, 1876, and 1877, were not going to be brought up in judgment against him? If he did anticipate such a pleasant immunity from unpleasant recollections, he will find before this debate closes that he is grievously mistaken. Does ho suppose that his wild and ridiculous assertion, that no damage can be proved by the application in 1881 of the principles his Colleagues in 1870 distinctly and clearly stated were totally opposed to justice and equity, will be accepted by the country? If there is one thing an Englishman loves it is consistency, and having the courage of your opinions, and I believe the prevailing opinion in this country before this debate closes will be contempt for a Government which has thrown justice and. equity overboard, and. sacrificed its declared principles at the shrine of political need and expediency. The next thing that the Chief Secretary for Ireland tells us is, that the Government purposely left it open to the tenant alone to apply to the Court to fix the rent, because the landlord already had the power to do it. The right hon. Gentleman knows well that this is not so. The landlord has only power to demand, not to fix, the increased rent; and if the tenant refuses to pay it, he is driven to ejectment as a matter of course, as his only alternative to enforce a just and fair demand. The tenant may sell his interest pending the proceedings, and the purchaser, not being bound by original notice, the same process has to be gone through again. In the Bill, as now drafted, many people relying on the Prime Minister's emphatic assurance that the basis of the Bill was justice and. equity, believed that this want of power On the part of the landlord was a sin of omission. But it is now shown by the Chief Secretary for Ireland that it was a deliberate act of commission, and a deliberate act of injustice to the landlords on the part of Her Majesty's Government. The 45th clause the right hon. Gentleman wisely and. judiciously left to his Legal Advisers to explain if they could, and camly passed by without notice the appeal of my right hon. and learned. Friend. I am bound to say, Sir, that a careful study of of those hon. and learned Gentlemen's faces, the expression of which I will not call wooden, for fear of drawing forth another of those lectures on manners 1369 and arguments which the Prime Minister has lately administered to so many hon. Members on this side of the House, but which rather seemed to say, "Oh, what a day we are having!" did not lead anyone on this side of the House to suppose that they were overwhelmed with joy at the prospect of distinguishing themselves which was being so generously unfolded to them. The principles of the Bill are founded upon the system known as the "three F's," added to which there is a compulsory fixing of the rents by the State; and though it has been sought to conceal one ugly "F" by a skilful and labyrinthine disguise of words and provisos, it is as much embodied in the Bill as either of the others. The Prime Minister, in his exhaustive explanation of the provisions on the introduction of the Bill, made a speech which, while carefully minimizing the disadvantages under which it was proposed to place the landlord, and showing, in the most attractive colours and the least objectionable form, the advantages it was proposed to confer on the tenant, made, at the same time, a great flourish about the principles of equity and justice to all classes, under which the kiss of Judas was plainly to be detected by those who had a practical acquaintance with the subject. The object and effect of the speech was to obtain for the Bill a favourable first impression before the public had an opportunity of seeing and digesting the details. These have now been placed before the public, shorn of the flowers of rhetoric under which they were disguised, and the broad fact is now patent to the most casual observer of Parliamentary proceedings that the Prime Minister and other Members of his Government have committed themselves to the advocacy of principles which in 1870, and subsequently, they went out of their way to denounce in the strongest and most unmeasured terms. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the recommendations of the Duke of Richmond's and Lord Bessborough's Commissions, and to their practical agreement on one of the three points—namely, as to the fixing of rents by the State. True it is, that the Richmond Commissioners say they are inclined to think that by the majority of landowners legislation, properly framed to accomplish this end, would not be objected to; but does the 1370 right hon. Gentleman suppose that any one of those Commissioners anticipated that the framing of such legislation would include a proposal that the Court of First Instance should be the existing County Land Courts, which have been admitted on all hands to be a failure as regards the equal administration of the existing Land Laws; or that a quorum of one Sub-Commissioner, not named in the Act, and appointed by the proposed Land Commissioners, should be the Court of Appeal? Does he suppose that those Gentlemen ever contemplated the possibility of one-sided legislation, such as is proposed by the 7th section of this Bill; or, independently of the trifling consideration of an absolute future prohibition of anything like freedom of contract in dealings between landlord and tenant, does the right hon. Gentleman believe that those who signed the Report would have done so if they had supposed it was to be the groundwork of such legislation as this? The right hon. Gentleman gave the House a few selected passages from the Reports of both Commissions which favoured his particular views—that is to say, the views he now holds. But, perhaps, the House will allow me to read one passage from the first Report which the right hon. Gentleman did not read, and which very considerably qualifies and alters the construction he sought to place upon it. In the Report of the Richmond Commission, I find the very next paragraph, on page 8, to that quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, runs as follows:—With a view of affording such security, fair rents, fixity of tenure, and free sale, popularly known as the three "F's," have been strongly advocated by many witnesses, but none have been able to support that proposition in their integrity without admitting consequences that would, in our opinion, involve an injustice to the landlord.Holding such views as these, I think it will hardly be assumed that any of the Commissioners would be disposed to endorse the present proposals. Now, let me say one word on the constitution of these two Commissions. The first one, appointed with the Duke of Richmond as Chairman, was taken from both sides of both Houses of Parliament, as well as from gentlemen outside Parliament, but representing both opposite and independent views on this as well as the other questions which were to come 1371 under their cognizance. In the result, I find that 13 out of 19 Members of the Commission agreed to and signed the Report which has been referred to, and that those included Members of both Houses of Parliament, and from both sides of each House, as well as gentlemen of opposite political views outside Parliament. In the Report signed by the minority of six Members of this Commission, in which they advocate the system known as the three "F's," there is also a remarkable passage to which I shall have presently to refer. Not satisfied with the impartiality likely to be expected from such a body as this Commission, it was determined, in July, 1880, to appoint a further one, and in order that the conditions of strict impartiality should be assured, four Gentlemen were selected with known strong views in the direction wished by Her Majesty's Government, or, to put it in the Prime Minister's own words—" A tribunal not deficient in its popular sympathies;" and in order that the exception might prove the rule, one was thrown in on the other side to save appearances. Following up the impartial system, a Secretary was appointed of still more advanced views, and an Assistant Secretary who out-Heroded him, and who was known in every Assize Court in the North of Ireland as the tenant farmers' advocate; and as upon the Secretaries of this Commission in a great measure depended the getting up of the case, it is easy to understand in which direction the tendency of their exertions would lean. The result and the Report has been precisely what was predicted at the time of the appointment of it; and, notwithstanding, they report that—In Ireland it is unusual to exact what in England would have been considered a full or fair commercial rent.…That a tenant who pays his rent is very seldom evicted.…And that the credit is due to Irish landlords as a class, of not exacting all they were by law entitled to exact.This Report has been made the basis of the Bill now before us, and the first words of the 1st clause enact that a tenant may sell that which has hitherto, except in Ulster, been considered the property of another. That is to say, that the same principle which has grown up in Ulster, and been sanctioned by custom and usage, or carelessness on the 1372 part of the owner or successive owners, and where money has been paid by the existing tenant or his predecessors for the interest in the tenancy, shall be applied to the rest of Ireland, and in every case where the tenant has paid nothing for his interest. There is not even a limit placed upon this right; but every tenant may sell to the highest bidder for the best price he can obtain. Sir, I can imagine nothing more hostile to the interests of the whole class of agricultural tenants themselves, save and except those now actually in possession; and the general result of such a legalized custom would be that, in the course of one or two generations, by the natural working out of the thriftless and unimproving tenants, you would have introduced a class of men into a large part of the country who would have come in without means or capital, which would all have been carried out of the country by the outgoer, and who would by their own act, and not by any act of the landlord, have voluntarily come into possession of lands more highly rented than they or any other tenant could afford to pay. I am not to be taken as arguing against a tenant's right to receive back every shilling that he has expended in the way of permanent improvements. As I say, he has a full right to that; but this question of tenant right, and compensation for improvements, are totally distinct and separate questions, which it is too much the custom among those unacquainted with the subject to mix up with the question of free sale. Few people in England or Scotland are aware of the extraordinary and unaccountable prices which are given by tenants in Ulster for the tenant right or goodwill of farina; and to an English or a Scotch farmer this is the most inexplicable and insoluble problem; but it is a fact that in numerous instances sums more than double the fee simple value are so given. I will illustrate this by giving the figures relating to sales of interest or goodwill made by order of the County Court in the county of Down in 1880. In the first case, the goodwill of a farm of six statute acres, held at a yearly rent of £4 7s., or 14s. 6d. per acre, was sold for £156, equal to £26 per acre; and the interest on this at 5 per cent will make the future rent £2 0s. 6d. per acre. In the second case, the farm was 21½ acres, and the yearly 1373 rent £22 9s., or £1 1s. per acre; the goodwill sold for £610, or £29 per acre, making the future rent £2 10s. per acre. There are two other cases where the letting was by the Irish acre; but one will be sufficient to trouble the House with. It was a farm of six Irish acres at a rent of £8 5s., or £1 7s. 6d. per acre; the goodwill was sold for £300—equal to £50 per acre—and the future rent, with which the purchaser has voluntarily saddled himself with, is £3 17s. 6d. per acre. Now, what is the practical working of this? In every case the tenant has come into possession weighted with a rent which the land was clearly incapable of bearing, and varying from 75 to nearly 200 per cent over the fair letting value. Either the purchaser had the money, of which he lost the interest by sinking it in this manner; or, worse still, he had to borrow from the money-lender, in which case the rates which are calculated at 5 per cent will be very largely over what I have stated. You are now going to introduce a custom into the whole of Ireland which has been proved by such facts as these to be vicious in principle, and unsound in policy; and it is thrown in the teeth of the opponents to it, that some of the Ulster landowners see no objection to it, though you have even evidence on the other side that many of the tenants are themselves opposed to it. You are going to establish a law which, while it prevents an addition being made to the rent on the side of the landlord, actually encourages the tenant to rack-rent himself. Of what consequence is the opinion of these few individuals who have already got the custom established, and therefore will not be so much affected by it, and who do not care, or are unable to look beyond their own selfish interests, instead of regarding this, not as an Ulster, but as an Irish, aye, and as an Imperial question. Now, Sir, let us see what were the opinions of Her Majesty's Ministers and Members of the Government on this question in 1870, and subsequent years. In his speech on the introduction of this Bill, the Prime Minister said that "Free sale was absolutely and decidedly the least objectionable of the "three F's.'" That "the principle of free sale was embodied in ancient law;" and that he had tried to show that there was nothing "strained or of an innovating character 1374 in this principle." Turning to his speech on the second reading of the Land Bill of 1870, I can hardly conceive how even such a master of language and a rhetorician of the power of the right hon. Gentleman, can make these sentiments tally with those which he then as deliberately, and with the same sense of responsibility, sent forth to the nation as his manifesto against such subversive and impolitic proposals. He said—Shall I really be told that it is for the interest of the Irish tenant bidding for a farm that the law should say to him, 'Caste aside all providence and forethought; go into the market and bid what you like; drive out of the field the prudent man who intends to fulfil his engagement; bid right above him and induce the landlord to give you the farm, and the moment you have got it, come forward; go to the public authority; show that the rent is excessive, and that you cannot pay it, and get it reduced? If I could conceive a plan more calculated than anything else, first of all, for throwing into confusion the whole economical arrangements of the country; secondly, for driving out of the field all solvent and honest men who might be bidders for farms, and might desire to carry on the honourable business of agriculture; thirdly, for carrying widespread demoralization throughout the whole mass of the Irish people, I must say, as at present advised—to confine myself to the present, and until otherwise convinced—it is this plan and this demand that we should embody in our Bill as a part of permanent legislation a provision by which men shall be told that there shall be an authority always existing ready to release them from the contracts they have deliberately entered into."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 1845.]Sir, I say comment on these two statements is absolutely superfluous, as it would be hardly possible to put face to face two more thoroughly conflicting opinions deliberately issuing from the same mouth. I will now come down to the year 1876; and on June 29th, I find the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington), thus expressing himself on the Motion for the second reading of Mr. Butt's Land Bill—By the legislation now proposed, the whole of the additional price to be obtained by competition for land would go, not into the pocket of the landlord, but into that of the existing occupier. He was unable to see how the agricultural community in Ireland could benefit by such legislation, either now or in future. On the contrary, it would probably do much to unsettle the prosperous state of things which was admitted on all hands to exist at the present moment."—[Ibid. ccxxx. 706.]Those were the opinions held by the noble Marquess up to five years ago, 1375 and the same opinions were held by others of his Colleagues. There is also a remarkable paragraph of a totally contradictory nature to their general recommendations contained in the separate Report of Lord Carlingford and the minority—who sided with him—of the Richmond Commission. At page 22, they say, speaking of free sale—There are, indeed, objections to the unqualified application of that system to every holding, which may be thus stated—The tenant's interest might in many instances consist to a large extent in the difference between a fair rent and the low rent actually paid to the landlord, and this value, where no tenant-right payment has been made at the beginning of the tenancy, is not morally the property of the occupier. To treat it as such by legislation would. be a wrong to the landlord.This paragraph clearly shows that there were some remaining qualms of conscience in the minority who were recommending such violent changes of the law, but who could not, nevertheless, conceal from themselves that the legislation they proposed was of a confiscatory nature. I believe that, as regards the great majority of the race of tenants in future, the effect of' the working of the principle of free sale, as now proposed to be conceded, will be to transfer the powers now possessed by the landlord to the hands of the money-lenders, who will advance at usurious interest to those about to purchase, and in whom the desire to possess land is so strong that they will not consider the terms they are pledging themselves to. Those money-lenders will, when the pinch comes, and the interest or instalments fall into arrear, not exercise a shadow of pity or forbearance, but sell the tenant's interest, and proceed to eviction with the utmost rigour of the law. That the operation of the Ulster custom of free and unrestricted sale does not tend to diminish or prevent the prevalence of distress and pecuniary difficulty, is amply borne out by the Returns presented to Parliament this and last year, when it was seen that Ulster stands second on the Return for 1880 with 497 evictions, against 484 in Leinster, and 387 in Connaught; and first in 1878 and 1879 with 1,215, against 1,197, as the highest of the other three Provinces. It should also be borne in mind that the area of Ulster is 600,000 acres less than that of Munster, and that the numbers of evictions have not been influenced in 1376 Ulster by the anti-rent movement; whereas they have been very largely so in two of the other Provinces. We will now go on to the second "F," which will be found in Clause 4 and elsewhere, under the new name of "Incidents of Tenancy," which is the marginal short title of it. Under this clause, with certain limitations as to breach of conditions, which are defined, the property of the owner is transferred absolutely to the occupier, so long as he continues to pay the rent hereafter provided to be fixed by public authority; and the owner assumes the new role of a rent-charger, entitled to receive a fixed rent on certain days, but entitled to nothing more, and bereft of any right to interfere for the improvement of the farm or the estate, except at the pleasure of the occupier. Truly, Sir, under such conditions as these, there will be little inducement in the future for landowners either to reside on or spend money on their estates; but there will be every inducement to seek other forms of investment, and divert money now spending in improvements to other channels. In support of this view, I may quote the opinion of the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law), who, on 29th June, 1876, said—The property must he in someone; and if we were to secure the possession of the land, and the enjoyment of its profits to the tenant and his successors for ever, subject only to a rent, we should, in effect, no matter how we try to disguise it, transfer the property of the farm to him, and change the present landowner into a mere rent-charger."—[3 Hansard, ccxxx. 630.]But, Sir, he did not stop here; he went on to give reasons against the proposal, and he said—I cannot but believe that the landlords, now converted into rent-chargers, with little interest in what were once their estates, would cease to live on them.….Absenteeism used formerly to be the bête noir of Irish politicians—and yet a measure is now calmly proposed which would tend to make every country gentleman in Ireland quit its shores, and leave his estate and its occupant-owners to shift for themselves.….I must repeat that I decline to vote for the transfer of the property in the soil from the landlord to the tenants of Ireland."—[Ibid. 633–7.]Holding this opinion in 1876, I shall be much surprised to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman attempt to argue that the principles lie defended in 1876 should not equally hold good in 1881, or that the principles now proposed to 1377 be made law differ one iota from those he then so strongly denounced. I shall have occasion presently to refer to the speech of the noble Marquess the Secretary for India in connection with another branch of the subject, which he coupled with this in dealing with it, and I will pass him by for the moment, merely saying that his views on this subject will be found to be fully as strong as those of his Colleagues. We come now to the opinion of the Prime Minister, who, in his speech on the introduction of the Land Bill of 1870, used these words—Now, is it for the public good that the landlords of Ireland, in a body, should be reduced by an Act of Parliament to the condition practically of fundholders, entitled to apply on a certain day from year to year for a certain sum of money, but entitled to nothing more Are you prepared to denude them of their interest in the land; and, what is more, are you prepared to absolve them from their duties with regard to the land? I, for one, confess that I am not; nor is that the sentiment of my Colleagues.Further on, in the same speech, he goes on to say—But the occupiers of land in Ireland, though they of themselves constitute something near a moiety of the people of the country, yet are not the whole people. And it would, I think, be difficult to show why, in favour of these particular persons being occupiers, the whole essence of proprietary right should be carried over from the class that now possesses it to that which, though infinitely larger, is still a class, is not the whole people of the country.And he summed up his indictment of the proposal in these words—Having urged these arguments, to which I am aware of no reply, I may, for the present at any rate, quit this part of the subject. I therefore cast aside perpetuity of tenure, as being a mode and form of remedy that we are not prepared to entertain or propose."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 351–2–4.]In common with the right hon. Gentleman, I also am not aware of any reply that can be given to the arguments he used in 1870; but there is still a further view of this subject on which the Bill is wholly and totally silent—I mean the question of compensation to the landlords from whom you propose to transfer their rights. This, Sir, is a question from which a Chancellor of the Exchequer may well shrink with alarm; and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, influenced, doubtless, by purely economical considerations, has thought it 1378 prudent to exclude any mention of such a trifle from his proposal. Why has he in this, as in all other essential features of his proposed legislation, changed the views and opinions held by himself and his Colleagues in 1870? What becomes of these sentiments thus expressed on 15th February?—Inasmuch as perpetuity of tenure on the part of the occupier is virtually expropriation of the landlord, and as a mere re-adjustment of rent according to the price of produce can by no means dispose of all contingencies the future may produce in his favour, compensation would have to be paid to the landlord for the rights of which he would be deprived.….I hold that the plan is attended with the greatest practical difficulty, even were it on this ground alone. Because the question will be, by whom is that compensation to he paid?"—[Ibid. 350.]That view of the question was fully endorsed by no less eminent a legal authority than the present Lord Chancellor, then Sir Roundel]. Palmer, who, in the same debate, said—I shall not go into the argument on that subject, because the point was exhausted by the Head of the Government when he spoke of fixity of tenure, which, in plain English, means taking away the property of one man and giving it to another. My right hon. Friend said that, according to the principles of justice, if we transferred property in that way we must pay for it. No doubt, we may take a man's property, but in that case we must compensate him for it."—[Ibid. 1666.]Speaking also of the general principle of fixity of tenure and valuation of rents, he says—A scheme more full of objection, both as respects landlord and tenant, I cannot conceive. On the part of the landlord it is objectionable, because you would take away from him his land; and on the part of the tenant it is likewise disadvantageous, because his rent would be just as variable and uncertain as under the present tenure, and would be sure to be periodically raised in many cases in which a liberal landlord might otherwise allow it to continue unchanged. Under such a scheme you would have constantly brought in a Judge or the State—and what could be worse than the interference of the State in a matter of that kind?—to settle the terms of the holding, to value all the lands whenever the time of valuation came round—and there would be a continual conflict between landlord and tenant."—[Ibid. 1667.]Sir, we all know that lawyers and statesmen may differ on questions of principle; but I have always believed that once you have deliberately formed an opinion on an abstract principle, that you should have the courage to defend 1379 that opinion against any popular clamour that might be set up against it, more especially in the absence of anything but political expediency to justify or palliate such changes as are now presented to us. Corning now to the question of fair rents, I at once accede to the general proposition that no man shall be asked or required to pay more than a fair value for his holding, or a greater rent than it will bear to carry; but when, in the face of the Report of the Commissioners that it has not been usual in Ireland to exact what would be considered in England a full commercial rent, you start upon the assumption that landlord and tenant are incapable of arranging their own business between themselves in a fair and equitable manner; when the very first clause of the 7th section opens the door to a sea of litigation of which no man can foresee the end; when the provisions of that section show it to be framed in the interests of one class alone, and preclude the landlord from similar relief to that afforded to the tenant, without the consent and concurrence of such tenant, although the Commissioners report that rents are under rather than over the value; and when you are arbitrarily going to override every contract entered into for a long series of years, at the instance of the tenant, and at the discretion of a Court composed of lawyers, and, for aught we know, of other equally incompetent State officials, then I say, Sir, you may indeed call the proposal by the name given to it by the Prime Minister in 1870 of valued rents; but the very elements of fairness will be entirely eliminated from it. I should like to know where are then the principles of equal justice claimed for the Bill by the Prime Minister in his opening speech? Now, Sir, what is the next extraordinary provision contained in this section? Why, that the Court in fixing such rent shall have regard to the tenant's interest in such holding; and it provides two scales upon which the Court is to proceed—namely, one for those holdings under the Ulster Custom, and another for those which are not subject to any such custom. It was proved in evidence before the Richmond Commission (Page 589, Question 16,982), that the average value of the tenant right on Lord Downshire's estates was over 40 years' purchase on the rental. Now, 1380 putting the owner's interest at 23 years, which is rather above the average selling value of Irish property of late years, it follows that if the Court are to act upon this direction, they must find the landlord's interest to be 17 years worse than nothing, and that he is to be the tenant's debtor for consenting to hold the land. Now, take the case of a tenancy, not under the Ulster Custom. Here the Court would have the compensation scale as their basis, and in estimating the tenant's interest would have to credit him with seven years' value—of course, deducting that from the landlord, or taking from him one-third of the value of his property. To show what the view of the Land League on this subject is, let me read their Report on the proposed Amendments to the Bill—We therefore propose that the words 'shall have regard to 'be struck out, and that words be inserted which would make it compulsory on the Court, in fixing the rent of a holding, to deduct from the letting value thereof the annual value of the tenant's interest therein.I may be told—perhaps I shall be, and perhaps the Chief Secretary for Ireland will say that he has already said so, but I say that he has not—that this is a reductio ad absurdum, and was not the intention with which the sub-section was drawn. Well, Sir, we have heard of other places besides the floor of this House being paved with good intentions; and I say if that is not the intention, why, in the name of common sense, insert a provision framed in a way that is obviously capable of such construction? If, on the other hand, I am told this is the meaning of the provision—and as it stands I defy any reasoning man to put any other construction upon it, nor have I heard that complete denial from the right hon. Gentleman which the case demands—then I say that it is the duty of every Member of this House with the slightest remaining regard for the Eighth Commandment to record an indignant protest and vote against such an iniquitous proposition. Intentions have no place in Acts of Parliament, litera Scriptamanent, and intentions should appear in explicit terms, which are not the characteristics of this Bill. This, Sir, is the proposal for State intervention and valuation of rents, which was thus referred to and described by the Prime Minister in 1870— 1381However, what I do wish is, in the first place, that there should be a clear manifestation of the views of the Government, and, secondly, of the House, that we are not ready to accede to a principle of legislation by which the State shall take into its own hands the valuation of rents throughout Ireland. I say take into its own hands, because it is perfectly immaterial whether the thing shall be done by a State officer forming part of the Civil Service, or by an arbitrator, acting under State authority, or by any other person invested by the law with powers to determine on what terms as to rent every holding in Ireland shall be held.….The mathematical result is, that if you undertake to fix the valuation of rents by public authority, you must likewise undertake to fix the whole conditions of every agricultural holding. There is no escape from that conclusion. Well, then, are you prepared to undertake that? We say—'Give shelter to the tenant from loss by eviction, and make that shelter effectual.' This doctrine says—'Give over to the tenant a great, a paramount, a permanent interest in the land.' Am I mistaking it or not? My proposition is that if you value rents you may as well for every available purpose adopt perpetuity of tenure at once. It is perpetuity of tenure only in a certain disguise. It is the first link in the chain, but it draws after it the last. Now look at its practical difficulty. We are to value these rents. What an army of public officers are you to send abroad to determine from year to year the conditions of the 600,000 holdings in Ireland—conditions which are settled with comparative ease when settled by private intercourse, but conditions the fixing of which beforehand by a public authority would be attended with ten-fold difficulty."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 1845–6.]Passing on now to the year 1877, what do we find the opinion of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India, speaking presumably on behalf of the occupants of the then Front Opposition Bench, and on a Motion by the hon. Member for Tralee (The O'Donoghue) in favour of regulation of rents?—That Motion meant, in his opinion, valued rents, or it meant nothing at all; and a principle which involved valued rents appeared. to him to conflict altogether with freedom of contract.….The Land Act was not intended to upset the ordinary relations of landlord and tenant.….He should be adverse to an inquiry, if it were supposed by the people of Ireland that it was intended to be a prelude to legislation on new principles for the purpose of establishing fixity of tenure and valuation of rents."—[3 Hansard, ccxxxiv. 97–8.]Well, Sir, on the same date we find the present First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) saying that the Land Act of 1870 had—Carried the principle of compensation to the tenant to the very verge of English ideas of the right of property without infringing them. …Nor, would the House, within any reasonable 1382 period, accede to either fixity of tenure or rents fixed by independent valuers."—[Ibid. 62–3.]These are the words and opinions of responsible Ministers of the Crown and Members of the Government, for a change from which they have not given us a shadow of a reason. Independently of these considerations, there are others of an equally grave and important character; and foremost among these is the nature and constitution of the tribunals it is proposed to make judges of the value of land. These tribunals have already been fully tried in the carrying out of the Land Act of 1870; and it is admitted on all sides that the irregular and different working of the Courts in different counties, owing to the peculiar views and readings of the Act by the Chairman, has been eminently unsatisfactory. Who is it then proposed to make a judge of the number of cattle a farm will feed, the quantity of corn or roots it will produce per acre, or the peculiar kinds of grasses favourable to the production of milk or butter? Why, of all men in the world, a lawyer; who, however good a judge he may be of the age of mutton on the table, or the probable quantity of brains mixed up in his milk, is about the last man I should dream of going to for an agricultural opinion. Well, Sir, this thoroughly competent official is to be assisted by a nondescript animal called, for want of a better name, an "independent valuer," whatever that may mean. Is this person to be a local farmer, agent, or landlord, or a man of the expert class, such as a local engineer or professional valuator. In any of these events confidence in the award cannot and will not exist on both sides, as no man will be looked upon as a true prophet in his own country, but will be supposed to have tendencies one way or the other. On the other hand, if the independent valuer is to be a standing official of the Court, and to be appointed, having regard to his high standing or professional qualifications, and entire want of connection with the county or district to which he is appointed, I say that the opinion of such a man coming as a stranger into the district, not knowing its requirements, its actual capabilities of produce, the conditions under which the contract was made, and the consideration which may have been given or received, or but by no means least, having no moans of testing 1383 the credibility of evidence which will, in most cases, be open to suspicion, to call it by no harsher name, would be a standard so untrustworthy that it, in like manner, would fail to command the confidence of either party. In fact, the State must, as the Prime Minister has said, "take into its own hands the fixing of every other condition of the agricultural holding," and "there is no escape from that conclusion." We will now assume that some party to a case heard by the Court feels aggrieved by its decision, and he appeals to the Court with appellate jurisdiction—namely, the Land Commission, which is out of the frying pan into the fire, and out of one lawyer's clutches into another's; and, worse still, not necessarily into the hands of the Commission itself, but into the hands of any other incompetent sub-Commissioner to whom they may choose to delegate their powers. For the reasons which I have given, Sir, I maintain that the House ought not to be called upon to affirm a principle so diametrically opposed to every acknowledged law of property, except as an extreme measure and on the basis of compensation to the landlord for what you take away; and this is demanded imperatively by every rule of honour, justice, and equity. Should the Government now undertake to submit proposals with this view, I am sure that many who are totally opposed to a measure nothing short of spoliation would be disposed to consider as favourably as they can the arguments which may be adduced in favour of expediency. There is another point which has been entirely ignored, and which it was fully anticipated would necessarily form part of any proposal for valuation of rents, and that is a proposal for the re-valuation of Ireland; but as that would be a most unpopular move among those interested in agitation, and knowing what the inevitable result of such re-valuation would be, any such proposal, which is dictated by common sense, has been carefully excluded from the Bill. The consequence of that will be that we shall still have the bugbear of Griffith's valuation being constantly raised and quoted as the standard by which rents should be fixed. It is useless trying to persuade uneducated peasants that what may be a fair valuation for taxational purposes bears no relation to the letting value of a farm. The 1384 fact will remain in his mind that the Government valued his farm at a certain figure, that he still continues to pay his rates and taxes upon that valuation, and that it was not now considered necessary or expedient to make any alteration in it. It is proposed to establish a Court for the valuation of rents; and you start them upon their work without any materials whatever for forming a judgment except this very valuation which has been condemned all round as an untrustworthy basis, and last, though not least, by both the Royal Commissions which have recently reported. The Bessborough Commission says, at Page 26, Clause 64—If anything has been clearly established on evidence during this inquiry, the fact that the present Government valuation is not a trustworthy standard for the settlement of rents has been most thoroughly demonstrated. Fair as it may have been for the purposes of local taxation in the years when it was made, the evidence shows that even then it was considered as below the fair letting value of the land.The Richmond Commission also says—It is conclusively proved that the annual value, as set forth in that document, was not intended to represent, and did not represent at the date when the valuation was made, the rental value of the property.Many hon. Members may not be aware that in the Acts authorizing that valuation, of which there were several, and the last of which was in 1852, there was a Schedule of prices of agricultural produce on which the valuation was to be based, and that the prices in that year, as fixed by that Act, were from 33 to 97 per cent lower on the different kinds of produce than they were in the year 1877, when a Bill was brought in for a revaluation, but which was not carried through. Hon. Members will, perhaps, be surprised to hear that where, in 1852, the price of beef was fixed at 35s. 6d. per cwt., it was, in 1877, proposed to be fixed at 70s., or 97 per cent higher. Butter, in 1852, was 65s. 4d., against 121s. 4d. in 1877, or 85 per cent higher. Oats, 4s. 10d., against 7s. 8d., or 58 per cent higher; and so on in the case of every other kind of produce, and the general average increase in price was 61 per cent on all the produce scheduled in the two Bills. Well, Sir, we have, in addition, the testimony of Sir Richard Griffith himself, who, at page 7 of a pamphlet by bins on the general valua- 1385 tion of Ireland, says, speaking own valuation—If one-third be added, the result will give very nearly the full rent value of the land under ordinary proprietors.This, then, Sir, is the only information or data on which you are going to start a Court, composed of lawyers and other incapables, to adjudicate on the value of land. Added to which the Government are going to leave a misleading and mischievous public document on record, which, as they must be aware, has already worked great and irremediable harm in the minds of the people. I say, therefore, that it is the bounden duty of the Government to provide for the immediate commencement of a valuation which shall supersede one which can only be considered as an element of discord and mischief. I must refer in a few words to the litigation which it is admitted on all hands, whether the speaker be a landlord or a tenant, a Land Leaguer or a lawyer, this Bill will produce. The day after this Bill becomes law, if it ever does become law, it will be in the power of every tenant in Ireland to apply to the Court to have his rent fixed; and who that knows anything of the country will disbelieve that there will be wanting the evil spirit, in the shape of unscrupulous attorneys or violent agitators, who will incite many to make such an application who heretofore considered they had no just grounds of complaint? One of the Prime Minister's principal objections to a clause moved by the late Sir John Gray in Committee on the Land Bill of 1870 was that it encouraged litigation; and, replying to him on the 19th of May, ho said—But how does the plan of the hon. Member stand that test. He states that the object of his plan is to avoid litigation, but he begins in a Court, and he requires that every landlord shall, through the medium of that Court, challenge his tenants to enter into a new state of things in order to carry out a preliminary, without which his plan can never take effect and must remain a dead letter."—[3 Hansard, cci. 1029.]Well, Sir, what is the difference between the plan then proposed and the present one? Do not both begin in a Court, the difference being that the tenant here, instead of the landlord, is encouraged to challenge his landlord to enter into a new state of things, and to repudiate his contract. And does any reasoning 1386 man doubt that that will be the immediate effect of the passing of the Bill, and that feelings of hostility and bitterness, already too much aroused by the passive inaction of the Government, will be created and fomented in every direction? Let me now ask English and Scotch Members on the other side of the House, who may be disposed to think that as it is only the interests of a few Irish proprietors which are at stake, that they might be sacrificed by way of experiment, and that if a principle of legislation is admitted by which the coming race of Irish tenants are rendered hopelessly insolvent, and handed over to the mercy of the money-lender, they have only themselves and the agitators to thank for it-let me ask them, I say, whether they conscientiously believe that such legislation as this will stop short in Ireland, and whether they have no fears that this is the thin end of a wedge, which there are many in this country, aye, and some in this House, who would be glad to see driven home on this side of the Channel? Let me refer them to the words of the Prime Minister, in 1870, when he said—If perpetuity of tenure were really good for Ireland, it could not be very bad either for England or Scotland. There are, indeed, peculiar features in the condition of Ireland, that, in our judgment, justify and demand peculiar legislation; but I am aware of none of those features that could by any man be held to extend to recommending perpetuity of tenure in Ireland which would not also be applicable to England or to Scotland. If perpetuity of right is to be transferred from one class to another, that would not be a bit more or less expedient on this side of the water than on the other; and accordingly, in that view of the matter, this with which we have now to deal is not an Irish Land Question, but an United Kingdom Land Question."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 353–4.]Underlying this Bill are principles and proposals which will have the effect of exchanging the patriarchal system—which has been admitted by the Prime Minister to have been upon its trial and as a whole acquitted—and old traditions of kindliness and sympathy for the stern interference of the State and the imperative demands of the money-lender. You will take away from the owner both the inclination and the power to invest any further capital in improvements. You will place the strongest incentive on absenteeism, which has been repeatedly described as one of the curses of Ireland. You are opening the door 1387 to a sea of litigation which no man can foresee the end of; and, for the sake of curbing the misconduct of the few, you are punishing that great majority, who it is admitted by all, save those whose trade and calling is agitation, have done their duty in that state of life in which it has pleased God to place them. Further-more, you are placing the strongest weapon for further mischief in the hands of the agitators, who have announced publicly that they do not thank you for what they consider an instalment wrung from you by their efforts; and, in doing that, you will throw overboard all those principles of right, justice, and equity which in the past were so strongly declared to be entirely absent from the present proposals. Sir, I sincerely hope that before this debate is brought to a close Her Majesty's Government will recognize the necessity for undertaking to modify these objectionable principles in Committee; principles for which they have utterly failed to show any case, and which could only be justified as a penal and retributive measure, which their own Commission admitted was not deserved; principles which they would not have dared to put forward but for the state into which they have allowed the country to drift, and enable us to support, as a whole, a measure many parts of which are worthy of favourable consideration. Passing now from the unpleasant consideration of the stultification by English statesmen of the principles and opinions they paraded before the country in past successive years, and which, with one noble exception, they have not now the courage or consistency to defend, I come to those parts of the Bill which involve no principle of the plundering of any particular class, but proceed upon the recognized laws of political economy, which have always held that where any great or radical change was considered necessary for the public welfare, the costs of such legislation should be borne by the public purse, and not drawn from the pockets of any particular class of the community. Turning now to that part of the Bill dealing with the purchase of their holdings by tenants, I am bound to say that I have always looked with considerable suspicion on proposals having for their object the transforming of a tenant farmer into a proprietor. And, except this is limited to a class of holding 1388 above a £30 valuation, I believe you will only be introducing a new system of pauperism into the country. Experience has shown, and I can fully endorse it from personal observation, that lands let in perpetuity and at nominal rents are, in too many instances, the worst-farmed and most wretchedly conducted holdings in a district. It is also well known that there is no harder taskmaster, or greater rack-renter, than the small owner who has thus acquired the rights and privileges of an owner. I believe it would be the greatest possible mistake to perpetuate or enlarge, without limitation, a system such as that under which many of the tenants of glebe lands purchased their holdings from the Commissioners of Church Temporalities, a large proportion of them being under £5 valuation; and within my own knowledge some of them have been last winter in receipt of relief from public charity. If, however, Her Majesty's Government propose to place some limit of this nature on the operation of the Act, and it is considered expedient to give a further trial to this principle, I, for one, shall not throw any obstacle in the way of the responsibility which the Government will incur. With regard to the reclamation of waste lands, or for drainage purposes, though I shall be very glad to find that I am mistaken, I believe the clauses as now framed will be entirely inoperative, as, except in some very exceptional case such as I have never yet seen, it is hard to see why a baronial guarantee should be given for what would obviously be a private and not a public object; and, having some experience of baronial guarantees, I know the difficulty of obtaining them for any purpose whatever. On the other hand, if there is no baronial guarantee, the Treasury must be satisfied with the security before any advance is made; and as a company formed for the purpose of reclaiming certain lands must either acquire the lands absolutely, or the owner's rights over the lands for a specified period, it follows that, unless they have other security to offer outside the value of the lands themselves, the only security they would have to offer would be a mortgage or first-charge on lands for so far unreclaimed and valueless; and, speaking from my own experience, I know the difficulty of satisfying the Treasury of the sufficiency of security, even on works and undertakings 1389 of undoubted earning capacity. I do not, therefore, attach any real importance to this clause, which I believe will be a dead letter. The most important question in the whole of Part V.—namely, emigration, is dealt with in the most summary manner, and disposed of in a clause of 18 lines. That I believe to be the true solution of the problem of relieving many districts of Ireland, now over-crowded with a population which the land is not able to carry or support. Until this congestion is relieved, and the soil is freed from the necessity of supporting a greater number of mouths than even in the best of years it is capable of doing with comfort, I care not how you legislate, even if you went the length of completing the work you now propose to begin—namely, to entirely expropriate the landlord and instal the tenant rent free in his stead—I say, even if you went that length, you would only perpetuate and fix in the country a system of misery and over-recurring periodical famines and discontent. This Bill unfolds no scheme for the amelioration of such a state of things. It contains a bald authority to the Treasury and the Land Commission to advance sums not named or limited, but which, in common with the other money clauses of this part of the Act, are to be governed by "prudential considerations." This, Sir, is a manner that I think so important a subject should not be so lightly treated in. The House and the country have a right to ask, what are the proposals of the Government? What are the facilities and inducements to be offered to possible emigrants? And is this proposal to include any facilities for the consolidation of the farms vacated by these families in populated districts? I say, Sir, that unless you provide for the emigration of the whole family, and if it is only proposed to assist emigration on the lines on which it is now going on, you will be doing more harm than good—as you will be assisting out of the country those who ought to be kept—namely, the young and the healthy of both sexes, leaving behind the old, the decrepid, and the weak of the family. I regret, also, that no attempt is made or suggested towards the development of the industrial resources of the country. Speaking generally of Part V. of the Bill, I believe it contains the elements of what may be amended into a useful measure; and I regret that it should have 1390 been mixed up with such principles as are contained in other parts of the Bill, which will make it impossible for me to support it—principles which, I say, no case has boon made out in favour of, for which there is no demand, except that of agitation and outrage, which have been denounced in the strongest terms by those responsible Ministers who are now submitting these very same principles to Parliament, and who, in obedience to the demands of those who are the true enemies of their country, are deliberately confiscating the property of one class for the exclusive benefit of another. Sir, I appeal to the House not to endorse with its sanction such principles of class legislation, and to refuse to place upon the Statute Book of England an enactment which, in its present shape, so surely as the sun sets in the West, will be the worst blow which has ever been given to my unhappy country.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, he must decline to follow the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House (Mr. Tottenham) through all the topics upon which he had touched. It would have been quite as well if the earlier portion of the remarks of the hon. Member had been omitted, considering the somewhat unreasonable and even discourteous observations he had thought proper to make in reference to the Prime Minister, and the tone in which he had criticized the very able speech of the noble Lord the Member for Barnstaple (Viscount Lymington). He (the Attorney General for Ireland) had been trying to discover the nature of the legislation which the hon. Gentleman would apply as a remedy for the present ills of Ireland; but in that he had been altogether unsuccessful, and felt constrained to conclude that the policy which the hon. Member was prepared to recommend was to do practically nothing. Even the conversion of tenants into occupying proprietors, which appeared to meet with universal acceptance, the hon. Gentleman desired to restrict to holdings valued at £30 a-year and upwards, and thus to exclude from the benefit of any such measure five-sixths of the present occupiers of land in Ireland; whilst he objected altogether to any change in the legal relations of landlord and tenant in that part of the Kingdom. It was with this latter subject only that he (the Attorney General for Ireland) at pre- 1391 sent proposed to deal, confining his observations accordingly to the first part of the Bill, which alone seemed to excite any hostile criticism. Now, in reference to this matter, he must observe that most of the hon. Members who had addressed the House had regarded, and rightly regarded, the fixing of fair rent as, after all, the most important part of the question. The principle involved in this was really the matter which must be first determined; and, with the exception of the hon. Gentleman, all who had considered the subject appeared to think so. The hon. Gentleman, again, seemed to take a peculiar view of the Ulster Custom. He had given the House four instances of sales in the county of Down in which he alleged that extravagant sums had been paid for tenant right—the prices varying from £20 an acre in one case, up to as much as £50 an acre in another. But, in matters of this kind, without inquiry into the particular circumstances of each case, it would be perfectly idle for anyone to pronounce an opinion. One of the most important witnesses examined before the Duke of Richmond's Commission, and also before Lord Bessborough's Commission—Professor Baldwin—when speaking of what had been represented as a very extravagant sum paid for tenant right, said—"That is all very well until you come to examine the facts." He then proceeded to give an instance which had come within his own knowledge, where a man who had been paying 10s. a-year for his piece of land sold the tenant right for £80. Professor Baldwin went to examine the farm, and found that the tenant had obtained, a few years ago, a piece of cut-out bog, or waste, where all the surface soil had been removed, and the residue left in heights and hollows. Ten shillings a-year was the most the landlord could reasonably ask for it, for it was all it was worth; but the tenant set to work and reclaimed it, and turned it into fairly arable land; and Professor Baldwin gave it as his opinion that the man who purchased the tenant right got good value for his money. But the landlord in this case was an honourable gentleman, well known in the county to which the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham) had referred—a scion of the noble house of Downshire, and one who too well respected the traditions of that house to raise the rent from the 10s. a- 1392 year, which was the full value of the land as he demised it. Let the House, however, look, by way of contrast, at another case mentioned by Professor Baldwin in his evidence before the Bessborough Commission, and not contradicted, in which a man got three acres of ground of a similar character—Inamely, cut-out bog—for which all that the landlord could charge was 2s. 6d. a-year. The tenant reclaimed it at a cost of £45, and enjoyed it for three years; but in the fourth the landlord raised the rent to £1 2s. 6d. The singularity of the view of the hon. Gentleman was that while he declaimed against the Ulster Custom as injurious, and urged that so far from being extended to the rest of Ireland it ought to be confined within very narrow limits in Ulster itself, he actually went the length of stating to the House that the Ulster Custom was in some way associated with evictions, and was, in fact, the cause of the increased number of evictions which had taken place. Though evictions might have increased in Ulster, where they could be put in force without absolute ruin to the tenant, it would, at least, be found that it had not been necessary to make any material addition to the number of the police in order to carry them out. But while the hon. Member for Leitrim protested against the extension of the custom of tenant right to the rest of Ireland, and would even like to limit its operation at home, the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) had just put upon the Paper an Amendment declaring that the House was—Anxious to maintain and secure in full efficiency the customs of Ulster, and other analogous customs in Ireland, and also to remedy any proved defects in the Land Act of 1870,as well as disposed to adopt measures for the development of the industrial resources of the country. Well, to those who remembered the way in which the smallest attempts at legislation to secure the efficiency of the Ulster Custom and amend some of the more palpable defects in the Land Act of 1870 had been received by the noble Lord and his Party during their years of Office, this sudden conversion must seem just a little suspicious. But, then, the noble Lord wanted the House to abandon any attempt to regulate the relations of landlord and tenant; and, instead of that, to pass measures for developing the re- 1393 sources of Ireland. Of course they knew what that really meant. It was the old story. If a particular remedy was proposed, those who objected and wished to do nothing at all were ready at once to say—"If we must do anything, let it be something else than what is proposed." Not being in Office, or having charge of the Exchequer, the noble Lord suggested a lavish expenditure on that indefinite object—the development of the resources of Ireland. Now, Her Majesty's Government thought one of the best ways to improve and develop the resources of Ireland was to define and protect the just rights of tenants and landlords alike, and effectually secure that the tiller of the soil should enjoy the fruits of his labour. Reverting, then, to the discussion of the principles of the Bill before the House, he (the Attorney General for Ireland) would address himself now to what had been called "the core of the question"—namely, fair rents, merely remarking, by the way, that they had not, during this debate, heard so much as he had expected of that old watchword, "freedom of contract." He supposed the reason was that hon. Members opposite had found out from the Reports of the two Royal Commissions that such a thing as free contract between landlord and tenant did not exist in Ireland. There might, no doubt, be free contract between a landowner and a man who had no farm at all; but where a tenant was fixed upon a particular holding, which he and his ancestors had by their labour, which was their capital, turned from waste into cultivated land, such a tenant could not be free to deal with his landlord so long as the latter had the power of evicting him, if he did not submit to pay an increased rent for the improvements he and his had effected. Under such circumstances, it was a question for the tenant whether he should abandon the home of his childhood and of his youth, with all their tender memories, resign all that the labour of himself, of his family, and of his ancestors had stored up for him in the farm, and go to America or into the workhouse, or submit to the demand and undertake to pay the arbitrary and, perhaps, extortionate rent required from him. For an Irish peasant to quit his home under these circumstances, was a far more serious thing than it was for the farmer in England to realize his capital and shift 1394 to a new farm. Probably the ancestors of the Irish peasant might have been settled on the land long before the title of the landlord arose. Well, then, might the Duke of Richmond's Commission say that, having regard to the fact that the improvements and equipments of the farms had been the work of the tenants, coupled with the liability to have their rents increased whenever they made further improvements, it was not to be wondered at that there should be some distrust and discontent felt by the Irish tenant. The Report of the minority of the Duke of Richmond's Commission stated, and he (the Attorney General for Ireland) believed the statement would be borne out by every Irish Member, that the Irish tenant would endure almost anything, or promise to pay almost any rent, in order to avert or postpone the loss of his holding and his home; so that freedom of contract could not be said in any real sense to exist between landlord and tenant so circumstanced. He desired to give the House some specimens of the cases of rent-raising which had been stated before the Royal Commissions; and would take a few instances from the poorer counties—Donegal, Galway, and Londonderry. In one case in Donegal, the holding of a tenant from year to year was valued at £38, and the rent was £46. But he put up some buildings, and, thereupon, some five years ago, his rent was raised to £60. In another case where a tenant, at a rent of £38 7s., built a house and reclaimed some land at a cost of £40 an acre, his rent in 1873 was raised to £59. The tenant pointed out to the agent the improvements he had made; but the agent told him he was instructed to take the farm just as it stood. Worn out by abortive litigation, and tied to the place by illness in his family, the man at length submitted to this apparently unjust demand. This was the same tenant who, having reclaimed a piece of bog land worth 2s. 6d., was almost immediately charged £1 2s. 6d. for his trouble. He would mention another case in the county of Londonderry, where a man purchased the tenant right for £470, the rent being £43. He spent £500 on drainage and other improvements, and £1,000 upon buildings; and thereupon his rent was raised, first to £63 15s., and shortly afterwards to £73 1s. 7d., at which it now stood. In a case in Galway, mentioned by Professor Baldwin, a 1395 small property was purchased some years ago in the Landed Estates Court, the rental being then £62 10s., and the valuation £52 8s. Could anyone imagine what the present rent was? It was £276 14s. The hon. Member for County Cork (Mr. Shaw) asked the witness if any leases had fallen in, and the answer was—"No leases whatever." Mr. Kavanagh asked what occurred to his honest mind—" Did the landlord spend anything on the land?" And the reply was, "Not a penny." Then, The O'Conor Don asked the witness if he did not think that proprietors of that kind were somewhat rare? And the answer was—"I am sorry to say they are not; I am compelled to tell you they are common enough even in Ulster." It was right to add that the proprietor referred to, in his answer to these statements published in an Appendix to the Report, stated that he had built a police barrack and some shops in the village. But, be that as it might, he spent nothing on the land. [Mr. GIBSON: What was the name?] The name of the gentleman was Leonard. It was also shown in evidence that, on a certain estate in Donegal, 25 per cent was added to the rent on every change of tenancy from whatever cause; and Professor Baldwin stated that, on one particular farm he had visited, this process had been gone through three times in two years. That, too was not denied, and more than justified the statement of the witness that there was a constant nibbling at the tenant's interest. Indeed, it might well be said that there was was not merely a nibbling at but a devouring of the tenant's interest, when they found that 75 per cent had been added to the rent in the course of two years. Again, Mr. King-Harman told the Duke of Richmond's Commission that the small purchasers invariably raise the rents to the highest pitch; and stated that he knew a case in Galway and Roscommon where the purchaser had never visited his estates, but had ordered his agents to raise the rents 15 per cent, because he considered that that was required in order to bring in a proper return for his money. Finally, even Mr. Bonamy Price, who had thought it necessary to write a separate Report, said—It must be fully admitted that great abuses have occurred in the violent and unreasonable raisings of rent by some landowners, who have 1396 not done justice to the actual situation in which both they and their tenants found themselves. The relation of landlord and tenant implies mutual duties and reasonable considerations of existing circumstances. These are not seldom disregarded.But what was the remedy which Mr. Bonamy Price proposed for these "violent and unreasonable raisings of rent?" He said they must only trust to the training of the landlords and tenants in the course of the time to come to bring about a proper sense of their duties to each other, and a proper fulfilment of those duties. Yes, here is a learned Professor telling us to disregard the miseries of millions of our people—to let injustice and its natural consequences run riot for some generations, resting content in the hope that after a century, it may be two, things will come all right! And yet, curiously enough, Mr. Bonamy Price did not dissent from but, on the contrary, signed the Report of the majority of the Duke of Richmond's Commission, which suggested the idea of a proper tribunal being established to fix fair rent. The general result, therefore, was that all the Members of the two Commissions, 24 in number, including Dukes, Earls, and commoners of large landed possessions, were united upon this one point—that freedom of contract in reference to Irish agricultural tenancies was a myth, and that some impartial tribunal should be established which should judicially arbitrate between landlords and tenants as to the amount of rent which should be payable. But there was a still higher authority than even Mr. Bonamy Price. There was the authority of the Duke of Argyll, who until recently was a Member of Her Majesty's Government. He (the Attorney General for Ireland) had only seen that morning what the views of the noble Duke were upon this particular question, and he found that the noble Duke also thought that—It is legitimate and expedient that the State should offer the means of judicial arbitration in all cases in which both owner and occupier desire to have recourse to it"——[Opposition cheers]—He was glad that hon. Gentlemen opposite approved of that sentiment. It was not, to be sure, very much; for it did not need an Act of Parliament to enable landlords and tenants to agree to arbitration on the question of rent if they liked. That passage, however, was only introductory to what followed, and of which hon. 1397 Gentlemen opposite would, no doubt, equally approve—And also, in consideration of the somewhat exceptional circumstances existing in Ireland, this right of appealing to a Court may be given, for a time at least, to one party alone.The Duke of Argyll, therefore, did concur in the principle of a judicial ascertainment of rent. So, too, Lord Dufferin, when asked by the Duke of Richmond's Commission what his opinion was as to this one of the "three F's," said he would welcome any means by which a solution of the question as to what was a fair rent could be arrived at in a manner satisfactory to both parties. And in a letter which the noble Lord addressed to The Times last December, he said that fair rent stood out from amongst he "three F's" as a principle to be welcomed by the landlord and tenant alike. He (the Attorney General for Ireland) was glad, therefore, that they had at last attained some common ground to start from. In fact, of those who had addressed the House none had been bold enough to announce that he was against proper arrangements for the judicial ascertainment of fair rent. By the Act of 1870 the Legislature had given to tenants a legal interest in their holdings—call it tenant right, or goodwill, or what they would—but, no matter what the name or extent of the right might be, they could not now with any consistency allow the landlords to confiscate and appropriate their tenants' interest by arbitrary increases of rent; and, in order to prevent that, there must be some independent tribunal to fix the rent. Well, assuming that to be the case, and he did not understand it to be contested, the question remained, what was a fair rent, and how was it to be ascertained? And here they must remember that there was a fundamental difference between English and Irish agricultural holdings. They could easily ascertain the rent of a farm in England by open competition, because the landlord provided all the farm equipments and put the farm in a condition to be worked. But they could not adopt the same course in Ireland without inflicting the grossest injustice, because the improvements and equipments of the holdings were, as a general rule, provided by the tenants. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Tottenham) was examined before the Richmond Commission, and in the course of his evidence spoke dispa- 1398 ragingly of improvements effected by tenants in Ireland, saying he could not regard as improvements mud cabins or thatched roofs. Well, even these dwellings were better than none, for they gave shelter to those who tilled the soil and made cultivation and payment of rent at least possible. It would indeed be interesting to know how many mud cabins and thatched roofs paid the hon. Gentleman rent. The hon. Gentleman, to be sure, had peculiar notions on the subject of rent. He objected to lawyers being employed for the purpose of determining what was a fair rent; and when asked by the Commissioners by whom he thought the rents should be fixed, he said—"Well, land agents or professional valuators"—like Hodges and Smith, of Dublin, who had re-valued his estate some years ago. The hon. Gentleman was asked if his tenants had made any improvements, and he said they had reclaimed bog and something of that kind. "Were your valuators told," asked the Commissioners, "to have regard to those improvements?" His reply was—"No; it was no business of theirs to know by whom they were done." The hon. Gentleman followed this up by what was probably a Connaught aphorism—namely, "Better manure never went upon land than to be well salted with rent."
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will look again, he will find that I, prefaced the remark by these words—"It is an old saying." I did not invent the phrase.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, he had not intended to imply that the hon. Gentleman had invented the phrase. On the contrary, he had already remarked that it was, he supposed, a Connaught aphorism. It showed, however, the sort of wisdom that was current among the landlords of the West of Ireland. They all knew that proverbs were said to be the condensed wisdom of nations, and he supposed that this was the crystallized wisdom of the Western landlords. However, he did not believe that the hon. Gentleman acted in the spirit of the proverb. He believed the hon. Gentleman was himself just in his deal- 1399 ings with his tenants, though he objected to their having any right to that justice. It should depend, he seemed to I think, upon his good will and pleasure. He now came to the question, how a fair rent was to be ascertained? His right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) seemed to take it that a fair rent was a competition rent; and in his observations upon the clause of the Bill dealing with that subject there was, as he (the Attorney General for Ireland) ventured to say, no little confusion of language. What the clause meant was this. It meant to lay down that a fair rent was a competition rent minus the yearly value of the tenant's interest in the holding. That was what was intended, and anything else would be monstrously unjust. If this proposition was disputed, he was quite ready to defend it. But if that principle were not disputed, there was no use in entering now into any merely verbal controversy. He must remind the House that at present they were dealing, not with details, but with the principle of the Bill, and that, therefore, mere verbal criticism of the clause was altogether out of place. When they got into Committee, his right hon. and learned Friend's suggestions would be listened to with attention; and if they could improve the language of the very accomplished draughtsman, so much the better. The present, however, was not the time for this.
§ MR. GIBSON
Does my right hon. and learned Friend give the House any construction of the words in the Bill—"having regard to the scale of compensation for disturbance provided in the Act?"
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL von IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, it was a mode of referring to the tenant's existing interest. He supposed it would not be denied that the tenant's position was improved and strengthened by his right to compensation for disturbance. If so, that was surely an element to be considered. But he must respectfully decline to let himself be entangled in a verbal discussion with regard to particular expressions in the Bill, because, however convenient such discussion might be to his right hon. and learned Friend, it would be most inconvenient to the House at that stage of the Bill. One element of confusion in the arguments of his right hon. and learned 1400 Friend was the idea by which he seemed to be possessed, that the fair rent of land should be estimated by what the landlord could get for it by competition in the open market. And yet, at the same time, his right hon. and learned Friend said he was for a fair rent as distinguished from a rack rent. But did his right hon. and learned Friend use the words "rack rent" in a legal sense, or in the Land League sense, as denoting an exorbitant rent obtained by extortion? "Rack rent" meant simply the rent which the land would bring in the open market, without taking any fine; and his right hon. and learned Friend would remember that the expression was accordingly so used in all the more concise forms of leasing powers which had now replaced the older and more diffuse ones. He (the Attorney General for Ireland) agreed in the condemnation of exacting rack rents or competition rents from tenants in Ireland, because that was making them pay for what was their own, as well as what belonged to their landlords. But this did not seem to be the view of his right hon. and learned Friend, who, whilst declaring himself "strongly opposed to rack rents," complained that under the provisions of the Bill the Court, in fixing the "fair rent," was not bound to give the landlord what he could get by competition in the open market. The Bill, however, did not exclude competition; to find out what belonged both to the landlord and to the tenant, it was necessary to have recourse to the standard of competition. His right hon. and learned Friend, indeed, when he came to the part of the clause that so greatly exercised him, passed lightly over the Ulster reference. There were some hon. Members behind him who came from Ulster, and would be the last to complain that the full competition rent was to be reduced by reference to the occupier's tenant right. The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave sonic imaginary instances of injustice that might, as he thought, result; but these criticisms had been fully answered by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell). In the next place, his right hon. and learned Friend complained that under the Bill the landlord would not be allowed to go into Court to have the rent re-adjusted where it was too low. But this was simply because the power of the landlord 1401 to raise the rent under threat of eviction unless the tenant went into Court had been left untouched. Much of the present difficulty, in fact, had arisen because the landlord was free to raise the rent as often and as much as he pleased under a threat of eviction. The Bill now proposed to give power to the tenant, under reasonable checks, to go into Court if he thought the demand made upon him was unjust. The other points referred to by his right hon. and learned Friend had, he thought, already been disposed of. The right hon. and learned Gentleman appeared, in some respects, to have carefully misread the Bill, for it did not seem to him (the Attorney General for Ireland) that he could really have taken the meaning out of the Bill that he professed to do. With regard to the tribunals which had been so very much abused, it might be a matter for consideration when they got into Committee whether they could be improved. But let them remember that for the last 10 years all over Ireland the County Court Judges had been determining, without complaint, the question of fair rent. They had had to do this for the purpose of ascertaining whether the tenants should have compensation for disturbance or not; for the test was whether the landlords' demands of increased rent were or were not excessive. The only difference was that the Bill enabled the Court now to do directly that which hitherto had been done indirectly. The right hon. and learned Gentleman put the case of a landlord asking a pound or two too much. But could anyone suppose that the tenant would rush into Court for such a sum as a pound? He would be a very bold tenant who would do so, at the risk of having to pay the cost of the proceeding.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
was glad that his right hon. and learned Friend had reminded him of that piece of criticism. The tenant, he had said, might compel the landlord to pay at once the penalty of ten times the amount of his mistake, and then sell at the highest price in the open market. But this was a total misapprehension. In such a case the tenant must first sell before he made any such demand, and selling was the last thing he wished to do. Again, the right hon. 1402 and learned Gentleman said it was a very common thing to take a dairy farm for a year certain, and complained that under the Bill such a contract would be turned into a yearly tenancy and enable the tenant to apply to have his rent reduced. But this, also, was a complete mistake. If it was a non-residential pasture farm, it was outside the Bill altogether; and, indeed, for that matter, the case he instanced was not a letting of land at all, but was a letting of the cows upon it. He had now done with the somewhat minute objections of his right hon. and learned Friend; and he came, at length, to consider the effect of the Bill. The broad effect of the measure was this. It dealt with existing tenancies which were, or might be, injured, or, to borrow a word from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leitrim, "salted" by excessive rents. It enabled an existing tenant to get relief from an unfair and unjust rent. Did anyone object to that? He took it for granted that the House would agree with the two sets of Royal Commissioners that this should be done, and that the only way in which it could be properly done would be by having the question, what was a fair rent, determined by a Court. It was their duty to secure that the present tenants should not have their interests nibbled up or devoured by rapacious landlords; and whether the rapacious landlords were many or few, there were, it was plain, quite enough of them to keep the country in a state of disturbance. One bad landlord in a county was sufficient for that purpose; and, if they believed even Mr. Bonamy Price, there were a great many more than that. Reference had been made to the Bill introduced by the late Mr. Butt. The difference, however, between this Bill and the Bill of Mr. Butt was great. The present measure left future contracts free, whereas Mr. Butt's Bill transferred the fee simple to anyone who at any time might happen to be the occupier of the land. Her Majesty's Government were of opinion that that was unjust and would be mischievous. They left parties free where they could—where freedom of contract existed they left it untouched. Those who might, in future, have lands in their own hands to let, and farmers who would take such farms, they desired to leave free; but in the case of the tenant already in occupation, who had his capital 1403 sunk in the cultivation of the soil, they contended that he was not free to accept or refuse the landlord's demand of an increased rent. Moreover, they did not think that the mode of ascertaining the rent of land proposed by Mr. Butt was fair or reasonable. His proposal was that the rent should be ascertained by a jury of the district, or by the arbitration of three neighbouring farmers. The Government did not think that that was exactly the tribunal which ought to be entrusted with determining and settling the amount of the landlord's rent. Their desire was to have a tribunal fully qualified to ascertain a fair rent justly, and, if possible, satisfactorily to both parties; and such a tribunal they proposed to establish by the present Bill. If the composition of the Court could be made more satisfactory, that, as he had already said, could be done in Committee. It appeared to him, and he believed it would also appear to others, when they came to understand it, that the real principle of this Bill was the same as that on which the Land Act of 1870 was founded—namely, that the class of small occupiers constituting the great majority of the tenants of Ireland were not free; and, therefore, that it was desirable the Legislature should protect them against disturbance at the mere will of the landlord. He believed that, either before 1870 or since, no large number of purely capricious evictions had taken place. The evictions had not been to gratify the mere caprice of the landlords, or for the punishment of tenants, but to put money into the pockets of the landlords by enforcing higher rents. The Government had, therefore, now proceeded again on the same principle that the mass of the tenants were not able to protect themselves; and the Bill accordingly sought further to protect them against unreasonable conduct on the part of their landlords. Quotations had been made on the other side from the older part of the essay of Dr. Longfield. But in the recent part of that very essay it was stated that the Act of 1870 recognized the fact that the tenant was unable to make a fair bargain, and that the principle of that Act now seemed to require a judicial settlement of rent and a qualified fixity of tenure. They had heard nothing like that from the quotations of 10 or 11 years ago, which had been given to the House by the hon. Member for Oxford- 1404 shire (Mr. E. W. Harcourt); and the present opinions of the author were of most importance now. There were 10 chapters of the essay which belonged to the period preceding 1870, while the three closing chapters belonged to the present time. It appeared to him (the Attorney General for Ireland) that security of tenure—to give it that name—followed as an absolutely necessary consequence from the fixing of the rent. If it was proper, and it seemed to be so admitted by all, that there should be an impartial tribunal to fix a fair rent, would any hon. Gentleman tell him what use there would be in that if they left the landlord at liberty to slip out of the arrangement by dispossessing the tenant as soon as he chose? It would be found that whilst the Duke of Argyll received the principle of a judicial arbitration in regard to rent, he went on to say, in the seventh paragraph of his propositions, that all decisions so arrived at should have the effect of holding good for a definite time, and should be attended by all or some of the conditions of a lease. That was exactly what the Government had proposed. The fixing, in short, of a fair rent involved two things—the amount of the rent, and the fixing of the time during which the arrangement should continue. It would be worse than useless to establish a rent tribunal and put the parties to the inconvenience and cost of resorting to it to fix the rent unless the interval was also fixed during which the arrangement so made should not be disturbed. He did not stop to discuss what the term should be; but there must be a certain definite time during which the rent so arrived at should not be called in question. That involved another consideration. If the tenant was to be fixed there for a certain time, it must be on certain definite conditions; and accordingly the Bill next laid down what those conditions should be. The tenant, for example, must pay his rent at the appointed time, and he must not do certain objectionable things. These conditions seemed, indeed, to have been somewhat misunderstood. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), speaking the other day at a meeting in Dublin, appeared to think it would be an improvement to amend the Bill by expressly declaring that the rent must be paid within six months of its becoming due. But the mode by which advantage 1405 was to be taken of the breach of the statutory condition as to payment of rent was by ejectment for non-payment, which could not be brought until there was a year's rent due, and this, in effect, gave the tenant a year to pay. His right hon. and learned Friend also urged another objection to this clause of the Bill. He said it was a monstrous thing that the landlord should have no protection against the wilful and outrageous waste of his tenant; and, observing that the Bill was remarkable, not only for the statutory conditions it contained, but also for those which were omitted from it, he went on to say that the tenant might pull down the offices, level the fences, and use the mines and minerals on the farm, and yet not come under the Bill. The end of the sentence was the only part of it that was in any sense correct. The offender would not indeed be punished or even proceeded against under the Bill; but he would under the Common Law. Did his right hon. and learned Friend imagine that this Bill was to replace all law in Ireland? Did he think that the power of the Courts to issue injunctions would be stopped by the Bill, or did he imagine that the Bill was an attempt to codify all the Statutory and Common Law bearing, however remotely, on the relation of landlord and tenant? He should be exceedingly surprised to find his right hon. and learned Friend advising a tenant that he had power to do these things; and could not help thinking that this was an opinion merely thrown out under the stress of debate, and one which they were not likely to see on paper with his right hon. and learned Friend's name at the foot of it. However, he would pass on. A point, he thought, had now been reached at which fair rents and some amount of durability of tenure must be admitted. A man having a durable interest—even though not a perpetual interest—in his farm, an interest which was worth some money, it seemed to him to follow as a necessary consequence that he ought to be at liberty to sell it if he so desired. It was not proposed that it should die with him. No one objected to his disposing of it by will. Was he not, then, to be at liberty to assign it in his lifetime? All the restrictions upon free sale and transfer were the inventions of modern times, restricting the Common Law right. It was 1406 curious, too, to note that although the landlords had long had power by certain statutes to prohibit assignment, they never troubled their heads about the matter, and the result was the indefinite subdivision of land that was now so loudly spoken of. But, in truth, people who had a valuable interest could not reasonably be prevented from selling it, for the ability to make this use of property constituted half its value. How would landlords like to be restricted in the transfer of their estates? Did they know that there was a time when the consent of the tenant was required to any such transfer on their part? If they inquired, they would find that at Common Law the landlord could not effectually sell and transfer his interest without the formal concurrence of his tenant, whose "attornment" was necessary to complete the transaction. That rule of law, no doubt, was done away with in the reign of Queen Anne, as being inconsistent with common sense and justice; but he submitted that what was reasonable and right in the case of the landlord was just as much so in the case of the tenant. No one asked for absolutely free sale, in the sense of sale, without any reference to the just interests of the landlord. But what earthly harm could assignment of the tenancy do to the landlord if he had the power of objecting on proper grounds to the proposed change being made? Surely the only objection a landlord could reasonably make was to the admission of an improper tenant; and if that were secured what right had he to demand more? Did they wish to recognize the Irish tenant's property in his farm only in the sense of the guinea given to Olivia by the Vicar of Wakefield—to be kept in her pocket and never changed? This principle of free sale, indeed, was what the Duke of Argyll so much objected to, truly saying that the partnership argument would not do to justify it. But his Grace should remember that one of the so-called partners—the landlord—claimed and enjoyed the right to sell, whilst a corresponding right was to be denied to the tenant. Dr. Long-field, to whose opinions hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite had so frequently appealed in this debate, had written thus in one of his latest chapters—When a tenant, by any means, acquires a valuable and permanent interest in his holding, it is only reasonable and just that he should have 1407 the power of selling it. This 'F'—free sale—is useful and almost necessary to him, and it does no harm to anybody.That, in short, was one of the principal uses of property. Now, in providing, by the 1st clause of the Bill, that the landlord might object to a new tenant on showing reasonable ground for so doing, Her Majesty's Government had done all that justice required. That was precisely the way in which the case stood in Ulster at the present moment, and it had never created any difficulty there. Probably, the right of objecting to a purchaser was seldom exercised; but that was because there was generally no need to exercise it. There was this remarkable testimony borne by several witnesses to the effect of free sale—that there never was a change of tenant by sale, but the landlord got a better tenant in place of the old one. If the new tenant had made money, he was an industrious and thrifty man, and if he inherited it, he had probably still more to spend; while as to the paternal argument that the new tenant would injure himself by laying out too much of his capital in buying the holding, that, to borrow an expression of his right hon. and learned Friend at a late Conservative gathering, was a little too "goody goody." They had the evidence of Mr. Roberts, for 37 years agent to the Portsmouth estates, that he had always found a new comer had sufficient capital; and, after all, what was the capital of the small tenant farmer? Not money, but his bone and sinew. It was said that the great object of legislation ought to be to bring capital to the land. True; but the best way of doing this in a country of small holdings was by giving the tenants such security of tenure that their own strong arms, without money payment, would do the work required. Mr. Roberts' evidence was that the purchaser was always the better man, and more wealthy than the man who left. There must be, in short, some defect in the man who did not succeed in farming just as was the case as to ill-success in other callings. They had the evidence also of Major M'Clintock, given before the Richmond Commission. This gentleman was the agent for the great Downshire estates in several counties of Ireland, and his experience was the same as that of Mr. Roberts. The tenant who sold his interest, paid his debts honestly, paid the landlord all 1408 his arrears, and had something in his pocket with which to start again. He did not leave with the bitter feelings of the tenant of the South or West of Ireland, who was turned out, without house or home, to die by the road-side, or take refuge in the workhouse. Another striking fact, too, was stated by Major M'Clintock—namely, that the average rent of land on the County Down estate was 18s. an acre, whilst the land brought only 16s. an acre in the King's county, and 15s. an acre on the Wicklow estate. He was naturally asked if the land in County Down was not much better than in the other estates; to which he replied that the land was not better, but it produced more than the land in the other counties where there was no tenant right. It was, therefore, a delusion to suppose that the value of the tenant right came out of the landlord's pocket. It came from another source. It was taken out of the fruitful lap of mother Earth. There was better farming in Ulster because there was greater security to the tenant; there were better crops because there was better farming, and better farming because of this security. He would quote again from Dr. Longfield, who said—All experience shows as a general rule, with very few exceptions, that when a tenant sells his farm the change is an improvement.He would ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were they all paupers who entered the Army under the Army purchase system? Nay, was it not one of the chief objections to that system that wealth and not merit governed all promotion? Finally, let the House bear in mind two great advantages attending the tenant's right of sale. In the first place, it powerfully tended to ensure the good cultivation of the holding, because the tenant was thus certain to reap all the benefit of his labour and improvements; and, in the next place, it secured the landlord against loss of his rent, as any arrears of this wore always paid out of the proceeds of the sale. Then, again, under the provisions of the Bill the landlord was declared entitled, as now in Ulster, to a right of preemption at the selling value of the holding, to be ascertained by the Court if necessary. There was another point to which he would refer. The evidence taken by the two Royal Commissions showed not only that inferior land in 1409 Ulster brought a higher rent than better land brought in the South and West of Ireland, where there was no tenant right, but that estates in Ulster sold for a greater number of years' purchase than elsewhere. This, he submitted, confirmed what he had already stated, that the value of tenant right could not be rightly regarded as a deduction from the landlord's property. But he must forbear to pursue these matters further. There were, indeed, a number of small objections made to the clauses of the Bill dealing with the Land Commission and Assistant Commissioners, which he would not stop to answer now. They would be fully considered at a future stage of the Bill. It appeared to him to be generally agreed that they must have a judicial ascertainment of fair rents; and that involved, as a necessary consequence, all the rest—namely, security of tenure, constituting a valuable interest that the tenant could sell if he pleased. Her Majesty's Government believed that by this measure they would do something towards giving security, and therewith contentment, to the Irish people. They felt that without this security they could not expect the Irish tenant to cultivate his farm in such a way as would be beneficial to the country or to himself, or even to the landlord; for no man would venture either his labour or his capital unless he was assured that its fruits would be his own. The measure might or might not allay the excitement and agitation that had too long prevailed in Ireland; but it was hoped that it would secure the Irish tenant against injustice, whilst leaving intact all the just rights of the landlord, and thus do much towards realizing a better system of land tenure in Ireland. In these hopes Her Majesty's Government presented this Bill for the acceptance of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. W. H Smith.)
I was going to appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Villiers-Stuart), whose Amendment is before the House, to withdraw that Amendment. The effect of the withdrawal will be advantageous to the House, because the way will then be open for dealing either with the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for 1410 Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), or the Amendment of which Notice has been given this evening. As those Amendments deal with the principle of the Bill, I think it will be of great advantage for the House to be occupied with them instead of with a collateral Amendment.
§ MR. VILLIERS-STUART
said, that in deference to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, and in view of the sympathy which the Chief Secretary for Ireland had expressed with the Irish labourers, and of his promise to consider any practical Amendments on their behalf in Committee, he begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
felt it necessary, before the Amendment was withdrawn, to say that it raised points of the first importance in regard to the Bill; but, gathering from the Prime Minister that another opportunity would be afforded for discussing those points, he would not interpose further.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."——(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Motion was, by leave, withdrawn; and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly in Order.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.